Preview and Chat: Lakers at Cavs

Daniel Rapaport —  February 5, 2014

First and foremost, hello! It’s been way too long since I’ve written here. College will do that to you, I’m sure you guys know how it is- with all the craziness that comes with adjusting to school (doing your own laundry, having to force yourself to get in bed when it’s 3 AM and your parents aren’t around to yell at you, and, oh yeah, midterms), sometimes you find yourself so busy with the things that you need to do that you forget to do the things that you want to do. But, I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of things, so get used to hearing from me often again.

The last time I posted, the Lakers were in, well, a very different place. At 13-14, things looked somewhat promising, and I praised D’Antoni for making the most out of the limited talent on this roster. Today, the Lakers are at certainly their lowest point of the season, having lost twice as many games as they’ve won (16-32). I’m young, but I can’t remember a season in which expectations have become so bleak. The Lakers simply aren’t a good team right now. They’ve lost seven in a row and 19 of 22, allow the second most points in the league (106.2), and are still remarkably banged up. As Darius so eloquently put it:

When it was announced that Nash and Blake would return last night and that Farmar wouldn’t be far behind them, things looked to have turned a corner on the injury front. But, as has been the case all year, the Lakers’ gnarly luck struck again, and Jodie Meeks and Jordan Hill both left the game with a sprained right ankle and a cervical sprain, respectively. Meeks will miss the remaining two games of the road trip, while Hill is a question mark tonight. Keep in mind that the Lakers will be without Pau Gasol, who averaged an impressive 20.8 points and 11.9 rebounds per game in the 3-12 catastrophe also known as January. Manny Harris was also released yesterday when LA decided that his benefit to the team didn’t outweigh the cost of paying him for the rest of the season or the flexibility his roster spot could provide on the trade market (Harris had already signed the maximum amount of 10-day contracts allowed by the league).

The good news is, the Cavaliers aren’t much better than the Lakers are at this moment in time. Both teams sit at 16-32 and are coming into tonight’s contest playing far from their best. In their last ten games, the Cavs are a paltry 2-8, with a defensive rating (110.9) that would make even Mike D’Antoni reconsider his defensive strategies. It’s a bit ironic, too, as Mike Brown was brought back to Cleveland to enforce a tough-minded, hard-nosed, defense-first mentality that, for whatever reason, simply hasn’t gained any traction with his players. The Cavs’ season is essentially beyond repair, as their GM made clear when he questioned his players will to win.

As is often the case with Mike Brown-led teams, the Cavaliers’ offense is borderline unwatchable, too often turning into a lets-watch-Kyrie-because-he’s-talented-and-can-create-his-own-shot offense. When you rely on a score-first point guard too often, your team ends up shooting a ton of midrange jumpers- the most inefficient way to score in today’s NBA. The Cavs rank 5th in percentage of points scored coming from midrange jumpers, at 21.9% and fifth in percentage of unassisted field goals made at 45.4%.

Kyrie Irving has the sixth highest usage rate in the NBA, so expect a heavy dose of him tonight. While he’s perhaps not having the type of season many expected him to, Kyrie’s still an elite player in this league. He’ll start the All-Star game and is capable of dropping 30+ on any given night. I have a feeling tonight will be one of those given nights. Neither Blake nor Nash is gifted with the type of foot speed you need to stay in front of Irving, who has elite quickness and a borderline disgustingly good handle on the basketball.

Like always, the Lakers will need to shoot well from outside and find a contain the Cavaliers’ inconsistent offense. No matter where you stand on the tanking front (and I’m not going to argue with those who are rooting for the Lakers to lose at this point), there’s no arguing that tonight is a winnable game. Look for LAL to rely on Nick Young (I’m not using the nickname again until the Lakers win again), who’s averaged 19.4 points per contest over the last 20, for the bulk of their offense. When you’re as limited offensively as LAL is, you have no choice but to feed those few players who have proven to be able to score consistently. Of those healthy for tonight’s game, Nick Young is the only one who’s proven he can do so. Your 2013-2014 Los Angeles Lakers, ladies and gentlemen.

