Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  December 23, 2011

Our shortened preseason fades from view, Christmas is two days away. The start of the regular season no longer seems farfetched but the dark days are not so distant. In mid-November, I resorted to a fictional holiday miracle to pass the time. Sometimes the stories don’t come easily – it may simply be my own perception but it almost seems like a hiccup in Lakers ink, this close to the blessed event. There’s certainly no shortage of Clippers articles. Is this how it feels, to be beneath the underdog? I doubt it. From Kobe’s mind-over-matter to Blake’s emergence to Metta’s misfires, here’s some stuff to read on a Friday morning.

Matt Moore, Eye On Basketball: Most people would be out a few weeks with this injury. Kobe Bryant is not most people. But there are larger questions in play here. Can the Lakers win without Bryant? It’s possible. The Bulls game may be a loss, but that was questionable from the start what with Derek Rose being guarded by Derek Fisher and Steve Blake. The larger problem isn’t Bryant’s absence, though he is imperative to any Lakers gameplan. It’s that Andrew Bynum is serving a five-game suspension starting Sunday for a flagrant foul on J.J. Barea in last year’s playoffs. The Laker can survive without Kobe Bryant for a few games. Surviving without Bryant and Bynum becomes a much tougher trick.

Kevin Ding, the OC Register: Mike Brown told his designated bench spark Metta World Peace after his 0-for-8 shooting outing in the exhibition opener Monday night: “If you’re going to shoot that much, you’ve got to make ‘em.” World Peace was still cold in the next game Wednesday night, but he rallied a bit to finish 4 for 13 from the field. Brown said World Peace is adjusting to finding his shooting rhythm coming off the bench, but the plan remains for World Peace to do a lot of shooting and posting up with the Lakers’ second unit this season “I have faith in him,” Brown said.

Andy Kamenetzky, The Land O’Lakers: “I should be fine,” said Kobe when asked about his availability for the Christmas Day season opener against the Bulls. Of course, “fine” isn’t necessarily quite sunshine and lollipops. Kobe described his wrist as “swollen and painful,” and I’m guessing that won’t change by the time Sunday rolls around. The Mamba has a famously absurd tolerance for pain, but I have a hard time believing lacing ‘em up on Sunday won’t entail enduring an exceptional amount of discomfort. There’s also the question of the effects the injury will have on Bryant as a player. After all, right-handed players tend to use their right wrists a decent amount of time over the course of a basketball game. Plus, that wrist is connected to a hand with some jacked up fingers. It’s not really going to heal,” Bryant conceded. “I mean, it’s gone. The ligament is gone.”

Ben Bolch, the L.A. Times: Steve Blake is making more shots in part because the misses no longer bother him as much. “Being with these guys for a while,” the veteran guard said of his Lakers teammates, “when you miss a shot you’re not as hard on yourself anymore.” There was no need for self-doubt Wednesday night at Staples Center after Blake capped a strong preseason with some steady shooting during his team’s 108-103 loss to the Clippers. Blake made six of nine shots, including five of seven three-pointers, on the way to 20 points. In two exhibition games, he made six of 10 (60%) of his three-pointers.

Mark Medina, L.A. Times Lakers blog: Cast Matt Barnes as one of the few not exactly enthralled with the “Lob City” Clippers. After seeing them throw up down numerous dunks during their preseason win Wednesday over the Lakers, Barnes maintained the team’s apparent excessive celebrations prompted him to push Clippers forward Blake Griffin to the floor with 6:48 remaining in the third quarter. “It’s a preseason game,” Barnes said after Thursday’s practice at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “Yeah, they’re catching lobs and dunking. But it’s just a preseason game. Let’s just play basketball. If you make a dunk, act like you’ve done it before. He’s got hundreds of them. There’s no need for the hoorah after every single dunk. It’s unnecessary.”

Emile Avanessian, Hardwood Hype: Sure it’s been a rough few months in Lakerland- a humiliating effort against the Mavericks, the departure of Phil Jackson, the emergence of Jimmy Buss, getting Stern’d on a seemingly successful trade for Chris Paul, dumping Lamar Odom for next to nothing in the immediate aftermath, and now a new injury for Kobe to make a mockery of but the doomsday predictions are a bit overdone. Is it so hard to believe that when healthy, a team led by Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum (yeah, yeah) and a collection of capable NBAers, a team with the capacity to add another $8.9 million player via trade, could win three out of every five games? It’ll be close and I wouldn’t go into debt to wager on it, but bet against this team at your own peril.

Matt Scribbins, Magic Basketball: I’m starting to feel like we are approaching an experiment in the NBA that should never be conducted again. Eventually, there will be a rule in place to limit the number of obstacles all-time greats can endure towards the end of their career, and it will probably be called “The Kobe Bryant No Dumping Rule.” The man has solidified his status among basketball’s greatest players by leading the league in competitive drive and determination every season. Right or wrong, he did it his way, and his way has resulted in a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Fame birth. His way has provided fans with fifteen straight seasons of thrills, and he has been rewarded with fifteen straight seasons of boos. I was starting to think fans may soften their stance on Kobe as his rank among NBA players slowly falls and his career comes to an end, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. He is once again in the spotlight, and the league is antsy for the opportunity to jeer and watch him fail.

A lull before the storm, may only be a gathering breath. The current state of the Lakers, did not begin or end with CP3 and David Stern’s heavy-handed interference . Yes, that qualified as one of the year’s major sports stories but it also shared space with last season’s shocking collapse in the second round, with the exit stage left of a coaching legend, with the firing of anyone connected with him, save Jeanie Buss. It came when the league should have been healing rifts, not creating them. Nonetheless, the Lakers organization has created a restore point. It may not be the new look that everyone wanted but as villagers collect their torches and tar, the team itself seems simply ready to play.

