Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Nuggets

Darius Soriano —  January 5, 2014

The big news of the day is the continued discussions between the Lakers and the Cavs regarding a Pau Gasol for Andrew Bynum swap. The Cavs are said to want to deal today and the Lakers are said to want assets back rather than simply wanting to do a salary dump that gets them under the luxury tax line for this season.

Considering the details and the difficulties of what both sides want versus what would be smart for them to give up relative to what each side seeks, I don’t see a deal happening between the teams. Pau Gasol would be a half season rental for the Cavs and giving up anything of value for that wouldn’t be a wise move for the future of their team. For the Lakers, getting under the tax line would be a nice coup for them, but getting nothing of value besides that wouldn’t be worth it considering they’re very unlikely to pay the repeater tax in any of the next two seasons considering how their current cap situation projects.

So, unless I’m wrong, there will be no deal. And that means that the news of the day shifts from rumored deals to the actual game that happens this evening with the Nuggets.

The Lakers will look to build on Friday’s win over the Jazz by hoping many of the same things that worked against them work against the Nuggets. That means rolling with an inside-outside attack centered on the production of Pau Gasol and the surprising play of Kendall Marshall.

For this to work, Pau will need to establish the paint offensively via direct post ups and through diving out of the P&R. If Pau can continue what he started on Friday — establishing decent position in the post, finding soft spots in the defense out of the P&R where he can nestle into the FT line area — he can be the offensive threat the Lakers need him to be that can set up the rest of the team’s flow on that side of the ball.

This is especially crucial for Marshall who will have more eyes on him defensively than he did on Friday. Marshall did a very good job of capitalizing on the space the Jazz gave him by threatening the paint off the dribble and hitting jumpers when his man sagged off him. The Nuggets will surely pressure his handle a bit more and try to cut off the driving angles that the Jazz afforded him. If Pau (and Hill and Sacre) can roll hard into the paint and/or hit enough jumpers from right around the elbow area, it will open up the passing angles Marshall needs to hit the Lakers’ shooters circling around the arc. The burden will then be on Meeks, Young, Johnson, Williams, and Kelly to knock down those shots, but that’s the case every night.

Defensively, the Nuggets will bring their pace and space attack to Staples so the Lakers better be ready to run back in transition and cover ground to close out defensively in the half court. The Nuggets will look to score against a Lakers’ D that is not yet set and will drive hard into the paint to get baskets at the rim as frequently as possible.

Ty Lawson is key to this attack and will need to be walled off in transition and kept out of the paint when trying to turn the corner in the P&R. This is easier said than done as he is one of the quickest players in the league when working with the ball in his hands and with the threat of a very good outside shot, there is no cheating off him  to try and contain that quickness. No, the Lakers are going to have to play Lawson as straight up as they can, slightly overplaying him for the drive, and hoping that they can both keep him from breaking down their defense off the dribble while still ensuring that they can contest his jumper.

Part of being able to do all this will depend on the team’s ability to guard the Nuggets when they go small with Wilson Chandler manning the PF spot. Chandler’s ability to space the floor from that spot opens up penetration from Lawson (and Nate Robinson) which then opens up the floor for guys like Faried, Mozgov, and Hickson both in the mid-range and when slipping towards the basket. The Lakers will need to be especially sharp whenever Chandler is in the game, moving quickly to shooters behind the arc and then recovering to the paint to ensure that Denver’s bigs don’t do too much damage near the rim via easy shots via the pass or from offensive rebounds.

While Denver is the more talented team coming into this game, they’re not much better in terms of record and haven’t been playing very well lately. Before beating the Grizzlies on Friday, they’d lost 8 consecutive games and are two games below .500 on the season. The Lakers, then, have a chance to build on the momentum they established on Friday by playing a similarly struggling team in the Nuggs. Whoever can better carry forward the success they showed in their most recent game will have the upper hand tonight. Here’s to it being the home team.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710 AM.

Darius Soriano

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34 responses to Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Nuggets

  1. If Darius is doing his best Officer Barbrady impression “There’s nothing to see here!”, then the deal is most likely going to go down. Just out of curiosity- what do you all think our record needs to be to get into the bottom five worst records this year? Do we have a shot?

