Pacifying the Pacific: Los Angeles Lakers
With the Golden State Warriors (2-4) traveling to face the Los Angeles Lakers (4-4) tonight (7:30 PM PST), Warriors World reached out to David Murphy of Forum Blue and Gold to get his take on the game.
J.M. Poulard, Warriors World: The Golden State Warriors are not only the darlings of the state of California, but they are also officially better than the Lakers. Want proof?
The Los Angeles Lakers lost on opening day to the Chicago Bulls while the Dubs handled them rather easily despite the absence of Stephen Curry in the fourth quarter. It only makes sense really: we beat the team that beat you. Supremacy I tell you!
By the way, congratulations on avoiding the Los Angeles riots that an 0-4 record would have caused to start out the season. To borrow a phrase from Michael Ray Richardson: “The ship be sinking!”
All jokes aside, how is the Mike Brown experiment coming along?
David Murphy, Forum Blue and Gold: Haha! – enjoy your moment in the California sun my friend, our Mike Brown experiment is proceeding along a bumpy but thoroughly enjoyable path. Yes, there will be head-scratching moments aplenty but the Lakers have managed to assemble an amalgam of role players and rejects that are at last, giving us consistent energy and bench production.
How’s Kwame’s hands of stone working out by the way? I see he’s averaging an almost career-low 4.7 PPG.
J.M. Poulard: A little early for the Kwame jokes no? Then again, you’ve had him for longer than we have; and you sound a little bitter. I can tell you’re dying inside you right now because Kobe no longer has the opportunity to fire passes to Brown only to watch him fumble them out of bounds as the Black Mamba wishes he were Darth Vader and could do this to him.
Speaking of Kobe, during the first four games without Bynum, he was on pace to have the highest usage rate in NBA history, but those numbers have gone down in the last few games; especially with Andrew returning to the lineup.
Bynum has been a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the court. With Kobe Bryant on the bench, the big man automatically becomes the focal point of the offense; but more importantly when Bryant comes back on the floor, he seems more than willing to defer to him and have him carry the offense for stretches…occasionally.
Heck, in the Lakers’ home game against the Nuggets, the purple and gold’s best offense midway through the third quarter consisted of putting up shots and watching Bynum crash the offensive boards for put backs. All in all, this makes the Lakers an extremely dangerous team that will give the Warriors fits.
With that said, I think Kelis said it best: “my backcourt brings all the boys to the yard, damn right it’s better than yours”.
David Murphy: You, know you’re right though. I shouldn’t make fun. Kwame definitely serves a function. Very strong dude, takes up a lot of space in the paint, will alter some shots. And a real bargain for you guys at only seven million bucks, huh?
Kobe was definitely facilitating for Andrew in the first of the Nuggets back-to-back but he reverted to hero mode the next night and it cost them the game. The thing is, they’re called hero shots for a reason, right? For instance, you don’t hear about Kwame taking hero shots. He’s smart that way. He’ll hide behind another player if the ball’s headed his way.
Monta and Steph are both awesome, no doubt. I’m not going to deny it in the least. Advantage Warriors, in that sense – that you’ve got two guys, similar size, both very potent with assists, both good scorers, Steph’s a natural rebounder as well which is a real bonus at that size. Monta tends to go ISO a lot but when he’s on his game, he’s very tough to stop. Plus you’ve got Rush so there’s some depth there. So yeah, I’m hearing Kelis but Kobe will be one of the guys in the yard as well and he can teach them… but he’ll have to charge.
The Warriors are one of those teams that can give the Lakers problems within the game itself but they don’t actually beat us often. It was always a ton of fun to watch when it was strictly a run game and I know Mark Jackson’s trying to instill a functioning defense now as well. Kwame jokes aside, he was the guy who used to guard Bynum in practice and that should be a very physical matchup.
J.M. Poulard: David, I’m almost offended. You took my Kelis line, ran with it and threw it back in my face. Respect.
But since you seemed so intent on making fun of Kwame, I will have to go to a place that you are afraid of: the dark side of Kobe Bryant (FYI I am now laughing like the hyenas in Lion King).
The Black Mamba is unquestionably one of the best players in the league. His ball handling, shooting, footwork and ability to create shots may in fact be unmatched. But you know what else is unmatched? His Mariah Carey-like diva tendencies (oh yeah, I went there and I’m brining the big guns now).
