Lakers: Emerging Contender

J.M. Poulard —  April 19, 2012

Coming into this season, many openly wondered if the Los Angeles Lakers would even manage to qualify for the seventh spot in the Western Conference. The argument was that given their lack of athleticism, the loss of Lamar Odom as well as the departure of Phil Jackson that the team would take a huge step back.

What had been a cohesive unit for three straight Finals appearances, would suddenly forget how to play together without the triangle offense as their foundation. In addition, judging from his days with the Cleveland Cavaliers where he essentially allowed LeBron James to monopolize the offense, Mike Brown was far from an offensive genius.

With that said, his defenses always looked above average, and there was no reason to expect any different in Los Angeles, especially with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol there to anchor the paint. Mind you, the defense would take time to bring up to speed given the condensed schedule.

And if that wasn’t enough, if Mike Brown was powerless in front of LeBron, there was no way he would be able to hold Kobe Bryant accountable.

Those were some of the concerns coming into the season for Lakers fans; and detractors took it a step further and stated that the team would fall off a cliff given these “facts”.

These issues were obviously warranted but they were a little overblown. Let’s be honest here, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum helped the Lakers win three Western Conference crowns and two NBA titles. These guys weren’t scrubs.

And yet, the popular opinion was that the 2012 Los Angeles Lakers could not compete for a title.

Oh and this just in: the Los Angeles Lakers lead the Pacific division and own the third best record in the conference.

They defeated the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks without their superstar guard and in the process saw Andrew Bynum not only dominate for stretches, but play the part of a franchise player.

Indeed, the big man has used the additional touches to put up more points and has also displayed great effort and energy on the boards.

The end result?

The Lakers are a far more dangerous team these days with Kobe Bryant on the sidelines. It’s not so much that the team is better off without him, but rather that Bean has had the chance to watch the big man tag team work together and see just how productive and effective they can be when given a more than adequate amount of touches; especially Bynum.

This may come as a shocker, but this installment of the Lakers may be a remix of the 2001 squad.

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant spent the bulk of the 2000-01 season wrestling over control of the team and then Kobe went down with an injury towards the end of the regular season and had a chance to watch the team gel and display good team chemistry. By the time he finally reinserted the lineup, he played perfectly in concert with Shaq and the rest of his teammates, picking his spots and understanding when to assert himself offensively.

The circumstances and the roster may be different, but the situation is relatively similar. Bryant has spent the season leading the league in scoring, usage rate — the percentage of possessions of the team that a player uses — and field goal attempts despite having two stud big men as teammates.

Granted, it’s nearly impossible to predict whether the Lakers all time leading scorer will curtail his game even a little to feed the interior more; but given what he has seen from his teammates as of late, he may in fact choose to go that route and ride them as much as possible and then assert himself when the offense demands for him to breath some life into it.

The book on Bryant is that he has always wanted to win on his own terms, but chasing that sixth championship might just prove to be enough motivation to take a step back and then only take a few steps forward when the situation calls for it.

Fans of opposing teams have been terrified of Kobe and his scoring explosions, but the scariest thing for them is the Bean that can go back and forth between playmaker and cold-blooded assassin.

One can only wait with great anticipation for the guard to return to the team and to see how he incorporates himself back into the fold. The same Bryant may help the team get to the second round or possibly the conference finals, but a slightly different Kobe may help the Lakers win the whole thing.

The emergence of Bynum this season has made the Lakers a serious contender, but let’s not forget that it all starts and ends with the purple and gold’s leading scorer.

To KoBe or not to KoBe, that is the question at hand…

J.M. Poulard

Posts

106 responses to Lakers: Emerging Contender

  1. I admit to being pessimistic – or at least a Lakers-worrier – but I’m a little concerned that Kobe’s willingness to integrate himself into the beautiful motion-centric, Kobe-less offense we’ve been seeing for the last couple of weeks will be compromised or at least threatened by his desire for the scoring title. Does it sound like Kobe to lead the scoring race for the overwhelming majority of the season, then allow himself to be passed in the last 3 games and do nothing about it? Not to me either.

    The great hope of course, is that the scoring race comes down to MWP putting the hammerlock on KD on Sunday, but I fully expect KD to have a 50 point game in the next few days with an insane (admittedly, Kobe-like) # of FGAs and for the LMS – Last Mamba Standing – to try to fight back.

    I hope I’m wrong here, because I agree that there are echoes of 2001 with this team. Credit Mike Brown for getting the ball moving on offense in ways that eluded even the mighty Phil.

    OT Suggestion: could there be a post about how the Lakers defend the PnR? I am specifically interested in:

    (1) If Sessions going under picks and Blake going over them is strategic, Ramon protecting his shoulder, or laziness on RS7’s part

    (2) If Bynum’s failure to hedge is strategic or not? It seems as if he retreats back into the lane when he sees the PnR coming

    (3) why the Lakers give up the switch seemingly without contesting it. This always leads to Pau or Drew matched up against a PG.

    and (4) discussing the sheer beauty of how MWP handles picks– going over, under, or right through them. It’s really as if he makes the right decision almost all the time.

  2. J.M. Pollard,
    Great write up. I’m glad I’m not alone now when I said a few days ago this team will go on a 2001 like playoff run. Let’s compare the two teams…

    Fisher v Sessions:
    Landslide in favor of Ramon. Fisher caught fire though in the playoffs from deep off of wide open looks off Kobe kick outs. But Fishers biggest strength (outside shooting) is even a weakness compared to 2012 Ramon who is shooting a much better three point percentage than the 2001 Fisher.

    2001 Kobe v 2012 Kobe:
    No contest. 2001 Kobe in a landslide. No need to go into any detail.

    Rick Fox v Ron Artest:
    No contest. A healthy Ron Artest in a landslide. No need to go into detail here. Sorry Foxy. But at least Rick has the looks advantage ;) It would be a fun matchup as they both has similar body types (although their games Unfortunatley for Fox are just as different.

    Pau Gasol v Horry:
    Yes Horace Grant started but Horry played the majority of the minutes. This is obviously a landslide in favor of Gasol. No need to go into detail here either.

