Posts Tagged ‘playoffs’

#Lakers Never Intended to Dominate This Season: Be of Good Cheer #LakersNation

March 26, 2019

Be of good cheer, LakersNation! The Lakers never intended to win a championship this year. It’s been noted that a 3 year plan was the goal. Needless to say, the Lakers fans should “trust the…” Okay I won’t say it. However, when LeBron James signed on the dotted line, Lakers fans saw parade streamers immediately; however, that’s not entirely what LeBron and Maginka had in mind. It does come as a shock that this team would not at least make the playoffs, but it does not derail the overall goal.

Let’s relive this dream-turned-nightmare season…

The Lakers jumped out to a dismal 2-5 start. However, they quickly began to hit their stride going on a run that would place them in 4th place. This run was punctuated by a rout of the champion Golden State Warriors.

Then LeBron got hurt. LeBron’s 17 game injury was exacerbated by accompanying injuries to multiple key players at a time including JaVale McGee, Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo and later Lonzo Ball. The Lakers tumbled out of the playoff race.

Then came the trade deadline. Lakers failed to keep their outrageous trade offers to the Pelicans for Anthony Davis out of the press. This caused the already descending morale of the remaining Lakers being depended on to shoulder the burden in Bron’s absence to drop even more. The Lakers sputtered into the all-star break in spite of LeBron’s return.

In spite of LeBron’s attempt to activate playoff LeBron, the Lakers never returned to the pre-injury form. The Lakers looked ordinary and downright pathetic at times and continued to plummet in the standings. The Lakers in a few months went from discussing playoff seeding to discussing draft lottery position.

So where’s the optimism?

Being bounced from playoff contention was never the goal; however, neither was winning a championship as is. In Maginka’s first season, they drafted well and then proceeded to clear cap space to make room for LeBron James, which they drafted in year two. Although one can find fault with the types of players and personalities brought in, the Lakers managed to get ahold to five players on 1-year deals. If you make a deep run, fine. If you don’t, these players fall off your books. Everyone knows the Lakers intended on maintaining cap space to add yet another star to pair with LeBron James in the next off-season. Now they have the money to do so. This still leaves them with the ability to keep their young core of Kuzma, Ball and Ingram — if they aren’t dead set on trading them. Furthermore, the Lakers now can focus on filling these spots with long-term deals with quality role players.

But it doesn’t stop there. The Lakers are possibly pulling a low-key tank move after losing some very embarrassing games, save their recent five game losing streak snapping victory over the Kings. It is quite plausible that the Lakers package a possible high draft pick and other picks for another quality player. The question becomes whether or not they part with any of the young core.

Needless to say, the Lakers head into the off-season in a position to make good on their three-year plan to become the dynasty we’re used to seeing. There are a few questions however. Nobody knows the fate of coach Luke Walton who obviously got forced into an unfair situation and may have coached his final season with the Lakers. Also a question mark is who of the young core will not make it into the new season without being traded. Lastly, one can only hope that Maginka has learned to do better with maintaining the morale of their team, that Magic can learn to minimize the micromanaging and that LeBron, Ingram and Ball can actually stay healthy for a full season.

So be of good cheer, LakersNation. The Lakers will return to that familiar place of dominance and the faithful fans will be rewarded for their loyalty.

Humble Beginnings… Explaining the Lakers’ Slow Start and Why There’s No Need to Worry (@LakersNation #Lakers #LakeShow #LakersNation)

October 24, 2018

 

Hype, hype and more hype surrounds the opening tip of the 2018-2019 Lakers season. We have LeBron James. Let it sink in. We have LeBron James. So therefore, look for the Lakers to steam roll through the league into the playoffs to tangle with the beast of the West Golden State. Right?

Wrong!

The Lakers have had three of the most exciting LOSSES ever, featuring alley-oops, fights, blocks, pretty passes and some of the most fluid transition buckets ever witnessed. For stretches they look like they’ve figured it out. Then the buzzer sounds. Lakers lose. Then the buzzer sounds again. Lakers lose again. Finally, the buzzer sounds a third time. In spite of a spirited comeback, a LeBron James buzzer beater clangs the rim…and Lakers lost a third time. Lakers are 0-3.

First question. Lakers Optimist are you worried? Nope. In spite of the fact that teams like the Toronto Raptors have seamlessly incorporated their new stars en route to early success, the Lakers still have that learning curve to figure out with the new guys. The Lakers know exactly who they are and exactly what they want to do. Furthermore they know that in the open court nobody can stop them. This is why they have, in spite of shooting atrociously from three, become a top 3 in the league in points in the paint and still manage to put up 119, 115 and 142 in each of their 3 games. I expect the Lakers to figure it out and begin to be the Western Conference juggernaut everyone expects them be.

