Archives For Fast Break Thoughts

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  August 30, 2013

*Over at ESPN LA, Dave McMenamin has a hefty and informative Pacific Division preview with takes from anonymous scouts and front office reps. He has the Clippers winning the division which, honestly, is exactly who I would pick as well. That said, he also has the Lakers winning 44 games this season. Go read why.

*If you think 44 games is high, you’re likely not one of the 31.85% of Lakers’ fans who believe the team will win the championship this year.

*Nick Young goes back to his old neighborhood and donates supplies in his 3rd anual back to school event. I love stories like this.

*Whose throwback jersey should you buy for every NBA team? This post has your answers.

*Both Kobe and Pau are rehabbing surgeries this summer, but both seem to be going about it a bit differently. Here’s word of Pau, steadily progressing, starting to run (albeit on grass) as part of that progression. And here’s Kobe diving feet first off a 40 foot high platform into a swimming pool. To be fair, this probably isn’t part of Kobe’s rehab regimen.

*Speaking of Kobe, if you’re into such things, here’s a new color-way of his signature Kobe 8 sneaker dubbed the “pit viper”.

*One last Kobe note: check out this fantastic teaser for the latest video from Meir21 called “The Last Chapter”. Let’s just say this got me excited.

*Congrats to friends of FB&G Andy and Brian Kamnetzky for winning the Best Sports Blog of LA award from LA Weekly. Well deserved.

*On a personal note, you may not have noticed, but I’ve not been writing as much lately as I’d like. Some of that is because there’s not a lot to say about the team in this dead zone of summer where nearly every roster move has been made and we just wait for training camp. The main reason, however, is that my wife and I just had our second child and this recent development has taken its rightful place as my number one priority. In any event, I’ll be back on these pages soon rambling more than you’d probably like me to.

Happy Birthday Kobe

Darius Soriano —  August 23, 2013

It was 17 summers ago that Jerry West took a chance on a high schooler who had the NBA pedigree and the self confidence to realize those gifts. In the 17 summers that have passed since the Lakers acquired Kobe Bryant from the Charlotte Hornets for the rights to Vlade Divac, the team has celebrated 5 championships and been to the Finals an additional 2 times. As an individual, the accolades, awards, and milestones achieved are too many to rattle off without it seeming like overkill. Needless to say, the gamble has paid off.

Today, Kobe celebrates his 35th birthday. The kid that the Logo drafted has become a man. He’s had his ups and downs on and off the court in the time that he’s been a Laker, twice — once in free agency and once with a trade demand — even coming close to no longer being with the franchise. But here he is, going into his 18th season, still a Laker. And he will, at least if you listen to him and to ownership, retire one.

Only a few fanbases truly understand what it’s like to see a modern franchise icon stay with one team for their entire career. Today, only Kobe, Dirk, and Duncan can claim that honor. As a fan, it’s undeniably special to see and root for one of those guys. There’s a comfort in seeing him suit up every night, run onto that floor, and compete for the team you root for. I’m not sure outsiders can really truly grasp what these guys mean to these fans. They’re the on court pillars of the organization and have them continue to trot out onto the court is a reminder of all that has been accomplished and a flicker of hope that those past glories can be recaptured.

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Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  June 12, 2013

*The Spurs are showing the perfect blend between a team who starts a traditional lineup with two big men and one that has the shooters and versatility to play smaller while spacing the floor. They also run a fantastic system that relies on constant ball and player movement in order to generate good looks on most every possession. The Lakers, who have some of these same ingredients as the Spurs, could do well to take some notes on some of the things that are working for the Spurs on both sides of the ball and adopt them into next year’s team.

*Speaking of next year, Brian Kamenetzky argues that the Lakers should trade Pau Gasol. Several good points are raised and I found myself nodding along in several sections of BK’s piece. That said, I’m still not entirely convinced trading Pau is the right move.

*The NBA could see an all time high in coaching turnover this summer. We’ve already seen 3 coaches who led their teams to franchise records in victories let go or not had their contracts renewed for next season. Today, rumors resurfaced that Doc Rivers may not return to coach the Celtics should they go into full rebuilding mode this summer. With all these coaching changes on the mind, the guys at Silver Screen and Roll discussed whether or not Mike D’Antoni will return to coach the Lakers next season. I, for one, think he will be back.

