Monthly Archive for December, 2008

Page 5 of 12

Lakers – Magic Pregame

Since Stu Lantz took care of our Magic scouting report earlier, we’ll add just a few pregame thoughts from Phil Jackson and Pau Gasol.

Phil Jackson Pregame

  • The first several questions directed at Jackson concerned the absence of Jordan Farmar, whom we earlier learned has a tear of the lateral meniscus in his left knee. Jackson said they need to see what L.A.’s doctors have to say on Monday before the team determines if it needs to add guard depth or if it can make due with players like Sasha Vujacic, Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza seeing more time in the backcourt. As expected, Jackson didn’t reveal how he’ll rotate the players for tonight’s game, though he did say they’ll go from a four-guard rotation to a three-guard rotation.
  • On the Magic: “Everything centers around the fact that they’re going to threaten you on the inside with (Dwight) Howard. They have three-point shooters spaced out on the wing, and you’re always conscious of the fact that you have to cover the line.”
  • Jackson wasn’t buying a Magic writer’s inquiry about comparisons between Howard and Shaq: “They’re not the same at all,” said Jackson. “Dwight’s a big guy, but he’s not Shaq. Shaq is a mountain. I’m not saying Howard’s a molehill, but he’s not a mountain.” Jackson added that the Lakers have had good success against Howard, thanks in part to their offensive game, which forces Howard to play defense throughout the game.

    Pau Gasol Pregame

  • Pau’s not yet feeling 100 percent after missing Tuesday’s game against New York with strep throat, but he said in the pregame locker room that he’s feeling better: “I was a little winded and a little rusty, but I’ll get in there and fight through it as always, and tonight hopefully I’ll feel and play better,” he said. Against the Heat, Gasol managed 13 points, 11 boards, three assists and a block in nearly 35 minutes, but he was noticeably tired particularly in the second half.
  • Gasol said that the basic game plan when going against a smaller four who sits on the perimeter (like Rashard Lewis) is as follows: “Be aware of him on the perimeter, make sure you find him on the three-point line, don’t give him any open looks and force him to drive. Then contest his shots and try to take advantage of (his lack of size) on the offensive end. It’s hard when you play against small fours if you don’t take advantage of them, punish them and take off them off hook.”
  • L.A.’s power forward also spoke about Monday’s return to Memphis, where he was drafted and spent his entire career until last February’s trade. We’ll get more into that tomorrow.

  • Farmar Injures Left Knee

    Lakers guard Jordan Farmar suffered an injury to his left knee in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s game in Miami.

    Farmar had an MRI on Saturday in Orlando, which showed a tear of the lateral meniscus in his left knee. He will fly back to L.A. on Sunday where he will undergo examination by team doctors on Monday.

    The team will issue an update at that time.

    Team Breakdown/Magic Preview

    If you look up in press row during a Lakers game and see me intermittently pounding my keyboard and glancing up at the play, you might call me a ball watcher … And you’d be right.

    The eyes of play-by-play guys Spero Dedes and Joel Meyers or of a reporter doing a live running diary are generally following the ball, so as to immediately report the details of the play itself: Who scored; from where did the pass come; from where on the court did the player shoot; and what are a player’s stats.

    The analysts, however, such as Mychal Thompson and Stu Lantz, are taking in the game from a wider perspective: How are the Lakers running their offense; who’s cutting where off the ball; how did a player get open in the first place; who missed their defensive rotation assignment; and so on.

    Accordingly, when we stepped onto the plane headed for Orlando last night after L.A.’s 89-87 loss to the Miami Heat, I stopped by Lantz’s row to pick his brain. Here’s what I learned:

    MT: Can you talk about L.A.’s trapping defense, and how teams have adjusted to it since the first few weeks of the season?
    Stu: I think initially the defense the Lakers started playing was a surprise attack – it kind of blitzed people; opponents didn’t have anything like that in mind coming from the Lakers. Like most things, the first time you see it, it can be a problem, but after you see it for a while, it’s something that you adjust to, and to a large degree teams have adjusted to the Lakers defense.

