Jun 29, 2009

An Aside

How about those NBA trades! I love it. I love it when teams try to be competitive. I love it when teams make moves to help them win, not save money while appeasing fans (*cough* Allen Iverson *cough*). I think the Vince Carter to Orlando trade is big. He's not just another big name moving to a new team. He actually has the skill set to thrive in their system. He can absolutely shoot the three. Not only that, he can make moves to the basket, something Rashard can't do.

The more intriguing trade is Shaq to the Cavs, joining LeBron. This isn't so interesting in how it'll help the Cavs, as I don't see them doing much. What this trade did was potentially give us a Shaq vs Kobe finals! Can you imagine the hype? The media frenzy? The epic storyline? Of the current era (after Michael Jordan til present), there is a short list of the best, defining winners. Besides Shaq and Kobe, the only other player on it is Duncan. These two titans going for their fifth rings, to trump the other, would be a battle for the ages. Of course, its no easy task getting to the finals. We can only pray to the gods for such amazing luck that the pathetic Cavaliers can make it. Prayer: where amazing might happen.

Free Agency

Over the weekend I was hanging out with my buddy Warren. We were flipping through channels, and we happened to catch some short interview clips of soon-to-be free agents Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, and Shannon Brown. Lamar and Shannon said all the right things, about wanting to come back, how the team was very good, competing to win another title, et cetera. On the other hand, Trevor said something interesting, which confused me momentarily. When we flipped to the channel, the Trevor clip was already playing. He said "...we have a great organization, they have a great organization." For a second I thought he was referring to another team, who had perhaps already expressed interest in him. Why did he feel the need to change his reference to the Lakers, from "we" to "they"?

I have an idea. There are people in Trevor's life, perhaps his agent, perhaps his friends and family, who are giving him advice. This advice figures to help him get him (and them of course) the best possible situation this off season. And what is that situation? It is Trevor staying with the Lakers, while making the most money possible - pretty logical. He's an LA boy, has friends and family here. There are lot of people who would benefit from Trevor getting the big payday from LA.

Due to this, someone slipped into Trevor's head that "Hey. You want the Lakers to want you. Don't do what Lamar did, saying you like beach cities only. Make the Lakers think you might leave, so they give you more money." So naturally, his reaction when referring to his current team was "we". But that previous piece of advice lit up in his brain, and he corrected his statement to "they".

Nice try Trevor. You thought that little slip would get past my eagle eyed analysis didn't you. I'm still of the opinion that resigning Lamar is more important, from a competitive standpoint. The only trumping argument in Ariza's favor is his age - only 23! But honestly, I think we have a much better chance of winning now, with Kobe, Pau and Lamar, than later on with Jordan, Trevor and Bynum. The over under on those latter three's combined all star appearances: 1.5? Hell, I might take the under on 0.5.

Jun 22, 2009

Post Post Season Thoughts

The season seems so long ago. Without constant NBA basketball material to stimulate my mind, I've resorted to occupying my time with things like Bomberman Ultra, Warcraft 3, Soju Town, actual basketball with friends, even some GRE vocab antonyms! Maybe I can finally move on with my life.

Obviously I'm being facetious. Move on from my NBA obsession? Let's get real. Here are the Laker exit interview post-interviews:

Phil - He will get some medical advice in the coming weeks. Based on these and his personal feelings, he'll decide if he will return for his optional second year to coach our team.

Obviously having the greatest coach of all time on our bench would dramatically improve our title defense chances. At the same time, I wouldn't want Phil to do anything that might harm himself. He's already done so much for this team; if he feels he needs to hang up the sneakers (is that a proper phrase?), he should.

Kobe - ESPN reported, with a tremendously sensational title, that "Kobe pledges future to NBA champion Lakers." I think he did a little less than "pledge" his future to this team. Obviously he wants to stay. Obviously being a champion on arguably the greatest NBA franchise is a fantastic situation to be in. Obviously he wants to make money. Are we together on that all of these facts are obvious?

Kobe has the option to play another year (or two?) with our team with his current contract. He can also opt out, either signing a new contract with LAL or some other team. It seems, with our recent history, that the team likes to retain players that they like (see: Luke Walton, Andrew Bynum). I'm guessing that whether Kobe opts out (he probably won't) or gets to free agency next year, the Lakers will have a fantastic contract waiting for him. He's right. He's "not going anywhere."

