Tag Archive for 'Pregame'

Phil Jackson Pregame

Prior to Tuesday evening’s classic “trap game” against the better-than-you-think Oklahoma City Thunder, Phil Jackson’s primary goal was to make sure L.A. wasn’t already thinking of Wednesday’s matchup with Utah.

“(Oklahoma City) found a rotation, they got comfortable under their new coach and started playing with confidence and sharing the ball,” he said. “Defensively they still have a lot to learn, but they’re athletic. It’s a team that can be problematic because they have two very good players (Kevin Durant and Jeff Green) in their second year and they’re feeling a lot of optimism.”

To here the rest of Phil’s comments – such as some Lamar Odom commentary and an update on Kobe’s health – you can listen by clicking the play button below:

After Shootaround with Lamar

Fresh off his 28 points and 17 boards in Cleveland, Lamar Odom turned his coaching mind on to preview the Oklahoma City Thunder for us. Odom explained why the Lakers can’t take the Thunder – who have gone 10-9 since opening the season at 3-29 – lightly, particularly after returning from a 6-0 road trip.

From the Broadcast Booth in Boston

Lakers play by play voices Joel Meyers and Spero Dedes spent quite a bit of time in Boston last June, and got a particularly strong dose of Celtics – Lakers vitriol from their courtside perches in respective broadcast booths.

Accordingly, we sat down with both to talk about what it’s like playing the Celtics in their house, what we can expect from Kobe, Pau (and Josh Powell) and how I can avoid letting Boston fans know I’m employed by the Lakers (safety concerns).

Clippers Missing Four Best Players

Perhaps the biggest story heading into Wednesday’s Los Angeles battle is that the Clippers are one of the least healthy teams in NBA history.

When Phil Jackson was asked if he could remember a time when a team was missing its four best players, he had to go all the way back to the 1978 Portland Trail Blazers squad, a good 31 years ago.

Here’s the scratch list for the red and blue:

Baron Davis: Bruised tailbone
Marcus Camby: Sprained left ankle
Chris Kaman: Strained left arch
Zach Randolph: Sore left knee

Yikes.

With those four players healthy, plus Al Thornton, Eric Gordon, Ricky Davis and Mardy Collins chipping in, the Clips could actually be a good squad.

Tonight, however, it’s going to be tough to beat the Lakers unless Collins, Gordon, Thornton, DeAndre Jordan and Brian Skinner shoot a collective 65 percent from the field. That’s sort of like asking the L.A. Dodgers to bat .600 in a game when they had seven starters out with injuries.

But that’s why they play the game…

Magic Numbers

Orlando MagicIn order to take a deeper look at the 31-8 Orlando Magic, we dissected a few numbers to get a grip on perhaps the NBA’s most surprisingly good team after the same group of players finished 52-30 last season before losing to Detroit in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

Sandwiched between Cleveland and Boston at the top of the Eastern Conference standings this season (the Magic have yet to play the Cavs and lost once to the Celtics), Orlando pulled out a last-second win against the Lakers on Dec. 20 when Sasha Vujacic’s three rimmed out. They’ve beaten San Antonio twice, New Orleans, Utah and Portland, and probably deserve to be factored in to any Eastern conversation.

Perhaps Orlando’s biggest advantage is their unconventional matchup capability; Because Howard’s able to handle the paint defensively almost by himself, the Magic can get by with playing a smaller four (Rashard Lewis) who can stretch the floor extensively on offense. Yet the biggest reason for Orlando’s improvement this season has been the outstanding play of Jameer Nelson, which we’ll get into with some numbers:

3.22
Average blocks per game by Dwight Howard, by far tops in the league. Howard also led the NBA in rebounding with 13.8 per evening before Marcus Camby jumped him (13.9) this week. Head coach Stan Van Gundy has long held that he wants Howard to focus on the boards and protecting the paint, and the team’s 31-8 record is surely a product of that.

5.3
Assists averaged by point guard Jameer Nelson to lead Orlando. Nelson, who averages 16.6 points and shoots the ball at over a 50 percent clip (50.8), has been playing at what Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw called “an All-Star level,” and has been a paramount reason for the Magic’s success. Because he’s hitting at such a high rate with his jumper, Nelson can’t be ignored on offense, whereas last season Shaw said L.A. would have its guards go underneath on pick and rolls (letting him shoot, like he were Rajon Rondo). Since that’s no longer the case, there isn’t a player on Orlando’s perimeter that can be left alone on the perimeter – thus all the open looks from three.

31
Wins for Orlando, tying L.A. for second in the league and trailing only Boston’s 32 victories.

37.2
Minutes per game played by Hedo Turkoglu to lead the Magic. Rashard Lewis is next with 36.7 minutes, and Howard third with 36.2, the same number as Kobe Bryant. Due to L.A.’s recent backcourt injuries, Bryant’s in the minutes per game top 40 (39) for the first time this season, but with Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton probably back for Friday’s game, his minutes should come back down.

45.8
Nelson’s three-point percentage, which leads the team and is 5th in the league. Close behind are rookie Courtney Lee (43.9), J.J. Redick (43.1), Lewis (41.8) and former Laker Brian Cook, who plays only seven minutes a game (meaning his percentage doesn’t qualify among league leaders) but hits 47.6 percent of his threes.

49
Percent shooting by the Magic in Orlando’s 106-103 win on Dec. 20 over the Lakers near Disney World. The Magic shot 40 percent (12-of-30) from three, though they did struggle from the free throw line, making just 24-of-39 shots (61.5) while the Lakers made 24-of-25 (96 percent).

57.5
Howard’s field goal percentage, fourth in the NBA and just ahead of Pau Gasol’s 55.3 percent. Clearly Gasol is a better shooter, but most of Howard’s buckets still come from within 5-10 feet of the rim.

273
Three pointers attempted by Lewis, by far the most in the league. Lewis, who also leads the league in makes (114), takes a whopping 48 percent of his shots from behind the arc, and at 6-10 with a quick release and a smooth stroke, don’t expect that number to go down.

Lakers – Spurs Pregame

Odom Ready to Play
When asked how his knee responded to Tuesday evening’s win in Houston, Lamar Odom likened himself to Humpty Dumpy … You know, the whole fall-down-and-get-back-up-again thing.

Odom’s said he’s feeling “all right,” and will indeed face off against the Spurs (as expected), which is a good thing because Odom was terrific in the Western Conference Finals last season. He averaged nearly 13 points, 10 boards, three assists and over a block in L.A.’s 4-1 series win.

He’s particularly important in the matchup because the Spurs will occasionally go small with Duncan in the middle and Bruce Bowen or Kurt Thomas at the four, when Odom’s defensive versatility becomes a big factor.

Phil Jackson Pregame
A few bullet points from Phil’s pregame chat:

  • On the toughest thing about the Spurs: “One of the best things San Antonio does is coming out in the third quarter and having a really tremendous burst of energy … We have to be prepared for that.”
  • Jackson explained that the Spurs are still running the same things as they always have under Gregg Popovich, but that they probably shoot more threes.
  • Jackson didn’t take a reporter’s bait to go critical on Andrew Bynum, instead suggesting that he did “fine” against the Rockets last night despite foul trouble and just one rebound. Read into that as you will.
  • The Spurs really spread out the floor, Jackson said, meaning the Lakers may have to match their lineup.
  • Phil’s been impressed with Josh Powell’s ability, though at the same time, the Lakers did recognize Powell’s skill when they signed him.
  • Sasha Vujacic is still hurting back in Los Angeles, though his back spasms are dissipating.