#35

New Orleans gets to face off against Kobe and the Lakers for the second time tonight, but this time it’ll be at the Hive. Peja has recently found his 3 point stroke, and Mo-Pete turned in a hot performance against Phoenix. CP3 has followed his amazing December by outplaying Baron Davis and Steve Nash in back to back games in January, but this is a very improved Laker team from the one we played last. We asked some questions of the Laker blog Forum Blue and Gold on what to expect:

At the Hive: With the Lakers surging to a 21-11 record and second best in the West +5.8 differential, is the Kobe trade talk, at long last, dead? On a questionably related note, do Kobe’s teammates have a collective nickname yet (like the Jordannaires or Lebronaires)?

Forum Blue and Gold: God I hope it has stopped. I’m sure some columnists/talk radio host looking for an easy angle will bring it up again around the trading deadline, but I think the talk is dead. Kobe really just wants to win and grew frustrated, but stand in Kobe’s shoes now and look around the league: Where are you realistically going to end up that is better? A Chicago team that has to be gutted to make the trade work? New York? The Lakers brain trust is not going to trade Kobe to Dallas or Phoenix in the West. However, in LA you are on a team in the second tier in the NBA (like the Hornets) and while the step from there to elite is not easy it’s more doable than joining another rebuilding project.

And sorry, no nicknames. We save those for the stars in the expensive seats at Staples Center.

At the Hive: Andrew Bynum’s really been something this year; what do you see as his ceiling, and what player, present or past, do you see him being comparable to?

Forum Blue and Gold: I used to say he could be a healthy Brad Daugherty (someone your older readers will remember), the five-time All Star center of the Cavaliers teams that played in the shadows of Jordan’s Bulls teams. At his peak he was a 21 and 11 guy nightly who could be efficient — sort of a thicker and tougher Pau Gasol. But now I think that may be underestimating Bynum — if he can add polish he can be better than that. Right now most of his points come off dunks, lobs and put backs. He has some good offensive moves but those are not consistent yet, and they need to get there. And he needs to improve his post defense. But he has already shown a great work ethic and is improving by leaps and bounds.

Bynum is never going to be a center that transcends the game (a Shaq circa 1997 or Dwight Howard circa 2010). But a 21 and 11 guy with a few blocks is definitely a key cornerstone.

The Hornets’ bench is having an abysmal season so far, while the Lakers’ bench ranks among the league’s best. What exactly has contributed to L.A.’s continued bench success this year?

Forum Blue and Gold: Smart drafting, letting those guys mature, then filling the gaps with quality role players.

Remember, last year the Lakers had Smush Parker as the starting point guard for most of the season, a guy the struggling Heat (virtually without a PG) have been willing to banish. This season the Lakers have Derek Fisher as the veteran starter, but Jordan Farmar (in his second year) comes in from the bench and plays almost the same number of minutes, bringing an up-tempo game and better defense with him. Ronny Turiaf has matured and brings crazy energy and some good defense in the paint. Trevor Ariza brings good defense and a real slasher to the floor. Vladamir Radmanovic (who will miss the game against the Hornets) and Sasha Vujacic bring guys who can shoot the ball. And remember Bynum started the season coming off the bench which helped (Kwame Brown is the backup center now).

That’s a solid group of role players who can run the offense and push the tempo, plus play good defense. This group usually stretches any lead the starters give them.

At the Hive: Last question (and probably the one that’s puzzled me most): after finishing 24th, 15th, and 29th in the last 3 seasons respectively in defensive efficiency, what has enabled the Lakers to motor into 9th defensively this year? (at 106.0)

Forum Blue and Gold: A combination of better personnel and effort. First and foremost, the Lakers had some “addition by subtraction” by replacing Smush Parker’s matador defense at the point with Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar. Kobe, after a summer of lock-down defense with Team USA, is bringing more defensive energy. Andrew Bynum emergence provides a guy whose length blocks and alters shots in the paint. Trevor Ariza gives the Lakers another good perimeter defender if they need it. Kwame Brown’s big body makes him a good defender on the block against the Yao Mings of the world.

But the other thing is a real focus by the coaching staff that the players have bought into. Phil Jackson’s teams — the Bulls and his first stint in LA — were always good defensively. Last year I’m sure the message was the same, but it wasn’t being heeded. This year it is, the defensive rotations are more crisp and the defense against the pick-and-roll vastly improved. It’s clearly a focus, and as the team wants to run some they are figuring out good defense leads to the breaks and easy baskets.

Thanks to Forum Blue and Gold for their answers; you can find our answers to their questions over at the FBG preview. Without further ado, here are the starting lineups. Interestingly, AccuScore predicts us to win big.

 

 

LOS ANGELES (PPG)

NEW ORLEANS (PPG)

 

D. Fisher 12.8

C. Paul 21.6

 

K. Bryant 26.7

M. Peterson 9.6

 

T. Ariza 5.4

P. Stojakovic 14.8

 

L. Odom 13.9

D. West 19.4

 

A. Bynum 12.8

T. Chandler 12.1

 

Preview | | Accuscore Prediction: Hornets 69/Lakers 31 | |

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3 Responses

  1. Good luck tonight, I’m gonna be at the game tonight! I’ll try to take some pictures too.

  2. Hey, great interview, I came over from Forum Blue and Gold. Good luck tonight, but Andrew Bynum will not be denied!

  3. @ Laker Fan #24,

    Great to see you over from FBG. Kurt did an awesome job with his answers over here…

    @ Anonymous,

    Nice! Post ’em once you take them.

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