Keeping the Peace in L.A.

Jeff Skibiski —  January 26, 2012

Photo credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

With 7:31 left in the third quarter, the artist formerly known as Ron Artest decided to momentarily ditch World Peace and ignite a battle that lasted the remainder of last night’s game against the Clippers, and also the foreseeable future. The Lakers had been flailing for the better part of two and a half quarters, down 60-56, seemingly incapable of getting over the hump against their more entertaining and athletic counterparts.

In a matter of seconds, the entire tone of an already competitive game shifted, as #15 wrestled the increasingly combative Blake Griffin to the floor, refusing to cede control of the ball. This game was about pride, about protecting the Lakers home court, about reminding this city that the Lakers’ stars can still shine when it matters most, with or without Chris Paul. World Peace understands what it’s like to be disrespected as well as anyone on either bench, which is why he aggressively battled Griffin, resulting in a jump ball and brief brouhaha between the teams. From that point forward, it was game on. Pushing, shoving, technicals doled out in bulk, and some good ol’ fashioned trash-talking—all the makings of a playoff atmosphere in late January.

You don’t think this game carried a little extra meaning for the players and fans? I was inside STAPLES Center, along with a surprising 90% of the arena’s patrons who were actually in their seats at tip-off—especially impressive on a night of unusually bad traffic in Los Angeles. Lakers vs. Clippers games have always had a fun, amusing and mostly non-threatening vibe to them. “Oh, that’s cute—L.A. has two basketball teams!” The first NBA game I ever saw in-person was actually a 1998 Clippers game in Anaheim, where Pooh Richardson and Co. used to play eight games per season in an effort to broaden their Orange County fan base. Like most fans, I attended more to see opposing road players in their prime at a reduced price, with little more than a passing interest in the “home” team.

14 years later and Lakers vs. Clippers has turned into a marquee matchup. The type of game you and your buddies circle on your calendars and make sure to watch together in front of a flat screen, beer in-hand. Fans from both teams were ready for this one, trading barbs throughout the week, even as the perpetually mouthy Chauncey Billups declared this just another game. “Clippers Darrell” also showed up for the game, his vocal chords piping out his usual “Here we go Clippers, here we go!” chant. Only this time, he wasn’t alone as he was briefly joined in the second quarter by more fans in red jerseys than I’ve ever seen at a Lakers home game. During an early timeout, the jumbotron flashed to a fan wearing a shirt that quite literally represented a city divided—one half yellow, the other red. Lakers fans booed loudly, dismissing the fan’s indecision and fast-pass ticket aboard the Clippers’ bandwagon.

You can’t have it both ways these days—something CP3, returning from injury, knows all too well. Paul, too, had his moment on the Lakers’ big screen early on in the game, and was promptly booed. I actually turned to my friend who was sitting next to me and told him I didn’t understand why people were booing Paul, who in my book was largely an innocent bystander in the mess that nearly put him in a Lakers uniform. The fans’ response wasn’t bred from animosity, he exlained, but instead, envy and wishful thinking.

As a Southern California native, observing the Clippers rapid evolution has been exciting, but also jarring. I’ve watched first-hand as the Angels and Dodgers’ battle for the region’s attention has steadily intensified over the past decade. Whereas the Angels’ recent acquisition of Albert Pujols added to their allure, the domino effect from the Clippers’ acquisition of Paul has done much more than turn “Lob City” into L.A.’s shiny new toy; it has also dented the Lakers’ psyche 19 games into this truncated season. The ripple effect has the city buzzing about the talented men wearing red, white and blue for the first time ever, while simultaneously declaring a full-fledged state of emergency for the underachieving oldies in forum blue and gold.

If the aging Lakers are like the fathers who have guided L.A.’s basketball hopes and dreams for more than five decades, the Clippers are their red-headed step children—hungry for attention, plotting their path to relevance. I remember playing basketball in my driveway against my Dad, for years with the handicap of an eight-foot hoop. At a certain point, I finally advanced to the big leagues, raising the hoop to regulation height, and eventually discovering that I was quicker, craftier, and actually capable of beating him. Just as I was peaking in confidence, if not premature cockiness, I’d drive to the hoop for an easy layup, only to have the ball emphatically swatted away by my Dad’s outstretched arms—an important reminder that old-age or not, he built this house.

