Friday, October 30, 2009

Lakers vs. Mavericks Preview

The Lakers raised another banner, got their rings in a star studded ring ceremony as Lakers legends honored the reigning champions. The team officially put the 2008-2009 season behind them then it was just like that Jay Z track “On To The Next One” and began their title defense by dispatching the Clippers.

Pau Gasol sat out with a hamstring injury that will keep him out of tonight’s contest as well. Ron Artest fit in well in his Lakers debut as expected. Kobe led the Lakers with a game high 33 points; Andrew Bynum celebrated his 22nd birthday with a 26 point 13 rebound effort putting aside any doubts about his health.

Despite Bynum’s game and a few nice Kobe Bryant reverse lay ups there wasn’t a lot for the sold out crowd to cheer about as the Clippers kept the game close. The Lakers bench contributed a full nine points collectively and remains a concern. The Lakers defense has to improve and get back to a championship level it’s early in the season and not there yet.

Los Angeles faces the Dallas Mavericks tonight a team that is coming off of a terrible loss at home to the Wizards. The team is still led by Jason Kidd, who is a year older and a step slower but still effective. Dirk Nowitski was provided front court help with the additions of Shawn Marion & Drew Gooden.

The above mentioned additions will really help Nowitski by defending and crashing the boards. Whenever he is asked to rebound he appears to wear down.

Last year’s solid five–man nucleus of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitski and Brandon Bass is no longer intact for various reasons. The Mavericks can’t match the versatility of the Lakers roster even with the absence of Pau Gasol and their ability to cause match up problems.

Dallas needs someone to take the pressure off of Dirk Nowitski. The Mavericks need Jason Terry’s points off of the bench to be effective. He didn’t give them much in the first game nor did the new additions.

One would think that this game has the makings of a shootout. However the Lakers will start their offense from the inside out by getting the ball to Andrew Bynum early and often and allowing him to go to work.

You should also see Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom spend some time in the post as well. The Lakers have to shoot better and their bench has to step up and contribute. Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic and Shannon Brown have to knock down open shots and the second unit has to come in and change the pace of the game.

Defensively the Lakers have to control the tempo of the game and play at their pace, own the boards, stop the dribble penetration, limit Dallas to one shot per possession and challenge every shot. I want to see the Lakers play defense without fouling and make it a point to rotate out to three point shooters.

Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST

Television -
• Los Angeles: ESPN & FSW (Joel Myers & Stu Lantz)
• Dallas: ESPN & TXA 21 (Mark Followill & Brad Davis)

Radio -
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
• Dallas: ESPN 103.3 KTXA FWB 980 (Bob Ortegal & Chuck Cooperstein)
Injuries -

• Pau Gasol (Hamstring)
• SF Josh Howard (Ankle)

Photo Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lakers vs. Kings Preview

The Lakers are in Las Vegas, NV for a pre-season run against the Kings at the Thomas and Mack Center. In the previous game the Lakers returned to The Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, CA only to have the nostalgic run end in defeat to the Warriors who shot better than Los Angeles in the second of back to back games.

The Kings have made several additions to the squad in the off-season such as 1st round picks PG/SG Tyreke Evans & F Omri Casspi, SG/SF Desmond Mason, SF Andres Nocioni and PF Sean May. Their new Head Coach Paul Wesphal is big on versatility in his players and he will employ a three guard lineup against the Lakers tonight.

It appears to me that the move is more of a gimmick than a solution to what ails the team. Don’t get me wrong versatility is good for any team and will benefit a team in the long run.

Beno Udrih is an effective Point Guard; Tyreke Evans can be a very effective combo guard as well but losing Francisco Garcia for a while on the second high profile weight lifting accident causes a need to attempt to replace his point production which will cause a team to make adjustments.

No disrespect but the Kings are a team that will be lucky to sniff 30 wins this season. In my opinion it is not really about positions but more about putting the best five guys on the floor.
The theory has worked for the Warriors, Suns & Mavericks when the goal was to score a ton of points and concern themselves with the classic low post match ups at the four and five spots. The Kings also have more depth at the Guard positions and at Small Forward.
The Lakers have one of the most versatile rosters in the league; it will be on full display tonight. Los Angeles will use defense as their calling card tonight as well as the entire season. The Lakers could match the Kings Three Guard line up with Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest & Shannon Brown.

Derek Fisher is the starter at Point Guard but matched up against a 6’6” Tyreke Evans in the post could cause double team which will force the defense to rotate. The Kings will have to adjust to the Lakers regardless of what line up is on the floor. Los Angeles will focus on player movement and ball movement as well as executing their offense.

The fact that Luke Walton hasn’t played a lot of minutes is due to the fact that more time was given to Ron Artest an Adam Morrison. The coaching staff has big plans on how they’ll deploy both players. Morrison will come off of the bench but Coach Jackson wants the opponents to figure out how Artest will be utilized.

Look for the Lakers to play inside out and allow Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom to go to work. You might see Kobe Bryant in the post as well. I want to see Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic & Adam Morrison consistently knock down open shots.

