March 2004 - Posts
Well, they've not technically won yet, there's still a minute and a half left in the game, but the Lakers are up by more than 20. Tonight's victory against the Hornets represents the Lakers' 9th straight, which have included solid wins against both the Kings and T-Wolves. A couple more big games coming up - Rockets on Thursday, and the Spurs on Sunday. (Sadly I'll be in the air heading up to Seattle when the Sunday game is aired, but it should be another great game...)
Some miscellaneous Lakers news:
- Kareem Rush was added to the injured list to rest his hurting foot. Nothing too serious, it sounds like, just want to rest him going into the playoffs. (Kind of a bummer when you are needing to rest a guy for the playoffs who's, what, 22 years old?)
- Karl Malone is mulling retirement after this season's end. Hasn't he been doing this since 2000, though?
- Not to be outdone, Rick Fox is also considering retirement at year's end, especially if Phil Jackson and Kobe split.
- Karl Malone, who injured his hand on Sunday against the Jazz, discovered that he didn't break his hand this time, but instead had reaggrevated a previous untreated broken bone. Malone's a tough guy, though, and doesn't expect to miss any playing time, which is a good thing - the Lakers are 26-7 when Malone's played.
Well, it's official now, Lakers beat the Hornets by 19, 107-88, improving their record to 51-23, one and a half games behind the Kings.
Tonight's W against the Jazz gave the Lakers their 50th win of the season. Malone played in his first game this season against his former team and managed a double-double, something he's done in many games this season (he is averaging 13.4 ppg and almost 9 boards per game). Shaq got a double-double as well, and Kobe went off the handle (again), scoring 34. (That kid can play ball, eh?)
Tonight's win was the eighth straight for the Lakers, putting them half a game ahead of the Wolves (although that doesn't matter for playoff seeding), two games behind the Kings, and two games up on the Spurs. The Lakers have some challenges on their upcoming schedule, though, although fortunately the majority of their remaining games are at home. Their future looks like:
- Hornets on Tuesday (home game)
- Rockets on Thursday (home game)
- Sonics on Friday (away)
- Spurs on Sunday (home game, and on ABC)
Tonight the Lakers have another big game, this time against the Wolves. The Lakers are 8-2 over their last 10 games, with an impressive 24 point victory over the Kings on Wednesday, so hopefully some of the intensity and energy the Lakers played with on Wednesday will carry over to their game tonight against Minnesota. Tonight's game is a must-win for the Lakers, as you never want to enter the playoffs having been swept by any particular team during the regular season, and the Wolves have won all three prior games this year. Let's go Lakers!
Earlier in the week I mentioned how Mark Cuban now has a blog. I stumbled upon this interview with Mark Cuban by Dan Gillmor. Essentially, the interview is five weak questions with five equally weak answers, focusing primarily on the role / future of blogging, especially with business people / CEOs. The interview's pretty lame, but what is funny is the first reader comment reads simply:
next time ask him why he refuses to get anyone who can play defense
Got a chuckle out of me.
The Lakers take on the #1 Western team, the Sacramento Kings, tonight. The game is on ESPN but, naturally, I'll be teaching tonight and only able to follow the game on the Internet during class breaks. Meh.
The Lakers have won their last five games, but all of them were close wins against subpar teams. A seven point win against the TerriBulls; an OT win against the Magic; two close wins against the Clippers; an OT win against the Bucks. Since the All Star Break, the Lakers have lost to the top Western conference playoff-bound teams, such as Minnesota and Sacramento.
Tonight, the Lakers play at home against the Kings. On Friday, another home game against the T-Wolves. These are two big games that the Lakers need to win in order to keep pace with the other Western Conference teams, and to send a message. The playoffs are coming, and what could be worse than not being able to beat any true contenders?