    **Light-hearted humor intended here**

  2. If the Gasol/Bynum trade is made, overall “positive” or “negative” move for each principle:

    -Lakers: positive, they’ll save big $$ & may even increase their lottery chances

    -Cleveland: negative, will spend more money this season, will increase there chance of making the playoffs (& facing the Heat or Pacers 1st rd), but really don’t feel they have any chance of signing Gasol as a free agent.

    -Gasol: positive, won’t be torn about leaving the Lakers to sign with another team, a return to Memphis & team w/ his brother, or contender like Golden State next season.

    -Bynum: positive, yes, he’ll take another public relations hit, but Cleveland isn’t going anywhere & wasn’t utilizing him correctly anyway. Bynum only has so much time left on those legs, hard to stay motivated & a “good soldier” on the Cavs. Once he’s cut by the Lakers & passes thru waivers, The Heat, Pacers, Spurs, & Thunder among other contenders will be in the mix for his services. 18 minutes of Bynum on any of those teams can make all the difference needed to bring home the title.

  3. Nuggets are good so lakers need to step up

  4. lol @kenoak. Lakers prob need to be sub-25 wins. Too many teams in the east that are intentionally tanking plus Utah/Sac here in the west.

  5. Hoping to see one more performance from Black Swan Pau today. If indeed anything gets consummated, then these will be his final moments as a Laker. Despite all the flak he catches he has given a hell of a lot to this franchise and I don’t really want to see him go like this.

  6. It’s funny. Am I the only person who actually thinks that Pau would be better off going somewhere that his skills will be more appreciated? If he were to head to that other team and spearhead their playoff push, then that would be good for him and not bad… It’s pretty obvious that MDA isn’t going to utilize him the way he should be unless it’s a last resort. Anyway…I say let Pau fly free as the Black Swan somewhere else. He’ll make the HOF and get his jersey retired here if he wants.

  7. kenoak, I know Pau is still an all star type player. If a team plays inside out, Pau is still a top 5 PF in the game.

  8. One thing that has never been mentioned about Pau expiring on us is that we will always have the ability to sign-and-trade him in the offseason to a team that will offer “something of value” that doesn’t have the ability to sign him outright, at the price where he is deemed fair. 19M is too steep for anyone not named Lakers.

  9. “considering they’re very unlikely to pay the repeater tax in any of the next two seasons considering how their current cap situation projects”

    I don’t get it. Why are lakers projected to be under the tax for the next 2 seasons? Isn’t the plan to get a max contract next season (defense of kobe’s deal), and add to it the following season (going over the cap)?

  10. KenOak: Of course you are not the only one who feels Pau would be better off elsewhere. Anyone over 6′ 7″ would be better off elsewhere.
    C Hearn: Of course your post from the previous thread was on target. We should just hold on to Pau. We can afford the taxes and they have no impact on “basketball”. Meanwhile we would be completely nuking this year’s team. For what? A second round pick that will play about 40 games in his career?
    Shaw: You think he wants this game? It is a toss up. Denver is playing horribly of late.

  11. On defense the Lakers have a bad habit of reaching before they get in a defensive or positional stance. On that drive by Ty Lawson, Shawne Williams didn’t even bother to stand his ground on defense, he just reached out with his hands.

    Shawne Williams shows help defense about once every 15 games. If he could somehow harness that defensive energy on a more consistent basis, he might actually find a way to stay on the team.

  12. Pau Gasol off to a good start, Lakers should continue to look to him all game long, love it when he is in Black Swan mode.

  13. Wow, Shawne Williams. He hits about once every four shots yet somehow this inherent value of floor spacing manages to keep him in the lineup. Maybe we can convince Cleveland to take him too.

  14. Every team in the league should have the Lakers tendencies scouted. Particularly, Jodie Meeks propensity to drop down into the paint, which leaves his man wide open for three point shot. I’m counting them this game, and so far that’s two three’s by Jodie Meeks’ man. Nate Robinson just faked a pull up and drove past Jodie to get fouled and shoot three free throws.