    Shaq v Bynum:
    I’m gonna say this favors Shaq… But not in a landslide. And that is the greatest compliment I can give Andrew Bynum… That Shaq in his last dominant season wouldn’t completkey destroy Andrew Bynum. That’s saying something. Having said that… No way Bynum comes close to playin with Shaq. Not this year. Not yet ;)

    Sixth Man: Barnes v Grant
    Although Grant started he played the sixth most minutes on that team which by definition means he was the sixth man. This goes to Barnes as Grant was solid but on his last NBA legs.

    Overall:

    The 2001 Lakers win this series pretty easily as they had by far the two best players on the floor (Kobe and Shaq)

  3. From a post on January 2, 2012–still applicable now in light of the playoffs approach

    … I agree that Kobe is “better” this year from a purely physical standpoint, but “better” at this point in his career will always be a relateive term…

    …Kobe’s hand/wrist injuries are compomising what was once Kobe’s “trump” on everyone else—his transcendent ball-handling skills (coupled with arguably the best footwork since–well–I would argue he’s got an argument for best footwork ever).

    …I am NOT saying Kobe needs to become second or third fiddle NOW (but time always wins, and that day is coming, unless he is going to retire early, a la Michael after ring number 6).

    Instead, he can complete his career arc, and be eternally remembered as Greatest Laker, and a great teammate, if he can start now the process of gradually ceding control and output to others on the roster. Again, I’m not talking about Kobe becoming option B or C–I’m talking about someone else becoming 1A. Right now, the best candidate for that position is probably Bynum, if for no other reason than the fact that Gasol is probably on the back side of his career arc as well

  4. at this point Im getting more worried about our declining defense than the intergration of Kobe back into the offense

  5. Kobe’s 2001 season (playoffs especially) was sublime, but I don’t know that 2012 Kobe is that far behind.

    He’s not the threat he used to be in transition, and not the game-long lockdown defender he used to be. But, Kobe is as efficient as ever on offense, and can still stop almost any 1-3 in the league for a small stretch of possessions. Plus, his post game and intangible leadership ability are something he didn’t used to have. More importantly, there still are only a handful of defenders in the league who can handle him 1:1 for an entire game, and most aren’t in the West.

    This year’s squad can be like a bizzarro mirror image of the 2001 squad with the dominant big man being the more volatile one personality. My hope is that Drew lets Kobe get his shots (which we know is inevitable) without letting his engagement and energy level slip, because eventually he will have to carry the team for longer stretches than Kobe is capable of if we want to win the title.

  6. Strangely I had the completely opposite impression of Bynum’s play. He rebounded well and was solid in stretches but overall if anything I think he proved he cannot handle the pressure of being a consistent #1 option quite yet.

    In 7 games without Kobe he’s shooting 47%. Throw out the laugher against a horrid GSW team and he’s shooting 42%. That’s especially bad for a center who takes almost all his shots from in close.

    That goes without mentioning his effort on defense, which is uneven at best. I don’t think Drew recognized just how valuable a player like Kobe is at opening opportunities for him simply because of the defensive attention he draws. Drew almost never got to play 1 on 1 this stretch and his struggles in the post show it.

    There are many things about Bynum’s game to like but if anything I felt Kobe being out highlighted many of his weaknesses rather than his strengths. I’ve seen it commonly said that Drew is better offensively than Howard, and that is true in many situations but I think one area where Dwight is light years ahead is in being able to read defenses, pass out, and repost effectively as well as respond to constant swarming and physical punishment from opposing defenses. Too often Drew gets frustrated by no calls or turns into the double teams to force difficult shots or cannot catch properly since he doesn’t seal his man/establish solid position every time down.

    This is not a knock on Drew’s hoops IQ and work ethic as experience with that level of defensive attention is a key part of being able to do that, and it will come in time. Hopefully he appreciates how much easier his life was as a second option and recognizes the parts of his overall offensive game he needs to flesh out (I don’t mean his three point shot <_<)

    Would have liked to see more mention for MWP and Barnes stepping up their games in this stretch and helping fill the void Kobe left.

  7. the coaching staff has instructed drew to protect the middle. he is not supposed to hedge hard when defending screen-roll.

    http://basketball.realgm.com/blog/218794/Lakers_Transform_Pick_And_Roll_Defense

  8. It’s just a feeling, but I believe Bynum is “coasting” until the post-season. Defense & rebounding takes a lot more effort & energy than scoring. Brown is going to continue to play young Bynum for 35 minutes per. One way he can coast & still be effective is just the way he’s been playing…more “O”, less “D”.

    I fully expect Bynum’s to post a 20+ pts/10+ rebs/ & at least 2 blks in that 1st post-season game win on the way to Laker title # 17.

  9. 7 – Thanks for the link. I’d been wondering myself for a while if that was by design. Interesting since that seems the same as Person’s defense last year that Brown came in saying he would change and improve. But Drew’s no Hakeem or Garnett. He’s too bulky. He’s probably just a little slow recovering if he shows hard. Glad that MB experimented with both options and went with the one that seemed to make the most sense to him.

  10. i love watching peace on the low block because he is so efficient hopefully coach remembers that when kobe comes back…2 things stood out last night 1 the number of assists the lakers tallied and 2 ramon sessions taking hard fouls and brushing them off…kind of tough

  11. Not that I’m a glass-half empty guy, but unless we beat a full strength OKC side, I don’t see us as a contender.
    We have shown flashes of potential, but potential does not a contender make.
    We need to:

    1. Be much better defensively…
    2. …Consistently

    Generally speaking, by the last couple of weeks of the season, a team knows its identity. Do we?

    Granted that with the compressed season, a new coaching staff/philosophy and the Sessions trade, we haven’t had a lot of time to gel – and that is why, IMHO, we haven’t been consistent, and as such cannot be called a contender.

  12. 2001 Lakers: Coming off the bench we had:

    Ron Harper, Brian Shaw, Robert Horry, Mark Madsen, Deveon George, Isaiah Rider, Tyron Lue, Slava, + Penberthy.

    If anyone would actually like to compare this group to our current bench, please proceed, however I am just going to leave it at that.

