Tag:Caron Butler
Posted on: May 27, 2011 3:22 am
Edited on: May 27, 2011 6:12 am

NBA Finals Storylines: It Ain't 2006

Posted by Matt Moore

You're going to have the year 2006 emblazoned into your brain over the next five to 10 days if you pay attention to NBA coverage at all. It's going to dominate the talk since these two teams, the Heat and the Mavericks, met five years ago for the title. Everything will be examined in the same context and talk of the officials will be prime in Dallas, and talk of Wade's brilliance will be brought up in Miami, along with Udonis Haslem and his defense on Dirk Nowitzki. Let me stop you there.

The coaches are different. The rosters are different. The identities are different. The styles are different. The approaches are different. Everything is different. If you think that series defines Dirk's career or ability to succeed in the clutch, you just crawled out from under a rock. If you think Wade's still able to draw contact like he did in that series you're bonkers. If you think anything compares to the effect LeBron James can have on this series, you're out of your gourd.

This is not 2006.

This is 2011, and here are your NBA Finals storylines. 

Can Dallas' defense step up? 

The Mavericks gave up a 106.1 defensive efficiency in the playoffs this season through the Western Conference finals. That's seventh-best of all the teams in the league. Sure, they had more games to try and suffer through. But the reality is that the Mavericks for long stretches of the Western Conference Playoffs couldn't get stops. They found ways down the stretch to cut off the Thunder but it won't be nearly as easy against the Heat. We know the Heat's defense is legit. We know Miami's offense is legit. We know the Mavericks' offense is legit. But with so many size issues for the Mavericks, we're going to have questions about how they guard the Heat. Once again the absence of Caron Butler is extremely damaging for Dallas. The Mavericks will wind up with one of the following guarding Dwyane Wade: Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, Peja Stojakovic, Jose Barea, or Corey Brewer. That does not bode well. Even more concerning is Shawn Marion, as well as he played against Kevin Durant, guarding LeBron James.  No one can guard those players. But the Mavericks are especially ill-equipped to stop them. If the Mavericks' were ever going to whip out a zone, now might be the time. 

Will point guard play finally hurt the Heat?

Jrue Holiday did it a bit, but it didn't matter. Rajon Rondo was ... er ... not the same. Derrick Rose was shut down due to the offensive weapons surrounding him, or lack thereof, allowing James and Wade to freelance on him with an additional help defender on the double. But the Heat are facing a different beast in Jason Kidd. Kidd's not young, athletic (anymore, comparatively, though he can still get up and down the floor and has a decent amount of muscle). He's not going to try and torch the Heat on drives. He's just going to make the right play. Kidd will try and outsmart the Heat's athleticism and ability with savvy. He'll make passes they don't anticipate and aren't used to, slip between defenders only to beat their reactions defensively and make the right pass. Throw in Kidd's surprising recent ability to hit open 3-pointers and the Heat might be surprised at the old veteran working his Magic

Mavericks on the verge of validation

Dirk Nowitkzi is one of the best players of the past 10 years and he has no rings. Jason Kidd is a surefire Hall of Famer and doesn't have a ring. Jason Terrry has been a fourth-quarter maestro for the same franchise for the same length of time as Nowitzki, no ring. Mark Cuban has sunk more than $800 million into trying to earn a championship, no ring. Rick Carlisle led successful teams in Indiana and Detroit, no ring. This series is their best shot and in all likelihood, their last chance. This is everything for the Mavericks. The Heat have years to make another run. For the Mavericks, this is their absolute best chance at a title, to catch the Heat confident and still trying to figure themselves out. This isn't just an exciting shot at a title, it's about salvaging legacies and cementing greatness. 

The promise of 'The Decision'

They're there. They have to win four games and they will have backed it all up. All the talk, all the pomp, all the circumstance, all the pyro. The Heat will have lived up to their hype. The only way to shut up critics is to win it all. Miami's not just within sight of it, they're on the doorstep. They just beat the defending Eastern Conference champs and the top seed in the East featuring the best defensive team in the league. Yes, everyone will still regard James as arrogant, and question the value of teaming up with other elite teammates. But the narrative will start to shift if they win the title. James becomes a winner, Wade a two-time champ, and Erik Spoelstra a championship coach. Lose, and everyone's harshest criticism rings true.  Everything changes in four more games, either way. 