Where you can watch: 4:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Daniel Rapaport

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65 responses to Preview and Chat: Lakers at Cavs

  1. Sorry. Warren, I’m selling you out… This is for Ko and my Italian wine!

    From last thread, JC asked:
    If they are using finances as an excuse, isn’t that about the worst case of a team being penny-wise and pound-foolish in sports history? (Kobe’s extension)

    I see cutting Harris more about retaining flexibility in order to have the option to bring on an additional player should the right trade come along. That doesn’t mean necessarily an important player, as it could mean filler to make a Pau deal work. As to the pound-foolish idea, I know there are many here who think the Lakers overpaid for Kobe and that there was some kind of sweetspot at 12-14M, but I encourage those same people to decide how they would have responded as fantasy GMs if it was made clear that Kobe demanded max money or he was going to leave. There are so many issues at stake when it comes to risking Kobe’s departure– Kobe’s historical contribution to the team, placating season ticket holders, the TW deal, branding the team as star-friendly – that I at least don’t see it as anything close to an easy decision to call Kobe’s bluff and let him walk, especially for Kobe to then have the ability to call the Lakers out and say that he wanted to stay but they wouldn’t pay him despite everything he had done for the team in the past. Bluntly, it would be a PR disaster– & whether that disaster is worth an extra 12M in cap space… well, that’s the form I think this debate should take rather than simply asking ‘why did they pay so much?’ as if Mitch somehow wasn’t aware that the team would be better off signing Kobe for less money and as if ownership preferred to spend extra money just for the hell of it. It took 10 days apparently to do Kobe’s deal– what do you think happened during that time if not Mitch trying his hardest to lower the number?

  2. lil pau: Nuanced, welll-reasoned speculation. I think you are very close to the what and the wherefore of the Kobe deal. Not that we will ever see that kind of thinking from the agenda-driven, circumscribed minds of the espn scribes who fashion themselves as b-ball cognoscenti. . . . Good on you and this blog!

  3. Great questions Lil P
    In my opinion the amount to retain Kobe should have been around 16-18 annually.
    He could not have possibly considered that insulting.
    Even if that only amounts to 5-7 mil left over, that would have been sufficient to land or retain a player of, say, Jordan Hill’s caliber.
    Players like Hill, in any other system than Dantoni’s, can be instrumental in building a winning team. Udonis Haslem for the Heat comes to mind. Different sort of player but quite valuable to the Heat’s first (recent) title.
    If it took ten days to finalize Kobe’s deal that does smack of some negotiation time.
    But I find it unlikely that was due to any threat Kobe made.
    He was coming off career-threatening surgery.
    Additionally he must see that if for example a Carmelo is signed, that leaves almost nothing left under the cap to add mid-tier/supporting players. So they’re confined once again to adding minimum pay players.
    That’s in fact where a Harris would have come in handy.

  4. However if they needed Harris’ slot for another player they hope to add soon, I could be wrong.
    But isn’t the norm to sign player to ten day deals in hope that they perform well and can be considered for a more permanent roster spot?
    And can’t they just slide guys into the disabled list if they need to at any time?
    Or perhaps their injured list is full!

  5. Can you imagine the panic in Lakerland if LBJ were to ever join the Clippers? I honestly think you would hear about fans jumping off bridges.

  6. yep, they needed to sign Kobe, period.

    lil pau’s points are well taken.

    To alienate Kobe after all he’s done as a Laker … well, think about how much more valuable the Bulls would be as a franchise if Jordan was still part of that family?

    The Lakers need to keep Kobe in the fold, during and after his playing career.

  7. No Manny.

    Laker fans would throw themselves in front of Busses!

  8. -Regardless of whether or not you believe Kobe deserved an extension for the $$ he rec’d, no way did he deserve to sign the contract when he did. In addition, if this was his bottom line amount, and the Lakers felt they had no other choice or Kobe would walk (would Mr Team Guy really walk?) spread it over 3 years instead of 2. $$ could always be adjusted later, either by another contract extension or buyout.

    -Apparently Andrew Bynum isn’t the only one who doesn’t like playing for the Cavs. Organization is just plain dysfunctional. Unable to sign top free agents and not good at building thru the draft.

