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Preview and Chat: LAL vs GSW

Gatinho —  November 28, 2009

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Lakers: 11-3, W4
Offense: 101.8
Defense: 96.5

Golden State Warriors: 5-9, L1
Offense: 109.3
Defense: 111.5
Pace Factor: 101.3 (1st of 30)

LAL: Bryant, Fisher, Artest, Gasol, Bynum
GSW: Curry, Ellis, Morrow, Moore, Radmanovic

Lakers Coming In:
The biggest worry for fans these days has been the shaky bench play. There may be more developments along that line tonight. The quickness of the Warriors should see Phil giving Farmar and Brown extended minutes against their speedy back court. Gasol and Bynum should have their way often and early in the paint against the diminutive Warriors’ front line. Look to see a bevvy of players posting up their smaller defender.

The primary worry for the Lakers is getting into a track meet with the gritty young Dubs. The secondary worry is defending the pick and roll/pop. Phil has some choices for what kind of lineups he wants throw out. He can stay big, but if the pace is not to his liking he can go small. I predict the mad scientist will show up tonight, throwing out some head scratching lineups.

The Lakers need to control the tempo, stay out of foul trouble, and use their superior inside size.

Warriors Coming In: The Warriors front office continues to be its biggest weakness. The Captain Jack debacle (gaudy unnecessary contract extension followed by a trade demand) now behind them, Monta Ellis and Steph Curry are the future.

Jack is a scorer and he feels like he can take his man 1-on-1 at any time in the game,” Stephen Curry said, referring to departed teammate Jackson. “That’s his style and the kind of play that he’s good at. Things slow down naturally through that, but everyone else on this team plays differently.”

Of late, the Warriors have been looking to move the ball. When they make the extra pass, they have the shooters. Morrow is 3rd in the NBA shooting 54% from beyond the arc. Newly acquired and infamous space cadet, VladRad hasn’t quite settled in, but that won’t last. He has also been a more physical player fighting for rebounds and guarding opposing bigs.

The offense looks to get up shots before the defense is set, but if forced into a half court game, they rely on the speed on of Ellis and Curry or the strength of Corey Magette to drive and dish or get shots close to the basket. Magette’s shot selection is historically suspect, but his ability to get to the free throw line keeps him on the floor. Ellis and Curry will be involved in a lot of pick and pops with Morrow, Randolph, and Radmanovic.

Whoa Nellie: Coach Nelson will miss 3 more games with pneumonia, but Warrior fans feel like his real sickness is apathy. Nelson has been criticized for waning interest and connection to his young team. His big paycheck means he won’t be going anywhere unless asked to do so by the management. Keith Smart, who is coaching in his stead, waits in the wings. Reports are that he already runs practices. Nelson has been giving more and more responsibility to assistants, asking them to actively coach during games. His recent spats with Ellis have been widley reported. Jackson’s trade seems to have galvanized the team, but has it also galvanized them against their coach?

The Walking Wounded: The Warrior have been decimated by injury. They have played with 7 or 8 players over the past few weeks. Astonishingly, they pulled put wins against Portland and Dallas, the Mavs win coming with only 6 players suited up. Monta Ellis went the distance in both of those games and has been scoring points in bunches.

Turiaf will add some needed depth in his return and come off the bench in this one.

Hello Old Friend: Turiaf, Radmanovic, and even Devean George will be wearing the orange and blue tonight.

Blogs and Links: Warrior’s World and Golden State of Mind

I’ll be in attendance, so if anything noteworthy pops up, I’ll look to update.

Remembering Cazzie Russell

Gatinho —  November 25, 2009

“To be able to take over a game and be influential is a great feeling.”

Dubbed “Mr. Two-two-two-points” by legendary Times columnist Jim Murray , Cazzie Russell was a singular talent with a unique set of skills. Cazzie would make his name as a 6th man with a knack for coming in and filling it up. A streak shooter and crowd favorite, his NBA and basketball career would take him through many cities, one of which was the City of Angels.

As a standout at University of Michigan, he led the team to two Final Four appearances and was such a draw for the football-loving fans that the University built a new building. Crisler Arena, dubbed “The House that Cazzie Built” even though he would never play there, would signal the arrival of basketball at a historically football dominated school.

Yet another infamous NBA draft coin toss would decide the first pick in 1966. The flamboyance and spectacle of today’s draft day were not a part of Cazzie’s sojourn.

“I was standing by a payphone listening to the Knicks and the Pistons flip a coin.”

Cazzie would spend the first 4 years of his career with the Knicks, winning a championship in the year that Lakers felt that they might finally break their streak of despair that would define the ‘60’s. To Laker fans, the infamous “Willis Reed Game”, another 7th game heartbreak defeat, would add yet another scar to their so-close-yet-so-far fan experience. Cazzie wasn’t a deciding factor in that game, though he averaged 10 points those playoffs, due to Walt Frazier, the game’s true hero with 36 points and 19 assists, dominating the game. Russell would mark only one field goal presumably stuck to the bench as Frazier would play almost the whole way.

