Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  December 30, 2011

It’s about time we had a fun team again. I don’t mean fun in the ‘we got all the rings’ sense, but more in the way of plain enjoyment. Rough around the edges sure, but that’s part of the appeal – this squad reminds me of the old hockey comedy Slapshot. I’m not quite sure how to describe the sight of Mamba advancing down the court followed by four gangly white teammates, running their asses off to keep up and often rewarded for their hustle with a dish for a trey. The only thing missing is the mighty Medvedenko. Without further ado, here’s some other takes on last night’s game:

Andy Kamenetzky at the Land O’Lakers writes that bro Brian likens Josh McRoberts to a former Laker fan favorite: Like Ronny, McRoberts never stops moving, which creates both an infectious hustle throughout the team, along with opportunities for himself. Whether cutting to the cup for a slick bounce pass from Kobe or an alley oop from Blake (McBob City!!!), good things came for those who don’t sit around and wait. Like Ronny, McRoberts is more of a disruptive defender than a true lockdown artist, but that vigor can go a long way when applied relentlessly. Like Ronny, he’s got a flair for big swats, his most emphatic coming at the expense of Amare Stoudemire along the baseline. And like Ronny, he moves the ball well for a big man, allowing him to take part in creating baskets even if he’s not doling out the actual assist.

Dexter Fishmore at Silver Screen and Roll: It’s possible we’ll look back on this game and think of it as no big deal. Consider the opponent. These Knicks.. I just don’t know, amigos. I bought most of their hype and have thought they were a potential four seed in the East, but they’ve now looked awful in two straight. Tonight in losing to the Lakers 82 to 99, they were lazy and confused and just a raggedy-ass operation. The Knicks might be a bad team for a while, in which case tonight’s game might seem in time like the routine braining of a noncontender. If we do have that reaction it’ll be good news, because it’ll mean the Lakers have turned into the beasts we hoped they could become and we’re once again grading them on a curve befitting title aspirants. Tonight’s performance tantalized with a glimpse. After an unsightly-but-we’ll-take-it win over Utah, the Lakers gave us a pretty one over the Knicks, whom they ground into powder. Still without Andrew Bynum, serving the last of his four-game sentence, they brought that Mike Brown Thump on D and played one brilliant half of offense. Regardless of whether the Knicks are frauds, this was invigorating stuff.

Wondahbap at Silver Screen and Roll: Did you hear it or feel it? “It” being that collective sigh of relief coming from Lakerland. Those of you that didn’t panic after the Kings game, you heard it. Those of you exhaling, are you feeling a little better today? Through their Andrew Bynum-less four game start, the Lakers have given us something to look forward to. They shoulda coulda woulda beat a contending Chicago Bulls team in an opening night loss, made it close in Sacramento in the second game of a back-to-back, then absolutely stomped the Jazz in the third game of a back-to-back set. A game most figured would have the Lakers on E, especially given that the Jazz are fairly young and it was their first game. Next they come back, and wax the Knicks a mere two days later. Are we sure these Lakers are supposed to be old and slow?

Ben Bolch at the L.A. Times writes about the bench play: Instead of Bryant, Gasol and Fisher, the names that mattered most in the fourth quarter Thursday night at Staples Center were Blake, Barnes and Murphy. Gut-check time became name-check time for the Lakers when their reserves helped secure a 99-82 victory over the New York Knicks. Steve Blake hit a pair of three-pointers. Matt Barnes added a dunk and a three-pointer. Troy Murphy grabbed five rebounds. The Lakers’ bench accounted for 15 of the team’s 19 points in the fourth quarter, thwarting the Knicks’ comeback bid. All told, the reserves combined for 40 points, with Blake collecting 11 and Metta World Peace and Jason Kapono adding nine apiece. “I need a calculator to add up all the points we had from our bench,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said, “and for me, that’s extremely exciting, especially in a shortened season.”

