Tag:Andrew Bynum
Posted on: May 18, 2010 6:26 pm
 

Lucky? Stoudemire shouldn't have gone there

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Amar’e Stoudemire wasn’t able to come up with anything on the court to stop Lamar Odom from having a dominant 19-point, 19-rebound performance in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. So on Tuesday, he came up with an excuse.

“I’m not giving him no hype,” Stoudemire told reporters before the Suns practiced at Staples Center. “He had a lucky game.”

Among other things, Stoudemire is known for his quotability. In a “Twitterview” with NBA media this week, I asked him how far Cleveland would’ve gone if he’d been traded there instead of Antawn Jamison. True to form, Amar’e came through with a one-word answer: “Championship.”

Beautifully done. He may or may not be right about that. But when it comes to Odom, he’s dead wrong.

And foolish for saying it.

As exhibited in the Lakers’ 128-107 victory in Game 1 Monday night, Kobe Bryant is going to get his numbers in this series. With 40 points – 35 of them by the end of the third quarter – Bryant enjoyed his sixth straight 30-point playoff performance. He seemed to relish the Suns’ strategy of trying defending him with 37-year-old Grant Hill. Bryant called that challenge “enjoyable,” and by that, he meant, “Get this old man away from me before I embarrass him.”

Whether it’s Hill or Jason Richardson or Jared Dudley, the Suns have no one who can check Bryant with any semblance of success. For that reason alone, this is going to be a long series for the Suns – or a short one, depending on how you look at it.

But to a man – including Stoudemire – the Suns have insisted that the key to challenging the Lakers is preventing Bryant’s supporting cast from hurting them. This did not go well in Game 1, with Odom’s monstrous game leading a 44-35 scoring advantage by the Lakers’ suspect bench over the Suns’ reserves, who were supposed to have been a key strength going into the series.

“[Bryant] is gonna score,” Stoudemire said after the game. “That’s one thing he’s gonna do. We know that, so we’ve got to make sure we try to contain him a little bit more. But we’ve got to close out the other guys. We’ve got to do a better job on their role players.”

The two sources of consistent production for the Lakers during their title defense have been Bryant and Pau Gasol. Andrew Bynum has been in and out of the box score. Derek Fisher has made some big shots and has held up better than anyone anticipated against three prolific point guards – Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams and now Steve Nash.

But during their run of postseason success in the past five years, Odom’s performance has been a tipping point for the Lakers. When he plays well, the Lakers usually win. When he plays like he did Monday night, the Lakers almost never lose.

With the possible exceptions of Bryant and LeBron James, Odom is as physically gifted as any player who’s come into the league over the past dozen years. It’s often a question of motivation, but there’s no doubting his talent.

“I’ve played with Lamar for a long time, so I wasn’t impressed,” said Ron Artest, who grew up playing with Odom on the playgrounds of Queens, N.Y. and in AAU ball. “I’ve seen him do that all the time.”

So why any opposing player would want to ignite the one area of Odom’s game that is lacking – his motivation – is beyond me. Stoudemire should know better than to rattle Odom’s cage, and he should know better than to say his performance Monday night was an aberration.

The Lakers are 9-2 this season when Odom has 15 or more rebounds, including a 17-point, 19-rebound game against Houston in January and a 10-point, 22-rebound effort against Portland in February – both wins. In his postseason career with the Lakers since the 2005-06 season, the Lakers are 7-2 when Odom has 15 or more rebounds. Four of those nine games have come against the Suns, and Odom scored in double figures in all four, as well. In those games, the Lakers are 2-2.

But even if Stoudemire forgot about those games, surely over the past five years he’s noticed at least a handful of Odom’s 47 games with 15-plus rebounds since he put on a Lakers uniform. If not, maybe he’s seen highlights of one or two of his 174 double-doubles as a Laker. During the same five-year period, Stoudemire has 28 games with 15-plus rebounds and 156 double-doubles. How many of those were luck?

After throttling Stoudemire and the Suns’ supposedly improved defense in Game 1, Odom wouldn’t engage him in a war of words Tuesday.

“I’m not gonna do that,” Odom said. “Not when it comes to basketball.”

