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LAKERS/CELTICS-LET'S DO IT AGAIN NEXT YEAR
6.18.08.
MEMO MENOS


The BOSTON CELTICS won their first NBA title in 22 years, destroying the upstart LOS ANGELES LAKERS 131-92 Tuesday night. The game was not even that close. The LAKERS held firm trailing 32-29, after opening up 5-0
to start the game, but it was all BOSTON after that.

Clearly the defense of the CELTICS was the dominant force in this series. They kept the LAKERS, who rolled through DENVER, UTAH and the defending champion SAN ANTONIO SPURS with a quick, multi-faceted offensive game, from getting untracked offensively the whole series. Gone was the free-wheeling, crisp passing, run and gun triangle offense. In its' place, the LAKERS struggled to get open shots, and had trouble reaching the century mark.

To be sure, BOSTON was the favorite in this series. They were the favorite once the blockbuster deal for KEVIN GARNETT was sealed last summer. They added RAY ALLEN to the mix and ran off with a league best 66
wins, which gave them homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. That factor was not insignificant.

BOSTON went 13-1 at home in the playoffs. The LAKERS were 10-1 on their homecourt; their only loss the historic 24-point come from behind win by the CELTICS last Thursday. Clearly home court was a factor, particularly
in the finals 2-3-2 format.

The lopsided beating the LAKERS took in the clincher belies the closeness of this series. Indeed, it was the only blowout game of the 6. In game 1 the LAKERS came out strong, leading most of the way until the questionable
PIERCE injury drama in the 3rd quarter. It was the first of numerous occasions in this series where PHIL JACKSON was badly out-coached by DOC RIVERS.

Instead of calming his team, and taking control of the flow of the game, PHIL allowed the histrionics of the moment, the carrying of a limp PIERCE from the floor by teammates, the wheelchairing of him into the locker
room, and then the triumphant, crowd pleasing return of the "hobbled" star to the game, only to see him run back and forth, up and down the court for the remainder of the game, without a noticeable limp, and hit 3 triples to
put the game out of reach. BOSTON won but not by much, and only after the transparent, almost desperate gamesmanship by PIERCE.

BOSTON did not start the game with much energy, and could easily have been taken by
surprise, but for PIERCE'S dramatics. WILLIS REED would have been proud.

PHIL JACKSON was nowhere to be found. It was so obvious watching. It was all show, but the coaching staff of la was no go. How about another timeout or two to calm your young inexperienced team down. How about putting in a hit man to really test pierce's knee? Something. Anything. Nothing nasty. But they saw GASOL didn't like physical play, and they beat him every time he had the ball. If pierce really hurt his knee, surely JACKSON could have found a way to "push it". You can't just let them carry the day like that.

In game 2 the LAKERS ran into some early questionable officating that left KOBE and LAMAR with early foul trouble. Yet, they were still competitive in the game at the end of the 1st quarter. It wasn't until the inexperienced bench play of WALTON, FARMAR and VUJACIC to start the 2nd quarter, that BOSTON pulled away. The LAKERS went a long stretch to start that quarter, without KOBE and LAMAR, with too many turnovers and too
little points. The CELTICS built a huge lead, and the LAKERS were burried.

Had PHIL decided to go with his starters in that quarter, keeping BOSTON'S lead down to a manageable level, instead of the 24 points that it grew to, perhaps the LAKERS could have stolen game 2. As it was, they nearly came
from behind by 24 points, in the 4th quarter no less, a remarkable feat that had the fans in beantown shaking in their boots. It should have given the LAKERS great confidence on Boston's floor, but JACKSON was not able to
translate that with any effect.

After last night's loss, JACKSON'S record is now 1-6 in elimination games. Is that the mark of the greatest coach of all time? He remains tied with RED AURBACH with 9 titles but it is more than ironic that BOSTON kept
him from number 10. JACKSON was unable to instill any great confidence in his team for game 3,
despite the miraculous comeback effort in game 2 on the hostile floor. The LAKERS hung on to win a close one back home in Los Angeles, when they needed to establish their dominance.

And game 4 is now legend. The LAKERS opened a 21 point lead at the end of the 1st quarter; a 24-point lead in the 2nd; and lost to the CELTICS in the series changer. The LAKERS lost by 6, on their home court, with the
league's MVP, and the supposed greatest coach of all time.

PHIL JACKSON left the floor that night with 1 timeout still unused.

Imagine the difference in this series if the LAKERS hold on to win that game. We'd be looking at an anything goes game 7. But that is all pipedream now. Instead, the CELTICS have the record biggest comeback in finals history, with the PHIL JACKSON coached LAKERS on the short end of that stick for some time to come. Perhaps forever. The fact that PHIL and the LAKERS avoided the most lopsided loss in finals history, by a mere 3 points, is
little consolation, I'm sure.

PHIL nearly gave away game 5. In that one, the LAKERS again jumped on the CELTICS to start the game. They held a 39-22 lead at the end of the 1st quarter. But after his questionable substition pattern, leaving LAMAR
ODOM on the floor with 4 subs including CHRIS MIHM who essentially hadn't played all season, the LAKERS halftime lead was 3 points.

Again, with the strength of the starters, the LAKERS built a 14 point lead in the 4th quater, but gave it all back, as PAUL PIERCE had his way with the LAKER defense. PHIL has never been a defensive coach. The LAKERS
under his reign have never defended the pick and roll well.

That will have to change.

If anything was clear after the shellacking the LAKERS took last night, it was that BOSTON was the better defensive team. They hampered and frustrated KOBE BRYANT at every turn. They outmuscled LAMAR and PAU
throughout the series. They proved once again: defense wins championships. And by the way, kudos to KEVIN GARNETT, PAUL PIERCE and RAY ALLEN. They are now champions, and deservedly so.

That being said, it was an amazing run. The LAKERS played to all but the very last day of the season. They won the Western Conference Championship. They went a lot further than anyone could have hoped with KWAME BROWN, or when BYNUM went down, or when KOBE was diagnosed with the bad hand. Who could have thought we'd be this close to winning it all?

And they were oh so close.

And so, looking forward, KOBE will remain a LAKER, that is now clear. GASOL is an amazing addition. BYNUM will be back, and continue to blossom. LAMAR still hasn't reached his potential. FARMAR and VUJACIC
are young and promising. The future is bright. Even with a questionable $10-million man they call the best coach of all time.

It was a great year. The CELTICS and the LAKERS- it's on again, after too many years.

Let's do it again next year.



LAKERS AS THE PHOENIX
2.20.08.
MEMO MENOS



Something funny happened along the way to the LAKERS demise this month. They went out on their longest road trip in team history, lost the first game of that marathon in heartbreaking fashion, and then traded KWAME BROWN. In a surprise move, the LAKERS were able to shed the albatross from their lineup and got an All-Star in return, PAU GASOL.

Everything changed after that. The team, behind an exuberant KOBE BRYANT won their next game in Toronto, easily. GASOL joined the squad and they have gone 6-1 since. They finished the road trip from hell, the trip that was to have sunk them in their quest for the number 8 seed in the playoffs, at 7-2, a league record. And they find themselves in the hunt for the best record in the West. PHIL JACKSON is even taking 60 wins. How fast things change.

Currently the LAKERS are 3rd in the West, but within a game of Phoenix whom they play tonight. As if a SUNS/LAKER match-up didn’t have enough drama, this one features the first appearance of SHAQUILLE O’NEAL as a SUN. PHOENIX acquired the BIG LUG no doubt in response to the new LAKER lineup, which will feature two 7-footers and 6’10” LAMAR ODOM, once ANDREW BYNUM has returned. PHOENIX squeaked by the LAKERS in the last 2 years, and has lacked that additional something to get them past SAN ANTONIO and DALLAS. They think SHAQ is the missing puzzle piece. He’s a puzzle all right.

The WEST has seen a rash of moves as the competitive field maneuvers to keep pace as the playoffs draw near. SAN ANTONIO added DAMON STOURDAMIRE to fill in for a fatigued TONY PARKER. DALLAS re-acquired JASON KIDD to bring them to the next level. And MIAMI dumped an aging O’NEAL off on the SUNS who parted with SHAWN MARION in the deal.

It is no coincidence that MIAMI has the worst record in the league playing the first part of the season with a less than motivated, and deteriorating SHAQUILLE O’NEAL. We’ve seen this picture before. ORLANDO lived this nightmare, and that was when O’NEAL was young and healthy.

But for DYWANE WADE and a complete meltdown by the DALLAS MAVS, MIAMI would not have much appreciated O’NEAL’S stay in South Beach. He leaves the HEAT in complete disarray, and in need of a total rebuilding phase. Do you see a pattern here?

It has taken the LAKERS 5 years to recover from our SHAQUILLE addiction. Two of those years, SHAQ was here, but not really. He was perpetually out of shape, and constantly needing to be the center of attention. He put his own selfish needs ahead of the team, and the fans at nearly every turn. MIAMI knows what that is like. PHOENIX will get it in spades.

It sure is nice having that era behind us. Bring on the KOBE, BYNUM and GASOL years. And bring on the SHAQ led SUNS. The phoenix is again rising.



