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Q&A With Forum Blue & Gold (Lakers)

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As much as I hate the Lakers and enjoy the rivalry, I can't help but respect this Lakers blogger, Kurt from Forum Blue & Gold.   Here is our Q&A.

My questions to Kurt: 

1. From the tone of your posts I can tell you were tired of the Kobe trade talk years ago.  How are fans and players coping with it this year now that it has seemed closer than ever to actually happening (but not quite yet)?

1. On the court, Los Angeles is the Bizarro World to Chicago — the rumors swirling around may have made this team better. Credit the influence of Phil Jackson and some veteran leadership in the locker room of Derek Fisher, this team has tuned out the rumors and constant questions from reporters and just played basketball. If anything, the off-season rants from Kobe about the players around him may have fueled Andrew Bynum’s workouts — he came back in much better shape and with a more aggressive attitude — and guys like Jordan Farmar and Vladamir Radmanovic to step up their games. The Lakers are a team having fun right now — and that includes Kobe, whose demeanor the last week has lightened considerably.

As for the fans, I was pretty sick of the whole Kobe "summer of our discontent" saga early on, but I think I was just on the leading edge of the wave of fans feelings, most are on the same page. The constant barrage of rumors have numbed us. We know there are more coming, another wave around the trading deadline for sure that may or may not wash Kobe out of town. Then again next summer. But like the team we’re looking past it for the most part. (And we’ve become experts in picking out the flaws in where he would go. Chicago? They are not impressing much of anyone right now, and besides to match salaries the team would have to be gutted. Dallas? Again the team’s valuable depth would have to be gutted, they don’t have the young talent a rebuilding Lakers franchise would want plus the Lakers aren’t likely to trade Kobe in the West. And what about bringing in another star to LA? Jermaine O’Neal? The guy Andrew Bynum worked over pretty good a couple nights ago? I could go on and on, but it doesn’t make much sense to do that. Then again none of this makes much sense to me anymore).
Read more 2. If you could start over and build a team from scratch, would you start with Kobe again?  Either way, what types of pieces would you like to assemble for the near and long term?  Would you trust Mitch Kupchack to put it together?

2. If I were an owner granted some super-pick, I suppose it would be LeBron, but largely because he is younger and more marketable than Kobe. If the question you are asking is would I want to see the Shaq/Kobe situation handled differently, well, other than wishing both of them could have been more mature I’m not sure it could have been handled differently. If the Lakers keep Shaq, Kobe is wearing a Clippers jersey tonight and the Lakers two years ago would have been in the situation Miami is now (Shaq would not have been motivated, would never have gotten in shape and shown any fire, and the Lakers had no Wade to pair with him anyway).

Really, I don’t think the pieces the Lakers have assembled around Kobe are all that bad, save they need a true second option. (I think Odom is not that guy, at least not consistently, but could be part of a trio.) Guys like Ronny Turiaf, Luke Walton, Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar, Vladamir Radmanovic, they are all potentially good role players on a very good team. What is needed is one more guy who is a force to go with them — maybe Andrew Bynum can be that guy, he has taken a big leap forward this year, but he is not yet what the Lakers need. The question is can Kobe wait?

As for Mitch Kupchak, he gets a lot of heat in LA — and someone should get burned, the Lakers have made some odd choices (Brian Cook, three years for $10 mil?). But the question really is how much power does Mitch have, and who really is pulling the strings in the front office. Right now there is clearly a power struggle going on as Jerry Buss stepped back a little, giving power in basketball matters to his son Jim (and to his daughter Jeannie on the business side, who combines with Jackson). You have Mitch, Phil, Jim and Jerry all saying they talk and consult and have a plan, but then in each interview they contradict each other. It’s hard to tell how much blame goes to Mitch, and how much should be spread around to the other three. I might trust Mitch to rebuild, I just don’t know how much of what the Lakers are today is on him.

3. Phil Jackson, one of the greatest coaches ever or a guy that was really lucky to have some of the greatest players ever on his teams?

3. Both. He’ll be the first to tell you that he wouldn’t be thought of as an all-time great coach without Jordan and Shaq and Kobe. But Doug Collins and Del Harris had basically the same teams Jackson did and weren’t winning rings. Phil is smart enough to know that he is not the greatest X’s and O’s guy ever, so he has Tex Winter (one of the greats) do a lot of that for him. Phil is the best at getting his players to do what he wants, to motivate players (through friendship or scoldings through the media) and to get teams to buy into his system. And getting modern NBA players all on the same page is no easy trick.
I hope you and your family have a great Thanksgiving. You are one of the
best.

Here are Kurt's questions for me:

1. When the big three were put together everyone knew the offense would be potent, but nobody expected this kind of defense (I mean, Ray Allen is one of the three). How are they doing it?

1. Part of what made me so excited to get Kevin Garnett is his All World defensive ability.  He can guard anyone on the court and anchor the defense at the same time.  So that was a great start.  Then consider that the two "other" starters Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins are both above average defenders.  Then toss in James Posey, enough said.  Finally the whole thing is tied together by new assistant coach Tom Thibodeau (a defensive genius) and you have a pretty good snapshot of how this got put together.

Also consider that Pierce and Allen don't have to carry the team offensively anymore.  They'll never be shutdown guys, but they can put in a little extra effort within the team defensive scheme and make it work.

2. The other knock on the Celtics was it was going to be the "Big Three" and then some guys who might be D-Leaguers other places. How are Rondo and Perkins doing? Who else is stepping up?

2. I think the best point about this was made by Ainge, who played with the original Big Three.  He said that the majority of the game was focused on the Big Three.  Ainge, DJ, and others were there in a support role.  That's all were asking of the guys like Rondo and Perkins.  Know your role and do it as best you can.  Rondo's big issue was shooting, but when you leave him wide open (sometimes there's nobody for miles around him) he can hit shots inside the arc.  Perkins has no post moves, but when 3 people collapse on KG and he finds Perkins under the rim, the only move he needs is a two handed slam.  He knows his role is to rebound, defend, and pick up garbage dunks.

The bench is all role players too.  House is our own Vinny "the Microwave" Johnson.  Posey is a shutdown kind of guy.  Tony Allen attacks the basket relentlessly.  Pollard fouls people.  Big Baby Davis is our human victory cigar.  It all works (so far).

3. You've got the Celtics, the World Series winning Red Sox, and the undefeated Patriots. Are Bostonians sick of all this winning yet? And who is dominating the hearts and minds of the city?

3. Please.  Boston fans do not have a complex anymore.  We are happy to be winners.  It is the rest of the world that is sick of Boston winning.  And that is a little unfortunate.  There's always going to be that one cocky Boston guy that goes around shoving his teams' accomplishments (like he did anything to help them win aside from buying a hat) in people's faces.  That never helps.  But I most fans are just enjoying the moment, loving the ride, taking it all in to remember for when the natural cycle of things takes a downward turn.

Boston will forever be a Red Sox town, and since they won it all, they still have the hearts and minds of fans.  With that said, the Pats are a steamroller right now and they have a mini-dynasty thing going on too.  It will be hard for the Celtics to take a spot away from either of those two.  They are kind of like the new kids on the block, which given the team's history is infinitely ironic.
Best wishes to you and yours this Thanksgiving as well.  I love to hate the Lakers, but I have a ton of respect for you and your blog as well.  Take care.