First Impressions On A New Team

Darius Soriano —  December 20, 2011

Let me get this out of the way right now, I didn’t think the Lakers played particularly well last night. They struggled mightily in the 3rd quarter and had lapses in execution throughout the game. I’ll touch on a lot things I saw (both good and bad) in a second but it should be clear that the Lakers have some growing to do as a team.

That said, those trying to ascribe too much value to last night’s game are reaching. This was a pre-season game and the first time a lot of these guys played NBA caliber basketball in months. Many Lakers looked rusty and more than a few looked fatigued, never catching their second wind in a game that had a decent pace and flow to it. So while I would have liked to have seen the team play better, I’m also not going so far as to say that this game  is somehow indicative of how this team will play long term. We’ll get a much better idea of who this team is over the course of the season; making definitive judgments now isn’t in anyone’s best interests.

Now, on to my scattered thoughts from last night:

  • Kobe’s offense already looks season ready. He had good lift on his jumper and showed nice burst turning the corner in pick and rolls. He also showed a nice first step out of his triple threat arsenal. He had 22 points on only 10 shots and went to the FT line 15 times with a 66.3 TS%. These numbers are very good on any night, but for the first game out of the box they’re a testament to where he’s at. Where he continued to struggle was in his penchant for giving the ball away, comitting one third of the Lakers 21 turnovers all on his own. Some of these were ball handling gaffes – which will seemingly be a concern for the rest of his career due to his multiple hand injuries. However, he also left his feet far too often without a plan and found himself airborn without an outlet. I can live with some of the ball handling issues but he must be sharper about when he leaves his feet and play a more controlled game.
  • The Lakers bigs were mixed bag. Both Bynum and Gasol showed that their size still mattered as they did a pretty good job of walling off the paint when they were paired together. Bynum rebounded well but fatigue obviously affected his ability to finish inside (as did a challenging DeAndre Jordan) as he missed a few point blank shots that are normally made baskets. As for Pau, I would have liked to have seen him rebound better (especially on the offensive end) by going after the ball with more vigor. I also wonder where his jump hook has gone as he often shot turnaround jumpers even when his positioning implied he could have taken a hook instead. However, his defense was pretty strong on Blake Griffin as he took away driving lanes and challenged both jumpers and shots going to the rim. Blake only shot 6 FT’s and missed 7 of his 11 FGA’s. A lot of that had to do with Pau’s approach on defense.
  • As a whole, the Lakers offense offered both positives and negatives all night. On the positive front, there seemed to be ample player movement on the weak side to occupy defenders and free guys up. Kobe worked off stagger screens to open him up on the wing and down screens to get him the ball at the top of the circle. The big men took advantage of duck in opportunities on the weak side and used this action to get several paint touches that turned into solid looks at the hoop. These are the types of sets that the Lakers can use as foundation for their offense moving forward. On the negative side, there were a lot of tentative passes and too much dribbling by guys thinking about the next option rather than reacting to what the defense was providing. After the game Brent Barry – who played in this system with the Spurs – mentioned that this offense has a lot of reads in it and that it will take some time for all the players to find a comfort level both with the system and with each other within it. That comment rang true for me as I rewatched some of the decision making in the half court last night.
  • Building on that point, this Lakers team – outside of the starting group – didn’t look like they new each other that well. The bench had little chemistry and when the Clips broke the game open in the third quarter there were turnovers and miscommunications on D that gave them too many chances to get easy baskets. One can only think this will get better with time but last night it was obvious that the chemistry isn’t quite there between a lot of the guys that either haven’t been here very long and/or aren’t used to playing together.
  • Defensively, the Lakers showed they’re going to be a “hard hedge” team and step out to slow the ball handler in P&R sets. Last night showed they’re not quite there yet, though Chris Paul had a lot to do with that. I thought Bynum did a better job than Pau of getting wide and stopping the dribbler and then racing back to the paint but overall both players’ effectiveness executing this technique suffered as the game advanced. Again, this could be due to fatigue but I also chalk it up to a change in scheme from what the Lakers have done in year’s past.
  • I’m not sure if the Lakers are actually going to find one, but a combo guard that could handle the ball and back up Kobe sure would be nice. At one point the Lakers went with Walton, MWP, and Kapono with Morris and Bynum and that unit did absolutely nothing on offense save for Morris hitting some off-balance J’s at the end of the clock. Luke, Ron, and Jason are all natural SF’s and all have limitations in how they can attack a defense. Last night this was all too clear when they shared the floor.
  • Speaking Morris, he showed he has pro-level skill but with a lot of rookie tendencies. He over dribbled. He often tried to blow by his man off the bounce only to find that he’s not in the Big 10 anymore and he can’t just race by his man. Even when he did get by his man he saw the recovery speed of NBA defenders and the size that steps up to meet you in the paint at this level. All in all he flashed his feel for the game, his ability to push the ball, and some late clock creating skills, and for that he gets a solid score in his first NBA action.
  • McRoberts also had a good night and brought the game that was advertised to us upon his signing. He went hard all the time, hit the glass, made some good passes, got a nice dunk, and looked lost on a post touch where he had to create for himself. If we see less of the latter and more of the former when he’s in the game his addition looks to be a good net positive overall.

In the end, this game was hyped but the result on the scoreboard means much less than the results that are on tape that can be used as teaching tools moving forward. Brown expressed his displeasure with the team’s defense and I can’t blame him as there were a lot of late rotations to shooters and some late help on P&R’s where the back line defender needed to step over and cover a penetrating ball handler. I’d certainly like to see a better effort to clean up some of the mistakes on Wednesday even if the end result (a loss) is the same.

 

Darius Soriano

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65 responses to First Impressions On A New Team

  1. “I’m not sure if the Lakers are actually going to find one, but a combo guard that could handle the ball and back up Kobe sure would be nice.”

    Paging Agent Zero…paging Agent Zero…

    I’d rather lose every pre-season game and win the ones that count. Pre-season, especially in this condensed “training camp” and no summer league for the rookies means that pre-season games have even less meaning than when they were previously meaningless.

