A few thoughts on the Lakers and the rest of the league before we talk about Kobe’s offense this afternoon…
- I love the playoffs. I love how the coaches make adjustments, how players raise their games, and how every night there’s another match up between two good teams that can turn into a classic. But, what I may love most is how over the course of the series teams start to dislike each other more and more. Seeing the same players over and over again starts to wear on these guys. I mean, have you been watching the Grizzlies/Clippers series? Reggie Evans is already getting on Marc Gasol’s nerves. So is Kenyon Martin and Chris Paul. Last night I thought Marc was going to take a swing at one of those guys. The playoffs already have a great intensity level with raised stakes. But much like an NFL training camp where the same guys do battle every day, seeing the same face in the same jersey every other day can bring out the bad feelings in these guys. And I love it.
- Another thing I’ve loved is Jordan Hill’s emergence as the Lakers’ 3rd big man. He’s turning out to be the perfect compliment to Bynum and Gasol simply because he knows how to carve out space in the paint on offense when Pau and Bynum draw extra defensive attention while his foot speed on defense makes him a good P&R defender that can also challenge shots at the rim. No, he doesn’t have a good jumper and his touch around the basket could use a bit of refinement, but he works hard and (mostly) plays to his strengths. Plus, anyone that can grab 43 rebounds in his last 4 games (including 17 on the offensive end) as a back up big man is doing something right.
- It’s award time in the NBA and so far the league has named Greg Popovich the Coach of the Year and Tyson Chandler the Defensive Player of the Year. I’ve no beef with either selection as both certainly earned their honors. Especially Chandler who helped transform the Knicks’ defense all while playing with below average individual defenders. Where I do take some issue is with the fact that not nearly enough wing defenders got votes for the award. Guys like Tony Allen, Andre Iguodala, and Luol Deng cover the top wing players in the league nightly but yet don’t get the same recognition that someone like Serge Ibaka does. Yes, Serge blocks a lot of shots but part of the reason he does rack up the rejections is because he’s not matched up with the elite players in the league on a nightly basis. Yes, there are some fantastic PF’s in the game but a guy like Allen will guard LeBron and Wade in the same game one night, then Kobe the next, then Rose on another night, and then Durant on another with the list going on and on and on. Again, I’m not trying to take anything away from the big guys in the league but give the wings some votes! They deserve ’em too.
- It doesn’t mean much because of the small sample size and the fact that the games will only get more difficult but 6 of the 8 Lakers rotation players have PER’s of over 15 so far these playoffs (Kobe, Bynum, Pau, Sessions, Ebanks, and Hill). And Kobe and Bynum both have PER’s over 30. The only other key players in the playoffs with PER’s over 30 so far are LeBron and Tony Parker.
- On the opposite end of celebrating the players doing well is the frustration and sadness of guys getting injured and missing out on the 2nd season. Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, and Caron Butler will all miss extended time (with Rose and Shumpert out until next season. Josh Smith is out with a sprained knee and Tiago Splitter will miss time with a sprained wrist. The playoffs are always a war of attrition, but having guys go down to injury is always a bummer.
- Lastly, a very good read on Kobe from SI’s Lee Jenkins, plus Bean’s top 10 plays of the year. Enjoy: