From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: All is well! Last week, Mitch Kupchak openly wondered how the Lakers would respond to their three-game skid heading into the break. He had plenty of company. Apparently, though, if there was a message to get, the Lakers absorbed it, running out to a 15-point lead in the first quarter, and more or less putting it away by halftime. For one night, at least, the Lakers looked a lot like the team they’re supposed to be, on both sides of the ball. To say they’ve cured what’s ailed them through the season would be a reach, but it’s hard to argue about how they kicked off the post- All-Star stretch run. Here’s how it broke down…
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Lost worlds of Orlando, Charlotte and Cleveland? An abyss of two-time defending-champion complacency? An All-Star break vacation with an invigorating pool of reflection? Wherever the Lakers were, they made their way back to their usual mountaintop Tuesday night with a 104-80 throttling of the Atlanta Hawks, at full strength and one of the NBA’s better teams at 34-21 coming in. The team defense that was stressed in an extended video session Monday was featured on the court, anchored by Andrew Bynum’s back line, and the Hawks shot 36.6 percent from the field. Pau Gasol (14 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) was an ever-present stabilizer for the Lakers through most of the first half, and Kobe Bryant (20 points, five assists) encouraged the whole group to ride this train by taking 11 field-goal attempts, still the team’s high.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: With so much surrounding the Lakers’ three-game losing streak, the NBA All-Star break and a trade deadline that could spur different emotions and reactions, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant gathered the team together. He then summed up the first game following the break in as succinct terms as possible. “It’s a roll-call game,” Bryant and other teammates said he described the Lakers’ first contest following the All-Star game Tuesday against the Atlanta Hawks. It’s a matchup that usually leaves Coach Phil Jackson uncertain on how each team would handle the extended weekend of rest, parties and overall separation from basketball. Since the Lakers underwent such scrutiny among fans, media and most importantly themselves regarding their nagging inconsistencies, a three-game losing streak, sixth place overall standing in the Western Conference and the upcoming trade deadline, Bryant emphasized that the Lakers solely worrying about perfecting their role will help alleviate all the problems.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: You can’t really say this was a must-win for the Lakers. Such a thing doesn’t exist in late February. But had they pulled the same crap-in-a-bag act we saw at the end of their Grammy trip, the stink around this team would’ve got extraordinarily pungent. Graciously enough, they spared us the stench and instead began the regular-season homestretch with in first-rate form, pile-driving the Atlanta Hawks, 104 to 80. The blowout took shape in the first quarter, as the champs built an early 15-point lead, which then reached 21 at halftime and 26 in the third. With the outcome never in doubt, Phil Jackson was able to give light minutes to all of his starters in hopes of keeping some gas in their tanks for tomorrow night’s visit to Portland.
From Bret Lagree, HoopOnion: Yes, the Hawks missed several open shots in the fateful first half but they also made themselves easy to guard. Whatever defensive value starting Jason Collins against Andrew Bynum had was overwhelmed by the value the Lakers gained by being able to defend five-on-four in the half-court. Atlanta’s primary ball-handlers, Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, approached a defense overloaded to the strong side with lots of dribbling. The resultant offensive stagnation further encouraged Josh Smith to continue his evolution into a spot-up shooter which in turn magnified (possibly exaggerated) the damage of the turnovers he committed when attempting to make an aggressive play.
UM WTF, The Jazz traded Deron Williams. I. Am. Stunned.
The Nets…wow! Don’t know what it means for the 2012 free agency market (will DWill look longingly across the Hudson?), but what a stunner! The exodus of talent from the Western Conference continues, not that the Jazz were ever a threat. Brilliant move by the true Master P (Prokhorov). Dwill, IMO, is way more valuable than Melo because he’s a legit 2 way player.
Wonder if DWill makes noise about being traded next year, because if the Nets emptied their cupboard for a one year rental, that’s obviously foolish.
Wonder why AK47 didn’t go with DWill to NJ, since it looked like Prokhorov and AK47 were tight.