Posted on: May 27, 2011 1:47 am
Edited on: May 27, 2011 2:11 am

NBA Finals: Heat, Mavs make a battle of closers

Finals will feature battle of great closers in Heat, Mavericks.

Posted by Matt Moore

You want a story for  the Finals? How's this. 

"No lead is safe."

The 2011 NBA Finals will feature two teams riding some of the strongest fourth quarter and final minutes play in recent history, maybe ever. Both teams absolutely crushed their opponents in the final minutes of the Conference Finals. You can talk about the inexperience they faced to get to the Finals, but the reality is that both teams crushed their opponents with long runs to close out big deficits and crush their opponent... multiple times.

The Finals set up an epic battle of notable clutch players. Dirk Nowitzki is on a roll of epic proportions at the moment, absolutely unstoppable with a seven foot frame and the single best jumper in the NBA. Jason Terry has been known to absolutely take over fourth quarters with huge shots. Jason Kidd won't wow you with 3-pointers (well, except you, Thunder, sorry), but he will always, always, always make the right decision and as Derrick Rose showed in the East. That's big. And Shawn Marion's clutch play has been quietly the defensive counterpart to Dirk Nowitzki. For the Heat? James, all day. LeBron has been another creature all-together in the fouth quarter of these playoffs. He hasn't just closed out, he's decided games are over and then made it so. Dwyane Wade had terrible quarters 1-3 in Games 4 and 5, and yet closed out the fourth and overtimes to make the difference. Even Chris Bosh has been clutch. 

There's not a player on either team you're concerned about in the key moments right now. Not one that will get the ball anyway. Defensively, Miami's got the edge, but the Thunder didn't fall apart on their own. These are veteran teams with amazing players, primed to finish strong.

These Finals may not be close. But if the game is within five after three quarters, heck, if it's within 20 after three quarters, neither team can feel safe. Each team will put the pedal down. For the Mavericks, it will be Dirk Nowitzki trying to overcome a much better set of defenders and the Mavericks using the inevitable doubles to find the open corner shooter. For the Heat? Just standing back and watching James and Wade do their thing. Can the Heat really stop Nowitkzi? Hard to see anyone playing better defense than Nick Collison did and Dirk made him look silly. Can anyone stop LeBron James right now?

No, really, can anyone, anywhere, stop LeBron James right now?

This isn't just the two best teams of the playoffs meeting to decide the title, it's the two teams who have shown consistently they want the game more, know how to win the game more, and have the will to close the game more.

And we get to see them settle which one of them wants a ring more.  
Posted on: May 27, 2011 12:09 am
Edited on: May 27, 2011 5:58 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

An early preview of the NBA Finals matchup between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat. Posted by Ben Golliver.


I. Intro: Western Conference Champions: No. 3 seed Dallas Mavericks (57-25) vs. Eastern Conference Champions: No. 2 seed Miami Heat (58-24)

II. How They Got Here: A look at the playoff track records

Dallas: 12-3 in the 2011 NBA playoffs (4-2 against the Portland Trail Blazers, 4-0 against the Los Angeles Lakers, 4-1 against the Oklahoma City Thunder). Dallas is 7-1 at home and 5-2 on the road in the playoffs.

Miami: 12-3 in the 2011 NBA playoffs (4-1 against the Philadelphia 76ers, 4-1 against the Boston Celtics, 4-1 against the Chicago Bulls). Miami is 8-0 at home and 4-3 on the road in the playoffs.

In the regular season, Dallas had the No. 8 offense and the No. 7 defense from an efficiency perspective. Miami had the No. 3 offense and the No. 5 defense. In the postseason, Dallas has the No. 1 offense and the No. 9 defense. Miami has the No. 4 offense and the No. 2 defense.

Both teams have played at a relatively slow pace in the postseason: Dallas is ranked No. 10 and Miami is ranked No. 13 out of 16 playoff teams.

III. What Happened: A look at the season series

The Mavericks and Heat matched up just twice in the regular season, with Dallas winning both times. The teams haven’t faced each other in almost five months, as the two games took place all the way back on Nov. 27 and Dec. 20. Dallas won 106-95 at home on Nov. 27 and they won 98-96 on the road on Dec. 20.

