Archives For Trades

Welcome To Rumorville

Darius Soriano —  February 8, 2011

The last two plus weeks before the trade deadline are always the most active when it comes to proposed deals, leaks, and misdirection. Teams are consistently working the phones trying to improve their teams’ prospects for the current and future seasons while simultaneously working the media to try and gain leverage in accomplishing these goals.

Today, we’ve seen the perfect example of this with the latest report that the Lakers are “in discussions” with the Nuggets involving a trade for Carmelo Anthony. Chris Broussard (who has a good reputation in being on top of such matters – he was one of the first reporting LeBron to Miami) has the scoop:

The Lakers and the Denver Nuggets have had preliminary discussions about a blockbuster trade that would send Carmelo Anthony to Los Angeles, according to league sources. The Lakers’ package would be built around Andrew Bynum.

When you dig deeper into the column though, you get a better sense of how close this deal actually is (or in this case, isn’t):

It is believed that the Lakers have not yet made an offer for Anthony but that the two clubs have merely had discussions. (emphasis mine)

And more:

The Lakers’ front office is not in full agreement on dealing Bynum…Jim Buss, son of owner Jerry, was in charge of the franchise when Bynum was drafted with the 10th pick in 2005 and has consistently resisted any attempts to move him, including a deal for free-agent-to-be Chris Bosh last season.

So, really, this seems like some smoke but not a lot of fire. In reality, I see this leak more as a way for Denver to gain leverage in any deal that they do ultimately strike in sending Anthony away. Denver knows that once the Nets dropped out of the ’Melo sweepstakes, they not only lost their best offer but they also lost the deal that they could leverage all other deals against. The most recent offer from the Knicks (in a reported three team deal involving the Timberwolves) reflects that as the Nuggets would have received marginal talent back, fewer draft picks and young players, and only a big salary savings to show for losing their franchise player. 

When viewed from this perspective, it makes perfect sense that the Nuggets would try to engage other teams into talks, discuss more desirable pieces (in this case Bynum, and then use those talks as leverage to other teams as evidence that the offers that come in need to be better than the one they’re discussing. This isn’t to say that “talks” aren’t happening or havne’t occured. Mitch Kupchak said that he’d be more than willing to engage teams in trade talks just  a week ago. 

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However, why these talks are out there is a different subject than whether or not the deal is a good one. Forget the extra pieces that would likely be involved so the Nuggets are happy with the final outcome (it’s been widely reported they want to dump bad contracts – see Harrington, Al – in a Melo trade) and just  deal with a straight up swap of Melo for Bynum.

Does this make the Lakers a better team? That’s a complex question that needs to be looked at from both the short and long term.

At Land O’ Lakers, Brian Kamenetzky touches on both angles, but has this to say about the short term prospect of swapping the two:

Doing so in the middle of the season, even for a more established star like Anthony, makes a three-peat for the Lakers less likely. Short the highly improbable scenario of swapping Bynum for another high-end 7-footer, removing him from the equation and integrating (likely) another A-list wing or backcourt scorer, Anthony or otherwise — reworking how the Lakers operate on both ends of the floor — fundamentally changes LA to the point it would be tough to jell in time to go all the way.

If the goal of any trade is to win this year, a blockbuster deal involving Bynum isn’t the best route. It’s more the emergency-chute option, and despite legitimate concerns about the Lakers, they’re not at that point. They haven’t even jumped out of the plane, yet. The Lakers remain elite as constructed and prominent in any credible championship conversation, and I firmly believe this core deserves a chance to keep the streak alive.

Brian does, however, go on to say that he’d likely pull the trigger (go read the entire piece for his reasoning – it’s well thought out). In an email exchange I had with Reed, he also said that he’d do the deal:

I understand the fit issues, but in the end I’d do it. The key question to me is — what gives you the better opportunity to win titles over the next 5 years. I think healthy Bynum is a better fit this season, next to Kobe and Pau, but we’ve never seen healthy Drew in the playoffs. And, I think we need to start thinking a little about what happens when Kobe slows down, which he is already doing (he isn’t closing in the final minutes against great teams like in the past). Melo + Pau is a really nice combination. So, I like Melo over Drew over the next 5 years.

