Media day was finally here (I know you all bought your tickets in advance), and I finally found an excuse to write about the Lakers and basketball during football season. Which is quite the accomplishment, thank you. With talk of Bynum’s surgery, and the almost certainty of him missing the start of the season, dominating most of the day, I thought it would be more than appropriate to go over the pros and cons of the Lakers’ big off-season acquisitions, as well the motivation behind all of them. Big Drew’s knees being one of them.
As most of you know, Dwayne Wade’s Heat have already been tagged the number one team in the East, as well as a major factor as to why the Lakers swung their off-season into high gear, singing free-agents Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff, resigning Shannon Brown, and keeping drafted players like Derrick Caracter, who they originally intended to trade to the Nuggets after drafting. And, while the latter may be true, I think the former is… debatable. And by debatable I mean highly debatable. And by highly debatable I mean I don’t agree with it. While many are already crowning the Heat the toast of the East, even going as far as the team of the decade, don’t count me as one of those people.
What you can count me as is someone who will never underestimate a Celtic’s team led by the Big Three, and coached by Doc Rivers, again. In my mind, the Celtics should be, and are, the team to beat in the East. Luckily, I think that the Lakers feel the same way.
Who had any idea at the end of the season that the Celtics would even make it past the first round? The Magic swept, Lebron seemed unstoppable, and the Celtics struggled against an inferior Heat team. So, what happened after? The Celtics destroyed Cleveland. Literally. (It was even reported that Mo Williams, the anti-Derek Fisher, almost considered retiring at the ripe age of 27. Due to hurt feelings. Yep. That’s your new team Cleveland. Unfortunately for Cavs fans, like his jump shot, Mo couldn’t even follow through with that.) Then the Celtics almost swept the 8-0 Magic. And, finally, they took the defending world champions to a 3-2 finals lead, before eventually giving up game seven in the final quarter.
While it was an amazing victory, and a big slap in the face to the Celtics (more like a beating to the face courtesy of Ron-Ron), don’t think the Lakers in their Artest-Happy excitement forgot how close they actually came to losing to the Celtics in the finals for the second time in a row. I know it might be a little difficult to remember now that it’s over, but after watching that game 5, in which everyone, but Kobe was playing terribly and the Celtics were getting their groove on, it was hard not to have Celtics-Cavaliers game 5 flashbacks. And we all know how that ended….
Sorry Cleveland. But, hey, maybe the Browns will…
… never mind.
Ultimately, the Lakers had a coach who knew what he was doing, a player who would give his index finger to out ring Shaq, and the overall talent to outplay the Celtics. Which is exactly what we did.
P.S. To a certain sportsguy: shouldn’t the fact that our best player, and the only superstar in this championship series, shot just 6-24, AND YOU STILL LOST, be a testament to the overall ability and greatness of our team, rather than a negative to that certain player? If anything it says a little something more about your team. We beat you even though our best scorer only made 6 shots? Ouch. That’s almost as painful as Tom Brady’s Justin Bieber haircut.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think some of the Lakers’ additions didn’t have the Heat in mind, but you’d be crazy to think that the Celtics weren’t a big factor in the Lakers’ off-season decision making as well. So, without further ado, lets take a look at the pros and cons of the Lakers’ off-season additions.
Steve Blake is a solid veteran player, who the Lakers basically signed to replace Jordan Farmer. Although, I admit, I’m a fan of Farmar (I watched him play in high school and went to middle school right down the street, but I’m not biased or anything) and thought he played very well in the playoffs (but remember, I’m not biased), I do think Steve Blake is a definite upgrade for this Lakers team in the short run. First and foremost, Blake is a pass first point guard, he averaged almost five assists as a back up last year, who can hit threes regularly, he owns a career .393 3-point shooting average. And Blake’s not only a big offensive addition (remember when he dropped a triple double on the Lakers last year?), but he’s also tough as nails. If you don’t believe me, watch him lay out the center from Down Under. He’s outsized by at least 9 inches and almost 100 pounds. That’s crazy.
Most of all, I think one of my favorite things about Blake is that he gives the Lakers more ability to break down zone defenses. That’s an invaluable asset that the Lakers have desperately needed over the past few years. I vaguely remember a certain time when that could have definitely been helpful…
(I’m having a difficult time remembering this period of time…)
(It might have been during some kind of playoff series…)
(Maybe two years ago or something…)
(My brain’s kind of cloudy….)
