As we look at the calendar, the Lakers likely have six more days until their first playoff game. While the schedules have not been released and no one knows for sure when the Lakers will play, I would bet that a Sunday matinee – where the league gets its most exposure – ends up being when the NBA decides to have one of the league’s marquee franchises play its first game of the opening round. In terms of days off, that week could be useful to some of our aching players that need some time to rest up. However, in those six days the Lakers have two more regular season games – back to back contests against the Kings and Clippers on Tuesday and Wednesday. Many are arguing for Phil to sit key players so that they can be as fresh as possible going into the post season. As has been stated many times before, this Lakers team looks tired. They’ve played more games than any other team in the past two plus seasons (two trips to the Finals) and its key players (Kobe and Gasol) have also spent their summers playing for their respective country’s national teams. So after year round basketball for what is going on the third straight calendar year, some rest could come in handy. Right?
Well, it looks like that rest is not going to happen. When asked if his starters would get any run in the upcoming games, Phil Jackson confirmed that they would. From after the loss to Portland yesterday:
“They’ll play. They won’t play heavy minutes, but they’ll certainly play. We’ll play guys in the minutes they’re accustomed to, 30 minutes hopefully, at least. So that they get the work and we’ll try to keep guys out of 40 minute games.”
And, for what it’s worth, this is what the players want. When asked how his knee felt after not playing in a couple of games, Kobe said:
“It feels pretty good. It’s a little rusty, a little stiff from not playing, not being active. I’ll be fine. That’s why it’s important to get out there and play a little bit, loosen up the joints a little bit . . . It’s OK. It feels strong.”
And Gasol has also gone on the record stating that he’d prefer to get some more court time in over ther final week of the regular season. Rest be damned, these guys want to do what they do as proffesional players – lace up their sneakers and go compete. And while fans may think that this isn’t the best option for aging players that don’t look to be at their physical best, understand that this is nothing new. Below is something that I wrote almost a year ago today:
As the team prepares for another deep playoff run, there are two major issues that are on the minds of every fan. First, are the Lakers playing well enough right now for that deep run? In recent weeks the team has not played anywhere near it’s best basketball. The bench is a shadow of the group that many pundits and fans hailed as the league’s best second unit. Plus, the starters have looked disjointed – not running the offense with precision and not playing the level of defense you would expect from the NBA’s sixth ranked team in defensive efficiency. Overall, the team is playing uninspired for major stretches of every game. Which leads us to the second concern – are the Lakers going to rest it’s best players to gear up for the pursuit of that elusive championship? Every fan can tell that this team is not only a bit bored, but it’s tired. When Kobe, maybe the best conditioned athlete in the league, is shooting flat jumpers (even by his standards) and lacking explosion to finish around the basket you know that the entire team could use some time away from the game to rest weary legs.
Sounds familiar right? Now, I’m not trying to say that this season is exactly like last season. Last years team had a better record at this point in the season (even though they had, coincidentally, lost a game to Portland in game #80) and had some signature wins throughout the year that gave even the most pessimistic fans something to hang their hats on. There was also the hunger factor of coming off a Finals defeat the season before that loomed large in the memory of every player on the roster (save Shannon and Ammo). This current team has not had those same experiences and has none of those factors going for it.
All that said, I find solace that this team has been through this situation before. And while nothing is guaranteed – not a healthy return of Bynum, the bench playing better, or the outside shots starting to fall – I’m still content with where this team is. Yes, things are seemingly worse than ever. This team is wounded. But, as the old saying goes, a wounded animal is a dangerous one. In past years, regardless of the circumstances or the talent available, this team has responded when its back is against the wall. So even though things are seemingly at the lowest point imanginable, the playoffs are coming and the Lakers get to participate. They get the chance to play a single team multiple times and play the ultimate chess game. And with that being the case, I like this teams’ chances. Call me too optimistic, but I feel like I’ve seen this movie before. And rest or no rest, I think this team will be ready.