Second question. Figure WHAT out? There have been several different discussions on exactly what is keeping the Lakers from wins in these opening games. Aside from two fourth quarter meltdowns and a late minute choke against the Spurs, the Lakers have been in these games and downright dominant at times. However, by the numbers, the Lakers have given up 128, 124 and 143. You can say all you want about the rest of the league, but the Lakers need to be concerned about their defense. The biggest problem area is the team’s three point defense. The Lakers allowed Portland to make 13 three pointers at a 35% clip. That’s 39 points. With the Lakers losing by 9, take away half of those shots and the Lakers win. The Rockets shot 38%, nailing 16 three pointers. 48 points. Again, they lost by 9. Take away half of those shots, Lakers may win by 5. The Spurs shot a blistering 53% from behind the arc, hitting 15 threes! The Lakers lost by 1 point. A couple of those threes were given up in that improbable last minute Spur comeback. The Lakers have been supremely suspect in their three point defense, daring the team to beat them from behind the arc and teams are doing it. Conversely, teams are daring the Lakers to beat them from the behind the arc and the Lakers are failing to capitalize. Don’t get it twisted though, the blame does not fall on the Lakers three point shooting. It falls of their three point defense.

The Lakers have been getting outglassed routinely, with the exception of the Spurs game. In the first two games they were outrebounded by an average of 12 rebounds. Even more demoralizing is how they’ve surrendered 14 offensive boards to Portland, 13 to Houston and 10 to San Antonio. Even as they are getting stops, they are giving teams second chances.

So why, Lakers Optimist, are you not worried? I feel that both of these are easy fixes. The Lakers possess the athleticism, height and ability to switch 1 to 5 on defense and to rebound by committee. The Lakers have seemed to get somewhat confused or lazy on their rotations which results in the open looks that players like Nik Stauskas and Brynn Forbes were hitting with ease. The Lakers need to buy in to contesting every shot. If the Lakers can keep teams to less than 29% from behind the arc AND secure the rebound they will be in these games. The Lakers without JaVale McGee get killed on the glass. Incorporating a dog on the glass like Johnathan Williams will surely help with that issue when McGee is taking a breather.

Only three games in, I expect the Lakers to quickly move up the learning curve, especially when you consider that they won’t be matching up against top 3 teams all season long. Sometimes it takes a lesser talented team to help a team hit their stride. Look for the Lakers to finally notch their first win against Booker, Ayton and the Suns tonight. As they start to figure out defense, they will begin to round into form.

Is Luke Walton in Over His Head? (#Lakers #LakersNation #Lakeshow #NBA)

August 7, 2018

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It’s funny how viewpoints can change from one moment to the next. The latest victim of the fickle fans and media is our very own Lakers coach Luke Walton. It was a historic 39-4 start that made him a hot commodity as a head coach. So when the Lakers bid farewell to then coach Byron Scott, it wasn’t long before Luke Walton took over.

So began the honeymoon period. Everybody celebrated the easy-going likeable player who was considered by the Black Mamba himself to be the next great head coach. He was given the opportunity to coach a young rebuilding team that featured D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle. Luke endured a very challenging first season, but managed to improve the team’s wins by 9 games.

In the following season, the Lakers made a few moves from management on down and began anew, replacing D’Angelo Russell with Lonzo Ball and adding rookie standouts Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart. Luke Walton took this young team and led the team to yet another plus 9 wins and the Lakers finished at 35-47. The second season featured heavier critiques of Luke Walton, mainly his rotations. The fans seemed to call for his head at times, but by the end of the season it was clear that Luke Walton had done a fine job with the young Lakers. He had brought them within a few games of playoff contention in spite of multiple injuries, lineup rotations, mid-season trades and LaVar Ball.

At this point it was clear that Luke Walton was very skilled at working with young players. Julius Randle became a few steps away from a star player. The young Lakers became the talk of the NBA and the rest of the NBA, including superstars began to take notice. Luke Walton had that locker room. Players loved playing for Luke. He had them running and had them playing defense. The young Lakers were poised for a real playoff run in the 2018-2019 campaign. However, behind the scenes Magic and Rob were setting the stage for another one of the Lakers historic instant upgrades. The ones that brought in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol and others. Magic and Rob, as pleased as they were with the progress of the young guns, were not looking to simply make the playoffs next season. They were looking to do more. So shortly after the Warriors all but walked away with their second championship, Magic and Rob brought in the best basketball player in the world— LeBron James. Shortly after, they signed Rajon Rondo, then Lance Stephenson, then JaVale McGee, then Michael Beasley.

