Fast Break Thoughts: All-Star Friday

Darius Soriano —  February 18, 2011

Throngs of media. Players and coaches walking around like every day people. People whose work I read on a daily basis and the guys whose games I analyze essentially standing right next to you. Pretty surreal. But I’m here not to observe, but to jump into the deep end of the pool and see what nuggets can be passed along to all of you. A snapshot of my first day…

  • First of all, Tony Toni Tone lied, it actually does rain in Southern California. What started out as a cold, gusty day has now turned wet. Folks seem to be adjusting fine, if you define fine as hustling through the rain without an umbrella. Luckily, I came prepared.
  • The media sessions with the coaches and players from both the East and West teams provided some insight on what folks think about the current state of the Lakers. The prognosis is that they may be struggling but they still have everyone’s respect.
  • Greg Popovich called them the “best team in the West”.
  • Doc Rivers said that the spotlight still belongs on the Lakers and he tried to deflect any attention that his Celtics may garner and said that he’s “perfectly happy with (the Celtics) flying under the radar”. He also mentioned that the Heat deserve the attention that they’re getting, citing their big three and how bringing them together is something special.
  • Dirk also mentioned that his Mavs are flying a bit under the radar and seemed perfectly content with that. When asked the direct question about how he felt about catching the Spurs and if the West is more exciting with the Lakers “floundering” he replied “Yeah I think they’re stuggling a little bit. But after back to back championships and (playing) until July almost every year I think they’re going to be okay. I think they’re going to step it up after the break. To me, the Lakers are still the team to beat. They’re still the same team. They still have length.”
  • The person most confident about the Lakers though was none other than our own Kobe Bryant. He laughed off a question about whether the Lakers recent play was a downer on his All-Star experience and when asked if this was rock bottom, he said “sure, but that means there’s no where to go but up”. When asked a follow up stating that Jerry West mentioned that rock bottom is normally 8 or 9 consecutive losses, Kobe quipped that “3 losses in a row is like 9 in a row for this team”. When asked if he knew what was wrong with the team he simply said “yes”. He then followed that up by saying that he wouldn’t share what that was and that he sees it as entirely fixable, further saying that he has full confidence that the team will play better.
  • The most insightful part of Kobe’s media session came when he answered a question about if he worries that when this team tries to call on its experience and institutional knowledge that it won’t be there for them. He answered “Of course. That’s where the concern comes from. But that’s the challenge of playing the game. That’s what brings the excitement . It’s not knowing. Even when you’re rolling and you’re playing extremely well there’s still the unknown of saying well, this can slip from us in any game in the series. It cut’s both ways”. He then went on to say that the Lakers are a team that has a better chance than others of pulling it together to make a run and continued to put the focus on what’s most important is how a team is playing together at those crucial times.

It’s tough to gauge if guys like Dirk, Doc, and Coach Pop are just paying lip service to the Lakers as the current champ and putting them up on a pedestal or if they truly believe that L.A. is still the team to beat. It’s probably a bit of both as no one attempts to crown or elevate a new team until the current champion is knocked off. That said, I thought Kobe’s comments speak to what other players and coaches see in the Lakers as the challenge. L.A. still has #24 and the memory of what they’re capable of doing is still quite strong.

We’ll continue to have updates throughout the weekend. Stay tuned for more.

Darius Soriano

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26 responses to Fast Break Thoughts: All-Star Friday

  1. Very nice post and the perspective from other players and coaches is welcome. True, there’s a certain laying in the weeds aspect – Doc has always played that card – but there’s also the matter of a vantage point. As fans and observers, it’s easy to fall into a tunnel vision – we see much of the game on television, colored by commentary and opinions shared on blogs, etc.. It’s easy to get real happy when things are good and real upset when they’re not. We don’t tend to see the game from the floor, the fixes we consider aren’t necesssarily the same that players and coaches go though in real time, game time, practice time and all the time. They live the game, we watch it. That said, the last three games still left a bad taste in the mouth and I hope whatever “it” is, gets fixed and fixed good.

