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Six years ago this morning, I clicked on a little button that said publish and started a blog with this sentence:

Welcome to my attempt at keeping personal sanity in the midst of the swirling vortex of controversy that is the Lakers.

As I remember, 25 people read it, and they all found the site on accident stumbling through Blogger. But to this day that idea is sort of what this site remains, save it’s not just for me anymore.

Six years later, it feels all so different. The Lakers aren’t controversial, they are steady and professional (well, maybe professional isn’t the word I’d use to describe last night’s Timberwolves game). My sanity is fully up for debate, but life feels far crazier.

Forum Blue & Gold is different, but the same at its core. It’s not really mine anymore. But it still feels like home.

For those of you a little confused, my name is Troy McClure Kurt Helin, you might remember me from such posts as “Tip Off” and “Forum Blue?” I was the guy who started this little site as a hobby and had no plans for what it would become or how it would change my life. It really was my little attempt to keep some sanity and have some fun. I had gotten married and was watching more Lakers games focused in at home on a television rather than slightly blurry-eyed at a bar. Then I’d wake up the next morning and read the analysis of the game — not the Lakers beat writers, who have always been good, but the columnists — and think, “what were they watching?”

Basically, I was watching Rudy T’s painful inside-out, live-or-die by-the-three offense (which works fine with Hakeem surrounded by shooters but was a dud in LA) then picking up the paper and reading about what Shaq said about Mitch. I didn’t care. I wanted to talk basketball, and if nobody else would, I just would start my own little site. I modeled it after Dodger Thoughts. Maybe some others would find me and we could have a semi-smart conversation that didn’t involve how anybody’s ass tasted. There was no marketing plan or goals, no thoughts of monetization (which wasn’t even a word yet), no thoughts of getting into the business, there was just me writing and chatting with likeminded souls.

To me, that’s always what FB&G was and will be. It’s why it’s still home.

I wasn’t totally alone. The NBA blogsphere was just a handful of us — me, Mike at Knickerblogger, Jeff at Celtics Blog, Matt at Blog-a-Bull, Henry at TrueHoop, a few others — and all of us just doing it for fun. Just because. No corporate entities and no money. Which makes it sound far more idealistic than it was — it wasn’t all puppies and rainbows.

Things change. The site grew. FB&G became part of the TrueHoop Network at ESPN, because I liked and trusted those people. More people found the site and the conversations became more interesting. The goal was always not just growth but growth in a way that fit FB&G. That’s why no message boards, there are great Lakers message boards out there but the feel on those is different. FB&G was always seemed a little more mature and nuanced, it seemed to me.

I’ve got this new(ish) gig, a new home on the Web. But I view that as my Upper West Side place in NYC. Posh and somewhat high profile (that may be overstating it, but I’m stuck with this analogy now). Urban, and both stimulating and isolating the way a great city can be. I work hard to make it home like I remember. But it means I am rarely around the place I grew up on the Web (I read everything but rarely participate).

FB&G is that home, it is coming back to may parents place in Woodland Hills to see the Christmas lights up and smell peanut butter cookies being baked. It’s Lakers fans talking Lakers, but in a sane way. Most of the time. It’s warm and comfortable.

It’s all that more because of all of you than me. I was just the host, but the party is no fun with just a host. It took Scott, Darius, Reed, now Philip and Jeff and Bill Bridges and so many others. It took all of you. FB&G is a gathering spot, a warm and inviting one hopefully. One where we can really enjoy celebrating Lakers wins with friends.

And hopefully this season, we’ll get to celebrate another big one. Thanks for coming by and being part of the fun.

Preview & Chat: The Denver Nuggets

Kurt —  February 5, 2010

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Records: Lakers 38-12 (1st in West) Nuggets 33-16 (2nd in West, 4.5 games back of Lakers)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 109.3 (10th in league), Nuggets: 111.6 (3rd in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 102.2. (2nd in league) Nuggets 106.3 (12th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Nuggets: Chancey Billups, Aaron Affalo, Joey Graham, Kenyon Martin, Nene

Are any of the superstars playing tonight? Well, Kobe is for sure, he confirmed it at shoot around this morning. Did you really think he wouldn’t play? (If you played it smart, wouldn’t you play a couple more games then say after Monday night against the Spurs that you can’t keep going, miss the Jazz game on Wednesday but also get to sit out All Star Weekend, giving you a week off? He’s not going to do that, just sayin.)

