There’s a lot of different topics cluttering my brain today, so no better way to address them all than with an installment of Fast Break Thoughts…
*Most fans have a player (or more) that they look at more critically than others. For years, the guy that I’d often judge a bit more harshly than others was Jordan Farmar. There’s no need to get into those reasons again, but lets just say that I was okay with him moving on as a free agent. However, with Farmar gone a new player has taken his place: Shannon Brown. I like Shannon as a player and think he deserves a lot of credit for his developing and growing his game. During his time as a Laker he’s made tremendous strides as a shooter and ball handler. That said, multiple times a game I find myself not able to look past his penchant for over dribbling or his mistakes on defense. Too often, he gambles for steals or doesn’t close out with a hand up (preferring to run at a players legs). Too many times he ignores making the post entry in favor of probing the defense while dribbling the ball between his legs. He’s too much gunner and not enough wingman for my liking. Again, he’s made great strides as a player and by all accounts he’s coachable, accountable, and a hard worker. However, I find myself wanting less freelancing and more commitment to doing the little things better. Maybe I’m being too hard on him.
*Last night Derek Fisher started the game 0-7 and finished the game just 1-8, scoring only 2 points. He chipped in 3 rebounds and 4 assists while tallying a team high +26 on the night. This type of statistical line gives Fisher supporters and bashers ammunition in their next barroom argument about his value to the team. But I’ve never questioned his value just because those little things that I’m asking Shannon Brown to do get done by Fisher on a nightly basis. Maybe I turn a blind eye too often to Fisher’s weaknesses while playing up his strengths more than I should. In any event, I couldn’t agree with Roland Lazenby more here.
*Last week, Rob Mahoney wrote that the Chicago Bulls should be the favorites to win the championship. Based solely off his power rankings and his playoff odds predictor, John Hollinger’s numbers agree. That said, over at The Point Forward, Zach Lowe tells us that the Lakers are once again the favorites to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy come June. An excerpt:
Put simply, the Lakers are playing both offense and defense better than anyone else. They’re also as healthy as any veteran-heavy team can expect to be now. Ron Artest is surging, Pau Gasol’s mid-range jumper has reached the point where it should inspire terror in opposing fans upon release, and Andrew Bynum is playing the best all-around ball of his career. In doing so, Bynum is helping change the Lakers’ identity in a way that makes them fit more closely the conventional notion of a “playoff-style” team (if you believe in such things). And even so, they remain unconventional in ways that make them extra difficult to deal with.
I know it’s extremely convenient of me to agree with Zach here (after all, look at the name of this site), but I do. One of the main reasons behind my not-quite-there thoughts on the Bulls is because of the team they remind me of: The 2008 Los Angeles Lakers. Like our guys from 2008 the Bulls have made a big leap from their previous season, losing in the 1st round of the playoffs the previous year and coming out of nowhere to lead their conference. They excel on one side of the ball (in this case defense), while being middle of the pack on the other side. They employ the likely league MVP. They have several players (and a coach) that are considered winners, but haven’t had a lot of success together as of yet. In the end, I do think the Bulls have what it takes to reach the Finals. I’m just not convinced they have what it takes to bring home the hardware. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but I feel like I’ve seen this before.
*Speaking of the Bulls, they’re one of the teams whose performance down the stretch I’m watching closely. Along with the C’s, Mavs, Heat, and Spurs, the Bulls represent a team that could be a post-season opponent in which the rest of the regular season will dictate home court advantage should a match up with the Lakers occur. For up to the minute standings, look here. So you know, however, the popular take is that the Lakers won’t catch the Spurs for HCA in the West. That’s an opinion that I also agree with.
*Not sure how much of the NCAA tourney you’ve been watching but there have been some great games on in the past couple of weeks. For what it’s worth, I’ve been impressed with a handful of college players including Kyrie Irving of Duke, Harrison Barnes of UNC, Derrick Williams of UofA, and Kemba Walker of UCONN. Walker has especially impressed me as his shot making and moxie are otherworldly. I’m sure others from that list of players will make better professionals, but watching Walker dart around the court, hit step back jumpers, set up his mates, and do it all with a sense of the moment has been very impressive.
*And speaking of the Tournament, my bracket is officially dead. I don’t have a single team alive in the Final Four and am near the bottom of the rankings in our FB&G pool. As for the winner of our pool, that’s yet to be established as Bob’s Bracket has a 5 point lead and still has his pick for National Champion alive.
*Lastly, we haven’t discussed this much here but the reality is sinking in that the Sacramento Kings will relocate to Anaheim (likely to be named the Royals). If you haven’t heard, Phil Jackson has spoken out against this relocation and it’s now being reported that this move could cut into the revenue from the Lakers recently inked TV deal with Time Warner. That’s a lot of money.