Archives For October 2012

The Lakers loss last night offered varying levels of frustration for everyone. In case anyone thought otherwise and needed proof, there’s no flip to switch from preseason to regular games, there’s only a path to travel to try and get better as a group. And while there were some very good individual performances, the group as a whole didn’t do well. Thus the team is zero and one to start the year.

There are a few takeaways from last night that deserve mentioning because they’ll serve as the back drop for tonight’s contest.

First is that the Lakers’ biggest issues, despite popular belief, are actually on the defensive side of the ball right now. The Lakers big men were slow in their rotations to confront dribble penetration. This was compounded by the fact the guards in front of them allowed too many opportunities for those big men to be late. As individuals, Howard did not yet look himself in stepping up to protect the rim while Gasol took some poor angles in P&R defense that left holes in the middle of the floor that the Mavs exploited.

The Mavericks also did the opposite of what teams used to do to the Lakers on defense. Rather than attack the center in the P&R, they went away from involving Dwight in any on ball actions where he could thwart an initial drive attempt and instead picked on every other Laker. Gasol, Hill, and Ron all had to be the hedge/recover man in this action and all were taken advantage of on more than one occasion. With Howard reacting slowly on the back end, this led to trouble.

Offensively, the Lakers still lacked balance. Ask Steve Nash and he’ll tell you that he could have been more aggressive in attacking with the ball rather than initiating the Lakers’ sets via quick passes to the wing and floating on the weak side. Nash did start to attack late in the game but by that point the deficit was too large and the rhythm of the game favored the Mavs. Doing more of that earlier — while still not abandoning the actions that allowed Gasol and Kobe to thrive — is something that Nash is burdened with nightly. It will be this way all season and his ability to carry that burden will often dictate how the offense looks. Not to put it all on Nash, but when he’s in the game he may be the most important Laker simply because he’s driving the car.

Tonight then, the Lakers have another challenge waiting for them. They visit an arena that they typically leave as losers and do so on the second night of a back to back against a team playing in their home opener. Add in the fact that the Lakers will get every team’s best effort and tonight is a challenge regardless of what quality you deem the Blazers to be.

With that in mind, here are a few things to look for tonight:
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Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  October 31, 2012

“Best thing you can do is get rid of it some dark night.” So said Jack Buggit to Quoyle in the Pulitzer-winning novel ‘The Shipping News’. That in reference to a wallowing cockeyed skiff that hapless Quoyle had been suckered into buying. There were certainly those who expected that a winless preseason would instantly shapeshift at last night’s opening tipoff. I didn’t and so I’m not particularly disappointed. It was a start, with another 81 games to go in the regular season. But never mind me – ready for the early exit polls?

Brian Kamenetzky at ESPN’s Lakers Now, gives a rapid reaction to the season opener, noting that there’s plenty of ire to go around.

C.A. Clark at Silver Screen and Roll says it’s not really the new offense that did the Lakers in last night, but the lack of defense.

Jay Caspian Kang at Grantland, on hitting the panic button.

Sam Amick for USA Today says the pressure’s building on Mike Brown.

Zach Harper at CBS Sports writes that the Lakers fail to show an identity as they fall too the Mavericks.

Sean Deveney at AOL Sports opines that day one of the Princeton offense isn’t at all pretty.

Ryan Ward at Lakers Nation brings us the wisdom of O’Neal & Barkley, “the Lakers must win now!”.

Eric Pincus at the L.A. Times offers a preview of tonight’s match against Portland, wondering if the Lakers can break their losing streak of 11 (including the preseason and the final two games of last season).

***

Okay. The last cut may be a bit too much. Eleven game losing streak? C’mon Eric! So look – it wasn’t the most inspiring first page in a storybook ride to glory. There’s an obvious reason that none of the above writers seemed to get. Robert Sacre never got off the bench. I’m sure Coach Brown realized this when he watched game tape this morning. Tonight’s another learning opportunity as the Lakers face the Trailblazers. Ready for things that go bump in the night?