(Although an abundance of flops and uncalled moving screens come to mind…)
(I think there was a wheelchair…)
(And it secretly injected steroids into some guy named Stab…?)
Sorry about that. ‘Nam flashbacks. Anyway.
At the age of 30, Blake also brings a veteran experience and leadership to the Lakers’ second unit. A unit that, although talented, occasionally tended to look lost at random times during games last year. Like really lost. Like so lost you had to wonder if Lamar had gotten into Artest’s locker during half-time, found a pound of weed and a pipe, and took the back-up squad to the Zen Master’s office for a quick session. I wouldn’t be too surprised.
However, there are always two sides to every sword. Or, a double-edged sword. Or, Steve Blake is a double-edged sword. How did this begin? Basically there could also be some potential problems with the Blake signing.
For one, Blake has never run a triangle offense before. Who knows how long it will take him to comfortably and effectively run one of the most complicated offenses in the league. Farmar still can’t really do it. Good luck with that one Cleveland.
Whoops. Sorry. Promised myself I’d stop doing that.
P.S. Can I just quickly say how happy I am that Cleveland took Byron Scott and the Lakers kept Brian Shaw? Why the hell would we want Byron Scott? So he could ruin our team to—
(All right, I’ve got to stop myself.)
(Stay on point Stillman!)
(Cleveland’s been through enough already.)
(At this point we’ll never finish with Blake!)
(Keep it together.)
And were back.
Hopefully Blake’s experience and smarts will allow him to overcome the learning curve. I think he will.
Also, Blake isn’t as athletic as Farmar, and that really up tempo offense that Farmar and Shannon liked to run will probably be forced to slow down a bit. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but at times that change of pace was very effective in the playoffs last year and really seemed to take other teams off their guard. Especially older teams. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Overall I think the positives outweigh the negatives with Blake and he is one of the signings to be really excited about for this year, especially with Derek Fisher getting older, and probably taking a lot less minutes during the regular season. That is, unless of course you were excited for Sasha Vujacic to be the back-up point guard, in which case, lets be honest, you’re not really a Lakers fan anyway. You’re probably a Suns fan.
Speaking of the Suns, how’s your PGOTF Dragic feeling about that awesome addition of a point forward to take away some of Steve Nash’s valuable back up minutes? He’s thrilled? Outstanding.
While the Steve Blake signing came right at the beginning of free agency, the Matt Barnes signing came much later and as a slight surprise to most. Myself included. Not like a bad “Oh my god, why the hell did our team just draft three point guards in the first round after we just signed one in free agency?!” surprise, but more of a “Oh my god, why did Kobe just pass Ron the ball with two minutes to — OH MY GOD, why is Artest pulling up for the shot with two minutes to— OH MY GOD, HE JUST MADE THE SHOT!!!” kind of surprise.
Matt Barnes was a good starter for the Magic last year and is a tenacious defender and hard worker. But, in case you forgot, he’s also the head case who pump-faked a ball into Kobe Bryant’s face and nearly started a fight. (It’s also important to mention that Kobe didn’t even flinch when this happened and would’ve taken the hit like a man. What a champ. Vince Carter, take notes)
Luckily for us the Kobe/Barnes squabble has been put to rest, mainly because Kobe, like a lot of Lakers fans, believes someone like Barnes is better to have on your team than against it. Barnes’ tough nature and personality brings another level of intensity to the Lakers game, but it also carries a certain risk on and off the court. Sounds kind of like someone else we know… Maybe we can just start having Hennessy parties in the locker room after games? I’m okay with this.
But mainly, if Barnes can really keep his off the court issues in check (maybe by trying to avoid crap like this) and take this year with the Lakers seriously, the Lakers could have one of the best second units in the league. Also, just think if Phil decides to do a Kobe, Barnes, and Artest backcourt. Who wouldn’t be scared trying to score on that three head monster? Get out of here South Beach! West Side represent!
Let’s be honest, though, the best thing about the acquisition of Matt Barnes is that he takes minutes away from Luke Walton. My best summation of Luke Walton: I remember during one of the playoff series last year, it was a close game against either the Jazz or the Suns, Phil Jackson, despite extremely loud and possibly vulgar protests from a certain someone, put Walton into the game. (Okay, fine, it was me. I don’t like losing!)