    -I’m expecting a Pacers – Thunder Finals. FB&G fam, pick your poison, D. Fish or A.B. has a very good chance of another ring.

  9. Ko: Nice!

  10. Lakers have only. 8 guys tonight yet they sent down Harris.

    Duh?

  11. [JC] > But isn’t the norm to sign player to ten day deals in hope that they perform well and can be considered for a more permanent roster spot?

    Teams can only sign a player to two 10 day contracts. Beyond that the team must sign him for the remainder of the season. (A 10 day contract is valid for 10 days or 3 games, whichever is longer)

    Ref: http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q79

  12. Who are these guys and how did they get Laker uniforms ?

  13. We may have found a worse coach .

    Yo Mike Brown!

  14. I was skeptical that Farmar would be the Lakers best pg this season, but he is proving me wrong.

  15. I like the fast game and all, but when Ryan Kelly is the biggest Laker on the floor, are we shocked to be giving up so many offensive boards?

  16. Kelly plays like a 6 foot bad shooting guard.

  17. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if we end up losing this game. A game in which we led by damn near 30 pts.

  18. 70 points in a half. Wow.

  19. Can you play with 4 players?

  20. This idiot coach just allowed a 20 to 2 run before a time out?

  21. What a team and what a game

  22. Good thing they cut Harris?

  23. We ran out of players?!?!?

  24. Here is the rule:

    “Each team shall consist of five players. No team may be reduced to less than five players. If a player in the game receives his sixth personal foul and all substitutes have already been disqualified, said player shall remain in the game and shall be charged with a personal and team foul. A technical foul also shall be assessed against his team. All subsequent personal fouls, including offensive fouls, shall be treated similarly. All players who have six or more personal fouls and remain in the game shall be treated similarly.”

  25. Lakers need to use the whole clock before attempting a field goal.

  26. Well, we all are getting to watch a trivia-question answer….

  27. Almost surreal.

  28. Well what we learned tonight is if they only play with. 5 players Mike can’t screw up the rotations!

  29. insane. head hurts

  30. Can somebody give me a description of what went on today’s game? I missed 3/4 of the game and I heard some players got injured.

  31. I’m so sad that I missed this game! I’m at work and the endless tweets were very entertaining. When is the replay and what channel?

  32. Just looking at the box score is mind-boggling

    CLE with 101 FGA’s and 27(!!!!!) ORB’s (how is this even possible? never mind)

    LAL with 18 (!!!) made threes in 37 attempts—LA shoots over 50% from 2 and nearly 50% from three and still has to hang on at the end…..smh….

  33. Mindcrime – What I find amazing is that OREB has been an issue for so long. We (well, I know at least I) have been complaining about this for quite a while, even when we had Howard last season, and Bynum before that. I kind of get it with the roster now, but still, as a team, LA need to develop defensive rebounding.

    BUT, fun W to get today. Even if every win drops the lottery percentages.

  34. Nick Young will be getting an MRI tomorrow for his knee.

  35. Well what we learned tonight is if they only play with. 5 players Mike can’t screw up the rotations!

    ————————————————————-

    Hilarious; you’re in rare form tonight Ko!! 8-)

  36. True indeed, Ko is on fire!

    Good win for the shorthanded Lakers.

    Every game they play it seems as though one player comes back and one goes out injured. This system is breaking down players quicker than a hound on a jackrabbit or these players are atrociously conditioned, something is a foot here.

    Lakers fans have landed on the cube shaped planet in Bizzaro World where the Lakers have now assumed the persona of the Clippers.

  37. lil pau’s post is articulate, but as I have said before, very few of the explanations that I have seen defending the deal actually talk about the team on the floor and what Kobe will do on the floor. I have seen stuff about PR, branding, sending a message to future FAs–but no basketball reasons.

    As to the PR disaster, sure–but part of that is that Jim Buss, whether it is fair or unfair, seemingly does not have the gravitas to risk a stare down with #24, particularly when the team is bad. That would be tough for anybody, but the Old Man or the ZenMaster would have had a better shot.