    MT: To be clear, what specifically are the Lakers trying to do with their defense?
    Stu: The trapping is where they’re doubling up the ball especially on the sidelines, where they try to blindside the dribbler with a second defender coming over. But that always puts two defensive players on one offensive player, so if you do the math, it means one offensive player is going to be free somewhere. Teams have been able to find that free guy and spread the Lakers’ defense out a little bit and cause them to chase. When you’re chasing, you’re giving up some offensive rebounding and some things that can hurt your defense.

    MT: That’s a defense that has certainly been effective at times throughout most games, but hasn’t really been consistently solid. Fair statement?
    Stu: Well yes, that’s been some of the problem, the consistency on both ends of the floor but especially on defense. We’ll have stretches of a couple of minutes or so where we play really aggressive trapping defense, and then a couple of minutes where we break down and everybody isn’t on the same page. When that happens, obviously you’re going to suffer.

    MT: How might things improve defensively?
    Stu: Trapping could be used as a surprise element (alongside a) traditional man-to-man where I’ve got mine and you’ve got yours, where I’ll help you when I get beat and vice versa. Just to not use that same trapping defense for 48 minutes, because at this level, once a team sees a steady diet of something, they make the adjustments and usually come away with some success.

    MT: What do the Lakers need to do to improve offensively upon Friday’s 87-point performance?
    Stu: I just think this team needs to run their offense, because when they execute it they get much better looks from the perimeter and more touches for their bigs inside, which makes them a more formidable team. When they get taken out of the offense and start breaking it off sooner than necessary, they can run into some difficulties, especially when Kobe Bryant’s not on the floor. Kobe is the one guy that can create for himself, but most of the other guys need to run the system in order to be effective.

    MT: With all that said, Orlando isn’t the best matchup in the NBA right now for the Lakers. They shoot a ton of threes and have an anchor on the block with Dwight Howard, who’s averaging 20.8 points, and leading the league with 14.1 boards and 3.79 swats.
    Stu: Oh absolutely – they basically put four shooters on the floor with Howard to try and space the floor. They use Jameer Nelson at the point to try and get dribble penetration, but what they want you to do is double-team Howard so that he can start to make his picks as to whom to give the first pass to, and once they get you on the run they have four good three-point shooters. They have a number of guys that can hurt you from the perimeter, whether it’s Hedu Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Keith Bogans or Nelson or someone off the bench.

    MT: How do you best deal with Howard individually?
    Stu: The one thing you have to do is just limit his dunks, and make him score from the field. I’m not saying that Howard can’t score from the field, but try push him off the box as much as possible. Limit the lobs, don’t over play him and don’t front because he’s such a tremendous athlete that he out-jumps everybody. That gets their team and their crowd all amped up and they go from there. He’s the kind of player where if he scores 10 field goals, nine have to be from the field.

    MT: Does Andrew Bynum get up more for a challenge like this?
    Stu: I like to see all players take their individual matchups as a challenge – To take it personally defensively and offensively so they’re going to commit themselves to stopping the guy on one end and making sure he works on the other end. As far as Drew’s concerned, his major problem right now is just staying out of foul trouble. He’s been in foul trouble recently and that’s really hurt his production. He has to stay out of trouble tonight, or the Lakers could be using some players off their bench at the center position that they haven’t used in a while.

    MT: How do you best try to limit Rashard Lewis, who’s been very effective with 19.2 points, 71 three-pointers made (39 percent) to lead the league and 6.2 rebounds?
    Stu: That’s going to be an interesting matchup, because on the surface it looks like Pau Gasol will be defending him. Lewis is a guy who likes to stand outside the three-point line, and about 45 percent of the shots he takes are threes, so that’ll be a challenge for Pau to get away from the basket but yet still be able to contest the dribble, because Rashard is capable of putting the ball on the floor as well. That’s where your teammates need to be in a help position so that if you get beat off the dribble, someone is there to contest with you.

