Special thanks to David Lampert for submitting his take to the Lakers Nation and giving us the rights to post it on the blog. Once again, if you have your own take and want to see it on TLN, feel free to e-mail it to us at Articles@theLakersNation.com.
The 2008-2009 Laker season is nearly upon us and, as every Laker fan knows, this is our year. The time is upon us for a Lakers return to glory. Kobe is now nearly redeemed, and this will be his crowning. Our first Shaqless ring of the 21st century. It’s time.
All summer long we savored it. Even Vegas, coolly calculating Vegas, knew the truth. Destiny is Purple and Gold.
The only gadfly in our summer plan of NBA domination was how to best utilize Lamar Odom. We loved discussing it. We weren’t worried. Some thought he would work at the 3. Others clamored to bring him off the bench. Either way, we all agreed, it was a great problem to have. Laker confidence was high.
Preseason is upon us now, but I am seeing a slightly different trend. Doubts have surfaced and Laker consumer confidence is flagging.
Serious concerns have emerged concerning Pau and Bynum, and how they fit together at the 4 and 5. Will the Lakers be ‘run off the floor’?! What will Phil do with Odom when he finishes his Wonka-esque, fantasy filled vacation on the perimeter as a point guard? How will the Lakers pieces fit together?
The gloom is flooding in. The confusion. The clouds. I’ve been reading the columns. The comments. I see that smoggy haze of doubt filtering in. I sense those under the surface, mumbling worries… The Laker season is a mess. Our pieces are good but don’t fit together. The Clippers blew us out in preseason. Jerry West’s confidence is low. Sell! Sell!
The Lakers have a fantastic lineup that can fit together neatly and efficiently. If I may, I would like to propose a couple simple solutions, a couple simple lineups designed to bailout the confidence of Laker Nation and restore its preseason pride.
Lineup 1: The Clunky
This Is What Had Us So Excited All Summer: Pau at the 4 and Bynum at the 5. Can’t you taste it? Didn’t we discuss this all summer long? The primary question was ‘Can Pau play a faceup game and drag his man away from the basket as a 4, letting Bynum operate closer to the basket?’ There were summer doubts. Questions were raised. Some accused Pau of fatting up and leaving his faceup game in Memphis. But the answer to this issue has come early and fairly decisively. Offensively speaking, Pau is clearly going to be able to score facing up as a power forward.
Defensive scenarios are a much bigger concern. Apparently Laker Nation had not sufficiently considered what kinds of potential weaknesses twin towers might incur in a modern NBA. With Odom at the four we were svelte. With twin towers we become slower, clunkier. The Golden States can play threes at the power forward and drag Pau out to the perimeter on defense. (Not to spread panic, but can you even imagine hearing Stu Lanz talk about bigs and thin air even more often than we already do!) Of even greater concern, teams with quick lineups will be able to sprint down the court and torch us in transition.
It may in fact be that the twin tower lineup proves more effective against bigger teams, teams which are playing a traditional four and can’t sprint up the court quite as quickly. As was often suggested over the (long, long as always for true a Laker fan) summer, Odom should be used as a sixth man against these teams, at power forward, always leaving one tower on the floor to patrol the middle. Ariza has often been a proposed starter at small forward in this scenario, but I would consider Sasha as well, who is a decent perimeter defender and who can stretch the defense for Kobe and the twin towers to operate.
Lineup 2: The Svelte
If a team is going to run us, there is another potential solution, one few people seem to be talking about. Bring Bynum off the bench. Return to that quick yet tall, flexible, dominant Laker starting lineup that brought us to the finals last year. Smaller teams have trouble with the large Odom and Pau combination, which remains exceptionally quick and and deft at passing for being so long. With this lineup we maintain speed while punishing those teams that seek to run us with an inside attack they can’t match.
When starting this Svelte lineup, Bynum can be subbed for Gasol and teamed with Odom creating an alternative, still fairly svelte lineup (the one that started Ariza and punished Phoenix last Christmas while my Suns-fan stepfather sat next to me crying in the stands- the greatest Yule in history) If Odom and Gasol both need a breather the bench remains strong with a Bynum and Powell combination or with Bynum and Radmanovic taking over at the power positions. This year we have the personnel to maintain a strong post presence and strong rebounding throughout the game. And we aren’t going to get run off the floor.
The Possible Advantage
Two simple starting lineups. Pau and Odom starting against the smaller, quicker teams, with Bynum coming off the bench. Bynum and Pau starting against the beefier teams, with Odom coming off the bench. It has huge advantages…
1. Predictability: The two lineup plan is fairly simple, and players do better in predictable roles. This system will get players in a rhythm over the course of a year and avoid lineup chaos.
2. It’s Flexible And Limits Vulnerabilities: As explained, it gives our best face to two common and ever present scenarios.
3. Lamar Odom Is A Power Forward: Seriously, we’ve all watched Odom play other positions and look clumsy when guarded by smaller players. Haven’t we already watched him fail to exploit those advantages in the low post? Didn’t we already try to Pippenize Odom on the wing? It feels like Groundhog Day to me. It feels like Groundhog Day to me. It feels… did I already say that??
Odom is most effective at the four. He is a fantastic and consistent rebounder. This is the only skill Odom has which attract the adjectives fantastic and consistent. Odom at the four makes the Lakers a crouched cat, ready to strike. It makes us flexible and gives us the ability to remain long but surprisingly quick. This, we already know, is effective. But when a big Boston bully beats us up, that’s when we need to switch lineups, to the Beefy. Bynum and Gasol. Towers of power.
We’re still going to have bench lineups that look like the the Svelte, the quick, long lineup that delivered us into last years finals. Bynum with Odom. Gasol with Odom surrounded by multitudes of shooters. Sasha on the wing! Ariza! Farmar running a speedy bench! Radmanovic raining threes! Bam! Pau!
I can’t stand it! I can’t take it for a second more. Get this season started! Get my Lakers back where they belong! The Finals. And this time… to victory.