  13. Bynum v Howard really a bizarro Gasol v Griffen?
    ——————————————————–

    The two guys being compared the most by the national media this year possibly just because it’s been a very long time since two great Centers were both in their primes at the same time (Shaq/Robinson) are Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard. It’s sort of ironic since they are such different players with such different games, heights, sizes, amd lengths. To compare these two great players is to compare some of the games two best PFs… Pau Gasol and Blake Griffen. The Lakers PF has the same advantages over the Clippers superstar as LA’s new franchise Center has on the Magic’s old franchise “Center” piece.

    Blake has been the new media darling with his incredible combination of power, athletisim, and explosion. That sounds like Dwight Howard four years ago. Unfortunately, much like Howard, Blake is undersized for his position and has limited skills in the post relying on strength and leaping ability to finish plays. I thought at the start of the year Blake was going to take a step forward in those departments… I was dead wrong. Not only has he not improved but his free throw shooting has regressed falling behind even the awful Dwight Howard. Although Gasol isn’t as sexy (in more ways than just basketball ;) ) … Pau is the more effective player when it comes to you know… Winning basketball games. Recently the two faced off eachother And while Blake won the highlight battle, Pau Gasol easily won the war, completley outplaying Blake on both ends of the floor. Gasol’s length and skill was too much for the much shorter Griffen on both ends of the floor. Which bring us to Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard…

    If you think Blake was at a disadvantage against the taller yet thinner Gasol, Dwight is giving up at least two inches and several pounds. While Howard and Griffen have the open court and PnR advantages over their star rivals, the rest might not be in their favor. Although we haven’t really seen this version of Andrew Bynum against Dwight Howard (we will be eagerly awaiting their battles next season), one could expect them to go about the same way the Gasol/Griffen battles go… The taller more skilled player having his way. When you need to double team post players it just greatly opens things up for the rest of the offense, forget the fact that Bynum historically has easily blocked weak jump hook attempts by Dwight in the post on a regular basis. The latest of course could be seen in the All Star game where an Andrew Bynum going at around 60 percent effortlessly blocked a Howard running hook without even jumping. If you haven’t seen it YouTube it. And have we talked about being able to actually hand the ball to your dominant Center in the fourth quarter because he can actually shoot free throws?

  14. Robert,
    I’m guessing you were not even a teenager in 2001 by how you spoke about the 2001 bench? Ron Harper (was hurt and didnt play) Brian Shaw (barley adequate at 36 years old) Robert Horry (was not really a bench player since he pkayed more minutes than Grant) Mark Madsen (hahahahahaha) Deveon George (the lone good player off the bench was similar to Barnes) Isaiah Rider (never played and was cut) Tyron Lue (didnt play till the Finals) Slava (hahahahahahahahah) Penberthy (hahahahahahahahah). So I am hoping I am misinterpreting your comment? I hope you are saying that our bench now is better than that bench.

  15. Yes, thanks for that link.

    I can see how the lack of practice time and introduction of Ramon has really hindered the D. Everyone plays the same way except when Bynum is there.

    So you have to integrate Ramon into the scheme but then also remember to play differently when Bynum is back there but another way if he’s on the bench.

    That means way too much thinking and not enough reacting. With no practice time since the trade, that’s probably a big reason for the continued drop in D efficiency as Darius has pointed out in last couple days in twitter.

    The O is an easier fix as time goes by since it’s a more natural pick and roll system that most players know and not something more complex like the triangle.

    I see similarities between how the Clipper’s O took off right away with Paul’s addition since it was basic pick and roll. But their D struggled and current Laker team doing well on O but struggling on D.

    Lately Clippers run has been fueled by better D as they’ve grown to know each other. I’m hoping that Lakers can get that going too. Lakers won’t have as much time as Clippers did with an entire season. But they’re also starting with more talented D guys such as Bynum, Pau and Ron.

  16. Reality is there no western conference team with an Andrew Bynum answer, while they all have an Andrew Bynum problem.

    Spurs beware friday.
    Not only could Bynum go off.
    Kobe may too.

    Healthy Lakers roster.

    A championship is possible.

  17. Aaron: I think you might be a tad too high on Sessions. To say he trounces the 2001 Fish is a bit much. Fish has 5 rings and was a steady starter on a top team, for a decade. 2001 was in his prime. Sessions needs to produce to be put in that catgeory. Does he trounce the 2012 Fish- yes- but 2001 – no. I will elevate Sessions if he can show me that he is going to be something other than a matador when he covers Parker or Westbrooke.

  18. Right now, I think the two biggest things to worry about are:
    1) Kobe stepping back in and playing within the flow of the offense. Since Sessions has been here he’s taken fewer shots at a much higher percentage and his scoring has stayed consistent. He needs to keep that up and not shoot them out of games. Kobe shooting 12/19 is much, much better than Kobe shooting 12/28. Those 9 shots can go to the guys that have stepped up in his absence, MWP, Barnes, Gasol and Bynum. On a side note, MWP suddenly showing up as an outside scoring threat will open up matters considerably for Kobe on the wings, as they can’t drift 8-10 feet off him anymore.

    2) Late-game PnR PG defense. They’ve been switching big/small for the last few weeks, and it’s gone awfully. In current seeding order, here are the PGs on potential playoff opponents: Parker, Westbrook, Chris Paul, Mike Conley, Jason Kidd, Andre Miller/Ty Lawson, Devin Harris, with Steve Nash and Kyle Lowry on the bubble. Nearly every one of those guys has carved up the Lakers lately.

    I don’t hate on Brown as much as other commenters, but for a supposed defensive genius, he’s been remarkably slow to address this glaring hole. Seeing Pau Gasol on an island defending Chris Paul (with Sessions on Griffin/Jordan) is nightmarish.

  19. I saw bynums numbers, but I saw the games too, he’s not a number one option, when teams focus on stopping him he doesn’t do well, as long as Kobe throws it to the front of the rim when he’s triple teamed I’m happy

  20. Robert,
    Hahaha. Fisher was torched by Speedy Claxton over and over. Everyone torched him. I think Sessions would do the same. Let’s not pretend Fisher was a good starting NBA PG at anytime in his career. His career stats are almost identical to Smush Parker. What he was, was a clutch shooting hard nosed player. Nothing more and nothing less.

