Archive for October, 2014

The Redemption Season Begins for Lakers

October 28, 2014

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“….Flush it. Next season will be epic”
–Kobe Bryant on Twitter

Lakers fans endured a long summer watching other teams not named the Lakers compete for basketball royalty, waiting to see what happens to D’antoni, watching to see what pick we get in the lottery, watching to see who we pick, waiting to see our roster and watching to see who will usher in the new Laker era.

Now it begins. The redemption season.

Starring Kobe Bryant. Redemption for him is to be the dominant force he was before the season ending injuries. He wants to prove it to himself, but personally I want him to shut up the pundits and the haters. He has something to prove and nothing to prove all as once.

Also starring Jeremy Lin. Jeremy Lin has put LinSanity to rest in favor of Lintertaining. Redemption for Lin is returning to relevancy as a top tier point guard. In Houston they benched him for poor defense. Lin wants to show he is in fact a good defender. The opportunity is his for the taking.

Featuring Carlos Boozer. Much like Lin, Boozer was benched in Chicago for lack of defense. Boozer has been considered aging and on a downturn. Perhaps his redemption is to prove he is that spring chicken he claims to be. Byron’s given him that starting role to do that.

Add in Ed Davis who fought for minutes in Memphis, Julius Randle who should’ve gone earlier in the draft and Jordan Clarkson who should have gone in the first round.

The Lakers have always had their haters and this year the pundits are wasting countless articles on negative views and predictions. I know because I read them.

This year is will be different. Yes. Very different.

The pre-season saw a Laker team that really moved up the learning curve quickly. The team has begun to take on a defensive identity. Lin and Price are proven solid point guards that were missing for years. Ed Davis has proven himself to be a rim protector. Hill has been Hill. Kobe is back. Really. Randle is settling into the game.

The team is buying into Byron’s philosophy and taking on his personality.

This team will be dangerous even as they await the return of Nick Young, Xavier Henry and Ryan Kelly. Kobe and Lin’s ability to create their own shot will create problems for defenses. Boozer and Hill will create havoc on the glass. Davis off the bench will patrol the paint and Price will provide a tenacious 2nd unit defensively. Randle will grow to be a confident offensive threat.

The Lakers will have to maintain as much familiarity within their rotations. Chemistry is huge. They have to minimize defensive breakdowns and really consistently contest shots, create havoc and muddy up the game.

Every game is a statement game. This first one is no different. I don’t believe Kobe has to run this offense. Kobe doesn’t believe that either. This is a team game and expect that this season. Expect team defense. And I expect them to win a bunch of games, starting tonight.

Lakers play Houston tonight at 7:30. Let’s see how the Scott-Bryant era begins.

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Too Early To Panic

October 16, 2014

Easy there, Lakers fans!

The Lakers came out the box with a huge win against a Denver that featured a dangerous point guard and a pretty strong offense. They played defense. They attacked the basket. Kobe looked good. Nash looked good.

But it’s just pre-season.

Then the Lakers went up against the much better championship contending Golden State Warriors and got mauled…twice. They didn’t play defense. They didn’t attack the basket. Kobe looked pretty good. Nash didn’t play.

But it’s just pre-season.

Let’s dissect the Lakers current situation. Byron is still putting his team through rigorous conditioning. In fact the team had practice the same day of the 2nd game against Golden State. For much of the game Golden State played their starters against the Lakers 2nd, 3rd and maybe even 4th string players. These are two teams with a different pre-season focus. Golden State is pretty set in their rotation whereas Lakers are figuring it out. Golden State is healthy where Lakers are not.

Keep away from the panic button!

These guys will get it. Coach Scott says he’ll be tapering off the conditioning as they get closer to the season. They are working on fine tuning offensive and defensive strategy. Aware of the injuries, they will most likely start settling in on their rotations. Things will be cleaned up. Being killed by 40 is ugly, but if you’re going to have your ugly games, it’s best that it happens now when it does not matter.

If I’m not mistaken, the 1984-85 Lakers lost by 42 in pre-season. We know how that season turned out.

There’s no need to pick on Scott’s coaching or take his comments out of proportion. But because of the losses, they have had a media field day!

10 to 15 Threes. Yes! Exactly! The Lakers should not be jacking up threes early in the clock. This leads to long rebounds and transition buckets. Rather, Lakers will stay inside out. Threes are necessary within the flow of the offense. He gave a number and you pundits ran with it.

Fouling on defense. Yes! Exactly! Standing by and getting dunked on all night and getting beat off the dribble isn’t defense. What Coach Scott expects is active hands, fighting on every play and not giving up easy layups. The byproduct of this defense will be fouls and physicality. Also, as this team learns this philosophy they will foul less and less. Easy, pundits!