LAKERS TO FALL OUT OF PLAYOFF PICTURE W/OUT BYNUM
1.29.08.
MEMO MENOS


On January 16th the LAKERS had the best record in the Western Conference, and the 3rd best record in the league.  That will be their high mark for the 2007-2008 season.  Their low mark will find them outside of the playoff picture, as they have gone 1-5 without their young center, ANDREW BYNUM.

With some 20 more games to go without him, and a grueling 9 games in 14 days on the road, things don’t look good for a turnaround in their fortunes.  Expect them to lose 6 of those 9 road games, leaving them behind GOLDEN STATE, UTAH, PORTLAND and DENVER.  They’ll be hard pressed to hold onto the 8th spot in the Western Conference now.

The reasons are many.  KWAME BROWN is useless at backup center.  It’s hard now to imagine that PHIL JACKSON had him as a starter to open the season.  CHRIS MIHM is still recovering from numerous injuries, and he’s too slow even when healthy to play the post position.  VLADIMIR RODMANOVIC is just now returning from his set of injuries, so he may not be up to speed for a coup[e more weeks, if ever.  And let’s face it, RODMANAVIC is not the answer to the LAKER’S woes.  LUKE WALTON and LAMAR ODOM have proved unable to step up when needed, leaving RONNY TURIAF as the only guy to fill ANDREW BYNUM’S shoes.  We learned this week that RONNY has an injured toe, limiting his playing time. Wah, wah, wah.

So, it was fun while it lasted.  Either JACKSON will find a way to coach the young, quick, but short squad of FARMAR, VUJACIC and CRITTENTON, or the LAKERS will be looking at off season moves to get them back to the elite spot they had a glimpse of in the first weeks of 2008.

What is the use of carrying players who can’t play this game?  BROWN, MIHM, WALTON and even ODOM need to go.  Package the whole lot of them for one decent post player.  Then continue to develop this team around the young and quick nucleus of FARMAR, BYNUM, CRITTENTON, VUJACIC, ARIZA, TURIAF and of course KOBE BRYANT. 

Why we let CARON BUTLER go for KWAME BROWN is anybody’s guess. 

Let’s just be thankful we don’t have SHAQ’S $20million contract to swallow for the next 3 years.





JACKSON/BROWN MIA AGAIN
1.28.08.
MEMO MENOS


It was an amazing sight, watching the depleted LAKERS playing like champions against the world champs on their home floor, probably the hardest place to win in the NBA, San Antonio.  But there they were, up by 9 at the half, with PARKER and GINOBLI handled and under control. 

The LAKER bench was doing its thing, RONNY TURIAF was on fire with 11 points and a blocked shot, playing tough aggressive defense.  JORDAN FARMAR and SASHA VUJACIC were looking more like PARKER and GINOBLI, hitting shots, penetrating, and generally outplaying the best in the West if not the league.  (Boston has hit the wall, losing more than they win in the last few games.)

The dominating SPUR defense, which normally holds teams to 90 points a game, had given up 54, just the LAKER average, at 107 per game.  All was well with the world. 

And then the 3rd quarter happened.  It was to be expected the SPURS would come out with renewed vigor.  And they did, but 6 minutes into the quarter, with the LAKERS scoreless and San Antonio having run off 14 straight points, where was PHIL JACKSON.  No timeouts, no substitutions.  Was he even there?

KWAME BROWN was involved in nearly every offensive play, starting the offense with a high pick and roll, but after 2 missed lay-ins, KOBE refused to go to him anymore.  His picks were half hearted, and his rolls uninspired, not to mention his complete ineptitude whenever he got the ball in the paint.  The man is useless in the lineup.

But just as useless is a coach who refuses to use timeouts to stem the bleeding, can’t seem to recognize when a player, or unit isn’t working, and generally does little but sit and watch as the game slips away.  Where was JORDAN FARMAR?  Where was RONNY TURIIAF, or JAVARIS CRITTENTON, or KOBE CARL, or even the new 7-footer, DIDIER ILLUNGA-MBENGA?  The LAKERS were outscored 31-12, and KWAME was completely ineffective, yet no move from the $10 million dollar man.

After the game JACKSON blamed someone, or someones, it seemed.  “No one seemed to want to step up, and they kept dropping it off in KOBE’S hands to try and let him do one-on-one stuff.”  Well how about a substitution coach?  Or a timeout perhaps?

So the LAKERS see one slip away on a night when Phoenix was beaten by the Minnesota TIMBERWOLVES.  It’s almost as if JACKSON wanted the team to lose this one.  TURAIF was having a career night, but sat out the entire 3rd quarter when the game was decided.  FARMAR, CRITTENTON and VUJACIC are energizer bunnies off the bench, but JACKSON sat and watched, and moaned to the press after the game, rather then let them give it their best on the floor.

Trade BROWN and JACKSON, now.





DOCTOR MY EYES: JACKSON/BROWN and the LOS ANGELES LAKERS
1.14.08.
MEMO MENOS


The Los Angeles LAKERS season, a surprise phenomenon to date, flashed before their eyes last night as their 20-year old wonderkind ANDREW BYNUM went down in a sprawl in the middle of the 3rd quarter in a game against the Memphis GRIZZLIES.  He got his foot tangled with fellow teammate LAMAR ODOM and twisted his left knee, crumbling to the floor in terrible pain.  He needed assistance off the floor and did not return to the game.


 X-rays proved negative, and ANDREW was able to walk out of Staples Arena on his own footing, with the help of a knee brace, but an MRI will be done today for a more conclusive diagnosis.  BYNUM was quoted leaving the building, ‘‘I think I’m fine because I can put weight on it and it doesn’t hurt at all.  I can move it left and right.  Just to take a step forward is the only thing that really hurts.’‘  Nevertheless LAKER management and fans are holding their breath that it is not something more serious, like a ligament strain or tear which could end the young centers season, and perhaps the LAKERS hopes with it.

BYNUM has been at the center of the LAKERS unexpected success, in this his 3rd season, averaging nearly a double-double and anchoring the lane with his shot blocking and shot altering presence.  Lately, he approaches a double Ðdouble in the first quarter of games.  On Friday he had perhaps the best game of his career with 25 points, 17 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 blocked shots.  The LAKERS have won 16 of their last 19, primarily on the strength of his new-found confidence and dominating play.


 So it was a terrible sight to see BYNAUM being carried off, grimacing in pain during last night’s game.  At the time, the LAKERS were in control with a double-digit lead over Memphis, and beginning to pull away. 

That’s when KWAME BROWN took over.  BROWN coincidently had missed 19 games as a result of a knee sprain among other things, and is not yet ‘‘up to speed.’‘  As if he ever was.  JACKSON, if he had his way, would like to see BROWN start each game, with the 20-year old BYNUM coming off the bench.  But it was BROWN’S injury that gave BYNUM the opportunity, in JACKSON’S no slack for youngsters mentality.  And now KWAME will have to step back into a meaningful role with the team.


 On nearly every possession in which BROWN was in the game, he had an impact.  And nearly none of it was good.  On his first entry, PAUL GASOL scored and was fouled, as a result of a half-hearted attempt at defense.  KWAME looks like he’s sleepwalking when he is in the game, can barely hang onto the ball, and is routinely out of position.  He missed assignments, committed silly fouls, complained on a play where he thought he was fouled, allowing his man to beat him down court for an easy lay-in, and so on and so on.  He was at fault for nearly every bad thing that happened in the game that saw Memphis go on a 14-0 run to take the lead.

When he had a chance to redeem himself and win the game, he missed a gimme dunk but was fouled.  Now, I never thought I would long for the days of SHAQUILLE O’NEAL at the free throw line, but KWAME makes SHAQUILLE look like RICK BARRY.  With 9 seconds left and the score tied, he stepped up to the line having missed his previous 2 attempts as badly as you could miss them, given you are a professional basketball player.


 Somehow he made the first, but of course missed the second, and Memphis, thanks to a bonehead play by LUKE WALTON, calling timeout as he was falling out of bounds after grabbing the offensive rebound.  You can’t do that anymore.  I wonder if our $10 million dollar coach has told the players that. 

It actually was JACKSON who really gave this game away long before the last second dramatics, leaving KOBE and LAMAR ODOM on the bench for more than 5 minutes into the 4th quarter as the lead slipped away, largely on the foibles of KWAME BROWN, JACKSON’S guy.  BROWN has no business being on the floor..


And why JACKSON had BROWN and WALTON in the game for the final seconds anyway is a mystery to me.  Neither one is a player on this team of jackrabbits.  WALTON is too slow, gets nearly every shot blocked (like KWAME for that matter), and doesn’t seem to even be thinking basketball anymore.  Earlier in the game he made a similar goof on a saved ball under the GRIZZLY basket resulting in another easy basket for PAUL GASOL.  It is a grade school rule-you don’t save the ball from out of bounds under the opponents basket.  Hello. 

With the score 99-96 and 30 some odd seconds to go WALTON left his man, RUDY GAY open in the corner for a 3-point shot.  Now it’s also a pretty basic rule if you are up 3 with time dwindling, deny the 3-point line.  Make it a 2 possession game for your opponent.  LUKE was 10 feet from GAY and of course he hit the shot to tie the game.  Get with the program WALTON.