Upon going in, Walton, to my extreme delight and surprise (mainly surprise) made a nice, wide-open ten-foot bank. On the next possession, to my further amazement, Walton made a wide open three. Let me just say that the level of thrill, relief, excitement, ecstasy, etc., that I experienced from an NBA player on a championship caliber team making two wide open shots during just the 2nd quarter was not normal, to say the least. Actually, I think those two shots were the only shots Luke Walton made in the entire NBA playoffs. I’m just kidding. Kind of.
Which brings to mind…
Since Walton’s contract of a “modest” five million dollars a year doesn’t end for another THREE YEARS (Are you as excited for this as I am? I doubt it. Three more years? That’s it?! Let’s make it ten!), I think we need a new nickname for Walton. So for the first installment of the ‘Keeping It Still Question of the Day’: What should Luke Walton’s new nickname be? I’m a fan of ‘The Fluke Walton’ or ‘The Anti Bill Walton.’ What are some of your thoughts?
I think resigning Shannon, even if its only for this year, was an extremely clutch move by the Lakers. Brown is obviously the one free agent signing we know the most about, so I wont go into too much detail about him. Mainly, he’s just an extremely athletic scorer off the bench and a solid back up for Bryant. (Plus, who doesn’t love watching Shannon dunk? Except in the dunk contest. Lets forget that ever happened.)
He also gives the Lakers a good change of tempo, which I already talked about earlier. If we had to lose Farmar, I think it’s good we kept Brown. Not to mention, without Brown, 24, the average age of the Lakers back up squad would be about 32. For that matter, the average age of the entire Lakers’ team with Brown is well over thirty. Brown and Bynum are actually the only two players on the Lakers who are under thirty. When did we become the Celtics?
Oh and by Lakers, I meant Lakers who will actually play and contribute during the playoffs.
Sasha Vujacic is under thirty?
And so is Luke Walton?
How did those two get left out? Obviously there must’ve been some kind of mistake…
“I’m noted for being a defensive stopper, plugging that middle, rebounding… blocking shots… making sure we go out there and play solid defense.” Theo Ratliff couldn’t have said it better himself. Which he did. The Lakers already have a great three-man rotation at the power forward and center positions, and this solid front court, along with Ratliff’s age, 37, means Theo probably isn’t going to get as much playing time as our other three free agent signings. He’s basically taking over for D.J. Mbenga. However, with that being the case, due to his defensive playmaking ability and leadership, as well as Bynum’s injury, Theo’s definitely going to be looking at more extensive playing time than Mbenga was ever given. And as the fourth big man option, being a solid defender and rebounder is more than enough for this already stacked team. The only way Theo could really disappoint is if he fails to rebound. Or randomly loses his shot blocking ability. In which case… I don’t know. Maybe Kwame Brown’s available?
He just signed with the Bobcats?
Wait, didn’t Michael Jordan buy the Bobcats?
So Jordan and Kwame are…?
But you would think Jordon would…?
* Sigh *
You’re lucky you were so good at this basketball thing Mike. Otherwise, people might start to think you’re not so good at this basketball thing.
Ex-Lakers and MJ aside, I truly think through this offseason the Lakers solidified themselves as the best team in the league. After winning their second championship in a row the Lakers watched as all the big name free agents left their rivals in the West for the ancient mecca that is the East. (I’m assuming it’s some sort of mecca, there has to be SOME reason why they all flocked to the East. I mean, what other reason could there be for leaving the West other than… Oh… Ohhh… OHHH! Could it be that– I’m not trying to go there, but Carmello Anthony is forcing the issue. It’s out of my hands!– Could it be that these players are all leaving the West because… because they’re scared of the Lakers??? No? I just jumped too far? Okay, scratch that one. Never said it. Pretend it never happened. Although it might’ve happened. No, no, let’s just assume Carmello’s leaving because he believes New Jersey is going to get more wins than the Nuggets this year. There we go. Much better.) Bottom line is that the Lakers could have been complacent. But they weren’t. And were better off for it.
By the way, I just realized that I majorly failed and completely left out Derek Fisher as one of the big free agent acquisitions. Crap. Give me a chance to rectify this. Here, really quick, I’ll just do a quick D-Fish analysis to finish up.
Well guys, it’s been fun Keeping It Still and don’t forget to send in your opinions for the question of the day. This weeks question: Luke nicknames. And, as we begin our quest for yet another three-peat, just remember that, no matter what happens, at least our basketball happiness doesn’t depend on the Clippers.