Personally, I see both sides of this (and Reed’s point about long term planning is a key one) but continue to lean towards keeping Bynum. For one, the Lakers’ size is one of their biggest strengths and any deal that diminishes that without bringing in a quality big to supplement Pau/Odom is not worth it to me. And while I don’t want to get too picky, it would need to be a big man that is skilled enough to play in the Triangle, is defensive minded, and is less a health risk than Bynum. Guys like that don’t exactly grow on trees. And if we’re only talking Bynum/Melo in this trade, who steps into the back up Center role for the Lakers? Ratliff is injured, Joe Smith barely plays in blowouts, and Caracter hasn’t yet earned the trust of the coaches.

Second, I think pairing Kobe with another high usage wing is somewhat problematic. Both can be prone to inefficient shooting nights and both do a fair amount of work out of the triple threat where they are prone to holding the ball, waiting for a potential double team, and then attacking with their own shot if the second defender doesn’t come. I envision there being some harsh growing pains as those two learn to play off each other while still involving Gasol at the level he’d need to be for the offense to still run smoothly.

Third, there is the issue of team composition. Right now, the Lakers have a trio of bigs to rotate between PF/C, four wings to alternate between SG and SF (with a healthy Barnes), and two point guards. If Melo comes in that dynamic shifts. There’s the issue of who picks up minutes at back up Center that I already mentioned, but how do the SF minutes get divided. I know that Melo (or Barnes/Artest) could play PF in spot minutes to relieve Odom, but all of those guys are natural SF’s and none of them are viable options at SG. That means you’re really not getting a lot of minutes for 2 of the top 8 players on the team (Artest and Barnes).

In the end, I don’t see a deal like this happening, but I do see the value in exploring it. I’m not on board. But reasonable arguments do exist that would be for it. What are your thoughts?

Silly me.

After yesterday’s talk about Lakers and trades and some smart people saying the same things about the likelihood of the Lakers making a deal (hint: not likely), I thought we could all move on and focus on the games – a Lakers win vs. the Rockets first on deck – and get back to our analysis of the team. Not so much.

Today it’s being reported by Marc Stein (a reporter whose word and credentials I trust and respect a great deal) that if the Lakers do make a deal, Ron Artest would like to be the one to switch teams. As Stein explains:

I’ve nonetheless been assured this week that Artest — though he hasn’t outright demanded a trade and is likely to publicly deny it — is serious about wanting to be dealt somewhere “he can have fun again” less than a year removed from the pivotal role he played in that ring-clinching Game 7 with Boston that the Lakers so nearly squandered.

More from Stein:

It was stressed to me that Artest has actually coexisted better with Jackson since it emerged in December that Artest asked his coach to stop criticizing him so publicly and keep displeasure in-house. Despite Artest’s increasingly regular stints on the bench in crunch time, I get the distinct vibe that settling for offensive scraps in the shadow of Kobe and Pau while absorbing the hottest heat on afternoons like Sunday when Paul Pierce erupts for 32 points has soured Artest far more than Jackson’s frequently sharp tongue.

All I can really say to this is, I can’t believe it took this long for something like this to happen.

You see, this is nothing new. Like birds flying south in winter or bears hybernating or the Lakers Grammy road trip, this is a yearly occurence. You can set your watch to it. Two years ago it was Bynum’s injury (along with toughness talk). Last year it was the the Lakers’ complacency (and a late season swoon). And this year, it’s this (among other things). There’s just an expected amount of drama when discussing the Lakers. Just the other day, we discussed the scrutiny of being a Laker in relation to the criticism that Pau Gasol has been receiving lately. Even the head coach knows this, mentioning after the Boston loss that he may not embrace the adversity, he certainly doesn’t hide from it.

In the end, I don’t think Artest is being traded. Aside from any issues with unloading a contract that isn’t quite payroll friendly (though far from the worst deal considering his talent – and yes, he still has talent), the Lakers need Artest. Snicker all you want at his 1-10 shooting or his career low output in a lot of statistical categories, but both Phil and Kobe know Ron’s value to this team. His ability to defend is rare. You can point to Paul Pierce’s explosion on Sunday, but I’ll happily counter with the fact that all great offensive players are capable of great days and all defenders are capable of bad ones. After explaining that, I’ll happily point to the combined 18-42 shooting that Carmelo and Durant put up against the Lakers in the last two weeks (which fall in line with how he’s performed against them in the past). And when it comes to the playoffs, I’m betting on more performances like the latter.

