Game Notes: Lakers at T-Wolves
And Best Actor goes to….
Let the euthanasia begin! Right?
-BBD’s ‘Poison’ blasted through the speakers during pre-game warmups. Lamar Odom skipped the ball through his legs while doing an impromptu version of the running man as Jordan Farmar…..what’s that move called when someone waves their arms backward like a backstroke? Regardless, it’s just one more indication that Farmar missed his true calling as a boy band member.
-And what would a boy band be without thousands of screaming white girls? The stands are awash with Purple, Gold & blonde. Not many big butts, but plenty of smiles, all clamoring for the lead singer, Mr. Sexual Chocolate himself, Kobe Bryant.
-Shelden Williams is in ‘business casual attire’ for his first Target Center appearance as a Wolf. I would say ‘street clothes’, but that just sounds too…urban?
-Oh, and whenever I think of Shelden Williams I can’t help but think of this.
-Randy Foye has the unenviable task of guarding Kobe, who immediately takes advantage of the mismatch by stationing himself in the post for a series of fadeaways.
-Sebastian Telfair continues to show a newfound confidence in his J, calmly sinking back to back threes before testing his limits with a rushed-and contested-third attempt. Sebastian Telfair heat check? “I’ll take words that have never been spoken until now for $500, Alex”.
-Kobe is isoed on the right wing with Kevin Love and pulls up for a 15 footer, only to pass in midair to a streaking Pau Gasol, who catches the ball waist high and finishes the play all in one motion. His hands are as good as any post player in the game.
-John Kundla and Vern Mikkelsen in the house! Everybody say “Hooooo!”
-Minnesota is compensating for their lack of size with some scrappy interior play, led by K.Love.
-End of 1st. 29-26 Lakeshow, on 65% shooting.
-Why does Pau always look like he just woke up? Is it all the siestas?
-Jason Collins is about as threatening as a plastic spoon. The Wolves run a high pick and roll with him on three consecutive possesions and the Lakers paid him absolutely no attention in rushing to trap the ballhandler.
-The Lakers fast break is deadly. Not only is it comprised of freakish athletes, but it’s also quite structured, with players immediately finding spots and filling lanes with all the efficiency of a half court offense.
-Lamar Odom is doing it all with ease. Pull ups, catch and shoot, curls toward the basket, rebounding and assisting. He thrives in the half court and on the break. Can anyone else imagine him in a D’Antoni offense?
-Farmar makes a series of ill advised plays, turnovers, rushed jump shots and missed defensive assignments, which give the impression that the Lakers aren’t taking this game too seriously.
-Kobe is still abusing Foye on the block and the Wolves refuse to double.
-Ryan Gomes slices into the lane, fakes a pass that fools three Laker defenders and finishes with his left hand off the wrong foot. I dare you not to love this guy.
-Wolves continue to get open looks at threes from the corners due to the Lakers help defense. And they’re making them, which is keeping things close.
-End of 2nd. 54-50 Lakeshow, shooting 62%. Damn.
-The third quarter went surprisingly well for the Wolves, particularly Bassy who left Derek Fisher stuck in cement on several posessions on his way to 8 points on 4 for 7 shooting. No other Wolf took more than three shots and 18 of the teams 30 points were scored in the paint.
-Following a Luke Walton steal, Kobe breaks away from the pack-and Elgin Baylor-with 23,150 points in his career, moving into 20th place on the all time scoring list. When asked about passing the Laker legend in Minneapolis where the franchise was founded, Bryant replied “It’s funny how things come full circle sometimes.”
-It’s still unclear if L.A. expected their opponent to just roll over or if they thought that they’d continue to make every shot they took, but they looked surprisingly flat and undisciplined. This offense can get practically any shot they want against the best defenses in the league, so it was more than a bit perplexing to watch them hoist contested 20 footers early in the shot clock.
-The physical play continued in the second half and the officials flatly refused to whistle even the most egregious violations. In a memorably ugly possesion nearing the quarters end, at least three bodies hit the floor from bumps and shoves before the last man standing in the paint, Lamar Odom, finished the play with a dunk.
-On the next possesion Kevin Love, no stranger to contact himself, had Odom and Gasol climb over his back for boards before a teammate was whistled for a foul which made the rook as mad as I’ve ever seen him.
-Apparently Kobe Time (Patent Pending…) is not the last minute of the third quarter. Bumped on a break by Kevin Ollie causes him to lose the ball out of bounds. Bryant barks at the ref, intimidating him into rewarding L.A. with possession, only to be overruled. On the next possesion, Bryant is determined to drive to basket again and is stripped by Craig Smith. Of course Bryant thought he was fouled and lets the ref know it, for the next thirty seconds. Then with the finals seconds of the quarter ticking away, Kobe drives left, rises to shoot and passes out of a double team to Trevor Ariza. Which would’ve been the right play, if there were still time on the clock.
-End of 3rd, 80-78…..Wolves?
-Over/Under on Kobe Bryant shot attempts in the fourth? I’d say ten.
-Lakers starters are on the bench to open the quarter. Classic Phil. Let the bench find their way out of this mess.
-Rodney Carney and Trevor Ariza were separated at birth, but Ariza was raised by a family that taught him to play defense.
-Speaking of which, even Scottie Pippen is somewhere marveling at how long Ariza’s arms are. He could probably tie his shoes without bending over.
-The tables have turned and now the Wolves are capitalizing on missed shots on turnovers with fast breaks of their own.
-89-88 Wolves. Kobe and Pau back in the game with 6:57 remaining.
-Once again, Kobe takes Randy Foye down to the blocks, fakes right, turns inside, fades away and fires….when outoffuckingnowhere Rodney Carney leaps and swats the ball away. As always, Kobe is visibly angry and wants a goaltend, but after watching the replay it’s clear that Carney caught the ball at it’s apex. But Kobe’s complaint certainly wasn’t without foundation. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone block that shot.