I’m in NJ, so maybe I’ll actually go and check out a game now. Ha.
Darius Soriano says
Wow. Deron Williams is in the swamp. This is a stunner. Not saying he instantly makes them a contender but he’s loads better than Harris and is the type of PG that can change a franchise. Kudos to the Nets for making a big splash when everyone counted them out after the Melo deal went against them. In the end, I like this deal better for them anyway.
Can someone explain to me why Pau keeps getting heavy minutes during blowouts? He played over 33 last night when none of the starters even came close to 30. Heck, Kobe was the only one to crack 25. What’s going on with Phil and Pau?
The 09 season, Phil’s reasoning was he wanted to toughen up Pau and have him fight through fatigue and maintain productivity. That he needed that experience since the 08 post season was a surprise. That paid off. But it’s two years now, I don’t understand what reasons Phil may have.
Matt R. says
“Harris is gone? The starting job is mine!”
“Jordan, meet your new teammate, Deron Williams.”
Matt R. says
That is a masterful stroke by the Nets. They hung in the Melo race, refused to give too much and walked away with a stud of a PG that can help lure other players to play in NJ/Brooklyn.
Just an amazing coup.
Not a bad haul for the Jazz either considering they were going to lose Williams anyway.
grat move by prokhorov especially if williams will sign an extension and they move to brooklyn. this deal is so much better then the knicks. dwill is also the better player so the nets really won in the end but i am still amazed at how quickly this happened kind of reminds me of the pau deal
Here’s my take – The way Sloan went out, Williams was not going to work out in Utah. Jazz had to make the move to get something in return.
However, what I don’t get is the Nets. What if Williams doesn’t sign an extension? What have they gained? It sounds like Williams wasn’t brought into the discussion, so it seems like a big gamble on the part of the Nets. Weird.
I personally think Kevin O’Connor made the deal because he was considering Deron Williams safety. If Williams went through the same debacle that Melo did in Denver, he wouldn’t have made it out of the state of Utah alive. No offense to Denver fans, but Utah fans are a whole different breed.
On a more serious note, massive win for the Nets. Going hard after Melo put everyone off Deron Williams’ scent, netting them (haha pun) a better player and a better fit.
Now if only Brook Lopez could rebound…
If I’m Kupchak, I’m pushing hard to try and land Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson. Captain Jack would make a great Triangle PG.
Not to go into too much trade speculation (though it is that time of the year), but who would you trade exactly to get GW or Stephen Jackson…. Luke (shouldn’t be in the league) Walton, Ron Artest (whose value is super low right now). Lakers dont exactly have the assets to get one of those guys without trading Odom, Bynum, Gasol, or Kobe. Not even first round picks or expiring contracts.
And hindsight is 20/20, but if Deron was on the Table, why didn’t the Lakers go after him for say, I dont know, the big injured center who is still feeling the effects of his knee surgery? You mean to tell me a PG who can spread the floor, play very good D, and take over the primary ball handling (since Kobe has 7 fingers now) is a bad idea?
Good for the Nets though. I really hope its not just a rental and DWill tries to stay and build something there, or DWill will end up with NYK, the Clippers (with Blake), or some other strong contender in 2012 – cough “Boston” cough.
While the memory’s still fresh: Those were three of the worst passes I have ever seen by Josh Smith last night.
T. Rogers says
The East is really stockpiling the young talent. Chicago, Miami, and New York are poised to be contenders over the next five years. And if Howard stays in Orlando they have be thrown in there as well. The balance of power is clearly moving back to the other side of the Mississippi river. Hopefully Blake stays in the West when he leaves the Clippers.
@11 Cdog, how do you know they didn’t go for him? Nets gave up a young former all star PG in Harris, Favors who has a ton of upside, 2 first round picks and cash. The same question you posed to Zephid applies here, Lakers didn’t have enough assets to come close in competing.