 In any event, after JACKSON let KOBE and LAMAR watch the 14-0 run, he keeps KWAME and LUKE in the game for nervous time.  Call me stupid, but I think you’ve got to go with players when the game is on the line.  KWAME and LUKE were not ‘‘playing’’ in this one.  They were going through the motions, and in slow motion at that.  And they nearly lost it at the end.  (Why not have FARMAR and TURIAF in there?  They at least could make shots and hit free throws.  Anyway, PHIL gets the big bucks.)

JACKSON was redeemed with a lucky break when his guy, KWAME got away with a foul with 2 seconds remaining on a driving attempt by guard KYLE LOWRY.  Up by only a point, BROWN clearly fouled him, which would have completed a near perfect night.  He made a mistake on nearly every possession, both offense and defense while he was in the game. Somehow the whistle didn’t blow, and BROWN was the hero.  Right.


Get well soon ANDREW.





DISCONNECTED OR NO LONGER IN SERVICE
1.16.07.
MEMO MENOS


PHIL JACKSON referred to his 900 th win in a nonchalant way, comparing it to an area code somewhere. Les than 48 hours later, win 901, along with the LAKER coach and his young team were disconnected and no longer in service as they fell hard to the MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, 128-118.

PHIL JACKSON is widely considered to be one of the best coaches in the league, if not in the history of the game. He achieved 900 wins faster than any of those previous 8 coaches before him, including his nemesis RED AUERBACH. Yet, he can’t seem to motivate his young team to play inspired against teams with sub par records. They are 4-2 against the best in the league, PHOENIX, DALLS, SAN ANTONIO and UTAH. But they 2-5 against the worst in the league, PORTLAND, SEATTLE, NEW ORLEANS, CHARLOTTE and MEMPHIS. And the losses have not been close-16, 16, 11, 10 and 9 points. What’s up with that?

It’s a problem PHIL has had since he has been here in LA, and it has never been more glaring than in this 2 day span where he seemed on top of the world when his ragtag bunch of youngsters beat DALLAS the best team, only to lose big to MEMPHIS the worst. Ain’t life a bitch.

It got away from PHIL and the LAKERS in the 3 rd quarter, when MEMPHIS outscored the LAKERS 46-22. It was the second highest quarter ever given up by the LAKERS, and this to the worst team in the league, with a dismal 8-27 record coming in. Surely the best coach in the league has some tricks up his sleeve to stop the bleeding in that kind of quarter. Doesn’t he?

Wait, I get it. PHIL, in his infinite wisdom, is letting these kids learn something from a loss like that. They need to come along on their own. What good would the win be if the coach had to play a hand in it? The game is played on the 97 feet of hardwood, and PHIL had his day there. This time it’s for KOBE and the rest to figure out on their own.

And, sure, a record of 28-7 would be nice. Hell, it would be more than nice, it would be the best in the game right now. But the losses to the have-nots will come in handy come playoff time. A lot more handy than say, home court advantage.

As PHIL put it after last night’s debacle, “Well, sometimes when things go wrong, it’s infectious.”

Who cares? Win 901 could come tonight against HOUSTON. No wait, it’s a back-to-back game, and that’s another area where coach JACKSON hasn’t excelled in getting his teams ready to play..

 





AN AREA CODE SOMEWHERE
1.09.07.
MEMO MENOS


PHIL JACKSON garnered his 900 th victory last evening, in a thoroughly enjoying LAKER victory over the best team in the league, the DALLAS MAVERICKS, 101-98. DALLAS should have won the NBA Championship last year after jumping out to a 2-0 lead over the MIAMI HEAT, and looking like they could sweep, before losing the next 4 games.

This year, they started slowly, losing their first 4 games, but had the best record in the league coming into Staples Center last night with a 27-7 and a 13-game win streak. They won 12 in a row earlier this season.

PHIL JACKSON, KOBE BRYANT and the rest of the LAKER squad had a win streak of their own on the line, 3 games. And when it was all over, the LAKERS came away with a 4-game win streak and JACKSON had logged his 900 th win. His comment on the significance of that-“It means you’ve been around a long time, and you’ve been fortunate in my case…it’s an area code somewhere.”

Now I’ve never been a great fan of JACKSON. Like others, I think he has been blessed, having coached two of the greatest players ever in the NBA-MICHAEL JORDAN and KOBE BRYANT. In the case of KOBE, I’m not convinced JACKSON has given him not only the credit he is due, but also the freedom to develop as the best player ever. But that is nitpicking, 900 wins, 9 championships as a coach and 1 as a player speak for themselves.

This season PHIL just might be proving his worth, and at $10 million a year, that’s no easy task. He has the LAKERS playing at an amazing level. They are 16-4 at home, and a respectable 7-7 on the road. They hold the 5 th best record in the league, and have convincing wins over PHOENIX, SAN ANTONIO and now DALLAS. Each of those teams, along with UTAH, is in the elite group, a group to which the LAKERS if not now, will soon belong. All this without 2 starters, LAMAR ODOM and KWAME BROWN.

“We’re just pleased with what’s going on with our team,” an unusually upbeat PHIL said last night.

Yes PHIL, we are. Congratulations, and keep those wins coming.

 





JACKSON THE PRAGMATIST
5.9.06.
MEMO MENOS


The LOS ANGELES LAKERS held their "Goodbye Day" yesterday at their practice facility in El Segundo. It was a quiet, bitter sweet kind of affair, with some choice words from coach PHIL JACKSON and General Manager MITCH KUPCHAK.

"I don't in any way believe that this team could have won the championship," a soothsaying JACKSON informed the gathered media. Really? Well, not without a coach, anyway. I wonder, did you tell that to the team Saturday before game 7, PHIL? Why did we even bother to play the last 3 games? What kind of thing to say is that? Do you think that's going to light a fire under these young players for next season?

There were no explanations for one of the LAKERS worst performances in the playoffs ever? They lost by 31 points in a game 7, having never led throughout. No mention that this LAKER squad wasn't even competitive in the elimination game. They folded at the ante. No excuses for why the "best coach in the history of all-time" fielded a team that was no more ready to play a game 7 than the Sisters of Mercy with MARGE HEARN calling timeouts from the bench. (We miss you CHICK!).

No wait, the Sisters would have put up more of a fight. And MARGE at least knows how to use her timeouts.

PHIL JACKSON revealed to the media before game 7 that he didn't convey to his guys his personal story of winning game 7 as a KNICK, on the road at Boston Gardens. "They're too young, they wouldn't remember," PHIL confessed. Call me crazy, but remember or not, if there ever was a time to put that life experience to some good use, minutes before game 7 when WALTON and ODOM and BROWN were shaking in their boots, that would have been the time, coach. In fact, it might have helped. I wonder, did you say anything to them?

This LAKER team might not have beaten DETROIT with their 4, no 5 All-Stars. And it might not have beaten the MIAMI HEAT with DYWANE WADE and 5 All-Stars that come off the bench as a second unit(can you believe they have JASON WILLIAMS, ANTOINE WALKER, ALONZO MOURNING, GARY PAYTON and MICHAEL DOLIAC coming off the bench? Wow!). They probably wouldn't have advanced in the West past the defending champion SAN ANTONIO SPURS, with TIM DUNCAN and MANU GINOBLI.

But they damn sure should have won this series against the SUNS. Up 3-1, they sure as hell should have won their fist round match-up. They shouldn't have surrendered game 5 so easily. Some coaching might have saved game 6 as well. Did any LAKER on the floor know they had a foul to give when TIM THOMAS hit the 3-point shot to tie the game? 95% of teams with a 3-1 lead, win the series, but not JACKSON'S LAKERS.

And, once into the second round, at home, against a familiar opponent and cross-building rival, who knows what could have happened. Who cares? It would have been good for the LAKERS, good for the CLIPPERS and good for Los Angeles. It's possible this team could have made it to the Western Conference Finals. But PHIL, the new SYLVIA, JACKSON knows they wouldn't have won the championship and that's supposed to make it all better. He earned his $10 million, and now we can all have a restful summer.

RAJA BELL had the right words, just the wrong LAKER.

 





89 GAMES
5.7.06.
MEMO MENOS

At one point in yesterday/s TNT broadcast of the most embarrassing loss in LAKER history, DOUG COLLINS commented, "I'm shocked at the fact that the LAKERS look like they don't know how to defend the pick and roll." 89 games into the season, 7 games against the same offensive weapon, a weapon that is the bread and butter of the game, and the LAKERS, particularly the big men, LAMAR ODOM, KWAME BROWN, LUKE WALTON BRIAN COOK and DEVEAN GEORGE had no clue what to do against STEVE NASH when any one of his other teammates came to set a screen.

We used to have to live with the fact that the LAKERS just could not defend the pick and roll. JOHN STOCKTON, GARY PAYTON, DAMON STOUDEMIRE all had field days when they played us because SHAQ was too big, and too slow, and just too stubborn to make the quick switch, or jump start the guard preventing him from coming around the screen, or disrupting the play from happening in the first place. That was our cross to bear for having the Big Immovable Diesel.