We're getting near playoff times, and things are heating up all over the league. It's a great time to be a fan! The Eastern Conference has been exciting to watch as of late, with the Pacers and Pistons playing lights out, and a number of scrub teams vying valiantly for the lower couple of playoff spots. Mark Stein has a good article on the East's rise, and how this year will likely see no teams with 60+ wins (especially with the King's loss to the Bucks last night).
Too, how about those Grizzlies? What a turnaround for this team in just a short couple of years. The Grizz are in fifth place in the West and on pace to break 50 wins. They're quickly becoming the team no one wants to face in the first round. Looking at the Western Conference picture right now, though, I think you can say the same thing about five other of the eight teams - the Kings, Wolves, Lakers, Spurs, and Mavs. While Houston, Utah, Denver, and Portland aren't bad, I can't conceive of any of these teams winning a best of seven series. (I guess I feel the same way about the Grizz, since they lack the post-season experience, but they have been playing lights out lately.)
I hope the Cavs make it to the playoffs this year, they're barely hanging on to the 8th seed in the East with a 31-39 record. (Comparetively, the current eight seed in the West, the Jazz, have a 37-34 record, which is equal to the fourth seeded Hornets record in the East.) If the Cavs make it they'd be facing either Indy or Detroit, and would be lucky to win one game in the series, but getting playoff experience is vital for young teams and players. Too, it would mark an impressive turnaround for this organization, which had the worst record in the league last year.
On a final note, I wish the first round of the playoffs went back to a best of five series. I always liked the shorter first round series for two reasons:
- It brought on the next round of the playoffs that much quicker, and
- It made upsets more possible. Part of the excitement of college hoops is that it's single elimination, so even the best teams (ahem, Kentucky), can be upset. It's harder in the NBA due to a seven game series. I definitely like the series approach, as it does result in the best team winning, but the five game series was always exciting because it opens the door a bit more for an upset. For example, had the league not made the rule change last year to placate the L.A. fan base, the Lakers would have lost the first round to the Wolves, IMO.
Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has a blog - http://www.blogmaverick.com/. Pretty freakin' cool. He's got some good entries over there on business, reporters, and his day-to-day activities. Fun to read and dream “what if I was that rich and owned an NBA team and could talk about my 'pre-game' routine.”
... and not scrape by with an OT win against losing teams! Since the All-Star break the Lakers have had a solid W/L record: 13-4, a 76% winning percentage. But of those 13 wins only one has come against a respectable team - March 3rd's 3 point victory against the Rockets. (I'm not counting the Lakers two victories over the Nets as games won against a respectable team. For one thing, Jason Kidd was sitting out of one of the games. For another, the Nets are the Nets, and even if they do make it to the Finals again this year, they're still going to get decimated.)
Of these 4 loses, two came against two of the league's best teams, the Kings and T-Wolves, and two against two scrub teams, the (shudder) Hawks and the Jazz. These two loses against Sacramento and Minnesota are indicative of why this Lakers team has no chance at advancing to the Finals this year - these guys can't beat other champion-calliber teams. (And that loss to Sacramento was with half the Kings team out with injuries.) In addition to losing the two games they needed to win, the Lakers 13 wins have been against mostly sub-.500 teams, and even many of those have been narrow victories. Take last night's OT win against the second-worst team in the NBA, the Orlando Magic. Granted, McGrady has been playing lights out this month, but still. Other questionable wins:
- The Lakers barely beat Golden State back on Feb. 18th
- The Lakers just squeezed by Portland on Feb. 17th
- Feb. 25th's win against Denver was by one point, and mired in controversy at a blown call at the end of the game in the Lakers' favor
I'm hoping the Lakers can go on a tear here to finish off the season. Please, guys, let's show the league that you guys are going to be able to beat the odds, to gel, to keep your heads in the game, to not get distracted by off-court legal proceedings, and to fight through injury after injury. Let's go!