This is why most trade speculation is silly.
10, here’s my logic. The Bobcats, suck. Badly. And they’re not making any money. And they have a ton of bad, multi-year contracts. In addition to Wallace (2 yrs, $10M per) and Jackson (3 yrs, $8M per), they have guys like Tyrus Thomas (5 yrs, $6M per), Shaun Livingston (2yrs, $3M per), DeSagana Diop (3 yrs, $6M per), Matt Carroll (3 yrs, $4M per), and Eduardo Najera (2 yrs, $2.5M per).
My thinking is that if we offer to take some of their bad contracts (using the Sasha Vujacic TE), and they’re desperate enough to unload Wallace and/or Jackson, we’ll give them a player who can give 70% of their production, a young player (Ebanks or Caracter), a couple crappy draft picks, and that’ll be enough. The Bobcats are going nowhere fast, so the easiest way for them to rebuild is to play really shitty for a few seasons, get some good draft picks, clear cap space, and hope to land a star in the draft. It worked for San Antonio (Duncan), Orlando (Howard), and OKC (Durant), so I think that’s their only solution to get long-term success.
Chris D says
The Jazz (and Nets) obviously did this move in desperation, there’s no way Utah’s front office would allow a franchise player to walk away in 2012 after Lebron and Carmelo. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from GMs over the last 10 odd months, it’s that they believe ANY moves are better than letting your best player walk for nothing.
I have to wonder though, are the Nets in any better position than they were with ‘Melo? Clearly, Anthony refused to sign the 3 year, $65 million extension because he didn’t think they would be contenders anytime soon. Surely Deron Williams is aware of that too. Is he that desperate to leave Utah, or is he auditioning for a bigger gig (Knicks? Lakers?) with some superstar players?
Prokhorov must be quite the chess player. This was an incredible maneuver. All accounts were he didn’t put much effort into the meeting with Carmelo, and now we know why. Drove up the price for the Knicks (hinging on Dolan’s impatience overruling Walsch) and depleted their depth, and then snagged a player superior to Carmelo.
Does D-Will want to play in NJ? Of course not. But Prokhorov now has one of the league’s true elite, and a couple years to surround him with enough talent to convince him to stay.
It’s a gamble in that sense, sure. But I think the 2010 summer and then the Melo drama showed MP that no superstar was going to willingly sign with the Nets. He had to take one, and then play the Cleveland game and try to surround him with enough talent.
From the Utah side, I’m a bit confused. I can definitely understand their thinking – maybe they believed the Berger report, and they didn’t to see their franchise slog through another Melo-type drama. Maybe there were really enamored with Favors (which I don’t see, personally) and thought this was the best they were going to get.
What I don’t get – why pressure Sloan to bend to D-Will’s will, and then ship the PG out? Did they really decide to trade Williams that quickly, and pull the trigger with no hesitation?
The other question I have – why not wait and see what the new CBA is like? I really doubt we’ll see a franchise tag, but why didn’t Utah wait a few months and see? There could be new provisions to help them hold onto Williams.
Zephid – Something to think about…would Michael Jordan be so petty as to not want to send the Lakers a piece that could push them over the top, thus allowing Kobe to tie or surpass his rings? I don’t think it’s far-fetched at all, taking into account his competitiveness and his lack of skill as an executive.
Daniel Z. says
The perception here in Utah, right or wrong, was that Williams led to the ouster of Sloan and that he was too prone to pointing fingers at everyone else when they weren’t winning. He became unpopular, he was likely going to leave anyway, so rather than let the situation fester, they dealt him. No way of knowing if this was the best they could get for him, but Favors + couple of 1st round picks is pretty good. Depends on what those picks turn into.
Craig W. says
SLC was basically boxed into a corner. With Sloan gone they are going to have to change how the team operates. Not only was Williams unhappy with the way Sloan wanted to control the offense, but he was sick of SLC and near the end of his contract. This was absolutely a no-win situation for the Jazz.