- Dave Murphy

Dave Murphy

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15 responses to Friday Forum

  1. Anything different will certainly scare people, especially those used to great success. Certainly this year’s version of the Lakers is different, so…

    Not surprised by the comments, but I am looking forward to critiquing the players after game one, then two, then three…whew!!

  2. anybody else irritated by all the dirt being heaped on the lakers? is this how the spurs fans feel every year?

    bynum’s suspension reduced to 4 games. yesss.

  3. Great news about Bynum! I am anxiously awaiting the start of the season. A lot of great stories to follow this year

  4. Wow, David Stern has deigned to allow a move that would improve the Lakers’ chances of winning games this season?

    I’m sure Dan Gilbert is sharpening his Crayolas now to fire off another missive to the league offices, and later this afternoon the league will send out a release announcing Bynum’s suspension has been extended to eight games. For “basketball reasons,” of course.

  5. That would put Bynum in for the first Denver game on New Years Eve at home. Looks like we play Denver the next day as well in Denver.

  6. Stern throwing Lakers fans the fibula of a drumstick. Holidays are truly a magical time.

  7. I don’t know though… any shred of kindness from Mr. Stern fills me with suspicion… like a giant boot’s about to drop.

  8. The boot is the trade for DH12 before the 1st of the year. anyway looking forward to whatever team goes out there enjoy the game everyone

  9. ebanks has been named christmas day starter. way to go.

  10. Bynum Suspension Reduction: good news, but as robinred already pointed out, probably all the more reason for Kobes to sit the first couple of games.

    Net’s Lopez Injury: I never cheer injuries, but this does improve our chances of getting Howard. Still say we must give up 14′ for 7′. That is just the way it is. Mikan, Wilt, Kareem, Shaq, __________ We need the next name here to be Howard.

    Kobe: The man is a stud. He plays with all sorts of injuries, he is going into year 16, and he deserves anything we can throw into our effort to get him ring #6. Mitch and Jim need to get on board with this.

    Fish: I love the man, but can we just bring him in for the last 2 minutes when we need a shot? Or maybe even the last 0.4 seconds. :)

    Bynum and Gasol: Where we need defensive improvement, is what happens after the initial blow by. Guards in this league will blow by whoever is playing #1 for us. They will also do this to Kobes occasionally, because he gambles. Sooooo, a lot of blow bys. Just ask the speedster/superstar JJ Berea. We need more than a forearm shiver to stop these guys. Shaq was great at creating a wall. And guess who else is: Dwight Howard. Yes I am coveting him. And I am explaining why. If we do not get him, Pau and Drew must learn to help better on the blow by and the pick n roll.

    Pau/Drew: Everyone is focused on Drew, but I am focused on Pau. Drew is going to be great. The problem is that we can roll snake eyes with an injury at any time. Until he makes it through a year, this will always be a factor. Pau on the other hand must get his act together early this year. He needs a new outlook on the game, because I do not like his on the court demeanor right now. Perhaps he should shave? Maybe his face and his head. :) Perhaps he should maintain better position by the block. Perhaps he should run more. In any case we need a better Pau, either for ourselves or for the trade. If he comes up wimpy we are short on all fronts.

    Ken: Thanks for the kind words. I will tune into your channel any time, because you are a true fan and a realist. You can’t have the GM job though because robinred already is in line for that. So perhaps you would be interested in replacing Jim Buss as the top exec? :)

    All: Happy Holidays !!!! Another ring for Kobe is still on the list I mailed to Santa. I know I am being OPTIMISTIC, but that is just my nature :)

  11. McBobs and Ebanks into starting lineup. Does that mean Fish goes to bench too?

  12. Also, I posted my xmas thoughts on Bynum/Howard/Lopez: http://warrenweelim.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/things-are-falling-into-place/

  13. I’m not ready to make any specific prediction at all for the Lakers yet, but there are a few impressions that I have:

    1. This is a team that could win the NBA championship with a higher level of performance than the two most recent championship teams–or, this is a team that might not even make the playoffs. Huge range.

    2. Success or failure will be more tied to team chemistry than ever before.

    3. Team chemistry will depend primarily on the attitude of Kobe Bryant, and how Pau Gasol is used.

    We won’t be able to fully see the dynamics of this new Laker team for at least 10 games–but it will eventually become clear.

    In the first few games, I’m going to especially be watching Pau–for minutes played/role–not for points/rebounds/assists.

    By game 10, I should have a reasonable set of expectations for the relationships among the 3 superstars (Kobe, Drew, Pau) and the supporting rotations. That will include an evaluation of team defense, scoring potential, and Laker matchups with key competitors.

  14. Robert,

    Thanks for the ups and the namecheck. Leaving aside the ongoing Howard spec for the moment, I am concerned about Kobe’s latest injury. I have always felt that his hands/fingers compromise his performance more than his knees. Having less lift happens to all players, but he can to a degree compensate with footwork, strength, leverage, and shot selection. The finger issues have already hurt his handle, and I am concerned that wrist problems on top of that will compromise his shot. Obviously, you give him the benefit of the doubt, but it bears watching.

    Like many others, I of course endorse starting Ebanks. How well the team holds together during the first four games will depend a great deal on Ebanks and McRoberts, and as we learned in 2007-8, in the time prior to the Gasol deal, teams moving forward without major personnel moves do so because young players improve. Whether the Lakers can continue to be good, then, will depend largely on Bynum stepping forward, Ebanks developing into a competent regular 3, and McRoberts making incremental improvements to his game, as he did last year. Blake, out of the Triangle, may help as well due to the Lakers’ issues at the 1, in spite of his age, but his ceiling for 2012 is still “slightly below-average NBA PG.”