  21. I am not sure what “number one option” means at this point. It is all relative. I look more at defenses and how they react. When Bynum gets the ball on the block defenses often collapse around him. Other Laker players then become open for shots and drives to the lane. No other player on the Lakers roster creates that kind of reaction from the defense. Not even Kobe Bryant.

    I don’t see it as a matter of one guy being the “number one” because people are not comfortable with the other guy because, well, they’re not. It is about what makes it easiest for the team to accomplish its task. As someone else noted upthread, there are no teams out there with answers for Bynum. The closest is Memphis with Gasol. Other than that Bynum trumps anyone else.

    The quickest way for the Lakers to see an early exit from the playoffs is to go back to ignoring Bynum on the block and having Kobe shoot more shots than him and Pau combined. If the Lakers are going to make noise its going to come from staying with a Bynum/Gasol centered attack with Kobe integrating into that. The Lakers are a contender because of the two guys upfront. Of course, they need Kobe. They can’t make a deep run without him. But the balance of power in the Lakers offense has clearly shifted to the front court.

  22. T. Rogers,
    As always you make too much sense for some on this site. I choose not to respond to everyone for a reason. But if you want to fight every battle go right ahead. Having said that… As a giant supporter of Bynum’s you know I’m not biased here. You’re 100 percent right if the Kobe we get in the playoffs is the same one we saw in the regular season. However I have a feeling we will be getting a much more dynamic and athletic Kobe after getting this rest and even more rest before the playoffs. If that’s the case than the pecking order should be Kobe 1A and Bynum 1B. The reason I put Kobe slightly ahead of Bynum is because perimiter player don’t need to be forced the ball against a swarming defense packing it in.

  23. “Ron Harper, Brian Shaw, Robert Horry, Mark Madsen, Deveon George, Isaiah Rider, Tyron Lue, Slava, + Penberthy”

    Obviously a better bench than what we have right now. But they were made better than they were because of Phil Jackson’s ability to narrow define roles and get the most out of bit players. Is Madsen, talent-wise, really better than McRoberts? Is Barnes really worse than George? Was Penberthy even truly an NBA player? Lue averaged 3 points a game off the bench. Steve Blake’s 8 points and 5 assists per 36 minutes are comparable to what Brian Shaw produced off the bench per 36 minutes. But it’s true that Horry and Shaw were clutch in big moments, and better defensively than Murphy or Blake.

    That team was legendary because of its legends. And role players like Fish, Fox that complemented our big 2 perfectly. On a superficial glance, the bench overall doesn’t stand out to me as incredibly productive, but I’m just looking at individual stats.

  24. Aaron,

    I agree 100% on Kobe. I have no doubt he will do what he needs to do. Kobe wants to win more than anything. I didn’t mean to imply that Kobe would hijack the offense. I was more or less responding to the idea of him being the unfettered number one option.

  25. Does anyone know why the Lakers never run pick & “roll”?
    I see a lot of Sessions/Gasol pick and pop, but I never see ANY of our big guys ROLL to the basket the way Tyson Chandler or Dwight Howard does. Why is that? Gasol has the footspeed and Bynum has the bulk –I don’t understand why they don’t take advantage of it.

  26. T Rogers,
    Ah. Gotcha. I figured you did. Just wanted to clarify.

    1/2decaf1/2regular,
    More “defense” for Sessions… He dominated Parker in the first matchup on both ends of the floor and in the last game he kept Parker completley out of the paint. All of Parker’s points against Ramon were tough 20 footers over Andrew Bynum.

    Casual Fan,
    Many times we run PnR just to start the offense as sort of a fake or soft PnR just to switch the ball to the weak side and post up Bynum or Gasol. The other times we run a PnR to attack on the strong side or down the middle of the floor for Sessions to get to the basket. When we do that we want Gasol who is a great outside shooter and passer to pick and pop to spread the floor for Ramon to allow him to finish at the hoop or collapse the defense for an open three or Bynum dunk. Does that make sense? But that was a great question.

  27. I would love to see Kobe play more like Chris Paul and let the flow of the game come to him. Chris is a killer in the 4th quarter when the Clippers need a score. We should ride Bynum in the first half (to keep him interested), Kobe takes his shots to keep everyone honest, and let Pau go down into the post when Bynum takes a breather. Ramon, Barnes and MWP can get theirs when the opportunities present themselves.

  28. Drew’s hard hedge can be something the Lakers keep in their backpocket.

    Making contact with Pau’s bony hips won’t discourage most pgs from penetrating, but Drew’s size and mass can.

    This is an intimidation tactic more than anything else. Once in a while, in the 2nd half, when he’s a got a foul to spare, I’d like to see Drew hedge so hard he “accidentally” hip-checks an opposing point guard.

  29. Ken,
    We are comparing them as players that regular season. The playoffs haven’t started yet. That same year Fisher had to be benched in the Finals so we could guard Iverson. Check both their stats with the Lakers in the regular season. LANDSLIDE. Fisher played 16 games that playoffs. Not a very big sample size. You’re smarter than that Ken… I know you. Ramon has almost shot that well from three THE ENTIRE 2012 REGULAR SEASON! And that was Fishers biggest strength. Don’t be silly Ken or we will make you keep posting from that rediculous alias you tried out once ;)

    Chibi,
    You’re spot on. And we will see that in situations where Bynum has energy and fouls to spare.

  30. I don’t remember the last time the Lakers played well on the defensive end.

    … Maybe the Clipper game – but that game had major lapses as well.

    At the end of the Day – to get through the West – the Lakers are going to have to play at least 1 offensive power house: either OKC or SAS. Because neither of those teams are being beaten in the 1st rd this year.
    Against elite offensive teams, in order to win you can’t play subpar defense. Especially since the Lakers haven’t been an elite offensive team this year by any stretch.

    And I’m liking Ramon, but that Shoulder injury is really hampering his ability in the Pick and Roll because he seems to ALWAYS be going right.

    Wonder what the recovery time on that sort of injury is.

    And for those that think Bynum is a #1 option – Ancient Duncan just absolutely destroyed him earlier this week – basically toying with him

    Shaq in 2001 was so crazy good that the Lakers swept Duncan’s spurs – in Duncan’s prime… and killed them in each game.