*Of course, the prevailing wisdom is that if D’Antoni were let go it would be because Dwight Howard made it be known he’d like it to be case should he return to the Lakers next season. I doubt Dwight goes in that direction, however. Dwight may not be known as the most PR savvy individual, but attaching his name to another coach getting fired likely isn’t in his best interest even if there are fans that would praise him for calling for the hit.

*Speaking of Dwight, Shaq is back in the news saying the reason he’s so hard on Dwight is because he thinks it’s his “duty” to held him “become one of the best big men in the league.” Okay, Shaq. Next you’re going to tell me you actually drive a Buick.

*I can’t take full credit for that line, by the way. I got a variation of it from this video compilation of players reading mean tweets they received in a segment for Jimmy Kimmel.

*Shaq’s not the only former legend dishing dirt on Dwight. Today, in conference call in his duties as analyst for the Finals, Magic Johnson said that Howard needs to work on his offense while also mentioning that Mike D’Antoni needs to focus more on defense.

*Not sure if you got the chance to watch the Julius Erving film “The Doctor” on NBA TV when it aired, but if you didn’t you should find the chance to do so. It was a great look at one of the all-timers and true pioneers of the modern game. As a bonus, the film ends with the Doc throwing one down at the ripe old age of 63. Pretty incredible.

*Of course, one of Dr. J’s most famous plays came against the Lakers when he dunked on a leaping then ducking Michael Cooper in the open court. Here’s a neat story of Cooper talking about that play and how he gets a royalty check every time the clip is shown.

We’ve spent months chronicling what went wrong with this Lakers’ campaign. And, to be completely honest, I’m tired of doing so. There’s only so many words to be devoted to the countless injuries, the faults of the coaches, or even the death of an owner. This season brought many more lows than highs and for that it was memorable, even though I’d pay to forget.

In the wake of such a season, the impulse is to try and fix things; to figure out a path to avoid the same results the next year. For the Lakers, this won’t be easy. There are too many questions to answer in one day. Health, personnel decisions, coaching, the salary cap and luxury tax, the draft, and on and on we could go.

The Lakers are a team that needs to take some time to reflect and reassess. The plan was to always make a push in the final two years of this core’s contracts. Does the utter failure of this season change that? Do the injuries and uncertainty of key players heading into next season? Do the feelings of a fanbase about a coach?

Only the Lakers’ brass knows the answer to these questions, but I’ve a feeling that even they don’t at this time. There’s simply too much to comprehend to think logically on such things right now. Anyone who claims to know, for certain, what will work and the moves that need to be made are either lying or so cocksure their opinions are likely not worthy of legitimate discussion. It’s one thing to think you know, another to know you know. At this point, no one can know those answers.

The only thing anyone can know is that next season can’t be like this one. Whether the front office believes that will be the case with minimal changes or believe the opposite and try to make sure through radical ones won’t be decided today. The draft isn’t until June and free agency doesn’t begin until July. As much as we’d like for the makeover to begin now, it will have to wait.

And maybe that’s a good thing. Most great things take time to come to fruition. It may seem like they happen in an instant, but that’s just the moment when many hours of thought and hard work combine to create that defining moment. For this organization, some of those hours have already been put in but there are many more to go. From Jim and Mitch on down through the players.

In the end, I think Rey said it best when noting that this season was mercifully put to an end last night. Through all the bad moments I’ll try to recall the good ones, but even those are crowded out by what went wrong. As we transition to next year, hopefully what was will not be what is to come.

It’s been about 12 hours since word hit that Kobe Bryant suffered what looks to be a torn achilles tendon. And, to be completely honest, I’m still struggling to form fully developed thoughts on the idea of him suffering this type of injury.

I’ve seen Kobe hurt before. The list of injuries he’s suffered and played through is endless — a torn labrum, severely sprained ankles, mangled fingers, a torn ligament in his wrist, a fractured nose, and on and on it goes. He’s been something different than human in his ability to battle and fight through. It’s part of what’s made him Kobe; one of the reasons that he has universal respect even from those who openly root against him.

This is different, though. Seeing him clutching at his lower leg, that look on his face — not of determination to battle through, but of knowing something was really wrong — was something unseen to my eyes before. He’s really hurt this time and the impact it will have on what’s left of his career is unknown. Will he play again? If so, when? How well? Have we seen the last of the Kobe Bryant we know?

