Happy New Year to all my fellow Laker fans! It is quite nice to have a stable diet of NBA to feast ourselves on, is it not? Were those fall months as cold for your soul as it was for mine? It was quite the effort trying to get my sports fix on Lions and Eagles games rather than Kobe fadeaways and Derek Fisher transition J's. Anyhow, I digress... the NBA is back, and I am damn thankful. The Lakers are back, and I am damn opinionated. On to the bullets!
- Andrew Bynum. Everyone loves him, the blogs are on fire saying how Kobe needs to pass him the ball, Ball Don't Lie to ESPN to Land o Lakers are assaulting Kobe with old selfish ball hog accusations that claim that the Lakers would dominate anyone if they just went inside-out early, often, and all the time. Well, last night, that theory was disproved. Completely and utterly disproved. We leaned on Bynum (and to a lesser extent, Gasol) to keep us in the game during that pivotal stretch in the third quarter... and he folded. He got tired, he turned the ball over, he fell behind on defense, and he missed a few shots. I'm all for Bynum being called an All Star center and a good player, but he's no leader of this team. When the end of the 4th came, he was doing the same thing, looking tired, overmatched, and unable to handle pressure. He was going AWAY from the ball. He didn't want it. Andrew is not the guy people are trying to make him out to be. When the game is going his way, when he is fresh off the bench, when he's not being doubled, when he's not a focal point of the defense, he plays well. Add a wrinkle? Bynum folds.
- Pau Gasol. Pau is playing like a 3rd wheel. Yes, he's hitting his open jumpers, but when we need him, AGAIN, he is nowhere to be found. When a run is being made by the other team, there's no Pau making stops on the defensive end, no Pau making big shots on offense. Pau is simply there, being scored on or rebounded on. In several major swing points in last nights game, Pau was bullied in for lay ups by Aldridge, driven into by guards and scored on, stripped in the post, or having put back lay ups botched by some small manner of defense administered by a shorter player. This guy is simply not what he was. This is the same Pau that made an and-1 in the 2010 finals that put us in the drivers seat against the Celtics, the same Pau who sent Oklahoma City home in Oklahoma City. No... wait.... this may, sadly, not be the same Pau.
- Kobe. I'm not lobbing any other insults Kobe's way until I see his team change their behavior. When the game was getting out of control Kobe was putting forth maximum effort, getting the ball to his bigs, and they still were not executing. Kobe was the only one consistently being pressured, and the only one who continually put Everything he had visibly out on the court. Something else that makes me furious is seeing the Laker offense sputter uselessly until the end of the shot clock, then watch as they pass the ball to Kobe for a shot... and of course it is an ill advised, heavily contested, shot. If you aren't seeing this phenomena, you are blind.
- This team is a very bad team in crunch time. The hardest bullet for me to write is this one. I've never seen a quicker change in a team over a year or so (with almost the same players) than with this Laker team. At some point last year, we became a team that could not finish. We are still that team. Yes, we start out fine, but who gives a damn. There's really no reason to put any stock in anything that happens in the beginning of our games (read: First Half). The beginning should not even count (Go ahead, from now on, and imagine every first half is an extended Hawks-Heat overtime snoozefest/thriller). It's the mid-end point when you see it. If you've been watching these games during the past year or so, you know what it is. The ball stops moving, the shots get contested heavier and the rebounds and put backs begin to vanish. The defense gets slow, the switches happen more often and mismatches reveal glaring weaknesses (did anyone else see Bynum on an island with Jamal Crawford last night? That play ended with an and-1 layup for Jamal Crawford. This was during a pivotal point in the game, not just in the first or second quarter). Someone bodies Pau in the post. Bynum gets sat or lags behind on the way back on defense. Kobe keeps the ball. The ball gets turned over. No role player steps up to make a shot; not a single one. These things are happening almost Every Single Big Game.
- I still don't know if we miss Lamar.
- I'm very happy with Josh McRoberts and Kapono, for whatever that's worth.
- The defensive tandem of Blake and Fisher are a match up dream for anyone right about now. It's disgusting.
- Despite all of these problems, there's light at the end of the tunnel. Dwight Howard still hates playing on the Magic.
- I had the feeling this would be a painful year with the Chris Paul fiasco unfolding, but this team is really only a piece away from a championship team. I must say, I'm down but I'm not out on the team. Mike Brown is working, Kobe is working, the bench is bad but not as bad as before, and there's a bunch of damn games left to see what can happen.
Yea, that last bullet was me trying to be positive.