  2. That summed up my feelings toward the game and the lakers in general.

    You also made a great point about Pau’s shot preference. I kept asking that question that last year in the playoffs when he struggled against smaller, but stronger defenders. Pau is 7ft and taller than most pf’s. All he has to do is shoot a hook, but he won’t. Even when he starts off with good position he keeps trying to bang with his defender and gets pushed out of position and settles for a turn around fade away. I just don’t understand it. If we are going to get the Pau that won’t shoot a hook shot, the lakers are in for a very long and depressing season (which says a lot since its a jam packed 66 game schedule). Pau needs some lessons with The Dream, not Kobe.

    In all seriousness, Pau is probably my biggest concern. I’m not sure if the lakers are going to get the All Star Pau because of the trade drama and the pressure from his disappearance last season. If they do, and Bynum takes a leap into the all star discussion, the lakers will be fine.

  3. I’m just going to repeat what I posted in the game comment thread earlier:

    Our team has a new coach that wants then to run an entirely new system, that’s very different from what they have been running for years now. They have a lot of new players on the roster, that are still getting to know each other and learn how to play together.

    In addition to all that, what we saw last night was not exactly the rotation Brown will go with as the regular season takes off and things get serious. For all we know, he was experimenting and deliberately using this first game together to toss all the rookies into the spotlight under relatively safe circumstances, so they know more what it’s like when the real thing begins.

    We have smart players on our roster, they’ll figure it out. It will get better. :)

  4. I find it downright hilarious how far the door swings in either direction when it comes to the Lakers. Last season, with basically the same roster to being the year, save the loss of Lamar (which is admittedly big), people were talking about threepeat, great team, great additions. One season later, the same team is washed up, old, slow, etc. Why not just let them play a while before making any judgments? What’s with the incessant need to troll comments about how badly the team needs to be changed all of the time?

  5. Darius: I agree with your analysis above. In fact, most of it is dead on = especially the Kobe paragraph.

    I also agree that the change in systems, especially to the system that Brown runs – will take some getting used to. The lack of camp, the short pre-season, and this system change means that things will take time to jell. Things could get better.

    After re-reading the last few threads, I actually do not think I am a pessimist on this board. I might be one of the few remaining optimists. You see, I was truly hoping for another title b4 Kobe’s retirement.

    I beleive others have already given up on this thought and are now content with simply being competitive. I have no issues with that. I am just not there yet. In a few weeks however I may just join you guys. I may make a comment like: Well we lost again, but I liked the way Ebanks played :)

    I am self imposing another ban until Thursday morning (after the second Clip game).

    I kept my last promise and I will keep this one, so robinred: please hold down the fort until then :) And somebody let me know who wins the game of horse between Kapono, McRoberts, and Murphy.

    Darius: appreciate your comments and your moderation of this board.

  6. no trade speculation, no unrealistic demands for the financially burdened FO here – just a backhoe loader full of bleakest pessimism.

    last year’s early pessimists (there were some) had it right – another year older & another step slower. that trend looks to continue this year; but also consider this: how will the L’s recover from an 0-5 start out of this shortened and compacted schedule?

  7. What’s with the incessant need to troll comments about how badly the team needs to be changed all of the time?

    ____

    Lakers fans are like any other fans. We want to see on-floor evidence of a plan that can move the team forward. That might be a Utah plan (young guys) a Memphis/Denver plan (no superstars but strong at every spot) or a Dallas plan (patch with vets and save cap space for a run at Williams and Howard).

    In the wake of the Paul veto and the Odom dump, the on-floor evidence of a Lakers’ plan is not readily visible. If you think you know what it is, please share.

    ___

    Darius is right about a combo guard–I mentioned that a few days ago, and Dallas just added Delonte West for one year at the minimum. Lakers still need a backcourt upgrade.

    To repeat from the other thread: the Clippers had three new starters last night, two of whom arrived within the last three days.

  8. #4 – the thread is “first impressions.” Some comments will be positive, some negative (not necessarily “troll” in nature). The core is one year older (i.e. Kobe/Pau/Fisher) and slower (i.e. Fisher). That’s a fact. The team as currently constituted is a very good team, but not a Finals-level one. Kobe (“a wasted year of my life”) wants to win now. All Laker fans would like to see at least one more ring before the Kobe era ends when his contract is up. We’re not afraid of a transition period (i.e. the 90′s), we just want it in 2015 or so (smile). Kudos to the FO for at least trying to bring speed, youth, and a transition at once with CP3.

  9. We want to see on-floor evidence of a plan that can move the team forward.

    _____

    What if that means giving the team that was on the court last night a chance to come together? Clearly the plan was to acquire Chris Paul but the NBA threw a wrench in that and the Lakers and Rockets were left to clean up the mess. On-floor evidence as of right now is using guys like Kapono and Murphy to fill gaps and allowing them to integrate with the team.

    The team is, as can be totally clear to us at the moment, moving forward with the guys that were on the court last night.

  10. For now, ill listen to Coach Brown, said in his interviews that he probably has a loosing record in preseason games, he uses them to try out rotations, and find out what works best.
    Clippers did have three new starters, however the coach and his scheme had been well established easier(not sure how much) to add three guys this way.
    Lakers threw in about 4-5 new guys, completely new scheme, add a broken Walton, and a sprinkle of world peace and you’ll have what we saw yesterday. which honestly wasnt all too bad. I have faith that the whole team will continue to improve, if they buy into the defensive scheme, we will have some lock down Defense, and everything else should come with that.

  11. Robinred,

    You hit the nail on the head. I pretty much agree with Darius’ take on the game. In the end, it was just a preseason game that had both some good moments and some bad moments. And while I believe that there’s no need at this time to go to the one extreme of “the sky is falling”, and “we have no shot this season” attitude like a lot of us fans tend to do sometimes, I also don’t believe that we should completely dismiss our glaring weaknesses by using excuses that apply to every other team as well. The whole extreme optimist attitude is just as bad as the extreme pessimist.

    For example, why should we be using the excuse that we have all these new players that haven’t had a chance to play together yet? I’m sorry, but did I miss something? Have the Clippers had 2 extra months of training camp with their new players that we didn’t know about? Seems like their 3 new starters that just joined the team played well enough together to help blow us out by 20. Now I also understand that we have a new coach and also a new system, so that plays a big role as well.

