Let’s Get Ready for the New Season

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My dad and I at the game last year- April 3, 2016

After a 6 month long hiatus it is time for the Lakers to suit up for a new season! I am very excited to start watching them play again. Before I preview the new season, I must look back at our last game:

Kobe’s Last Game

At the time, I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog about it. I sat on the couch with tears streaming down my face as I watched Kobe put up 60 points for the last time. I went through all the stages of grief watching that game.

He single handedly won that match. He played 1 on 5, just like he did back in the mid 2000’s. It was pure domination, so I went through the denial phase. I began to think that maybe he didn’t need to retire, and that he still had it in him. Then I would see him panting on the bench. He was putting on a show, but he could barely breathe. It was time for him to walk away. Now I was angry, because I looked around at the players surrounding him and could not imagine any of them carrying this team the way he has. He has played this game almost my entire life. I cannot remember a time when Kobe didn’t suit up in the purple and gold. How could anyone else be the face of my team? Then I started think about the Lakers’ history. Before Kobe there was Magic, and before Magic there was Jerry, so surely there is someone out there that the Lakers will scoop up and turn into a superstar right? Then depression kicked in when I started to think about who was running this team. Jerry Buss wasn’t going to work with Jerry West to draft Magic, and then convince him into staying with LA instead of bolting for Detroit. Instead, all we have is the incompetent son, and a GM who’s best trade to date was Jerry West’ doing. I sat there, watching the game, and thinking about all of this before I finally came to acceptance. I realize that it might take years, before the Lakers are playing at a championship level, but we will eventually get there. The team wasn’t always owned by Jerry Buss, and we had great trades made by GM’s other than Jerry West. Eventually, the Buss kids will figure out how to run this team, or (more likely) will hand over the reins to someone who can.

It is still hard for me to think about Kobe being retired. When Shaq was traded, and they broke up the original championship team, I was very angry. However, they eventually brought in Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom which lead to a new era. Kobe has always been the constant, but I know it is time to look toward the new talent to carry the torch.

Looking Ahead

Yesterday we had some big news. Yi Jianlian asked to be released from the Lakers, and they obliged. I was disappointed that we signed him in the first place. If you do not know who I am talking about, he was the star on the Chinese team during the Olympics this summer. I didn’t want him on the Lakers because I think he lacks the work ethic. Apparently Yao Ming really wanted him to be his mentee, but Jianlian was unwilling to put in the work. I can happily say good riddance. Now let’s take a look at the rest of the players on this finalized roster.

D’Angelo Russell may have butted heads with Byron Scott, but he appears to love Luke Walton. Thus far, the players are responding to him well, so that is a good thing. Russell did seem to improve over the summer, but he still has a lot of work to do. The same goes for Julius Randall and Brandon Ingram. We have a very young team, so there are going to be growing pains. I know fans are really excited that the Lakers did well in the pre-season, but please remember that those games are not indicative of how a team will play in the regular season. Most teams only play their stars for a few minutes. Those games are for the rookies and new acquisitions.

Remember back in 2012 when the Lakers went 0-8 in the preseason? That was the summer when we got Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Fans couldn’t believe it, but I didn’t think much of it. People look back on that season and say it was terrible, and by Lakers standards it was. However, we made the playoffs in a competitive western conference. Granted, with that talent we should have done better, but Steve Nash went down in the beginning of the season, Kobe tore his Achilles, and then Dwight Howard was forced to lead the team while still coming back from a major back injury. All things considered, I think we did pretty damn good.

So, where does that leave us? Pretty much where we have been the last couple of seasons. I anticipate our young players improving substantially, but I still see us as a below .500 team, barring a major trade. Luke Walton is now our coach and leader, but this is going to take years, so let’s buckle in and play the long game. In the meantime, let’s enjoy our young, versatile, and athletic youngsters playing some Warrior style ball (with a ton of turnovers).

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Managing our Expectations

Walton-600x400I am a little late to the party on this post. For that I am extremely sorry Teri and Christy. Now that my apologies are out of the way, why don’t I jump right in on the discussion of the Lakers’ new hire?

