Can you believe that it was only 10 days ago that the Lakers got thrashed by the Thunder in game 4? While Lakers fans are used to going through some major ups and downs with this team, I think we could all admit that things were not looking good at that point. The Lakers looked old, they looked befuddled on offense, and they looked to be in a serious dog fight with an up and coming team that was one of the toughest first round opponents that I can remember. And while there were few analysts that questioned whether the Lakers would eventually win that series, you’d also be hard pressed to find many people that were really confident about them.
My, what a difference 10 days makes. Since that blowout loss to OKC, the Lakers have reeled off 4 straight wins and done them in rather convincing fashion. They’ve played elite level defense and their offense has started to come back around as well. So, with that turnaround I thought I’d issue my own little stock report on the players and this team.
*Kobe Bryant, Stock – Up: Uhh, decline? What decline? I can easily admit that I was concerned about Kobe coming down the stretch of the season and into the first round of the playoffs. Kobe’s various injuries were obviously hampering him as he displayed a lack of lift on his jumper and in his shots around the rim and looked a step slow in being able to beat his man off the dribble. Now? He seems to be nearly all the way back. He’s beating guys off the dribble, finishing in the lane, elevating well on his jumper, and has that bounce back in his step. Sure his finger is still giving him problems (evidenced by his sometimes shaky ball handling and subsequent turnovers), but his shot seems to be re-calibrated with the accuracy returning on his jumper. Kobe’s had three straight games of 30 or more points and has shot 34-66 (51.5%) over that time. And yes, that’s a small sample size. But right now he’s passing the eyeball test and that’s something that couldn’t be said a fortnight ago.
*Pau Gasol, Stock – Stable: I’d say that, like Kobe, Pau’s stock is up as well, but it’s pretty tough to improve on what Pau has been providing the Lakers for the last couple of months. In March, Pau averaged 18.5 points and 11.4 rebounds. In April (regular season only), those numbers jumped to 24.3 points and 12.6 rebounds. Against the Thunder, his points dipped to 18 per game and his rebounding fell slightly to 12.2 but against the Jazz his numbers have again jumped up to 23.5 points and 13.5 rebounds over the first two games. You add in his 3.5 blocks and 3 assists against Utah and you’ve got elite level production from your second banana. Plus, Pau just looks ready. Ready to compete each night, ready to defend the basket, ready to try and repeat as champion. Last night, Pau even got into a verbal spat with Boozer, got in his face, and didn’t back down (earning a technical foul in the process).
*Andrew Bynum, Stock – Up: ‘Drew’s not giving the Lakers fantastic numbers. Based off his stats in the playoffs, he wouldn’t be an all-star. But, what he is giving the Lakers is an impact. He’s using his size to contest shots and he’s rebounding as well as he has all season. You add to that the fact that he’s playing with a legitimately injured leg and I couldn’t ask for more from our young Center. I’ve mentioned this before, but there have been more than a few people that questioned Andrew’s love of the game, but I don’t see how that could really be the case. Listen to what he said about playing through his injury and tell me this guy doesn’t care (thanks to Land O Lakers for the footage).
*Ron Artest, Stock – Volatile: First things first, Ron has been tremendous on defense this entire season and superb so far in the playoffs. The job that he did on Kevin Durant should be put on tape and showed to kids on how to play a great scorer by using smarts and physicality. That said, his offense is inconsistent at best and bad at its worst. He’s just very up and down on the offensive side of the ball. His three point shooting accuracy remains in a free fall and his comfort level in the offense is still not quite there. That said, I’m seeing signs of improvement on offense and hopefully his niche is being found. In game 2 against the Jazz, Ron had 16 points and went 6-10 on shots inside the arc (though 1-7 on threes). And while he missed a couple of lay-ups, he was also aggressive with his cuts to the basket, carved out good position on the offensive glass, and ran the floor well. If I did this again in a couple of weeks, I’d bet he’d get a more favorable review.
*Derek Fisher, Stock – Through the roof: Look, I’ve been a defender of Fisher for a long time. I think his intangibles are meaningful to the success of this team and I’ve been in many a debate about Fish over the past 2 seasons. That said, you’d have to be a complete Fisher homer to think that his performance during this season has been up to par. His shooting had been below average and his decision making had come into legitimate question. However, in the playoffs it’s been a complete turnaround for Derek. In the playoffs he’s been shooting 44.8% from the field (26-58) and 45.2% from three (14-31). He’s making the open shots that are presented and he’s even been pretty effective going to the basket when forced to put the ball on the ground. And while he struggled defensively against OKC’s Russell Westbrook, he’s done well on Deron Williams in the first two games and was a big reason why Deron went 4-16 in game 2.
*Lamar Odom, Stock – Starting to rise: Odom is what he is at this point. You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger supporter of Odom than me, but I can tell you that trying to figure out when he’s going to play well is a fools errand. However, after a rough going against OKC (and Serge Ibaka), things are looking up for LO against the Jazz. He’s had double digit rebounds in both games and in game two scored 11 points on only 4 shots by aggressively going to the basket and collecting 4 offensive rebounds. Odom may not be the most consistent player in providing the team numbers, but he’s re-establishing his role as a leader for the bench and understanding where his impact can be made for this team.
*Shannon Brown, Stock – Stable: The man we call WOW is having an okay post season with some good performances mixed in with ones that don’t distinguish themselves from any other game. In a way, this is a good thing as all I’m looking for is a steady performance from the bench players that see time where either leads are not given away or deficits not increased. I know these aren’t the highest of standards, but that’s where I’m at when it comes to the Lakers substitutes. I just want solid basketball played with correct decisions made as often as possible. And for the most part, Shannon is doing that. On the positive side, his jumper is looking better since he scrapped the tape on his right thumb late in the OKC series. On the negative side, his work in transition continues to be an adventure (and not necessarily in a good way) with opportunities missed through either poor passing or questionable decision making scattered between the always fun dunking prowess.
Jordan Farmar, Stock – Down: Over the years, I must admit I’ve been hard on Farmar. I’ve seen him as a talented yet hard headed player that at times can be his own worst enemy on the court. And lately, things have seemingly gotten worse. Yes, he had a couple of good games in the OKC series. But overall, his play has been sporadic and unfocussed. Instead of being a leader of the second unit (along with Odom), he’s been someone that too often goes out on his own looking for the best way for him to be successful, rather than the team. In game 1 he was a major culprit in the Lakers lead turning into a deficit. In game 2, he was well on his way to a repeat effort in the 4th quarter before Phil pulled the plug and put Fisher back in. I want to root for Farmar; I want him to be successful. But right now, that’s a difficult proposition for me.
Luke Walton, Stock – inching upward: At this point, Luke is a niche player. There will be nights where he’s not in the rotation at all and other nights where he’s called on for double digit minutes. I think it’s a testament to him as a professional that he is ready when the coach calls his number and plays within himself when the does see the floor. After and injury plagued season, I’m just happy that he’s able to play at all and when he does, that he’s making the right reads with the ball and looking for his shot at the appropriate times.
The Rest, Stock – Stable: Sasha is hurt and will hopefully be back in a week to ten days. Mbenga has not seen any floor time since his eye injury. Powell is even more of a spot player than Walton at this point and will usually only see minutes when every other big is in foul trouble, winded, or both. And Ammo is…well…Ammo. If there’s one thing I can say about these guys it’s that they all come off as professionals that are ready to play when Phil calls on them. However, lately, those chances have been few and far between.
Anyways, that’s where I see these guys as of right now. At a point where the Lakers are up 2-0 over the Jazz and with game three coming up on Saturday. Am I off base? 100% correct? Let me know in the comments