I can surely understand that Artest may be frustrated. Fans love to point out where players are falling short and there’s a fair amount of ammunition in relation to Ron’s recent performance. I know his role isn’t what a player of his overall ability is used to performing and that even after reaching the mountain top, players still have egos. I’m sure he thinks he can be more than a 4th option and a guy that isn’t guaranteed crunch time minutes. But, again, I think he’s here to stay. When the games slow down and the Lakers face off against elite wings, this team will need Artest. The guys that are in that lockerroom understand that.

Records: Lakers 33-15 (2nd in West), Rockets 22-27 (11th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.5 (2nd in NBA), Rockets (110.1 (5th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.1 (10th in NBA), Rockets 109.9 (24th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers:Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Rockets: Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Shane Battier, Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes
Injuries: Lakers: Matt Barnes and Andrew Bynum (both out); Rockets:Yao Ming (out), Jared Jeffries & Courtney Lee & Brad Miller (all questionable)

The Lakers Coming in: Two straight losses (especially when one is to the Celtics) has a lot of fans panicking and has GM Mitch Kupchak talking about exploring trade options. My brief take on this is that a trade is doubtful for several reasons:

  • The Lakers have few trade-able assets that aren’t core players that the team doesn’t want to get rid of. I’m sure the Lakers are more than willing to explore trades of guys like Walton, Ebanks, and Caracter. And while Artest and Blake are guys that aren’t performing up to expectations right now, their contracts are problematic AND they’re guys that do have defined roles on the team. Brown and Barnes have low salaries and thus can’t fetch much back unless it’s an equally low paid player that the Lakers trust to play well. That leaves Bynum, Odom, Gasol, Fisher, and Kobe. Raise your hand if you think the Lakers would seriously consider trading any of those guys. (Note: my hand is still down.)
  • Money is still an issue for this team. Besides the Pau Gasol trade, the every Laker trade has been made to cut costs. Radman and Sasha were salary dumps. It’s very unlikely at this point that the team is willing to add to an already league high payroll.
  • Mitch Kupchak typically keeps things quiet. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall any leaks about the trades that brought in Gasol, Ariza, Shannon/Ammo, or Joe Smith. Mitch normally doesn’t let information out easily. The fact that he openly discussed the possibility of a trade actually leads me to believe a trade is less likely, not more.

That last point is the key one to me, though. Kupchak’scomments that a shake up may be in order centered entirely around the performance of the current group. His comments included several references to the team having enough talent and that it’s currently under-performing. That sounds like a man that’s telling his team to get in gear, not one that’s planning a big move. I could be wrong, obviously. But the public nature of this discussion andthe fact that the core players (i.e. players with trade value) are guys the team wants to keep has me thinking no deal is eminent. We’ll see though.

The other major news of the day is that Andrew Bynum has been ruled out of tonight’s game. An MRI exam showed a bone bruise on his left knee andif you noticed him limping or sporting some tape aroundthat leg during the Boston game, that’s why. (As an aside, the right knee is the one with the brace and the one that he had off-season surgery on.) After yesterday’s practice, Phil relayed the fact that Drew hoped to play tonight, but alas he’s been ruled out. I know that the words ”Bynum” ”hurt” and “knee” often cause panic, but based off reports this isn’t serious. Hopefully he’ll be back by Thursday to face the Spurs. We’ll get you updates as we get them. 

The Rockets Coming in: Honestly, this team has been flying under the radar for me of late. When you look at their schedule, they’re 2-4 in their last 6, but in that stretch they faced Orlando, Dallas, and San Antonio. All of those teams are better than Houston so losses aren’t that big a concern. They’re currently 4 games out of the 8th spot in the playoffs and unless they make a big push after the all-star break, this team may find itself out of the post-season.

One difference of late, though, is that the Rockets have been starting Kyle Lowryat PG rather than Aaron Brooks. For a while that was injury related as Brooks missed many games with a badly sprained ankle. However, upon his return, he’s been relegated to reserve status as the team has preferred Kyle Lowry’s defense and ability to attack off the dribble to Brooks’ long range bombing and lack of D. With the Rocketson the bottom quarter of the league in defensive efficiency, I can understand why.

Rockets Blogs: A few quality spots to get Rockets news and analysis. Red94 is one such site. As is The Dream Shake.

Keys to game: With Bynum out, the Lakers are going back to their LO/Gasol frontline and that means a bit of a different approach on offense. We’re likely a shift from Kobe to Lamar as intitiator in the Lakers’ two guard front of the Triangle. Kobe will probably play much more on the wing andat the weak side elbow with Lamar making the initial pass into the corner or the hub of the Triangle to get the Lakers’ actions going.