    All I’m saying is that while we shouldn’t be so eager to condemn this team after one preseason game, we also shouldn’t be so nonchalant and should recognize that this team has some serious weaknesses. Yes, we have strengths that we’ll hopefully continue to utilize, but our glaring weaknesses are gonna have to be shored up if we’re gonna compete for a title this year. How do we do that? Do we just need more time together in the new system? Do we need to pick up a player or two, like an athletic PG (yes, IMO)? Or do we need to make some major trade?

    I don’t know the answer, but I’m hoping the the team does whatever it takes to make the improvements that are needed before the season starts and throughout the season in order for us to be title contenders. Only time will tell, so let’s see what happens….

  12. In the wake of the Paul veto and the Odom dump, the on-floor evidence of a Lakers’ plan is not readily visible. If you think you know what it is, please share.

    I think the fact we can’t see evidence of a plan doesn’t mean there is no plan. It just means that we can’t see evidence of one.

    I also think that we’ve seen one single game, a pre-season game, from a team that’s still getting to know their new coach, which means our sample size is so small it’s not statistically relevant in any way shape or form. So I think, in short, that we should hold off on jumping to conclusions about how good or bad this team is until we have seen the full squad play at least half a dozen regular season games together. Since Bynum is out for the first five, that means they are not statistically relevant either.

    That’s what I think. :)

  13. Here is what Zach Lowe said about Kapono:

    “Jason Kapono looked sloooowwww running around screens and trying to free himself; watch Kyle Korver in comparison and appreciate the speed differential. The Lakers are going to have to work very hard to create shots outside the post in the half court, and they are going to count a lot on Bynum and Gasol drawing extra defensive attention down low — in both pick-and-rolls and traditional post-ups. ”

    ___

    This is what I mean by “on-floor evidence.” Murphy and McRoberts were reactive, CYA moves, based on Odom. Kapono was brought in to shoot the 3, but makes the team even slower.

    The team needs a creator and it doesn’t have one. It has Triangle personnel but no Triangle.

    As to the D, part of the execution issues are lack of speed among the old guys and lack of exp among the young guys. Those issues will be tough to fix even with more repetition.

    But the question remains–what is the plan? Wait? Make a run at Howard? Use the TPE to get a guard or a 4? Play Morris some? That is what I mean by plan.

    And I agree with KT–that is why a ‘transition year’ right now = “what is the plan?”

  14. Zirk,

    Good points. The main questions are:

    For Brown:

    Will Brown be willing to bench Fisher and MWP? I think he is right to start Fisher on the 25th as a show of respect, but after that? It may be time to start Blake and use Morris as the backup. How can we expect Fisher to help in this system? We can’t.

    I like MWP and we will always have Game 7. But he is 32 and out of shape
    –seems unlikely he gets better. Ebanks needs to play if he is going to develop. If MWP has say 12 out of 15 bad games and the team is 7-8 or so–what then?

    For Buss (and Mitch):

    Is he willing to deal Gasol and Bynum for Howard, or not? Is he trying to wait out Orlando? If so, is that a good idea? Is he going to use Lamar’s TPE this year, and is he just waiting to pounce on a mid-season move? Or are they just saving money?

  15. Mimsy,

    Your emoticons and positive attitude are most welcome. Get your hubby on here–I like him, too.

    That said, I know it is just one game, but here is the other side of that:

    MWP 32
    Kobe 33
    Pau 31
    Murphy 31
    Kapono 30
    Blake 31
    Barnes 31
    Fisher 37

    My opinions about this team are not based on last night. As Zirk stated, I agree with most of what Darius said about the game. My opinions about this team are based on the team age, personnel, and the money they have already committed.

  16. @15, robinred

    I don’t think I’m positive so much as refusing to be negative yet. Don’t take that the wrong way, I turned off the Lakers-Clippers game in disgust early in the fourth quarter and went back to reading my book while that husband of mine went back to Infamous 2, and I’m far from pleased with the way my team played for most of what I saw of the game. I think all the level-headed analysis I’ve seen here on FB&G of a lack of shot creation, poor defense, and so on, are spot on.

    But still… if this really is a bad team in desperate need of change of some kind, they’ll prove it to us in due time. I’m not going to crown the champions until they earn it, but I’m not writing them off until the deserve that either.

    So I’m “dismissive”, not “positive”. Pre-season games don’t count (regardless of what Kobe thinks), and it’s only natural that having less time to prepare than usual, combined with a new system, makes the team look disorganized and uncoordinated. When I think about it, I would have been very surprised at a Lakers win last night, if nothing else because the Clippers are on fire and will stay on fire for a while.

    So I maintain that we should hold off and not judge our team until we’ve seen the real Lakers and not the pre-season experiments we’ll be seeing this week. The Celtics were pretty old that year when they beat us in the Finals in their Boston Garden arena, weren’t they?

  17. #11. Zirk,
    In response to the question about the Clippers and their new players, I’d argue that their system – especially on offense – is more conducive to early success based off the fact that they have one of the best P&R PG’s in the game and basically run that action every time down the court. Their reads on every play are pretty clear and last night that showed. Griffin or Jordan screened, Paul probed the D, and if defenders collapsed he passed to his shooters and if they didn’t he tried to pick out his big man.

    The Lakers one the other hand were running more of a motion based system with off ball actions and nearly every player who touched the ball making a read. When I rewatched some of the plays, it was easy to see the Lakers thinking. Meanwhile, the Clips (especially Paul, their shooters, and their two big men) essentially played the same game they’ve been playing their entire careers.

    The below is an excerpt from Kevin Arnovitz who posted on the Clippers at TrueHoop:

    “The big winner of Monday night?

    (Vinny) Del Negro. Not because he outcoached anyone, but because what transpired on the floor suggests that Del Negro’s shortcoming will be mitigated by circumstance.

    The league is moving away from systems and intricately choreographed play calls from the sidelines. Today’s NBA is about getting the ball up and finding clean looks at the basket before defenses can get set. And if you have a couple of floor generals such as Paul and Billups on the roster, there will be plenty of margin for error because they’re more than capable of manufacturing opportunities for themselves and others when the shot clock begins to tick down. The thickness of Del Negro’s playbook measures only a 10th of the thickness of what Mike Dunleavy toted to work every day. With this team at this moment, that might do the trick.