  2. The trouble with this kind of play is that even if they’re ready when the playoffs roll around, it takes the enjoyment out of the regular season.

  3. The only thing that I want to say about the all star game is that it’s a giant travesty that Tim Duncan was voted onto the team. Is it the life time achievement game or the all star game?

  4. On top of that, Aaron, Tim Duncan is a freakin starter

  5. None of this matters. Everyone is saying exactly what they’re supposed to say.

    Is Doc really going to say, “Absolutely the Lakers are doing terrible. This is the worst they’ve been since Pau arrived. They may be only slightly below where they were last year, but the rest of the elite teams are far above now. And my Celtics are bigger and stronger than them. We could easily beat them in 5 now.”

    Is Pop and Dirk going to say, “Clearly we’re going to finish above them. Did you see that loss to the Cavs? That’s beyond embarrassing. It won’t matter if they “flip the switch” soon. They’ve been practicing bad habits for too long. We can beat them in a 7-game series.”

    And is Kobe really going to say, “Yeah, we’re done. Our defense isn’t working, we’re late on rotations, our offense isn’t working, there’s zero chemistry, Artest is a useless rock out there, Fisher should only play the last 2 minutes of a game and the playoffs, and after 3 years of burning our fuel to Finals, we’re finally just tired. I feel bad for Phil. He’s not gonna win a ring in his last year.”

    Of course not. Everyone’s reading from the script. It’s the regular season, so nothing matters, right? The champs are the champs till someone beats them, blabla, etc.

    No offense, but I won’t watch anymore games till the playoffs. Or until I read that that Lakers are actually giving a damn again and win 8, 9 or 10 games in a row. I can’t care about a team that doesn’t care about themselves.

  6. #5. I won’t be offended if you don’t watch. Based off what many fans have been saying lately, you won’t be alone in not watching.

  7. #5 – Of course they care about themselves and you sound like you have never seen this before. Remember they did the same thing last year when they ended the season 4-7 in their last 11 games? Keep the faith buddy (even during the regular season). It certainly won’t be easy to 3-peat but this isn’t our first rodeo.

  8. Interesting point about watching or not watching the games. On the one hand, Laker fans are spoiled and expect to win every night and expect to bring home the Trophy. And that is just not realistic in such a competitive league.

    On the other hand, it really does seem like there is something lacking in the Lakers right now. Beating teams like Boston and NY back to back and then laying eggs for three in a row. It makes you wonder if they do care. And if they don’t, why watch?

    But at the end of the day, I really think, as a fan, it is about enjoying the journey. It is about the ups and downs, even if those downs are more about effort than skill. It is about watching the team gel or implode. It’s about sticking with the team and rooting for them even when they piss you off. Otherwise, I do think one should just not watch till the playoffs. If you don’t enjoy the ride, don’t wast the time. If the only thing that makes a season worthwhile is a championship, there are a lot of wasted seasons.

  9. All these fans bitching and moaning that they won’t watch the regular season and just constantly complain about the state of the team, how about you quit commenting on blogs too. Everyone will be happier that way.

  10. When your 8 months removed from playing probably the most hard fought, intense games ever played (game 7 vs. Boston) I completely understand why it’s hard to get up for February games against bad teams that you know you won’t see in the playoffs.

    I still don’t see a team I’d favor to beat the Lakers 4 out of 7 in the playoffs.

  11. After the All-Star break, I plan to get back to watching Laker games, and I am looking forward to them winning most of them. Maybe they just need to slow down and meticulously run their offense as designed, and defend with honor their Championship.

    “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” – Mario Andretti

  12. 3,4; Can you find a better center in the West? It’s certainly not Bynum and certainly not Nene. This hasn’t been Duncan’s best year, but there are literally zero other All-Star caliber centers in the West this year.

  13. 12

    That’s just splitting hairs. Duncan was listed as a PF on the ballots, so the coaches could certainly have picked someone like Aldridge or Randolph. If you’re picking the 12 best-performing players in the West Duncan doesn’t deserve to be there.