This means that the Lakers’ attack will change some as rather than Kobe doing a lot of his work off the dribble, he’ll be off the ball more. Hopefully this creates better ball and player movement for the team and allows others to “activate” themselves in the Lakers’ sets. This also means that Pau will move off the wing and elbow and more into the low post for longer stretches this game. Going up against Chuck Hayes is never a picnic for Pau as Hayes’ low center of gravity and quick feet allows him to push Gasol out further than he’d like on his catches and makes backing down to earn position harder. However, if the Lakers can get Pau to make his catch on the move and coming to the ball, I think tonight can be a night where Pau gets good shots inside using his jump hook (a shot that has been too absent from his arsenal in the past several weeks).

Defensively, the Lakers must be disciplined and understand that they’re in store for a lot of cuts, screens, and misdirection tonight. Rick Adelman’s preference for the Princeton offense means a lot of high post entries to big men with wings like Martin, Battier, and Budinger screening and cutting off those picks to either fade to the corner for open shots or cut hard back door for layups. Every Laker must be aware of what’s going on and communication on D will be crucial to the team’s success in defending these actions.

From an individual standpoint, the Rockets O tries to feature the efficient Kevin Martin on the wing and the crafty Luis Scola on the block. Controlling Martin is always tricky because he moves well off the ball to free himself up for his jumper but also uses the threat of that J to drive the ball hard into contact andearn trips to the foul line. As evidence of this he’s on track to becoming a player that can lead the league in both 3′s and FT’s made which is quite the feat.  So the Lakers must effectively trail him off screens to deny his jumper (you know, the opposite of how they treated Ray Allen) and with the big man supporting that action by stepping up early to deny penetration while giving the wing defender a chance to recover. As for Scola, he’s a very good post scorer but please don’t let him go to his right hand. Every fake, pivot, spin, and step through is designed for him to get back to his right hand for a jump hook or scoop shot. Force him to turn over his right shoulder, sit on his right hand, and you’ve completed 75% of the job.

This isn’t panic time but tonight is a game the Lakers need to win. Even though Phil was in a joking mood after yesterday’s practice, he mentioned that the Lakersneed to do a better job of protecting their home court while also beating the teams that aren’t currently in the playoff mix. Tonight’s opponent fits the bill on both counts. The Lakers surely don’t want to go into Thursday’s game vs. the Spurs on a 3 game skid. Let’s get this win.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start on Fox Sports West. Also listen live on ESPN Radio 710am.

Talking Joe Smith

Phillip Barnett —  December 16, 2010
Getty Images

Getty Images

Because of the Lakers’ heavy schedule early in the week, we haven’t had the opportunity to discuss the Sasha-for-Joe Smith trade. The three-team deal happened on Tuesday which essentially boiled down to a Sasha Vujacic for Joe Smith trade with New Jersey, but the Lakers also acquire: a 2011 2nd round draft pick from Golden State, a 2012 2nd round draft pick from Chicago, draft rights to Sergei Lishouk from Houston and a trade exception worth approximately $5.5 million (according to Larry Coon). With the trade, the Lakers should shed off about $8.687 million off of their payroll. Saving money is always great considering the Lakers huge payroll; however, this trade can have some on court implications as well.

Joe Smith is in his 16th NBA season and the Lakers will be the 12th team the journeyman has played for. The signing came on the heels of Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum announcing his return to the team, adding the much needed depth up front that has been one of the main sources of the Lakers struggles. Smith, a 6’10’’ power forward himself, will, along with Bynum add another big to the currently thin Lakers frontcourt.

So far this season, Joe Smith had seen the floor only four times for the New Jersey Nets, with only just over six minutes per game in those contests, but his lack of playing time is no testament to his ability to fit into the Lakers system. Smith played with Atlanta last season, only averaging eight minutes per game, but while on the floor he showed flashes of his younger years. Atlanta runs variations of the Princeton offense, with bigs catching the ball at the pinch post, so throwing Smith into the offense and putting him in similar situations should be a smooth transition for such an intelligent player. Going back and looking at some of the things he was able to do last season through Synergy, I noticed a few things that would suggest that he can find some minutes with the Lakers:

-While he was on the floor, he had great chemistry with both Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia. Because of his limited minutes, he didn’t record many assists, but a good percentage of his assists in the half court was a direct result of him passing to another big or receiving the ball from one of them and swinging the ball to an open shooter. Considering how well we’ve seen Gasol-Odom-Bynum pass, the offense shouldn’t slow down having Smith on the floor with any of those guys.