  31. #34. The last very good defensive game the Lakers played was against the Spurs last week. They contested shots, controlled the glass, and managed on and off ball screen relatively well. Your point is well taken, though. The D has been suspect for weeks.

  32. Lakers: Emerging Contender?

    Viewing our roster, it’s easy to see that Offense shouldn’t be an issue.

    * Two skilled and extremely versatile 7 Footers who can each get you 25 points on any given night.

    * A Point Guard that can break down a defense, get to the rim and finish or create a scoring opportunity for others. Who’s also shooting well from 3 pt range this season.

    * A Small Forward whose offensive roots have been rediscovered since getting in NBA Shape.

    * And last, but definitely not least, Kobe. That 1st name alone is synonomus with Offense. Therefore, nothing more needs to be said.

    As with all Championship Teams, it all depends on Defense.

    * Will the aforementioned 7 Footers patrol and control the paint by corralling defensive boards and if not blocking, @ least altering shots.

    * Will the aforementioned Point Guard fight over screens and not allow himself to be picked off so easily. This, in turn, puts our Bigs @ a disadvantage because they’re forced to try and contain the opposing Point Guard on an island (think CP3 & Tony P.)

    * Will the aforementioned Small Forward have enough stamina and agility to contain individuals such as R. Gay, K. Durant or, if both squads are fortunate enough to prevail through their conferences, LeBron.

    * Will the aforementioned Kobe really lock in on defense and stop freelancing/falling asleep. I understand that this isn’t the same Kobe from our previous title runs due to mileage, but we’ll need him to be more engaged defensively because it’ll have a domino affect on everyone else.

    So, to sum it all up, if we can attain a ‘Lock-Down Mentality’ on the Defensive End of the court, we’ll definitely become ‘Title Contenders.’ And to quote Coach Mike Brown & Kobe, ‘We’ll hang our Hats on Defense.’

    Time will tell. Starting with our next 2 games.

  33. The 2001 bench was hands down better than our bench today. I hope the playoffs prove me wrong in retrospect, but I’ve seen zero evidence so far to disabuse me of that conclusion.

    Even in the twilight of their careers, Harper and Shaw brought veteran leadership off the bench (and no small amount of timely shots), Lue may not have played until the Finals but played very well in the minutes he was given. Horry/Grant was easily more productive than the Murphy/McRob combo. I remember Devean George being a strictly worse backup wing than Barnes, but that’s the only 2001 bench guy I wouldn’t trade for his 2012 counterpart in 0.4 seconds. As snoopy2006 rightly observes, it may very well have come down to the abilities of Phil Jackson vs. Mike Brown to maximize the strengths of their players, which makes an apples-to-apples comparison problematic.

    But that’s the reality of it. In 2012, Mike Brown is our coach and we are what we are. I haven’t seen anything this season to indicate that the bench will play a meaningful role in our title run so far, but I’m hoping to be proven gloriously wrong.

  34. Aaron: From your post:
    “Robert Horry (was not really a bench player since he played more minutes than Grant) ”
    2001 Grant started 77 games and averaged 31 minutes per game meanwhile Horry started 1 game and averaged 20.1 minutes per game.

    “Isaiah Rider (never played and was cut)”
    He actually played in 67 games that year at an avg of 18 min per; he hit double figures 25 times.

    Ron Harper (was hurt and didn’t play)
    He actually played in 47 games that year and gave us some key minutes in the finals.

    “Brian Shaw (barley adequate at 36 years old)”
    You are as insulting to former Lakers as you are overboard with current ones. Shaw contributed well to the three-peat.

    Now I could add some insulting sarcasm as you do whenever someone disagrees with you, however I will merely present facts which contradict your statements. Ken is silly, Snoopy is wrong, Robert is wrong for even listing the 2001 bench names. Aaron is a genius – even though he sticks an extra ‘A” in his name for no apparent reason : )

  35. kehntangibles: Nice post

    Aaron: The list of people who need your repeated instruction in how to follow basketball, just keeps growing : )

  36. Robert @38
    Great post. Just to weigh in on 2001 Shaq. He would have absolutely destroyed 2012 Bynum and had him in foul trouble every game. 2001 Shaq would have outrun Bynum to his sweet spots and then punished him once he got there.

    I do completely agree with Aaron on one point though. Kobe will come back into the offense as 1A to Bynum’s 1B and our offense will not be the problem in the playoffs. Defending Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook will be the problem.

    I just hope we get Bynum’s 1A defensive effort and we will be just fine!

  37. Contender – yes. PnR defense will have to be stout. Closing out quarters will have to get better. Adjustments during games and backup PG will be key to run to finals.

    2001 Lakers had Shaq this team doesn’t. 01 Lakers win.

  38. Of course the ’01 Lakers were more talented. However, it was more than talent with that team. They blew through the Blazers, Kings, and Spurs. That is a 50 win team, a 55 win team, and a 58 win team (best in the league that year). The 2001 team had the most difficult braket possible. And they absolutely dominated. I am conviced that had the Bucks/Sixers series not gone 7 games and the Lakers didn’t have to wait two weeks to start the Finals they would have gone a perfect 15-0. And it STILL took overtime for them to lose that one game!

    Forget this year’s Lakers team. I wonder if any team in league history could have beaten that team 4 out of 7.

  39. T. Rogers @42
    Another great post. That nails exactly how good that 2001 team was. It took a ridiculous game from AI to get them that win too.

  40. The 2001 Lakers played about as well in the playoffs as was possible to play. No less an authority than Chick Hearn called that the best stretch of Laker basketball he had ever seen.

    People often forget how incredible Kobe was during the 00-02 threepeat because of Shaq’s dominance during the Finals. Kobe absolutely destroyed SAC and SA in 2001.

    You know what’s crazy? I have that Laker Anniversary Collection DVD set that came out in 2004 (it’s great, has DVDs covering every LA Laker championship season up to that point.) There is NO mention or picture of Kobe anywhere on the DVD box or inserts. The threepeat teams are represented, pictorially, by Shaq, Fisher, and Fox. Its release date came in the immediate aftermath of Colorado and the Shaq trade, Kobe’s lowest point, and it’s like the team and the league just tried to whitewash him out of the books in a way. It’s just strange to see, when he’s now as good a candidate as any for the greatest Laker of all time.

