Posts Tagged ‘cleveland’

Against the Grain: Magic and Rob’s Plan to Beat Golden State

July 11, 2018

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What the heck is Magic and Rob doing?! Calm down, folks. I should be a little upset that a few writers have beaten me to the punch; however, I still find it necessary to throw my 2 cents in. The Lakers became a legitimate threat with one massive move, signing LeBron James. Adding such a player to a team that had made a 9 game jump to 35-47, insures that the Lakers are now a force in the NBA…on paper. Having made such a power move, the Lakers know that when you bring a superstar such as LeBron James, the “championship or failure” mentality rings louder than ever. No disrespect to the rest of the league, but standing in the way of a 9th finals appearance for King James and Showtime 2.0 is the Golden State Warriors.

Pundits and sports “experts” have consistently balked at the idea of signing players such as Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee, highlighting their inability to consistently hit the 3 point shot. Why? Because you’re trying to beat the Golden State Warriors so, obviously you need shooters. LeBron James needs shooters right? All he needs to do is drive, draw and kick. The other guys will hit threes and you’ll outscore arguably the best backcourt in NBA history, KD and Draymond Green right?

Wrong!

Although Golden State is a much better defensive team than the 2004 Phoenix Suns made famous by Steve Nash, Mike D’antoni and company, teams that attempted to outrun that team were completely decimated. The team that was able to take down the run and gun was the San Antonio Spurs, who met them with the complete opposite in strong halfcourt play and physical defense. Wisely enough, the Spurs did not attempt to beat the Suns at their own game. Phil Jackson had actually attempted the same strategy, but didn’t have the personnel and ultimately fell after a 3-1 lead in 2006.

Let’s go back even further and look at the teams that gave the original Showtime Lakers fits. In the Lakers storied battles with the Boston Celtics, the Lakers brought the finesse and flashy basketball style while the Celtics were physical and focused mostly on defense. Although the Lakers got the last laugh in the late 80s, it is well documented that the Celtics did not try to beat the Lakers at their own game. The Lakers next big foe was the “Bad Boys” of Detroit who were also known for their physical play.  This Pistons team pushed the Lakers to the brink in 1988 and swept the Lakers in 1989. The strategy again was not to beat the Lakers at their own game.

Magic knows his basketball history and you have to believe that he has taken a long hard look at what it would take to compete with a team that prides itself on defending, running and shooting. Magic and Rob both know that you cannot beat Golden State and their own game. Magic also knows that physical teams have had some success against a team like Golden State. The problem has been, you still have to make baskets and you still have to have the personnel that could carry out such a task. Does this mean the Lakers now want to beat up Steph Curry and company and draw technical fouls? Of course not. However, a team that is capable of keeping a body on a player, staying in their jersey and making the offense feel you, willing to take a foul rather than give up on open layup and muddy up the game for the opponent creates problems for a team like Golden State. The players they’ve added, including resigning Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are designed to create this level of toughness and defensive prowess. The Lakers already possess developing defenders in Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.

Is this fool proof? Is this the personnel to carry it out? Only time will tell. However, the Lakers brass know they have the firepower to put a bunch of points on the board. Let’s not forget the Lakers do in fact have scorers. They also possess long athletic guys who can create and get to the basket, as well as playmakers. They didn’t completely jettison the idea of having offensive weapons to be the Memphis Grizzlies by any stretch. The Lakers still intend to defend, rebound and run and have the players that can make this happen. We saw that last season. Being able to make things uncomfortable for the defending champs on the defensive end, in addition to the offensive skillset, can hopefully give them a fighting chance as they try to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Los Angeles (and I don’t mean to the Clippers either).

So get used to all the articles and sports network personalities having a field day and asking if Magic and company screwed up by their recent signings. The Lakers know exactly what their doing — creating a championship contender.