Looks like Karl Malone will be suiting up in tonight's game against the T-Wolves. This is the first time since late December that Shaq / Malone / Payton / and Kobe will all be playing together. Of course, Karl will likely not start and only see limited minutes, but, still, it's good to see him back. Hopefully he'll hustle, defend, get out on the run, and pass, and leave the shooting to Shaq and Kobe.
In any event, it's good to see the Fab Four back together once again. Let's go Lakers!
Is Kobe Bryant a good guy? Easy to get along with? Humble? Fun to hang out with?
I don't know, it sure doesn't sound like it when you read columns like There'll be trouble in L.A.'s paradise, and Kid Kobe needs to grow up - somewhere else. If these articles have any merit, clearly Kobe would be the last person his teammates would vote Mr. Congeneality of the Lakers.
We all know people who are a pain to work with, who we despise having to spend any time with... perhaps Kobe is just one of those types of people. People who are ultra-competitive are never fun to hang with, as they always are keen to turning any situation into an exhibition of their superiority. Nor is it any fun to spend time with someone who thinks they're great, but underrated. Kobe, I'd imagine, has both of these personality traits in spades, which would mean he'd be as fun to hang out with as a PMS-riddled Martha Steward in a Federal penitentiary.
Looking back at other competitive ball players, it makes you wonder if they were any fun spending time with. Was Michael Jordan someone who was fun to chill with off the court? What about Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kareem, or Zeke? Looking at the Lakers, the only player who looks like they'd be any fun to jam with would be Shaq. Malone seems to full of himself, Gary too intense. Imagine, for a moment, if Shaq were 13 inches shorter, but weighed the same. He'd be that jovial, class clown type that everyone loves. (And he may very well become this once he retires. I can see Shaq ballooning to 450 or so once his NBA days are over...)
As if the Lakers didn't have enough distractions with Malone's lengthy injury, Kobe's court case, and the other distractions that make the Los Angeles Lakers the premier soap opera team of the century, Kobe upped the ante in Friday's game against the Sonics by reinjuring his shoulder during the game's first minute of play. The Lakers went on to a Kobe-less win on Friday, besting the Sonics 99-91, but Kobe is slated to be out for up to a month.
Today, the Lakers beat the Nets in an afternoon game, 94-88. The game was somewhat of a fan letdown, as the Nets were playing without Kidd (bruised left knee), and the Lakers were without Malone and Kobe. With today's victory, the Lakers improve to 41-21, a solid second in their division (11 games ahead of third place Portland), but fourth in the conference, up two games from the fifth-seeded Mavericks.
The Lakers kick off a busy road trip starting tomorrow night in Utah. On Wednesday they're in Boston, and on Friday they face off against the 44-18 T-Wolves. Saturday they roll into Chicago for a game against the Bulls, and then head back to Los Angeles for three home games the following week: one against the Magic, and two against the Clippers. (Technically the game on the 17th against the Clips is an “away” game for the Lakers, but since it will be played in Staples Center I'll call it a home game.)
Earlier I mentioned that Malone was cleared for practice and was hopeful for playing in tomorrow night's game against the Jazz, but it sounds like Phil isn't ready to put the Mailman back into the roster. According to this article, Malone likely won't see action until the 17th, at the earliest.
I'll leave you with an interesting read from Scott Howard-Cooper, who contends that Phil Jackson - whose coacing contract expires after this season - should become the head coach for the New Jersey Nets. There's also talk that should the Mavs falter in the playoffs this year, that Cuban may be interested in bringing P.J. on board. As you know, Kobe, too, is a free agent at the end of this season. Might he, if he gets his “Stay Out of Jail Free” card approved, be headed for another team at season's end? Not only should the remainder of this season prove to be fun and exciting, but this upcoming off-season should have several points of interest as well.
According to ESPN.com, Malone has been cleared to “practice without restrictions.” This is good news for the Lakers, who could use Malone back out on the court.
Tonight the Lakers take on the Sonics. Horace Grant is out with a hip injury (he didn't play against Houston on Wednesday either), so he won't play tonight or in Sunday's game against the Nets.