-Bassy is still treating the Lakers point guards like a turnstyle.
-Carney and Kobe might as well be in the same pair of shorts. Carney isn’t giving him any space, forcing several jump passes.
-Randy Foye is one of the best fourth quarter players in the league. Looooong stepback two over Odom.
-Walton and Miller trade threes.
- Fisher and Gomes trade threes. 104-103, Lakeshow.
-Tonight, Kobe Time wasn’t in the last minute of the fourth quarter either. After pirouetting into another fadeaway that gave L.A. a 106-103 lead, Kobe blows a wide open layup that would’ve sealed the win. Then he misses a 25 footer, but it’s tipped in by Odom. With another chance to put things away at the line, he misses the first of two free throws leaving the door open for another three point bomb from Fourth Quarter Foye with less than ten seconds remaining. But though he was less than spectacular on this night, Bryant still finished with 28, 7 & 6 after sinking two more free throws.
-Foye heaves another three that looks good from the press box, but comes up short.
-Lakers win, 111-108. But they shouldn’t have.
SLAM: Younger teams usually have a hump to get over-like a Detroit or a Boston-before they reach title contention. Before last year, this was a team that had never been out of the first round and then they went straight to the Finals. Are there lessons that still need to be learned that were missed in that process and what are they?
Fisher: I think nights like tonight, just understanding that in this business there’s a certain approach that you must have to every game. Even though you may not perform your best every night, if you bring the right approach, then you can come out on top on most nights when you’re supposed to. You match up better if you’re mentally in tune with what you have to do out there. You can go out and just impose your will on a team and that’s something I think were still learning how to do. I think we can get there, we’ve had some stretches, but we still haven’t put it together for more than a couple ball games at a time.
SLAM: So is tonight the kind of night where you should have just come out and jumped on this team? What happened?
Fisher: I think it was possible when you consider the devestating injury to Al Jefferson and some of the trades that have been made recently with this team, in particular personnel on the inside. It was our goal tonight to come in and get the ball to Pau Gasol and take advantage of our size on the inside. Lamar’s been playing great for us and we wanted to take advantage of him on the interior. We got off to a decent start, but I think we still allowed the Wolves to score too many first quarter points and from there I think they felt comfortable offensively and that they could score when they needed to. On the road-in particular against a young team, you know a young team is going to play better at home-that first quarter is crucial. If you allow them to come out in that first quarter and start feeling good about themselves, they’re making shots and things are going well, then you’re going to have a tougher time the rest of the night trying to slow them down.
After noting Lamar’s importance to the Lakers 9-1 record since the MCL tear heard ’round the world…
SLAM: Do you think he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder?
Fisher: No, I don’t think he’s playing with a chip. I think Lamar has been asked more than anybody this season to make a sacrifice that guys of his caliber often don’t have to make. Coming off the bench, not having a lot of real freedom to do a lot of things out on the floor because he’s been in a limited role per se. So now that he’s back in the starting lineup and playing 35+ minutes a night, he’s just letting the game come to him and his talent speaks for itself. And I think he’s better when he just lets it come to him. A lot of people have tried to force on him to be some other player, but as you can see the Lamar Odom he is is just fine.
SLAM: Have you read the Michael Lewis article on Shane Battier in the New York Times?
SLAM: It was about sabermetrics and how the Rockets basically divide the floor into a grid. They take your lowest shooting percentages from certain spots on the floor and try to force you into those positions. Battier said that your worst spot was going left and pulling up from the midrange and that’s what he consistently tries to get you to do. So are you aware when teams are trying to implement those kinds of strategies or are you just playing your game and taking what the defense gives you?
Kobe: *Smirks* What do you think?
SLAM: *Deadpans* I think you’re just playing your game and taking what the defense gives you.
SLAM: There was also a mention in that article about Battiers mixed race background and how that was a problem in adjusting to the league and gaining acceptance. I know that in the past you’ve mentioned that you had a disconnect of sorts from the black community. I was wondering if that ever was a problem for you in assimilating into the league?
Kobe: Not at all. Once I came in the league, I’m all business. So if somebody had a problem with me on the court, I’d destroy ‘em. Whether you like me personally, I could give two shits. It doesn’t matter to me at all. The people that I care about are the people that are close to me. My friends, my family. As far as competitors, like me or dislike me, I could care less.
SLAM: So it never affected your relationships with teammates in the past?
Kobe: Nah, the thing that affected my relationships with teammates in the past was the fact that I was 17 and they were 30. That was a big adjustment, but as far as race and all that, that didn’t factor in terms of the NBA.
SLAM: You’ve also said that in the past you showed a bit of naivete as far as dealing with the media and you didn’t pay attention to a lot of things going on in the press. So now that you are….
Kobe: I watch everything.
SLAM: Exactly. You’re a lot more savvy now.
SLAM: So did that play a role in your getting into advertising?
SLAM: What lessons are you implementing in the operation of that company from what you’ve learned in the past?
Kobe: To be true. You’re just reflecting and giving the audience a mirror of what you are as a person and putting it in an entertaining way, so that the public can understand it and digest it in a simpler form. So it’s almost like looking at an entertaining balance sheet of what you are at the moment.
SLAM: You want people to see you for who you are and then like you or dislike you accordingly. So when you hear things like “He’s phony.” or “He’s selfish”….
Kobe: People are just living off what they heard back in the day. Anybody who says that now, it’s not reasonable.
SLAM: It’s bullshit.
Kobe: Yeah, I don’t even give that credibility.
*Waits for Ryan’s psychoanalysis*