Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  February 4, 2011

  • The Lakers are now 0-5 against the “elite” teams in the league (Spurs, Heat, Mavs, Celtics). For some, that’s proof enough that this team is sunk. For others, it’s a bump in the road towards the ultimate goal. For what it’s worth, there’s value in both perspectives. It’s undoubtedly true that the Lakers will need to play better than what they did last season to win the championship this year. That’s the simple result of the other teams around the league being better than in the 09-10 campaign. The question is whether or not the Lakers are capable of doing so. For me, that question has yet to be answered and won’t be until the playoffs come. Until that point in the season comes, though, we all seek proof that it will happen. But I also see that faith is defined as a “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”. So, simply put, I guess I just have faith that when the time comes this team will be ready. That faith comes from years of watching this team play it’s best when the stakes are the highest. This year, we’ll all see whether or not that continued faith will be rewarded.
  • Speaking of being rewarded, the all-star reserves were announced and while Pau Gasol got the call, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum were left off the West roster. Really, considering how stacked the West is, this was to be expected and I would not consider these guys snubs. Or at least not snubs on the same level of Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge. Those guys are putting up outstanding numbers. Who they should replace is the real question though. Do you drop Duncan? How about Griffin? Maybe Deron Williams? Like I said, a stacked West this year. At least one more player will get the call though as Commissioner Stern will get to select an injury replacement for Yao. If you could choose one of the snubs to replace Yao, who would you choose?
  • The other day, something happened that didn’t really get the type of recognition that some thought it would. I’ll let emailer Sid take it from here: “In (Tuesday’s) overtime win against the Rockets, Kobe passed another milestone. He became only the 7th player in NBA history to join a very exclusive club whose members are all HOF’s. He joins Kareem, K. Malone, MJ, Oscar, Havlichek, & West as the only players to have 25,000+ points, 5,000+ rebounds, & 5,000+ assist in a career according to Basketball-Ref. I find this a fantastic accomplishment, more so than becoming the NBA’s 8th leading career scorer which he recently did. However I haven’t seen one story on Kobe becoming the newest member of the 25K/5K/5K club.” I agree with Sid in that this accomplishment deserves a bit more ink than it got. Scoring is sexy but it’s only one part of the game. Kobe’s one of the most complete players in the history of the association but his reputation is that of a scorer – with “81” and 40 and 50 point scoring streaks on his resume it’s easy to understand that – but when I look back on Kobe’s career in 10, 15, 20 years, I’ll also remember those 15 game 7 rebounds. I’ll remember the passes. I’ll remember all that he accomplished besides the binges of buckets he got while downing opponents.
  • A lot of talk about Gasol lately. We gave our two cents on him, Kobe said he needed him to be the “Black Swan”, and over at Silver Screen & Roll, wondahbap gave his thoughts on the big Spaniard. One thing you may have missed but need to go look at, though, is this great post by Sebastian Pruiti on how the Lakers get Pau his looks on offense. It’s a great X’s and O’s breakdown with video and still pictures and it gives tremendous insight on what you should be looking for every game from Pau on that side of the ball.
  • Speaking of offense. If you want to learn about the Triangle, you need to be reading this site.
  • Anyone have any thoughts on Kobe’s Nike commercials/movie? For those that haven’t seen them, here’s part 1 and part 2.
  • Lastly, it’s been a while since I did a mailbag and I’m looking to put one together. As usual, send me an email with mailbag question in the subject line and ask away. I hope to put it up early next week on an off-day.

Darius Soriano

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38 responses to Fast Break Thoughts

  1. I can understand somewhat that Phil likes sacrificing rebounding and defense to close games with a small lineup in order to have better offensive spacing…. But when a game comes down to one defensive possession I just cant understand why he wouldn’t have Andrew Bynum on the floor. When Bynum was out to start the year the Lakers gave up the most offensive rebounds in the NBA. Again… This isn’t a slight on Gasol or Lamar. Gasol is a undersized center and lamar is a unersized PF. Remember lamar came into the league as a SF. I know Phil doesn’t like making changes on a last possession but in the playoffs I hope he changes his mind.

  2. Kevin Love is not an All Star? With 21.4 PPG and 15.5 RPG. AND 2.5 Assists, AND shooting 43% from 3 point land, AND a PER of 24.63 (6th best in the league)

    That is not an All Star?!?

    His stats this year are phenomenal.

    He is certainly in the running for Most Improved, and he was good last year.