Of course, much has changed for both teams, but the regular season results are interesting for one main reason: The Heat went 22-2 from Nov. 26, 2010 until Jan. 9, 2011 ... the best stretch of their season by leaps and bounds. Both losses during that time period came at the hands of the Mavericks.

Keep in mind, Dallas had the services of small forward Caron Butler and Miami was without power forward Udonis Haslem. In all likelihood, that situation will be reversed for the Finals: Butler is expected to be out as he continues to rehab from knee surgery while Haslem has returned from foot surgery to provide a major spark for the Heat against the Bulls.

IV. Secret of the Series: Late-Game Execution

Nobody has finished games like Dallas and Miami in this playoffs. Not even close.

The main weapons have been Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James, but both teams have benefited from substantial defensive contributions from the likes of Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Throw in dagger shots from Jason Kidd and Wade, as well as meaningful role player contributions from Peja Stojakovic, J.J. Barea, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller, and you start to understand why these two teams have stood up so well under pressure. They’ve got tons and tons of options.

Nowitzki has left longtime NBA observers speechless with his shot-making and play-making over the last month but James has matched him shot for shot, comeback for comeback. What might prove to be the difference is James’ lockdown defense late in games. Never before has he appeared to enjoy ball-hawking as much as he did against the Bulls. Derrick Rose, one of the league’s best shot creators, often looked absolutely hopeless in crunch time with James draped all over him. What’s more, he has seemed immune to pressure ever since a critical late-game turnover against the Celtics. James closed out Boston with a monster run, and he combined with Wade to do the same to the Bulls on Thursday night. If the Mavericks can find an answer for James in the game’s final minutes four times during the Finals, they will have more than earned their rings.

V. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each match-up?

PG: The Miami Heat have dealt well with Jrue Holiday, Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose so far in the playoffs, despite a middling point guard rotation featuring Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers. The defensive versatility of James and Wade helps a lot to cover up for those two. Jason Kidd, at 38 years old, has been one of many unsung heroes for the Mavericks, surviving Andre Miller, Derek Fisher and Russell Westbrook. Both sides will be thankful here. Miami will be glad they don’t need to worry about a paint-crashing young All-Star again while Dallas will take comfort in the same. Rather than worry about the Roses and Westbrooks of the world, Kidd can do what he does best: steady the ship, distribute the rock to the open man and force opportunistic turnovers. Kidd is averaging 9.9 points, 7.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals in the playoffs. Phenomenal numbers considering his age and the competition. Advantage: Mavericks. 

SG: Dwyane Wade or DeShawn Stevenson? Let’s not overthink this one. While Stevenson has been a nominal starter with reserve guard Jason Terry, an impact player on both ends, playing the bulk of the minutes, the Mavericks' combination falls far, far short of what Wade brings to the table. While the All-Star took a bit of a backseat in the scoring department in the Eastern Conference finals after torching the Boston Celtics, he’s a match-up nightmare for the Mavericks. Really, he’s what Kobe Bryant was supposed to be in the second round, if Bryant hadn’t decided to shoot only contested jumpers and never get to the rim or the free throw line. Wade’s been a menace on defense as well. He can cover tons of ground, which should help limit Dallas’ hot outside shooting. Huge advantage: Heat. 

SF: Like Kidd, Shawn Marion has been a major, chronically overlooked factor during Dallas’s playoff run. Marion put the stamp on the Western Conference finals, coming up with two huge late steals and a brilliant and-one dunk to push the Mavericks past the Thunder in Game 5. But even in his best days, which are behind him, Marion was no LeBron James, and, over the last month, we’ve realized just how impactful James can be. From being able to interchangeably cover three or four positions, to closing out games, to sacrificing his body for crucial hustle plays, James has been everywhere. His postseason averages: 25.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.4 points, 1.4 blocks and 1.6 steals (entering Thursday) are just ridiculous. Perhaps, best of all, despite playing almost 44 minutes a night and handling the ball a ton, he’s committing less than three turnovers a game. Marion will have his hands full. Really, really, really full. Huge Advantage: Heat. 