    But sometime in late spring, a critical moment will arise. The Thunder will use Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison to clamp down on Griffin. The Mavs will identify a fatal inefficiency in the Clippers’ defense. When it’s time for Del Negro to counter, will he have a solution? “

  18. VDN has one year on his deal, BTW.

    Good points from Arnovitz.

  19. I should also add, this is why I liked Mike Brown’s comments about the guards needing to do a better job of looking into the post and to their big men running ahead. Gasol and Bynum are capable of running post lane sprints as is McRoberts. The Lakers, though, aren’t yet used to looking ahead as they’ve played a half court oriented game for the better part of 4 seasons (2008 was the lone exception). Pushing the ball and looking ahead isn’t about speed in the back court, it’s about awareness and comittment to looking up and looking for players running the lane.

    One of the great quotes I remember coming out of the Showtime era came from Worthy who talked about getting out and running not necessarily because the coaches told them to but because they got rewarded enough to make it worth their while. The Lakers bigs aren’t so slow footed that they can’t race the floor and change ends better than a lot of other big men. (They’re not Dwight Howard but they’re not Yao Ming either.) This can be a weapon but everyone needs to be on the same page.

  20. It is human nature to look for those facts that confirm your previous biases. That said, it is sort of mindless to criticize the Lakers after one preseason game. Most of the criticisms are based on previously stated biases and I doubt any new negatives were turned up Monday nite.

    New coach, new system after 11 years, new players, core players in their 30s and having gone through numerous preseasons. These are all things that would point to a loss in the preseason. Also, the coach himself claims to have a losing record in the preseason because he is looking to see what people can do before playing games that count. Add to that no summer league, an almost infinitesimal preseason and only two games to be played with other teams and you have a textbook situation calling for problems.

    How about we try to see the things that were positive and hold off on the negative until after Bynum returns during the regular season…
    1) Bynum actually looks like he is progressing upward again this year.
    2) Morris looks like a keeper and may see time on the 2nd team – much different from the Phil Jackson era.
    3) Ebanks looks to be another keeper off the bench or even starting later in the year.
    4) Kobe looks to be at least as good this year as last year.
    5) McRoberts also looks like a keeper and we really need this for the start of the year.

    My guess is that those who showed they could play will get less time on Wed. This is so that the coach can look at those whose status is still up-in-the-air. Since the Clips look so good out-of-the-chute, I expect another loss. Let’s not go all ‘chicken little’ when this happens, can we??

  21. I’m not terribly worried about last night’s result. The game didn’t count, the Clippers obviously had a lot more invested in winning over the “big brother” than the Lakers did, and with the turmoil thus far with the Lakers this season, they weren’t likely to get up for a game yet. Of course, the season starts in 5 days, so they’d better figure out how to get up soon.

    But there seems to be a lot of worrying going on about whether or not they’ll be making moves. I said it in a thread a week or so ago: Orlando is not trading for Bynum until he serves his suspension, and that’s the holdup. Bynum isn’t eligible to play until January 1st (their 6th game), and even a disgruntled and disinterested Howard is better for Orlando than no Bynum.

    So I have January 7th circled on my calendar. The Lakers are on a three-game homestand from the 6-10th, and the Magic are at Sacramento on the 6th and PDX on the 8th. Makes travel for the moving players easy.

    I’d initially looked for a spot where both teams were within 1000 miles of each other and had a 2-3 day break, but that’s not happening this year.

    My feeling is if the Nets deal was going to happen, it would have gone down already. They’re pushing out stories (like today’s that went nowhere) to keep DH’s value up. If the Lakers were 100% sure they weren’t bidding against anyone else, they’d have much more power in the negotiations.

    Second, I think the other shoe drops with regard to free agency and other trades once this deal is consummated. There are still a few vets out there looking for work, and the post-training camp cuts will be coming this weekend too.

    (Darius, I’m not talking player specifics, just the trade that’s going to happen. Please don’t mod me to death. I’m just a little tired of the house-on-fire talk when the story hasn’t fully played out yet.)

  22. JB,
    Thanks for the realistic reason for the trade not answering frantic fan fantasy feelings, and happening in time for Xmas.

  23. Most of the criticisms are based on previously stated biases

    ___

    Like I said: in my case, they are based on the team’s age, personnel, and future salary commitments. Biases and the pre-season opener have nothing to do with it.

    I agree with you, and have stated, that one plus to Brown will be that he will play young guys. But as I said in this thread, there will be an interim/change period, because if Morris and Ebanks are going to play meaningful minutes, MWP/Barnes and Fisher aren’t. That will have to be dealt with, and it won’t be easy.

    McRoberts is a nice pick-up at the mini-MLE. He is not as good as Odom. You have asserted several times that Odom’s skills would not be as valuable in this system. You have yet to explain why, however. One way I could see is that McRoberts could space the floor, leaving the post area available for Bryant and either Gasol or Bynum. McRoberts does not, however, have Odom’s face-up and handle skills–skills the Lakers really need, and he is not as good on D as Odom.

  24. I agree with your post Darius.

    In my opinion, Lakers have a lot to work on. They need to focus on classic basketball playing now. Last night, our big men in the middle were open a lot. When Gasol/Bynum had trouble with the ball in the middle, our outside was not opening up.

    Should be interesting to see defensive changes as well.

  25. JB,

    Good post. We’ll see; no one knows right now.

  26. From lakers blog:

    Kobe Bryant was diagnosed with a sprained right wrist, though he practiced and later received treatment. Forward Devin Ebanks missed Wednesday’s practice because of a sore right foot and is expected to have an MRI later Tuesday. Should Ebanks’ injury turn out to be serious, Brown said he would start Matt Barnes again at small forward. Lakers reserve guard Steve Blake also has a sore right foot after colliding with Clippers guard Chris Paul on Monday, but Blake is expected to play in Wednesday’s exhibition

  27. Is this team likely to be better than last year’s team? If not, then they aren’t going to be contenders. I don’t think they will be better than last season; I didn’t think they would be before the Odom deal. That’s OK with me, if it looks like they are making progress toward being a contender in 1-2 years; I would rather they start now than hang out in near-contender status for several years.