    MT: Finally, let’s move on to Orlando’s point guard, Jameer Nelson, who’s been quite effective in averaging 16.3 points and 5.3 dimes. What will Derek Fisher need to do?
    Stu: With Nelson, the close out may be a bit different than with Lewis because he already has the ball in his hand, and they’ll run the high screen and roll with him and either Turkoglu or Howard. A guy as quick as Nelson doesn’t really need much, and if he gets just a little bit of a brush screen, he’s able to turn the corner and that gets him in the paint where he causes a lot of havoc. He’s been playing extremely well of late, so that’s going to be a good challenge for Fisher.

    Lakers 87, Heat 89: Postgame

    For the second straight time, the Lakers opened an Eastern Conference road trip with a last-second loss.

    In Indiana two weeks ago, Troy Murphy’s tip in did the Lakers in, but this time it was a Kobe Bryant fadeaway jumper that rimmed out as time expired in Miami that delivered a Lakers’ loss. Bryant’s 17-foot miss allowed the Heat to escape a fierce Lakers’ comeback that trimmed a 12-point lead at fourth quarter’s start all the way down to one before the 89-87 final.

    “It felt good,” said Bryant of his J. “When it rattled in, I thought it was going to fall, but it just didn’t happen.”

    While Bryant said he was pleased with the fact that L.A. gave itself a chance to tie or win after the team struggled offensively, the Heat found defensive success in its ability to front the Laker bigs and essentially lock up the paint for the first three quarters. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined for just 17 points (13 from Gasol), and the Lakers largely settled for jumpers by scoring only 40 points in the paint for the evening.

    “(Miami) played well … they intercepted balls, made some great steals and we threw it away a few times when we didn’t have to,” said Phil Jackson. “We tried to get Pau open early in the game and just couldn’t get the ball into him, and (Andrew Bynum) was in foul trouble.”

    Gasol actually had a chance to tie the game with 8.5 seconds left, but missed 1-of-2 at the stripe to keep Miami up one. Dwyane Wade, who finished with a game-high 35 points, then returned the favor by missing one with 6.8 seconds left to set up Bryant’s game-tying attempt.

    Throughout the year, opposing teams – no matter how good or bad – have been getting up for the Lakers, and on this occasion L.A. simply couldn’t rise above. They’ll get another shot in Florida with the Orlando Magic on Saturday night.

    Your numbers:

    Blocked shot by the Lakers, from Gasol. Miami got two each from Dwyane Wade, Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem. L.A. had as many technicals (Phil Jackson) as blocks.

    Steals for the Lakers, again well below average for the league leaders in that category.

    Free throw misses in the game’s final 3:07. First were three misses by Fisher (one) and Odom, then three-straight Udonis Haslem misses before Gasol and Wade missed one each in the final 10 seconds.

    Lakers turnovers, which led to 15 Heat points.

    Free throw percentage for the Lakers on 10-of-19, including 4-of-8 in the fourth quarter.

    Lakers – Heat Running Diary

    Go ahead and refresh that browser once the game starts to view the most recently updated post in the running diary.

    Lakers: DJ Mbenga, Sun Yue
    Heat: James Jones, Shaun Livingston, Dorell Wright

    Kobe Shoe Update: In the pregame, I mentioned that Kobe was going to be wearing his new Nike Zoom Kobe IV’s, but he’s actually wearing a special edition: the Venoms. According to Kobe’s people, only 48 pairs of these specific pairs are available: 24 in Miami, 12 in L.A. and 12 on Kobe’s website. Ariza is wearing the normal Nike Zoom Kobe IV’s. Now that we’re settled on that front, here are your starters:

    Lakers Fish, Kobe, Luke, Pau and Bynum
    Heat Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony

    First Quarter
    Let’s go back to our timestamps here, shall we?

    8:13 Guess how many points the Lakers had at this point of the game? If you weren’t watching, you’d be wrong, because “three” is the right answer. Five turnovers, 1-for-3 from the field and even a basket interference call made sure of it. The Heat weren’t much better though, going 1-for-8 and missing two free throws for just four points. The game was as slow starting as the crowd was slow arriving (think E-Honda in a 40-yard dash).