Those old war horses, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher and the ghost of Ron Artest, clearly decided last night that they had had enough with the Clippers. Together—along with an unexpected 14-point dart of adrenaline from Andrew Goudelock—they clamped down on defense in the second half, took advantage of their interior scoring and stood up to a rusty Chris Paul and his pugnacious teammates.

It was a refreshing, gritty team win where just about everyone who stepped foot on the floor had their moment under the sun. Bryant’s go-ahead jumper with 5:01 remaining; Gasol’s offensive resurgence; Fisher’s three makes from beyond the arc; Bynum’s game-clinching layup and block; World Peace’s defense and three-pointer with 3:30 to go that brought back memories of his hesitation shot from around the same area two seasons ago that all but clinched the Lakers’ 16th championship.

For as pronounced as the Lakers’ wrinkles have been early on the season, there is still a great deal of pride in L.A.’s locker room. It goes without saying that this team needs upgrades at point guard, its bench and probably an athletic wing, too. Last night, more than anything, though, this team needed a win. For the first time, the fact that it came against the contending Clippers was more than an added bonus.

“Most important win of the season and it comes against the Clips. Was that as weird for you to read as it was for me to type?” I asked on Twitter, once the final buzzer had sounded. Such is the newfound reality in L.A.’s basketball landscape, where the [rival?] Clippers finally share more than just an arena with the Lakers. No one said the teams have to coincide peacefully, though. In fact, it’s probably more fun if they don’t.

Jeff Skibiski


50 responses to Keeping the Peace in L.A.

  1. Well said…. The Lakers had to protect their home court and they did just that.

    I was impressed with Brown’s halftime adjustments. I don’t recall the Clippers having more then one or two transition opportunities in the 2nd half. Our offensive execution in the 4th quarter really bothered me. The Clippers were out of fouls with 8 minutes left and it was Kobe contested jumper after Kobe contested jumper when both Gasol and Bynum were feeling it offensively. For us to have success on the road (8 of the next 9 I believe), we’re going to have to run the offense through Bynum and Gasol more in my opinion.

  2. A huge win and a huge sigh of relief from the Laker Nation. While this win does not cure all of the ills we face, it was big none the less.

    I have been among the most critical of the Laker FO for the lack of foresight in improving the roster. We have been the big three and the invisible ones for virtually the entire year.

    The key last night was production from the PG spot. Kudos to Goudelock for stepping up. He was able to be an offensive threat and helped provide some needed bench scoring and young legs on the floor.

    If we can get something like this from him on a regular basis we can potentially target the SF position as place to improve with Odoms PE. I think there are more options at the 3 than at PG.

    This may also buy the FO time to clarify what direction to go when a larger trade opportunity becomes available (eg: Howard).

  3. Off topic, and I just though of all this stuff so I might not be able to put it into words that well…
    I was thinking about how bad the Lakers money situation is in the next few years with Kobe and Gasol making about $37mil next year and almost $40mil the year after. If the Lakers were willing to sign Kobe for 4 more years after this contract at somewhere around $8mil-$9mil/year, that would make the total of this contract($58mil) and the next 4 year deal(about $35m) about $92mil. Would Kobe consider restructuring his current deal to be 6 years at about 15 million/year? and then maybe do something similar for Gasol? Would the short term benefit for the Lakers be enough to outweigh the $15mil at the end of the contract?
    Any comments or input would be greatly appreciated.

  4. this is off-topic, but Eric Gordon isn’t signing an extension with New Orleans, meaning David Stern is officially both a terrible GM and Commissioner. Awful. The Lakers/Rockets package was wayyy better than the Clips package based on that.

  5. This guy HearnLantzSunderland has stirred a few of you up with some comments, but one thing he is correct on is that it is D12 or bust. We need a superstar to build around and we need the next center in the Laker line. One thing he and others are incorrect on, is that we will NOT get him as a FA. The trade is the only way and I believe we will need to give 14′ for him. If you think we can get him via FA, I will allow robinred to explain to u why u are wrong : ) And yes I am repetitive, but I wanted to say this right after a win where our big guys played well.