PF: Nowitzki has earned gushing praise. He has taken his scoring versatility, efficiency and creativity to new heights. The leaners have been great, a dagger three has been mixed in here and there, and his passing to keep teams honest has been exceptional. His effort level on the boards and on defense have both been superb. His postseason numbers -- 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists – reflect his dominance. In Heat forward Chris Bosh, though, he’s matched up with an athletic, talented player who is somewhat similar to Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge started the first round series with good success before the Mavericks adjusted and forced Portland’s perimeter players to beat them, which they couldn’t. Against the Heat, the Mavericks won’t have that luxury, so they’ll have to defend Bosh with single coverage a lot more often. That, plus the confidence and scoring touch Bosh showed against Chicago, will help Miami keep this match-up closer than you might expect. Still, it’s Dirk’s world and we’re all just living in it. Advantage: Mavericks.

C: Joel Anthony has been the man in the middle fill-in that Miami so desperately needed. Better than a stiff, his activity level helps keep Miami from getting overrun on the glass and his help defense dissuades forays into the paint. That’s about it for Anthony, which is OK from Miami’s standpoint given the offensive talent they always have on the court. Tyson Chandler, though, has proven to be an effective two-way player for the Mavericks. Not only has he been a pest getting into the heads of his opponents, he’s been huge on the glass, averaging 9.3 rebounds per game in the postseason. Foul trouble is always a lingering issue with Chandler, but his length and energy level, plus his ability to finish lob plays to prevent teams from overloading on Nowitzki, are all big plusses that tilt this match-up in his favor.  Advantage: Mavericks.

Bench: The Heat haves scaled things back to an eight-man rotation, using only Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Chalmers. Although Miller and Haslem haven’t really peaked in this playoffs, they’ve both made important contributions. Not much was expected after their respective injuries so it feels like an added bonus. If one of those three guys doesn’t get hot, Miami’s bench is really just buying time for its starters. Dallas, on the other hand, has enjoyed a big-time positive bench scoring differential throughout the playoffs. In addition to Terry, J.J. Barea has been a tempo-changing, gameplan-altering, pesky presence, Peja Stojakovic has provided the knockdown shooting and Brendan Haywood can give some fouls and pull down the occasional rebound. (He can also be counted on to get posterized.) The huge issue for Dallas’ bench will be its perimeter defense. Will the subs be able to get their full runs through the rotation? How long can they stay on the floor if James and Wade continue to play heavy, heavy minutes? Hard to say. But Dallas’ bench has been more consistent, more prolific and it does enjoy the depth advantage. Slight advantage: Mavericks.

Coach: As mentioned above, both teams enter the series having played very, very well at the end of games. Both teams have also survived against a variety of opponents, overcoming significant mental hurdles along the way. For the Heat, it was finally pushing past the Celtics. For the Mavericks, it was surviving a miracle comeback against the Blazers. Both teams have closed out series on the road. Both teams have played the “proving the doubters wrong” card during the course of the season and both have stayed true to their self-perceived identity, resisting criticism and believing in their fundamentals. Simply put: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle both deserve their share of the credit for those accomplishments. Advantage: Push.

VI. Conclusion

As dominant as the Mavericks have been in this postseason, they haven’t played a team that is as talented, focused and steady as the Heat. In the Blazers, Dallas was able to exploit a weak shooting team. Against the Lakers, Dallas made a disorganized and sloppy team pay. With the Thunder, Dallas forced Oklahoma City's younger players to crack under pressure.

Miami is well-rounded enough so that it resists straightforward tendency analysis. It’s fully motivated and focused as evidenced by its dismantling of the Celtics and Bulls in back-to-back series. And it’s proven to be very resilient in big moments, coming back to beat both Boston and Chicago in dramatic fashion.

While the Mavericks own positional advantage at three starting spots, and for the bench as a whole, they have no answer for James and Wade. This year, it’s starting to feel like no one in the NBA has an answer for that duo. Prediction: Heat in 6.

Posted on: May 9, 2011 2:16 pm

Lakers backing gently off "blow up" talk

Mitch Kupchak says not to worry too much about Magic's "blow it up" comments. But if not a complete self-destruction, is a major remodeling on the way,and how does a new coach fit into this?
Posted by Matt Moore

Sure, you were just swept out of the playoffs in what should have been the culmination of so much work, effort, and money spent in order to achieve a three-peat and send your expensive Hall of Fame coach out in style. Sure, your roster was relatively exposed as lackadaisical, lacking in focus, determination, heart, and eventually class. And yes, the idea has always been to reload when the shots don't quite hit their target, which is always championship gold. 