  41. kehntangibles – Good post. A small nitpick: Horry/Grant should be compared to McRoberts/Murphy and Pau, as Grant was the starter in that case. Horry/Madsen would be the comparison to McRoberts/Murphy.

    As Robert rightly put it, Grant played far more than Horry. He actually had the 3rd most total minutes on the team that season at 2390 (in 77 games). Horry was 6th in minutes at 1587 minutes in 79 games.

  42. Kevin is correct in 41. Shaq was 29 years old then, in his prime. Prime Shaq is probably one of the five best players in NBA history. The team now has no one who is nearly that good.

    The 2001 Lakers were 3rd in ORTG but 23rd in DRTG. Kobe missed 14 games; Shaq 8, and Fisher missed 75% of the schedule, playing only 20 games. He had a 14 PER; Shaw’s was 10.9. That was the team that really started the “flip the switch” meme that was repeated too often about the 2009-11 teams, as the 01 Lakers went only 56-26 with a point differential of 3.4–low for a champ. They did indeed have another gear, and benefited from Fisher’s amazing 51% 3p run, which started the “Fisher is clutch” thing.

    This team has a 2.0 point differential. Pau has missed 0 games. Bynum has missed 5; Kobe is now at 7.

  43. rr – What site do you use to access PERs, ORTG, and DRTG for old teams?

    Just for curiosity’s sake, I wanted to compare the 04 Pistons and 08 Celtics DRTGs a while back and couldn’t find the #s.

  44. The thing we know about the 2001 team and the thing we don’t know about the 2012 team is whether the role players can play like all-stars in big moments. We all remember Fish, Horry, and Fox hitting big shots when we needed them during that run.

    Right now, MWP, Barnes, and Sessions are playing on at a really high level for role players. The question is whether they are going to continue like this through the playoffs. I think that’s the bigger question mark than how Kobe and Bynum are going share the lead dog role. Opposing coaches in 2001 used to always say “Kobe and Shaq are going to get theirs, we just don’t want to let the other guys kill us”

  45. KenOak: Yes – hoping KB comes back strong. Very interested to if he is 100% tomorrow. I think he will be, but I am still concerned. You are correct – defense will be key in the playoffs. We need RS to step up.
    kehntangibles/Snoopy: I would like to see Horry/Madsen in a two on two game against McR + TM : )
    All: We still have hope as long as we have a 100% KB !

  46. Snoopy,

    Basketball Reference, which is one reason this is a great time to be a basketball fan.

    If you Google “2004 Pistons Basketball Reference” etc. the link will pop right up.

  47. Great post Robert. Interesting that Aaron claimed that if the Spurs, whom he declared wouldn’t get out if the first round, get bounced that all on this site would be happy if I never came back.

    Just guessing that if this was a private club that a vote of all members would transfer Aaron to a Clipper site!

    But that’s what makes the site so fun because of course opinions are like &&&&&&&& and everyone has one. Some better then others.

  48. Robert,
    Isiah Rider was cut during the season. What are you talking about!?!

    Ron Harper as you said only played 47 games out of 82 and barley played any playoff minutes!

    Robert Horry might hav played slightly less minutes than Grant but was playing every minute of every fourth quarter. So we can say he and Grant split time.

    You can’t be serious right? Check their stats. They were just some of the worst starters and bench players that year by all statistics. How old are you? Not as a slight but only someone who was too young to actually see those guys play would make those comments about all those 2001 supporting players. I was in college watching all of those games. Ask someone my age or older about all those guys. Or again check their stats.

  49. Although I would like to take credit for recent Ken posts, he is a newer Ken and clearly much smarter and a better speller then I the older meaner Ken.

    I may start posting as Aaron

  50. On the 2001 subject.

    2012 bench last in the NBA
    2001 in the top 10

    2012 coach Mike Brown

    Enough said.
    Case closed.

  51. I was out of college in 2001 and watched almost every game of the playoff 2001 Lakers. I stand by my assertion about the 2012 bench vs. the 2001. Granted, I’m not giving significant weight to Madsen or Rider as they were both non-entities, but even so there’s no comparison. That’s not to say that the 2001 bench was the GOAT, but to underscore how problematic this team’s 2nd unit has been.

    (It’s also worth noting that many observers felt that Derek Fisher’s return from a foot injury was a key factor in our 2001 late-season blitzkrieg. Fish’s individual numbers were great and the team certainly played a helluva lot better once he returned to the lineup)

  52. Offense is not a concern with this team. They can score with the best of them. Even when kobe gets back shot distribution will change but the ability to score will remain.

    The problem is defense. Isolation defense is solid but I along with many fans have no faith in Lakers PnR defense. At some point a new scheme has to be considered. Instead of relying on putting Ron on a player to slow him down why not create a scheme to slow that offense down.

    Open jumpers off mid PnR’s is a constant problem. Why not trap and get the ball out the pg’s hands instead of giving up a open jumper or leaving the big out on a island with a fast point guard. Same thing happened vs Dallas same thing happening this year. In the spurs game pop ran that all game and sat Green in the corner where Peja was last playoffs.

    I have faith Brown’s doucumented defensive mind will have better schemes come playoffs. Lakers are getting beat by the same type of plays as last year.

  53. Again… I don’t think I ever said that this years bench is better than the 2001 team. Where did I say that? You can change the argument all you want and pretend I said things I never said. I simply said those players Robert mentioned were pretty bad. Most of them weren’t really in tw rotation… (Rider, Lou, Penberthy, Shaw, Harper). Like I said only Horry and Goerge were good that year. It’s pretty simple guys. If you want to make things up I said and argue them than fine… If that’s the only way you can be right. I’m all for it. But the facts are whenever we went into a playoff series the story line was “Are Shaq and Kobe good enough to make up for Fisher, Fox, Horry, and a bad bench. That was literally the story lines for every playoff series we had during the second and third championships. Every single playoff series. Is anyone here old enough to rememeber this?

  54. rr – Thanks.