  6. Isolate–

    As I understand it, Kobe is not allowed to restructure his deal in such a manner. Basically, if the Lakers want to hit the reset button before 2014, they will need to trade Pau for short deals and and Amnesty Kobe. The latter is of course unlikely, but it seems clear that it is not impossible, given that neither MWP nor Walton, obvious amnesty candidates, were amnestied.

  7. I looked into it a little more and from what I understand the new CBA allows restructuring as long as the new contract isn’t decreased by more than 40% so they might have to make the new deal start around $16.5mil per year rather than the previously proposed $15mil. This would still save them 11 or so million in year one and 14mil in year two, which would equal around 50mil including the tax.

  8. Isolate: Your question is a very good one, because this board has gone through a period, where people thought we did not need change. Now people realize we need change, but they are looking at the problem you summarize. It is not a pretty picture. Welcome to our world : )

  9. This was just one game. It meant 1/66th of the season. I’m sorry Lakers fans.

  10. If the Lakers could restructure Kobe and Pau’s contracts and save somewhere in the range of $13mil up front and another $13mil on the tax they would have much more flexibility to bring in a solid point guard and a quality back up for Kobe. they would be more willing to use the Odom TPE and solve their personnel problems.

  11. i am surprised people are so quick to dismiss the lakers. it seems retarded that after 50 years of unbelievable dominance the lakers would have so many people ready to proclaim them dead and annoint the clippers. the clippers have been relevenant for 20 or so games. its nice that they want to own the town but i cant believe that they can make people forget all that the lakers accomplished in the last 50 years. i think a proper perspective is in order here

  12. 11. We live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, and the Internet is right now, not yesterday. It only makes crazed fans worse. The Lakers will be alright.

    They always are.

  13. Hey Josh: The Lakers have had many runs, all of which add up to a rich history. The questions are: a) is this the end of the current run + b) if so, how long before we rise again. Some of us like speculating about how to avoid the end of the current run, and how best to rise from ashes if indeed it is the end. The fact that we will eventually rise, is not in dispute : )

  14. Wow– Bos just outscored Orl – IN Orlando – 27-8 in the 4th to win the game, after trailing by 21 at halftime. Maybe this is the straw that breaks Superman’s back…?

  15. I’m watching the Clippers game in hopes of seeing Marc pat Paul on the head.

  16. What we learned last night.

    1-Pau can play hard and tough. If he wants.
    2-Metta can be Ron Artest. But he must start so he dosen’t fall asleep on the bench.
    3-Andrew G can shoot, can dribble and can pass which makes him our 4th best player.
    4- Kobe can control the game by shooting and passing. If he wants.
    5-We need a real point guard.
    6-McRoberts, Murphy, Eubanks and the rest of the bench were bad signings. Zero points for them and bad boxing out on rebounds. Bench is number 2 problem after Fisher.

    Finally the Lakers can make the playoffs although with this squad a 6th or 7th seed won’t meet Laker fan expectations.

  17. Re: restructuring Kobe’s contract. You go and tell Kobe, who just lost half his wealth, three houses, potential custody, and owes spousal and child support to take less money per year. Not that simple.

  18. haha – Ken, you crack me up! Truly.

    We “learned last night” that the Lakers need “a real point guard”. Again, I say haha.

    Maybe you just learned this but the rest of us have been aware of it for quite some time. If nothing else, Aaron has brought it up – oh – I’d say once or twice over the years.

    Wasn’t the FO attempt to bring in CP3 another hint?

  19. Kobe won’t restructure his contract, especially not post-divorce. Buss has admitted Kobe is worth more than $60 million a year, so it’s well within Kobe’s right to stick to his contract. I wouldn’t mind restructuring Pau’s deal, but I wouldn’t hold out hope of that happening.