Clippers are 0-3. Jazz are 3-0. Means nothing. Sure it helps to win, but the Lakers are hopefully focused on the big picture.

Look for the Lakers to be a little more cohesive and less lost on offense and defense tonight against the Jazz. They are still missing key players, so don’t expect too much yet. Be patient. They still have guys out including Lin, Clarkson, Nash, Henry and Kelly. Many of these guys will be back in time for the tail end of pre-season.

Remember. It’s just pre-season.

Lakers Upgrades to Look For

October 6, 2014

Contrary to what the pundits have said, the Lakers have serious upgrades from last year which promises a significant turnaround from last year– a playoffs type of turnaround. And here’s why:

Byron Scott. The coaching change is already paying dividends simply in the changed culture of the team. D’antoni was very much an more passive coach, who never seemed really sure of himself. Pau Gasol many times complained of discipline lacking. This team needed something very different for a place like L.A. and a team like the Lakers. The conditioning and defense-first approach will affect the personnel that takes the court first and foremost. Whether or not they are a team of defensive specialists, they will put forth efforts, implement defensive schemes and play defense by committee. Just watching practices and interviews point a new attitude and a changing culture. Look for that to translate onto the court.

Byron Scott as an analyst noticed time and time again how players like Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill were not used where they could be successful. Wes guarded power forwards and stayed around three point line. Hill saw fluctuation in playing time in favor of a stretch four. Bigs just were not used correctly. D’antoni force-fed run and gun offense on a team that needed to feed the ball down low to control tempo and keep teams from easy transition buckets. Expect the change in offense to put players in a position to be successful, decrease transition and increase paint points. Not as exciting as D’antoni but wins are much more fun.

The Return of Kobe and Nash. Funny how those words mean nothing to the pundits. There will be a huge increase in offensive production as well as more control of tempo. These guys are a step slower but there’s no doubt that this is a major upgrade.

Point Guard Position. The point guard position got much younger and faster. Jeremy Lin is not far removed from Linsanity. He brings an ability to create his own shot, get to the basket quickly and create shots for others. Nash will start but Lin will see plenty of minutes. The Lakers also managed to nab Ronnie Price and Jordan Clarkson who will both add more depth at that position and back up Nash. Needless to say, there is less likely of a chance for blow-bys on the perimeter with these younger, quicker point guard additions.

With the loss of Gasol, Lakers still managed to shore up the power forward/center position with future star Julius Randle, all-star forward Carlos Boozer and newly added Ed Davis. Scoring may have dipped but rebounding and paint protection took a major upgrade. Rob Sacre also can provide an effective 7-footer in spurts.

Look for a more controlled, organized, defensive-minded team that can rebound effectively. Look for a priceless mentorship from Nash, Kobe and Boozer that will show up on the court. Goran Dragic was a product of being under the tutelage of Steve Nash. Look for less transition by the other teams and increased post play.

Finally, look for a stunned panel of naysayers who placed the Lakers in the nba cellar. The Lakers Optimist said so.

Lakers Training Camp Notes

October 4, 2014

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Kobe and Nash look good in practice

After 4 days of training camp we are learning more about the 2014-2015 Lakers. Unfortunately, the Lakers will most likely start the season without Swaggy P (torn thumb ligament) and Ryan Kelly (stained hamstring). Xavier Henry is still dealing with back spasms.

However, Byron Scott is focused on conditioning, defense and mastery of the Princeton offense. Players are responding and an identity is forming slowly but surely. This is definitely a new day in Lakertown. Kobe said he’s never run that much in a practice his whole career. Byron insists that they will not lose by running out of gas in the 4th quarter.

Kobe and Nash are both looking like themselves according to reporters, coaches and players. The younger players seem very open to learning from veterans like Bryant, Nash and Boozer.

Players that have become favorites thus far include, Jordan Clarkson and Ronnie Price offensively and defensively.

It looks like the starting five will be Nash, Bryant, Johnson, Boozer and Hill. The bench is very competitive and up for grabs especially with Young out. Expect Wayne Ellington, Ronnie Price and Wes Johnson to see more minutes in Young’s absence as they try to manage Kobe’s minutes.

Scott’s first dilemma is settling on a rotation that will not include Swaggy P before their first pre-season game against the Denver Nuggets.

I believe a lot of questions will be answered in these 8 games. What I look for is the defensive rotations and rebounding ability. Last year’s ominous sign in pre-season was their inability to rebound. Also, we get a good look at Kobe and Nash in action and see the strengths and weaknesses of the starting lineup.

Lakers play Denver on Monday at 7pm Pacific on Timewarner Cable Sportsnet.