Unrestricted free agents - Odom, Ariza, Brown

Lamar and Trevor - It would be great to keep our core together. Odom didn't start the majority of games, but he ended all of them. Ariza grew into the starting role with improved jumper and continued defensive effort. Both players have shockingly indicated their desire to remain on the team, with Lamar notoriously known to hate warm weathered cities and Trevor's distaste for all things Los Angeles.

If we can't bring both back, there are numerous arguments on whether Lamar or Trevor make the most sense for the team. Ariza starts, Odom comes off the bench. But both play at the end of games, with Bynum sitting. The starter-bench issue is really no issue at all.

What concerns me are Bynum and Luke's contracts. Both players have guaranteed contracts til the 2011-2012 season, with Luke guaranteed til 2013 and the team having an option on Bynum for another year. Pau is locked in til 2010-11. That translates to our starting center and power forward being set for at least two more years. Bynum is 21. The Lakers have plans for him to be our center for a while. He isn't going to 12, 13, 15, and 16 million to play 10 minutes a game and sit in crunch time. And last I checked, Pau starts at PF and plays more than anyone on our team. What does this all mean? Lamar is more expendable. It hurts to say it, because it isn't true from a basketball standpoint. He can stretch the floor with his jumpshot, rebound like a monster, and run point. Lamar is expendable in terms of team make up. We have Josh Powell and Mbenga able to knock down some shots as bench big men.

Now take a step back. Why did I mention Luke's contract? Because Luke and Trevor share a position. Both players act like glue when on the floor, plugging up holes and facilitating our offense with passing or shooting. Since Luke stands to be around for a while, and has started for us many times, it would stand to reason that Trevor is also expendable.

Shannon Brown? An afterthought. We'll sign him if we have some pennies left over.

If the Lakers don't resign both Lamar and Trevor, is there one of them we should go after specifically? Definitely a tough call. Can we bring Morrison and Sun Yue into legitimate players? Morrison's known to be able to knock down his share of outside shots, which may give him a bench SF spot, with Luke as starter. As Phil liked to do, if Pau plays center with Bynum on the bench, who can slide into the PF spot? As much as I like DJ and JP, they don't give me what Lamar gives. To that end, I think it is much more important to resign LAMAR ODOM than Trevor. I'd like to see some progress from Drew, playing more minutes and staying out of foul trouble. Then maybe can actually see some Drew-Lamar out on the floor, instead of the Pau-to-center switch that gave Pau too many minutes.

To summarize, let me restate my point. OUR NUMBER 1 RE-SIGN PRIORITY IS LAMAR ODOM.

Jun 15, 2009

2009 NBA Champions!

We did it! It took a while, and the journey was tough, but victory is sweeter as a result.

Kobe - He's always been considered one of the greatest players, but there were always detractors with excuses. With this win, he's eliminated the biggest one, being robin to Shaq's batman. Not that the argument ever had any validity in determining a player's greatness, but it was still on everyone's mind.

Fisher - Great player, great person, great story. His bulldog-like demeanor defined his gritty play. Never being the biggest or fastest, he knew what he could do and did it well. He is third in the all time list of 3 pointers made in the finals, behind Robert Horry and Michael Jordan.

Odom - Without any slight to Kobe, Odom is my favorite Laker. I've always loved his talent, his unique blend of size, speed and skill. Always great to listen to in interviews. There was a game this season when he walked to the Staples Center for a few blocks, becoming closer to his fans and his city. You know when Odom's in the game; his yell is unmistakable. The candy story was hilarious; I've been searching for watermelon Now N Laters ever since.

Can we re-sign this man? With Ariza also a free agent? I'm not an expert on NBA salaries, but I do know there is no way we can match the offers both players will get from other teams, considering our salary cap situation. I thought of an interesting scenario today. Kobe could opt out and sign a long, backloaded extension. He'll have to make less money up front, but his contract will be absurdly long to make up for it. That way, we'll have some cap relief and be able to offer Odom and Ariza more money. Of course, this scenario will never happen.

Phil - I've criticized Phil a lot during the season. He seemed to never call time outs when he needed to. Then something weird happened. As the playoffs progressed, he called important time outs with more regularity. Of course! He lets his players learn during the season. Come playoff time, they're better equipped at handling adverse situations. Zen.

I wonder when the organization gets back to business. I personally tend to focus on the result, not the journey. Let's enjoy this victory now. Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2009 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers!

Jun 12, 2009

Game 4

Another great game. The first time since 1984 that a Finals series has had two overtimes. We didn't play particularly well, but hit the shots when we needed to.