    When he goes to Free Agency in a couple of years (assuming the league still exists) he is going to command a nice salary, and go to a big time team.

    You think that fans wouldn’t go nuts for him in Boston, or in Dallas, or here in LA?

    Yao Ming gets in without a foot, and Love has to get a ticket to see the game.

    More evidence that the regular season doesn’t matter.

  3. At this point, Bynum is not as good an all-around defender as either Odom or Gasol, and isn’t much (if any) better of a rebuonder.

  4. After reading what you have to say Darius, I think I get where you are coming from. I think the difference between me and other fans is I just do not and will not put faith in a team based off of what they did previous seasons. I do believe it makes a difference and experience is important, but I think 0-5 aginst the elite and a not so impressive record against the above 500 teams speaks much more to me than what happened last year.

  5. exhelodrvr,
    What Andrew does, that neither Pau or Lamar do, is to change the way the opposition attacks. Also, he does rebound close to the basket much better than either Pau or Lamar. This is something only gleaned from watching the games when he is playing – he simply uses his length and size better.

  6. As to Kobe’s 15 rebounds — I heard Reggie Miller talk about Kobe’s poor game 7 last year during the broadcast last night – they were talking about how his game is declining. The entire world measures performance by points scored – period. Even when the announcers are talking about a player’s rebounds the pictures that accompany them are all about that player scoring baskets – Yuck!

  7. #4. I look at my relationship with the Lakers as I do any other relationship that means something to me in my life. What you’ve been in the past matters when the principal characters are nearly all the same. That history matters to me. It shows me what someone (or group) is capable of. To me, there’s value there. I agree that as the world changes around us that may mean that the relationship with that person or group changes. But I give them the chance, via faith and belief that stems from past actions, that things will work out. I don’t tell them “you have to prove it all over again because now things are different”. I just think that’s a callous way of viewing things. I understand where you come from, I just don’t agree. For me, at least, the world does not operate in a vacuum.

  8. Craig, who’s to say 15 boards are more important than 6-24 shooting? People are right to criticize Kobe for that poor shooting. It damn near cost us the game.

  9. As far as being 0-5 against the elite-based on record. Here is what we did the last two years

    9-4 (cavs, celts, magic, spurs, nuggets)

    7-7 (cavs, magic, mavs, suns, celts (atl had better record, but we know celts were elite)

    Dont know what it means, but thought i’d put that out there.

  10. That Pruiti-post was pure gold:)

  11. 2)
    love isn’t an all star because the coaches vote for the reserves. And coaches know basketball. Love has great numbers on a very bad team. Big men that are all stars usually can make a team somewhat decent. The problem with Kevin Love is that defense is half the game and he is one of if not the worst defensive starting PF in the NBA. Also isn’t not easy to make an NBA All Star game. There is a lot of talent out there.

  12. craig w,
    “This is something only gleaned from watching the games when he is playing ”

    Something else only gleaned from watching the games when he is playing is that he is not nearly as mobile as either of the others, does not play the pick-and-roll as well, does not challenge outside shooters as well as the other two.
    He is better than them in a subset of the defensive areas, but not overall.

  13. It seems like this is one of those windows into the makeup of your personality. Like (for us geezers) which Beatle is your favorite (there must be some hip hop generation equivalent of this).

    Sadly, I’m with Joe. I don’t feel as though I am refusing to put faith in them, but more like I am not capable of putting faith in anything. I felt good about them winning it all through the whole season and playoffs last year, but that didn’t really require faith. I will admit, though, that when it did require faith, such as when being taken to seven games by Houston, I didn’t have it.

    For what it’s worth, I think the arguments on both sides are valid – that article at Hoop Karma shows pretty convincingly that they are in line with previous threepeating teams. It’s also pretty convincing to look at the 0-fer against the elites.

    What it comes down to for me is that my faith in whether or not the can win it all will not wane, but my faith in whether or not they will get it done has definitely faded as of late. I think that it would be a lot easier to believe if there were an obvious reason for the poor play – last year it was easy to see that both the Lakers and Celtics suffered in their records due to injuries, and the Celtics further from a desire to keep fresh come playoff time. If we had more injuries, or if Phil were keeping minutes obviously low, then it would be much easier to rationalize the “poor” record, and believe that as long as they are healthy and rested come playoff time it will all be fine. With the problems being so much more nebulous, it’s a lot harder to see intellectually what has to and will change come May and June.