UPDATE: Well, so much for that. In an effort to ruin my ability to be timely with what I write, Kobe will sit out the last two regular season games against the Kings and Clippers. However, to not prove me completely wrong, the Lakers are claiming it’s his mangled finger that is causing him to sit out the games and not his knee. While I still believe what the core of this post was about, I do feel good that Kobe is going to get some time off. Not so much for the tired legs factor (I honestly don’t think any of this rest will be more beneficial than the time off between games that he’ll get during the playoffs), but because this will get our bench guards some extra playing time and hopefully create a comfort level for them in the post season. Last year (and in the year prior) the Lakers reserves were quite comfortable in their roles by the time the post season arrived. They may not have been playing any better than they are now, but they at least had a season’s worth of stable minutes in order to be ready for what awaited them in the playoffs. So with Kobe now sitting out, Sasha, Shannon, and Farmar should all get plenty of minutes to find a groove.
I’m a bit confused. I wonder whose decision it was for Kobe to sit? The article I read this morning on the evil 4-letter stated the following:
“Kobe Bryant won’t be missing any more games this season to rest his legs and swollen right knee. He plans on playing when the Lakers close the regular season with a back-to-back Tuesday against Sacramento and Wednesday against the Clippers to ’sharpen up’ and said ‘we want to win both of these games.’ ‘It feels pretty good,’ Bryant said. “It’s a little rusty, a little stiff from not playing, not being active. I’ll be fine. That’s why it’s important to get out there and play a little bit, loosen up the joints a little bit . . . It’s OK. It feels strong.’
j.d. Hastings says
I do worry about Kobe. Usually when he’s hurt, even if it lingers, he figures out how to deal with it. ever since he hurt his finger he has terrible shooting games every couple of nights. He’ll sprinkle in a few great nights just to throw off suspicion, but its been a long time since he’s looked like himself for any stretch of time, even after resting. And his passing is as erratic as his shot. 12 assists one game, 9 TOs the next. We need that guy healthy, and I’m just not sure its going to happen this year.
On a side note, Gary from over at Lakers Nation sent this little nugget to me. Go check out some comic book comparisons for Kobe/Lebron.
Darius, I didn’t mean to re-quote what you put in your post, I just wanted to clarify the contradiction & ask who made the call…
Cool link from Gary; all hail Batman (interesting point that Kobe represents the misunderstood hero and LBJ represents the worshipped hero)!
It looks like Kobe made the call about sitting out the remaining games. The link has been updated since I posted it earlier – the part about Kobe messaging Phil this morning was new.
I think after the game, Kobe was likely more than willing to play and wanted to continue to give it a go by getting some court time. But it seems he had a change of heart on that.
Also, Phil has said in the past that Kobe is one of the players that he inherently trusts to make the call on how he feels and whether or not he can play. Phil often states that “Kobe knows his body better than most” and that leads him to trust him in these cases. So, if Kobe told Phil that he’d like to sit, I think that’s all Phil needed to be on board with this. I hope this speaks to your question.
I was hoping Kobe would sit. I don’t think he needs to play two essentially meaningless games against bottom feeder teams to “sharpen up”. He just needs to rest a little and get ready for the Playoffs because this team needs him to be Jordan-Like more than ever.
Gr8 Scott says
I don’t care who we play, but I think a matchup with SA is just what the doctor ordered. What better way to get focused quickly than by playing our biggest WC nemesis over the last 10+ years? Also, if we’re going to beat other teams with speedy PGs, we might as well start with the recovering Parker. And if we want to see just where Drew stands (or falls), how about throwing him up against TD? I think we would take it in 6 games, but this could be a series that would galvanize our team for a run at another ring. Also, let’s not underestimate the fact that our team knows it will be measured on the second season and not the first 82. Go Lakers. Go Rest. Go Playoffs.
Kobe sitting is the right thing. He should have sat yesterday instead of playing because it was a nationaly televised game.
Craig W. says
It has been mentioned, but worth repeating that a broken finger on the shooting hand is almost impossible to play with.
It is not exactly surprising that Kobe has a hard time dribbling and passing the ball. It should have been expected that his turnovers would increase.
@5 – Thanks, Darius! Totally clear.
I knew about the broken finger on his shooting hand, like we all have, but the knee problem is new to me recently, wow, now he has no lift and movement to also ail him. I am very glad he text’d PJ about not wanting to play these meaningless games that are left in the season, to be ready for the Playoffs as best as he can be. We are heading on-ward with injuries to key players, this is unfortunate indeed.
