Monday, January 3, 2011

The Lake-Slow

Bryant can't do it alone
  "We get behind early on in the third quarter on some stupid plays -- poor passing, poor transition defense -- and then Kobe has to screw up the game and start energizing the team by going one-on-one and that takes the rest of the guys out as a consequence." Lakers coach Phil Jackson after 104-85 loss at Staples Center against the Memphis Grizzlies.

We're almost halfway through the 2010-11 NBA season and one thing that is very apparent to me about the 2-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers is that they don't have the same speed and energy from the supporting cast as they have had on the teams that reached the Finals the three previous seasons.  The problem is not Kobe. (and Phil knows that, he's just doing that Jedi post game presser talk he always does.)  The reality is, it's like everyone besides Kobe and Shannon Brown are playing in slow-motion right now.  Lamar Odom has had sparks of brilliance but has often looked lethargic (crash from sugar high) and disinterested (wishes he was with the other Kardashian sisters).  Pau Gasol looks about 10 years older than he did last year (Miguel Tejada?).  They can still light up the score board on any given night but they don't play with the same intensity and urgency as those other teams.  Bottom line: It's an old team with not much to prove.  We all know in sports that teams experience a 'hangover' after winning a championship and get complacent, but many people believe that the will of Kobe Bryant to be the G.O.A.T., and the manipulative mind-game modus operendi of master-motivator Phil Jackson, would be enough to get the Lakers where they need to be and in position for a three-peat.  It's still early but the guys they have lost and the guys they have replaced them with have either lost motivation or have been quite vast downgrades.

Trevor Ariza - Ron Artest
Odom is dissapointed; he chose the wrong Kardashian
Ariza was an O.K. NBA player when he was with the New York Knicks (and a little less good with the Orlando Magic) but became the most important 'glue' guy for the Lakers for those first two Finals teams.  An L.A. guy through-and-through (Westchester H.S. and UCLA), the then 22-year old Ariza was an athletic defender that grew in confidence with his jumpshot from what was obviously a combination of hard work, and the motivation that can be inspired when playing for a player like Kobe and being coached by a coah like Phil.  His game improved so much from his time in Los Angeles that he was basically given the 'green-light' whenever he was in the game and became the designated team defensive stopper.  The culmination of Ariza's career in L.A. came in the 2009 Playoffs where he shot 48% from three in 23 games and had a 13 points in a crucial third quarter run against Orlando in Game 4 of the Finals to help lead the Lakers to an overtime victory.  When Ariza signed with the Houston Rockets the next year (five years, $33 million), it left the door open for L.A. to sign a seasoned player who was known for his defensive tenacity, Ron Artest.  But Ron-Ron didn't come without controversy.  In fact, many wondered when the eccentric 29 year-old forward from Queensbridge (who signed for . . . five years, $33 million) would transform back into his semi-psychotic side and make the Lakers rue the day they signed him.  For the most part, Artest was majorly motivated to win a championship and kept the antics under wrap, and hit memorable game-winners in the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns and the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.  But what is left on the plate for Artest now? 
Artest is ready to move on to different things
We all know that The Tru Warier can't stay focused for long.  He's always been into music and is now talking about possibly trying out for the NFL or going into boxing.  The lack of focus for Artest has been very noticeable this year, with his point total dropping to 7.5 points per game through 34 games this year after averaging 11 ppg (77 games) a year ago.

Jordan Farmar - Steve Blake (30 years old, 6 different NBA teams in 8 seasons)

Farmar may have been the single most motivated player on the team during this Lakers run not named Kobe Bryant.  Farmar, who like Ariza went to UCLA and played high school ball in the L.A. area, felt like the starting point guard position was in his reach and worked like a mad-man to try and get it.  While he never captured the starting role (two starts in four years), especially with the return of longtime Laker point guard Derek Fisher in 2007, the 24-year old Farmar was probably the fastest player on the team and often the spark for the Los Angeles transition game and, along with Sasha Vujacic, became a key part of the second unit.  With Blake coming in (with a $4 million contract no less) its hard to believe that the Lakers improved their second group, nor did they get bang for their buck.  Blake is a better shooter from the perimeter, shooting 41% from three so far this season, but he doesn't force the tempo the way Farmar did.

New additions: Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks

Barnes balls on and off the court; but mostly off
Barnes, 30, was known as a runner and gunner when he played for those exciting Golden State Warriors teams a few years ago and again in a stint with the Suns.  He tried to reprise that role last year with the Magic but was mostly just known for getting under Kobe's skin and Basketball Wives.  Now that he plays with Bryant, I guess all he has to be known for is Basketball Wives.  Ebanks came out of West Virginia with high-praise and displayed much of his raw skills and athletic ability in the summer league and pre-season.  However, the 21-year old Queens native has been mostly subjcted to the D-leauge so far this year.


  1. Samuel ℞ Higgins commented on your link. (via Facebook)
    Samuel wrote: "Disagree with your entire Lakers thing. Kobe has been brutal this year and even worse as of late. Hes only scoring points because he refuses to pass. The only player doing anything has been Lamar. The supporting cast is better. The attitude is worse. Steve Blake > Farmar and Derek Fisher for that matter. Matt Barnes > Luke/Sasha/Whoever. Pau Gasol is reverting back to whatever prehistoric animal he derives from"

  2. disagree wit me? how dare u! lol I neva said Kobe was havin his best year ever but if you think Odom is gonna carry them to the three-peat then go with that. And if you think Blake and Barnes are more athletic than Ariza and Farmar, i aint gonna argue wit ya. Apparently we do agree on Gasol cuz I said tha same thing about him!