But now, I mean LAMAR ODOM plays guard for Pete's sake. He can't learn how to defend against the pick and roll? LUKE WALTON and KWAME BROWN aren't nearly as stubborn as O'NEAL was. KWAME still hadn't been told how to play defense out around the 3-point line. Even Saturday night, he was still going for pump fakes out at 28 feet. It was that little trick that cost the LAKERS this series, as KWAME did a flyby leaving TIM THOMAS wide open with time to line up the seams on the Spaulding before swishing his 3-pointer to tie game 6.

The other breakdown was the weak side help, a must if you're going to successfully switch out the pick and roll. It was nearly always late in arriving to defend the roller, who always got a perfect pass from NASH because the switcher on him wasn't playing tight defense to make his option pass a difficult one. No one was doing their job on defense. The end result was an easy basket, an open look, or a clear path to the basket for RAJA BELL, LEANDRO BARBOSA, TIM THOMAS, JIM JONES, or VANNA WHITE if she were in Phoenix and wanted to suit up yesterday.

89 games and our coach can't seem to teach these guys how to defend the pick and roll? Most coaches are able to make that adjustment 8 or 9 minutes into a game. Not JACKSON. He likes to let his guys figure their own way out of things.

Like how to make easy shots. In the first quarter PHIL stuck with his starting lineup, despite their obvious shooting problems. KOBE came to play, carrying the team in the first frame, but the rest of the squad, SMUSH PARKER, LUKE WALTON, LAMAR ODOM and KWAME BROWN couldn't throw a pea in the ocean. (We miss you Chick!) But no need to bring in some fresh energy. PHIL stuck with the same 5 for the nearly the entire 12 minutes. They were catatonic. The big men were shooting 3-footers that were going 2 feet. SMUSH PARKER was shooting 21-footers going 22. At one point he was 3 for his last 26 shots. Are you kidding coach? Get some new blood in the game. In 89 games you didn't develop even a single guy who could be counted on to score off the bench?

Well, actually, JACKSON didn't. He never really got a shuttle group going that took on the identity of bringing in points off the bench. It could have been SASHA VUJACIC. But PHIL didn't really place much faith in him right up until this series. And he didn't want to put SASHA in, after all, he was only shooting 60% or so from 3-point range. No, let SMUSH hang himself, but good. He'll learn better that way.

And BRIAN COOK used to be counted on for some quick offense as a sub, but COOKIE wasn't getting off the bench either, even though KWAME BROWN, LUKE WALTON and LAMAR ODOM were shooting a combined 20% or so, and worse than that, looking like they were scared out of their minds. 89 games in and you still haven't instilled any confidence in your big men, especially when those big men have 5-6 inches on the tallest guy on the opposing team. Something's serious wrong my friends.

When you see the starting lineups on paper, with the SUNS going with two 6'8" small forwards as their interior strength, and the LAKERS with LAMAR ODOM and KWAME BROWN both 7-footers, this loss, already one of, if not the worst in LAKER history, gets a little more shameful. There's no way JACKSON could lose this match-up, and yet, even with a 3-1 lead, he did just that, in remarkable style.

Tell me why, 89 games in, the LAKERS, with their unstoppable players, say BRYANT and ODOM, did not have a deadly pick and roll play they could go to whenever they needed a basket, or to get a SUN in foul trouble, or just for fun. Why not PHIL?

The triangle offense sucks. As did the game plan to rely on KWAME and LUKE and LAMAR for our offense. Any coach who takes KOBE BRYANT and turns him into an initiator in an offense built around those 3 players is a fool if not a traitor. It's as if he wants to take KOBE out of his game. How many times was BRYANT standing 45 feet away from the action, playing the safety(an important role against a SUN team that looks to break on every turn), watching one of the options in PHIL'S new strategy miss an easy shot.

A talent like KOBE needs to be involved in the offense, going to the basket. He's one of the best offensive rebounders in the league, but PHIL'S got him checking the clocks 50 feet from the hoop. 89 games into the year and JACKSON never could get KOBE into a 2-man game with any other LAKER on any consistent basis. KOBE and LAMAR should have been the next STOCKTON and MALONE. Or it could have been KOBE and SMUSH, or KOBE and WALTON, or KOBE and JACK NICHOLSON for that matter. How about an offense that is built around KOBE? He's your go-to guy! And the only one that came to play yesterday.

Why weren't the LAKER big men ready? They looked like scared rabbits. BROWN, ODOM and WALTON were having trouble getting the ball to the rim. Against small forwards! TIM THOMAS on the other hand was ready to play the post yesterday. He seemed to be able to get the ball to the rim with some authority any time he wanted. That's funny because the rest of the series he was one of the best 3 shooters PHOENIX had. His coach had him ready to play.

JACKSON was out-coached in this series. He was handed a miracle from heaven in game 4 to go up 3-1 with homecourt advantage. KOBE delivered. And then JACKSON let it get away. He was a no-show in game 5. It's as if that was a giveaway game. We should have phoned it in. The SUNS were geared for game 6, we weren't. At home, in an elimination game, and the LAKERS come out nonchalant. And we were 15 points down before JACKSON had a clue in game 7. Once again, the LAKERS came out flat while the SUNS came out blazing.

Perhaps we could have used CHRIS MIHM or ANDREW BYNUM in this one. Maybe they could have played the post. Maybe they would have had some energy off the bench. Maybe they could have gotten into the game.

89 games, and the LAKERS have the wrong side of history to look at for the rest of the franchise life. Not many number 2 seeds beat a number 7 seed. Oh, wait, we didn't. We were the team with the 3-1 lead that lost 3 games in a row. Not many teams do that either, but this one did, with the best player in the league at the helm, and the $10 million man calling the shots. That's some legacy JACKSON.

It could have been worse. We could have gone 93 games, and gotten the hallway broom from the CLIPPERS.





SUN SCREEN
5.5.06.
MEMO MENOS


The only thing worse than blowing a 3-1 series lead, and losing to the PHOENIX SUNS, might be losing to the CLIPPERS in a “Hallway” series.  So the LAKERS might have some consolation if they get blown out of Phoenix Saturday night, in the dreaded game 7 on the opponent’s court.

 TIM THOMAS, a man who played in 3 regular season games for the SUNS, once again delivered the knockout blows, hitting a last second 3-point shot as time expired to keep the SUNS alive.  And then, he hit a dagger 3-point shot in overtime to extend the SUNS lead to 7 and turn out the lights at Staples.

 The series is not over, but the euphoria that swept through Los Angeles just last Sunday, when KOBE saved the day twice, is now all but gone.

 It looked as if KOBE had done it again last night.  The SUNS were pushing the tempo all night, starting out the game hitting their first 5 3-point attempts, and running up a 10-point lead.  But KOBE helped the LAKERS weather the initial storm, powering the LAKERS to a 37-30 first quarter lead, on an amazing last second 3-point bank attempt as the horn went off.

 But the LAKER defense was anemic in the second quarter, in which the SUNS outscored the home team 30-20 for a 3-point halftime lead.  The SUNS ran NASH off screen after screen, and he continued to feed shooters who made open looks count. 

 NASH and company kept the pressure on throughout the second half, and led 102-100 with less than 2 minutes to play.  KOBE would not allow his team to lose, so it seemed, as he hit a 3-point shot to give the LAKERS a lead 103-102.  The LAKERS came up with back-to-back stops and KOBE scored on a floating bank shot to give the LAKERS a 105-102 lead with 29 seconds left in regulation.  That should have been the game.  Prevent the SUNS from getting a 3-point look and this one is in the bag.

 But JACKSON’S squad has had a hard time preventing the 3-point shot..  They got STEVE NASH to miss a long one, but allowed the rebound on a scramble to THOMAS who tied the game with another 3.  Let’s see-the aim was to prevent a 3-point look, and the LAKERS gave up not one, but two 3-point attempts.  That’s a well-coached team, baby.

 KOBE came out scoring in the overtime, but each time he gave it up to teammates, they couldn’t deliver.  So much for PHIL’S genius game plan.  KOBE had 12 of the LAKER 13 points in overtime.  The LAKERS lost 126-188. 

 LA abandoned any attempt to play defense.  NASH and his squad ran pick and roll at will, and the LAKER big men appeared bewildered.  It’s as if they didn’t practice any pick and roll defensive strategy at all.  And what on earth is KWAME BROWN doing trying to block a 3-point attempt by THOMAS with 6 seconds remaining?  You can see BROWN flying by THOMAS on that final desperation shot by PHOENIX, leaving him wide open to tie the game and send it into the fateful overtime.  Talk about chump defense.  You’re a 7-footer, guarding against the 3 point shot, and you bite hook, line and sinker on a head fake 28 feet from the basket?  Come on!  You’re a professional basketball player.  What are you doing?

 THOMAS, whom the             LAKERS made look like All-World, finished with 21, BARBOSA 22, MARION 20 and NASH 32 as the SUNS picked apart the LAKER defense.  The 126 points was the most in the series so far, but they could go for 150 Saturday, the way they are playing. 

 Got any plan for that PHIL?






JACKSON CATCHES THE SUN RISE
4.30.06.
MEMO MENOS


PHIL JACKSON made the trip to Phoenix with the LAKERS for Tuesday night's game, but he seemed only interested in watching the SUNS rise, as he sat idly by as his team failed to deliver the knockout punch in their 7-game series. The pressure is now on the LAKERS as they return to Staples for game 6 Thursday night. They win that one, or they've got real troubles.

