Sunday Mini Mailbag

Kobe - Pau PostgameWith Lakers fans feeling like talkin’ hoops on the heels of L.A.’s dramatic 103-97 win on Saturday night in Denver, we took a few Mailbag questions to get us through the weekend leading into Game 4.

Q: How can you improve Kobe’s passing so he can win another ring.
- Jacob, Baltimore, Maryland

MT: I have to go the other way on this one, Jacob; this question is like asking how Jack can improve his practice of medicine on the “Lost” island. He does it when it’s needed and he’s good at it, but it’s not his primary role. In other words, Kobe’s passing has been entirely what L.A.’s needed (and he happens to be leading the team in postseason assists). Still, his primary role within the offense especially in tight playoff games is to score, but he’s made the right pass out of double teams very consistently all season and in the playoffs. For example, the two big threes that Derek Fisher hit to help L.A. win Game 1 came because Kobe drew a double and kicked out a perfect skip pass. Many of Trevor Ariza’s open looks come because Kobe’s being doubled on the strong side. Sure, there are a few times a game when Bryant takes a shot when a pass may be warranted, but he’s generally trying to find his range at those times since he knows he’ll have to hit shots late.

Q: I told my father in law during game two that the only way Denver had a chance to come back was if the Lakers stopped going inside and of course they did. They need to try this line-up and see what kind of play they can get Kobe PG, Ariza SG, Odom SF, Gasol PF, Bynum C … No way Denver or any team in the east can match up, NO WAY. They have a great center in the making with Bynum and when he asks for the ball give it to him early and often. If the Lakers play the way everybody knows they can and when I say everyone I mean everyone, the media, the fans, other teams. Position by position and talent wise there is no better team. So go BIG or go home.
- Carlos “loyal fan”, Moorpark, CA

MT: You have some good points in here Carlos. For starters, you’re absolutely right about the Lakers needing to continue to go inside. It’s clearly worked throughout the season … But other teams know this as well, and they structure their defenses to make it difficult to get low post entry passes and for L.A.’s bigs to set up deep post position. Nene and Kenyon Martin are both very good at this, but that doesn’t mean the Lakers shouldn’t keep pounding it down there. I also agree that your lineup suggestion would be interesting, but it simply wouldn’t work in a 48-minute game. L.A.’s biggest strength (other than Kobe, of course) is to keep at least two of the Bynum-Gasol-Odom combo on the floor the entire game, which allows them to match up with everybody and almost always have an advantage. If they’re all out there together (which they haven’t been all season for a reason), that couldn’t happen.

Kobe JumperQ: Where does Kobe’s 3-pointer over J.R. Smith with 1:09 left in the 4th to put L.A. up one rank among shots you’ve seen in person?
- David, Marina Del Rey, CA

MT: Honestly, it’s probably No. 1 for me, but it wouldn’t be for someone who’s covered the Lakers for more than a year. I, unfortunately in NBA terms, grew up in Minnesota, and the Timberwolves weren’t good until I went to college from 2000-04. So the best shot I saw in person heading into this season was a Sam Cassell (now an assistant coach with the Wizards, how ’bout that) baseline floater at the end of Game 6 against the Sacramento Kings in the Western Conference Semis, which preceded Minnesota’s loss to the Lakers in the next round. The last two seasons I spent with the Timberwolves (2006-08), which had a few clutch shots but nothing of importance and obviously nothing in the playoffs, so as you can see, that Kobe three tops my current dagger list. I will say this: if L.A. wins the title this season, it becomes a much bigger shot. What’s going against the shot historically is that there was still a minute left, meaning had he missed he may well have hit another on the next possession or two. Nonetheless, just an absurd dagger from a guy whose legs were holding onto the court for dear life. Amazing to watch.

Q: Today on NBA Countdown, one of the first questions to Magic Johnson was “What will it take for the Lakers to bounce back tonight”? He mentions the Lakers having the best road record 29-12, he mentioned who would have to step up tonight (Odom, Bynum &Fish has to play better)he also mentioned how we must remember how the Lakers won game #4 in Utah & game #3 in Houston, so we know they can do it. Just before the game started, Magic was asked his prediction of who he thought would win the game. Magic said; “Denver!!!! ” Not only did he throw us (Laker Fans) under the bus, but he was driving!! What is up with that????
- John, unknown

MT: Can’t agree even a little bit with you John … An analyst doesn’t have to pick his former team to win every single game to be a supporter of that team. I think Magic’s on record with the Lakers winning the series, but I don’t think anybody thought it would be a sweep. His job is to look at the game – which you explained – and point out what to expect, and then decide whether or not he thinks the team can execute that plan. I’m sure Magic, and all Lakers fans, always hope that the team will win, but I’m not sure any Lakers fan isn’t allowed to think an opponent will take a game on a given day.

Q: Did you see the last “Duel 2″ on MTV? Well, if you did, which one of those guys do you think would be the best 13th man on the Lakers, just to cheer and stuff.
- Erica, Long Beach, CA
MT: Obviously I watched the last “Duel,” Erica, don’t even worry about that. Here’s how I’d handicap the guys who’ve yet to be eliminated, in terms of who would have the most to least positive influence: Mark, Brad, Landon, Evan, Derek. The shame of it is that CT isn’t available after perhaps the greatest single-day reality TV moment in history (CT – Adam fight, it’s on YouTube). Alas, Mark’s a cool guy, everyone likes him, he’d do random/weird things in the locker room to keep everybody loose, and just generally help the team in intangible ways. Brad wouldn’t be bad, but he’d probably annoy some of the players by trying to compete with them all the time despite having inferior athletic ability. Landon’s a bit strange, Evan probably thinks he should get playing time despite not having any basketball talent and Derek would just be happy to be there and not really add anything. So congrats, Mark, welcome to the team.

Q: What do you see happening in Game 4?
- Brian, Inglewood
MT: I think the Lakers best shot is to keep the game close and try to steal a win, much like Game 3. That’s the recipe for road success in the playoffs, and L.A. shouldn’t veer too much in this one. Losing Game 4 in Houston after winning Game 3 might help with their focus as well, and the pressure in this one is all on Denver. How they respond will probably determine the game’s outcome more so than what L.A. is or isn’t able to do.