    6:29 Wade knocked down his second consecutive field goal, this one a three, to give the Heat an early 11-7 lead. At the other end, Kobe answered in the lane, and something tells me that the Olympic work-out buddies are both in “Alpha Dog” mode tonight…

    5:14 With Kobe guarding him, Wade pulled up for his sixth shot of the game out of a timeout, and for the fourth time, he hit it (10 points). Shockingly, Bryant ran down to shoot at the other end, but missed for the second time with two makes. Fortunately for the Lakers, Gasol (who’s moving fine and showing no signs of sickness) was there to tip in. 16-13, Miami.

    3:19 We’ve been talking about Gasol’s gazelle-like floor-running throughout this season, and it was evident once again in the first quarter after Walton gather a loose ball. Pau, who like everyone else was below the free throw line extended, immediately took off, sprinted past rookie Mario Chalmers and received a nice pass from Walton for an uncontested dunk. Meanwhile, coaches watching KCAL and ESPN nodded their heads, recalling their collective “big men get rewarded when they run” mantra.

    1:52 Wade drew his second phantom call of the first quarter when Bryant appeared to cleanly strip him as Dwyane flashed through the lane. Wade’s well known to draw fouls when he doesn’t get touched (certainly more than Kobe these days), and that was no exception to the rule. If you saw it on TV, you may have had a better angle than me, but my opinion comes more from Kobe’s reaction … Which was basically to run all the way down to the other free throw line in protest. If he’s emphasizing his disgust that emphatically, it probably wasn’t a foul.

    1:29 You know it, Phil knows it, Jordan knows it: Farmar’s been struggling recently. Which is why his game-tying three was a good early sign.

    0:00 Kobe grabbed a loose ball off a Farmar drive near the buzzer and stuck it off glass for two, which tied the game at 26 and gave Bryant eight points.

    Quarter Notes

  • The Lakers shot a very solid 61.1 percent, but turned the ball over seven times in the quarter … Which is about four times too many, particularly as they managed only five assists.
  • Wade led all scorers with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting, plus a steal and two boards.
  • No. 2 overall pick Michael Beasley, who’s coming off the bench now for the Heat, managed four points in 7:46 of action.
  • Odom, Ariza and Farmar combined for nine points and three boards (all Odom) off L.A.’s pine.
    Continue reading ‘Lakers – Heat Running Diary’
  • Odom, Phil and Kobe’s Shoes

    An hour before tipoff here in Miami, here are three quick topics for you to nibble on leading into the running diary:

    A) Lamar on Miami.
    B) Phil on low tops and the game.

    Lamar Talk
    Business first – Odom said he’s feeling better than he was last game (when he threw up during the win over the Knicks) but is still a little bit stuffed up.

    Odom’s a big fan of the MIA: “It was my transformation from a boy to a man when I was in Miami, so for that reason (my year here) was special to me.” Lamar, who keeps an offseason home in Pinecrest, loves coming to Miami as he gets a relaxing reprise in his place of living.

    Back in 2003-04, Odom spent his only season with the Heat and averaged 17.1 points, 9.7 boards and 4.1 assists plus 1.1 steals in one of his best statistical seasons as a pro. The next season, of course, he came over (with Caron Butler and Brian Grant) to the Lakers for Shaquille O’Neal. He kept it pretty simple when asked about this year’s Heat team: “They’ve played well this year, and they’re definitely playing hard,” he said. “They have a tremendous player in Dwyane Wade, some people who really understand their roles and a player in Michael Beasley who’s going to be one of the top scorers in the game in three or four years.”

    Phil Jackson Pregame

  • On Pau Gasol’s availability: “Yes, (he’s going to play). I think he’s OK. I don’t think he’s restricted at all. He worked out last night after a long trip across the country.”
  • On wearing low tops, as Kobe will tonight: “I played most of my career in low tops. I think the reason low tops went out (of style) is because when you got your shoe or heel stepped on, your foot came out of the shoe … Now a lot of low tops have velcro straps to try and keep them on your feet.”

    Jackson added that he doesn’t think low tops – or high tops – really prevent ankle injuries, though taping might help “somewhat.”