Fisher's great shots are obviously the highlight, but there is another element of the game that deserves some scrutiny. With around 10 seconds left in the 4th quarter, Orlando had the ball and a 3 point lead. An entry pass to Dwight is made under the basket and he is immediately fouled. With two free throws coming up, Dwight can effectively ice it by turning it into a two possession game. All he needed was one free throw. He calmly bricks both free throws, leaving the door open for Fisher to hit the tying 3 pointer.

Forget the Courtney Lee miss at the end of game 2, sending the game to overtime and eventually a Lakers win. He had a tough shot, tough angle, no time on the clock. Dwight, on the other hand, was shooting FREE THROWS to effectively win the game. I know he's only a 60%er, but come on. Shouldn't you be able to hit your percentage, at least hit one of two? What was the point of Patrick Ewing watching him practice free throws if he was going to miss the two biggest of his life? They're called "free" for a reason. Lebron is notorious for being a poor free throw shooter, but he hit some big ones in these playoffs. Dwight needs to step up to the plate if he ever wants to be a great player. I'm pretty sure Shaq's free throw percentage in crunch time hovered around 97%.

Jun 10, 2009

Game 3

After a defeat, there are usually a number of places to point the blame: effort, shooting, turnovers, free throws. While the Lakers did commit some crucial turnovers and miss a lot of free throws, those factors seem to not be cause for concern.

Overall the team played well. Kobe was hot early, Pau was nearly unstoppable, players hit some outside shots. Its just hard to win when the other team has such a great shooting night - NBA finals record 62.5%. Still, the Lakers were down by two with the ball, ready to tie or take the lead with The Closer leading the way. Kobe made another poor attempt to split the pick and roll defense, as he's done several times in the playoffs in crunch time (I can remember Denver), and lost the ball. Gasol was on the floor to grab it, but didn't call a time out and tried to pass it out to Kobe, leading to a Pietrus steal. Even after a scorching shootfest by the Magic, we had a chance at the end. I can live with that.

The other side of the argument then becomes: was it the Lakers defense, or the Magic offense? Players always say its a combination of both, which is such a simple answer because it obviously HAS to be a combination of both. Personally, I don't think Rafer goes 8-12 again. Give him the open three, he's much better when a defender runs to challenge his shot so he can move to the basket. Box out: if Pietrus didn't get that put back at the end, we're in much better shape.

Overall, I can't find much fault with our performance. If we fix a few little things, we're in good shape.

Jun 8, 2009

Two Three Two

Lakers managed an overtime game 2 victory last night. We didn't play great, but not terribly. Rashard Lewis was hot all game, hitting shot after shot.

I was impressed with this stat: Lakers hit their last 14 free throws. That's focus.

Too often we went with the Kobe isolation play on offense. He'd make an entry pass, then get the ball back in the wing, then have to make a play. Not sure why we didn't try to keep the ball moving. Of course, can't argue with results.

Now that the series is moving to Orlando, it's an opportune time to bring up one of my pet peeves: the NBA Finals two-three-two format. Currently, every playoff series is a best of seven games, with the home court format being two-two-one-one-one at home-away-home-away-home.

However, this changes to 2-3-2 in the finals. My understanding is that this is a legacy remnant from years ago, when it made sense to try to limit traveling between teams from the eastern and western conferences. This basically means that the format was made for time and convenience, not for a properly arranged playoff series with competitive advantage (home court) in mind.

The problem with the 2-3-2 format is the three games in the middle. The basic presumption of any series is that the home team wins, so having game 7 at home would result in the home team's victory. In the 2-3-2, the lower seeded opponent gets three straight home games in the middle of the series, with the supposed result being three victories there. That leaves them with a 3-2 series lead after 5 games, with the higher seed getting the last two games at home. By chalk, this is fine. To me, what seems wrong about this is that the higher seed now must play two elimination games. In all other rounds, the lower seed has to play two elimination games (game 6 at home and game 7 away) when going chalk. Why should the higher seed have a predesignated disadvantage in the finals? Too often the home court for 3 straight games really kills the higher seed (Lakers in Detroit 2004, Dallas in Miami 2006). With chartered planes (or planes in general!), the excuse of travel time becomes invalid. In addition, having two different play formats for different rounds of the playoffs makes no sense. Can't we change the format back to a proper, competitively sensible one?

Jun 5, 2009

Game 1

Good win. Played lots of good defense, Kobe was fantastic, contributions from lots of players. I loved Lamar's energy.