Joel B. says
Kobe’s resting and Bynum will practice on Wednesday and he said there’s no pain in his achilles. That’s the best news we could’ve gotten today.
interesting tidbit from an oklahoma paper by way of true hoop: if san antonio and portland win tonight, they’ll both finish no worse than a 7th seed. So, wins tonight would mean a lakers vs. thunder 1st round matchup.
brandon roy will not be 100% for the playoffs. torn meniscus. wow.
That is to bad about Roy, nobody wants to see a player injured like that, tough break for the Blazers. Go Batman for sure… He is sneakier, wiser and has more tricks up his sleave than Superman, right?
Darius (and Zephid or Snoopy),
What do you think of the recent Kelly Dwyer post on the recent loss to Portland?
Hard to understand Portland beating OK without Roy. OK missed last 7 shots.
How does Westbrook play so good aganist us. 11 points 7 to’s and 3 for 11.
Guess he likes playing aganist Fisher.
OKC VS LA FIRST ROUND!!!!!!!!!!!
lil' pau says
so, is it official? we get OKC?
Unless Portland loses to Golden State it appears that way. Spurs have tie-breaker with OK. I guess it could be worse. I didn;t want Spurs so now Dallas gets them.
Gr8 Scott says
We will face OKC regardless. With the loss OKC is now our 1st round matchup. Just what we needed, a young team playing good ball and all we can handle. My early call is LA in 7. We will be pushed early, but prevail… I hope.
LA in 3 games. I’m the only one going to make that prediction!
Well the good new is their are not as many hot girls and hot clubs in OK so maybe Ron and LO will stay in at night. Can’t see either in cowboy hats.
I know a good AA meeting you can attend Ray. A former Bull who used to live next to me here in Newport used to attend.
OKC lost tie breakers to both SAS n POR.
Damn I was hoping for POR now BRoy is out.. injuries on both sides seem fair right?
Anyone think that might affect the race for second?
2nd: get SAS
3rd: POR sans BRoy..
With loyal fans like you cheering him on at home, I’m sure that Derek will angle Westbrook into all sorts of scoring difficulties against Pau and Andrew–and make the Thunder pay at the other end.
16, I kinda agree with Dwyer, just not to the extent he takes it. I’ve always felt that Kobe has done everything in his power to win, but only if he wins in his way. Which is why we see him continually jack up 25 shot nights where he makes 30% of them; sure, he wants the Lakers to win, but he wants the Lakers to win because of him. It’s this sort of transcendent selfishness that causes all great competitors to be great. And of course, we all know that Kobe’s singular drive has been one of the primary reasons that we’ve won 4 championships this decade.
As for Phil, this is one of his mind games. He wants to send the message to Bryant that Kobe needs to improve his play when he is off the ball, on offense and on defense. And while Kobe may be laughing off Phil at this point, it will be in his head and we can only hope that he’ll subconsciously improve. We’ve always hoped that Kobe would reach the mythical status of “trusting his teammates,” and we thought we’d gotten there last season. But, at this point, I’m not sure that Kobe wouldn’t rather lose playing his way than win playing Phil’s way. If anything, his reluctance to run the triangle and maximize the offense have shown this.
However, there is still a lot of time left, and the playoffs are like a second season. I wouldn’t be surprised if everything changes once we start the playoffs. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if Phil didn’t bust out the SSZ and blitz the shit out of OKC in the first round. There is no proverbial “switch” to flip, but there is an increase in focus once one gets to the playoffs, and focus is probably this team’s biggest problem (complacency, Crazy Pills, Odom, etc). If this team plays focused basketball, their defense is the best in the league, and if you can play great defense, you have a chance against any team. Sure, we’ll still have major issues (three point shooting, depth), but uncertainty pretty much comes with the territory of competitive sports.
If anything, this year’s playoffs will be anything but boring for the Lakers.
Doubt if there are many fans as loyal as me. 40-years of being a fan. I hope Fish has a great playoff. Just question how you turn the switch from 36% shooter and being beat on defense to nails.
Not that it will matter because Lakers will beat OK in 6 with or without a decent game from Fisher.