Tip-off: 7:00 PM PST
Television -
• Los Angeles: KCAL 9 (HD)
• Sacramento: KXTV News10 (HD)
Radio -
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
• Sacramento: KHTK 1140 (Gary Gerould)
Injuries -
• PF/C Pau Gasol (Hamstring Strain)
• C DJ Mbenga (Malalignment of his hips/ hip flexors)
• SF Luke Walton (Minor Back Pain)
• SG Francisco Garcia (Forearm)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lakers vs. Warriors Game 2 Preview

I’ve got goose bumps by simply hearing the phrase “the Lakers will face the Warriors at the Forum in Inglewood, CA on tonight”. Call it a blast from the past but great to hear. The Lakers started the 2009-2010 Pre-Season right where they ended last season convincingly beating their opponent.

The exhibition run gave everyone a look at what this team is capable of doing.
Ron Artest had a nice debut for Los Angeles with a 12 point, 9 rebound and 7 assist night. Andrew Bynum lead the Lakers is scoring with 24 points showing a lot of athleticism finishing at the rim early and often.

He also showed that he is fully recovered from the knee injury that plagued him in the playoffs and prepared to be a presence in the paint. Hopefully for the Lakers on both ends of the court.

Kobe Bryant put up 22 points and grabbed 9 boards as the defending NBA champions used a balanced scoring effort to win their pre-season opener big in Anaheim.

The same two teams will match up again this evening under a different roof. Always great to see the start of another basketball season but and even better sight on Wednesday night was to see the Lakers reserves put up 47 points. The bench production in 2009 wasn’t as solid or consistent as it was in 2008.

Earlier indications are that this area was addressed by the coaching staff and will improve with Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar & Adam Morrison consistently knocking down open shots. The Lakers won it all last year by playing solid defense and that needs to be their calling card this season. The addition of Ron Artest works toward accomplishing that goal.

Just as in the first game you’ll see Coach Phil Jackson stick to traditional rotations with Lamar Odom the first player off the bench as well as Jordan Farmar the first guard off the bench. Josh Powell might get extended minutes in the interest of resting Pau Gasol. Look for Adam Morrison to get a longer look with the regulars to help in his development.

It is still early and the Lakers have room for improvement like every other team in the league. The Lakers have to move their feet and play defense without fouling and limit the Warriors to one shot per possession.

Tony Gaffney has to be showing flashes defensively on film but he hasn’t made the roster as of yet. The Lakers will continue to work on getting their timing and chemistry together. I’m looking forward to seeing the Lakers play solid defense and display excellent player movement and excellent ball movement.

*The thoughts and prayers of the Lakers Nation go out to the Ratliff family for their loss and ours; John Ratcliff, the Lakers official scorer for the last 48 years passed away recently and will be missed.

Tip-off: 7:00 PM PST
Television -
• Los Angeles: KCAL 9 (HD)
• Golden State: CSN (HD)
Radio -
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
• Golden State: KNBR 1050 (Tim Roye & Jim Barnett)
Injuries -
• None to report.
• PF Brandon Wright (Shoulder)
• PG C.J. Watson

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lakers vs. Warriors Preview

The Lakers showed that they had the desire, experience and toughness to compete at the highest level. These facts are some of the reasons that the Los Angeles Lakers challenged for the title in 2008, won it all in 2009 and will repeat in 2010.

A versatile and talented roster from top to bottom that includes All Stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol has also meant a lot and Mitch Kupchak needs to be applauded for that. The roster number per game is 12; we all have a pretty good idea of who will be on the roster.

The only question here is about potential additions; The Lakers signed Tony Gaffney, Mickael Gelebale, David Monds, Michael Fey and Thomas Kelati. Gaffney and Monds played on the summer league team but the question is will any of them make the 15-man roster.

It is too early to tell, but Gaffney and Monds have a good understanding of the offense. In addition, both guys have the size that Coach Phil Jackson likes.

Gaffney is a solid defensive player who ranked third in the nation in blocked shots (3.8) in his senior season at UMASS en route to being name the Atlantic 10 Defensive Player the Year.

The drive to repeat officially starts 20 days from now but today the pre-season and the first of two exhibition games against the Golden State Warriors begins. The Warriors can put up points in bunches but have endured team turmoil all off-season.

Training camp and the pre-season are dress rehearsals for the regular season. Los Angeles needs to knock off the rust and develop some chemistry with new addition Ron Artest as the starter at the three spot.

I’m also interested in the development of Adam Morrison. He was one of the principles in the trade who brought Shannon Brown to the Lakers. He’s a guy who can score but needs to hit shots consistently, and he could become an outside scoring threat. The same can be said about Jordan Farmar.

Several people in the media have stated that the point guard position is the biggest weakness on the team. I can see the argument but I disagree.