– Dave Murphy

The Lakers didn’t exactly open their season as spectacular as their off-season was as they fell to the Dallas Mavericks 99-91. It was a night where they couldn’t consistently get stops, shot 3-for-13 from three and an abysmal 12-for-31 from the free throw line. Like much of the pre-season, this team just didn’t seem in sync at any time during the game on either end of the floor and the final score was a direct product of their inability to become a cohesive unit.

Instead of breaking down the big-picture aspect of tonight’s loss, the FB&G staff decided to collaborate on tonight’s recap and take looks at individual players. Each of us decided to play closer to one or two guys throughout the course of the game and write down some thoughts on the guys.

Darius on Point Guards: Nash definitely didn’t look as comfortable tonight in sorting out his niche in the Lakers’ offense. Early in the game he did a very good job of getting the Lakers into their sets and that was reflective in how the ball was moving and how efficiently the Lakers were scoring the ball. As the game went on, however, the sets started to break down and Nash became more of an off the ball worker than I think anyone would really want him to be. In the final minutes of the game he attacked more frequently by starting possessions with the pick and roll, but he needed to try and find a better balance by running that action a bit more throughout the contest.

Two other notes on Nash: 1). He looked to be bothered by the ball pressure the Mavs were using against him throughout the game. Dallas used both Darren Collison and Roddy Beaubois to pick up Nash at three-quarter court and that really slowed down Nash and led to the Lakers getting into their sets much slower. 2). Nash working off the ball did have some benefits. He occupied his man well and help rarely came off him, allowing the Lakers bigs more room to operate in the post. That said (and as I mentioned earlier) there was a bit too much off the ball work for Nash tonight.

Blake had a nice game and showed that he’s got a good handle on initiating the Lakers’ sets. He was assertive in trying to turn the corner when he ran the pick and roll and used his dribble judiciously to try and get into the creases of the D. That said, Blake still is not as aggressive as he needs to be in seeking out his own shot. He turned down at least two open jumpers in favor of taking a dribble that allowed the defense to recover to him. Blake did have at least one bad turnover where he kept the ball on the right side of the floor only to throw a late skip pass that got intercepted but overall I thought he did well in running the team when he was on the floor.

Where neither PG was that great was on defense. Nash found himself on his heels a lot against Collison and Beaubois both in the half court and in transition. Both Mavs PG’s tried to attack Nash in space and it ultimately allowed them to find their rhythm on offense which led to them hitting shots at a pretty high rate. Blake wasn’t much better than Nash in this respect. In the end, the Lakers’ PG’s played good position defense for the most part but also had too much trouble marking their man when on an island. Whether or not this becomes a trend remains to be seen but today’s results will only encourage more teams to attack them, and the Lakers, in this way.

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There are three games on the docket tonight — opening night for the association! — and the Lakers just so happen to be headlining in the 7:30pm PST slot (though Heat/Celtics certainly intrigues). The opponent is the Dallas Mavericks who, like the Lakers, are a dramatically changed team heading into this new season.

This Maverick team actually looks nothing like the one that won the championship just two seasons ago. The Mavs followed up the departures of Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barrea from a season ago with Jason Terry (Celtics) and Jason Kidd (Knicks) leaving this past off-season. The only meaningful pieces from that title team that remain are Dirk and Shawn Marion.

Into the mix, however, are some quality players to replace the departed. Darren Collison is now the lead guard and he’ll be joined in the backcourt by O.J. Mayo. Up front, the Mavs added Elton Brand via an amnesty waiver claim and picked up Chris Kaman as a free agent. Those four, Vince Carter, Brendan Haywood, Brendan Wright, Dhantay Jones, Roddy Beaubois, and the aforementioned Dirk and Marion form the (rather large) core of a team that the Mavs hope can again contend for a playoff spot and make a run.

That’s a ways off however, as it’s only October. It may also be wishful thinking. Dirk is currently out recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks (and as many as 6 weeks). Chris Kaman is also on the mend with a strained right calf but should be back after only a couple of games. Losing so much front court talent — especially Dirk — leaves the Mavs incredibly thin in the front court, to the point that they’ll likely start Eddy Curry at Center tonight. Yes. Eddy Curry. Add in any residual affect from waiving Delonte West and the Mavs are a question mark tonight and for the first part of the season. Which, in the crowded West can spell doom.