Now they have a serviceable PG in Harris and a possible big man that could take over for Milsap. Of course, that is also their problem. However, they are poised to at least maintain their quality – something small market teams have to consider, whether or not we fans think that is wise.
The Nets had to do something to remain relevant over the next two years – going into their move to Brooklyn. They now have a good starting five and can look for bench players in the draft – they still have a number of draft choices over the next two years.
Plus, their selling point for Williams is that he is now in a star market and can easily claim the team for his own – something Dwyane Wade can still do in Miami, regardless what the talking heads may say. Now Williams can attract his own players to Brooklyn. Not a bad sell.
I think Sloan was on the way out anyway.
The Deron Williams comedy was perhaps just the last straw.
Re: Deron, what happens if God-forbid there is a lockout next year? Then he’d have wasted this year (NJ is not a playoff team), sat out next (2010-11), and then he’s a free agent? Would be tough to convince him of the team’s plans to build around him.
I’m really glad about the “exodus” of “stars” to the Eastern Conference. Let them duke it out every playoff. Everybody said once the Melo deal was out of the system, we’d see some crazy stuff happening. Also, I’d be interested to see how effective the Trade Exception would be this year. There are a bunch of non-playoff teams hovering in or around the luxury tax mark. Lakers are in luxury tax hell, but would be interesting to see if they use the TPE.
I am still shocked about the whole thing, I have to admit I have a mancrush on Williams’ game and I would have loved to see him in a Lakers uniform.
Zephid I also would love to see Gerald Wallace or Captain Jack as well, and if reports are accurate they are very aggressively shopping them to many teams out there and I think the Lakers could get one pretty cheap given the circumstances you discussed.
I also read today that the Rockets and Celtics are talking some type of Shane Battier deal. A trade like that could be very difficult for the Lakers. Last year they lacked a guy like James Posey who can defend Kobe as well as knock down outside shots, he would be a great player in that system.
As far as I’m aware the Rockets-Celtics talks were shot down, because the Rockets weren’t interested in anything the C’s were offering (unless something changed on that front in the last couple days).
Wallace or Jackson would be a huge coup, considering how scarce our trade assets are. Word on the street, though, is that Cleveland may be targeting Wallace with a bigger TE.
I rarely watch the Cats so I’m not entirely sure how much Wallace/Jackson have deteriorated. But with Wallace we’d have a legit defender at the 3 who (hopefully) is less of an offensive mess than Artest. I feel like Jackson might have a bit more trouble conforming to the offense.
Even as I type this, it looks like it’s gone. Wallace to the Blazers, damn it.
I heard about the C’s wanting Battier as well (who wouldn’t?).
What do the Celtics have to offer in return, I wonder?
R – Avery Bradley? That might be a possible name that could come up. Semih Erden might be talked about, although I don’t know if he’s got the same potential as Asik. Probably Glen Davis too. I can’t think of any other tradeable assets they have.
I know all this trade talk is against the principles on which FB&G was founded, but I always enjoy this time of year.
It appears that Wallace to Portland has happened. Portland gave up Pryzbilla’s contract and some picks. Wonder what Portland is trying to do with so many wings and so little PT (BRoy, Wes Matthews, Batum, and now Wallace).
Also, there are a few fire sales going on right now. Especially Utah (dangling everyone it appears) and of course Charlotte. Think MJ wants SJax on the team, now that Wallace is gone?
Rumor also has it that Troy Murphy will be bought out by the Warriors and that his preferred destinations are . . . The Celtics and Heat of course
I don’t mean to second guess Mitch and his decision but I wonder what we could have done with Sasha’s expiring contract if we had held onto it closer to the deadline. I like Joe Smith but it would have been nice to get a contributing player.
27, I agree. Sasha’s TPE is good and all, but we can’t combine the TPE with another player’s salary, so we pretty much can’t get anyone that’s making more than $6M, unless we want to trade one of our core 4 guys.