What's important to keep in mind is that Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic had disappointing years but it was the addition of Shannon Brown that solidified the guard rotation. The clutch shooting and veteran leadership of Derek Fisher was also huge in bringing another championship to L.A. and that needs to be mentioned when the point guard position in L.A. is discussed.

The Lakers run the triangle offense and in said offense you don’t need a traditional point guard to run the show. The offense is predicated on ball movement, player movement and hitting the open man.

Tip-off: 7:00 PM PST
Television -
• Los Angeles: KCAL 9 (HD)
• Golden State: CSN (HD)
Radio -
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
• Golden State: KNBR 1050 (Tim Roye & Jim Barnett)
Injuries -
• None to report.
• PF Brandon Wright (Shoulder)
• PG C.J. Watson

Prediction: N/A in the Pre-Season

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Raiders at Texans: Which teams’ young players will step Up?

A battle of two 1-2 teams takes place in Houston, when the Raiders and Texans clash. This isn’t the game of the week in the NFL but is sure is for the Raider Nation and the Texans faithful.

The sad reality is once the final gun sounds one team is going to have a record of 1-3; coaches and players alike will be forced to walk the plank by their Owners, the media and most importantly their fan base.

As it is with every game in the NFL there’s a tremendous amount on the line. Both teams at times have shown glimpses of success, moments of ineptitude, reasons to cheer and cause for concern in this young season.

This game has the potential of being a very competitive game but in this writer’s opinion a must win for both teams. In week 16 of the 2008 season the Raiders beat a hot Texans team that was on a roll. The Texans were in the process of attempting to extend their win streak to five straight but the Oakland Raiders weren’t having any of that winning 27-16.

The best thing about the game for Oakland was that it showed that this team has some playmakers and even better than that was the fact that the young players showed up and had an impact. The Raiders won with a total team effort playing well in all three phases of the game.

From that moment I was under the impression that this team would continue to build upon the success of this game and become much more competitive. Several key players that helped Oakland beat Houston in 2008 will not participate this Sunday; gone and definitely missed are C Jake Grove, LG Robert Gallery, FB Justin Griffith and WR Chaz Schilens.

Flash forward to 2009 and my vision of the team’s future has changed. To say that the Oakland Raiders have struggled would be an understatement but this week gives the team a great opportunity to right the ship. Houston is at or near the bottom in several defensive categories and Oakland needs to take advantage of that fact.

Offensively; now is the time for the Raiders to run the ball at least 35-45 times. Oakland needs to get all of their runners involved. Fifteen carries a piece for Michael Bush & Justin Fargas and a total of 15 touches for Darren McFadden would be nice to see.

The Raiders should be able to get the passing game going against the Texans but it is time for the team to use Louis Murphy & Javon Walker as the starters. I’m bringing up Walker because of the fact that he is a veteran and he’s being paid too much money to be a spectator. At the very least he can catch the ball and run precise routes.

The development of Darrius Heywood-Bey needs to continue but not as a starter in this game but he needs to be in the rotation. This should allow more much needed room in the middle of the field for TE Zack Miller.

Defensively the Raiders need to stop the run with either seven or eight guys in the box whatever it takes. Oakland gave up 215 yards rushing last week; it is a must that the Raiders get off of blocks and tackle well. Houston has averaged 29 points in their past two games to stop that number rising to three Oakland needs to display a pass rush and get after Texans QB Matt Schaub.

This is another area that the Raiders have struggled in but this can be corrected with a heavy dose of blitzing from the linebackers & secondary, stunts from the defensive lineman. Pressure right the middle will throw off the timing of any quarterback. The Raiders need to get to the quarterback hit him, make him rush his throws.

As fans we saw the Raiders put on a spirited effort against the Chargers on opening night so we know it can be done but this team needs to find a way to play well and finish games. Every team needs an identity and Oakland is searching for one however their identity is as a running team this Sunday Oakland will leave their calling card.

I’m looking forward to a few key match ups:

(Hou) WR Andre Johnson vs. (Oak) CB Nnamdi Asomugha

Two of the best leagues best at their respective positions.

(Hou) DE Mario Williams vs. (Oak) LT Mario Henderson

The battle of the two Mario’s call it round two in round one last year Mario Henderson held his own and was able to make Mario Williams a non factor doing the same thing two years in a row could go a long way to establishing Henderson as the LT of the present & future for the franchise and help win this game.

(Hou) MLB DeMeco Ryans vs. (Oak) RB Michael Bush, Justin Fargas & Darren McFadden

The Texans have used a lot of 1st round picks on defense and still can’t seem to stop anybody. DeMeco Ryans was a 2nd round pick and is one of the leagues best MLB’s and the leader of this defense. He will have his hands full against a team hell bent on running the ball early and often.

(Hou) LT Duane Brown or Rashad Butler vs. (Oak) DE Richard Seymour

Duane Brown a 2nd year player who had a solid rookie season and has been more than adequate so far. Butler is a swing tackle a good back-up that can play on the left or right side. Neither has the experience to handle the challenges that Richard Seymour presents.

Prediction: 24 – 20 Raiders