    The Sasha trade exception not being used makes me suspicious that they don’t intend to really contend this year.

  28. Great analysis Darius, spot on. Thanks Gr8Dunk, I wanted to know what Kobe’s diagnosis was on that wrist, not a good way to start the season off, with Kobe already having a minor injury.

  29. Is this Groundhog’s Day? The “optimists” on this blog are simply rehashing the same arguments from a year ago; the Lakers will be fine, they have the best front court in basketball, Bynum will be a beast (this time I mean it), Fish is a capable PG, let’s be patient with this team, etc.

    At some point, we have to face reality folks. This team is not getting any younger, has a glaring hole at PG, is slow as molasses, and has a suspect bench. To those who think losing Lamar was not a major loss…I hope you realize that Lamar, despite his inconsistencies, has been the third most important Laker during this mini dynasty, and we have him away to the reigning champs for peanuts.

    The super team in Miami can manage just fine without a true center because they have two of the most talented players in the history of the league in their primes to make up for any weaknesses. The Shaq/Kobe Lakers managed to win a ring with Samaki Walker at PF for the same reasons. This team, on the other hand, simply does not have the talent to make up for the liability we have at PG, not in this evolving NBA landscape, where the talent level at PG has skyrocketed in recent years. This is not the time to be patient, or talk of rebuilding. Kobe’s last few years will be wasted unless the front office upgrades the roster, and based on the front office’s pursuit of Paul and Howard, I suspect that they feel the same way.

    When I look at the rosters for the Thunder, Grizzlies, Mavs, Clippers, these teams are strong at every position, and all have deep benches. James Harden is turning into an elite player, and Durant and Westbrook are only going to get better. Memphis made a deep run last year without Rudy Gay, arguably the best player on the Grizzlies. The Clippers have 4 or 5 PGs who are better than any PG on the Lakers. Miami will only get better after only one year of playing together.

    The NBA is evolving. Teams are getting faster and deeper, while the Lakers are getting slower and thinner. I am confident that Jim Buss and Kupchack are working the phones to improve this team, and I expect a trade or two this season…..but this team as it stands now, even with a healthier Kobe, a rested Gasol, an improved Bynum, and a potential young stud in Morris, simply has too many holes to win a ring this year.

  30. bynum + hard hedges = good idea.

    it presents to 200lb pgs the option of picking up their dribble or being bodychecked by a 280lb center with a bit of a mean streak.

  31. Darius I feel you missed some obvious problems with this team last night.
    1-Ron can change his name but clearly not his game. He was terrible! 0 for 8 and slower then slow. 6th man of the year he is not. How do you spell amnesty?
    2-Blake looked lost and bad on defense and he is the better if our point guards.
    3-Adding Murphy, McRoberts and Kapono to a already slow team bakes this one if the slowest in the league.
    4-Last year’s problems of penetration and kick out to wide open shooters is even worse thus year with a even slower team

    Yes its just a pre-season game but when you have bad point guards, bad small forwards and a slower team then most you end up with a 5th or 6th seed in the West. How is that $9 million trade exception for your 3rd best player looking now Mitchz.

  32. can’t believe I’m thinking this, but does it make sense for the FO to go pick up Agent Zero on the cheap? I mean… with Odom gone, we need somebody in the 2nd unit who can create. MWP didn’t give me much confidence that he can be that guy.

  33. #31. If I wrote about everything I noticed, my recaps would be 2,000 words long.

  34. The Lakers are about the only team that might actually benefit from Arenas–also, Howard supposedly likes him.

  35. Darius. True and it’s still a long short season.

  36. Indeed, it’s really premature to write the Lakers obituary after seeing just one game. However, it’s very helpful to exchange views with what the Lakers need. It’s not the sky is falling or already fell at Staples but people comment based on what they saw, it is what it is. Do Lakers need a PG? Well against CP3, Billups. Williams and Foye, can the Lakers run with these new greyhounds? If FO would not support the Big 3, then what is the grand plan? Wait for DH, wait for another two years until CP3 contract with Clippers expire? Wait for D’Williams to bolt out of the Nets at the end of the season. Why spend multi million dollar contracts on Kobe, Gasol and Bynum if our goal is not to win the West? Who is surrendering at this early stage? What I read, the pessimists or realists are suggesting ways how to improve the team. Yes, the Lake show last night was just a preview. Critics are already giving a grade at the preview.

    Magic J. suggested that Lakers fate lies on the hands of Gasol and Bynum. Kobe will get his own scores but without the efforts of these two bigs, Lakers have no chance of competing. Is Magic J. a pessimist or he’s just offering a wise advice being the greatest PG the Lakers ever had? Will Agent Zero help? Why not, if no one is available on that positon, why not make an offer to Agent Zero for one year?

  37. robinred,
    …You have asserted several times that Odom’s skills would not be as valuable in this system. You have yet to explain why, however…

    I have stated why I think this in previous threads, but…

    Odom is an ideal Swiss-Army-Knife type of player – i.e. he is very good at almost everything, but not outstanding at any one thing. He is also not a really aggressive player and doesn’t always come to play every game and we already have one of those who is better than he is, in Pau Gasol.

    In the triangle system we need these type of players because everything is reaction and spacing and this type of player can do it all. In Mike Brown’s system he wants some specific skills and demands those players be better at their specific skills that Lamar is. The reason is that he will run everything through the big men and his other players will have to be ready to exercise their skill off those players – i.e. outside shooting, driving, posting up. Lamar can do all of that, but usually takes his time and will not do a specific thing without question – good in the triangle, not in this offense.

    McRoberts will be consistently tougher on the boards and can shoot a higher percentage midrange jumper, while Murphy should be able to board and shoot 3s better. Neither will do everything Lamar can, but they also don’t take up his salary.

    I am not saying the Lakers are better off, but I also don’t think this represents a ‘no plan’ approach either.

  38. Both on the radio and in print I constantly hear a ‘no confidence’ vote regarding the front office. This new CBA will take some getting use to and, in two years, it will really lower the boom on currently high spending teams. Those who don’t start preparing for that time this year will live to regret it in the near future – that is simply a fact of life, intentionally included in the CBA.