Where he goes from here remains to be seen. On his Facebook page he spoke openly about the doubts he has about coming back strong and the fire that burns to do just that. Kobe, more than any other athlete of our time is complicated that way. He’s been the ultimate yin and yang player. He’s the guy with the genius level basketball IQ who sometimes makes the plays that make you scratch your head. He’s the ultimate solo artist who will throttle an opponent with fantastic team play. He’s the guy who offers the most biting critique only to later put his arm around a teammate and offer sage words of wisdom. It seems the players he is most frustrated with are the ones he respects the most; the ones who physically challenge him are the ones he wants by his side in the trenches.

In the past few months Kobe has talked about the mental drain of continuing to compete at the level he has been while wondering if he could continue to do it. The next day he’d remark how he could play for 5 more years if he wanted. This injury will challenge him in new ways and only he will be able to know how much he has left to give to try and get back to the court.

What this means for the Lakers is clear. They’ll still function as a team because they still have several very good players. Losing Kobe hurts in many tangible (and intangible) ways, but they can and will adjust. They’re professionals, after all. But Kobe was their best wing player and, for pretty much this entire season, their best player overall.

He carried their offense in a variety of ways and replacing his production will be nearly impossible. Replacing it from the wing, will be impossible. The Lakers simply don’t have the players to do so. Whether they make the playoffs or not — and I bet that they do — they’re worse off and whatever hope they had of challenging a top seed is now nearly gone. I expect they’ll compete hard and still challenge, but you don’t lose your 5-star general and become a better army. The team will close ranks and try their best and that will lead to some wins but it won’t be the same. It just won’t be.

I think Dwight Howard will try to fill the void of production, that Pau Gasol will take up the mantle of leadership, that Steve Nash will return and play his brains out (that guys is competitive too, you know). I think that team will still be entertaining and fun and a lot of things that we’ve wanted them to be all season. But they’ll be it without Kobe and that, for me at least, will be hard. And strange.

The quest for blame is on and I understand the sentiment. When things go wrong we want to know why. We ask and answer the question ourselves and then react accordingly.

Mike D’Antoni’s name will ring out as the culprit here and while I can relate to throwing blame in his direction, I don’t do so myself. Yes, one of his chief jobs is to manage a player’s minutes and to protect them from themselves. This is especially true of the super-competitive players who, if left to their own decision making, will play through whatever their bodies will tolerate. Kobe’s body can tolerate more than others and I do believe that D’Antoni could have been better at managing the situation to try and keep Kobe from playing to the level of fatigue he reached this year.

But Kobe wanted to play and the Lakers needed him to play. That much is not arguable. There wasn’t the luxury of rest when every game mattered so much. Do you rest Kobe now when there’s no guarantee the rest will even be applicable towards your ultimate goal? If the Lakers don’t the games they do with Kobe in the game for so many minutes, they don’t qualify to play the games where that rest matters. What then?

This is why the situation was lose-lose. The hole was too deep and the team had to fight too hard just to get in a position to qualify for the chance to reach their goals. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, but it was. Fault for that lies with everyone. With the players for playing poorly enough to lose all those games. With the front office for building a roster so dependent on a select few, aged players. With the injury bug who feasted on the Lakers all season. And, yes, with the coach who was too stubborn and sacrificed long term thinking for the types of short term returns that were needed to try and, ironically enough, get back to where the long term view could be taken.

It’s been a sick season that way and there is no remedy for it. So blame who you want, just know that whoever you blame isn’t alone, as there’s plenty to go around.

After all these words, I still don’t really know what to think about it all. Kobe and I are close in age. In a way, I’ve always related to him simply because we come from the same time and have been influenced by the same things when it comes to the game we both love. He’s one of the best to ever play the game and I’m just a guy observing it all from a distance, but that distance between us has been closed through my television, the internet, and a press pass or two.

His career likely isn’t over, but it feels like an era is. The era where I could depend on seeing number 24 (and before it number 8) take the floor under every conceivable circumstance certainly is. For that I’m incredibly sad, but also tremendously appreciative. I got the chance to see one of the very best ever do what he does best. I also saw him go down swinging, competing his hardest, performing at the some of the highest highs he ever has.

And in a way it’s fitting. Cruel and undeserved, but fitting nonetheless.