    In this whole old-Lakers-vs-new-Lakers debate, it should be noted that in 2001 Shaq had a PER of around 30. Jordan Hill currently has a PER of 35. ‘Nuff said.

  55. And not to harp on Brown but he hasn’t motivated this team either. All games there has been some other type of motivation. vs Boston the rivalry, vs Miami kobe’s nose, vs dallas the sweep last year. Either you motivate your team or make them better somehow I haven’t seen him do either. The last thing we heard him in a huddle say was “What kind of team are we”. WHAT!?!?

    That said this team is a contender and can win it all.

  56. 59 – I really don’t see how you measure how well a coach motivates his players unless you’ve listened to the majority of practices and huddles and have also interviewed the roster about how amped up they are at any given point in time. I do think there’s a lot of things to criticize about Brown’s season, but that one doesn’t seem to hold much weight. Phil Jackson had his players pretend they were frogs on a lily pad. That draws a bigger “wtf,” at least from me.

  57. We must be watching different teams. Jackson never had a healthy Bynum to anchor the defense. Maybe d’Antoni would not be able to get the Lakers to play competent defense but I cannot imagine any other NBA coach not getting similar results with this team.

    Brown was a defensive genius with the best defensive player in the game on the court. He currently has the best combination of tall players and the underrated World Peace. He should be able to get better defense out of them than the Lakers have shown in the past few weeks.

    What is still frustrating is that we know that an elite experienced NBA coach would have done more with the Lakers this year. As it is, they should get out of the first round but could well fall on their face in the second round. It is frightening how much the Lakers tune Brown out, you would think it would take longer than a short season.

  58. Fortunately for all of us, we will not have to face the 2001 Lakers in the playoffs this year. As to the opponents we will have to face:

    A) Kobe must be healthy + tomorrow is the physical exam.
    B) AB must fully commit himself to all phases of the game.
    C) Pau is perfect as he is playing right now.
    D) RS must step up his defense.
    E) No foul trouble or injuries, because our bench is what it is.
    F) A little luck. Maybe some of our foes get knocked off; maybe other teams get injuries (I never root for that); or maybe we get some calls.

    So as Jerry Buss probably said before every WSOP, if we play our cards perfectly, + we get catch a couple of rivers – we could be dangerous.

  59. Snoopy,
    It’s very easy. Duh. All you do is play 82 games with one coach and see how that teams hustles and how they do in the hustle saats department and then go back in time and with another coach and see how the two exact teams compare. It’s pretty simple. Duh.

  60. I don’t think Brown is not trying to motivate the team. I question if they are listening. Very strong personalities here, Kobe, Metta, Andrew.

    I feel that LO and Fish were able to act as buffers the last few years and it was hard not to respect Phil.

    Wonder if Brown is just like a tree that falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it.

  61. Snoopy2006: you have a point that’s solely based on what I see not told. I should’ve said his voice doesn’t hold that much weight and he hasn’t made anyone better. I won’t pretend to know everything he says but when Brown does speak I don’t hear that conviction in his voice a leader is supposed to have. A lot of times he sounds unsure of himself that may be why he’s been challenged by players so much this year. It’s either players aren’t listening to him or he doesn’t know what he’s doing. His defense hasn’t worked.

  62. On another issue. Does Rose have a pain threshold a bit lower then my 7 year old son?

    Kobe plays with broken parts yet Rose misses game after game with seemingly new injuries every week.

    Just wondering as now he is out because the tape on his ankle was to tight!

    Odd.

  63. I did not know where else to put how glad I am that the Lakers never moved Andrew for DH, who is now out with a herniated disk, and Jermaine O’Neal, who was just waived by the Celtics.

  64. Aaron: “And have we talked about being able to actually hand the ball to your dominant Center in the fourth quarter because he can actually shoot free throws?”

    touche’

  65. I go with this take on how things looked without Kobe.

    http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/

    Very quality review.

  66. Jim C.-
    Yup. I see things fairly close to that, as well.

  67. Come on Suns put the lights out on slob city!

  68. i think Rose’s myriad nagging injuries stem from a back injury that hasn’t properly healed.

  69. jodial — I have that same DVD set and noticed Kobe’s absence as well. My thought was that he was excluded not so much for Eagle or the Shaq/Phil breakup in ’04, but because that set was produced at a time when there was real concern whether Kobe would be returning to the Lakers that autumn.

    Shaq and Fish and Fox were all shown, and none of them were back that fall. Very ironic.

    But that spring and summer, it was Kobe whose loyalty to the organization was in question — he all but admitted he was strongly considering the Clippers, and waited until the last second to resign with the Lakers. With that issue clouding things up, I could see why the Lakers’ management would be uneasy about making him a figure on that box set.

  70. It doesn’t seem like the Suns can quite get this game. The Clippers seem to be meshing at the right time of the season, and seem to be playing much better D than they were earlier in the year.

    Still hoping Nash and his team of merry three point shooters can pull this one out!

  71. We still lack depth.

    We still lack consistency.

    And we still lack perimeter shooting.

    We don’t need to field a picture perfect team to win the championship, but we would definitely contend if we had depth and consistency (on defense, on offense, on everything).

    Still, a rested Kobe is a Kobe we haven’t seen in a LONG time. So I have my hopes up.

  72. Watching Lopez and the scuffle after the foul makes me realize how much I miss the 90s. The Riley-ball was ugly, but the fights added so much fun to the games, to me.

  73. Brown and Redd can’t miss aganist us now they suck aganist Clips.

  74. Griffin is the biggest flopper. You would have thought that Lopez killed him on that play.

  75. Suns – clips – lots of calls going the clips way – how they diidnt call the foul on griffen when Shannon drove

  76. the way the clippers have been playing lately, the lakers may need to win the last three games to win the Pacific.

  77. So, I am watching Cp3 play, and I’m thinking to myself- “what would some Laker fans on this site say if Kobe dribbled around for 20 seconds and then jacked up a shot?”

    Oh yeah…they would call him a selfish ballhog and ask for him to “play within the offense” and “stop being a chucker.”

    Funny…

  78. Refs taking this game over

  79. i couldn’t believe it when griffin drew an offensive foul earlier. morris went up for a driving layup and used his off-hand, which is something griffin does a lot. my head would have exploded.

