Archives For Fast Break Thoughts

The Lakers enter all-star weekend with only 13 wins to 40(!) losses. I remember back when Phil Jackson was the coach and the Lakers were competing for a top seed in the conference, his philosophy was to always try to get to 40 wins before getting to 20 losses. The thought was, if you could get to that number, you could spend the last 25 games (or so) getting into playoff form and preparing for what would be, hopefully, a long run deep into May or June. Clearly, the Lakers are a long, long way off from those days.

What they are also a long way off from is having any sort of place in this “mid-season” showcase of the league’s best. Yes, Kobe was voted into Sunday’s game, but after having surgery to repair a torn labrum that will cost him the season he will not even make an appearance in New York. Similarly, Julius Randle’s broken leg kept him out of Friday’s rookie/sophomore game where he could have helped the “USA” team in the new format where American born players faced off against players born from the rest of the world. And with no Lakers competing in any of the other events, this weekend will be a far cry from what we’ve been used to in year’s past.

Maybe that’s for the best. I’m sure many Lakers fans are actually happy for the escape from watching their guys and are ready to invest some time in the talents the rest of the league has to show. Speaking of which…

*Friday’s “Rising Stars” game showed some nice players from both teams, but I was particularly impressed with Andrew Wiggins of the T’Wolves and Rudy Gobert from the Jazz. Both showed off superior athleticism and nice instincts on both sides of the floor. Gobert is clearly still a bit raw, but the tools are there and with his size, length, and athleticism he can turn into a force if he keeps his current development trajectory. On twitter I said that Gobert is like JaVale McGee if JaVale wasn’t so…JaVale. Just a great canvas to develop into a top big man.

*I’ll put it on the record now. My winners for tonight’s contests are: Team Curry in the Shooting Stars Event, Isaiah Thomas in the Skills Challenge, Kyle Korver in the 3 point shootout, and Zach LaVine in the Dunk Contest. Yes, that’s a lot of “chalk” in my group of winners, but this seems like a weekend where guys who do what they do best are actually in the contests they should be in and they’re going to remind everyone of why they were chosen.

*I know that everyone is looking forward to the three point shootout; that group of participants is as deep and talented a shooting class as has ever competed. But, honestly, I’m still most looking forward to the dunkers and, specifically, LaVine. It’s been 15 years since Vince Carter wowed the crowd in Oakland with a performance that redefined the event. And while I don’t think LaVine can match that effort, but I do believe the hype around his above the rim ability is warranted.

*Speaking of Vince’s night back in 2000, you should read this long-form piece by CBS’ Zach Harper on the Night Vinsanity was born. Just a great piece.

*Another great read comes from friend of the site Andy Kamenetzky who writes on Magic Johnson’s latest comments about Jim Buss. I could not agree more with what AK wrote if I’d typed the words myself.

*Lastly, the actual date was a couple of weeks ago, but it was 5 years ago that I took over Forum Blue & Gold from Kurt Helin who departed to run Pro Basketball Talk. With that, I just want to say thank you to everyone who has continued to support me and site over the years. That includes all the contributors who have provided such excellent content on the main page, those who visit the site to read that content, and the commenters who make up one of the best communities in the NBA blogosphere. Without all of you, this site wouldn’t be what it is today.

Happy Holidays from FB&G

Darius Soriano —  December 24, 2014

The Lakers’ win against the Warriors on Tuesday night was both surprising and fun. The team played with energy, played together, and had one of those nights where their shots were falling at a very nice clip. This allowed the fans to get into the game which only perpetuated the good feelings in the building. The fact that Warriors were playing sloppily, came in on the second night of a back to back, and could have had their guard down a bit due to Kobe being out and a look forward to facing the Clippers on Christmas day didn’t hurt things either.

In any event, most of the talking points today fall squarely at the feet of Kobe with the notion that it is him who is holding this team back. Taking a strong-line position on that topic is as silly as saying that it is completely off-base. As with most things, the truth of the matter isn’t on the outskirts of the black and white, but in the gray area. I’m all for Kobe making adjustments to his game and for the coaches to reinforce that by preaching team play and holding every player accountable to that standard. But in the win against the Dubs the Lakers shot nearly 52% from the field and made 12 of their 26 three point attempts with Ronnie Price falling only two points off his career high by shooting 6 of 10 from the floor for 17 points while chipping in 8 assists. In other words, some of what we saw was definitely the result of better team play and some of it was just flukey.

