Talking Lakers and Magic

J.M. Poulard —  January 20, 2012

The Los Angeles Lakers are currently in the midst of their eastern road trip and will take on the Orlando Magic tonight in what promises to be an entertaining game. It only made sense to reach out to Eddy Rivera of the ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate blog Magic Basketball to discuss the game.

J.M. Poulard, Forum Blue & Gold: Eddy, your Orlando Magic seem to be on a tear right now and yet your superstar has made it clear that he has no interest in remaining with the franchise. This is somewhat reminiscent of Kobe Bryant’s stance with the Lakers during the summer of 2007; mind you Mitch Kupchak was able to appease his star player by bringing in Pau Gasol. As it stands, I’m not sure there is a move that can be made that’s significant enough to keep Dwight in Florida, however there is the possibility of Otis Smith pulling the trigger on a Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard deal.

Would you be in favor of such a deal or do you think there is better out there?

And while we’re at it, I hate to open up old wounds, but Kobe will be returning to Orlando, the site where he captured his fourth NBA title in June 2009. In the Gasol era, Bryant is averaging 32 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game on 42.9 percent field goal shooting in Orlando…

Eddy Rivera, Magic Basketball: Given that Dwight Howard has stated that he’s interested in the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and New Jersey Nets, with the Lakers having the most to offer (Andrew Bynum being the major piece) and ownership for the Orlando Magic making it clear that they want veterans back in any deal, I can see a Bynum-for-Howard swap with ancillary pieces attached. I know that the Magic are high on Bynum but will a trade happen? I don’t know the answer to that.

Would I be in favor of such a deal? Yes and no. Yes, because Bynum is the best asset out there the Magic can get back in any deal considering the circumstances. No, because assuming Orlando gets other veteran players alongside Bynum, there’s a legitimate fear among Magic fans that the franchise will put itself in NBA purgatory. If it was me, I’d acquire Bynum along with as many young players and draft picks as possible, tank, and rebuild organically.

For the record, the Magic want veterans back because owner Rich DeVos, at 85 years old, wants to win a title now. Can I blame him? No. Is that a realistic goal? No. C’est la vie.

I think that’s enough talk about Orlando. What’s going on with the Lakers? I’ve been impressed with head coach Mike Brown’s impact on the defensive side of the ball, but is Kobe Bryant being relied upon too much right now offensively?

J.M. Poulard: Ah yes, the 24th elephant in the room.

Last Saturday, when the Lakers played the Clippers, Mike Smith (Clippers broadcaster) made what seemed like a ludicrous statement when he said that he didn’t see why the Lakers would refuse to trade Bynum and Gasol given the fact that the team wasn’t using them properly. Those who know how to read between the lines understood this to mean that perhaps Kobe Bean is being featured a little too much on offense.

With that said, I picked the Lakers to come out of the West this season, but it’s becoming a little hard to maintain the same opinion given the way the shots are distributed on the team. It’s one thing to win a few regular season games here and there with Bryant monopolizing the offense on occasion, but this recipe has failed with Kobe in the postseason. Granted, some will argue that Bryant has historically played differently during the playoffs, sharing the ball more with his teammates and they would be right; however the only battle-tested Lakers are Bynum, Gasol, Fisher and Bryant.

I bring this up because the other players on the roster have not played with Kobe in a tough playoff game and thus might not know what to expect from him in such an environment. Also, it’s difficult to ask your big men to crash the offensive glass for Kobe misses for most of the season and then turnaround and ask them to carry the offense for stretches against defenses that game plan to stop them. So yes, the Lakers are relying far too much on the talents of the superstar guard.

Back to your Magic though, is Ryan Anderson trying to convince us that he is the long lost doppelganger of Dirk Nowitzki? Because let me tell you, in the Lakers’ lone playoff battle against Dirk, it didn’t turn out too well.

Eddy Rivera: Let me get out of this way first. You’re picking Los Angeles over the Oklahoma City Thunder to win the Western Conference? That’s an interesting choice. Not saying it can’t happen, just interesting.