    Robert – We could get Howard next summer through a S&T (technically this is not as a FA, so you are correct). If Orlando holds on to him past the deadline, hoping he’ll change his mind, and then in July Howard informs them he will not return, Otis Smith will have only two choices left at that point: agree to a S&T, or get nothing for Howard in return out of spite (just to see him not sign with the Lakers). At that point he’ll be willing to accept what we offer. 7 feet is better than 0.

    VoR – that’s hilarious. What’d be even funnier now is if every team sent 1 guy to pat Paul on the head and watch him flip out.

  20. If you want to see tbe ugliest uniforms in the history of sports, watch the Clips- Griz game.

    I of course knew we all knew that but I needed more numbers to fill the page.

  21. By tbe way someone on prior pist called Clips punks.

    Man do I agree. How can you be arrogant when you have never won a thing in your history.

    The LA Punkers. Here is betting they lose 3 of their next 4 games. If so they will be patting themselves on the head in a week.

    Pat pat pat pat——-

  22. Anyone have any thoughts on Devin Harris’ situation in Utah.

  23. Yes. Harris is not a Mormon.

  24. @DY and Snoopy, I understand Kobe wont restructure his deal if he were going to loose money, but in this scenario he wouldn’t. Some of the money would just be moved toward the back end of the contract. Kobe would end up with the same amount of money in the long run and would give the Lakers a better shot at helping him get a 6th or even 7th ring.

  25. Ken @ 20 – fair enough!

  26. Snoopy: I think u know I have an obsession with getting D12, so I wish I had your optimism towards such a scenario. I feel the Magic are going to stare us down, because they know how bad we need D12. Further, there will be league pressure on them, not to give the Lakers another dynasty. They will insist on 14′ and our taking Hedu (works with 14′), or they will take their chances with FA. In FA, they will of course lose D12, but they will be able to save face with their fans, Howard will seem like the bad guy for leaving (just like LeBronze), and the Magic will seriously cut their PR. D12 will end up a Mav. In order to avoid this, we must overpay for him (in the opinion of some – but not me), because then the Magic might take it. I say “might”, because at this point, I am not even sure they would take the 14′ deal, which is why I am upset that we did not do this deal when the Magic was amenable to it, during the first window. Further, if we keep playing 6th seed type ball, we might scare Howard away (another reason the trade might not work – and another reason I am upset this deal was not already done). This will be a game of poker and the Lakers are going to have to go ALL IN to have any chance.

  27. Robert

    Have you considered that Magic might clear enough cap to keep DH and then go after Williams. They have some pieces and can pay Howard more then others.

    Don’t be so sure he is gone, especially if they end up in the Eastern finals which is not impossible.

    Why would he cone to Lakers if both Pau and AB are gone? To play along side of Metta, Walton and Fisher next year.

    Just saying—–

  28. Robert, my friend, you are nothing if not persistent. 😉

  29. It bothers me that DH is “short” and his game is based on being a beast. It mnakes me question the widely held assumption that he’s the “answer” for the Lakers.

    Beastlyness, like beauty, fades.

    I think I’d rather see our heroes make a run at Deron Williams and backfill with somebody – anybody – who can shoot from the 3 pt line and call it good.

  30. Point of clarification: the Gasol + Odom for CP3 deal (with Gasol subsequently heading to Houston for Scola, Martin, Dragic) was perfectly legal AT THAT TIME because the Hornets had cap space to spare.

    cc: HearnLantzSunderland

  31. Isolate – I can’t speak for Kobe, but if he thinks he’s going to be effective past 2014 (which I’m fairly sure a competitor like him does), he actually would be losing money – if he restructured his current deal to spread out over a longer time period, that would prevent him from signing a new contract/extension (which is the path he’s on now) from 2014-2017 which will pay him much more per year. So even though right now his 2014-2017 slate looks blank, it’s pretty much guaranteed he’ll have a huge contract during that time period. Spreading his current deal out over 6-7 years would mean less money in the long run.

    Robert – I was pointing out another possible avenue but I agree, the chances of that happening are fairly slim. I agree with your reasons too: I think the poorer we play (and, if you believe some reports, the more Kobe scares Howard off), the less likely Howard is to sign with us when he has the option of teaming up with Williams and Dirk in Dallas. Dallas is screwing us over in many ways. Were it not for them, our only major competition would be the sad franchise that is the Nets.