Mark Medina at the L.A. Times Lakers blog: This was a field day for Kobe Bryant. He said he felt so healthy he didn’t need to wear a sleeve to cover his surgically repaired right knee. The Knicks’ defense also appeared so lax that this served as nothing more than Bryant’s personal playground. In the Lakers’ 99-82 victory Thursday night over the New York Knicks, Bryant’s 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting and six assists reflected both his explosiveness and great court vision. On one play, Bryant drove into the lane and faded back for a baseline jumper over a defenseless Amare Stoudemire. On another, Bryant eyed forward Josh McRoberts cutting to the basket and fed him a crisp bounce pass. On another, Bryant converted off a catch-and-shoot play from Devin Ebanks and sank a three-pointer. On another, Bryant performed a cross-over on Carmelo Anthony as he drove right, cut back and hoisted a Dirk Nowitzki-type one-legged fadeaway. And on another, Bryant banked in a long three-pointer while drawing a foul on Renaldo Balkman for the four-point play. For all the injury concerns facing Bryant, it appears they’re not an issue. At least for now.

Joey Whelan at Hoopspeak had this to say about Kobe, prior to the game: Kobe Bryant has been nothing if not stubborn. His tendency to dominate the ball and force the issue – even as his physical limitations have become more pronounced with age – has been discussed ad nauseum. Last year was the first time in several seasons that the Lakers star was primarily healthy, and it showed in his efficiency numbers. But health wasn’t the only important factor, Bryant also showed he is willing to change his game as his explosiveness decreases. Nowhere was this more evident than in his performance shooting off the dribble – a celebrated staple of his game.

Daniel Buerge (LakersNation) in the OC Lakers blog: Last night’s win over the New York Knicks was impressive in many different ways. Most analysts will spend today talking about what the team did on the floor that led them to their first winning streak of the season. But, there was one telling moment in the second half that really helped summarize what this Lakers team is turning into. After forward Josh McRoberts slammed home an emphatic dunk there was a brief moment when the television cameras focused on Kobe Bryant, who was on the bench at the time. Bryant had a stunned look of amazement before simply chuckling to himself and applauding the play. So, what does this mean? The Lakers are beginning to believe in each other.

***

A lot of different views with some obvious commonality – Kobe Bryant was on his game last night, the bench play was inspired, and Mike Brown is liking it. We’re only four games into a shortened season and it’s hard to form any big picture for the league on whole – teams seem to be playing great one night, not so great the next. The Lakers may have missed out on the CP3 sweepstakes (thanks again, Mr. Stern), but hey, we got McBobs, Murphy, Kapono and the ever-active Metta World Peace. Andrew Bynum will be back for tomorrow’s game against Denver. Expect the structure to become a bit more inside-out focused. Expect the kinetic energy to remain the same. Who knew, Los Angeles? We got us a lunch bucket gang!

- Dave Murphy

Dave Murphy

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11 responses to Friday Forum

  1. Should the Lakers pick up Odom when the Mavs waive him within the week? /sarcasm

  2. Lamar was our Swiss Army Knife – he did good while he was here. He wasn’t the most determined or ferocious competitor, but he could do about everything.

    Now that he is gone, I wish him well and am ready to move on with our team. I don’t find any solace in seeing him struggle in Dallas. I just want to beat them when we play them.

  3. Hopping on the bandwagon train here, I do like McRoberts and Murphy a lot better than Lamar, because they are at least consistent. Most of the time with Lamar Odom I had no idea if he was going to have an impact or not until at least half-way into the first quarter. With his two replacements (there, I said it! :) ) we may not have Lamar’s versatility, his defense, and all his other positives, but what we do have, is consistent effort. McRoberts and Murphy play with constant focus and constant hunger, and they have energy every night. (At least so far.)

    There is a lot to be said for knowing in advance what someone will give you when he steps onto the court.

  4. Great win by the Lakers against a quality Eastern team employing a stingy defense. Thanks to Gasol/JMac/Murphy for holding the fort in absence of Socks; Barnes and Peace contributed also a smack D against Melo and Amare which really frustrated any Knicks attack. They just can’t penetrate the wall, opted to go on one-on-one committing several TO’s. So far, this is the best Laker game during the season and if they continue that ball movement, they’re back in contention as the team to beat in the West.

    With regards to PG situation, well it has to be shared minutes with less concentration on Fisher. More minutes for Blake, a little of Goudelock and hopefully, Morris will play with the two PG’s combination for Nuggets. It takes time to train a rookie and initiate him on NBA mode, the more they play and observe, the better it would be for the team. Lakers best weapons so far aside from the bread and butter Kobe/Gasol is the resurgence of perimeter threat from Blake, Kapono and Murphy. The shooting is contagious and because of this new weapons, Metta and Barnes are more relaxed in doing what they do best grit and gut basketball hustling in the post and competing for rebound.

