Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  May 3, 2012

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:

Darius Soriano

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20 responses to Fast Break Thoughts

  1. Thanks to Darius for linking the SI article. Great read and spot on… Kobe in his 16th season is making history with his playoff effectiveness so far. Which isn’t saying much because guards in their 16th year usually are retired already. Kobe is something special. His longevity will define his career. Much like Kareem’s. That’s something more special than god given. That’s man made. Kibe worked for everything he has gotten. His longevity is the proof… Something SI is already letting their readers know…

    “Bryant racked up 31 points in Game 1, but was overshadowed by Bynum’s 10 blocks and triple-double. The landscape has obviously changed in L.A., where Bynum is now seeing the double teams and Bryant is enjoying the space. Time will eventually out-pace Bryant — NBA defenses are counting on it — and he knows he does not have many chances left at a championship. That’s why he sat out seven games in April with a bruised shin, even though he despises missing time in the regular season. It’s also why he skipped the finale at Sacramento, when he was just 38 points short of the scoring title. “He changes,” said Sessions. “There are no smiles. He is all business.”
    He is surely eyeing Oklahoma City, a potential opponent in the Western Conference semifinals, already up 2-0 on Dallas. The Lakers typically toy with first-round foes, but Bryant acknowledged a different approach. They must close Denver quickly to earn Bryant more rest, so he can deliver more of what he did Tuesday: in-your-face dunks, come-from-behind blocks and end-to-end trips back in time.”

  2. Great to see Chandler get DPOY it’s much deserved. He had ankle injuries and a botched trade with a failed physical he stayed with it is getting rewarded for it.

    Can’t wait to see Kobe’s numbers the mid range numbers must be off the charts. Would be cool if it included under 5 second shots the ones he’s forced to take.

  3. If the Thunder hadn’t rescinded their trade for Chandler …

  4. Love the MEM-LAC series, the Randolph-Griffin and Conley/Mayo-Paul battles are also worth watching (on top of those already mentioned). The Grizzlies are my adopted second team should anything happen to the Lakers.

    In my opinion, one of Kobe’s biggest accomplishments of the season is as an on-court coach. You can see it in player discussions on the floor and on the bench, seemingly everybody being mentally engaged (aside from a few well-noted episodes) and trying to figure out how to get better. This team seems to have found an identity, the cerebral approach that the leader exhibits, which last year’s team clearly didn’t as far as I could tell – despite it being “Phil’s last stand” and all.

    But I think this cerebral approach is actually not that far removed from Phil Jackson’s philosophy of not getting too high or too low emotionally. The Lakers don’t depend on runs fueled by emotion (think OKC) all that much but on controlling the pace and playing to their size advantage. They sometimes are not able to match the energy of a team fueled by a couple of makes and the support of the crowd. But when their outside shots are falling combined with a disciplined attack thorugh the big 3, they are very hard to beat.

    I thought the first 3 quarters of game 2 were close to a perfect game by Kobe. He was content in working from the weak side a lot of times, made great decisions once the ball swung to him and created pretty good shots even late in the clock while defensively also fighting over screens like I haven’t seen him doing since the playoffs last year. When he plays like this, the other players also move the ball very willingly, as seen by Bynum and especially Gasol.

    Ultimately, I really like where the team stands now. The margin for error is so close in the West (especially starting in the next round) that a lot of things will have to go right to even get to the Finals. But as Kobe said in an interview, he sees the pieces in place to contend, to have a good chance against any team.

  5. -“The landscape has obviously changed in L.A., where Bynum is now seeing the double teams and Bryant is enjoying the space.” Darius.

    This is way it’s soooooo important to continue to get the ball into the low post. Yes it’s early in the post-season, but I like the way it’s looking.

    -I’m hoping the Mavs sweep the Thunder at home & tie up the series at 2 each.