    Although it is more fuel for those who bag on Kobe for his alleged selfishness, like we see in a couple of posts above, I don’t blame KB for taking the money. But I do blame Jim Buss for going two years at the max. I hope that KB and Jim prove me wrong–I want to post here 17 months from now saying, “I was dead wrong about Kobe’s extension.”

    One more thing: there are no parachutes for Jim Buss on the extension. The Old Man had passed on, the commissioner’s office wasn’t involved, Phil wasn’t involved, most observers opposed it and many think it is a joke, and the FO pulled the trigger before Kobe had suited up past-rehab. One of Kobe’s hash tags defending the deal on Twitter was #smarter than you. I certainly hope that he is right.

    As to the game, give the team credit for not phoning it in, and MDA ball does work for PGs and when the 3s are dropping. Maybe they can shop Blake.

  38. looks like darius spoke too soon re: the injury gods…

  39. Based on certain points in the TW contract for ratings and playoffs, do we know if the Kobe signing was also a prerequisite of that same contract ?

    It may be all about the money with this Buss generation.

  40. wow – deng and irving just pooped the bed vs lakers – -18/-25 in only 24-28 mins. Not bad for Blake – half dead husband (according to his wife on twitter) gets his first career triple double!

  41. Can say what you want about MDA, but his lineup right now has half the talent of Cleveland and they show way more fight and haven’t quit on the coach. Not sure Mike Brown lasts much longer :P

  42. How about discussing the game tonight?. It was kind of a unique game and deserves some discussion.

    Five players, none of whom were used to playing heavy minutes were forced to play the last 5 minutes of a road game, knowing there was no relief to be had from the bench. Now that either solidifies the team or breaks it in half. With the result being a win, I suspect the players feel pretty good about themselves right about now.

  43. I don’t know who’s a worse coach, Mike Brown or Mike D’antoni? Honestly how does Mike Brown still have a job? Thank you Jim Buss for hiring such amazing coaches that always get the most out of their teams. Here’s what we think of your failed experiment. http://www.wetheopinionated.com/the-curse-of-dr-frankenbuss.html

  44. Geez Clip- Heat game. Blake has 40!

  45. Re: Kobe’s deal

    I have a hard time believing Kobe would have went to another team. Kobe has been a Laker his entire career. What was he going to do? Go to Miami and back up Dwayne Wade? Go to some small market team with no shot at winning, get a big salary and spend his last two years being a circus act? Go to another star laden team and give up his position as the undisputed number one guy? Or was he going to retire with some productive years still left in him?

    I say no on all accounts. Kobe wanted the Lakers as much as they wanted him. The team didn’t need to sign such an unfavorable (cap space wise) deal.

  46. I hate to say it but this season and this game remind me why we were willing to give LO a chance. We have No inside presence. No rebounders, No defensive intimidators in the middle, and No depth inside. Why Mitch continues this pattern from 2008 I will never understand.

    The game tonight was great for 2 plus quarters. Free wheeling, fast and furious, and tenacious. Then we went into “No Leader” mode. Farmar is great, Blake saved our bacon and Young Mister Kelly can flat out score. Great to see Wes have a great start. The kid has skills, he just lacks confidence. A great team victory tonight. Can they make it 2 of 3??? Let’s go team!!!

  47. Really liked Manny Harris. If the current trend keeps up, we’ll be using him as an example of another ex-Laker having success for some other team. I think his game has some upside. A team as athletically challenged as the Lakers can ill afford to poo poo cheap young players like Harris and Gerald Green. SMH!

  48. Kenny T

    Gerald Green will stick in my craw for a long time. There is no good reason that he is not a Laker.

  49. Agreed on Gerald Green and will probably agree on Harris as well, in a very short time.

    Back to the game, Brown is certainly a worse coach than MDA. I hate MDA, I hope he gets fired sooner rather than later BUT Mike Brown was certainly worse than him. His offensive system is inexistent and temas tend to tune him out. He’s just terrible… At least MDA has an offensive system that works with the right personnel and is fun to watch when everything’s clicking (his unwillingness to adjust his system to the available roster is a different discussion), Brown has nothing…

  50. Oh, and Sacre’s 6th wasn’t a foul. And Kaman’s 6th wasn’t a foul, it was a Varejão’s flop!

  51. Busboys4me…
    I hear you! I also agree with your take on Johnson’s lack of confidence. Wes has so much skill. He needs to drive the ball more, IMO. I think playing alongside Kobe would help him a lot.