    For some of us, anyway. I’ve wished all my life that I were more of a glass-is-half-full kind of guy, but the reality is that I’m not, and the way I am feeling about the Lakers right now is just one more manifestation of that aspect of my personality. I realize that it has absolutely nothing to do with whether they will win or not, but what can you do? They are who they are (as infuriating as that might be) and I am who I am (as depressing as that might be).

    I wish that I could at least enjoy the ride, but I’m pretty much incapable of that as well 😉

  14. My comments from the pregame: Flipping the switch is no more than giving a damn about your defense. It means no cheating to the inside on the three point shooters (read Kobe and Shannon), no lazy shows on the pick and roll (read Pau and Bynum), and team rebound or hold position on the defensive glass (read everyone). Maintain rebound position and allow Ron to box out and someone else to go get the basketball (Fisher/Blake). Easier said than done.

    Don’t be lazy and lax on your close outs and protect the three point line (no cheating inside), force people off the box and stay low and strong (not letting people walk into the low post and establish position). That’s what it has been about.

    They did this for the most part (did not effectively get to the three-point shooters) but they failed to do all of them on the last possession. Leaving Ginoboli wide open for the three, allowing dribble penetration for Tony Parker’s floater, and then losing inside position (not boxing out) to Old McDyess for the tip was exactly what I spoke about pre-game. Lamar has to maintain his concentration and box out on that play. There is no way the McDyess should have had SIX offensive rebounds last night. He is 106 years old.

  15. Darius, and you know what… It is not so much I don’t trust the Lakers, I think what has me is how good these other teams are, I believe they are for real and I am at least glad you and most other fans know that it will be the most difficult year for the Lakers to win it all. Some fans however think the Lakers will just automatically click come playoffs like last year, dominate the west, and make it to the finals. At least you understand that it will take something special to beat these powerhouses

  16. Another question then Darius..
    If the Lakers were a 500 team at this point in the season would you then agree they need to shake things up more? I mean doesn’t there come a time where, you still love your team, but perhaps a change can be made?

  17. I agree that this is a great post by Sebastian Pruiti. Everyone should read it.

  18. Kobe’s shooting in Game 7 damn near cost us the game?

    Yes, it nearly did.

    But nearly is the key word here. Nearly.

    That’s the beauty of a team sport. The rest of the guys stepped up and scored to make up for Kobe’s misses, and the entire squad, as a team, actually ended up winning that game.

    This is sports. Results matter more than how we get them. Does anyone remember if the last games in the previous three-peat were pretty or ugly wins? More importantly, does anyone even care?

    Craig is right, the world mentions greatness by points scored, staring blindly at numbers, numbers, numbers, and by doing so the world misses out on a lot of other forms of greatness that is a lot more important for the team, and in the end contributes more to winning both games and championships.

    There is a lot more to playing good basketball than putting up numbers.

  19. 12)
    Much more important to have a big who can rebound the paint and defend it than a big man that can guard the perimeter in crutch time. Which is why the Lakers defensive numbers have been much better with Bynum on the floor.

  20. … And don’t worry… I’m sure the league will put Kevin Love on the all star team…. You can’t have enough white players in the game.

  21. Kwame @ 9 – It means the Lakers are in big trouble !

  22. Aaron, I’m sorry but you are so wrong it’s insane, most All-stars from other teams couldn’t put up numbers like Kevin Love has. But just so you know he was voted on as Yao Ming’s reserve as of tonight, so clearly they know more about his talent than you think you do.

  23. 19) Depends on the opponent.

    And with Bynum’s knee bruise, he is less mobile than normal.

  24. 13,

    It isn’t that your negative, you just are naturally reacting based on what you have seen from this team this year and there is nothing wrong with that. You can look into past seasons which are over, but that is a choice. If the Lakers win this year it will be because they were the best team, not because they won the previous years, but no evidence shown this year that it will be the case.

  25. 22)
    yeah… Just saw he was not voted on… But Love was put on by David Stern. No doubt being white has paid off. It’s a business and a good business decision was made. Lamar Odom or Aldridge were more deserving. They are both better players who contribute more to winning basketball.

    Bynum was just as mobile as ever last night. If Bynum was in the game Gasol is boxing out Antonio last night and the Lakers win. Hey… If Bynum was in he would have been on Duncan and that shot gets blocked and the Lakers win.