It’s probably best to not jump to too many conclusions, enjoy the win, and take some of what we saw as a what to build towards while understanding that some of it is simply not sustainable. I know the #hottakes will supersede that in some corners of the internet, but this is not one of those corners.

With that, I just want to wish a Happy Holidays to you and yours. This site would not be what it is without those who take the time to visit, read, and comment on the posts. I truly am grateful for the support you all show me here and in the other parts of social media that I am active on. We may not always agree, but that is part of the fun and what makes being a part of this community rooting for this team so engaging. So, enjoy some time with your friends and families and get back with us before game time against the Bulls on Christmas Day.

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  November 6, 2014

The Lakers are at the beginning of a nice — and needed — break. They opened the season playing five games in seven nights (including four in the season’s first five nights) and have gone winless in the process. They do not play again until Sunday and can use this time off to rest their bodies and their minds, get a bit healthy, and fine tune what they are doing on both ends of the floor to try and get better results on the floor.

Though the team still hasn’t won, they are getting closer. The most recent game against the Suns was fairly close throughout and if not for some missed FT’s (fixable) and some defensive lapses (not as much) the team could have stolen that game. It’s these little mistakes that need correcting, especially for a team with absolutely no margin for error. They simply cannot afford to miss a dozen FT’s or be careless with the ball or not box out or any other number of small things and win game.

So, it’s simply on this group to start to get these little things right more often. Now, on to other thoughts…

*Though the Lakers are winless (and maybe because they are), Kobe truly is playing quite hard. In the Suns game he jumped over the first row of fans sitting courtside while logging 44 minutes on the night. Baxter Holmes of ESPN LA discussed this relentlessness.

*Sticking with this topic, an interesting twist to these media-generated Kobe talking points is how they can be interpreted by his teammates. This is a variable some might not often think of when playing with Kobe.

*Kobe says he heard the rumblings that he/the team should explore trade options. He pretty much squashed that idea in this column by Marc Spears.

*Detailing the Lakers mismatched roster. This is a topic I also explored some when I previewed this season.

*If the Lakers do not win their next game on Sunday, their difficult schedule could see them go without a win through Thanksgiving. Welp.

*Just because I like watching it:

*While the finish got all the pub, the set up got me just as excited. This is a move that Kobe has made so often and one that is one of his trademarked attacks that I will remember for ever. When he makes the catch, he turns and faces and then sets up the triple threat. With his back foot anchored, he swings the ball through to his right hand and then simultaneously puts his down his dribble while stepping through with his pivot foot. This allows him to avoid the traveling call and get even — and the by — his defender. Once he has that step, it’s curtains. There’s an old saying in basketball that “baseline is death”, but Kobe has made a career out of navigating that sliver of real estate and making his defender pay time after time. And he’s still doing it in year 19.

*When a team is bad, it is natural to look ahead to the future for hope of improvement rather than focusing on the present and getting more depressed. In saying that, expect there to be a lot of articles/columns/blog posts about what the Lakers may do next summer to improve the team. For example, an article saying they may go hard after Rajon Rondo. Expect more just like this one over the course of this year.

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  October 10, 2014

After winning their preseason opener on Tuesday against the Nuggets, the Lakers served as a speed bump to a long range sniping Warriors’ team on Thursday. The Lakers fell behind early and never really recovered to make the score any more than cosmetically better. These are the types of games that will happen this season for this team as some nights they simply won’t have enough to appropriately respond to another team’s arsenal. They will play hard, but just won’t always play well.

After the game Byron Scott spoke about the need to play harder and, to be honest, there was some of that on display. But, for the most part, what Scott was saying was mostly coach speak with the reality being the Lakers faced a team better than them at most positions while also having the exact type of wing players who will challenge them consistently all year. Scott can try to manage that in a variety of ways, but facts are facts: when the Lakers face a team with dynamic wing scorers who can create from the arc to the rim they will struggle defensively as a team.

In any event, we’re now two games into the exhibition season and what we’ve seen has offered a few hints at what this team is working towards becoming and the trends that will drive that development. With that, here are some general thoughts about the Warriors game and what we can are seeing to this point in the preseason:

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This has seemed like the longest summer ever. While we got some FIBA World Cup basketball to somewhat satiate our thirst of some roundball, it was mostly anti-climactic as the Spanish team failed to advance to the finals and give team USA a proper challenge for the gold. The result was an american romp and me sitting here longing for actual basketball to fill the void.