But JACKSON knows that.

PHOENIX came out smoking, as could be expected, jumping out to a 7-0 start, and building a 10-point lead in the 1st quarter. JACKSON showed little concern. Nor did he much mind that KWAME BROWN, the only bright spot for the LAKERS in the opening minutes of the game, picked up 2 quick touch fouls. Neither was much to fret about, but when he got his 3rd, in the first quarter, JACKSON had to take him out of the game. Too bad, since KWAME was off to a really quick start, on 3 for 3 shooting, with 6 points.

Gee coach, why was KWAME still in the game, in the first quarter, with 2 fouls? As things turned out, it could have been a costly gamble, as KWAME was definitely on his game Tuesday night. Perhaps it was the announcement by LAPD earlier in the day that he was under investigation for a sexual assault, a charge BROWN denied in a statement. Whatever the case, BROWN made all 6 of his shots for 14 points, in an abbreviated 24 minutes of play.

JACKSON doesn't want KWAME getting too many points, it's bad for team chemistry.

Not to worry, KOBE caught fire towards the end of the quarter, scoring the LAKERS last 5 points, and when the first 12 minutes came to an end, the LAKERS trailed by only 2 points. They had weathered the run by the SUNS and were in pretty decent shape to finish off the series.

But JACKSON would have none of it. The LAKERS actually took a lead late in the 2nd quarter, with some great minutes by RONNY TURIAF who converted 2 3-point plays and added some much needed energy. But he became fatigued, and JACKSON failed to substitute to allow him to calm down. His wildness led to a flagrant foul, and then another silly foul and before you know it PHOENIX had built a 9-point lead going into the half. They outscored the LAKERS 7-1 to close the half, without so much as a wimper(timeout) from JACKSON.

All according to plan.

The LAKERS came out to start the second half looking anemic. JACKSON likes to show his team movies to motivate them. He screened "Inside Man" for his team before this series started to emphasize the LAKERS strategic advantage in the paint over the SUNS. Talk about savvy. He must have shown "The Big Sleep" at halftime of this one, with milk and cookies on the side, as the LAKERS were blown off the court to start the 3rd quarter.

The 9-point lead swelled to 17 before JACKSON thought things merited a little discussion. He called time with 5 minutes to play in the quarter, but the damage was done. What's worse, the SUNS re-emerged as a fast break team, breaking 100 for the first time since game 1, blowing out the LAKERS 114-97. Not a good time for the most lopsided win in the series. Not a good time to get SHAWN MARION and STEVE NASH back on the same page. Not a good time to muff a chance to bury your more talented opponent.

Not a good outing for the coach of the millennium.

He had words of wisdom after the game, "That's what happens when teams play with some desperation. They were active and aggressive and beat us with the nature of their play." He didn't mention being out-coached.

But, I'm not stupid. JACKSON planned it this way. He must have. He wanted KWAME to sit out on a night that he could have gone for 30. He is a "project", after all. He hoped the LAKERS would get embarrassed so they would play with abandon Thursday night, in game 6, a must win for the LAKERS. He let KOBE have his offensive outburst in a loss, so he won't do it again for the rest of the playoffs. JACKSON can play KOBE like a fiddle. He runs plays for KWAME and WALTON and even COOK in the offense, and particulary in the post, because he realizes they actually are better players than KOBE BRYANT. And he didn't use all of his timeouts in this meaningless game because he knows that if he really wants to, he can carry them over from game to game and use all 40 of them when the LAKERS play MIAMI in the Finals.

This guy is a genius. Shucks, $10 million a year? He should be getting at least $20.





''THE MOST FUN SHOT EVER"
4.30.06.
MEMO MENOS


KOBE BRYANT has made some fun shots. He has made watching basketball fun. But yesterday's 18-foot buzzer-beater was his "most fun shot, ever." MYCHAL THOMPSON, the LAKERS color man on radio, and a good one at that, called it KOBE'S "signature shot for his career". ESPN'S MIKE & MIKE said it was JORDANESQUE.

It was that, and then some.

KOBE didn't just win the game in overtime. He got the game to overtime, with a remarkably difficult 6-foot floater, that is being called a lay-in, with less than a second remaining, and the LAKERS trailing by a basket.

It was no lay-in.

That he had a shot at all is a miracle, as SMUSH PARKER flicked the ball out of STEVE NASH'S hands, did a tightrope act on the sideline, flipped the ball back inbounds to DEVEAN GEORGE, who managed to get it into KOBE'S hands as they all moved towards the LAKER goal, with enough time for KOBE to make an impossible shot which barely ruffled the net it was so perfect. All this over two outstretched SUN defenders, one of whom looked like he fouled KOBE.

That got the game into overtime, a place the LAKERS did not deserve to be on this Sunday afternoon. PHIL JACKSON'S plan to make KOBE BRYANT into the highest priced initiator in the NAB did not work. The SUNS beat the LAKERS in the paint. They handled the post game. KWAME BROWN still isn't quite the star that JACKSON wants him to be. And LAMAR ODOM got tired of being the go-to guy for most of the second half. KOBE was still playing by the script, though, with 8 points through 3 quarters.

If the trick to beating this team is a low post offense, and a controlled game, why can't we try and post KOBE up a bit more. He actually likes getting the ball, and he actually can score on a regular basis in the post, or wherever for that matter. But, I'm not the one with the rings...

Anyway, once in overtime, the LAKERS still didn't have anything offensively. Twice PHOENIX hit 3-point shots that looked to be the end of homecourt advantage, and a difficult trip back to the Valley of the SUNS. TIM THOMAS torched the LAKERS with yet another 3 to give the SUNS a 95-90 lead. And STEVE NASH hit a distance shot to forge another lead, 98-95, after a traditional 3-point play by ODOM brought the LAKERS even at 95.

It did not look good.

With time winding down, KOBE BRYANT made a clutch back-down, post-up move to bring the score to 98-97. But that looked to be it. There were several precious ticks on the clock left, and the SUNS got the ball into the hands of STEVE NASH. You know, back-to-back MVP candidate STEVE NASH, 90% free-throw shooter STEVE NASH, playmaker extraordinaire STEVE NASH, burned once in overtime by SMUSH who? STEVE NASH.

It was over.

But for some reason NASH dribbled over the halfcourt line into the dead end corner, boxed in by the sideline and the halfcourt line and a hustling LUKE WALTON and SMUSH PARKER. WALTON tied NASH up before the SUNS could get a timeout called, and, well, it was not over.

That left 6 seconds remaining, and we knew who would win the tip. It went to KOBE in the backcourt, and he took his time, "got the look he wanted," and the SUNS are history.

It was over, 99-98 LAKERS lead 3-1. Our MVP wins in it in high drama. Their MVP is the goat, on multiple occasions. That is quite ironic.

KOBE and PHIL had never lost a first round playoff series. This one is theirs to lose, now. And an even bigger irony-despite all his efforts at keeping KOBE within, keeping KOBE under control, it was KOBE on the soar, in the zone, outside of the system that saved PHIL JACKSON on this day. It was the most fun ever.

That, and then some.





ALL TIED UP
4.27.06.
MEMO MENOS


PHIL JACKSON just might be the guru everyone thinks he is.  If he gets the LAKERS through to the second round I would have to agree.  You have to hand it to him, after he stuck to his guns with the game plan Wednesday night in Phoenix.

 Nearly everyone decried the strategy that lost the LAKERS game 1 107-102.  But PHIL stayed with it, and got KOBE to stay with it, and the LAKERS took back home court advantage in the series that now comes to Los Angeles for games Friday and Sunday.

 It was tough going down the stretch, after the LAKERS led by as many as 17.  But for 2 close calls going the LAKERS way, this one could easily have been loss number 2.  KOBE got a blocking foul on STEVE NASH on a spectacular dunk, following a tremendous effort by LAMAR ODOM on a loose ball that KWAME BROWN fumbled away.  It was a critical point in the game with the LAKERS up 7 points, but the SUNS making a run.

 Then a few minutes later, with the SUNS still pushing to get back into the game, KWAME BROWN was not called for a foul on a loose ball that ended up in SMUSH PARKERS hands for an easy lay-in.  If those 2 plays go against the LAKERS, PHIL’S plans would find the team down 0-2.  But, thanks to the stripes, we’re all tied up.

 KOBE had a better game than on Sunday, making 12 of 24 shots for 29 points, to go with 10 rebounds and 5 assists.  But he continued to exhibit remarkable patience and confidence in his teammates, who again joined the party.  LAMAR ODOM had 21 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.  KWAME BROWN added 12 points, but only 2 rebounds in another so-so performance.  SASHA VUJACIC had perhaps his best all-around game as a LAKER with 11 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists.  The numbers aren’t terribly impressive, but SASHA played with confidence and aggression, and hit some timely baskets, like he did Sunday.

 The LAKERS won the game with defense, holding the league’s most explosive offense to 93 points, and controlling the tempo for much of the game.  Since PHOENIX scored 39 points to open the series in the very first quarter, they have not broken 30 again, and for the most part, find themselves struggling offensively.