Carmelo Anthony said it would take a “miracle” for him to play tonight. Still, I would not be surprised to see him in warmups and ready to go. Let me put it this way, if I had ‘Melo on my fantasy team, he’s not back in the starting rotation yet, but you keep your eye out because he will be soon.

What is interesting is the contrast between how these two deal with the injury. Kobe will not be kept off the court. Even if he should be. Carmelo wants to be 100% before he returns (ala Gasol and his hamstring). Really, I don’t think one is better or worse than the other, players should choose what is best for them and their bodies. This is how they make a living. But the approaches are an interesting contrast.

Nuggets coming in: I listened to a pretty honest interview George Karl did on Jim Rome’s radio show earlier this week. Karl was up front that he would love to get one more player via trade, but also realized that his franchise is not going to take on more salary, and that a move is very unlikely.

He also seemed to be sending a message to his team that they can beat the Lakers with what they have come the playoffs. (I’m sure he’s pumping that up a lot right now in practices and meetings.) It’s a confidence thing, Karl has to get this team to believe it can beat the Lakers in a series before it can happen — for all the skills and Xs and Os, the difference between the top teams can be more about confidence than skills. He knows they are close, he knows that Denver is a little better than last year. But getting them to believe they are over the hump will be the challenge.

So what are the Nuggets like without Carmelo Anthony? Well, as you would expect, their offense takes a big hit — they score 5.5 fewer points per game. (Their defense is unaffected.) That’s a problem, as they win games with their offense first, so the Nuggets are 7-4 this season without Melo.

They also have been a bad road team 11-12 away from the Pepsi Center.

Nuggets blogs Roundball Mining Company is filled with smart people.

Keys to game: If there is no Carmelo tonight, then there will be more Billups in the Nuggets offense. That is not necessarily good for the Lakers.

First thing — you have to step out on Billups above the three-point line when he brings it up. Billups and Baron Davis love the pull-up three more than any two guards in the league (in an ESPN Chat, Mr. Clipperblog Kevin Anovitz said the difference is that Billups makes his). Billups is shooting 45.6% from three in the Nuggets last 10 games.

They will also post Billups up or run him off multiple screens to get him open. Defending him does not fall to Fisher (or Farmar or Brown) alone, the team has to defend him.

The other guy the Lakers can’t let get hot is JR Smith — just part of the battle of the benches that will be key tonight. Smith loves the spot up three in transition, but he will put it on the floor and drive if you run at him, so again it is a team defense not just one man. They also run him off a lot of screens (which should look familiar to Afflalo from his UCLA days).

On offense, the last meeting the Nuggets doubled Bynum hard in the post, and that took Bynum out of his game and he did not adjust well. Tonight he needs to react better, the ball needs to come out and swing to the weakside fast.

Where you can watch: 7:30 p.m. start here out west, on ESPN and Fox Sports. Plus, ESPN radio 710am.

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Records: Lakers 37-12 (1st in West) Bobcats 24-23 (6th in East)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 109.1 (10th in league), Bobcats 102.4 (25th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 102 (2nd in league) Bobcats 102.3 (3rd in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Bobcats: Raymond Felton, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, Nazir Mohammed

Walton out tonight:His back is bothering him again so he will watch this game from the trainers room.

Bobcats coming in: You’d be making a big mistake thinking “it’s just the Bobcats, the Lakers should blow them out.” First, because the Bobcats always give the Lakers trouble.

And second, because the Bobcats have been a hot team of late. They have won primarily with a very aggressive defense this season — they basically are tied with the Lakers on the season — and have been getting their offense from two sources.

One is Gerald Wallace, who has been playing like an All Star for the last 10 days — averaging 23 points a game on 58.7% (eFG%) shooting and 52% from three. Wallace also is a power on the offensive glass while on the other end he has 15 blocks in the last 10 games.

The other is Stephen Jackson. He has been scoring 22 a game and providing some other scoring punch to the team.