-Joe Smith is a great outlet passer. It’s clear that he isn’t going to spend much time with the starting unit, so his ability to grab defensive rebounds and immediately get the ball out to Blake-Barnes-Brown on the break can be an extremely useful asset. In the past two games, we’ve seen Odom get more run with the second unit with Bynum back, if Phil is able to throw out a line up of Blaker-Barnes-Brown-Odom-Smith, he’ll have five guys on the floor who can grab a defensive rebound and get the break going.

-Lastly, Smith is a great help defender. Like Theo Ratliff, he’s been a very alert defender his whole career who takes pride and sliding over to help side when a perimeter defender gets beat off the dribble to throw a shot into the stands. One thing that has been missing from the Lakers for most of the season is using their defense to create offense. Things have been picking up a bit lately, and if Joe Smith can find his way onto the court, he can help add on to this element of the game.

With all of the things he can do, it’s hard to imagine Smith contributing a lot of minutes — especially as the season progresses and Andrew Bynum’s health improves. Phil Jackson was largely three deep up front last season with DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell getting the scraps of minutes that Gasol-Odom-Bynum left behind. I imagine the same thing happening for the remainder of this season with the scraps being shared between Smith-Ratliff (when healthy)-Caracter. The best part of this trade is knowing that there will be two capable veteran big men at Jackson’s disposal as we approach the All-Star break and the latter half of the season.

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Records: Lakers 18-7 (3rd in West), Pacers 11-12 (7th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.3 (1st in NBA), Pacers 104.0 (21st in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.7 (11th in NBA), Pacers 102.6 (9th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Pacers: Darren Collison, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts, Roy Hibbert
Injuries: Lakers: Theo Ratliff (out); Pacers: none

The Lakers Coming in: Apparently, yesterday was a bad day for me to get sick since there was a lot of news with the Lakers.  So while I sip on another Thera-flu, let’s get right to it in discussing all the ins and outs of a busy Tuesday for the Lakers.

First, Andrew Bynum returned last night and I thought he looked as good as could be expected considering his long lay off.  There were a couple of plays where his footwork was awkward and he was unable to convert the two lobs that were tossed his way, but those were the only down moments on a pretty successful evening.  In his 17 minutes of game action, ‘Drew did a good job of changing ends and he used his (massive) size effectively to create post up chances on offense and block/alter shots on defense.  In the end though, his biggest impact came in how he provided rest and an interior alternative for Pau and Odom.  Throughout the game Gasol especially looked fresher and more comfortable on the floor as he no longer had to preserve energy while also taking all the banging down low – two things that don’t really go well together.

The other big news was obviously the trade of Sasha and LA’s 2011 first round pick as part of a three team deal that netted them Joe Smith, two second round picks, and Ukrainian big mag Sergei Lishouk.  This trade has a lot of positives and I’m quite pleased with the haul the Lakers received and the financial benefits that result from the deal.  Looking at the money first, the Lakers save nearly $9 million this year in salary and luxury tax payments in the swap of The Machine for Smith.  They also gain a trade exception of almost $5.5 million according to cap guru and CBA expert Larry Coon.  All of this money will bolster the Lakers chances of being able to spend more next off-season or use the trade exception to take on salary without giving up any players should a player come available that the Lakers really want to bring on board.

As for the haul of Smith, picks, and Lishouk are concerned, I’m very happy that the Lakers have been able to supplement their big man depth (a real need), grab additional second round picks that can be added to the roster or stashed in Europe with little financial commitment, while also grabbing the rights to a seasoned European big man that currently plays in one of the most competitive leagues in the world.  Obviously the picks and Loushik are potential pieces for future seasons and can’t be looked at as anything more than assets, but Smith is a guy that can help this year as another serviceable big that can hit the top of the key and baseline jumpshot while also providing decent low post defense.  Plus with Ratliff still out of commission from his knee surgery, Smith provides a contingency plan in case Theo’s recovery takes longer than expected.  Overall, this is a win for the Lakers as they’ve accomplished what many would have thought impossible: they’ve traded Sasha, saved money in the process, and picked up assets that can help down the line without taking on any additional salary.  Really, Mitch Kupchak has done it again.

