Quick Hits before the Game

Published: January 6, 2009

Two quick things for you to absorb before the Lakers game tonight:

The newest edition of the Blogger’s Power Rankings is up over at The Lakers Nation blog.  I, of course, participated, and my witty comments can be found all over them.  No, really!  I am witty!

I also did a question exchange with LA Ball Talk‘s Daniel Sagal for your reading pleasure.  You can find my answers over at his site.  He also double-dipped and asked the same questions of At The Hive, so you can go take a look and see just how much cooler I am than Rohan and company.  Poor ol’ ticktock and wawer of Hornetshype were not invited.  I think it’s because my buddy is waging a behind-the-scenes hate campaign against ticktock ever since last year she beat him out by one point to win the Paul All-Star Jersey and Shoes in our Hornets247 All-Star Give Away.  He’s a bitter, bitter man.

The Questions:

Hornets247: A lot of people say Pau Gasol is soft. My own experience of him is that he loves to make scary faces, but actually has the ferocity of a turnip. Of course, I also can’t say I’ve watched him a lot. Where do you come down on the issue?

LABallTalk: Pau Gasol is very aggresive on the offensive end and is a great player. His title of being soft has come into play since last year’s finals against the Celtics in which he didn’t have the toughness to defend Garnett. As good as Pau is offensively, he is almost as bad defensively. For a seven foot guy, he doesn’t block all that many shots and doesn’t seem to be a realy big problem maker in the paint. Generally, when a 6’2″ point guard drives down the lane, the defending center will cause the guard to alter his shot. In most cases that a guard drives in and sees Pau Gasol, he continues on his way knowing that he most likely doesn’t have to change anything. I’d like to see Gasol become a little more aggresive, potentially even pick up some more fouls, maybe even some technical fouls for being too tough, but it seems as though there isn’t a mean bone in this guys body and there is no chance of him getting mad. The nice part is that at least Gasol has recognized the criticism that has been surrounding his “softness” and he is ready to address the issue. Reports say that he spent a lot of time in the gym this offseason and continues to lift weights for the first time in his career.

Hornets247: Lamar Odom’s contract expires at the end of this season. Does he remain a Laker? If not, who provides his sort of versatility?

LABallTalk: Here’s the problem with the question, I’m not a Lamar Odom fan!! I feel like Odom is an amazing and extremely versatile player that can fill any position from the 1 to the 5. Unfortunately, he is also one of the worst decision makers on the court and he simply drives me nuts. Sometimes it seems like he doesn’t even know he’s at Staples Center playing for the Lakers.

My personal vision of what happens this offseason is that the Lakers either sign him for under $7 million per year or just let him walk. Lamar is currently above $11 million per year and must be willing to take a large pay cut in order to stay in purple and gold. Trevor Ariza is also a free agent this Summer and is sure to be in higher demand than Lamar come decision day. I’d rather pay Ariza $10 million a year than Odom.

Regarding who provides his sort of versatility, the answer is simple. If you want another guy that can play a similar game, it’s Shawn Marion. The real answer however is that his versatility isn’t all that big of an asset on this team. For any other team, this guy is a starter, on the Lakers, we have a better player at every position. The Lakers are very deep and can do without his services.

Hornets247: Which is your preferred backup to Trevor Ariza: Luke Walton or Vlad Rad? Why?

LABallTalk: Personally, I prefer Vladimir Radmanovic. The fans however seem to like Luke Walton more. I’m not sure if it’s because the fans get to yell “LLLLLUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUKKKKKEEEEE” everytime Walton scores or because he’s actually better. Walton is a great playmaker, but I often feel like he looks to pass too often for a small forward and his shot has lost its consistency. Radman has finally found his rhythm playing with the Lakers and is shooting better than he has in his career. The Lakers signed Vlad for exactly what he’s been producing this season, so what more can we want from him?

Hornets247: Before Jordan Farmar went down with his injury, he was questioning his role on the team. He’s always struck me as a pick-and-roll and fastbreak style point guard. Does he fit in the triangle?

LABallTalk: The Lakers offense is very interesting. The starting lineup with Derek Fisher runs the triangle very well and plays a great half court offense. The bench however plays a completely different style. The offense is much more free and much quicker. I feel like the starting lineup is more “Spurs-like” while the bench is more “Suns-like”. Both are successful styles clearly and work well at different times. Other teams seem to have real difficulty adjusting between the two lineups and that is where the Lakers advantage truly is.

Jordan never really questioned his role on the team. He is very competitive and is always looking to be the best he can possibly be. He works very hard and is extremely motivated to be a starter on this Lakers team. When his minutes went lower than he was use to in the first dozen or so games, he went to Phil Jackson and asked what he needs to do in order to see more playing time. He is ambitious. It’s an amazing quality to find. If only Bynum was a little bit more like Jordan.

Hornets247: Should the Lakers make it there, would you prefer the Celtics or the Cavaliers in the NBA finals? Revenge matchup or Kobe v LeBron?

LABallTalk: This is actually a great question. There is a selfish answer and a realistic answer. The selfish answer is that I’d like to see the Celtics because the Lakers need to get their revenge. The realistic answer however is the Cleveland Cavaliers. They are simply the worse team and the Lakers can easily expose their weaknesses. With six guys that can guard Lebron at different times including Kobe, Vujacic, Walton, Ariza, Radmanovic, and Odom, the Lakers can throw everything at him to stop him. They can also expose holes in the Cavs defense with their two seven footers and amazing sharpshooters. Plus, there is no way to settle the who’s better debate then to see the two guys go head to head in the Finals for the much desired ring. Who would want it more? Kobe going for his fourth overall and first without Shaq, or Lebron attempting to get that much desired first NBA ring?

Enjoy the game!

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