 STEVE NASH played again like the league’s MVP, with 29 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and a steal.  But his offensive targets, SHAWN MARION and TIM THOMAS seem to be getting worn down having to defend ODOM and BROWN in the post.  MARION only managed 13 on Wednesday night; and THOMAS only 11.  NASH can’t do it all himself.

 Wasn’t it nice to see JACKSON jump off the bench for a quick timeout with the LAKER lead cut to 5 points with about 2 minutes to play?  He really can coach when he wants to.  And this plan of his just might work.





THE SLOW LEARNERS?
3.20.06.
MEMO MENOS


After yesterday’s embarrassing loss to the CLEVELAND CAVALIERS before a nationally televised audience, a frustrated, but still hopeful KOBE BRYANT told reporters, “Maybe we’re just slower learners, but we’ll learn.”

 KOBE had just finished throwing down 38 points, along with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and a blocked shot, but his team faltered down the stretch, squandering a 11-point lead with 6 minutes remaining, to lose 96-95.  It was their 12th loss in games decided by 5 points or less, and the second game in a row where some bad last second decision making cost the team the win.

 With 3.4 seconds remaining Sunday, LUKE WALTON forced an inbounds pass into KOBE far from the basket rather than call timeout.  KOBE ended up the game missing a 32-foot shot.  On Friday night in New Jersey, LAMAR ODOM made a similar mistake on an inbounds pass to BRIAN COOK late in the game, rather than call timeout.  The LAKERS lost that game 92-89.

 After the CAVALIER loss, PHIL JACKSON had these words of wisdom regarding the WALTON play, “I think he got drawn into the play, and that was a decision he didn’t make right.”  Ya think?

 Why didn’t he make the right decision?  Could it be that coach JACKSON disdains the timeout?  PHIL hardly ever calls timeout, even when the sky is falling.  It’s as if he’s in a hurry to get to dinner, and a timeout will needlessly delay his exit from the building.  Perhaps this state of mind has worn off on his pupils, who fear calling timeout for fear of being ridiculed.

 Or maybe LUKE didn’t know the timeout situation before stepping to inbound the ball.  With 24 coaches on the bench, surely someone reminded him he had a timeout left, right? 

 Was there a viable play designed for that last LAKER possession, with options if the defense frustrated the development of that play?  You have to think, yes, right?

 Or was the plan to just get the ball to KOBE no matter what, despite the double and triple teams that he was facing all night?

 These questions seem ridiculous, I know, particularly for a professional team, and for a coach who has won 9 NBA titles.  But this team has lost too many close games, and made too many stupid mistakes.  High school teams look better coached than this LAKER team.

 And so, the LAKERS find themselves clinging to a playoff spot, at 34-34.  They have 10 of their remaining 14 games at home, which for most teams would bode well.  Not so for this JACKSON team.  They are an abysmal 18-12 on their home floor, with losses to ATLANTA, SEATTLE, CHICAGO, BOSTON and WASHINGTON. 

 Sunday’s game exposed another LAKER weakness this season, the failure to make adjustments.  Coming into the game, no doubt the coaching staff prepared the team to defend LE BRON JAMES.  They did a decent job against him, slow learners or not, holding him to 29.  But they failed to stop CAVALIER point guard FLIP MURRAY who came out of nowhere to score 21, 14 in the final period, to lead the victory.  He had 5 easy lay-ups, as the LAKERS seemed to not even know he was on the floor.

 Let’s see-failure to hold on to big leads, little ability to make adjustments as the game goes on, falling apart at the end of games, and repeatedly losing close decisions, not to mention back-to-back games, as well as a lousy record at home, with losses to the worst teams in the league.  It seems like it’s the coaching staff that are the slow learners on this team.

 





LAKERS LOSE ANOTHER CLOSE ONE
2.13.06
by: memo menos


The LAKERS returned home from a grueling 7-game road trip, on which they went 2-5 with some hope.  Their next 8 games would be at home, and they still were holding onto the number 8 seed for the playoffs.  By all accounts, they needed to go at least 4-3 on the trip to consider it a success, but the closing night win in Houston, and the emerging game of BRIAN COOK provided some optimism for the 25-24 team.

 If the LAKERS could put together a 7-1 record, or even a 6-2 record over the home stand (1 of the games against the CLIPPERS is actually a road game, but all 8 are in Staples Center), they could be sitting in a decent position, going into the All-Star break.

 But PHIL JACKSON just can’t seem to gain control over this situation.  The LAKERS couldn’t hold a 9-point lead late in the 4th quarter, and played like a high school team without a coach over the last minute, and the result was another close loss.  There have been way too many of those this year.  That’s not supposed to happen with a legend for head coach, and the best player in the league in the 4th quarter, but there it is.

 Several of JACKSON’S decisions were suspect.  First, he got BRIAN COOK, who was coming off games of 28 and 27 points respectively, only 12 minutes of time on the floor.  Granted COOK was in foul trouble much of the night, but he can’t contribute from the bench.  JACKSON did put him in for the final seconds, after he had been sitting most of the second half, and COOK failed to convert on a critical shot with 13 seconds remaining and the LAKERS tied at 99. 

 LAMAR ODOM, who can’t raise his arm above his shoulder, attempted a dunk on the previous LAKER possession only to have it blocked by PAUL GASOL.  No timeout was taken for either possession and the LAKERS squandered their 99-95 lead with 1 minute to play.

 That left MEMPHIS with the ball and 12 seconds to play.  SMUSH PARKER fouled CHUCKY ATKINS who made a free throw, which gave the GRIZZLIES a 100-99 lead.  KOBE rebounded the miss and PHIL designed a play for KOBE for the final 2 seconds.  It’s hard to second guess that decision, except that BRYANT was double-teamed, one of those defenders being EDDIE JONES, still one of the best defenders in the league and someone with more than a passing familiarity with KOBE’S game.

 LAKERS lose, 100-99.  Their home record is now 12-9.

 The loss wasted an 18-point, 8-rebound effort by KWAME BROWN.  BRIAN COOK only managed 5 points, LAMAR ODOM 8.

 Afterwards PHIL had some gems of wisdom.  “ That’s as good a game as we can expect out of KWAME.”   Surely not after he hears this, coach.  How inspiring!

 “You’ve got a Jekyll and Hyde situation sometimes with this bunch.”  Really?  Is there nothing you can do about that?

 “I’m not going to whine and moan about it.”  I suppose if I was being paid $10 million for my mediocre performance, I wouldn’t either.

 

 





JACKSON'S SKILLS ON DISPLAY
2.6.06
by: memo menos


Let's face it, the LAKERS are not a championship team.  Probably not even a playoff team.  That's not really a news flash.  But on a road trip and at a time described by coach JACKSON as "critical", you've got to wonder whether PHIL is up to the task.

 They played a decent game at Detroit.  Perhaps even a coach at the top of his game couldn't pull the right strings to leave motor city with a victory over a PISTON team that is certainly at the top of their game.  But with the next 3 games coming against NEW YORK, an-injury riddled INDIANA and the league's worst team, CHARLOTTE, you had to believe that PHIL could have this team at 3-1 on this trip at this point.

 After all, he does have the league's best and hottest player in his arsenal.  And they've got the vaulted triangle offense, to go with all of JACKSON'S storied wisdom.

 So, why then did the LAKERS get blown out by the PACERS, who were with a newly acquired PEJA STOJAKOVIC and without 3 of their starters and had lost 6 in a row prior to this?  LA shot a dismal 30% from the field, for starters.  And they still don't know how to use the talents of KOBE BRYAN, with the remaining limited talent in the roster.  And JACKSON refuses to play ANDREW BYNUM.

 After a rousing 16-point performance on perfect shooting in New York, BYNUM didn't see any playing time until the 4th quarter and the game already decided by 20 points.  No sense in that, particularly when the other players save KOBE BRYANT aren't up to the task.  But PHIL'S the guy with all the rings...

 You have to admit, it was a second of back-to-back games, and we all know that it would take a coach of considerable skills to have this LAKER team prepared to play in those situations.  I mean, to have to play basketball on consecutive nights.  Really?  Who can blame them for being a little groggy?  JACKSON clearly can't be held responsible for these professionals who aren't prepared to play, can he?

 To his credit, PHIL did lay into the team prior to their meeting with the BOBCATS, tasking them through 2 hours of videotape review, before they came out and lost to the last team in the league, a team that had lost 13 in a row.  The LAKERS didn't just lose, they trailed from start to finish.  It was the very first time in 130 games that CHARLOTTE so dominated a team, and it was PHIL JACKSON'S LAKERS who can claim that banner.

 To add insult to injury, former LAKER JUMAINE JONES, traded by PHIL at the start of training camp, unleashed a career high 31 points against his former teammates, to go with 9 rebounds and 3 steals.  JACKSON had words of wisdom after the game, "We deserved that.  He was a player that we had no idea how good a player he was."  PHIL'S got a habit of doing that, I guess.

 But PHIL isn't all to blame.  LAMR ODOM didn't play, and KOBE didn't go for 80+ points.  BRYANT only managed 35, on 66% shooting with 9 boards and 7 assists.  But JACKSON  couldn't assemble anything else that resembled a basketball team, and the road trip just gets better.

 They go into NEW ORLEANS for another cherished back-to-back.  What do you think the chances are?