Keys to game: If the Lakers go to their isolation offensive trends of late tonight, they will be in a lot of trouble. Charlotte’s defense will be the problem. Darius adds some details:

Larry Brown has been one of the better coaches at disrupting the Triangle offense over the years. This goes back to the ’04 Finals and has been a recurring theme in any Lakers/team coached by Brown matchup. Mostly he loves to have his players disrupt passing angles by side fronting the post in the hub of the Triangle, denying pass to the corner on the strong side, and then sagging from the weak side to deny the pressure release when we look to swing the ball. This leads to poor timing in our sets and makes our guards over-dribble (which has been a problem this season even without the defense forcing this action). Our guys are really going to have to be crisp with their movement and work to get open. Not to mention the ‘Cats are the #1 team in defensive efficiency this season.

While Darius has the floor, he has a couple other points:

People always mention LeBron, ‘Melo and Pierce as the guys that Ron Artest was brought in to contain. Well, few would put Gerald Wallace in that class (I don’t) but he’s a dangerous player and a guy that can hurt the Lakers. Wallace has an all around game and Ron is going to have his hands full with a guy that will be very active on both ends of the floor. Wallace is playing at an extremely high level this season — proven by his inclusion on the Eastern All-Star team — and Ron is going to need to especially watch him on the glass has Wallace is getting about two off. rebounds a game. On a side note, look at the guys that Ron has been asked to guard lately — LeBron, Pierce, Caron Butler, Iguodala, Granger, Rudy Gay, and now Wallace. And before the All-Star break he’ll likely see plenty of minutes on Richard Jefferson, Brandon Roy, Melo, and AK-47. Wow. No rest for this guy.

Another guy to look out for is Raymond Felton. The forgotten PG of the Deron/CP3 draft class hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations coming out of college, but he’s having a solid year as he seems to finally found his game as a pro. His assists are down, but all of his shooting numbers (except for FT%) are up even though his scoring is down. That tells me he’s playing more under control and not forcing too much. This is like the influence of Larry Brown on his game as Brown is notoriously hard and demanding on PG’s but it looks like Felton is taking to Brown’s tutelage.

Another note about Felton, he comes off the pick with the quickness and strength of only a few in the league. He just explodes. What is challenging for the Lakers is Wallace often sets the high screen and Diaw also comes out by the arc to pull his defender away from the basket. The Lakers need to defend Felton well without getting into foul trouble and keep him out of the paint.

Another key — taking care of the ball. The Bobcats are second in the league in creating turnovers (per possession), jumping passing lanes and using long arms and athleticism to disrupt plays (see Darius’ note). That can fuel their running game, something they don’t do a lot under the controlling Brown but they have the athletes and can get some easy buckets in transition that way. You can’t give them easy buckets — their defense is not going to give you any. It’s how they can score enough to beat you.

Where you can watch: 7:30 p.m. start here out west, on Fox Sports. Plus, ESPN radio 710am.

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Records: Lakers 37-11 (1st in West) Grizzlies 25-21 (10th in West)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 109.3 (9th in league), Grizzlies 110 (7th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 102 (2nd in league) Grizzlies 110 (25th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Grizzlies: Mike Conley, OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol

Before you do anything else, run to the local church and light a candle for Andrew Bynum’s knees tonight.

Happy Pau Gasol Day. It was two years ago today that the Lakers traded Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie’s contract and two picks to Memphis for Gasol. Since that day, the Lakers are 142-41 with Gasol in the lineup and have been to the Finals both years, winning once. While that trade is not as lopsided as once thought, is there anyone who would spend more than a second thinking about whether or not to make that trade again?

Lakers Coming In Sunday’s win in Boston may have been the closest thing to a signature win the Lakers have had this year. But the NBA schedule is an unforgiving mistress and now the Lakers have some tough games where they need to show that is not a fluke. Darius put it this way in an email:

I’d really like for the team to build on the momentum that they’ve established on this trip. There was a comment in one of the threads that spoke of our schedule up to the all-star break and there are some doozies still left to play before the rest comes (Memphis, Bobcats, Spurs, Portland, Utah). I’m not saying that the team needs to win all of those, but it would be nice to not be content with a win over the Celtics and get some wins against some other pretty good teams.

What will draw the headlines tonight — Kobe is 29 points away from passing Jerry West as the leading scorer in franchise history. That watch is in full effect tonight.