Let’s take a stroll through memory lane: last season, Kobe missed a few games and also put himself on cruise control as he slowly but surely got himself back into a place where he was still Kobe Bean. But during the time that it took for him to get back to his usual level of performance, Pau Gasol was tearing it up and the media started saying that the Spaniard should be considered for the MVP award based on his play.
So what happened?
Bryant went on a tear. He started putting up more shots and scoring more points just to remind the world that he was Kobe Bryant. Sound familiar?
With Andrew Bynum returning against Denver and putting up an impressive 29 points and 13 rebounds, it’s almost as if the star guard felt compelled to serve the Lakers brass with a reminder. And thus, when the Lakers played against Denver again the following day on the road, Kobe went into full-fledged Allen Iverson mode; putting up 28 shots, while only converting six. Bynum on the other hand was 7-for-12 from the field while Gasol was 8-for-15. Yes, Kobe took more shots than both his big men combined.
This is relevant today because when the Lakers face off against the Warriors, there is that small risk that Kobe will nullify the Lakers’ biggest advantage all by himself: the team’s interior scoring. Granted, I’m not sure that this will manifest itself again, but if it does, make sure you have Nick Cannon on speed dial; because he might just be the only person that can handle the diva. If not, there’s always Phil Jackson right? Oh wait…
David Murphy: Ah, the Kobe Bryant Situation. Yes. Lakers fans have begun their annual feudal dances over this, as you well know. Sidebar: Warriors readers – you DO know about your author’s dalliance over at FB&G, right? Oh ya. He’s hanging out at the big dance. Writing some really good stuff too.
Kobe’s propensity to start jacking them up when it’s simply not needed, has been debated since he came into the league. You might remember that Phil Jackson got into a brouhaha back in 2001 when he had what he thought was an off-the-record conversation with Rick Telander and it came out in print – about Kobe supposedly sandbagging high school games in order to play the hero. Whether that was true or not, Kobe’s questionable shooting judgment has probably become the largest defining debate of his career – more so than Kobe vs. M.J., or Kobe vs. Shaq.
I don’t know that I’d agree with the notion that any of this has to do with Pau or Andrew usurping his spotlight. I think there’s a few intertwined factors. First, he tends to launch into hero mode because he honestly feels (whether consciously or instinctively), that’s it’s needed in the moment. Second, he truly thinks he is that much better than anyone else on the floor, that he can exert his will over anything and anyone, regardless of how poorly he might be playing at the moment. And third, he gets angry with himself, and that causes him to try and shoot his way out of situations.
There is an undeniable level of truth present here – Kobe has been essential to the team’s success and he’s often been the best player on the floor. But, everyone who’s watched him closely over the years has asked the question – what happens when he gets old and his body denies him? This is the crossroads that we’re at, right now. Year after year, Kobe plays through injury and he’s allowed this because he’s a superstar and he sells tickets. Structural damage can’t be denied forever though, and it’s obvious that a combination of newly-torn wrist ligaments and permanently damaged fingers, are affecting his handle on the ball and his shooting stroke.
The question for opposing teams is how to take advantage. You can go for his injured parts, and that’s just a part of the game. You can’t stop guarding him though – that’s just inviting disaster no matter what. I don’t worry too much about how his actions affect the guys he’s played with for so long, but I do wonder about the newcomers – whether shooters like Kapono or Murphy will take the shot, and what sort of pressure it puts them under, knowing his expectations of them. There’s not a lot of options for Mike Brown, he either lets Kobe play or he sits him and you know he’s not going to sit him.
As for as the Warriors match-up, all your guys can do is guard him and hope for an off night. Kobe’s play will become chancier in these last years but you’ll never really know because he can still catch fire at any moment and simply destroy you.
Does Nick Cannon actually have a career now, beyond being Maria’s handler?
J.M. Poulard: Well, this just became wildly uncomfortable. Calling me out on my own turf? Biggie would never have performed Who Shot Ya in Los Angeles…
Actually that did happen and look at how that turned out.
David, thanks for engaging me in my nonsense and making it entertaining. Let’s make sure we do this again.
By the way, behind all that fake bravado, I have the Lakers winning by eight points.
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