First off, I want to discuss the firing of Byron Scott. I have thought a lot about it, and I have decided it was a good idea. Now, I do think he did almost everything he could do to win games. We had a lousy team, and you cannot win without talent. However, I feel that he did a bad job working with our rookies. He openly criticized them to reporters, and constantly benched them for long stretches. Overall, I think he failed them. I understand that he felt they needed to earn playing time, but he didn’t need to undermine them in the press. When D’Angelo Russell had his scandal with Nick Young, Scott said he was most disappointed that they were unable to keep this in house. I wish Scott could have listened to his own criticism. I believe he was fired because the rookies had lost all faith in him, so the Lakers needed to make a change. Now it is time to analyze that change.

The Lakers went ahead and hired Luke Walton right away without even interviewing anyone else. This move was not surprising. For months I have expected this to happen. Luke received a lot of praise for how he coached the Warriors, and he played for the Lakers under Phil Jackson. This hire seemed inevitable. However, I think it is really important that we manage our expectations.

We are getting Luke Walton, not Steph Curry. While I greatly admire Luke Walton and believe that he will make a great coach one day, we need to understand the situation. Luke was coaching a team that just came off of winning a championship and was fighting to repeat and break a record. He was not coaching a team full of rookies. Golden State was great under Steve Kerr, and they remained great under Luke Walton. I do not think he had too much to do with their success. He had the presence of mind to simply stay out of their way.

When Luke comes to L.A. he will be inheriting one of the worst teams in the NBA. Kobe has just retired and there is no one currently there to fill that void (another blog on that to come later). Barring Kevin Durant coming to the Lakers, (which seems extremely unlikely) we are going to be in an even worse position come October than we were last season.

I will remain hopeful that we will get the top pick, and that Mitch can pull of some free agency/trade miracles for us, but in the meantime I must give the hard truths to my readers. The hard truth is that Luke Walton is not our savior, he is merely a building block.

Luke wants to run the Lakers on a similar style to the Warriors. Since our roster is filled with young and athletic players, this seems like a good idea. However, we must remember that instead of Steph Curry setting up the plays, we will have Russell, and instead of Klay Thompson jacking up threes, we will have Jordan Clarkson. Needless to say, our current roster can’t hang with the champs.

Post Draft Day Analysis

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwy2mjgzntk1mtrlzwvhy2m2zgywndawm2y3yza2yjey-e1435290349615Yesterday was a pretty historic day for Lakers fans. We got to draft our number 2 pick, and Mitch Kupchak managed to shock everyone by selecting D’Angelo Russell. I am hearing a lot of complaints from my fans, but I am very happy with this decision.

If you take a look at my draft day prediction blog, you will actually see that I wanted the Lakers to consider Russell:

“Before we all jump on the Okafor bandwagon, I would like the Lakers to take a good look at D’Angelo Russell: a combo guard from Ohio State. Personally, I would love for the Lakers to acquire a young guard for Kobe to mentor and take over the team. I think it would be a great transition for Kobe to use his last months with the Lakers prepping his predecessor. Theoretically, Kobe could do this with Okafor, but Okafor is a big with a completely different game. Plus, Kobe tends to clash with our centers. ***Cough Cough*** “Shaq” ***Cough Cough*** “Howard.” Sensing a theme yet?

I think Russell could be a great addition, and the Lakers are in dire need of a quality point guard. Despite his faults, I believe the Lakers will end up with Okafor, but Russell is my dark horse pick.”

Therefore, my LakHer fans should not be too surprised by this decision. I did say that I thought we would pick Okafor, but to keep an eye out for Russell. I actually believe that Russell will be a better fit for the Lakers in the long run. Many analysts are actually predicting that Russell will be the best player in the draft. ESPN’s Statistical Plus/Minus (SPM) numbers

Additionally, a lot of people are complaining that we passed on a great center, and this franchise is known for great centers. I would like to counter that argument. There are 3 Lakers players statues outside of Staples Center: Kareem, Magic, and Jerry. Only one of those players is a center, and the other two are guards. The Lakers are known for having great players. Period. Magic defined Showtime, not Kareem. Between Kobe and Shaq, only one of them stuck around. The Lakers picking a point guard and not a center just shows that they are paying attention to what is happening in the league. Golden State just won the championship behind dynamic guards. Every great team in this era needs a great guard.

Also, Mitch made the point that he wasn’t convinced that Okafor would be a franchise player. I mentioned his deficiencies in my previous draft blog, so I can agree with his point. I am not convinced that Okafor will be great. Drafts are always gambles, so we can definitely revisit this topic at a later date.