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Following the Trade Deadline, the Lakers are Right on Schedule

February 11, 2018
Isaiah-Thomas-wants-to-start-but-focused-on-winning

Isaiah Thomas chomping at the bit to get in and play with his new team. He scored 22 points and dished out 6 assists in his debut.

Since the headline-grabbing Lakers regime change midway through last season, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have not made too many head-scratching decisions if any. It seems that everything they’ve done has inched the Lakers closer to relevance. The Lakers under the coaching staff lead by Luke Walton stayed the course amid media and fan criticisms and now find their team in a position where LOSING is not the norm. Since early January, the Lakers have gone 12-5 which includes three 4-game winning streaks. The team is clearly a better defensive unit and are buying into ball movement, resulting in victories and an increasing confidence in this still young Lakers team.

Not to be outdone, Magic and Rob managed to pull off a blockbuster trade (eat your heart out Jerry West) by sending Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to Cleveland in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a 1st round draft pick. With all love to JC and Nance, this was a brilliant move. The Lakers freed up almost 44 million in cap space, which was one of their clear goals this season. They got a draft pick which was something they had all but given for nothing years ago in the Steve Nash trade. They picked up an All-Star point guard who helped lead the Celtics to the top of the East just a season ago. They also added shooters who are both on expiring contracts, leaving them with financial flexibility. Let’s not forget that in all this the Lakers are still competitive, have not surrendered their young core AND might have even gotten BETTER.

Did the Lakers get better? In IT’s debut against the Mavericks, he literally picked up where he left off last season scoring 22 points after barely averaging 15 in Cleveland. Luke’s offense? Possibly. The Lakers as a unit just all but gave that game away through lackluster defense and not giving a young and hungry Dallas team led by an All-Star veteran in Dirk Nowitski the respect they deserve. Loss notwithstanding, they showed flashes of what a knockdown shooter and elite playmaker like IT does for this team. The question is whether the Lakers can adjust to IT’s defensive shortcomings. Will they still continue to switch on defense which has worked so well for them up to this point? Dallas wisely exposed that last night. That is a moderate issue when you again consider the sample size in Boston who finished the season 53-29. Sounds like defense was not an issue.

Let’s be completely honest, Luke Walton and staff will have this team on the same page and they will have this much improved Lakers team competing at an even higher level and preparing for the return of Lonzo Ball. There is no denying that the Lakers got a major upgrade offensively. Lonzo Ball will also even the scales defensively upon his return.

There will obviously be a minor adjustment period for rotations and such, but it appears that Isaiah will eventually have to start alongside Lonzo Ball. Brandon Ingram and Juilus Randle are a lock to start as well as Brook Lopez. Is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope coming off the bench? That sounds like the best move. Look for Alex Caruso and Corey Brewer to scale back on minutes as KCP assumes the Jordan Clarkson role as 1st off the bench. The Lakers will have plenty of flexibility to go big should teams become successful exposing IT on defense. The Lakers brass has put this team in perfect position to fight for that 8th seed while preparing to make some noise in the off-season with their newfound cap space.

It’s a very exciting time in Tinseltown as the Lakers continue to get on the fast-track back to championship glory. Stay tuned, Lakers fans.

Lakers Optimist out!

 

Parade or No Parade?

April 1, 2010

After the Lakers basically TOOK the championship from Orlando last year the first thing I said was, “…and they are going to take it again next year”. My reason being I looked at the arsenal that the Lakers had: “Twin towers” on the inside by the names of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. A veteran point guard that controls the offense in Derek Fisher. An effective, quick and timely offensive threat in Trevor Ariza. The most versatile forward in the game Lamar Odom and the best there is– Kobe Bryant. The bench delivering with the likes of Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar and a healthy Luke Walton. They were easily the strongest offense in the game. With Bynum, thier interior defense was stepped up on the whole and really, who in the NBA could really challenge this jaggernaut of a team next year??