Very questionable decision by Ron Jeremy to play Jameer so many minutes. He's good, and he made some good plays. But you can't forget that they got there with Rafer, so it would stand to reason to stick with what was working. He's more in game shape, game mode, game intensity. I anticipate more PT for Rafer on Sunday. They'll probably shoot a little better too.

I'd like to see more of the triangle and less of the Kobe pick and roll. Then again, I guess I can't complain about what worked...

Jun 3, 2009

Garbage time

One day before the first game of the 2009 NBA Finals! Not only is this an exciting time, but also a time for garbage to rise to the surface. There isn't much to discuss these days about the NBA, so here are some of the stories that are featured on ESPN:

1. Lamar Odom's candy consumption - Funny video, but people have taken it to new extremes of seriousness. Apparently some doctor wrote a long analysis, attributing Lamar's inconsistent play to the highs and lows of blood sugar.

Lamar's been in the NBA for 10 years, been considered a great player throughout. If he felt that his play suffered because of candy, don't you think he would have considered "quitting"? Maybe not in his younger years, but he's grown up a lot. He knows the gravity of the situation, the importance of winning when the chance is there.

Oh, and there's Gary Vitti. He happens to be a full time medical trainer for the team. He might have said something.

2. Mickael Pietrus and his Kobe's - Pietrus wears Kobe's shoes. He decided to switch to Jordan's for the finals, since his opponent happens to be Kobe. Cool. Next?

3. Tony Allen has surgery - Wow, if I wanted to know about the health of the 12 best player on a team not in the playoffs anymore, it would have to be someone remotely interesting. Maybe Zaza Pachoulia (who?). Could he be more of a nobody? Even Celtics fans don't like him.

Should I wear my Horry jersey underneath my work clothes tomorrow? I'm leaning towards absolutely...

Jun 2, 2009

Finals versus Orlando

Going into the playoffs, Orlando and Charlotte were the only teams to beat us every time. Charlotte, whatever. But Orlando is troubling. How is that we beat Boston twice, Cleveland twice, but couldn't beat Orlando even once? Not even at home?

If I remember correctly, we lost in Orlando in a close game, where we had a chance to win it at the buzzer but couldn't convert (was it Sasha? Kobe?). Not a terrible sign. In LA, I think they outplayed us throughout.

After watching the Cavs get manhandled by D12 and co, I worry about the match up. They seemed to have no problem getting Dwight the ball down low. In which case, he'd make a good strong move to the basket and get a high percentage shot, or if doubled, pass it out and all the Magic players knew to swing it to the open man for a clear three. It's not like the Cavs were playing poor defense on that play, it's just that the Magic offense was very smart and efficient.

How can the Lakers do a better job of not giving up a good look to Dwight or an open three pointer to Rashard Lewis or Mickael Pietrus? I think it needs to start off on the entry pass to Dwight. Like what we started doing against Yao before he went out, Drew and Pau need to front Dwight. At the same time, this leaves open a lane to the basket for an alley-oop, which Dwight is more than capable of converting. This necessitates that the defender on-ball will have to play aggressively close defense. Not a bad plan, considering we do this quite often anyway. Was Aaron Brooks more of a threat to penetrate than Rafer Alston will be? I think so. This will lead to the Magic moving the ball around the perimeter, perhaps looking for an entry pass to Dwight or a driving lane. In these scenarios, we have to pick our poison. If we play too close, they can drive. If we play off, many of them can hit three's. I'm of the old school thought and think we should play them a little off, contesting the three but not preventing it. Don't commit to defending the three until they prove they're hitting them.

Enough about defense. Can we score on this team? We had a lot of trouble doing so in the regular season, and its not like we've added more offensive weapons. I think our best chance to is to use our two starting seven footers. Try to get some post play, possibly get Rashard or Dwight into foul trouble. If we take a contested jumper, more than likely Dwight will grab the rebound. Perhaps run some pick and rolls with Drew to pull Dwight out, and feed Pau or Trevor cutting to the basket.

In the straight up game, I don't see how they can guard Pau. He's too tall for their 4's, too quick and talented for Dwight. We should focus on getting Pau lots of shots.

Thursday can't come soon enough. June 4. 6pm. ABC (Channel 7 in LA).


I've wanted a Lakers blog for a while now. I talk about, read, watch, analyze and kill myself over the Lakers to have a legitimate opinion once in a while. More to come shortly.