Picking a point guard should also give Lakers fans great hope for the future. It has been reported that the Lakers wanted a point guard because Mitch is confident that we will score one of the free agent big men this summer (Marc Gasol, Aldridge, Love). There have been a lot of rumors flying that these players are looking at the Lakers with renewed interest, so stay tuned. I think we have put ourselves in a great position to lure one of them in with the starting line up of Russell and Randle.

Lastly, I know that there was a lot of speculation that the Lakers will trade Russell, but I am not buying it. I think Russell is here to stay, but that our 27th pick is a goner. We used that pick to draft Larry Nance Jr. but I do not think Kobe wants this guy around. Three years ago Larry stupidly tweeted this: “Gee I sure hope Kobe can keep his hands to himself in Denver this time. #rapist”

Everyone has his or her own opinions about that case, and I will certainly not be diving into it. That case happened over a decade ago. Needless to say though, I do not think Kobe and his ego are going to want this guy on the team. He did delete this tweet minutes after he was drafted, but I really do not think it matters. It will be a distraction, and will cause a feud before these two even meet.

Mitch has said from the beginning that he would trade at least one of these rookies, so I think Larry shouldn’t be making any plans to move it L.A. yet.

One final note about Russel, here is what he said after he was drafted, “I want [Kobe] to take me under his wing and gain every piece of knowledge I can possibly gain. That franchise isn’t used to losing, and I’m a winning player.” Thank you Russell for proving my point and proving that you are here to win and learn. I can tell I like you already.

Knick’s Pick

I am not going to cover the other teams picks, since I find them to be irrelevant to the Lakers, but my Uncle Rick and cousin Aidan are Knicks fans and were very distraught yesterday by the selection, so I will discuss that one for them.

I am not sure about this pick. Kristaps Porzingis is a huge gamble. He is not NBA ready, but he has a lot of potential. Unfortunately for Phil Jackson this pick will either be praised for being the diamond in the rough, or he will be slaughtered for squelching the Knicks opportunity to rebuild in the draft.

The biggest problem for Phil, is that he selected this player because he fits the mold for the triangle offense. While the Lakers are evolving their game plan to stay relevant in this league, Phil is sticking with the triangle offense, no matter how many games the Knicks lose.

Analysts are pretty split on whether this was a good decision or not. Personally, I do not know how this will play out, but if I were Phil, I would not be gambling right now. He has lost favor with the Knicks fans, as it was obvious when the fans booed this decision, and now Carmelo Anthony is complaining about it. I know that Dolan gave him a huge contract, but he has been known in the past to fire employees. Phil should be careful. Knicks fans had high expectations for Phil to come in and turn this franchise around, but Phil only has bad deals and records to show for his time in New York.

Phil Jackson Needs to Stop Talking

phil-jacksonWriting this blog is physically hurting me. I have admired Phil Jackson almost my entire life. He was the man who brought my Lakers out of the darkness (not once but twice) and brought back the winning culture. He won 5 NBA championships as a Lakers coach, so naturally I would defer to him on most issues.

However, lately he has lost his ZenMaster aura and instead has turned into an angry old man yelling at the young kids from his porch. I want to cry when I write that sentence, because it is the truth.

He has spent this post season, and now off season criticizing the top NBA teams and players. During the playoffs he regularly used Twitter to blast the Golden State Warriors. This was so petty, since everyone knew he was clearly upset that Steve Kerr decided to go to the Warriors instead of the Knicks. He trolled the Warriors when they went down 2-1 to the Grizzlies, but we all know how that turned out in the end…

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PJ2

Additionally, Phil Jackson just did an interview with Bleacher Report discussing offensive schemes throughout the league (not just GSW), and felt he should call out LeBron and the Cavaliers. He said, “When I watch some of these playoff games, and I look at what’s being run out there, as what people call an offense, it’s really quite remarkable to see how far our game has fallen from a team game…Four guys stand around watching one guy dribble a basketball…I watch LeBron James, for example. He might [travel] every other time he catches the basketball if he’s off the ball. He catches the ball, moves both his feet. You see it happen all the time. There’s no structure, there’s no discipline, there’s no ‘How do we play this game’ type of attitude. And it goes all the way through the game. To the point where now guys don’t screen — they push guys off with their hands.”