I think saying that Ryan Anderson is the next Dirk Nowitzki is a little much. Nowitzki can create his own shot much more than Anderson (look at %Ast). Are they both prolific shooters? Yes, but that’s where the comparison ends in my opinion. Again, the key difference is that Anderson is not much of a shot creator, though he is a better rebounder, but Nowitzki is a better defender. Likewise, Nowitzki does much of his damage offensively from 10-23 feet, while Anderson has the most three-point field goal attempts in the NBA. That being said, it’s not a ridiculous comparison — Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider suggested there are similarities between the two players.

However, Neil Paine of Basketball Prospectus threw out another name. Peja Stojakovic. That makes a lot more sense, in my opinion, because both players are primarily spot-up shooters that have a lot of their FGs assisted on and their shot distribution on offense align with each other.

Their numbers are eerily similar, too.

I have to go back to your comment about the Lakers winning the West. What’s your rationale behind that pick?

J.M. Poulard: I’ll admit that comparing him to Dirk was a bit over the top but it was still intriguing nonetheless. But the Peja comparison makes absolute sense.

My Lakers pick was a combination of a few things: the apparent decline of the Dallas Mavericks coupled with the lack of a truly dominant team out West. I’m well aware that the Thunder have been on a tear so far and most are picking them to make it to the Finals but at the time I could see the Lakers actually defeating them in a seven-game series.

To be fair, this could only happen if the Purple and Gold turn to their big men and give them multiple touches on offense to keep them involved and even allow them to carry the offense. Otherwise, if all of the offense revolves around Kobe, it would be awfully tough for the Lakers to be successful against a young and hungry Thunder team.

With that said, my reasons initially for favoring Mike Brown’s team over Scott Brooks’ was the Lakers’ emerging defense as well as their rebounding ability. When the game slows down in the postseason and teams have trouble scoring, gaining extra possessions is a huge factor in determining one’s success and the Lakers are more than capable of winning the rebounding battle.

But the biggest reason I thought Los Angeles’ premier team could defeat Oklahoma City: Metta World Peace. Try to contain your laughter for a moment.

Since MWP came to town, Kevin Durant has averaged a solid 25.6 points and 2.9 assists per game on 46.1 percent field goal shooting against the Lakers. However, he is only converting 17.6 percent of his 3-point attempts and turning the ball over 4.4 times on average.

But more importantly, MWP’s defense has stifled the gifted scorer in the fourth quarters as Durant has been unable to shake free against the former Defensive Player of the Year. Metta World Peace has simply figured out how to bump, clutch and grab the Thunder’s small forward late in games to prevent him from delivering in the clutch.

Kobe Bryant on the other hand does not have that problem, and even when he misses shots late in games, Gasol and Bynum have proven to be exceptional in getting clutch second chance baskets. But as previously mentioned, all of this hinges on whether the Lakers figure out how to play inside and out. And also, there’s this tiny issue of KD showing an improved handle this year; which means he may in fact be able to make MWP dance the Macarena for all we know. To be continued….

I’m excited to see how Bynum performs against Dwight tonight given the fact that there have been rumblings about which big man is in fact the best in the league. It’s obvious at least to me that D12 wins the battle hands down, and I want to see if he shows off his arsenal of running hook shots as well as his ability to use his footwork, quickness and strength to bully ‘Drew on the block.

So Eddy, pick a winner…

Eddy Rivera: I like Los Angeles in this one.

Even though the Lakers will be playing on a back-to-back and the Magic will be rested, it just seems like Kobe Bryant’s advantage at the shooting guard position will tip the scales. It’s uncertain if Jason Richardson (bone bruise on left knee) will play, though it’s likely that he will. Whether Richardson suits up or not, Bryant should best him. Though he’s a smart defender, same goes for J.J. Redick when he’s in the game. And if Von Wafer sees minutes, Bryant should have his way with him too. On the flipside, Bryant should slow each of them down defensively.

Howard did whatever he wanted against Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol last season, so I don’t see anything changing there. Ryan Anderson’s matchup with Gasol will be fascinating to watch. I don’t think Anderson will have too much trouble spreading the floor and scoring, but I’m more curious to see how he defends Gasol. That is, if Gasol gets enough touches. Hedo Turkoglu shouldn’t have too much trouble against Matt Barnes but it could be a different story when Metta World Peace (!) is in the game, so that’s something to keep an eye on too.