  • Jackson said he’s wary of Miami’s speed, in particular as it applies to their pressure defense and attention to the passing lanes. Both Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers rank among league steal leaders, with Wade in fourth (2.17) and Chalmers in eighth (1.96).
  • On the Wade – Kobe matchup: “It’s a tough match up for both guys. Kobe is locked in on guarding him, but they cross match a lot of times (like) in transition.” Basically, when players have to switch defensive assignments due to screens or pick and rolls, they’ll see each other.

    More on Kobe’s Shoes
    Finally, it’s not just Kobe who’s going to be wearing his new Nike Zoom Kobe IVs; you can expect his teammate like Trevor Ariza to be sporting them as well.

  • Lakers – Heat Preview

    Miami HeatHeading into Friday night’s tipoff between the Lakers and Heat in sunny Florida, Miami (12-12) had been struggling considerably, dropping three consecutive contests to Atlanta, Memphis and Milwaukee after a four-game winning streak.

    More than anything else, Miami struggled because Dwyane Wade struggled, just as the Lakers used to be in trouble if Kobe Bryant was anywhere removed from the top of his game. Clearly, that’s no longer the case for a 21-3 purple and gold team.

    But that’s just on the surface … To take a closer look at the Heat, I dialed up Charlotte Bobcats play-by-play voice Scott Lauer, who’s seen the Heat from his courtside seat in the radio booth twice already this year. Here’s what Lauer had to say:

    MT: The Heat have managed to beat your Bobcats twice for two of their 12 wins, first getting 25 points from rookie Michael Beasley and last Monday getting 41 points from Dwyane Wade. What are your general impressions of Miami?
    Lauer: The thing that stands out early on has been the infusion of the rookie play with Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers. You have two guys that are fixed in the rotation, with Chalmers in particular proving to be a steal. He’s been very good defensively, and shows signs of being a good offensive player as well. Beasley was a starter the first time we played and had 25 against us in Charlotte in Miami’s first win, but about two weeks ago Eric Spoelstra began bringing Beasley off the bench, from where the former No. 2 pick has added an offensive boost.

    MT: How is Miami different with Joel Anthony starting at center and Beasley coming off the bench?
    Lauer: I think they were looking for more offense off the bench, and also stabilizing the defense up front with Anthony, who is limited offensively, but anchors them defensively. I think when you’re dealing with a rookie like Beasley, you have to take his ego into account, but from what I gather there weren’t any waves created by the move. Miami has positioned itself to be a competitive team around .500 with a healthy Wade, Shawn Marion and the injection of two rookies especially, but I don’t see them being a legit contender in the Eastern Conference playoffs. However, they might receive a boost if Alonzo Mourning completes another miraculous comeback, which has been reported a bit.

    MT: Miami has really struggled in its three games since beating the Bobcats, getting smoked by Atlanta, Memphis and Milwaukee. Was that because you talked some trash to them after your game and put them into a mental funk?
    Lauer: We just seemed to be the elixir for a lot of teams, but that was in the midst of our seven-game losing streak. It was a competitive game until Wade pulled them through it at the end, though I can assure you that Bobcats radio wasn’t involved in their struggles after our game.

    MT: Let’s get back to Wade for a second – he’s putting up monster numbers with 28 points, 7.2 assists, 5.1 boards, 2.17 steals and even 1.54 blocks. Even though he’s struggled in his last three games, how astronomically better does he look this year than last?
    Lauer: He’s been fantastic. He lets the game come to him so easily, and has doesn’t force the issue just like Michael Jordan. In addition to those numbers, he’s shooting and making more threes, and he’s just a special player. To be fair, there were three or four questionable calls that favored Wade, but that’s OK … He’s earned that.

    MT: What’s the deal with The Matrix? He’s at 12.4 points and 8.9 rebounds, but do you think it’s lack of effort or lack of the Suns system from what you’ve seen of Miami?
    Lauer: He’s somewhat of an enigma. You hear a lot of negative drama swirling around about him, and out of the Heat camp you’ve been hearing about them waiting to scoop up Carlos Boozer when he’s available next season. Plus, Boozer just announced that he’s definitely going to opt out of his contract. But with Marion, you wonder if there’s anything troubling him in the locker room? He had those issues in Phoenix as well.