One last note on Sasha, I’m happy that he’s going to get a fresh start and wish him nothing but the best in New Jersey.  While his tenure with this team had its severe ups and downs and could mostly be characterized by frenetic play that upset Lakers fans as much as the opposition, Sasha provided some good moments that I’ll remember for a long time.  His two FT’s to clinch last year’s title are the obvious, but his inspired play in 2008 also helped the Lakers reach the Finals and really contributed to the turnaround of this organization from first round fodder to contender.  His role in all of that was indeed limited and behind the bigger roles of Kobe/Pau/Bynum/etc, but he’s a guy that always worked hard and gave it his all on the court.  And for that, at least, I’ll remember him fondly.  Plus I’ll miss his videos.

The Pacers Coming in: Since the 5 game stretch at the end of November when the Pacers took down both the Heat and the Lakers, the team from the Hoosier state hasn’t been able to find a real rhythm.  They’ve lost 5 of their 7 games this month and haven’t beaten a quality team since they visited Staples Center and took out the Lakers (their two wins this month have come against the Bobcats and the Raptors).  So right at the time that many thought the Pacers were breaking through and starting to show that they can be a pretty good team in the East, they’ve stagnated.  It’s like they’ve come back to earth before ever really taking off.

Plus, their coach seems to be making some strange decisions and showing tougher love than what may really be needed with his up and coming team.  Recently, Jim O’Brien sat Darren Collison down the stretch of a close game in favor of AJ Price.  When Collison was asked about being parked on the pine, he offered that he “didn’t know why (he) didn’t play”.  Then you have the comments he made about Roy Hibbert to the media where he basically said that his much improved Center “isn’t really having a good season”.  I’ve always liked O’Brien as a coach as he typically gets the most out of his players.  He runs creative schemes on both sides of the ball and his results are usually better than expected considering the talent on his roster.  But, in this case, I’m really not sure what he’s up to or what he hopes to accomplish by taking the stance that he has with two of his best young players.  We’ll have to see if this leads to better play, because even though they currently sit in 7th in the East this group does need to turn it back around.

Pacers Blogs: Jared Wade continues to do a bang up job covering the Pacers over at 8 Points, 9 Seconds.

Keys to game: When these two teams met last month, the Pacers controlled the paint on both sides of the ball and pulled out the win mostly with their ability to defend well and control the tempo of the game.  Tonight, if the Lakers are to get the season split, they’ll need to turn the tables on the Pacers by taking that same formula and making it their own.

Offensively this means attacking the interior through quick post ups and by utilizing the actions of the Triangle to get good shots going towards the hoop.  Last night against Washington, the Lakers did a very good job of being patient on offense and waiting for cutters to break open and then delivering the ball on time to get shots at the rim.  Those same techniques can be utilized tonight against the Pacers if the Lakers commit to running their sets and executing them cleanly.  That means setting good screens off the ball and cutting hard when Kobe, Pau, and Bynum are in the post.

The other key on offense will be to make the extra pass against a good defensive team.  The Pacers do a great job of playing a disciplined defense where they rarely gamble and funnel players to the paint so that their bigs can contest shots.  To beat this type of defense, the Lakers will need to penetrate the gaps but then look to make the pass to the open man when the help comes.  In the last game the Lakers got too caught up playing in isolation and it led to bad shot attempts and a lot of Kobe ball.  Kobe did his best to keep the Lakers in it by having a 41 point outburst, but in order to get the win tonight, more balance will be needed and that means moving the ball on to the open man when possible.

Defensively, the Lakers need to defend the paint.  In the first match up, the Pacers made 22 of their 33 FG’s within 10 feet where Hibbert and the Pacers’ wings were way too comfortable posting up and attacking off the dribble.  The Lakers need to do a much better job of fighting Hibbert for position while simultaneously closing down driving lanes better.  Having Bynum back will aid in this, but I’m also looking for Artest and Kobe to do a better job on their men by not gambling as much for steals and by playing better position D when the Pacers run their myriad of screens and cuts to free up their perimeter scorers.

On the second night of a back to back, this will be a good test for the Lakers to see if Bynum can be productive and if the rest that the Lakers got last night will carry over into tonight.  Motivation should be easy to come by considering the results of their last meeting, but it will take more than just wanting it tonight.  The Lakers are going to have to exceed the execution of the Pacers and play hard throughout in order to get the separation that they’ll need to pull this game out down the stretch.  Hopefully, we’ll see that commitment to playing a full 48 that we saw last night against the Pacers this evening.

Where you can watch: 4pm start time out west on KCAL.  Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.