    -D Fish contributed mightily to OKC’s 3 point win in game 2. He scored 11 points on 5 of 6 shooting w/ 3 rebs while posting a +11 (3rd highest +/-) in 24 minutes. He combined w/ Harden to score 26 of OKC’s 32 bench points, outscoring the Mavs bench by 4.

    -Lakers could have used MWP in the 2nd half of game 2 vs Denver, but in the end, it didn’t matter. Nuggets got close, but never lead. 3 games down, only 4 games to go before the NBA will experience World Peace again.

  6. Bill Simmons has a good piece out on footnote titles. Championships one because of injuries to the opposition. He put the 2008 Celtics on there begrudgingly and pushed them way back on the list. Here is his take…

    19. 2008 Celtics
    18. 2010 Lakers
    What Happened: You could argue that these footnotes canceled each other out. (I don’t believe this, but you could argue it.) In the 2008 Finals, the Lakers didn’t have Andrew Bynum … who couldn’t stay on the court, only played in 204 of a possible 328 regular-season games from 2008 to 2011, and wasn’t even remotely the same Bynum he is right now (but whatever). During the 2010 Finals, the Celtics lost starting center Kendrick Perkins for most of Game 6 and all of Game 7, causing an out-of-shape, should-have-retired-two-years-earlier Rasheed Wallace to play 35 minutes in Game 7.

    The Footnote: Laker fans believe Bynum could have swung the 2008 Finals, even though the 66-win Celtics dominated the regular season and clinched the title by beating the Lakers by 39 points. Celtics fans fervently believe we would have prevailed in Game 7 in 2010 with Perkins — you know, the game in which Boston gave up a whopping 23 offensive rebounds, Kobe missed 18 of 24 shots, and the Lakers shot 32.5 percent and somehow won. I can’t talk about this anymore.

    The Verdict: Neither ’08 Bynum nor ’10 Perkins was one of his team’s best three players. Injuries are part of the game. Shit happens. Since the 2010 Celtics came much closer to winning than the 2008 Lakers did, the 2010 Lakers earn a slightly bigger but still inconsequential footnote font. What remains unclear: whether LeBron no-showing his last two playoff games becomes part of that 2010 footnote historically. Right now, it looks like no … if only because the same thing happened in the 2011 Finals. If a better explanation emerges someday for that 2010 no-show against Boston? Maybe.

    This is the email I sent Simmons. I couldn’t let him get away with such bias…

    I mean the fact you’re a Celtics fan is the only reason I didn’t lose all respect for you. 2008 Andrew Bynum was the best Andrew Bynum before this year. It was his breakout year. He was the second best player on a Lakers team that was the number one seed in the Western Conference on the day the Pau Gasol trade was executed. Unfortunately Andrew Bynum suffered his first knee injury that year against Memphis in LA stepping on Lamar Odom’s foot. Until that point Bynum was an explosive, skilled, and dominant player that season. But what is totally crazy is this… You didn’t mention Trevor Ariza! The Lakers were missing TWO STARTERS that Finals. Ariza got hurt mid season and didn’t return that season unless you count 10 playoff minutes. In his stead were VladRad and Luke Walton! Think about that. Think about that when you remember Paul Pierce’s NBA Finals MVP. The Celtics 2008 Championship is one of the most impacted Finals due to injuries. Forty percent of the Lakers starting lineup was out. Forty percent. Including one giant seven footer who’s absence forced finesse PF Pau Gasol to shift over to Center and get pushed around by the much more muscular Perkins.

  7. The other thing regarding the 2010 Finals is that Bynum was a shell of himself after Game 3 (the knee draining finally stopped working), and Simmons apparently forgot about that.

  8. kehntangibles May 3, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    I am of the opinion that we probably would still have lost in 2008 even with a healthy Bynum – Boston was too good that year, but we very likely push them to seven games.

    Now, if we’re talking 2010: Lost in the flurry of Ray Allen’s 123121231 three-pointers in Game 2 (damn you, Fisher/Brown/Farmar) was the fact that Bynum was dominant in the first two games. If his knee holds up, Lakers win in 6 games at worst; hell we should’ve won Game 2. And in game 7, Rasheed pitched in with 11 pts and 8 rebounds – you think Perkins is going to give you that kind of offense?