All of a sudden the fickle media and fans looked back at Luke Walton and said, “Is this the right man for the job?” Some even said that this was a set up to get him fired. Talk of Phil Jackson returning and all kinds of obscenely inaccurate rumors started to fly. The bottom line is people started to look at this current Lakers team and ask if Luke Walton could coach this team.

So what changed? One, the Lakers morphed overnight from a possible 7-8 seed easily to a bona-fide championship contender. The goals changed from trying to make the playoffs and continuing to develop the young Lakers, to trying to win it all with the reloaded Lakers led by LeBron James, the young Lakers and a litany of veterans. The makeup of the team now begged questions like, “Can he coach LeBron James? Can he coach Rajon Rondo? Can he coach a championship contender?”

Forgive me for being dismissive, but what evidence do we have to suggest he can’t coach such a roster? Media have once again taken things way out of proportion and creating fires where there is no smoke. Even though fans and media have the ability to blow things out of proportion, they yet still can’t see any value in Luke’s ability to lead a stacked Golden State Warriors team to a 39-4 start. This was a team that featured stars and personalities and was obviously a championship contender. Fine. Let’s leave that one where it is. Can Luke coach LeBron James? Is it because he’s young? Is it because he’s inexperienced? Using that premise alone, one can then begin to exclude a young inexperienced Erik Spoelstra who then should not have coached LeBron James, DeWayne Wade and Chris Bosh, but led them to back-to-back championships. We can then also eliminate inexperience and young head coach Tyronn Lue who also coached LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to a championship. These teams were a mix of stars, youth and veterans. Is Luke Walton less skilled of a coach than the aforementioned coaches? I don’t think so.

So with Luke Walton being able lead a young, inexperienced Lakers team to a 35-47 record and falling a few spots out of playoff contention, one can only expect an even more successful season when you add the greatest player in the world and some very savvy veterans. LeBron James and the recent additions do not now somehow become a detriment to Luke Walton’s coaching career. Quite the contrary, Luke is now on the fast track to legendary coaching status.

Does Luke Walton now have a challenge meshing personalities and deciding whether or not to go with veterans versus the current young core? No! LeBron has already expressed how much this young core excites him. Magic has explained to the new signees about their role and I’m sure they understand that a starting spot is anything but guaranteed. Rob Pelinka has flatly stated that the only guaranteed starter is LeBron James. Luke in times past has shown no qualms with sitting down veterans if they do not produce. The respect of the locker room has developed through his time as a player, his track record Golden State as an assistant and the job he’s done with these young Lakers in the past couple years. Luke Walton has learned from the best how to manage people and I expect him to do a fine job, especially when this whole team has a unifed desire to prove everybody wrong and win a championship.

What I’m saying is, media needs to stop trying to find fault with Luke before he even coaches his first game with a roster already touted to be a top 5 team regardless of what ESPN says. With this current roster, one can only be excited that we have a coach like Luke Walton taking the lead. A student of Phil Jackson and Gregg Poppovich, a 3 time champion and teammate of Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton is more than qualified to get a shot at leading the new-look Lakers back to NBA dominance.

 

 

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.

Brace Yourselves, @LakersNation — IT’S THE OFFSEASON!

June 21, 2018

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The Lakers managed to recapture their luster of old (okay, like 7 years ago) through a combination of talented and headline-grabbing young players, cap-space saving trades, smart coaching and a whole lot of Magic. And although they did not make the playoffs, they were legitimately competing for that eighth seed for much of the season. With the game viewed as a chess match, Magic and Rob focused on placing themselves in great position for the off-season where many game-changing superstars will be choosing their destinies. The Lakers brass freed up a massive amount of cap space and amassed an intriguing mix of youth and saavy veterans. With the off-season now in full swing, rumors are flying and both fans and media alike are entertaining several scenarios ranging from the Lakers returning to the 2018-19 campaign with a superteam down to the Lakers simply walking away empty-handed and returning with their current team (still a very strong team). Let’s take a look at a few of these possibilities briefly and determine their likelihood.