But the Lakers? They're not looking to follow Magic Johnson's advice and blow it up. Not yet, anyway. And not completely. 

From Sports Illustrated: 
(Lakers GM Mitch) Kupchak cautioned against the idea that Johnson's recent comments on ABC were an early indication of things to come. The Lakers' legend had all but written his favorite team off during his television analysis, then recommended Kupchak "blow it up" by trading one of his frontcourt players for Orlando's Dwight Howard as a means to keeping the dynasty intact.

Jackson called the comment "unnecessary" before tip-off, while Kupchak largely dismissed the notion raised by some fans that it was an in-house sentiment being shared publicly. Howard is believed to be eyeing the Lakers as a possible landing spot when he becomes a free agent in 2012, however, meaning this storyline won't be going away anytime soon.

"I thought Earvin was trying to motivate our players," Kupchak said. "He's great at cheering for us, and a lot of times saying stuff like he said can motivate a player to play harder. That's how I took it.

"I talk to Earvin from time to time, and I think Dr. Buss [owner Jerry Buss] does from time to time, and this moves too quickly for him to be intimately involved in what's going on day to day, so I would hesitate to think that was the case."
via Lakers fall apart against Mavericks in Phil Jackson's farewell - Sam Amick - SI.com.

Not surprising that Magic isn't plugged into the day to day ops, especially having sold his stake, despite retaining a front office position. But the question is whether the Lakers are correct in this train of thought. One issue that isn't being talked about here is pretty obvious. This roster was constructed to play for Phil Jackson. 

And that definitely won't be the case next season. 

From ESPN:
Jackson might've played coy in what was likely his final postgame press conference, joking "I haven't answered that, have I?" when pressed for a definitive statement on whether he'd coached his final NBA game Sunday. But Kupchack says he believes Jackson's decision to retire is final this time.

"I think this is it," Kupchak told ESPNLosAngeles after the Lakers were swept out of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks 122-86 on Sunday. "We'll sit down and talk, but I've gotten no indication that he won't retire.

"We just talked briefly and I thanked him for what he's done for the organization. It was a pleasure to work with him. Everybody who is a coach in this league works endless hours. I'm not going to say he works harder than any other coach in this league. He certainly works as hard as any of them.

"But he's different. He's got a feel that I think a lot of coaches don't have."
via Los Angeles Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak senses Phil Jackson set to retire - ESPN Los Angeles.

With Jackson gone, Brian Shaw is the favorite to get the Lakers' head coaching job. But after the abject meltdown that occured on a chemistry level, the job will probably be open to several applicants. ESPN also reports the job is "wide open" and with candidates like Jeff Van Gundy, Rick Adelman, and Larry Brown on the market, you have to think ownership will take a long look at its options. And if there is a change in the coaching line, the new coach will want players to fit his personnel. 

The question of Dwight Howard will come back around again and again this summer once the CBA is resolved (if it's resolved). In case you missed it in the fall of Rome, here's Ken Berger of CBSSports.com on Howard and the Lakers: 
Everybody knows that Dwight Howard wants to be a Laker," said a person familiar with the All-Star centers plans. "Theyre going to lose Dwight Howard for nothing. Hes not staying there. Dwight Howard is going to be in the same mode as LeBron James."

So would the Magic, facing the reality of losing their franchise cornerstone and getting nothing in return, accept Gasol and Odom, Bynum and Odom, or even Bynum and Gasol as the centerpiece of a Howard trade?"Probably," said a high-profile agent with a hand in past maneuverings for both teams.
via Fast-approaching offseason critical for Lakers - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball.

Landing Howard would automatically put the Lakers back at the top of the contenders list, though they may be there anyway, even with the Dallas Meltdown. But it comes with its own set of issues, including giving the reins of a veteran club to a younger player. How's Kobe Bryant going to react to being the No.2 for the first time since the first W. Bush term in his final ride into the sunset? Will the Magic really want Andrew Bynum after he embarrassed himself, his family, and his organization with (another) needless foul that could have resulted in injury and will definitely result in his suspension for multiple games next year, along with his injury issues on a long contract? 