    While the Lakers will always be able to spend more on players than small market teams, it makes no sense to spend high dollars today when it is likely salaries will come down somewhat in the next couple of years. Do we want the Luke Walton situation repeated? – of course not.

    The Laker front office has generally been able to figure out how to live with each CBA before most other organizations and I will give them the benefit of the doubt for the next couple of years. Meanwhile we may not be as obviously superior this year, but it is wise to use this time to develop our young players and prepare for the transition. We have enough talent to win, given some luck. This luck factor is almost always present anyway, so I don’t think this is so unusual.

  39. I wish we’d all stop being stuck on the narrative of the optimistic vs pessimistic fan. Instead, I simply wish fans would let situations play out before making final judgements whether or not a team is good enough rather than hammering the point home in every comment only to say “I told you so” if they happen to turn out right. I long for the days where we enjoyed the games for the games rather than pushing an idea so hard that the conversation becomes about those ideas rather than what we’re watching on the court (or when what we’re watching on the court is only seen through the lens of what backs up the idea we’ve been trying to make the entire time). Maybe it’s because I’m not big on predictions. (I begrudgingly make them for ESPN when asked, but I’d much rather watch the games and continue to learn about the team and talk about what I see than presume I actually know what will happen in the future.)

  40. I am not saying the Lakers are better off, but I also don’t think this represents a ‘no plan’ approach either.

    Like I said, assuming that Odom had to go, McRoberts and Murphy were about the best they could do.

    You left out defense in your analysis–Brown is supposedly a defensive coach
    –and there is no real basis for thinking McRoberts will rebound better than Odom did. Odom’s numbers are better and have been the last three years–not a lot better, but better. McRoberts is a lot younger and could still improve a bit.

    That said, here’s the problem: you said yourself the Lakers are not necessarily “better off” and that’s the point–what are they trying to do? Set up another trade? Save money? Were they just upset with Odom because of his emotional reaction to being included in the Paul deal? Did the Odom trade improve the team’s chances of making it to the Finals this year? If not, why was it made? Is this really a team that should be punting this year to look ahead, when Kobe and Pau will be a year older and making even more money than they do now? That is what I mean by “no plan.”

  41. Craig,

    The commitments to Kobe and Pau alone take up about 80% of the projected cap in 13/14. MWP also has a player option for that year, believe it or not. The McRoberts deal, ending as it does prior to the new tax rules kicking in, was obviously made with the new CBA in mind.

    These are the reasons why many national media types believe the Odom deal was a simple salary dump, with his trade demand used as a pretext.

  42. With regard to a “plan,” I’m not one to knock Jim Buss or Kupchak at this point. They seem to be trying, and the hype that suggested the Lakers were entitled to a superstar pick-up was misguided. It’s certainly not their fault Stern took such an unprecedented, ridiculously unethical step in killing the Paul deal.

    As others have said and exhelodrvr summed up well, the question is will this season’s team be better than last season’s? Barring a deal, right now the facts – and by facts I don’t at all mean the results of one preseason game — suggest no.

    Kobe is still great, but he’s on the back end of his career and can’t carry a team like he did circa 2006, especially not with this crazy post-lockout schedule. The same applies to Pau, and we don’t know how quickly he’ll slip (were the 2011 playoffs an anomaly or a sign of what’s next?). Bynum is likely the only Laker with any near-term upside. I think the world of him, but is he enough to help out Pau and Kobe in winning another ring? Probably not, especially with such a glaring hole at point guard in a conference loaded with great perimeter stars.

    Hopefully Ebanks and Morris can develop and contribute this season and beyond, but look objectively and you’ll see there’s a ton of dead weight in Artest, Walton, Fisher’s corpse and so on.

    Bottom line, fans want to see a direction — was 2010 Kobe’s last chance to make the Finals, or is the team going to go all in for one more push? If not, let’s hope to see Kupchak begin dumping dead weight and getting younger in the process.

    If the Lakers aren’t a viable 2012 playoff contender – and in my view, they aren’t as presently constituted — I’ll be more excited when the number of players on the come up outweighs the number of guys on the downward end of things.

    For example, 1994-95 and 2007-08 were enjoyable non-title years simply because fans could see the young guys coming into form, showing hope for the future. But on the current roster, we just don’t see anything akin to a young Eddie Jones or Nick Van Exel, a scrappy Sasha or Farmar or Turiaf. I see lots of dead weight, and Brown would be wise to jettison much of it quickly.

    That isn’t “woe is me” or a Laker fan’s entitlement; it’s a realistic look at the roster. If the team isn’t good enough to win it all, then start doing what needs to be done to get back into position to contend again in the near future.

  43. The Odom deal is done and he’s gone. However the TPE derived from his trade is still there, perhaps concentrate what it can buy?

    I don’t see Odom has been a defensive threat, he has no defense except for rebounds, in fact IMO he’s the head of the scrubs of ’06 & ’07 when Kobe was a one-man team.

    The point is, he was replaced by money and fans wants to know what are they going to do with the retained money? Has the story ended there, or the money is reserved for something big? I think last Friday Sasha’s TPE was a clear indication of salary dump while they continue maintaining huge contracts for the big 3 no sign of exercising amnesty on “white elephant” contracts. Where are the Lakers heading from here?

  44. Darius,

    I like your analysis in your post #17. Here’s my question…

    Because of the type of offense that Mike Brown runs, a motion based offense, do you think it is more or less condusive to our current personnel, which can be considered older and less athletic than a lot of other teams? Furthermore, aside from Kobe (who’s not getting any younger), we seriously lack a productive playmaker. Do you think this also hurts us in Mike Brown’s type of offense?

  45. would you guys rather have gilbert arenas or allen iverson?

  46. Zirk,
    I think our personnel fits what Brown wants to do on offense. This team actually reminds a bit of a combination of the Spurs teams that competed for and won some championships. Those Spurs teams were never loaded with athletic talent, but instead relied on great size (Duncan, Robinson, Nesterovic, Nazr, Horry), heady PG play (Johnson, Claxton, Parker), and savvy wing players (Elliot, Ellie, Bowen, Ginobili). Obviously these are (kind of) generalizations as Parker and Ginobili took on heavy loads in the Spurs’ later title teams but I think the comparison stands based off how this Laker team is constructed.

