So far so good!
3-0 and looking as impressive if not more then most us thought. Three wins spoiling a season opener for the Blazers and home openers for the Clippers and NuggetsHere's a little recap for the week that was opening week
Blazers at Lakers (Opening Night)
Well it was much anticipated, Lakers vs. Blazers, a very familiar rivalry rejuvenated now. I liked the comment that Nate McMillan head coach of the Blazers made which was "The Lakers are the present, we are the future", but what I liked even better was Kenny Smith (who by the way picked the Rockets to dethrone the Lakers this season) corrected Coach McMillan by stating "The Lakers are the future and the present"...Well opening night certainly was a memorable for Lakers fans and forgettable for Blazers fans. Much was hyped about this much anticipated matchup, Mychal Thompson (a former Laker & Blazer and now the Lakers color guy on AM 570) proclaimed the Blazers as the runner ups to the Lakers in this years West Finals. A nationally televised game on TNT, Greg Oden vs. Andrew Bynum, Brandon Roy vs. Kobe, Rip City vs LA LA land!
When it was all said and done, the Lakers gave the Blazers a harsh reality check that they are no where close to being the super power that some experts have made them out to be. Greg Oden gets injured a couple minutes into the game (out 2 to 4 weeks) and looked very raw and akward offensively, the Lakers defense was the major stand-out as they played tremendous team defense. Kobe and Ariza locked down Brandon Roy and the Lakers front court did exactly what we know they are capable of which was nothing easy inside and forcing teams to make outside low percentage shots. Andrew Bynum didnt put the numbers that we know he can but none the less played a key role in holding down the interior. The Lakers start off the season with a 20 point Blazer extuinishing.
Lakers at Clippers
Now to get the first of 19 back to back series out the way and spoiling cross town rivals (okay more like the red-headed step child) better known as the Clippers home opener. It may be the new look Clippers but its still the same old sad song and dance. The Lakers jumped on them early but let Baron Davis and Clippers get back into the game about mid-way through the 2nd quarter, and from there it turned into a good old fashioned Clipper massarce. The bench came in and sparked a 17-0 run to pull away and by the start of the 4th quarter the Lakers starters were basically told to call it a night. Every Laker scored more times then my hot mature promiscious neighbor has been scored on, every Laker had at least 4 points with 8 of them in double figures. Baron Davis stated that the Lakers are the bar and it was a reality check for them to see how far they are from it. Kobe scores 16 and the Lakers still win by 38!?! you know it was a good night!
Lakers at Nuggets
The first real road test and against one of the highest scoring teams in the league last year. 7-0 last year against the Nuggets including a 4-0 sweep in the first round of the playoffs, but the Nuggets playing their home opener and with a chip on their shoulder started off the game matching the Lakers strive for strive. Of course the Lakers shot atrosiously in the first half shooting in the 30-40% range all game, which was also a foul plagued game which saw Kobe, Bynum, Odom and Vlad Rad with 3 fouls each by half-time. The Nuggets looked like they might just pull it out but that was until the Black Mamba himself awoke in the 4th scoring 14 of his 33 Despite all the Lakers shooting woes, in the end they pulled out a 7 point victory.
"We really haven't done anything"
According to Kobe...I know us fans can get caught up with the early season success and hype of our team, but its good to know that Kobe seems as focused, grounded and as driven as ever....good read:
After the Clippers game, Andrew Bynum stated that one of the teams goals was to hold more then 6 straight opponents to under 80 points per game which would be an NBA record after they held the Blazers to 76 and the Clippers to 79. While they did allow a few more against the Nuggets at 97, the Lakers did manage to hold their first 3 opponents to under 100 points, not too shaby if you ask me.
Cleary the main thing that stands out is how improved the Lakers team defense looks and in particular Andrew Bynum. For the non-observant eye, before you start to criticize Andrew Bynum by just analyzing the stat sheet, just watch the game when he is in there. Andy is doing exactly what is being asked of him which is being a defensive presence. There were a number of shots that he altered against the Nuggets, Clippers and Blazers and a number of shots that opponents are thinking twice of taking. Already his impact has been greatly felt.
Show me the money and the bar!
Andrew Bynum celebrated his 21st birthday with a whopping payday from the Lakers. 4 years, close to $58 Million..You can pick up your jaw from the floor now. This was actually a smart move on the Lakers part, the deal is really a 3 year window for Andy where he is gauranteed $42 Mill, his last year though is an option year for the Lakers if they choose to pick it up or not. Now all signs lead me to believe that Andrew is the real deal and in these upcoming 3 years, we will all get to see how great he can be. The deal might have actually helped the Lakers out in the long run. Rather then taking a chance and not meeting the deadline of Oct. 31st by waiting to see how Andrew does this year and allowing him to become a restricted free agent, the Lakers made the smart move by locking him up now and saving the headaches in negotiating with him next off-season. With a couple of teams with cap space next year, Andrew could have been offered a max deal which would have been worth around $17 Mil to $18 Mil per year that the Lakers would have to match, by signing him now they save some significant cash to use to resign some other important pieces.
Next in line for Contract Extensions
Well the obvious is Kobe as he does have an option to opt out but lets take a look at Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza. If the Lakers dont resign Lamar this coming off season, they clear about $14 mil off their books but Lamar is open to a pay cut if it means a longer term. When asked if he was willing to take a paycut he had this great analogy:
"Who wants to take a pay cut?" Odom said. "Nobody. A garbage man, if he makes $8 [an hour] one day, he at least wants to make $8 or $9 the next day. He works every day. He doesn't want to take a cut."
I think every week I do this blog entry I will cite a Lamar Odom quote and call it "What Lamar say now?" Oh and when Lamar was asked what he wanted to be for Halloween, he said he wanted to be Rick Flair, can you just imagine a 6-10 black Rick Flair outside your door on Halloween nght yelling....hooooooooooooo, give the Nature Boy some candy, baby!
As for Trevor Ariza, a home grown product and isnt too worried about it either. He stated that things will take care of itself, unfortunately for him his agent is also the same idiot David Lee that represented Andrew Bynum and couldnt keep his mouth shut which probably resulted in Andrew not getting a max deal.
The trend has been to get Pau started early and let Kobe handle the second half. Well Phil wants more balance from Pau in both halves citing we want to use all our weapons and will look to give him more touches in the second half.
Reboundersssss, mound up!
The Lakers have collectiely out-rebounded their first 3 opponents 148 - 114...still dont think Bynum would have made a difference in the Finals last year?
Who you calling soft?
Earlier last week Vladimir Radmanovic was asked by Steve "Hater" Hartman (local Sports talk Radio DJ) how Vlad Rad felt about being called "soft"? Vlad responded "Tell them to say that to my face", I got your back bro, now back to listening to terrible Euro-trance music with Sasha!
Apparantely Phil also doesnt feel the Lakers had shed away their "soft" image (I put this in quotes because I don't believe we are a soft team...cant be a soft team and run through the west like we did) He explained that
"Mentally they were a tough team, but physically they weren't a tough team," Jackson said of last season's Lakers. "We're not a bunch of wrestlers or tough guys who can slug it out. We haven't solved that problem. I think quickness is what we've tried to do to eradicate that. I think speed is going to have to help us do that."
While i get his point, its just nice to know we are playing in the NBA and not the WWE!
It will be a slow week this week for the Lakers with only 2 games scheduled, Wednesday against the Clippers on our homecourt (not like it will ever be their homecourt) and a possible West Finals preview with Houston coming to Staples. It gets a lot tougher the week after with Dallas, N.O and Detroit on the schedule.