Hopefully the Lakers can pull out a convincing win tonight. If so, it would be their first non-close victory since the All Star Break, and would help to wash out that foul taste in my mouth that's been there since the Lakers losing to the Hakws (the Hawks!) on Tuesday.
The Lakers beat the Rockets 95-92 last night, coming back from a double-digit deficit in the 4th quarter. I was teaching last night, so I didn't get the see the game, only heard the last couple of minutes on the radio on the drive home. Sounded like an exciting (albeit frustrating) finish. Yao outplayed Shaq again, and from the talks of it, it sounded like the refs let the game get pretty physical down low, which always makes for a better game, if you ask me. (On an aside, Eric Neel wrote a nice bit on ESPN.com titled Free Yao, and calls for Van Gundy and Francis to let Yao take over. Personally, I don't know if Yao is yet ready to “take over,“ although the only times I've seen him play were games against the Lakers. I think he'll have a stellar career, but he's still a young pup and has plenty of years, points, boards, and assists ahead of him...)
The Lakers have tonight off, and head back into town. They face off against the Sonics tomorrow night at Staples Center, 7:30 PM PST. With any luck, Malone will be suited up for this game, although rumor has it he won't be making his return until Monday's game against the Jazz. From http://www.sportsline.com/nba/fantasy/story/7135809:
The Los Angeles Times reports Karl Malone has started lateral-movement drills in his recovery from a knee injury. He is expected to begin limited involvement in practices, and could return March 5 against Seattle. A more likely return date could be on the 8th, when the Lakers face Malone's old team, the Utah Jazz.
It'll be good to get the Mailman back, he helps the Lakers out in many ways (when he's not shooting), by clogging up the lane and always giving 110%. That guy hustles like a 25 year old. Too, Gary seems a bit ancy due to his recent decrease in playing time. Oh well, this wouldn't be the Lake Show without legal cases, in-team hostilities, and injuries. The Lakers are looking sloppy, and I'm afraid what will happen to this team in the postseason, but, until then.... Go Lakers!
The Lakers lost to the Atlanta Hawks. These are the Hawks who traded away their star player (Abdur-Rahim) for Rasheed Wallace, and then promptly traded away Wallace for squat. These are the Hawks whose record outshines only two teams - the Bulls and the Magic - and by only three Ws.
Now, the Lakers were without Kobe and, of course, Malone, but still. Jesus. No excuse to lose to this team unless the team bus explodes on its way to the game, killing all, and requiring the Laker Girls to suit up. Meh. I don't know how anyone can rightfully think the Lakers will have any chance at winning it all when they put up garbage like this. They can't beat a pitiful team like Atlanta. And I don't care if some of their stars were out - last week the Kings came into Staples center without Weber or Brad Miller and beat the Lakers.
I feel sorry for Payton and Malone. They should have signed with the Kings or Spurs. Meh.
Since the All Star break, the Lakers have done a good job in winning games against teams they should beat - the Wizards, the Nets, the 76ers, the Suns, the Warriors, and so on. Granted, many of these games were waaaaaaaaaaay too close for comfort, but a W's a W, and it all counts the same in the end. Since the All Star break the Lakers have only lost one game, against a depleated Kings team. Sure, they only lost by 2, and could have won it on a last second trey by Kobe, but an L's an L, and the Lakers have not given the Kings (or any of the threatening Western Conference teams) any reason to fear them, save that run the Lake show had much earlier in the season.
This week the Lakers have three games, and should win all three, but, I fear, will only win one, the game tomorrow night against the pitiful Hawks. I think a respectible JV highschool team could give the Hawks a run for their money. After that, though, the Lakers have two games against teams they've had troubles with this season: in Houston to play the Rockets on Wednesday and then back on home on Friday to battle the Sonics. Again, both the Rockets and Sonics are teams the Lakers should beat, but seem to be vulnerable to if Yao or Ray Allen plays well.