Perhaps the biggest watercooler discussion is that of LeBron James’ free agency. It doesn’t take much for the media to quickly link Lebron James to Los Angeles. His son is said to be enrolling in a school in the LA area. He has been rumored to see Los Angeles as his best opportunity for other business endeavors. So, is LeBron coming to the Lakers? Do fans want arguably the best player in the world? Regardless of what anyone feels about James (he’s a crybaby, he takes over an organization, he’s not as good as Jordan), one can’t say that he is not an instant upgrade and the Lakers are at least number 4 seed on paper. Many pundits feel that with James in, Ball goes out. That couldn’t be further from the truth. James, like Kobe, does not wish to be ball dominant. Players like James and Bryant actually covet the idea of playing with a pass first point guard, especially one who sets the table like Lonzo Ball does. So with James joining purple and gold, Ball is safe. The Lakers now have a go-to player, a willing defender, and a leader. One would then have to examine what kind of domino effect this will have in terms of pulling in other free agents like a Paul George who has already been considered a lock to don the purple and gold. Brook Lopez has already been reported to be willing to take less to play for the Lakers if they are a contender. Now, do you still try to resign Julius Randle? That depends on how much Julius wants and how saavy Magic and Rob are with their funds. Adding fuel to this fire is the prospect of the Lakers also trading for Kawhi Leonard to create a LeBron-PG-Kawhi superteam. There are several moving pieces surrounding these scenarios and look for the Lakers to leave no stone unturned.

The next big looming scenario is the signing of Paul George. Paul George who hails from Palmdale, CA has been very open about his desire to play for the Lakers. The Oklahoma City Thunder took a chance on a possible 1-year PG rental; however, OKC has not been completely written off. Lakers fans are salivating at the possibility of Paul George inking a deal with the Purple and Gold. I hear from sources that Paul George has all signs pointing to coming to Los Angeles. If Paul George is a lock to be a Laker, the Lakers then have added an offensive juggernaut and a great defender who would love to be on the receiving end of Lonzo Ball passes.  The Lakers are, in my opinion, one player away from being a contender with a budding star in Julius Randle and fast rising stars Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram. Paul George would be a game-changer.  The move would be an obvious one for the Lakers, but would signal a triumphant off-season nonetheless.

The latest wildcard scenario is the potential trading of Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi has now been said to want out of San Antonio. Other sources have indicated that he’d like to be traded to the Lakers. Pump the breaks! Poppovich has never been one to trade with Western Conference rivals and certainly not to make them better! San Antonio has been rumored to be waiting patiently before even considering trading the coveted forward, but are willing to hear offers. Two questions. One, do the Lakers possess an appetizing package to peak San Antonio’s interest? Two, do the Lakers really want to give up the moon and stars to land Kawhi when he is a free agent after next season? Additionally, is Kawhi healthy? What kind of player are we in fact trading for? Who’s on the table? As I mentioned earlier, I find that Ball is off the table; however, Kuzma and Ingram are distinct possibilities because they are both forwards and Kawhi is like having Ingram at full potential now. Plus, this would be probably the strongest package the Lakers can submit without completely killing their core. Do I think it’s worth it? Not so sure yet. If the Lakers can successfully trade for Kawhi without completely breaking up the young core and are willing to deal with the 1-year rental situation; then they will definitely be getting the off-season off on the right foot.

Our last scenario is the possibility that the Lakers have a very strong team already. Supposing they do strike out on LeBron and PG, we have to consider what’s in front of them. At the present time, the Lakers have the following major free agents: Julius Randle, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Isaiah Thomas and Brook Lopez. Julius Randle has become a force to be reckoned with offensively and will be a highly coveted free agent. KCP is a deadly shooter when he’s on and has proven to be a lockdown defender, something the Lakers definitely need to keep. Isaiah Thomas averaged about 28 per only a season ago and was only limited by injuries. With a successful surgery complete and being officially pain free, one can’t help but to expect IT to pick up right where he left off. A crafty scorer, deadeye three-point shooter and excellent passer, Isaiah Thomas is the star the Lakers have right under their nose. Remember, he actually wants to be a Laker. Brook Lopez is arguably the strongest big man the Lakers have had since Pau Gasol. As I said in a previous blog, the question is which one of these players if not all do they want to keep. And how long will these players wait as the Lakers first attempt to shoot for the moon with the likes of Paul George and LeBron James?

There are plenty of scenarios that could play out this summer and as always, all eyes are on the Lakers. The Lakers have already begun by trading for an additional draft pick, securing the 25th, 39th and 47th pick in this year’s loaded draft class. Will there be more moves made?