OKC will be a tough matchup for the Lakers, but playoff is about experience. The intensity in playoff is so much higher than that of regular season, I think the OKC will lose first two games. If they man up and win the third game, this series could go 6 or 7 games. I highly doubt that. I think this series will be over in 5 at most 6.
I know that their athleticism and youth will bother the Lakers a bit, but they simply don’t have answer for Pau and Drew. Kristic and Green cannot guard either, and PJ will make sure our bigs get plenty of touches.
Still, if we lose to OKC, it would be the biggest upset in NBA playoff history. I just might not recover for 3 years if that happens.
Joel B. says
The lakers possibly got the best playoff matchup with Okc and the reasons are:
1. OKC’s inexperience
2. Kobe won’t have to dominate because of the huge advatange inside with pau and bynum. This will give Kobe a little breathing room to re establish his rhythm.
3. our bench gets to face a bench just as bad. Hopefully they, like Kobe, can find their rhythm.
4. It’ll be great pratice for Ron Ron in preparation for Melo and/or Lebron and we get to see why the lakers are paying him
lil' pau says
i love this matchup. other than roy’s injury – and hes saying he may try to play through it as surgery would knock him out 6 weeks – OKC seems to me to be clearly the most vulnerable of the 3 teams. I’d be stunned if we lose, and I wouldn’t have said that against the spurs. give me a team that’s never made the playoffs with a neophyte coach, anyday…
breathing a serious sigh of relief. know others see it differently.
(also, I think this will be the most entertaining matchup as well…)
Man, i’m excited for this playoff matchup. Joel B hit it on the head for me, I can’t wait to see Ron’s defense on Durant for at least 4 games.
Though I think Portland would have been the easiest matchup in the first round if Roy is hurt, I think this will be fun basketball.
Unfortuneately Fisher is not our main issue with this Lakers team at the current time. I agree with Zephid wholeheartily about our main guy, Kobe, he would rather lose his way than win Phil’s way. I am more worried about him messing up the Triangle than Fisher, and at least Fisher will not take 25 shots making around 30% of them night after night like we are probably going to see in the Playoffs from Kobe. I hope he becomes facilitator Kobe and ends each game with like 15 dimes, that is the only way we are going anywhere further this season, we will see I guess. I am happy we will be playing OKC, bye the way…
I was hoping for the Thunder because my gut tells me we are going to put this “new kids on the block” team in their place. We may give up a game in OKC but I still feel deep down that this team can turn things around in the post season. I hope we do them like we did the Nuggets two years ago and just dominate. A lot of people were saying the Nuggets that year were a tough first round team but we made easy work of them. We’ll have to see how it plays out I guess but my thoughts and hopes are leaning towards an infuriated Kevin Durant marching off his homecourt in game 5. Lastly, I’d love to see Artest force a bad volume shooting night for KD or a low scoring night where he is just denied good looks. That would make the series.
Now, of course, this sets us up for the most unlikely 1-8 seed upset since Dallas and Golden State as well.
As much as the league wants Kobe vs. LeBron, I don’t think they’d mind seeing Durant vs. LeBron…
I hope Bryan doesn’t feel like he has to be Jordan cos that would probably mean 25 shoots 30% FG again.
I’d prefer if he thought that he has to do his best to help the whole team win it, more Duncanish.
Testing with the recently approved Opera Mini on the iPhone. Woo-hoo!
I agree with ST, Kobe does seem intent on having it his way, if he were to just stop iso’ing and forcing the team to throw it into Gasol, the teams offensive efficiency would have to jump up atleast a few points.
OKC will be a fun series…Kevin Durant is my favorite non-Laker player. This OKC team will be SCARY for the next 4-6 years, especially if they can add a quality big man.
I’m just so glad that Portland didn’t take Durant in the draft…can you imagine Roy and Durant together, that would be crazy.
But we are in the here and now, and now, OKC does not have the inside game to compete with us. I am so gearing up to see what Artest can do on defense against Durant. However, on the flipside, OKC has Thabo S. who tends to play good defense against Kobe. I hope Kobe doesn’t get into the whole tunnel-vision thing with trying to dominate Thabo, but will let the big boys do work inside. Westbrook worries me big time, but I suppose it’s almost a given that Durant and Westbrook will get their points. Should be a thrilling first round.