FAST FORWARD…

The team managed to stay in tact after several worrisome back and forth’s with Lamar Odom. Lakers decided to let Trevor Ariza go to Houston and in exchange they got Ron Artest. So, after mulling it over with a fellow Laker fan, it turned out that this was an upgrade. An upgrade to a better defense to add to an already intimidating offense. The Lakers in essence had a star-studded team, an unbeatable team, and a team that undoubtedly could return and win the NBA Finals this year.

NOW TO PLAY THE SEASON…

The Lakers started the season setting out to prove on the court what everybody was saying in the media and at your local sports bar. From the onset they looked to run away with it winning plus 20 games before losing 5. Everything clicked. Even with Ron-Ron still finding his way offensively, he still helped in other areas. No, we didn’t consider him an x-factor, but Shannon Brown easily filled the role that Trevor Ariza left. Defensively they looked much better. Everything looked like we expected it. So what happened?

The Lakers since then sputtered thier way to what is now a worse record than last year, not really able to put any consistent winning streaks together. Having 2 and 3 game losing streaks in between. Losing to A-List teams and struggling to beat D-List teams on the strength of last second Kobe heroics. Their defense is inconsistent, allowing open threes and having poor defensive rotation. With thier offensive numbers down, they are not able to rely soley on the third quarter runs that defined last years lopsided victories. And when the Lakers lose– THEY LOSE!!

Are we complaining? Well, yes and no. This Laker team as opposed to last years Laker team looks vulnerable. After being embarrassed by Denver and Cleveland early in the season, most Laker fans expected them to return with a vengeance that translates to an emphatic victory. Instead, both the Cavs and the Nuggets soundly put the Lakers away— again! What? Not like last year. Where the Lakers could fall behind by any number and come back and win, they tease us with a nice little run at the end then fall short. Not like last year. Last year, let’s be honest, teams were visibly intimidated by the Laker dominance. This year they really don’t look all that invincible. Is it a different team? The record could indicate that. The drop in offensive points per game could indicate that.

After all that they are firmly entrenched in the top of the West and second best record in the league. So why are we complaining? Because we are wondering if this team is able to go through the much improved Western Conference filled with teams that are NOT worried about the Lakers. If they get through it have a very determnined and angry Cleveland Caveliers or Orlando Magic team (if Atlanta or Boston doesn’t surprise us) waiting in the East.

Let’s speculate!

The Lakers have been banged up all season. We haven’t really seen the Lakers at full strength. However they’ve managed to do what is necessary to obtain the top spot in the West. In certain games, they miss several key components to thier bench due to injuries or playing with injuries: Luke Walton, Sasha Vuljacic, Jordan Farmar. They lost offensive punch for a  time when Pau Gasol was injured, they missed Kobe for a few games (still winning but could have used Kobe against Boston). Ron Artest missed a few games. And now they miss interior offense and defense with the injured (again??) Andrew Bynum. Kobe has been playing hurt all season. Chemistry issues? Maybe. Losing any of the starters brings Lamar to the starting position and decreases the effectiveness of the bench. We look to have both Luke Walton and Andrew back in time for the playoffs. Let’s see…

The Lakers are in a different mindset. The year that Boston dismantled the Lakers, Boston was in a “must win” situation and knew that it was now or never. The Lakers were just happy to be in the playoffs. Last year, the Lakers became the now or never team with a chip on thier shoulder and showed it in thier play. Even though they still had too much swagger at times, they still did what they had to do at the right time. This year, they’ve won it and for the younger guys, hunger is in question. Pau wants it bad, Kobe always wants it, Artest never had it, Odom wants it again…but what about everybody else who’s already had it. Obviously the hunger may not be as strong as last year. And the rest of the NBA sees Los Angeles as a big yellow target.

