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Q&A With LABallTalk

Yes, another Q&A with a Laker blog.  Hey, any game against the Lakers is extra special, so we don't mind doubling it up.  But to save space on the front page, you can see my answers to his questions at LABallTalk and you can see his answers to my questions after the break.  Enjoy.

1. The Lakers made it to the Finals last year without Bynum or Ariza.  So they aren't cooked by any stretch.  However, Bynum's injury shifts the gameplan a great deal from what they've been doing all year.  What are the biggest changes and who is impacted the most?  (ie. Gasol has to guard centers, more playing time for player x, etc.)

This injury has definitely taken a toll on Lakers fans already but the coaching staff seems to be quite calm. Gasol will definitely see an increase in playing time. He will be forced to guard the opposing team's center on a regular basis. In my opinion, this may work out well for him. When he was guarding the power forward he would often have a tough time. Offensively he is a natural power forward but his in ability to step out to the perimeter to prevent the three and then follow quickly enough to guard a player driving to the basket have allowed other guys to score far too easily.

Lamar Odom is guaranteed to see more playing time. As he is in a contract year, I am sure he will be quite excited to showcase his skills. He is looking to get a paycut next season either way so hopefully he can avoid losing too much by finishing this year off well. The other player to really see an increase in minutes is Josh Powell. Powell has really been a great replacement for Ronny Turiaf. He has a great shot and is a great defender. He seems to really understand the triangle offense and always seems to find himself in the right place. I hope he continues to develop with the Lakers because he could truly become a very solid power forward in the near future.

2. In last year's Finals, Kobe Bryant averaged 25.7 points a game; slightly off his regular season average of 28.3.  However, if you look at the game logs, you see that Kobe shot only 36.7% (33-90) from the floor in the 4 losses and 48.8% (20-41) in the 2 wins (his season avg. was 45.9%).  What did Kobe do in the Laker wins that he couldn't do in the losses?

Kobe's numbers have long been misunderstood. I am sure that the numbers of Paul Pierce, pre Garnett and Allen era, were always all over the board. There are games that Kobe shoots over 60% from the field and finishes with 61 pionts, like the other night in New York, and there are nights that he'll put up twice as many shots and make half as many. The reason is quite simple and has nothing to do with Kobe himself. The stats are simply based on the other players in the offense. There are certain times that the other four guys suddenly become star struck and forget to move around and get open. When you have all these guys just standing around, how is Kobe expected to do anything besides put up a contested jump shot from 20 feet out? This year's offense is really flowing a lot better because the forwards are rotating and running off the ball giving Kobe the opportunity to dish out more assists and take higher percentage shots. In the finals, when Kobe was shooting a worse percentage and the team lost, it's based on the fact that he was forced to take very difficult shots. Of course, he occasionally just has an off game, but with his recent display of triple doubles, the offense has definitely started to operate correctly.

3. Gasol was huge in the 4th quarter on Christmas Day.  The Celtics chose to double Kobe and leave Pau open and he made them pay.  If the Celtics adjust and make sure Gasol is covered without letting Kobe roam free (easier said than done), what can we expect from the Laker offense in the fourth quarter?

The Lakers really have an interesting offense. They actually run two different systems. The starting lineup with Kobe and Pau is based on the triangle offense. They play strong side, weak side, isolation, and various other sets that allow for ample ball movement and eventually a wide open shot. It's a very difficult offense to learn but when understood, it is quite impressive. When the bench comes in to the game, the strategy changes though. The bench seems to have more of a free roaming offense in which Jordan Farmar can find the open man, swing the ball around and eventually score. If you simply look at the players on the court, Farmar, Vujacic, Ariza, Odom, and Powell, these are young and very athletic guys. They are all about runnin and gunnin. Sometimes I truly wonder whether Phil Jackson and Tex Winters actually work with these guys or just bust the D'Antoni. To summarize these thoughts and put them into an answer that you are looking for:

It has become more and more common for Phil Jackson to play the bench on the road in the fourth quarters of games. He puts Kobe in instead of Powell and rotates Vujacic and Ariza and just allows Kobe to create plays. The core of young players running around like mad men eventually creates an open man and provides someone with an easy shot.

Of course, this all only really matters if the defense finds the right way to lock down both Kobe and Pau.

4. Lamar Odom has had some very forgettable games against the Celtics (with a few good ones sprinkled in).  Is there a matchup issue there or is he just a streaky player in general?

Why did you have to get me started on Lamar? I have publicly been known to criticize Lamar like no other. I cant go on for hours but I'll try to break this down in the simplest way possible. First the props: Lamar Odom is one of the most versatile players in the league and especially on the Lakers. He is a superior rebounder, he drives to the basket very efficiently, he's a great passer, and he's capable of defending any player on the opposite team. The problem is that he doesn't use his brains to accomplish the task at hand. His talent is the only thing keeping him in the league. From all the players I've seen play, he has by far one of the lowest basketball IQ's. I've never seen a player with his versatility make so many simple mistakes. What's the point of those full court outlet passes that get picked off? Why does he drive to the basket with such authority to the right and then get blocked as he exposes the ball by putting up a left handed layup? Why does he laugh every time he goes 1/2 from the line? Why does he randomly put up a three with no one there to rebound?

When Lamar occasionally has his head in the game, he's one of the biggest assets. Due to the fact that he rarely uses his brain, I've been asking that he be traded for two seasons now. I'd much prefer a small forward such as Shawn Marion, Richard Jefferson, Mike Miller, Gerald Wallace, or even Wally. Odom has truly proven to me that he is just an overpaid role player. He will never be a star but he has the potential to come off the bench and be the 6th man of the year. He collapses under pressure and laughs it off (us Lakers fans just want to beat him over the head when he goes 1/2 from the line with 5 seconds left in the game and then has that smirk on his face like everything is ok). Are you willing to make a deal for this guy?

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