    Warren’s completely right (29). Stern’s “basketball reasons” had nothing to do with the legality of the trade.

  32. The previous CBA had a clause that contracts extending beyond a player’s 35th birthday would be calculated differently – for salary cap purposes – after that point. This is one reason Kobe’s contract ends in his 35th year.

    If the current CBA retains this caveat, then it would not make business sense for the Lakers to extend his contract past its current end date. Maybe we should contact Larry Coon.

  33. 33, Craig, it’s the Over 36 rule, and the new CBA still retained it.

  34. Thanks Zephid

  35. Stay Scheming t-shirts for sale.

  36. The question about Kobe restructuring in order to reduce his salary upfront is moot because it’s not allowed, in the manner described in this thread, in the new CBA.

    I’ve spoken with someone who worked with Larry Coon’s group of experts during the lockout, and benefited from that contact by gaining knowledge of the CBA. Below is what he told me about a team’s ability to restructure a players’ contract.

    1. A Team with a Team Salary at or above the Salary Cap can not renegotiate a Player Contract. (Since the Lakers are above the cap, this applies to them.)

    a. A team and player can not negotiate a decrease in Salary or in any Incentive Compensation for any Salary Cap Year covered by a Player Contract. (Basically, Kobe and the Lakers cannot reduce his pay.)

    As for the 40% cited in another comment, that reduction is when a player’s contract is getting extended and the team and player agrees that the player should take a pay cut. In a case like that, the players’ salary can not be reduced by a number greater than 40% of the last year of that player’s contract that they’re extending.

    I just thought I would clear this up.

  37. R,

    That’s my concern about laying all the chips down on DH’s number. If his b-ball skills don’t ascend faster than his physical talents descend, 3 to 4 years from now he’ll be Ben Wallace compared to the new power guy.

  38. 36)
    I was watching the Orlando/Celtics game last night and Howard has a tough time scoring one on one in the paint against scrubs that don’t play. But with Kobe it shouldn’t matter as much. We wouldn’t need him to score in the paint off of post ups. But yes… His height ipwill be more of a problem as he ages, like a short athletic PG entering his late 20’s.

  39. Giving Kobe any sort of extension that will increase on his current deal would be bad business for the Lakers. If he gets a big contract, it will hang like a weight around the team for its entire length. If he wants to keep winning and stay in LA, he’ll have to do what Shaq couldn’t–give up the reins to a young guy who can carry the team forward.

    I really hope he wants to, but I’m ready for the Lakers to move past this era and get the next one started.

  40. Dwight Howard was dominated by KG last night. He has showed some offense thus far but it was nonexsistent last night. And why doesn’t he avg. 25+ pts. I still don’t think Bynum is better but Dwight is only supremely dominate becasuse he doesn’t have competition maybe. Just a Thought

  41. I can’t believe all the hate for the Lakers just because the clips got a shot of mojo by acquiring pat-a-chris…He’s an impact player and would add spunk to any lineup, which is why we tried to get him. Mitch “made” the trade, so let’s not beat him over the head with stern’s bat. Odom quit and is laying an egg for the mav’s and only plays select games, just like he did with us…Right now, the league is so dicey with trades, who wants to discuss trades and have the dictator squash it after and risk losing a player to “almost” being dealt.

  42. @Kevin…I think dwight makes my point. There are nights he’s into it, and there are nights he weighs his future against possible injury (and a missed mega-payday?). He also has a lame duck attitude towards his team and has trouble with consistency. I think our team has the same issues. The new agreement set the rules for the game. What stern has done shows he has lost all objectivity, and refuses to adhere to his own rules. They signed the deal for monetary reasons only……the past issues are still alive and well, and will continue to plague the league as long as he is around. At this point, the players are out of shape, the owners are looking to reduce salaries of prime age players and prevent their movement. Below the surface, the league is trying to gain control by standing behind a commissioner who is making up rules as he goes with no way to control his actions. Paul should have sued the league over the recinded trade, but he’s gutless…in other words…a clipper!!