    Yeah, we trashed MBrown and staff before, well they deserved kudos and praise this time for the defensive showmanship of the team. Fans will always comment on what they see, so get used to LA culture where basketball fans come from 200+ ethnic backgrounds. As such, they provide variety of opinions based on their own basketball perceptions.

  5. enough about Lamar! I am so excited about this team and our new found underdog/no-one-believes-in-us status. With the rookies, Ebanks and 3-white-crew it should be a fun season! Plus if Kobe truly is healthy and able to play like this all year. Whoah watch out! Finally who doesn’t love watching and hearing calls involving Meta World Peace! I think sometimes we get too focused on analysis and forget to just have fun (the same way you would watching a tv show). This team is going to be fun.

    Eager to see Bynum on Saturday. The kid looked great in preseason.

  6. Positives so far:

    - Kobe’s knees must be feeling good. He hasn’t had this kind of lift in his jump shot in years, and it’s resulting in beautiful nothing-but-net shots.

    - Steve Blake is actually earning his salary now, which was expected in a more traditional offense.

    - McBob!!!!!!!!!!!!! Loved this (and the Murphy) signing when most didn’t care for it. “I told you so”. Next on wish list for him: 18 foot jump shot.

    - Surprised by Kapono’s contributions on both ends of the floor. He’s not fast, he’s not quick, but he hustles and plays smart. I give credit to coach Brown for putting him in a position to succeed.

    Negatives so far:

    - Despite Kapono’s contributions, we have a real hole at the backup 2. Goudelock does not deserve to be on the court; his low IQ offsets whatever positives (shooting) he brings to the court. When he has the ball he runs around like a chicken with its head cut off. He and Morris should both be in the D-League. Jason Kapono will be eaten alive by most of the league’s 2s, and not even coach Brown’s D will be able to mask that in the playoffs. I would love to get a combo guard to spell Kobe and play some 1.

    - Ebanks’ bball IQ needs development. On O he misses golden opportunities that our vets would take advantage of. His D is also disappointing so far – he doesn’t know how to play through screens and still uses his arms when defending. He needs to learn from two of the better perimeter defenders in the league – Matt and MWP.

    - This roster is not good enough to win it all. Steve Blake is a regular season PG – he will disappear in the playoffs. We will revert to relying on Derek, and despite my utmost respect and admiration for the man, he is not good enough to man the 1 for a championship squad. Our big men off the bench will likely follow Blake – they’re great role players during the season, but neither has the playoff experience to provide adequate play for a championship team. Unless Drew and Pau play all the way up to their potential, we don’t have a third big to give teams real problems.

  7. I loved Odom when he was here but the more he focuses on making tv shows with his wife, the more his stats will continue to suffer. Lamar is a space cadet, can’t focus on too many things at once.

  8. ShanWow is also doing bad w/ Suns, 2 games with 4 ppg. Smith and Ratliff are retired for good. I don’t know what happened to SashaV. and for Farmar after 4 games had 1.7 ppg. No wonder why Kobe has to work doubly hard before.

    Well, of course it is too early to chart the overall performance of our former Lakers. I’m sure they miss being a Laker more than this team misses their contribution.

    Like Shaq, he’s now at peace with the Lakers and most of the time, he now identifies his most glorious years in NBA was when he was with the Lakers. He’s now waiting for the ultimate prize by getting his jersey hang at the Staple rafters while giving the HOF speech in MA.

  9. There will definitely be some head-scratching moments during the course of the season but when they’re firing on all cylinders, Kobe & the gang are gonna be hard to deny.

  10. Dave M – nice intro. I didn’t enjoy the games last year like I have enjoyed these so far. There are a lot of players with something to prove this year. And so far they have played like it.

    One of the story lines I am watching is the Kobe / Brown relationship. I actually think they will be a good match. Brown seems to have learned from being too passive with LBJ and is willing to call Kobe on lapses. At the same time, it is clear he has a deep appreciation for him. As I have posted before – I think both share the same kind of work ethic which allows for a mutual respect. I don’t think that was the case with LBJ. Kobe knows he needs Brown to be good, to succeed, in order to get another ring and so he has a lot at stake. Brown knows he needs Kobe to be great in order to fulfill the expectations of stepping into Jackson’s shoes.