    See Young is bigger and more athletic so he can afford to sag off of Williams 3 pt shot and recover to bother his shot.

  15. Meanwhile we would be completely nuking this year’s team. For what? A second round pick that will play about 40 games in his career?

    No. People sometimes mix up “tanking” and “rebuilding.” Shipping Pau to Cleveland would be the former. I am guessing that part of the picture here is that Kupchak thinks there are a couple of guys in the Top 5-7 in this draft who can have a huge impact on the franchise, and he wants to try to get one of them. Pau seems to have enough left in the “tank” to make a difference some nights and turn a couple of Ls into Ws–like tonight, perhaps. And the Lakers may not want him to do that.

    Also, why would we worry about “completely nuking this year’s team?” There is an argument to be made that making the playoffs is something that is always worth doing, even if you go 43-39 and get zapped in Round 1. I am not sure that there is a good argument to be made for keeping a 33-year-old big around to help you go 36-46 instead of 32-50 prior to a draft that is supposedly as stacked as this one is.

    I won’t be upset if they keep Pau, but I don’t think that dumping his salary for a second-rounder and to try to tank is necessarily the wrong move, frustrating as it may be.

  16. Williams can’t move his feet on defense and with his 1 for 6 tonight is shooting 35% from the field.

    ???

  17. Slow start to the second half for the Lakers. Shawne Williams can’t throw a pea in the ocean tonight.

  18. I wouldn’t even suspect LA is trying to tank except for the number of minutes Williams plays–which should be zero even with all of the injuries. More Hill and Kelly please. As I’ve oft said…I think Wesley is an NBA player, I’m fairly convinced that Xavier is an NBA player…and I’m positive that Williams is not an NBA player

  19. Next 11 games on the road.

    Not out of the question they could be 15 and 30 by next home game. Not seeing many easy road games coming.

    I think they need to make some moves. Must be a team who could use Kamen since MD can’t.

    This game over, another 120 point game.

  20. Ko–I’ve given up on asking for more Kaman because it’s like he isn’t even on the team anymore. There is simply no justification for all of the DNP-CD’s for him when he has played pretty well when MDA has let him off the bench…

  21. rr: It is not the frustration of this particular act or even the concept of rebuilding. It is the inconsistency of how we are approaching everything. If we were interested in losses then we should not have allowed KB back so quickly. What was to gain using the same tank logic of the top pick? Why sign the extension? It made no sense. Kobe was going nowhere and if he did – tank away. If they trade Pau for nothing that can play this year, then the ruse will be public, and the emperor will have no clothes. Only a baseball cap.

  22. mindcrime/Ken: It is pretty funny when the rotations are so odd that people can’t decide whether it is intentional tanking or not. I have the same issue with our personnel plans

  23. Honestly this team looks like a bunch of weekend guys with no coach.

    Funny because come to think of it they are a bunch of one year contracts without a coach.

    Real funny ha?

  24. @Robert
    I claim that the plan was to get Kobe back into the fold and then make a decision on whether or not the team actually had a chance to make a run in the playoffs. Only problem was that then the injuries started piling up. First to Blake and then to Farmar and then, of course, to Kobe. Now, it seems that the decision has been taken from them. (Which is why I’m onboard now.)

    I still believe that Kobe should take his time with this injury, but he should come back this year. They’ve got to show the fans and season ticket holders that there is hope for next year.

  25. Ko–Actually you just nailed it. Tonight is the first night where I’ve asked myself “I wonder if this team has quit…” The last few minutes of this game haven’t just been bad—the team has looked completely checked out for the first time I’ve really noticed. They’ve had some bad quarters and bad losses, but there’s always been effort–not in the second half tonight.

  26. Losing by 20 and only one guy has not played.

    Clearly we now know its personal between Kamen and this coach who team quit on him again.

    Amazing

  27. Our personnel plans are not inconsistent. It is just that some don’t like Kobe’s extension and think the front office is tanking. This front office is not playing for losses. The injury situation is what is pushing us in this direction. Over the last two years the Lakers clearly lead all other teams in injuries to key personnel. I really don’t see where this is so difficult to understand.