  9. #6 Aaron.
    I can’t believe it, but for once I completely agree with everything that you wrote in a post. This is crazy. :)

    Bynum would not have gotten pushed around by KG/Perkins like Pau did. He would have dominated either one of them. He was that explosive pre-injury. I would love for the Celtics to reach the finals opposite of the Lakers this year, so that we could have a rubber match and crush their spirits for the last time.

  10. Ken,
    You have a Lakers memory. I’m an NBA fan. So I rem the Celtics going to seven games against the Hawks and I beleieve the Cavs. They really struggled that playoffs and went into the Finals as the underdogs. Thank god Vegas didn’t realize the Lakers didnt have a Center and for the first time were playing a team with a true Center (Perkins). Throw in the fact Ariza was out and LA had nobody to guard Pierce I was looking at an easy bet (yes I had to bet against the Lakers that finals :( ) The bottom line is the Celtics didn’t look good until the Finals where the Centerless , PG less, and SF less lakers were overmatched. Although two of those three things were because of injuries which is why most experts believe if the Lakers had even one of their two starters missing that Finals… The series would have been completkey different and KG would have been the one being called soft instead of Pau having to play out of of position against a much stronger opponent.

  11. kehntangibles: 08 title was lost when lakers gave up the huge lead game 4. Best out of 3 had they won that game. Lakers could’ve possibly headed back to beantown up 3-2. Those injuries were big but game 4 was a bigger loss.

  12. Paul Peirce went off in that 08 series just like James Worthy vs the celtics in the 80’s.

    Boston just didn’t have an athletic wing to match up.

    (See Jordan lighting up ths celtics as more proof of that in the 80’s)

  13. Kevin,
    Are the Lakers down 2-0 if they had Bynum and Ariza? Do they blow that lead in game 4 if they had Bynum and Ariza? It’s hard to blame a blow lead on the series loss and not ask the question… “Do the Lakers blow that lead if they aren’t already down 2-1 and if so would they even blow that lead in any scenerio if Bynum and Ariza are starting?”

  14. Aaron: Nobody knows what happened if they played what we do know is they didn’t and Lakers were up 20 at home. Lakers were a quarter away from a 2-2 tied series with the next game at home. Can’t blame that on players in suits.

  15. Kevin,
    That’s like saying we don’t know what would have happened if Michael Jordan and Wilt were on that team. We don’t know what would have happened. But the better pkayers you have on the floor and not in suites the better your chances are… And the better your chances are of not blowing 20 point leads or not even being down 2 games from the start. It’s not rocket science.

  16. Aaron: No way will I compare Ariza, Bynum to Jordan,Wilt as you just did. But without those guys Lakers had control of the series in game 4. Game 6 made it seem like the series was nowhere near competitive. Lakers could’ve won in 08 game 4 was the reason they didn’t. imo

  17. (edited for baiting) The game is mostly about the players on the court. When the players change the game changes. It’s just common sense. The Lakers might not win a championship if Perkins plays in Game 7. The Lakers definatley win it before seven games if Bynum was healthy that series. Health and players matter. Again… It’s very simple. Not rocket science. The Lakers and their players lost game 4. It happened. It happened because the Celtics were better than the Lakers. That’s why they lost game 4. And again… Most likley they don’t lose game 4 if Bynum and Ariza are healthy and in the starting lineup let alone blow a 20 point lead. But again… I also doubt the Lakers are down 0-2 heading back to LA if Bynum and Ariza are in the lineup. The Lakers didn’t blow a 20 point lead out of nowhere. They didn’t have a SF to guard Peirce. He ate us up with no Ariza.

  18. @18 Snoop, great find, I like this in the article, ‘Gasol is billed as a do-it-all wing man with the skills of a player eight inches shorter. ‘

  19. 19 Anon is me.