Normally I’d mention Jameer Nelson, given that he’s had plenty of success against Derek Fisher in the past, but he’s been playing so poorly this season, it’d behoove for me to say he’ll make a difference. Nelson might, but the odds are low in my opinion.

I think it’ll be a close game with the Lakers coming out on top. Though it should be noted for Orlando that if Howard goes off and/or Turkoglu steps up against World Peace and/or Nelson rises from the dead, they can win.

Eh tu?

J.M. Poulard: Go figure, we’re both picking opposites; I have Orlando in this contest.

There is a theory being floated around that Kobe’s huge scoring nights affects the activity level of his big men. Most would agree with this sentiment although it is somewhat tough to prove.

In Bryant’s most recent stretch of 40-point games, the Lakers (who happen to lead the league in rebounding) were either tied or outrebounded by every opponent except for the Phoenix Suns.

It’s a small sample size, thus it’s tough to establish a correlation between his scoring and the Lakers’ effort on the boards, but it’s still interesting enough to put out there. In addition, the Los Angeles Lakers have lost three of the past eight regular season matchups against the Orlando Magic since the 2007-08 season, and have only been victorious in Orlando once during that same stretch. The one stat that consistently determined the winner of each contest? Rebounding.

Given that we both expect Kobe Bryant to have a huge scoring night, and that his teammates seem to fail to hit the boards when the star guard has huge scoring explosions, I’d have to venture and say that Stan Van Gundy’s squad will win the rebounding battle, and consequently the game itself.

Eddy, thanks again.

J.M. Poulard

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8 responses to Talking Lakers and Magic

  1. The words young talent and triangle should not be used in the same sentence. People critizing the FO should considered what system this team recently abandoned. The young talent LA had( Jordan, Sasha, Ariza) wanted more freedom with an open offense. Late round guards shipped away because they were not going to play. It was impossible to build for the future when the triangle reign. Tried to do something about it(Paul) but was axed. The FO wants to win, just setting up plan B after the Stern debacle. Relax.

    On Bynum

    Loving the matchup tonight against Howard. Bynum wants to be good, he has put in the work after some knee injuries, and prove the naysayers wrong. The pressure of LO gone, name in trades, touches, no outside shooting could drive any man crazy. Bynum has held up so far and Im not counting him out proving it tonight. BigBoy just needs to calm down relax and let the game come to him. Hell with all those shooters in Orlando maybe Bynum doesnt mind going south.

  2. If Bynum wants to be considered an elite big man and even compared even in the same breath as Howard then stepping up starts tonight.

    Step up Bynum or step aside.

  3. 2,

    Bynum already is an elite big man. Outside of Howard what other center is truly better than him? And people are debating if Howard really is better. Bynum doesn’t have anything to prove here. If anything, Mike Brown and his offensive coordinator (whose name escapes me) have something to prove.

    Comparisons between Bynum and Howard are like those Kobe/LeBron comparisions from three years ago. Two different players, with two different roles on their teams, with two different systems, yet people constantly compared them. At least Howard and Bynum play the same position. After that, the similarities end.

  4. Trial and tributaltion is what makes a man. Bynum has been through it all considering his age.The fire is inside of him, he justs needs to put it on the floor. The tools are there figuring out how to put them toghether is the hardest part.

  5. This is off topic in terms of the game against Orlando tonight, but definitely on topic with our shooting woes this season. I went through the career stats of all of our shooters, and ALL of them are having (or nearly having) career worst years behind the arc. You read that right, not shooting below their career average, but shooting at career lows.

    Career // Previous Worst // This Season

    Barnes – 32.7 // 29.3 // 26.3
    Blake – 39.0 // 32.2 // 35.4
    Bryant – 33.8 // 25.0 // 26.4
    Fisher – 37.4 // 29.1 // 22.7
    Kapono – 43.5 // 36.8 // 26.7
    Murphy – 38.8 // 32.0 // 27.3
    Metta – 34.2 // 30.2 // 12.9

    That’s an average of more than 5% worse than their previous career worst. It’s an average of nearly 15% below their career averages.