    While I don’t think either of the Laker bigs are near a prime Tim Duncan, I do think Gasol and Bynum approximate his impact on both ends of the floor. I think Kobe – even at this advanced age – provides a bit more than Ginobili provided, and I think the Lakers’ current PG’s are very much in the mold of Johnson and Claxton who played huge roles in the Spurs’ first two championships. I also think there are comparisons to be made to Bowen and Artest/Barnes.

    Where the Lakers aren’t as good as those teams is in the outside shooting department, but I think this team is capable of knocking down shots albeit with a lot of consistency still to be desired.

    However, the Lakers are a smart, veteran team with a lot of top end talent and capable role players. For years that same formula kept the Spurs as a top contender though not the *dominant* team of that era (that would be the Shaq/Kobe Lakers). Can the Lakers do enough to duplicate what the Spurs did in their most successful seasons? I think that remains to be seen. I can say that it would take a lot of things to go right for LA to win, but I also believe that’s the case every year for every champion. As I’ve said countless times before, I’m just not one to say it *won’t* happen.

  47. Darius Morris baby………..

    Darius Morris!

  48. That is an interesting comp, but if you check the BaskRef numbers, the 1999 and 2003 Spurs were brilliant on defense. This is a different time–no handchecking, etc, and I don’t think the Lakers can match that. The 1999 Spurs shot only 33% from 3–but held opponents to 30%.

    PER is a quick/dirty stat but FWIW, Johnson (1999) Parker and Claxton (2003) had PERs of 14, 16.5, and 15.9.

    The current Lakers PGs will have a hard time approaching those numbers.

  49. I have not yet seen the game, but I was wondering about Artest. How did he look on defense?

    I love his defense when it is on, it is of a smothering kind you almost never see… but I must admit he seemed to have lost a step too much last year, and I really have my doubts about this year. Anyone see anything interesting in this first game from his defense?

  50. I’m sorry, but I am not in the least bit convinced that this team can compete near the level that we have grown accustom to.

    At the end of last year, we had several deficiencies that we needed to address in order to compete on the next level. IMO they were the lack of atheletism as a team, depth at the Center and Power Foward positions, and first and foremost a starting point guard. How did we do?

    We lost Shannon Brown and replaced him with…..Gerald Green. Not good. We have the rookies (only one of whom will make the team – D Morris) and sophmore Ebanks gets a chance to play. We moved MWP to the bench and start Barnes. Some potential there, but MWP as a leader (who by the way didn’t bother to stay in shape…great leadership example there) worries me.

    We lost our most valuable asset at the big position (LO). Terrible decision. We now have a moping Pau who is just waiting to be traded. Even worse. We got rid of the two headed Mathuselahs (Theo Ratliff and Joe Smith) and replaced them with just as slow but potentially way better Troy Murphy and the energetic Josh McRoberts. A good start but losing LO cancels the good done there. Back up Center..TBA.

    Starting point guard. Well we tried. How’d that turn out? I say give old Gilbert a flyer and maybe we can salvage the position. I don’t think Mo Williams will get waived. Ramon Sessions is a pipe dream because I don’t think that Cleveland’s Ownership will ever help the Lakers (I can see why LeBrawn left). The only other sorta availables worthwhile would be via trade and I don’t know if Brandon Jennings or DJ Augustin would be worth what we would have to give up.

    So……. We didn’t effectively address anything and we got a year older. Not what I call progress. Unless Mitch has a trick up his sleeve, Welcome back to Earth everyone.

  51. If we can some how end up with Anderson Varejao, Ramon Sessions, and OJ Mayo everything will be just fine. To quote Jerry Colonna “Well I can dream can’t I!!!”

  52. Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but 2014 is no guarantee for the Lakers to restock its roster after Kobe’s and Pau’s salaries come off the book. I did a quick look at who is available in 2014:

    http://hoopshype.com/salaries/la_lakers.htm

    However, the list of free agents, as of now, aren’t too alluring.

    http://www.hoopsworld.com/2014-nba-free-agents/

    Here are the “notable names”

    Point Guard
    Steve Blake, L.A. Lakers – $4.0 million – Unrestricted
    Luke Ridnour, Minnesota Timberwolves – $4.3 million – Unrestricted

    Shooting Guard
    Dwyane Wade, Miami HEAT – $18.5 million – Early Termination Option ($20.0 million)
    Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers – $30.5 million – Unrestricted
    Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers – $18.2 million – Player Option ($19.6 million)
    Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City Thunder – $3.9 million – Unrestricted
    Josh Childress, Phoenix Suns – $7.2 million – Early Termination Option ($7.3 million)

    Small Forward
    LeBron James, Miami HEAT – $19.1 million – Early Termination Option ($20.6 million)
    Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks – $21.3 million – Early Termination Option ($22.6 million)
    Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies – $17.9 million – Player Option ($19.3 million)
    Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers – $14.0 million – Unrestricted
    Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls – $14.3 million – Unrestricted
    Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics – $15.3 million – Unrestricted
    Mike Miller, Miami HEAT – $6.2 million – Player Option ($6.6 million)

    Power Forward
    Chris Bosh, Miami HEAT – $19.1 million – Early Termination Option ($20.6 million)
    Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks – $22.7 million – Unrestricted
    Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers – $19.3 million – Unrestricted
    Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks – $21.7 million – Early Termination Option ($23.4 million)
    Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies – $17.8 million – Player Option ($17.8 million)
    Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors – $10.8 million – Early Termination Option ($11.5 million)
    Udonis Haslem, Miami HEAT – $4.3 million – Player Option ($4.6 million)
    Channing Frye, Phoenix Suns – $6.4 million – Early Termination Option ($6.8 million)
    Chris Andersen, Denver Nuggets – $4.8 million – Unrestricted
    Matt Bonner, San Antonio Spurs – $4.0 million – Unrestricted

    Center
    Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks – $14.0 million – Unrestricted
    Marcin Gortat, Phoenix Suns – $7.7 million – Unrestricted
    Joel Anthony, Miami HEAT – $3.8 million – Player Option ($3.8 million)
    Darko Milicic, Minnesota Timberwolves – $5.7 million – Unrestricted

    Besides the Heat trio, who can fill the “superstar” role from this bunch? The Lakers are in perilous territory, not because the current team cannot compete for a title (I think we can), but since all the stars are presumably going to be locked up (DWill, CPaul, Dwight, Durant, Rose, etc.) in long term contracts, it may be in the team’s calculus to go for someone like Dwight, fully understanding that we may take a slight step backwards from a roster standpoint this year.