What’s not so much of a question is this Lakers’ team. Well, at least not a question in the same way. The Lakers’ injured star, one Kobe Bryant, has labeled himself 85% and, barring any setbacks before tip time, is likely to play tonight. He of course will be joined in the lineup by a bunch of other guys you’ve heard of because they’re quite famous. If you want to know more about them, simply read our season preview or any other number of things that have appeared at this site since early July. Really, go click away. We’ll still be here when you get back.

Tonight though, the journey begins. The Lakers are a bit banged up and would do well to try and get up early on an undermanned Mavs team, especially with the Blazers waiting in Portland to play spoiler in their home opener tomorrow night. That back to back would go over much smoother with a bit of rest.

A win would also be nice simply because this team hasn’t had one in a while. The last W the Lakers put up was in Summer League and those games count even less than the preseason games that don’t matter at all. Before that, go back to the playoffs of last season where the Lakers took one game off the Thunder. That was in May.

But this is a new year and it promises to be well worth our time while also keeping our attention. So, tune in (7:30pm PST tip time, TNT) and enjoy the start of the season. We’ve been waiting a long time for this, might as well enjoy it.

boardwalk empire

I wanted to do something different with my season preview this year. With the Lakers being the team from Hollywood, I wanted to take some inspiration from my television screen. I chose one of my favorite shows on right now, Boardwalk Empire. What follows are quotes from what’s been one of my favorite episodes this season, Spaghetti & Coffee. Hope you like it…

Gyp Rosetti: “What’s that? A gun? I gotta gun. I gotta gun, he gotta gun, he gotta gun…everybody got guns!”

If there’s a moment that defined last season for me, it was watching Mitch Kupchak in the stands in Oklahoma City standing there stone faced as the clock ticked down towards the Lakers’ getting eliminated. Kupchak looked…well…like a man who knew his  team was not good enough and that he would need to do something about it.

Fast-forward to today and Mitch Kupchak is a man that is no longer outgunned. In acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard without giving up — outside of Andrew Bynum — any players of substance, Kupchak pulled off a pretty remarkable feat. He rebuilt the Lakers on the fly and positioned them to contend this season and for several more to come (should Howard re-sign at the end of the year).

And it wasn’t just the big names that he hauled in. He inked Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks as free agents at bargain prices. He retained Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill to bring back two younger players who still have promise and can grow. These four players should all be contributors in a revamped rotation that, while not sexy and still lacking a spark plug in the classic sense, is much better than the group of reserves that was trotted out last season.

This is not a perfect group of guys. The top of the roster is aged and the bottom still has some dead weight, but ultimately Mitch Kupchak reloaded this roster in a way that puts them right in the mix for a championship. I’m shaking my head at the notion as I type. He really did it.

Mickey Doyle: “You what’s goofy? Cash business like this? At the end of the day, I still have empty pockets.”

But in assembling such a high profile roster, the Lakers are paying a pretty penny in payroll. This season’s commitment is $100 million before a cent of luxury tax payments or revenue sharing goes to the league. Next year, the payroll has the potential to go down in terms of what the players make but overall spending will only go up due to the increase in luxury tax rates implemented in the new collective bargaining agreement.

There is relief down the road when Kobe, Pau, Ron, and Blake’s contracts come off the books all at the same time. But those contracts expiring only swap financial pressures for those associated with building a new roster that may be without one Kobe Bean Bryant (as well as Pau and Ron who, by any measure, will be vital to this team’s success).

Long story short, the Lakers have an open window to compete but it’s being propped open by a large wad of cash. At some point, that money — even with a ridiculously rich television contract — will not be enough and the strategy of spending to get where this team needs to go will be reevaluated. So, enjoy the splurging while you can. This is a super-team in the truest sense with talent other franchises could only dream of. But it’s being held together by the pocketbook of the Buss family and that will not last indefinitely.

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