  26. While earlier on I was supporting the stance that the previous three-peat team had a very similar lackadaisical trip through their final regular season, there is one key ingredient missing from this team that the other three-peat team had. Shaq in his prime. The reason the 2002 team could flip on the proverbial switch is because HE could turn it on by actually exerting effort and playing to his capabilities. I don’t think we have anyone as dominant as Shaq, and therefore I don’t think this team can have the mindset “Oh, we’ll just flip it on when the playoffs come.” Unless Pau or Bynum turn into absolute monster between now and April, this team isn’t getting Phil a championship in his last season.

  27. Love is in!

    And I also love the new Kobe commercials!!!

  28. 26, also remember in that last Shack champ season, the Lakers were still clearly the best team even though they werent playing their best. Many argued the Kings were actually better, but the Lakers had way more experience and is why they won that classic series. I don’t see this year the same way. The Lakers at this point may not even be a top 3 team and is it not just because they arent trying, they are just getting outplayed usually, at least against the elite.

  29. Joe,
    What’s the point in saying “what if” about their record? I mean, that’s like me asking you “what if they were 42-8, then would you agree that they’re contenders?” The fact is they’re neither of those things so the question isn’t relevant.

  30. Darius, you made a point that you have a relationship with the team and you will always believe they can get it done. I am asking doesn’t there come a time where perhaps you still support the team but say, ok, perhaps we need to change some things up. Perhaps the team needs a little more urgency to play better right now. Because you don’t believe in any of those two things like I do right now, you know what I mean? I believe in the team to, but only up to an extent, obviously it is not as high as yours.

  31. “I don’t tell them “you have to prove it all over again because now things are different”.” I did not tell them that either Darius, start of the season. But when they have played as horribly as they have played often this season and 0-5 against the elite, I do demand better play from them to up my belief in them.

  32. I believe and still think that the Lakers will be playing in the Finals this year, but I also believe the Celtics will be there. My worst nightmare would be that because the C’s have five legitimate overpowering bigs this year, we will be destroyed by them (again), and worst yet they will hoist the trophy up at Staples Center (game 5) with Shaq in ugly Celtics green. Maybe I worry about things that I should not worry about, but this is on my mind, unfortunately. I need Ron’s shrink badly it looks like.

  33. I clicked the triangle link and was glad for it – very informative stuff. It’s one thing to write a post that’s opinion based because you can just kind of improvise and go with a flow. Very different to analyze and break down the principles of basketball in a reader-friendly way. I’ve always admired guys like Darius and Pruiti for their X’s and O’s and it’s cool to discover a new voice out there.

  34. As a believer, I am not basing my faith on the past season alone but also on games they played this year. Remember how they trounced indiana at their home floor after Indiana celebrated their win at staples. How about the massacre of cleveland and utah? Off course the lakers will be on a disadvantage in a regular season matchup against the elite teams because these teams are gauging themselves on how deep they can go in the playoffs if they fair against the Lakers. As to the Celtics game, it is almost a certainty before the start of that game that the C’s would come out with playoff/nba finals intensity after that game 7 loss they suffered against our team. These games against the elite teams does not even measure that these elite teams were better than our team because in all those 5 losses, except from the miami heat loss, the lakers were leading until some lapses in the final stretch of the game. On a side note, Kobe was the YOUNGEST nba player to have accomplished 25k/5k/5k.

  35. Yeah, that Pruiti link is the stuff that makes me think I’ll enjoy the game so much more the next time I watch it, except it still flies by without me catching the nuances 😉

    As for our threepeat chances…

    I don’t remember any season except the first time we got to the Finals post-Shaq that I thought we were the clear-cut favorites.

    The next two seasons, although we won it all, it really didn’t make me think that we overwhelmed and dominated the opposition, but it was more like barely squeaking by. We were lucky to get past Denver with Ariza, and were almost doomed by OKC and Sasha giving PHX one last gasp, not to mention the truly ugly series against Boston that we won thanks to our players really, really, really, digging deep not to repeat 2008.

    So I’m still at where I was regarding our championship hopes. Hopeful, with good reason to think that we have a chance.

    Is that chance as clear and doubtless as some other teams in the past? Absolutely not. But do we have a good, reasonable shot? Absolutely yes.

    At worst we’re a western conference finals team, and little really has changed to not think that.

  36. Harold, at worst the Lakers are a western semi conference team. We may have to play the Mavs in that 2nd round, possibly on the road.

  37. I just don’t see us losing 4 times to the Mavs, home or away. They may be good, and have improved, AND Dirk may be a great clutch shooter stat-wise…

    … but I just don’t see it happening.