  52. Wes needs people to push him because he is good, not because he is disappointing. His personality may preclude him from ever being a lock-down defender, but he should be good and use his athleticism to be a rotation player.

  53. Five players, none of whom were used to playing heavy minutes were forced to play the last 5 minutes of a road game, knowing there was no relief to be had from the bench. Now that either solidifies the team or breaks it in half. With the result being a win, I suspect the players feel pretty good about themselves right about now.
    ____
    well said – & it´s great to finally get a win regardless of how insignificant it is.

  54. KennyT and BusBoys: I saw an article in the LA Times (and some posters here have said) that the Lakers have let many guys slip through their fingers. I started to think about it last night in the context of valuable role players and stars and all that I could come up with was Shaq, DH12 (of course), and Caron Butler. But the other guys that have left – as far as my uneducated mind can think of at the moment – including Gerald Green, were not drafted by the Lakers, were role players on multiple teams prior to the lakers and are now borderline role players on their respective teams. So I’m wondering if we really “missed out” on these guys or we are better off trying to see if our current crop of young’ens is a more wise investment.

    Please don’t take my post negatively. I’m genuinely interested in hearing what folks think. Like I said above, there seems to be a feeling we keep letting good dudes get away and I think that perhaps I’m looking at things through blinders or am blissfully unaware of the bigger picture.

  55. Just my opinion

    This win SHOULD galvanize the Lakers, but it probably won’t because of the talent level. First, We are short on bigs. Our three bigs are third string players at best. Kaman can score and play help defense in blocking shots, but he can’t move his feet. Sacre is a fourth stringer. Plays hard, but is slow, can’t jump and has limited range. Hill is losing his confidence over inconsistent minutes and is getting killed on the offensive glass. He is a 16-20 minutes solution because he plays so hard.

    I never agreed with letting Shawne Williams go. He sucked, but he was the heart and soul of the team. He was the only thug besides Swaggy. He battled hard but had enough talent to keep people honest on defense. I don’t agree with letting Manny Harris go either. The guy played hard, was more athletic than anyone else on the team, and could really take the ball to the hole. He was a smaller version of X. We only have 8 somewhat healthy players, he could have been one of them. If a good trade came along, then either trade him or waive him then.

    I personally think that this goes down as “Organizational Tanking”. I may not like the nightly results, but I understand them.

    Lastly, Kobe’s contract was a necessary evil in light of the Dwight Howard debacle. We needed to save face in front of the league. We want everyone to know that we reward our stars. The problem is what are they going to do with Pau that will keep that excess money from looking like and empty AND crippling gesture?

    I’m Busboys4me and I approve this message.

  56. It looks like the Lakers are the new measuring stick for futility. Cleveland fired their GM today.

  57. So, when does Shawne Williams get the call-back? Lakers need a durable body… like, by tomorrow.

  58. Im so glad everytime we win even though it supposedly reduces our odds of winning the lottery.

  59. I always wondered what would happen if there was less than five players available to be on the court because someone fouled out. I guess now I know. I just cant help but laugh. Get three players back then get another three injuries in the next two games. Wow.

  60. Last night, D’Antoni was in 7th heaven. He actually had an excuse for playing Kelly 42 minutes.

  61. @warren
    I feel a little disappointed when they win games but I love the effort.

    @mid
    That was the funniest comment all week. Lol

  62. Nick Young out for two weeks Lakers re-sign Shawne Williams. All is right with my world.

  63. @Anonymous…

    To my way of thinking, given the fact that the Lakers have not had cap room in such a long time, a new approach needs to be found to filling out the back end of their roster. They need to be able to find some young, cheap, diamond in the rough type of talent. Maybe the best way to put it is that the acumen in the team’s scouting dept. needs to improve. They’ve missed a few good players and gave up on some others too soon.