There's time for all this, and the Lakers will take it. They are unlikely to "blow it up" and more likely to simply try and pick their favorite from the NBA's buffet as in year's past. But deals like the Pau Gasol trade don't come along twice in a four-year span, and with the franchise tag a possibility to come out of the CBA, life may be significantly different for L.A. after the seconds ticked off the Phil Jackson era in Dallas. 

Things aren't as simple as pushing the "self-destruct" button and starting over. Even Athens fell, and an immediate return to glory isn't always guaranteed for those blessed by the Gods for so long. 

But I wouldn't bet against them.
Posted on: May 9, 2011 1:42 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2011 1:48 pm

Pau Gasol had a bad week

Pau Gasol loses fiance, has tension with Lakers, is swept from playoffs. Other than that, things aren't bad for the 7-foot Spaniard. 
Posted by Matt Moore

Let's take a look at Pau Gasol's week: 

  • Dumped by his long-time girlfriend: check. 
  • Challenged and pushed physically by Phil Jackson, who notoriously does not get up in player's faces or ever touch them during games: check.
  • Dominated against Euro 7-footer, exposing him as an inferior to Dirk Nowitzki: check.
  • Swept from playoffs in attempt for three-peat, and failed to send arguably the greatest coach in NBA history out on a high note: check.

Yeah, that's a pretty bad week. 

Gasol was reported to be upset with Kobe Bryant over his wife's involvement in Gasol's girlfriend's decision to break up with him earlier in the week. Gasol admitted there was some tension in the locker room, but also denied Bryant's involvement. It's not really worth pursuing, since it's none of our business and it doesn't change the result. It's understandable that Gasol would be upset about something in his personal life like that, but in the biggest series of the year for the Lakers, they needed their big man, and he wasn't there. It's a rough patch of luck, but you have to fight through it if you want to be a champion, as cliche as that sounds. 

Perhaps more important, though, is this point. Regardless of what was going on with Gasol, he still could have dominated had the Mavericks not played him so well. They sent effective doubles, brought help when he got to the corner, challenged his turnarounds enough to drive him too deep baseline, and stayed aggressive on the defensive boards to not allow those tip-ins.  Pau Gasol has a terrible week, one that has changed Laker fans' perception of him despite his pivotal role in the Lakers' two championships, but it should be noted that it was a two way street. Gasol fell apart when the Lakers needed him most, and the Mavericks did what they had to in order to take away the Lakers' second best player. 

If the last few weeks have been interesting for Gasol, the next few months could be even moreso. 
Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:44 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 9:49 pm

Kobe Bryant predicts series win over Mavericks

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant says he thinks Los Angeles can come back from a 3-0 series deficit to the Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.


The Los Angeles Lakers' season could end as soon as Sunday night. Down 3-0 to the Dallas Mavericks with Game 4 in American Airlines Center, the Lakers will look to keep hople alive their season after three straight games featuring fourth quarter meltdowns. There has been plenty of blame to go around, 

While no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, ESPNLA.com reports that Bryant not only still has hope, he's predicting a series victory.
"I don't know, I might be sick in the head or crazy or thrown off or something like that because I still think we're going to win this series," Bryant said after totaling 17 points and six assists in Game 3. "I might be nuts. ... Let's win on Sunday, go back home and see if they can win in L.A."
We shouldn't expect less from Bryant, one of the league's most confident and decorated players. He isn't going to fold in the face of adversity, at least not publicly. With Games 4 and 6 still to be played in Dallas, however, L.A. faces an extremely tall order. It's better to go down with your head up, I suppose.

What happens in the very likely event that the Lakers aren't able to make good on Bryant's prediction? Ken Berger of CBSSports.com explores that subject, saying that trades, possibly including some big names, are likely in L.A.'s future.

The New York Times notes that Lakers legend Magic Johnson agrees with that assessment.
“If the Lakers lose this game, you’re going to have to blow it up,” Magic Johnson, the former Lakers great, said on ESPN. “This team has been together too long. It’s time for major changes for the Lakers.”
Posted on: May 7, 2011 1:33 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 2:54 pm

Gasol says he needs to 'snap out of it'

Posted by Royce Young

It was obvious to Phil Jackson early on. I've seen Phil get animated, but during a break in the first half last night against the Mavericks, Jackson went right after Pau Gasol, even giving him a little bump in the chest with his fist. Later, Jackson zeroed in on Gasol again, giving him what some would call, a "butt-chewing."