    Caveats:
    I disregarded any season in which any of the above shot less than 1 a game. I also disregarded Murphy’s last season in Boston/New Jersey. Blake has shot worse one year, 06-07, in which he played for Denver (34.3%) then Milwaukee (27.9%) and Kobe shot worse one year (01-02). This list obviously doesn’t include McRoberts, who is a 33% career 3 point shooter but hasn’t shot one this year and the rookies – Goudelock is 2 for 8 on the year, Morris is 2 for 3.

    My intention is not to pile on our lack of shooting, but instead to create some optimism. Unless they’ve all contracted some horrible shooting disease, they should revert back towards the mean. Hey, maybe some will even shoot better than their career average. It seems to be a lack of rhythm/cohesion/spacing. They don’t know when or where their looks are going to be coming. So that should get better as they get comfortable in the offense.

  6. T Rogers, Bynum is not an elite big man until he can dominate the entire time he’s on the floor for an entire season and that’s a fact. We have only seem him play great in a few games here and there. Bynum is the 2nd best center in the league, but that doesn’t mean much in a league lacking in talented centers.

    And I totally disagree with you about the Bynum and Howard comparison, unlike Lebron/Kobe who play different games at different spots, Bynum and Howard both play center and need to do the same things for their teams: control the paint, dominate the post, block shots, rebounds. A comparison SHOULD be made especially if Bynum wants to take that next step and be the number 1 guy (which he does).

  7. @Lakers 884, “Bynum is not an elite big man until he can dominate the entire time he’s on the floor for an entire season and that’s a fact. We have only seem him play great in a few games here and there. Bynum is the 2nd best center in the league, but that doesn’t mean much in a league lacking in talented centers.”

    Exactly!

    Additionally, Bynum and Howard are close to the same age and play the same position.

    A Kobe and LeBron comparison is not appropriate. Kobe has logged far more minutes in the league and played far more games than LeBron. This mileage disparity makes it impossible to compare Kobe and LeBron. Add to that, Kobe’s injuries the past three years and the comparison is moot. LeBron has yet to sustain a season ending injury from which he has to return.

  8. Although the current Lakers squad is a work in progress, I do think we have some gems on the team.

    I mean, obvious players aside, I appreciate Barnes’ intensity and the level of dedication he brings to each game.

    McBob and Murphy are quality back up role players that can mold nicely into Charles Oakley, Haslem, Horace Grant, etc. type of forwards that can spread the court with their mid range jumpers from the baselines and the like. Plus, it helps that McRob is athletic enough to make plays on both ends of assists and scoring. I’m just hoping they don’t turn out to be fool’s gold, similar to Luke Walton.

    Darius Morris looks pretty nimble and I do see a quality point guard in the making. The problem in my opinion lies with his devleopment as he does not have a clear role model he can learn from that fits his playing style.

    Ebanks and Caracter both have shown potential but I feel like their development as players is heavily dependent on playing time which we know is very scarce.

    So all in all, the roster may not be perfect or mimic that of Lob City, Heat, etc., but I definitely think this team could make it work. One thing that puzzles me though is how lackadaisical they look on the floor together. I don’t know if it’s timing issues where they need to learn each other’s tendencies and what nots but hopefully they can iron out the kinks soon.

    It seems like Kobe prefers ISO with occasional picks from the bigs (though I hope he utilizes them more to free himself and force the defense to collapse on him to create defensive mismatches). Perhaps that affects other role players from cutting and so forth? I’ve also noticed that once he gets the ball, the bigs usually try to clear the path thereby getting out of position for posting up and ultimately rebounds as Kobe seems to need clear path in the lane.

    Maybe I’m expecting way too much from Kobe, as in my ideal world, Kobe would score 30+ per night and create opportunity for others as he is the only capable facilitator on the court.

    I don’t know why we didn’t go after Billups. Maybe we did and Stern tipped Clippers the right amount so we got shafted on that as well or maybe FO thought we don’t need another aging guard on the roster but I think he would have provided nice balance in the back court.