Which brings me back to the Lakers. Camp is almost here and the team has been coming together recently for workouts and scrimmages. The team is not yet fully formed — there will be more additions, even if only camp bodies — with much work to do on both sides of ball, learning schemes and getting comfortable in how to play together. They will battle the reality that they are simply not as talented as most of the teams in the league while simultaneously trying to prove critics (like me) wrong.

The simple theatre of how this team comes together will be enough for me to watch, but it won’t be the only reason. With that, here are the 5 things I am most looking forward to this season:

1. Kobe’s return. I could pretend to write with some authority about what Kobe will be this season, but it would all be a front. Before his achilles injury, Kobe’s career track was on the same path of guys like Kareem, Karl Malone, and John Stockton. Those players proved to be high caliber contributors well past their prime years, posting PER’s above the league average while contributing to winning teams and padding their career totals. Now, though, Kobe is all question marks. He admits he’ll be a different player, but does so with a defiance that has marked his entire career. The message seems clear: doubt me at your own peril — have you not learned that yet? Watching what he does, how he does it, and how effective it makes him will be the number one storyline all season. Combine that with the reality that he is a legend who is playing in his final games and it will be must watch TV. I, for one, cannot wait.

2. Julius Randle. The last Laker draft pick who came in as highly touted and with as much hope surrounding him was James Worthy. For Randle, though, I’d settle for a guy who performed as well as Eddie Jones did in his rookie campaign. Jones averaged 14 points that season and was named 1st Team All-Rookie. He dazzled fans with his bouncy legs and highlight finishes. He also competed hard on both ends of the floor and showed a professionalism that reminded of past Laker greats. Randle has the talent, work ethic, and opportunity to do the same. Yes, he has some veterans in front of him and a coach that will make him earn his time on the floor, but nothing worthwhile is ever just given. Randle will need to prove he was worth the pick that was used on him. Considering he feels he should have gone higher, he should have the proper motivation to do just that. I can’t wait to watch the rook do his thing.

3. Jordan Clarkson. There is really no good reason for me to like Clarkson as much as I do. As I’ve said before, it really is not rational. While he clearly has some talent, he’s also a second round pick with two veteran point guards in front of him who his head coach will cater to. He has a steep learning curve to be an NBA level point guard and will likely struggle to find the time on the floor he needs to develop. His jumper is not as good as it needs to be at this level and you have to seriously question if his athleticism is good enough to overcome that fact at this stage of his career. To all that I can simply say I do not care. I mean, watch:

I love the way he moves on the floor. I love his body control around the rim. I love that he finds a way to get to the spots he wants to and has the ability to do something with the ball once he gets there. Whether he ever becomes a rotation player will depend on so many factors I can’t even begin to name them all. But I will be rooting hard for this young man.

4. Nick Young doing Nick Young things. I never thought rooting for this guy would be fun. But here I am, watching him do stuff like this and he’s just grown on me:

When he came to the Lakers I bought in to the worst conceptions of him as a player — the ball stopping, the lack of passing, the little to no effort at anything that didn’t involve him trying to get his own shot. After watching him for a year, those things definitely exist as part of his game. But watching him night in and night out also revealed a player who deeply loves the game, cares for his teammates, wants to win, and will actually try at other parts of the game when coached to do so. That didn’t always make him effective at those things, but watching him work at it and watching him have fun while trying was a joy in an otherwise awful season. I look forward to an encore campaign even though I admit I have no clue if he can actually pull it off.

5. Big men doing the dirty work. The Lakers’ history is littered with hall of fame big men. Jordan Hill and Ed Davis will not be mistaken for any of them. What they will do, however, is work their tails off to get that extra possession and make that extra rotation to try and challenge a shot at the rim. What they will do is roll hard to the rim and try to finish with authority. What they will do is bring the effort every night and play as hard as they can with as much skill as they can muster to try and impact the game positively. It will not always go smoothly and there will be times (lots of times) where I will miss the deft passing and smooth post play of the Spaniard, but I will love watching Hill and Davis (and Randle and, hopefully Boozer) go at it hard each night.