    MT: You mentioned being impressed with Chalmers, Miami’s rookie point guard out of Kansas? He posted 20 points, eight assists and seven boards in Miami’s most recent game. But is defense where he makes his money?
    Lauer: He definitely has poise, and is a very smooth player. More importantly maybe is that it makes for a dynamic defensive backcourt with him and Dwyane Wade, and their stealing the ball has led to a lot of fastbreak opportunities for them. In fact, his athleticism has impressed me as well, and we know he’s a clutch shooter.

    MT: Finally Scott, give me a quick breakdown of the Bobcats deal with the Phoenix Suns, who acquired Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley for Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Sean Singletary.
    Lauer: This deal had the makings of what Larry Brown wants – his imprints are all over it. Brown had Raja Bell in Philadelphia, and is all about rebounding, defense and hustle, which Brown covets. Bell’s off to a slow start in Charlotte, but Brown’s happy to have him. Diaw has actually impressed me in many ways, and gives traditional fours a lot of trouble at times because of his skills. Some coaches and players have questioned Diaw’s assertiveness, but he’s shown that he has a pretty full game both offensively and defensively. Singletary had some ties with Larry Brown as well coming from the Philadelphia area, though he’s only played in one of the three games since the trade. To get those guys, you gave up arguably the best trade asset for the Bobcats in Richardson and a guy I loved in Jared Dudley, but ultimately Larry Brown turned over the roster to get guys he feels play better in his style. We’ll be in town on January 27, so you can take a closer look then.

    Gasol Expected to Face Heat

    Pau GasolPau Gasol, who missed Tuesday’s win over New York due to strep throat, took part in L.A.’s shootaround Friday morning in Miami. Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said he expects Gasol to play in the nationally televised contest against the Heat.

    The game can be viewed on KCAL HD or ESPN, and can be listened to on AM 570 KLAC at 8 p.m. eastern.

    Daily Trivia: Worthy Finals MVP

    Play the Trivia Contest on Lakers Courtside Connection every day (Monday-Friday) for your chance to win great Lakers prizes.

    Today’s question is:
    What year was James Worthy named MVP of the NBA Finals?
    (Answer Here)

    If you think you know the answer, login to Lakers Courtside Connection and see if you’re right. Then come back tomorrow to test your knowledge on Lakers history again, while making a run towards really cool prizes.

    Lakers Host Season of Giving Party

    Holiday GroupAs part of the Lakers “A Season of Giving” campaign, the team hosted its annual holiday party for underprivileged children on Saturday. Ninety children from the Asian Youth Center, Boys & Girls Club of West San Gabriel Valley and Heart of Los Angeles Youth enjoyed a holiday luncheon, played interactive games with Lakers players and the Laker Girls, took photos, received autographs and were presented with Lakers gifts.

    Everybody wins, right?

    For the second year in a row, East West Bank was the presenting sponsor of the Lakers “A Season of Giving” campaign which focuses on spreading holiday cheer and providing assistance to thousands of less fortunate children and adults in the community. Events this year included a Thanksgiving meal serving at the Boys & Girls Club of Venice, a book drive, a toy drive and the 4th Annual “Wish Night with the Lakers” to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Los Angeles.

    Harry & JustinNow that we got all the details in there, we can focus on the main attraction: Harry and Justin (pictured).

    Harry and Justin, in a chat we had at the event, detailed their love of Kobe’s crossover dribble (good choice), opted for crazy dunks over three-pointers, revealed their second-favorite player (Derek Fisher and Dwyane Wade) and revealed who would win if they played 1-on-1 (not telling). Shockingly, Harry and Justin didn’t mind interacting with the Laker girls, either. After making the rounds, their second-favorite player took a few moments to talk:

    “Any time we get to directly interact with kids in particular, it’s always great,” said Fisher. “I think it’s important for these young people to actually get to touch us and see us, see how tall we really are, and know that we’re real people.”

    For more information on the party, check out the story on our Community Page