    On the matter of playing Williams and not playing Kaman, I do question the decisions, but these are coaching decisions, not the front office. The front office is not going to attempt to coach this team – they hired the coach to do that and they will evaluate him accordingly. I sort of see why MDA would not play Kaman and Pau at the same time, but I really don’t see why one of the two isn’t on the floor most of the time. On Hill/Williams – I really am beginning to see why Hill is not any kind of savior – he plays hard, but his efforts don’t always result in pushing the team forward, he is short for the position he plays, he is not defensively quick laterally, and Sacre does seem to be better able to protect the rim. However, I don’t see where Williams is used over either of them. The team is better with at least one energy board man around and neither Pau nor Kaman dominates much on the boards – excepting the time Pau is in beast mode, which is more occasional at this point in his career.

  28. I guess I don’t see the team quitting in the second half. I just see a bunch of role players who are not able to maintain the same level of intensity over long periods of the game without at least one very good player to lead them. In the first half that player was Pau. The Lakers don’t have any more of these type of players playing at this time.

  29. Robert your questions are why every thing that has transpired this year is befuddling.

    Then the coach says that it’s like the player’s are tired! You think? You’re asking player’s to play uptempo meaningful minutes when 10 of them have never played 82 games in an NBA season! His system has to be implemented over time, giving player’s time to get conditioned to an uptempo game.
    Sacre has played to his potential in these last two starts, so I’m happy for the guy. He’s such a good team mate.

    Those three putback dunks by Nate were inexcusable.

    I don’t look forward to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre! I’ll be watching though, I must be a glutton for punishment.

  30. To quote Ron Burgundy ” That escalated quicky” Now to the road for a while, thats going to get ugly, we better brace ourselves uts going to be a bumpy ride…

  31. If 7 guys fouled out or was sick would Dr. Mumbles play with 4 guys rather then play Kamen?

    Wish I was a fly on the wall when and if he talked back or got into the coaches face.

    Very poor run team right now..

  32. Would the league mind much if the Lakers cancel post game interviews for the foreseeable future? Comments by the coach and players are redundant, and add no hope or sense that they understand why they lose so badly. Yet I watch, sheesh.

    Sometimes you have to be careful what you ask for. This is the team that many thought Kobe disrupted with his return. When the Lakers win no one needs Kobe, Time Warner makes no mention of him. But, Kobe’s name is now mentioned as reason for the losses due to them missing their leader.

    Offensive rebounds are as much the fault of the guards as the big men.

    I said a few games ago, that someone on the Lakers has to get mad about the lackluster effort on the floor. Byron Scott now agrees. I actually think that Robert Sacre can be that guy, as he’s been their long enough to speak up, and is somewhat of a bridge between the older Lakers and the new younger players. Thus, the player’s may not get angry with him.

    Marshall’s 17 assists prove that he is a true assist guard and not a point guard. See what I did with that.

  33. Robert,

    I think KenOak is probably right in terms of what the FO was thinking. Recall that the team was 10-9 when Kobe came back, so I expect that Buss/MDA/Mitch were thinking 47-35 was a possibility if Kobe could re-integrate quickly. I think that was the wrong way to approach it, but I expect that is what they thought.

    As to the extension, that has been covered. The biggest problem with it isn’t the money, but the second year. But the Lakers need to avoid making short-view moves that affect the long-term, even with Kobe locked up.

    As to tonight, I don’t think they quit. But it is hard to look good when the other team goes 12/29 on 3s and you go 3/21. On the day after the team made it to 10-9, I noted that the Lakers were as a team at 41% on 3s, 4th in the NBA. Going into today, prior to this game, they had dropped off to 37%, 11th in the NBA. So some of the team’s current problems are due to regression–it is not just the injuries.

  34. Wow. Kendall Marshall…nice!
    He’s 6-4 and quick. Looks like a keeper!!!

    Please please please Mike, don’t injure him by playing him too much.