But even though Russell was a player on the rise, the Knicks would trade Russell to the then San Francisco Warriors the following season.

”Cazzie could score on anybody and from all over the floor,” former Warriors teammate Jim Barnett said. ‘‘I never saw anybody shoot the ball with less trajectory yet have so much success with it. It was the most amazing thing. He had a very flat shot but it was the softest shot on the rim I’ve ever seen. He always got bounces.”

Russell would see some more consistent time and contributions and enjoy the new surroundings of Northern California. He would make his only All-Star appearance while playing in the Bay but would be miffed by the Warriors failure to offer him a “no cut” that was becoming so coveted by the nascent free agency that was beginning to define the NBA.

“I was so hurt that the Warriors could have given me a no-cut contract for two to three years, So I opted for free agency. I was one of the first guys to ever go out on the free agent market.”

He would sign with the Lakers and find a team in transition. It was the mid ‘70’s and the shine from the ’72 team’s historic run had dimmed as Cazzie was signed and proceeded to get injured, watching the team have one of it’s worst seasons at 30-52 and seeing them fail to make the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.

Not only was Russell one of the first to test free agent waters, but his ankle injury would see him make a shift in how he ate and trained, another idea that was ahead of it’s time.”

“He treats his body as if it were something that might leave him if he took it for granted.”

But a new arrival in the form of Kareem the following season would mean the future was bright for Laker fans.

“When Cazzie is hot, he could score from a locked room.”

Cazzie would play three seasons as a Laker, averaging 14.5 pts in 26.8 minutes. His stats would sometimes reflect the production of a player that played triple the minutes. As he checked into a game, the Forum faithful would slide forward on their seats.

“Some nights Cazzie throws in so many points so fast the scoreboard is two baskets behind.”

When Cazzie came in the shots would go up. And this was before the days of the grind-it-out-every-possession-is-precious NBA. It was a fast-paced game and when Cazzie came in the pace quickened.

Cazzie was hailed for 6th man abilities and would define a new type of reserve. He wasn’t in the game to slow the opposing teams top scorer a la Michael Cooper. He came in to “punch a hole in the basket quickly, so that the temporary logjam of air balls isn’t terminal. Cazzie has to come in and get the team out of handcuffs.”

If Coach Sharman wanted offense in he brought in Cazzie. If he wanted defense, he brought in an energetic reserve named Pat Riley or even possibly young guard Stu Lantz.

Cazzie would be a precursor to guys like the Piston’s Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson, and we’ve seen the boost guys like Eddie House can give their team.

Cazzie Russell, a pivotal part of the NBA’s history, and a Laker to remember.

“I feel good about what Cazzie has done. I feel good about myself physically and mentally. I feel good that I got to do something I enjoy and get paid for it. I got a scholarship for it, an education.”

LA Lakers at the LA Memorial Coliseum

The genre of the sports list book has received a new addition. This new series that has been released has gone to several of the major sports towns (or at least those with rabid sports fans) and tapped local sports personalities or journalists to create an insiders view of that city’s sports culture. A nice idea, as fans can become agitated by the broad brush strokes that the national media paints a certain town’s fans. In Philly they boo Santa Claus; in New York they are knowledgeable but ruthless; in Boston they’re die hard but eternally pessimistic; in Cleveland they know even when their team is good, at some point they will find a way to lose; and of course, we arrive late, leave early and talk on our cell phones the whole time. (See: “Top 10 Reasons People Say We’re Terrible Fans”) With any stereotype there is a grain of truth, but these books allow the individual city’s to create a more three dimensional view, through guest spots by local athletes and luminaries of the local sports culture.

The authors of the Los Angles book are Matt “Money” Smith and Steve Hartman. Money is the everyman fan in a lot of ways and he’s So Cal to the bone. In his bio at 570 KLAC he lists his favorite sports moment as “Heckling Jim Mcilvaine from the Forum stands and having him try to hop the railing to beat the crap out of me.” He was also an intern at KROQ and is known for breaking “a little band called Sublime.” (It’s also the reason he can sneak in the “Top 11 So Cal Punk Bands You’ve Never Heard of But Should Have” into a sports book.) Steve Hartman is knowledgeable and has a long historic view of sport, but in a lot of ways many see him as insufferable, especially Laker fans who have trouble with his pragmatism and criticism, dubbing him “Hater Hartman”. But for the cause that is the book, they are both good choices.

The book covers all aspects of LA sports: Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Angels, and Kings. For our Laker-centric purposes, we’ll focus on the section that highlights the boys in Forum Blue and Gold.

Top 10 Reasons For A Laker Fan To Own This Book:

1. It will fit nicely into your lavatory library. You can put it into the rotation with Brain Droppings and Nine Stories.