  80. lol. griffin was like “what foul” after the belly-to-belly suplex.

  81. Come on Suns. Looking good.

  82. YES! Now we only need 1 of 2 then we get revenge against Dallas

  83. Can’t believe that they called a foul on Griffin at the end there. Suns give the Lakers some help!

  84. a little more breathing room for the lakers now

  85. 81: I take your point, but in fairness I don’t think Vinny Del Negro has a consistent late-game offense besides “Chris, here’s a screen, manufacture baskets!”

    At full health/effort he’s scary good though. One of the players in the league that can make me sweat late in games if he’s on the other team.

  86. The Sun has falling at the Flippers!

    Love it.

  87. Chris J, that’s a good point. I remember how dicey it looked whether or not Kobe would be re-signing with the Lakers. Still, even if he had ended up leaving the team, you’d think his (major, major, major) contributions to three titles in a row would at least have merited him a photo on one of the inner gatefolds!

    Fortunately, that’s one game of “what if” we don’t have to play, and we can just enjoy this long second act.

  88. jodial, agreed — very glad it became a moot point when Kobe re-upped.

    Bitterness can be tough to shake in sports, though. I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan and by every account I should be glad for all that Pujols gave the team over 11 seasons, and wish him well in L.A. But I would be lying if I said seeing him now didn’t just piss me off, even just a few months after he helped win the team a second title in five years.

    Had Kobe bolted to Clipperland in 2004, my guess is a lot of Lakers fans would have felt the same toward Kobe as Cards fans do Pujols today. For that reason, I can see the Lakers’ thought process in leaving KB off of that video packaging.

    Free agency can turn us all into jilted lovers, no?

  89. Very sure the Clips will lose to the Griz in tbe first round.

    Very sure the Lakers will beat the Cubans in the first round.

    Very sure Spus and OKC will win first round.

    Not sure of anything after that.

    Robin Looez is my new favorite non-Laker.

  90. Lakers need to beat spurs friday to help get them to 2 seed. and face okc in wcf not 2nd round

  91. “YES! Now we only need 1 of 2 then we get revenge against Dallas”

    3 games left for both teams. 2-1 would do it owing to the Lakers holding a 2-1 head to head advantage. But, and there’s always a but, but from my perusal of the ESPN brackets, the winner of 3 v. 6 plays the winner of 2 v. 7 in the 2nd round, and 2 might very well be OKC, what with the Spurs holding a 2-1 series edge over OKC and both their remaining schedules not looking all that formidable (each plays the Lakers and then the Spurs finish with Cleve, Portland, Phoe, and GS, while OKC has the Lakers sandwiched between games with SacTown and then they finish off with Denver).

    I’m not so certain that I wouldn’t rather have the Lakers the no. 4 seed, so putting off an OKC matchup until the conference finals (would give the team time to get comfortable with their playoff rotation(s) and would furnish just one more chance that OKC gets bumped off early (as Darius says, even with the best of teams, there’s usually some luck thrown in as well)). And so I’m a little conflicted over that Suns victory tonight.

  92. spurs has the number 1 seed pretty much locked up. even if the lakers beat them, the next 4 games for them are a cakewalk.

  93. I know he’s only played 9 minutes, but Jordan Hill has by far the highest PER on the team. Since I don’t see anyone saying McRoberts and Murphy is a team strength, it would be nice to see Hill get some minutes just to see what he can do. Does anyone remember how Shannon Brown was a throw-away in a trade and emerged big in the 2009 playoffs?

  94. The only way I see the lakers playing the spurs in the second round is spurs going 3-2 and okc winning the rest of their games. It’s still quite possible. Lakers need this win on Friday, lose Sunday, beat sacto and hope the spurs lose vs phx. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We still need to take care of business vs the champs in round one.

  95. anti Dwyer Abbott April 20, 2012 at 12:31 am

    If only we had Lebron+Bynam+CPaul+5 Tyson Chandlers..

  96. Yes I’m a Lakers fan… But I’m an NBA fan first. And Dwight Howard has long been one of my favorite players. Hearing he now has to have back surgery is very sad as anytime a procedure is done on the back the long term effects can be devastating. We all talk about Bynum’s relativley minor injuries… But a back surgery can completley change a players career for the worse. I hope Dwight can get back to his athletic self… It would be a crime against basketball if he didn’t.

  97. 2001 Shaq vs 2012 Bynum in favor of Shaq but not in a landslide is an understatement. If 2012 Bynum would guard the 2012 Shaq he would be in foul trouble as early as 5min into the first quarter. Shaq’s season average during that year was 27 ppg 10.7 rpg 3 apg and 2bpg w/ a 57% Fg percentage. Shaq was the best center in the league that time and arguably playing as one of the top 5 best center of all- time. Even with kobe, shaw, fox, horry and fisher on the floor Shaq would still demand double or triple team as he was a monster on the block. To compare Shaq and Bynum during that year and this year is even blasphemous.

  98. I’d love to have an Aaron block app for my browser.

  99. KenOak @81: LOL – was thinking the same. In fact when KB is in isolation, the way it used to go was DF dribbled the clock down to about 10 – then give it to KB for his move. In Paul’s case, it is strictly a one man show. 20 seconds of dribbling and then a move : )

  100. 91601guy: I remember Shannon being a throw away, but that occurred in the summer of 2011 : )

  101. @ # 69, Jim C.

    Thanks for that. It was a good read, especially the parts within the article that pertained to the ‘Stat Gurus.’

    @ # 100, Aaron

    Well said.

  102. The crazy thing about Howard is that Otis threatened him to extend or he goes to Lakers(allegedly). Howard didn’t want to play in the Kobe shadow. Lucky decision for us not so lucky for Orlando and DH. So now how much has Howards value gone down with ending back surgery.

    Sometimes it hurts to over think things in life.

  103. Jerry West always said that more often than not, the best trades are the ones that receive serious consideration, but then never happen.

  104. Howard’s a tool … this farce he’s playing out with Van Gundy is unbelievable. He’s built himself a prison and put himself inside, locked the door and swallowed the key.

    Not convinced the dude needs surgery, but if you have pain and shop it to surgeons you will find one who will operate. (After all, it’s what they do).