As for his performance, Odom said, “It was good. Could be better. Hopefully I can have another lucky one.”
Posted on: April 27, 2010 4:49 pm
 

Lakers need more than Kobe

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – If you ask Phil Jackson – and we did – nothing has changed for the Lakers as they face a must-win Game 5 Tuesday night against a team that has run them ragged and put the defending champs in a precarious 2-2 tie in their first-round series. 

“Same old basketball team,” Jackson said on the Lakers’ practice court Tuesday. “Same old group of guys.” 

Well, not really. The last guy on the court shooting jumpers, Ron Artest, had notably shaved his head. No more Dennis Rodman lookalike routine. 

“Just a new look,” said the Lakers’ defensive specialist, who along with his teammates needed a change of scenery – among other things – after going oh-for-Oklahoma City. 

The Lakers are facing the same situation – tied 2-2, with Game 5 at home – that was in front of them when they eventually beat the Rockets and Nuggets on their way to the Finals a year ago. But with Kobe Bryant’s sore knee, arthritic finger, and assorted other ailments – not to mention the Thunder’s speed and fast-breaking dominance in the past two games – there’s a sense that the Lakers are in more trouble now than they were in either of those aforementioned series. 

“I think you just have to go with what’s here,” Jackson said, downplaying the notion that anything useful can be drawn from those experiences. “The guys that have been here know that they can do it and they know what it’s like and what it takes. … It’s a veteran team that knows how to play in the playoffs.” 

Not in the past two games, it hasn’t. 

Defensively, the Lakers haven’t been able to slow down Russell Westbrook, who has consistently gotten the Lakers out of sorts with dribble-penetration. Offensively, the Lakers are settling for too many jump shots, failing to take advantage of the prominent size advantage owned by Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom. Bad, long shots lead to long rebounds, which have only accelerated the Thunder’s fast-breaking tendencies. Oklahoma City owned a 47-9 advantage in fastbreak points in Games 3 and 4. 

Jackson has been preaching better shot selection, more persistent inside play, and better floor balance as the elixirs for slowing Westbrook’s thundering herd. After shootaround Tuesday, he revealed two more factors that he believes will be crucial in keeping this series from slipping away. 

It went like this: I asked Jackson, “You wouldn’t consider any lineup or rotation changes at this point, would you?” And he replied, “Yes, I would.” 

Such as? 

“Try and get Lamar involved,” Jackson said. “He’s got to get involved in the game. If he plays well, we usually play well.” 

Jackson said he’s not contemplating any changes to the starting lineup for Game 5. But he would like to see some changes from Artest besides a haircut. 

Though Artest has done a good job holding Kevin Durant to 38 percent shooting in the series, his own poor shot selection and inability to take advantage of his post-up advantage against Durant on the other end of the floor has been one of many trouble spots for L.A. Though Durant would be no match for Artest in the post, Artest has hoisted 23 attempts from 3-point range in the series, making only three. 

“He does have real post-up skills,” Jackson said. “He’s got to get inside instead of standing on the outside. The post is a real free-for-all situation on our team. He’s gone in there a couple of times and has chosen not to stay in there. The last game we posted him up a couple of times in the second half to start with just to get him back in there.” 

And Kobe? Jackson wouldn’t say whether he expected a more aggressive approach from Bryant in Game 5. That sort of goes without saying after Bryant managed only 12 points on 10 shots in Game 4. But only to a point, if the Lakers know what is good for them. 

There are those who think everything the Lakers do has to be about Bryant all the time. Not in this case; it’s too early in the postseason for Bryant to carry the load by himself. 

There’s no question Bryant will be more aggressive, and will be more of a factor than he was in Game 4. But if the rest of the Lakers stand around and wait for him to take them to Oklahoma City up 3-2, they will be in very real danger of losing this game – and thus, the series. Instead of Kobe shooting all night, what the Lakers need is more assertiveness from Odom, more dominance from Gasol and Bynum, and smarter play from Artest – and yes, that includes backing the rail-thin Durant into the paint and beating him up. Artest needs to recognize that such a strategy would make his job of defending him on the other end infinitely easier. 

If the Lakers don’t do these things Tuesday night, they could be spending a long, miserable summer beating themselves up. 

For what it’s worth, I asked Artest what needed to change for the Lakers to regain control of this series. Take his response with a grain of salt, because one of the beauties of Artest is that he talks first and thinks later. But the words that followed my question shouldn’t exactly inspire confidence for Lakers fans. 