Look, I don’t necessarily disagree that the one-on-five method is sustainable. Clearly LeBron couldn’t beat the Warriors by himself, but he did manage to get to the finals with minimal help.  Phil Jackson may not like it, but that is more than his lottery Knicks can say.

This is why Phil Jackson needs to stop talking. I don’t think it is classy to troll other teams, but if you are going to do it, then you better be able to back up your claims. Phil may have 13 rings, but he hasn’t won a Championship in 5 years. The league is evolving, and Jackson isn’t.

I spent 2 years blasting Jim Buss for not giving Phil Jackson control of our team, but now I am very grateful he doesn’t have that power. I never wanted Mitch Kupchak to lose his job, but I thought Phil would be a great asset in selecting players. However, he has proven in New York that he cannot win in the front office. While I will never condone the hiring of Mike D’Antoni, I can admit that Jim was correct in not giving Phil power over player decisions. If I am going to write tout my correct predictions, then I must also hold myself accountable when I get one wrong. Jim Buss, you get this one.

Follow up to Last Week’s Post

I have received a lot of positive comments in regards to last week’s post about the reports. I am glad that my fans enjoyed that topic. I would like to point out that I actually wrote that post because my dad asked me to cover it. I am always happy to take requests if you want to hear my take on a subject. Please leave me comments so I can cover the topics you want to hear about, otherwise I will keep picking them myself. Thanks!

How the NBA Reporters Almost Ruined My Finals Night

LeBron James giving his post game interview

LeBron James giving his post-game interview

I woke up very tired this morning, and it is not because I was emotionally exhausted after watching an intense series between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers come to an exciting conclusion. Instead, I was tired because I stayed up late watching the post-game coverage. You might be wondering why I stayed up to watch this coverage since I have no allegiance to either team. Well here is the answer: I wanted to see LeBron’s interview.

There were 2 questions I wanted to hear LeBron James answer:

  1. You have a player option to come back and play for the Cavaliers, are you going to come back, or will you explore free agency again?
  2. You said throughout these playoffs that you had a secret motivation. What was it?

I sat watching post-game coverage for an hour before LeBron finally took his seat at the podium, but no one asked either of my 2 questions. The closest anyone got to asking either of those questions was when one reporter asked LeBron how quickly it would take him to start thinking about next year, to which LeBron replied he isn’ thinking about next year yet. My 2 questions are the only ones that really matter. Instead of asking my questions, the reporters took the opportunity to ask the most frivolous questions.

One reporter actually asked LeBron how much this finals loss hurt in comparison to his other finals losses. Seriously? First of all, that is just a dick question. Way to shit on a guy when he already feels terrible. Second of all, who cares? LeBron actually did a very good job of keeping his composure during these redundant and idiotic questions, but I love the fact he actually gave this “journalist” some attitude. He told him that they all hurt the same, and that an elimination from the Finals hurts no matter what team you are on, or where it happens. Burn! (In text you can’t tell, but there was some sass in his voice).

In case you haven’t figured this out yet, I absolutely hate the basketball “reporters.” I think they ask the stupidest questions. Whenever my dad and I watch the games together we actually make fun of Doris Burke the whole time. The only reason why she gets the brunt of our abuse is because she “interviews” during the game, so I have no choice but to hear the horrible questions she asks the coaches and players. I rarely watch post-game interviews for that very reason. I try to avoid these interviews as much as I can.

I actually love how Greg Popovich and Phil Jackson normally answer their questions. Pop always gives a one word answer, and Phil normally shows some sass. I wouldn’t have a problem with players pulling an Allen Iverson and going off on reporters when they asked these ridiculous questions.

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You know that old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all?” Well I would like to revise that rule for NBA reporters: “If you don’t have anything intelligent to ask, then don’t ask anything at all.”

Players and coaches do not like giving these interviews, but they are contractually obligated to do so. I think we are doing a disservice to these men by making them endure these stupid questions. Instead of having these mandated interviews, why don’t NBA officials actually talk to these reporters and ask them if they have any real questions to ask. By the way, I am totally in favor of punishing reporters for asking bad questions. Remember in school if you repeated a question you got in trouble since you were clearly not paying attention? Why not make that rule apply to the reporters as well. Let’s eliminate repeat questions, and if a reporter doesn’t have another question then he can simply pass his turn. Wouldn’t that be nice?