 When the best coach on the planet can't prepare a team for consecutive games;  or inspire his team to beat the worst team in the league; or call a timeout when the Sisters of Mercy (We miss you Chick!) coaching out of habits would know damn well to blow the whistle whilst watching the game from the bench; or know when to toss the stupid triangle to the curb; or put together a game plan that highlights, not detracts from the best player in the league, then something's got to give. 

 This guy is getting $10 million a season for this performance.  And we're no better, in fact worse than we were last year without PHIL JACKSON and without KOBE BRYANT tearing up the record books.

 Do you think SACRAMENTO would take JACKSON for RON ARTEST?

 





"IN A HOLE"
2.6.06
by: memo menos

The LAKERS lost their second consecutive game without ever getting a lead, losing to the NEW ORLEANS HORNETS on a makeshift homecourt in Oklahoma, 106-90.  KOBE again scored 35 points on very good shooting, 13 for 26.  Yet it was another blowout loss on the second of back-to-back games.  And it was another game where the team found themselves in a deep hole right from the start.

 As a matter of fact, in each of the games on this trip, as in many of the games this year, the LAKERS somehow find themselves down by double-digits in the first half.  Only in New York, where they actually won, were the LAKERS not down by 10 points or more early.  They only trailed in that game 18-9/

 Coach JACKSON'S response is telling, "They're putting themselves in a hole right away to start a ball game.  They have to come out with better purpose and better energy."  As if the coach has nothing to do with that.

 Come on, PHIL.  Shuffle the lineup, kick some ass, get them to come out with a better purpose and better energy.  You're not without a role here!

 One tactic that has cropped up on this trip is for teams, decidedly inferior teams, to double and triple team KOBE BRYANT near half court.  KOBE has been dishing to team mates who can't shoot the ball.  The result has been lopsided losses for the LAKERS despite strong shooting and scoring performances by BRYANT.

 How about a little adjustment, coach?  What is KOBE doing with the ball around half court?  Get someone else to deliver the ball where KOBE can score 1 on 3.  It's not like he can't do that!

 Or, pray tell, get someone in the lineup with the confidence and a green light to shoot and score every time he gets the ball.  It should not come as a surprise that the LAKERS were going to need a shooter or tow to compliment BRYANT and ODOM.  Why isn't that person sufficiently developed this late into the season?

 And finally, if you've got a team that is shooting less than 30% without KOBE, then how about nurturing a crash the board kind of guy that is going to clean up on offensive rebound buckets?  It would seem to me LUKE WALTON, DEVEAN GEORGE and KWAME BROWN are perfect for this kind of role, turning lemons into lemonade, so to speak.  But they don't seem to know what they are doing out there, coach.  Why is that?  Take them out of the hole, they keep "putting themselves in".  That's what coaching, even at the $10 million a year level is all about.

 The trip moves to DALLAS where the LAKERS face another streak, this time a winning streak.  The MAVERICKS have won 11 games in a row.  Given the LAKERS affinity for holes, and their recent history on win/loss streaks, it could be a rough ride in Texas.

 I wonder what BUSS does if this trip goes 1-6?  It's not too late to trade KOBE...





BYNUM SHINES
2.1.06
by: memo menos


The LAKERS really weren't expecting to win Sunday at Detroit. They hadn't beaten the pistons in 5 previous meetings, and there was little hope of them doing so as a mediocre team given DETROIT is the best team in the league, in the hunt for the best record of all time.

Yet, with only a 7 point deficit in the 3rd quarter, and KOBE BRYANT on your side, there is always hope. Sure there is. The PISTONS quickly extinguished it, running off a string of easy baskets with little interference from LAKER defenders or coaching timeouts. The lead grew to 20+ and this game was over.

PHIL JACKSON should know this routine by now. The LAKERS are not a good 3rd quarter team, letting close games get a way time and time again. Yet he seems to do little about it. Has he no options to halt this trend? How about using timeouts more often in the 3rd quarters of games? Or what about bringing energy into the lineup during crucial runs of a game, particularly in the 3rd quarter?

One thing he could do is play ANDREW BYNUM. The kid is just 18 years old, with little big time experience, but he always seems to make something happen. For one thing, he gets up and down the court and plays with unparralled enthusiasm. In New York on Tuesday night, BYNUM got some playing time. Imagine that. We last saw him trading "shots" with SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, in a duel that could be described as a draw. SHAQ may think he got the best of the kid, but in the long run, the experience was much more beneficial for BYNUM. And it showed in New York.

Playing before a number of hometown fans and relatives, BYNUM grew up in New Jersey, the kid came into a game already decided. But playing against the KNICKS starting center EDDIE CURRY in the 4th quarter, ANDREW scored an impressive 16 points on 7 for 7 shooting. Rookie or not, high school preemie or not, garbage time or not, that's something special. He exhibited nice foot work, smart shot selection and a confidence far beyond his limited experience. The league's all-time scoring leader, KAREEM ABDHUL JABBAR, who has been coaching the rook, was thrilled, as were the rest of the LAKERS. (Could JACKSON be close behind?)

ANDREW BYNUM just might be the real deal, if only JACKSON would let him play. BYNUM finished with 16, 4 rebounds (2 of those offensive) an assist and a steal in just 12 minutes of play. By comparison, KWAME BROWN had 7 points, 8 rebounds, an assist and a block in 30 minutes. CHRIS MIHM got 14 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 24 minutes. I don't care how you slice it, BYNUM wins hands down.

KOBE BRYANT scored 40 points, most of them from the free throw stripe as the LAKERS embarrassed the KNICKS 130-97. With the point total KOBE joined WILT CHAMBERLAIN for yet another statistical feat, becoming only the second player in the league to average 40 points a game for an entire month. MICHAEL JORDAN never did that. It's been some January for BRYANT. WILT of course averaged 50+ for an entire season, but that's a whole other story.

The LAKERS meet INDIANA, CHARLOTTE, NEW ORLEANS and DALLAS on this difficult road trip which now stands at 1-1.





KOBE PASSES JORDAN ON THE WAY TO WILT
1.23.06
by: memo menos


All this time we thought KOBE BRYANT was gunning to replace MICHAEL JORDAN in the record books.  Oh sure, he’s sick of the comparisons, he’s just happy to be mentioned in the same group of players, he’s his own man.  Yada, yada, yada, he told reporters all the same last night in a momentous press conference.  But given his remarkable talent, and the confluence of circumstances that have burdened him with the same coach as JORDAN, the comparisons are inevitable.

 We all thought KOBE was burdened and preoccupied with stepping into JORDAN’S shoes.  There were the face-to-face match-ups, including the All-Star game in 2002.  But no, KOBE had no concerns about catching JORDAN.  He had his sights set a little higher.

 It has been coming into focus over the last month or so.  The game in December when KOBE had 62 points in 3 quarters of play was the first real sign, this year anyway.  He flirted with the LAKER record of 71 that night, set by ELGIN BAYLOR in 1960.  Surely he could have topped it, had coach JACKSON given him the chance.

 Then there were the 4 consecutive games over 45 points.  JORDAN had never done that.  Only ELGIN and WILT. 

 Even after the streak was broken, with a mediocre game of 28 points, KOBE continued to raise his scoring average with several games of 51.  He took over the league lead by a full point over ALLEN IVERSON and is threatening to surpass ELGIN’S LAKER record of 34.8 over a full season.  He is above that now, at 35.9. 

 MICHAEL JORDAN’S highest scoring average was 35+, but I suspect KOBE has WILT’S staggering average of 50.4 on his mind.  It’s not even fathomable, but here KOBE is doing it, in 2006 no less.

 BAYLOR’S 71 points was done in 1960.  CHAMBERLAIN’S 100 was in 1962 in a game that was not televised.  As a young fan, it was like a myth.  There was little video of the event.  It was if it happened in a dream, or in another universe.

 But KOBE has done essentially the same thing right before our eyes, in the modern day world.  This is not a dream.

 Last night, he had 81 points, having missed 6 3-point attempts and 12 other shots.  He sat out 6 minutes, and missed 2 free throws.  He could have had 100 last nigh!  Are you kidding me?

 Meanwhile, PHIL JACKSON claims not to have known how many points KOBE had as the game went on.  “I wasn’t keeping track on what he had, and when I turned to FRANK HAMBLEN and said ‘I think I better take him out now.’”   The assistant coach let JACKSON know KOBE had 77 points at the time.  Hello, you’re star player has 77 and you don’t know it?

 Anyway JACKSON let him in to get 80.  But he wasn’t exactly pleased.  “It’s not exactly the way you want to have a team win a game.  But when you have to win a game, it’s great to have that weapon to be able to do it.  I’ve seen some remarkable games, but I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

 Maybe JACKSON will figure out how to build a team around this incredible weapon, a weapon he wanted to trade during his first stint as LAKER coach.  And maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll see more remarkable games from the great KOBE BRYANT.

 Who could have thought we would see another game like the infamous 100-point WILT performance?  I’d say we’ve got a lot more to come, if only JACKSON will allow it to happen. 