Too good. Too cocky. It’s an 82 game season. We would like to see a team give 100 percent every game, but that doesn’t happen. The Lakers do not have to give thier all in all to win games with the talent they have and unfortunately for the fans, they know it. We see it. Everybody talks about it. If you ask most of the Laker players they will probably say that they try every game. But once they got securely ahead in the West they became very inconsistent…sometimey… And maybe, just maybe they get bored. Bored? Yes bored. We can see it in body language and how they lazily finish out quarters after jumping out to a big lead. Okay this game’s over. Some games were just boring victories. The other team is fighting hard, but the Lakers are just cruising to another win. We’re speculating here. Even towards the end of the season, with the top spot in the West won and the best record out of reach, there is nothing to do but wait for the playoffs. That’s when the REAL playing begins. REALLY. Really?

They just aren’t as good as they were last year. We hate for this to be the reality but it very well could be. And either it’s that the other teams got better or they got worse. We can all agree that they’ve lost offensive punch when Ariza left and maybe that has had the Lakers struggling to find thier rhythm offensively at times. Cleveland added Shaq and we have seen in  games that they give the Lakers a hard time in establishing interior presence and causes turnovers and forces the Lakers into jumpshots. Denver is an offensive and defensive angry beast with Chauncey Billups at the helm. Orlando is peaking. Dallas has made some key trades to become a legitimate contender. Maybe other teams just got much better. Thus somewhat leveling the playing field. This means it won’t be a cakewalk. The Lakers will have to give everything they’ve got to get this second ring.

What do you think? Well I suppose it doesn’t matter what WE think. The playoffs begin in April and the Lakers begin thier title run with questions either for the team, the fans or both. Are the Lakers really worried and frustrated? Or are they just annoyed that they can’t “turn it on” and “turn it off”? Do they really miss Bynum that much as shown in those recent road embarassments? Is this just a, “get the season over with” attitude? These last games, at least statistically, don’t matter. Or maybe they do in terms of finishing strong.

It really doesn’t matter who the Lakers play en route to the finals because they all have potential to upset the Lakers, especially Denver whom the Lakers struggled to put away at home in thier last meeting. But one thing’s for sure, if the Lakers are going to be successful, these things must happen:

Defense. This is why we have Ron-Ron right? The Lakers will have to play better team defense. The easy layups and open threes will have to stop as many of the teams in the West are three point threats. Hopefully Bynum will be back to stop the free-for-all attack at the rim. We expect Ron to be on his game but perimeter “D” breaks down sometimes and then what???

Run Your Offense. This season we’ve seen the Lakers go away from the triangle and settle for threes and jumpshots. This almost NEVER works. You start inside. Get Bynum going, then get Pau going, Once these guys are going, double-teams are demanded and now the rest of the players, especially Kobe can have a field day. You don’t need threes! Take your time! You are not a early in the shot clock offense. You are a slow, get a smart  shot, offense. Use it to your advantage and run when necessary. Slow offense allows you to set up your defense since most of the teams in the West also like to run.

Turnover Issue. The Lakers will simply have to take care of the ball! This has been thier downfall in much of thier losses this season. Nothing more to say about that. This is linked to running your offense.

O Bench, Where Art Thou? Hopefully with Bynum and Walton back, we get our bench back. They are so key! Teams have consistently outscored our bench the latter part of the season. I look for improvement when these guys come back since our bench will now consist of Odom and Walton– controlled and deadly!

It comes down to Kobe. But I  don’t mean scoring. I mean sharing. That game in Atlanta saw Kobe just shooting and not doing much sharing. The Lakers are at thier best when all of the players are involved. Hopefully this was just because of Bynum’s absence combined with frustration. But they have to share the ball. That said, Odom, Artest and Pau will have to be extremely effective offensively so that Kobe doesn’t feel he has to take over.

Follow my lead. You have the best coach in the business and the hunger of Kobe, Artest, Odom and Pau. If the Lakers have that same “win or go home” attitude all across the board, they can be virtually unstoppable. Seriously.

So the final question. Parade or no parade?

Depends on which Laker team shows up. Ultimately. at least we hope, the team that will eliminate the Lakers from the title run will be the Lakers.