  53. At least with MWP there might be some good headlines this year:

    World Peace near the bottom of Coach Brown’s priorities.

    World Peace overcome by Heat.

    Lakers have high hopes for World Peace.

  54. Mayo for McRoberts didn’t go through at the end of last season’s trade deadline. I wonder if the Sasha TPE was ever in play.

  55. At this point, it appears that the Lakers aren’t making a serious effort to maximize their chances for this season. The Odom trade combined with nothing happening with the Vujacic trade exception makes that clear. I had assumed that, after the Paul trade, there was a realistic plan to get Howard, but based on the above, I now doubt that. I think that management is looking to cut payroll, and I won’t be surprised if they end up trading Bynum and Gasol for Howard. That’s not necessarily a bad move, if they have a good plan for retooling. But Kobe’s contract is going to make that pretty difficult.

  56. Chris J,
    1994-95 was a fun team, but – as I remember – we fans were getting a bit restless and there was an exhaustion setting in because it had been several years since we had been relevant. If the Clips had been good we might have lost a measurable portion of the city, but thank god for Donald Sterling.

    In 2007-2008 we were picked for 10th place in the west and there was a woe-is-me attitude among many of us fans. Then the Gasol trade and the rest is history.

    Face it – we Laker fans are so spoiled that we sometimes deserve to be slapped in the face.

    I second Darius’ motion that we simply enjoy the games and point out the good and bad things that happened in the last game. The future is the future – and unknowable for a reason. Lots of NBA owners would love to trade places with us.

  57. I long for the days where we enjoyed the games for the games rather than pushing an idea so hard that the conversation becomes about those ideas rather than what we’re watching on the court
    ___

    Like I said in my Kapono post on the other thread, these ways of looking at the game are not mutually exclusive. Successfully (or unsuccessfully) executing the Xs and Os is a product of the abilities of the players. And again, the whole approach of “learning about the team” and “not rendering judgment” is fine–but it would make a little more sense if 9 of the 13 guys that will dress on the 25th were not past their 30th birthdays. Conceding that some of them (Blake in particular) will have different responsibilities in the new system,these are players about whom we already know quite a bit.

    On the micro level, the Lakers need to get more action out of Bynum and Gasol on the offensive end, and if his health allows it, I would give Ebanks more burn tonight.

  58. #55. It takes two teams to make a deal. The fact that one didn’t happen (w/ the Sasah TPE) is no way an indicator of what was attempted by the front office or what their approach is this season.

    I can understand wanting to infer things from the Odom trade as that deal bothered me much in the same way it bothered everyone else. However, I also don’t think it’s as easy to draw a line between that deal and the non-use of the Sasha TPE nor do I think b/c nothing has yet happened with the TPE from the LO deal that nothing is being worked on.

    Now is a testy time for Laker fans as inaction often comes off as not trying. However, as evidenced by the Gasol trade, sometimes work is being done and no one is the wiser until the deal is done.

  59. 58) I know it takes two teams – but considering the weaknesses on the roster, and financial limitations of other teams, I have a hard time believing that they couldn’t use the exception to find someone that would help. IF they were trying to maximize their chances for this year.

  60. As I have said, the key to frustration with the Odom deal is that we don’t really know why it was made–with most trades and FA signings, even if you disagree, you can see the reasoning. I disagreed with giving Blake four years (two was all I would have done) but I could see it. I disagreed with the Kapono signing, but I understood it.

    But Odom to Dallas for the TPE and a pick is hard to understand, unless it is connected to something else or is just a salary dump.

    Also, Otis Smith said publicly that he is not taking calls on Howard right now. That has not stopped the speculation or rumors of course, but it may well be that Howard is off the market until after the ASG, which is in Orlando.

  61. #59. And I have a hard time believing there were actually quality players available that could help the team in that salary slot that teams were willing to give up solely for cap space. I’ve looked at every team’s roster and looked for players in the 2-5 million dollar range and found the pickings slim. I also found that some players that could have been available (like Ridnour, for example) have salary commitments into the 2013-14 season.

    Remember too, the Lakers need to be looking primarily at 3 positions: PG, SG, and “big man”. The pickings were quite slim at these spots. (As an aside, I also looked at Sessions and I think he would have been a prime target but w/ the uncertainty surrounding Baron Davis and the fact that I don’t see the Cavs giving away a talented player to the Lakers – of all teams – I’m not sure if he was ever a realistic get.)

  62. Good points in 61, although I am sympathetic to exhelo’s position. Sessions was a no-go once Cleveland amnestied Baron, and you have the Gilbert factor.

    Ridnour is, I am sure, available, but as Darius suggests in 61, Ridnour has the same contract Blake does. My guess is that the Lakers wanted to see Blake in the new system rather than just adding Ridnour’s contract on top of his.

    Also, I do think the “don’t help the Lakers” factor comes into play. The Clippers obviously have a few PGs, but I don’t see a trade happening there.

    Finally, of course, the Lakers have some guys that no one would really want to acquire.

  63. Darius –
    Although I agree with most of your points in this post I have to disagree with your opinion that you think our personnel fits what Mike Brown is trying to do.

    From what I remember about those Spurs teams, a big part of why they were successful was dribble penetration or the threat of dribble penetration by their point guards whoever they might have been (Tony Parker, Speedy Claxton, etc).

    We don’t have that kind of point guard. Kobe is the only guy on our team that can get to the basket with any kind of consistency and we can’t rely on him to do that too often.

    I know it was just the first game, but I was confused why they were not able to get the ball inside more often.

  64. 52) We should go for Lebron, Wade, and Bosh in 2014. I hear they want to play together.