  43. It kind of baffles me that there is so much interest in obtaining Howard when the glaring weakness on this team is point guard and shooting. We would still be in the same boat if we traded for him. And if we had to give up Pau as well to land him we would actually be worse off then we are now. Kobe, Andrew and Pau is a better combo then Kobe, Howard and Hedu.

    All one has to do is look at Howard last night against Boston. And that was with shooters who can space the floor. Can you imagine him on our team without shooters? How much more production would he bring? And even though he would bring more defense to the table, but defense isn’t the Lakers issue right now.

    I would take Howard for Bynum but throwing in Pau, would put us into total rebuilding mode. He is our only other trade chip. The new CBA makes it very difficult for tax paying teams to make moves. And there are no guarantees that we could find a trading partner to use our trade exception with. Pau could come in handy to make other moves to round out the team.

    I just think Mitch will ride this out for a while. Bynum is a better player then anything the Magic can get from either Dallas or the Nets. There is no reason to rush forward with a bad trade, just to land Howard now. Other moves will present themselves in time.

  44. Michael H – great post! Totally with you on this one.

  45. There are a lot of interesting things to say in these threads. I have these suggestions:
    – If someone else has put forward your idea, or something very close to it, limit your comment to, “I agree with xxx”.
    – If someone else has identified your problem with a published idea, limit your comment to, “I agree with yyy”.
    – Refrain from criticizing specific Laker players who have been criticized at least 5 times in previous or current threads.

    While this would result in fewer comments, the ones that are out there would at least be different and interesting.

  46. I think if anything with Dwight it’s the star power quality. His defense speaks for itself his effectiveness on that end is superb. He just doesn’t dominate offensively. He doesn’t have a array of moves like say a Pau, K. Love, D. Lee, Milsap or even a guy like Al Jefferson. With his size and athleticism it would seem he would be better. Just seems he’s hit his ceiling offensively and that’s not good. Not good at all.

  47. This Over 36 rule is fascinating and confusing as hell:

    Also, in case someone hasn’t seen this quote, TAFKARA says he got bored with defense:

  48. The Howard thing is not that linear. Orlando’s basic problem is that while they have shooters, they don’t have creators who can generate offense without playing off of Howard. The Lakers of course have Kobe. With two guys who draw that much attention, the D has tough choices.

    Also, Turkoglu brings skills the Lakers need: ballhandling and playmaking, and he is a decent three-point shooter. Additionally, Turkoglu’s hefty contract helps the Lakers in a sense: they can make the deal without using the TPE. If they could get Howard/Turkoglu and then use the TPE to get a PG and/or help at the 4, they might come out ahead.

    Finally, it is possible that Howard and Kobe on the same team might have a gravitational pull on ring-chasers.

    For those expecting Orlando to eventually blink and just take Bynum for Howard–I doubt it. If Howard hits FA, it almost certainly means he will play with Deron Williams, which probably means Dallas, and Lakers fans think more highly of Bynum than most others do, IMO. Howard is 26; Pau is 31. Howard is very durable; Bynum has been very injury-prone. Turkoglu is 32, of course.

    I am not as sold as Robert on a Bynum/Gasol for Howard/Turkoglu trade being the only way–but it is not a slam-dunk “no” by any means either.

  49. I just can’t get excited by Hedu and PF. He is a small forward with 3.3 rebounds a game. Yes Howard averages 15 boards a game but Andrew gets nearly 13 and Pau gets 9 and he hasn’t even been playing up to his standards. Hedu doesn’t even play PF on his own team, Ryan Anderson and Big Baby handle the PF. So now we would have holes at PG, shooting AND PF. We would also need to find a back up center since Drew and Pau rotate with the 2nd unit. So of course our 2nd unit becomes even weaker then it is now cuz all we will be able to afford is a stiff.

    As far as the TPE, I am not counting on it. What team is going to help us get over the top if we do land Howard? We might be able to find a smaller deal now using the tpe and draft picks but if we land Howard? I don’t see other GM’s lining up to help.

  50. I think Turkoglu would play the 3 and handle the ball a lot if such a deal were made.

    As to the TPE, one team to talk to, for a variety of reasons, is Milwaukee.