I’m late to this, but I think KD’s piece on the Lakers/Kobe is rooted in his frustration with this team’s performance over the course of the season. Dwyer is not a Lakers fan – he is someone that loves this game and whose rooting interests lie in seeing the game played well. He’s an old Chicago Bulls fan and has seen Phil Jackson teams and the Triangle offense run at it’s highest level of execution. So, I think watching Kobe play this season (especially after Pau returned from his first hammy injury and then through the subsequent finger injury) and seeing how he’s not played within the offense as well as many would like him to (or to the level that’s expected of him) is something that KD doesn’t like to see. You add that to Kobe’s perceived indifference on the last play of the Blazer’s game and you’ve got the column that was written.
I don’t think KD’s wrong, per se, but I do think that – after watching close to every minute of the Lakers this season (either live or on replay) – that there are so many other factors that go into what we’re seeing right now that laying it all at Kobe and Fisher’s feet isn’t entirely fair (though some of that is warranted). I could probably write 2,000 words on this one day, but it won’t be today.
As for Kobe wanting to win “his way” I agree with that, but I don’t think he’d rather lose if it’s not accomplished in that manner. All great players want to win their way. They want to put their stamp on the game. You don’t think Lebron wants to isolate at the top of the key with the ball in his hands? The only difference is that we see Lebron pass and rack up assists and equate that with a style that is more pleasing to our fandom (not everyone – but you catch my drift). Jordan, Bird, Magic – they were all the same way. Kobe is built in the same mold as the rest of these players – but our guy, moreso than any of those others, makes choices with the ball that many don’t always agree with. That frustrates many. The player that played closest to this “style” was probably Jordan and if you read Dwyer’s piece on Karl Malone and Pippen going into the hall of fame you’ll see that even KD said that he never yelled at Pippen through the TV screen, but was yelling at MJ all of the time.
I’m not trying to make excuses for Kobe, but this is the guy that we have. Six finals appearances and four titles later, I’m fine with who he is as a player – as frustrating as it may be sometimes. Right now, I think Kobe’s game is slightly out of balance. Do I want the ball to go into the post more? Yes. Do I want to Kobe to shoot *less*? Not necessarily – I want him to shoot better shots. The same as Phil does. We’ll see if Kobe can find the middle ground that he’s found countless other times throughout his career (though he doesn’t get the credit for it as often as he should) when the playoffs begin. I’m confident that he will play better and that as KD said in his piece “Every part of me, knowing this game’s history, tells me I’m going to be laughing at a column like this in a month or two.”
Morning links are up.
Had this done a while ago but the site wasn’t working for me:
weaksauce – I have to admit, I’m in two minds myself. I can see this from two angles.
The first – I think Dwyer is a great writer, but sometimes I think he reads too much into things. For example, how exactly does he know Kobe set that half-assed screen because he was angry and wanted Pau to fail? Is it possible? Sure, maybe even probable. But to state it as fact is teetering dangerously close to Bill Simmons territory. Bottom line is, we’ll never know exactly what went down in that huddle, exactly what was running through these people’s minds. And I don’t like extrapolating from video and trying to read emotions.
Does Kobe always want the game-winning shot? I don’t think so. Not to the detriment of his team. Kobe always wants to win, by whatever means necessary. I think Kobe’s perfectly fine with Phil drawing up a last play for Derek Fisher. Kobe’s seen Fish hit those shots, and knows he has that ability to win games. I think the reason Kobe didn’t like this last play was mostly because of Pau’s history at hitting game-winning threes, and less because he didn’t get the last shot himself.
On the other hand – for the sake of argument – we could at least agree Kobe’s body language was awful, and his postgame comments were unnecessary. And I do agree with a lot of what Dwyer says, even if I don’t like playing mind-reader.
For a player with high bball IQ, Kobe also has some glaring blind spots. We found out years ago that he’d be an awful GM. And when it comes to coaching, Phil still knows things Kobe doesn’t. I don’t like extrapolating from video, but if Kobe was in fact laughing openly at Phil, then his grasp of leadership might be incomplete.
We’ll be just fine. Sucks that Jordan Farmar got hurt tonight.
Check out this bizarre article about Phil, Kobe, The Lakers, and why they’ve had so much post-season success. Seriously. Weird information and a great read.