It’s been a bumpy eight games in twelve days. Somewhere around the third quarterin Portland last night, the Lakers blew a tire or two and went off the road. No rest for the weary. They’ll play the Golden State Warriors tonight and giants will grapple – Andrew versus the Warriors seven-million dollar man, aka Kwame Brown. J.M was kind enough to invite me to discuss such matters at his other blog, readers enjoy! I suppose there should be some common thread to the Friday Forum but I’m running very late today and can’t seem to find the frequency. Below is an assortment of reactions to last night’s game, and thoughts about tonight’s:
Beckley Mason at HoopSpeak: Bynum has embraced his role as the destroyer of worlds and sternums, sprinting to the rim on fast breaks, and gobbling up space near the rim with uncompromising determination. He isn’t a Duncan type that needs (or should get) a touch every time down court. He can let the rest of the Laker offense, and in particular Bryant, to work while he carves out space on the block. Credit Mike Brown here. Even if he doesn’t get it thrown in to him, Bynum cleans the offensive glass with a fine chamois, so a missed shot is almost as good as a post-entry pass. Meanwhile, and despite grumblings to the contrary, Bryant is passing at least as effectively as he ever has in his career (by assists and assist rate). And although he isn’t as dynamic as he once was, his evident self-conviction draws attention away from the paint, where Bynum is building a Brutalist monument to efficiency.
Kevin Ding at the OC Register: We said Andrew Bynum was going to be a beast this season. Now that everyone has seen the 22.3 points, 15.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks, let’s be clear about something. Bynum is not an elite offensive player in this league yet. Not even close. He has an awful lot to learn before he gets there, and the second half of the Lakers’ loss in Portland on Thursday night was an early pop quiz he flunked. No doubt Bynum has plenty of moves, via both power and footwork, but what he lacks is the ability to handle double teams. He struggled when presented with that challenge late last season, and he will struggle again with it much of this season – probably more so than even Lakers coach Mike Brown suspects.
Brian Kamenetzky from the Land O’Lakers: Following the loss in Denver, Mike Brown said he and Bryant re-examined how Kobe was getting the ball. The result was a host of mid- and low-post touches against Houston, and more of the same against Portland. Kobe consistently made catches in all his sweet spots, from the free-throw line extended to lower on the block. Perimeter jumpers came on catch-and-shoot opportunities, with off-ball action helping spring him. Only by accident it seemed was Bryant put in stationary isolation.
Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Remember Lamar Odom? Mobile, long-armed power forward? Sweats a lot? You know who I’m talking about. He’s off to a dreadful start in his new job as a Maverick. Really dreadful, if we’re being honest. That fact has mollified Laker fans, myself included, whose reactions to his preseason trade to Dallas blended confusion with outrage. It hasn’t felt like we’ve been missing Lamar, but tonight in Portland the Lakers needed him something fierce. His size and ranginess would’ve been an all-but-ideal defensive solution to the problems presented by Gerald Wallace, the Blazers’ spidery swingman. Too strong for Matt Barnes and too fast for Metta World Peace. Wallace gashed the Lakers for 31 points at the Rose Garden this evening en route to a 107 to 96 Blazer victory. The result dropped the Lake Show back down to 0.500 and confirmed their status, at least for the time being, as a second-tier Western Conference team.
Mark Medina at the L.A. Times Lakers blog: The Lakers’ main weakness involves stopping fast-break points. They simply don’t have the speed and athleticism, and getting in a track meet with Portland in the first half only suggested a disaster would ensue. That’s why committing 13 turnovers and going zero of 11 from three-point range hardly proves to be a successful formula. The turnovers appear most troubling because it shows the Lakers hardly look comfortable with the offense seven games into the season. With Bryant committing four of them, it also shows the torn ligament in his right wrist will be an issue for a while. Meanwhile, the Lakers’ poor three-point shooting shows they can’t rest their fortunes on such a skill. They needed to upgrade this area from last season, but they can’t force the issue.
Rick Reilly, ESPN: Who says Kobe doesn’t pass the ball? “I should get an assist for that,” Bryant said Wednesday from his car. “It’s an intentional pass to oneself, so it’s an assist. That way people can’t say all I do is shoot.” It’s true, people do say Kobe Bryant shoots too much, but this is only because he shoots too much. Kobe Bryant shoots more than lingerie photographers. He’s always been an unrepentant gunner, but he’s practically melting the barrel this season. He’s taken 71 more shots than his next shootingest teammate, Pau Gasol. He’s averaging almost 30 shots a game this month. Bryant believes in shot selection. He selects them all.
Is there any commonality here, any insight into what lies ahead on the winding road of a shortened, compressed season? Not really. Only that Bynum’s a beast, Kobe’s calibrating injuries and his vaunted offensive game, night-by-night, and the Lakers are a mixed bag of new and old. Coach Brown leads the pack of new, and his evolving relationship with the team, the town, and the complexities of Kobe Bryant, will be a continuing story to the end of the Lakers’ season, whenever that is, and beyond. Next stop, Warriors.
- Dave Murphy