  14. If you have already given up on the Lakers this year and dont want to watch them thats great. But don’t show up on Figueroa in June if/when they prove us wrong and win it all.

    Zephid, I would take a regular season Nene over Duncan this year. Obviously Duncan has proven his worth in the playoffs and I am sure he will step it up again this year but look at the numbers. 13 pts/9reb/48% fg per game is pretty pedestrian.

  15. We should thank Pops for running Duncan out there against Howard, instead of having Pau get beaten on.

  16. Does anyone ‘get beaten on’ in an All-Star Game?

  17. Pau has better stats then duncan for what it’s worth.. Even as bad as Pau been playing hes more deserving as a starter then Duncan this year

  18. RE Duncan: Some of this still comes down to winning, too. Based off pure numbers, Aldridge, Love, and Griffin all deserve to be in as a PF over Timmy. But, Duncan’s contributions are still vital to a team with the best record in the entire league. That counts for a lot with the coaches that select the reserves. I know that Parker would have made it too had there not been guards like Westbrook and Williams and Paul that are having excellent years AND helping their team win games. This is why Nash, despite another strong campaign, didn’t get selected.

  19. 18

    I know the coaches tend to feel that way so I wasn’t surprised to see Duncan make it. My take is that winning should be used as a tiebreaker when deciding among similarly qualified candidates. If you think Duncan’s impact has been comparable to that of say, Aldridge (I don’t) and you give him the edge because of his record, then fine.

    My problem is when people feel the need to give a certain team a certain number of representatives because of their record. It is entirely possible to have an elite team without multiple All-Star calibre players. LeBron’s Cavs were like that the last couple of years, as were Duncan’s Spurs in 2003.

  20. Joel,
    I guess some of this still comes down to how you feel about stats, impact, and where it all overlaps. I think Aldridge is a legitimate snub. He’s carried that team and they’re right in the playoff mix. His stats are very good too. As for Timmy, his stats aren’t great but I think he still has a great impact on the game and that leads to wins.

    Not sure if there’s a right or a wrong answer here. If anything, I just think it shows how deep the West is…players that *are* All-Stars but there isn’t enough room on the team.

  21. “If anything, I just think it shows how deep the West is…players that *are* All-Stars but there isn’t enough room on the team.”

    That’s one thing we can definitely agree on. As I posted here a few days ago, it’s fitting that the top-heavy East is only represented by 6 teams. By contrast, the only team in the West I can say categorically has nobody even close to deserving a nod is Sacramento.

  22. #21. Indeed. And even they had two players voted into the Rook/Soph game (though Evans didn’t play due to injury). The West is just an incredibly talented conference – not only with great players but a bunch of playoff worthy teams that would certainly make the post-season if they were to play in the East.

  23. Darius,
    If winning played a significant part then why was Kevin Love selected to the all star team coming from the worst team in the western coference? (edited) The truth is Duncan, even on a great team didn’t deserve this and it wasnt even close. His play has been as ordinary as his numbers. Even Lamar deserved it more than Timmithy.

  24. @16 – Fair enough, but do you think the West will help on Howard in the post? Probably not, so Pau either says “ole” and runs out of the frame, or he gets in the highlight reel for the wrong reason.

  25. #23. Like I said, I think it depends on how you view numbers and also where those numbers and winning overlap. So, a guy like Love who is putting up fantastic numbers may get the nod even if his team doesn’t win. Then, you have a guy like Duncan who has decent numbers but his team wins more than any other team (and his impact in those wins is clear). What do you value more or can you find room for both? Who gets left out? In this case, plenty of qualified guys got left out.

  26. As long as he is there, the Spurs will be seen as Duncan’s team. They have the best record in the league. As a result Tim gets to cash in. Remember how Allen Iverson and T-Mac were both getting voted into the starting line up when we all knew they shouldn’t? I see nothing wrong with Tim getting the nod. The ASG is not really about productivity anyway. It is about popularity and preference.