“Play the same way,” he said. 

Which is exactly what the Lakers can’t afford to do.
Posted on: May 26, 2009 7:57 pm
 

Criminal justice, NBA style

LOS ANGELES -- I hope the bosses don't mind, but I'm going to be conducting interviews here in L.A. for a new position I'm creating at CBSSports.com. It's called Senior NBA Flagrant & Technical Foul Writer.

Yes, it's a full-time position, because covering the NBA criminal justice beat is nothing short of a full-time job.

In case you missed it, a flagrant-one charged to Orlando's Anthony Johnson for elbowing Cleveland's Mo Williams in the eye socket was rescinded Tuesday. Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who has an extensive background in sports law, immediately struck down the decision in a scathing, one-paragraph opinion. President Obama issued a statement that he regrets the error; Orlando is not in Sotomayor's jurisdiction.

On to the Western Conference smackdown, the subject of two correct decisions and a hilarious one from the league office Tuesday. Andrew Bynum's two-handed block against Chris Andersen in Game 4 was downgraded to a personal foul (correct), Dahntay Jones' bush-league trip of Kobe Bryant in the same game was upgraded to a flagrant-one (correct), and Lakers coach Phil Jackson was fined $25,000 for criticizing the officials (ha!). Tune into the next episode of Jeanie Vision for the Zen Master's reaction.

Kidding aside, politics has taken center stage in both series. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy chided Mo Williams and Ben Wallace for flopping in the Eastern Conference finals, saying that in Game 3 they both "fell down more than a baby learning to walk." To which Big Ben replied that Van Gundy should "come out here and do something about it" or "shut the ___ up." Good comeback, Ben! Make the check payable to the National Basketball Association and mail it to 645 Fifth Ave., New York, NY, 10022.

In the Western finals, shifting to L.A. for Game 5 Wednesday night tied 2-2, Jones' second straight game with a flagrant-one is no laughing matter. As I wrote Monday night, that brings Jones' total to three flagrant points in the playoffs. One more flagrant-one will result in an automatic one-game suspension. If he's idiotic enough to get a flagrant-two, he'll be subject to a two-game suspension.

Applicants for the new position I've created are welcome to post their qualifications here, as well as suggestions on how they would bring clarity, consistency, and sanity to the NBA's pursuit of equal justice. Judge Sotomayor, unfortunately, must recuse herself. She has bigger fish to fry.






Posted on: May 11, 2009 11:47 am
 

What to do with Bynum?

As the Lakers head home to L.A. for Game 5, one question has to be weighing on ther collective minds: What do we do with Andrew Bynum?

Clearly, he's not in any way healthy or confident in his knee, whether Yao Ming is on the floor in this series or not. On Sunday, there was no Yao, only 6-foot-6 Chuck Hayes guarding the paint. And Bynum fumbled away entry passes, got his feet crossed up, didn't get deep enough position, and was a complete non-factor in a game that the Lakers mailed in.

To me, the Bynum situation is more troublesome than the Lakers not showing up Sunday. They'll show up for the rest of the series, but Bynum simply may not be healthy enough to do so.

And remember, he was supposed to be the missing link, the element that was missing in the Finals against the Celtics last year. His post scoring, rebounding, and shot-blocking were supposed to ensure that the Lakers wouldn't cower again in the face of physical challenges from the Celtics or Cavs.

This is a big problem for the Lakers. Not necessarily against the Yao-less Rockets, but against teams that play physical around the basket. Cleveland and Boston certainly qualify. Orlando does, when Dwight Howard feels like it. I'd even put Denver in that category with Kenyon Martin and Birdman Andersen.

After Phil Jackson got finished cursing Sunday, I asked him for his assessment of Bynum's play.

"It looks like it takes him some time to get himself involved in the ballgame," Jackson said. "His hands weren’t good when he came in. He had the fumble and things like that. I started him a little earlier in the second half just to use size to stop their drives and get some rebounds. So we went to him early in the second half."

When I asked him if there might come a time to consider giving Bynum's minutes to someone who might be more effective -- DJ Mbenga, for example -- Jackson said, "Obviously without Yao in the lineup, we would consider that. We have to consider that, but it’s not our major concern."

It should be. Bynum looks like he doesn't belong on the court. Against Houston without Yao, that's OK. But not after that.

Category: NBA
 
 
 
 
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