Gameday: Raptors vs Lakers – Feb. 12/12

Raptors looking to follow up Friday's Celtics with one over the Lakers; lightning can strike twice!

The Celtics have dominated the Raptors for the last 5.5 years, so you’ll forgive me for an absolutely brutal prediction. I must admit, though, that I was ear-to-ear smiling watching the replay on league pass; witnessing that pit in Garnett’s stomach grow over dropping a game to the Raptors was priceless. Let’s hope lightning strikes twice with the Lakers in town.

Brian Kamenetzky from ESPN Los Angeles, and I had a wicked conversation about the game (the other part):

How do you rate Mike Brown? Was he a good choice for this team, or should the job have gone to Brian Shaw?

Actually, my choice was Rick Adelman. I felt like he was the best bridge between truly bringing in a new voice, but with a system not going so far away from what the roster was constructed to do in a season almost surely going to be without a real training camp. A good blend of continuity and change.

On the other hand, maybe they figured the roster would become something Brown would be more comfortable with, and it probably would have had the Chris Paul trade been allowed by the NBA. As for his performance, I think he’s done reasonably well under almost impossible circumstances. He had no contact with players to install his system, no real training camp for them to practice it (and meanwhile, the roster was changing constantly throughout), and because of a brutal schedule early, no chance to get real reps except in games. They went weeks without a real practice. Plus, the roster has serious limitations.

That said, I don’t think he’s done great work with the rotations. There’s been an awful lot of tinkering, and I get the sense it grates on the guys he’s pulling in and out of the lineup. Certainly there’s been a lack of creativity on the offensive end, as well. All told, it’s hard to be too critical given the context, but he hasn’t won me over, either.

True or False: Trading Odom (as bad as he’s played so far this season) for a trade exception (and not getting any real assets in return) has cost the Lakers the chance to compete for an NBA championship this season, and damaged their future moving forward.

True, true, true, true. There’s no question Odom was due for a dip in production after a career year shooting the ball last season, but I do believe he would have performed better here than in Dallas. But even if he didn’t, the problem isn’t that Odom is gone, per se, but that they didn’t replace him with an actual basketball playing human being. Losing Odom left a massive hole in the rotation. He took with him skill sets and flexibility they didn’t replace, and the team has suffered for it.

As for the future, you can definitely argue the way they moved Odom was a total waste of an asset. Maybe they turn that trade exception into something useful down the road, but at the same time, it’s hard for me to believe they couldn’t have turned Odom himself into that same asset, and meanwhile the exception isn’t as easy to move as the player himself.

What is the plan around getting Howard into a Laker uniform? Given the current make-up of the team, will he be enough to get them back into championship form, or is it more of a lateral move?

It improves them, because Howard is better than Bynum (using the much kicked around Bynum for Howard hypothetical), but I don’t think adding Howard makes them a title contender right away unless they fill the other holes. They’d still be short a point guard or two, and small forward is a wasteland. The bench also wouldn’t improve. Perhaps they could solve some of those problems in a Howard swap, but if they don’t the Lakers would still have a lot of work left to do. They’d have their superstar of the future – nothing to sneeze at – but wouldn’t necessarily become instant title contenders this year.

In the near term, it feels like the Lakers have a choice to make. Try to win now, or do what they can to secure the future. Doing both at the same time is a tall order.

The Lakers are in desperate need of a guard who can take some pressure off of Kobe, and you know, play basketball at an NBA level. Are there any deals in the works that could help address some depth in the front court?

You’ll hear names like Ramon Sessions kicked around, or Jose Calderon. I don’t know how the Lakers acquire this sort of helpful, mid-level player, though. It’s not like they have a lot to offer, and what they do have seems to be reserved for a potential Howard deal (and, in the ultimate Lakers fan fantasy, Howard and Deron Williams). Gilbert Arenas is another name bandied about, but the Lakers clearly aren’t itching to get that done, or he’d already be here. But no question they need someone who can put the ball on the floor and create shots for himself and others. Odom was the second best guy on the team for that, but he was shipped out. We’ll often joke that Pau Gasol is the team’s best point guard, because he passes so well and actually has a pretty nice handle in the open floor.

It’s a joke, of course, but is a lot more true than it should be.

I’m super lazy today, so not doing the full match-ups, but a few things to consider for tonight:

  • The Lakers are playing the last game of a 6 game road trip over the last week-and-a-half. This is especially troubling for them because you can make the case that the Raptors are the deeper of the two teams
  • Before the Lakers played the Knicks on Friday; Kobe was asked about Jeremy Lin, and said this. After “not getting ahead of himself”, Lin dropped 38pts 7ast 4rebs in a win. You can bet he will be wanting to take that aggression out on the Raptors today
  • The Lakers are leading the league in rebounds per game, and posting a 28.3% offensive rebounding rate; Amir, Ed and Gray will need to be engaged and focused from the tip
  • Bayless (and Bargnani) is doubtful for the game. Say what you want about him, but he attacks defenses and forces them to react. With him out, it’s up to DeRozan to repeat his performance against the Celtics; three cheers for consistency!
  • Kobe is averaging 39.3 minutes over the last 10 games; he’s also averaged 40+ for the last three. He has to be tired, I know he’s a world champion, eye of the tiger type guy, but given the early start, there is a real opportunity to come out of the gates blazing. If he hits his second wind early, what can you do?
  • Given all that, the Lakers are 6.5 half point favourites even though they will playing their 6th game in a row on the road at 10am LA time; the smart money has spoken

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