I felt so bad for LeBron last night. Not only did this man endure a heartbreaking loss, but he then had to sit there and answer the same questions asked 10 different ways. Every single reporter asked (in some variation) about his feelings losing the game and how the loss of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love affected the outcome. Only one reporter had an original question and asked him to analyze how Andre Igoudala played defense against him.

As fans we demand greatness from our teams, and I think we should hold the reporters to the same standard.

Hey Clippers, the Lakers Didn’t Die and Make You King of the Hill

Yesterday it came out that the Clippers are trying to make Staples Center cover up the Lakers’ banners during Clippers home games. My response to the Clippers (in particular Doc Rivers) is, “Who the hell do you think you are?” For 10 years the Clippers were nothing more then a punch line. Now they are a decent team who makes it to the playoffs but have no real chance of winning a championship. They have a lot of good players, including two all stars, but lack the chemistry to face adversity. The organization hopes that Doc Rivers will put them in line, and he probably will make them significantly better, but as we learned from the Shaq and Kobe days, you cannot make players like each other.

Now that I have mentioned the lack of Clippers accomplishments, why don’t I list just a few of the Lakers accomplishments. The Lakers have 16 championships, a former player who is literally the logo of the NBA, a former player who is the highest scorer of all time, and 21 Hall of Famers. Therefore I reiterate, “Who the hell do the Clippers think they are to make such demands?”

The Clippers should feel honored that they get to play in a stadium that houses such greatness. I will stipulate that the Clippers have been a better team then the Lakers the last couple of years. However, the Clippers have not been great. They were eliminated in the second and then the first round. Lakers fans will agree that isn’t greatness, and we would know since we have faced two swift first round play off exists the last two years.

This movement is being spearheaded by Doc Rivers. As a Lakers fan, I both loath and respect the man. It is nice to see that just because he traded in his Celtic green for the Clippers red doesn’t mean he lost an ounce of his hatred. However, I disagree with his approach. Honestly, what is a better way to inspire a team then to have them look up and see all of big brother’s accomplishments? Doc should make his players stare at those banners every time they lose to remind them that until they start winning championships they are nothing in LA. Not only would I have them stare at the Lakers banners, I would also have them stare at the Kings’ and Sparks’ banners. I would remind them that they are the only team in that stadium who has not won a championship or even a Western Conference Final.

This point leads to my next question: Do the Clippers want all the banners covered, or just the Lakers? I honestly believe there is no good answer. If they want just the Lakers’ banners covered then they will show they are petty, and are trying to replace the Lakers any way they can, since they obviously can’t do it with any substantial accomplishments. If they have all the banners covered, then they are just showing their inferiority complex, and teams will not respect them.

I have another question for Doc: Why stop at the banners? Why don’t you cover up all the retired jerseys? It must be tough to see how many great players have played for the Lakers, especially since the Clippers are known for getting good players and then losing them to the Lakers.

Doc should just return to his old tricks and hide a Clippers jersey in the Lakers’ ceiling. We all know he loves doing that.

This movement brings up a running, and yet disturbing trend in the league: players and teams wanting accolades before they actually accomplish anything. The Heat held a parade just for signing the big three. They had to face the critics since it took them 2 years to bring in their first championship. Recently, both LeBron and Dwight have expressed their desire to have their former teams retire their jerseys. I am particularly amused by this request for the same reason. Neither player brought their team a championship and only made it to the finals once. If the Lakers retired a player’s jersey for doing that, well it is easy to say that they would have no numbers left. I have no doubt that LeBron will end up in the Hall of Fame, or that the Heat will retire his number, but I would not be surprised if the Cavs decided he was not worth it. Dwight on the other hand may not make the Hall of Fame. He was a very good player, but he is a shell of his former self and has proved that he cannot be the number 1 option. That type of player isn’t worth retiring a number, just like making it to the playoffs twice does not give you the right to ask a stadium to cover another team’s accomplishments.

I am amused that Doc is becoming an LA style diva and is making demands, but he clearly has not learned from the stars. The stars who make demands have to be star worthy. The Lakers are the big kahuna in LA, even if the Clippers are on the rise. Until the Clipps reach the same level they should be careful. Careers have been ruined in LA because they have been seen as too difficult to work with or make too many demands, just ask Katherine Heigl.