Grizzlies coming in: This team is good — good enough to be a playoff team in the West and good enough to have won 7 of their last 10. They are not consistent because their defense is not consistent (or is consistently bad), but they have a good offense and on any given night can beat anybody. Last week I caught part of them just outplaying Orlando like it was nothing.

That starts with All Star Zach Randolph. Deserved All Star. Randolph was always one of the best scorers in the game from the left low block, he was almost unstoppable. But he cared not about anything else on the court, or so it seemed. But this year his game has evolved, he has matured as a player. He is shooting a higher percentage than ever in his career, in part because he is getting nearly two more shots per game at the rim than before. He is getting to the foul line more. He is better on the boards (and a much improved offensive rebounder). He’s even playing some defense.

Combine that with the good Marc Gasol in the post and the athletic Rudy Gay at the three, and you have an athletic front line.

Grizzlies blogs Three Shades of Blue is quality

If you read one thing today, read this from Kelly Dwyer. (Well, technically it would have to be two things since you read this.) The man is a legend for a reason.

Keys to game: This is a brutal back-to-back for the Lakers — the emotional high and physical game in Boston, followed up by a lot of travel to take on a team that can score a lot of points and has some quality athletes. On the last game of the road trip. If the Lakers come out flat, they will get run right out of the building.

One thing Memphis has that Lakers fans wish they saw more of was two big men playing well off each other. The Laker defender of the big on the weakside has to be aware, they run little flash in plays near the hoop that are precise. The Lakers bigs need to be mentally ready to be physical again tonight.

The Grizzlies guards can get a little shot happy and not feed the bigs, and they will pretty quickly break out of their offensive sets to run isolation plays. They get away with it because Mayo and Gay are great athletes, but the Lakers can stymie them with good help defense and talking on the court.

Offensively, the Lakers should score plenty against a not very good defensive team if they run their offense and not settle for the first available jumper. Also, this is a battle of PGs who have not played great defense of late, if one of them can take advantage of this it will be a big plus.

Where you can watch: 5 pm start on Channel 9 in LA. Plus, ESPN radio 710am.

Preview & Chat: The Boston Celtics

Kurt —  January 31, 2010

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Records: Lakers 36-11 (1st in West) Celtics 29-15 (3rd in East)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 109.5 (9th in league), Celtics 107.6 (13th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 102 (2nd in league) Celtics 101.7 (1st in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Lakers Coming In Today — or more likely Monday in Memphis — Kobe will become the Lakers all time leading scorer. He goes into this game 47 points short of Jerry West.

Here’s a note from the ESPN’s statistical research gurus (who rock):: Kobe shot 49.1% before the finger injury, 44% since, and he is taking two more shots per game since.

Celtics coming in: Check out yesterday’s post, an interview with Zach Lowe or Celtics Hub, or check out the roundtable we all were part of over at Land O’Lakers. But know that all those

Here’s another fun note from the ESPN’s statistical research gurus: KG is essentially the Pau Gasol of the Lakers in that their record with and without him is dramatically different. Without, 5-6, with they are 24-9.

Celtics blogs The Celitcs are loaded with good blogs. Jeff and Celtics Blog remain the OG and one of the best ever. You’ve met Zach from Celtics Hub. But checkout their links, there are a lot.

Keys to game: With just about every game, we say the Lakers need to exploit their advantage in the paint. Today’s game will be won in the paint as well, but for a different reason — the Celtics can match the Lakers in the paint. Gasol and Bynum got pushed around by Cleveland, the Celtics will do the same thing. Bynum needs to stay out of foul trouble and protect the rim like Perkins will. Gasol has to match what KG will bring. The front lines will be where this game is won and lost.

The Lakers can’t be passive, they have to go at those guys. Run the offense inside out. That said, the Celtics shut down isolation, one-on-one offense better than any team in the league, because it’s not really one-on-one — three players at any time three guys have responsibility for stopping the ball. They anticipate where the ball is going to go better than any team is out there. The Lakers have to counter that with passes and cuts out of the triangle offense.

Basically, the isolation offense that the Lakers resort to too much this season is going to cost them this game, but if they run the triangle offense and move the ball they will get good looks. Facilitator Kobe most make an appearance.
Where you can watch: 12:30 start on ABC. Plus, ESPN radio 710am out West.