LAKERS HEAT STAPLES
1.17.06
by: memo menos


The MIAMI HEAT came to town for their 4th match-up with the LAKERS since The Big Sensitive was traded to South Beach, and the locals played their best 24 minutes of the season.  They led 57-42 at the half, after a last second 3-point bomb from KOBE.  And then hung on to escape with a win 100-92 over a weary MIAMI team that was at the end of a 7-game road trip.

 The game started with a lovefest as SHAQ broke his feud with KOBE, approaching him during warmups to shake his hand, and then embracing during the team captain's meeting and for the opening tipoff.  Enough is enough!  Do we really care if KOBE and SHAQ hug before the game?

 Things changed once ANDREW BYNUM came into the game.  SHAQ, who already had words for the LAKER rookie, calling him a "juvenile delinquent" for not going to college, knocked BYNUM to the floor with a monster dunk on a follow-up to a missed shot.  The Staples Center crowd rumbled in awe.  Immediately on the other end of the floor, BYNUM put a spin move on SHAQ that pinned him to the floor and returned the favor, dunking on SHAQ. 

 Obviously pumped up with adrenaline, BYNUM then proceeded to rough SAHQ up on the way down the floor, as if to say, “take that!”  SAHQ grabbed the rookie’s arm and then violently buried his elbow, forearm and shoulder into the kids midsection, stunning him.  He should have been ejected, particularly given the quick exit referee JOEY CRAWFORD handed BRIAN COOK in the second half for merely waiving at a bad call, but SHAQ and BYNUM were just given mutual technicals and the excitement was over.

 JACKSON did not play BYNUM but for a meaningless couple of seconds in the second half as the game was winding down.  KWAME BROWN managed 2 points and 5 rebounds in 30 minutes.  CHRIS MIHM had 10 points and 6 rebounds in 21 minutes.  Both of those centers fouled out.  BYNUM on the other hand was given 3 lousy minutes, and did more with his 2 points in that time than the other bigs did combined.  JACKSON has got to play this kid!

 Once again SHAQ was not a factor in the game.  He came in averaging just over 18 points and 9 rebounds a game, career lows.  He picked up his 4th foul early in the 3rd quarter, and he was gone.  It looked like the LAKERS would run away with it as they built a 19 point lead as the 3rd quarter started.  But JACKSON would have none of it.

 With SHAQ on the bench, JACKSON sat idly by as the HEAT chipped away, cutting the lead to 9 points to start the 4th quarter.  With SHAQ and WADE on the bench MIAMI further whittled away at the lead until the LAKERS were up by just 4.  JACKSON finally decided to use a timeout to manage the momentum, but it was too late.  MIAMI was back in the game, when this one should have been a blowout.

 Where was the coaching while the HEAT went on a 21-10 run with SHAQ on the bench in foul trouble?  This is our home court for goodness sake.  And for that matter, where was the hack-a-SHAQ once the big guy returned.  SHAQ was getting booed by the Staples crowd, and he was shooting miserably from the foul line.  Why then did JACKSON allow SHAQ to score 3 easy baskets in a row, bringing the HEAT to within 3 points?  Does PHIL hold too much respect for SHAQ to intentionally foul and potenially embarrass him at the foul line?

 At the time, SHAQ was 0-3 from the stripe, and missed 2 do-overs from early entrance into the lane.  It’s a no-brainer in a close game, you’d rather have SHAQ shooting foul shots than making dunks.  Somehow JACKSON’S squad didn’t know this.  Do you think coaching has anything to do with why the LAKERS have lost 11 games by 6 or less points, a stat with which they lead the league?  Where would this team be with half of those in the victory column, a feat that might have been accomplished with nothing more than a meaningful timeout here and there?

 Anyway, KOBE to the rescue, despite PHIL JACKSON.  BRYANT leads the league in points scored in the 4th quarter, and he came into this 4th with 25.  He finished with 37.  Game over.  LAKERS win for the first time over the MIAMI HEAT and the Big Boo Bird.

 The win might not have happened but for a clutch shot from LAMAR ODOM with 40 seconds or so to go.  ODOM finished with 19 points 10 rebounds and 9 assists.  If only JACKSON could motivate him to play like that every night, this team just might go someplace.

 By the way, just how good is DYWANE WADE?  Forget about SHAQ on that team.  MIAMI will rise or fall on the back of WADE.





KOBE, JORDAN, WILT
1.10.06
by: memo menos


If there was any doubt that KOBE BRYANT is indeed the next coming of MICHAEL JORDAN, or beyond, it should be fading to black.  After Saturday’s 50-point performance, BRYANT became the first NBA player since JORDAN to score 45 points or more in 3 consecutive games.  That run did not include the 62 points he had December 20th in just 3 quarters of play.

 Then there is last night’s performance.  With the whole world and certainly all of the INDIANA PACERS knowing the LAKERS have nothing much more than BRYANT and a dormant PHIL JACKSON, KOBE goes off for another 45 in carrying the LAKERS to their 3rd straight win, not a bad turnaround after losing 5 consecutive games.  With the 45 KOBE becomes the first player in the NBA to score 45 or more points in 4 consecutive games since WILT CHAMBERLAIN did it in 1964.  In the entire history of the NBA only 1 other player has scored as many points in 4 consecutive games.  As luck, or good front office management would have it, that player was also a LAKER, ELGIN BAYLOR.  He did it in 1961.

 So, there you have it.  Three players in the history of the league have done it.  All of them are LAKERS.  One of them is currently playing in Los Angeles.  MICHAEL JORDAN isn’t on that list. 

 This kid, he’s still just 27 years old, is phenomenal.  It was 2 years ago that KOBE went on a tear for 40+ points in 9 consecutive games.  He has clearly improved.

 Now if only 1 or 2 others in uniform could get the cue.  Last night it took a 3-point shot from LAMAR ODOM to seal the win.  It was his first make in 5 attempts and but for the basket, KOBE’S effort might have been wasted.  ODOM finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 3 assists, but he still doesn’t look comfortable on the floor.

 ODOM and BRAYNAT were the only LAKERS in double figures, though KWAME BROWN did come close with 9 points and 9 boards.

 Still, JACKSON has to design a way to get others involved in the offense, without taking away from KOBE’S freedom to create and score at will.  The LAKERS have been involves in more close games than any other team in the league (20), and they are less than .500 in them.   

 ANDREW BYNUM played in just his 3rd game of the last 15 and showed some amazing presence.  He scored 6 points on 3 for 3 shooting, had 3 rebounds and a blocked shot erased because of a foul by one of his teammates in just 4 minutes. Overall, he looked a lot more comfortable than BROWN or MIHM in the center position.  JACKSON needs to get him a lot more playing time.  This kid is a player.

 KOBE has taken over the scoring title lead in the league, with a slight edge over ALLEN IVERSON.  It was KOBE’S 7th game of 45 or more points as a LAKER.  ELGIN BAYLOR did it 17 times in his career.  WILT did it countless times, 9 of them in a row in 1964. In the 5 years or so the Big Talker was here, he did it twice.

 ELGIN holds the record for highest points per game average over a season, at 34.8 points per game, done in 1960-1961. KOBE is less than a point off that number, and could make a run at it.  He has improved his scoring average considerably in each of the last 3 years, from 23 + to 27+ to this season’s 33+.

 Next up for BRYANT and the LAKERS are the PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS.  Can KOBE do it a 5th time?





"THINGS HAPPEN"
1.4.06
by: memo menos

That was our $10 million man, commenting on the LAKERS current 5-game losing streak, and the prospect of a first ever 6-game losing streak for PHIL JACKSON.  Hasn’t this minimalist, Zen thing gone far enough?

 The LAKERS under the guru are 2 games off of last year at this time.  KOBE BRYANT is still struggling to find a place in this offense where he can thrive.  LAMAR ODOM is struggling to find a way to fit in; JACKSON doesn’t want him scoring 20+ points per game.  KWAME BROWN is still struggling to learn how to play this game; what hope has he without the tutelage of a hands-on coach.  The others are also struggling.

 The LAKERS have a dismal 6-8 record on their home floor.  Last year at this juncture they were 12-6 at home, without the wisdom of JACKSON.  They have not significantly improved as a team in free throw shooting, despite jettisoning the Big Brick 2 years ago.  There is dissention among the players, including open hostility between the 2 marquee players, KOBE and LAMAR. 

 Does any of this fall under the realm of the responsibilities of the coach?

 The team looked like it was getting some traction.  They had 1 amazing road trip, and went into Miami on Christmas Day winners of 9 of their last 11 games.  But PHIL failed them in the 3rd quarter.  With DYWANE WADE out for most of the quarter with 4 fouls, JACKSON sat idly by as the LAKERS squandered a golden opportunity to build a lead over the HEAT. 

 SHAQ was non-existent, and the team needed some momentum management during the 3rd quarter, during which they were up by as many as 8 points.  A little careful coaching and the team could have gone into the final quarter with a substantial lead.  Instead, with JACKSON watching from the sidelines like a disinterested observer, the HEAT tied the score going into the 4th at 70. 

 The rest has been history.  WADE returned for the 4th quarter and teamed with SHAQ for several highlight plays.  The LAKERS lost another holiday game, had a meltdown in Washington and haven’t won since.

 Things happen, all right.  I thought coaches, especially alleged, legendary coaches, are supposed to have some influence over those things.  My bad.

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