2. It will either enhance your depth of Laker history and take you on a wonderful stroll down memory Lane (Top 10 Greatest Laker Moments) or let the neophytes in on the rich history of the franchise.

3. The folly that is The Clippers.

4. Francis Dale Hearn’s most utilized colloquialisms are included, but you probably could have called that one with Braille.

5. Because FBandG is in it (Best Los Angeles Sports Blogs). Checking in at #4 on the list, and it refers to Kurt as “sound, articulate and interesting”, a spot on assessment to me. But there is a glaring error on this list, and I think I know why.

6. It will help you with your Lakers bar trivia… “Who are the top 10 Johnsons in L.A Sports History?” also known as the “How can we put Magic at the top of another list?” list.

7. You can relive how Jerry West bamboozled the NBA for an extended period of time as G. M. (Mitch has followed in his footsteps with that big Pau Gasol feather in his hat.) But you’ll realize that he did this mostly through his draft picks.

8. Kobe lists his favorite arenas, and many fans are always looking for some insight into who that guy really is, the list is surprisingly nostalgic and emotional. Mentioning the arena’s in Italy, PalaEUR where his dad played, and Philly, “The Palestra is Philly”, as well as being one the guys who played in both the Forum and Staples.

9. “Big Game James” gives us a nice insight into who he felt could have shared his moniker, most of them guys he competed against, but not surprisingly, the top 2 he played with.

10. It will cause/resolve/complicate some good sports related discourse.

I’ll end by quoting the authors…

“Depending on your level of sports knowledge, you will either find this book a great source of information, a great trip down memory lane, or a great reason to insist “these guys don’t know what they are talking about.”

-Gatinho aka Scott Thompson

Game 2: The Pivotal Game

Gatinho —  June 6, 2009

Los Angeles Lakers

“It is the second game and not the first that dictates the tempo and the mood of the series.”

-Brent Musburger before Game 2 after the “Memorial Day Massacre”.

A brief history of the Lakers, The Finals, and Game 2.

1984: Gerald Henderson steals the ball. Celtics win in 7.

1985: Kareem has 30 points, 17 rebounds, eight assists, and three blocks after being called out in the media by Pat Riley. Lakers win in 6.

1987: Celtics switch Ainge onto to Magic. Cooper makes 6 of 7 threes. Lakers in 6.

1991: Jordan goes 15-18 from the floor and has 13 assists. Bulls win the series in 5.

2000: Shaq scores 40 points with 24 rebounds. Kobe sprains an ankle, but Ron Harper has 21 points. Lakers win in 6.

2001: Shaq has 28 points, 20 rebounds, 9 assists, and 8 blocks. Lakers in 5.

2002: Shaq has 40 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Lakers win 106-83. Sweep.

2008: Lakers come back from being down by 24 with 8 minutes left to play…but lose. If they win that game, you’re at least looking at a shot at a 7th game.

The game we watch today has Chuck Daly’s fingerprints all over it. From the ticky-tack nature of assessing what level of physicality is allowed to the way Kobe is guarded. It was Daly’s Bad Boys who, along with the Knicks and Pat Riley, turned the game “ugly” in the late 80’s and early 90’s by combating the skill and finesse of Magic’s Lakers and Jordan’s Bulls with an intimidating defensive style. It was Daly’s Pistons that we’re actually successful for a time in slowing Jordan down in the playoffs by sending varied looks at him.

Daly’s Pistons faced up against the Lakers in the epic 7 game ’88 Finals. If not for Isaiah Thomas’ severely sprained ankle, which he played through in games 6 and 7, there may never have been a back-to-back. The Pistons would get their win over the Lakers the following year when bum hamstrings sidelined both Magic and Byron Scott and their own back-to-back the following year, placing them firmly in the upper echelon of the great 80’s teams.

Daly on guarding Jordan…

“If Michael was at the point, we forced him left and doubled him. If he was on the left wing, we went immediately to a double team from the top. If he was on the right wing, we went to a slow double team. He could hurt you equally from either wing — hell, he could hurt you from the hot-dog stand — but we just wanted to vary the look. And if he was on the box, we doubled with a big guy.

“The other rule was, any time he went by you, you had to nail him. If he was coming off a screen, nail him. We didn’t want to be dirty — I know some people thought we were — but we had to make contact and be very physical.”

…sound familiar?

“The so-called Jordan Rules might’ve been the only thing I contributed to basketball…Everything else I stole.”

SI NBA Historian Jack McCallum on Daly’s defense:

There were three tenets to the Detroit defense: Never give Jordan an easy shot; try to confuse him with varied defensive looks; and be very physical with him. The principles were perfect for the Pistons, who were smart and aggressive (some would say they crossed the line into “dirty”) defenders.

605 wins-420 losses
.609 winning %
HOF 1994
Coach of the 1992 Gold Medal winning “Dream Team”

Charles Jerome Daly

Elements of this story are from Roland Lazenby’s The Show
-Scott Thompson