Stay tuned, LakersNation! As Kyle Kuzma tweeted, its gonna be interesting…

 

 

Are the Kids Alright…or Being Shipped out? Trade Talks and the Trade Deadline in Lakertown

January 29, 2018
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Lakers are reportedly shopping Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson as the trade deadline is one week away.

The Lakers are 19-30 after 49 games. And although that seems extremely shabby, the Lakers have gone 8-3 in their last 11 games, to include two 4-game winning streaks. The latter of 4 game winning streaks came with Lonzo Ball out with MCL sprain. The Lakers are somewhat turning a corner. They are learning to play defense and to move the ball. More importantly — they are WINNING GAMES at an efficient rate and winning makes everything better…right?

Even as the Lakers begin to fulfill Kyle Kuzma’s promise to “figure it out”, the trade deadline is a week away. Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. are all on the trading block as the Lakers look to clear up cap space to sign as many max players as possible. Recently, Detroit was rumored to have discussed sending Avery Bradley to Tinseltown in exchange for our very own JC. Amid all this, Julius Randle has flourished in his starting role, returning to the double-double machine he was expected to be and more! He has proven to be a threat on the block and very formidable in the paint on defense. At times, it seems nobody can stop Randle. Jordan Clarkson has become instant offense and has even willed the Lakers to victories during this impressive 11 game stretch. Larry Nance Jr. has been defensively locked in and still has kept his stellar 50-plus shooting percentage while creating whispers of competing in this year’s Slam Dunk contest. These guys have been with the Lakers during the dark times, and even with the Ingram-Kuz-Ball big three, still figure to be a key component of a future championship Lakers team.

Questions are raised from this current situation:

1. How much is a non-guaranteed max player signing worth? Let’s face it. With all the hoopla about Lebron James having much of his life in Los Angeles (which doesn’t rule out the Clippers), Paul George wanting to be Laker come hell or high water (comments about Westbook changing his mind notwithstanding) and plans to go after Demarcus Cousins (Get well soon, Boogie), nothing is guaranteed. The Lakers have players that have proven to have a key role in this team returning to greatness and providing a strong supporting cast to a developing big 3 in Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. It’s clear that losing Clarkson and or Randle will no doubt diminish this teams’ ability to win games, and they do not have any draft pick to hang their hat on. So, assuming PG stays in OKC, Bron-Bron wants to retire in Cleveland or elsewhere and any other highly coveted star does not come to the Lakers and they strike out, they want to have a quality team to build upon. Is trading Clarkson, Randle or Nance worth the risk of coming away with nothing, and being a worse team?

2. Is this team worth standing pat at the trade deadline and seeing how well they can actually play when Zo returns? The last question assumes that this Lakers team as is can truly become a playoff contender next season with another year under their belt. This team features the aforementioned big 3 and supporting cast. This team as it stands has two weaknesses, 3-point shooters and a dominant center. With that being said, when this team returns to full health, they have proven that they can compete with anyone when they are playing defense and moving the ball. They are a better defensive and rebounding team when Lonzo is on the court. Being that they’ve learned how to dominate without Ball suggests that they (minor adjustment to the rotation time included) will be even better once he returns. Being that the Lakers want to attract free agents, gutting your team for cap space and sputtering into the end of the season won’t attract anyone. So, keeping this team as is and showing improvement to the tune of 30-40 wins can create some curiosity among max free agents. Let’s be honest, the Lakers possess players that at one point or another can take over a game in Jordan Clarkson, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle. Wisely enough, the Lakers had Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on 1 year deals and will potentially have space in the off-season to sign a center that can deliver on defense and athleticism and a true 3 and D guy. So the Lakers brass have to decide if it’s simply better to just (as much as Lakers fans hate this) wait and see…

Pushing my attachment to players aside and in the most unbiased way possible, I really think the Lakers need to wait. Coach Luke Walton has this team playing the right way. Furthermore, there are no players (that a team is willing to offer) that can dramatically upgrade this Lakers team in exchange for 3 loyal Lakers players who are playing very well. With the exception of Nance (who no team will take without an additional player anyway), trading any of these players would suggest waving a white flag on the season, thus gutting the roster and really putting pressure on Magic and Rob to hit the lotto in the off-season. The Lakers have a clear path and formula. They are literally 2 pieces away. In no way am I suggesting that the Lakers are fine the way they are. I am suggesting that they will be in a better position to pick up that max player with JC, Randle and Nance than they would be without.

In the next week we will find out if cap space is worth the risk of the class of 2014 and our future dunk champion (I speak it into existence). 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.