Gasol got the message. His play didn't necessarily reflect it, but he says he got the message, according to Yahoo! Sports:

He’s “out of it” mentally and hasn’t been able to be “effective or comfortable out there,” but couldn’t explain why and says he needs to “snap out of it.” Time is running out….

“It’s been tough,” Gasol simply said. “It’s been tough more than anything [because] of the losses.”

When asked if this poor playoff season ruins his previous Laker accomplishments, Gasol sternly responded: “You tell me? Should it? I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

That's not good news for a team down 0-3. Also not good because Andrew Bynum was vocal after Game 2 about "trust issues." The Lakers are clearly having problems right now and most will point directly at Gasol. He's a player as responsible for their back-to-back titles as anyone, but within the triangle offense, it's almost as Pau goes, the Lakers go.

In this series, he's averaging just 13 points per game on 42.8 percent shooting. For the playoffs, the numbers are virtually the same. Against the Hornets, Gasol was a disappointment, but L.A. advanced because, well, they were playing Chris Paul and four dudes that stumbled in from Mardi Gras.

But against the Mavericks, it's another story. Not only is Gasol not contributing to the Laker offense, Dirk Nowitzki is torching him. According to ESPN State and Info, 27 of Dirk's 32 came with Gasol "on" him. (I put "on" in quotes because there were a few times where Gasol was decidedly not on him.) For the series, Nowitzki is shooting 19-25 from the floor for 42 points when Gasol checks him. That's ridiculous on Dirk's behalf and inexcusable on Gasol's.

Gasol's shimmering reputation as one of the most gifted big men in the league is taking a serious tarnishing right now. He's the focus of a lot of negativity. Andrew Bynum was visibly keyed in and aggressive all night. Gasol gave away an easy Jason Terry dunk at one point because he was barely holding on to the ball. Jackson claimed that was the play he first singled Gasol out on, but it's much more than that.

It speaks to the respect we all have for Jackson, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers that we haven't completely ruled them out from being the first team ever to come back from 0-3. (Or maybe that speaks to the Mavs. I don't know.) They aren't out of it until the buzzer sounds and Dallas has more points than them in a clinching fourth win. But if they have any dreams of getting there, any dreams of winning a third consecutive title, Gasol must absolutely snap out of it.
Posted on: May 7, 2011 2:38 am
Edited on: May 7, 2011 5:40 am

NBA Playoffs Mavs-Lakers: The Panic Button

The Lakers have never had a reason to panic, until now. 
Posted by Matt Moore

There's never a good time to panic. It does you no good to freak out, and the only way to solve a problem that would call for such behavior is to behave in the exact opposite manner; with poise and control.  And for a championship team like the Lakers, there's no such thing as a panic button. They've been victorious too often, overcome too many challenges, risen up and simply been better in too many series. They don't know what the panic button looks like. 

But maybe they should after Game 3's stunning loss to the Mavericks, to go down 0-3. Maybe then they'd have some level of urgency in their play, some level of commitment to closing games. The Lakers we're witnessing are in many ways the ultimate embodiment of the team we've seen for years in L.A. . They assume they'll be better simply by having the talent. Victory is assured once they step on the floor, even if Ron Artest doesn't step on said floor. Instead, they've found themselves on the brink, as Dallas has surged ahead in every fourth quarter of this series. And what does Kobe Bryant say after the game?

“I might be sick in the head … because I still think we’re going to win the series,” Bryant said. “I might be nuts.”

Bryant said he wasn't discouraged after the game. In the same calm, cool, collected manner, he exuded confidence bordering on arrogance, even after he started 5-5... and finished 3-11, with a key turnover late that may or may not have been Pau Gasol's fault. Bryant's not concerned because when he's had the manpower, he's never failed. 2005-2007? He could blame the roster. Not this one. This one is on the mindset, and that reflects its leader. So why is Bryant so calm, cool, and collected?
Because he can be. Because if any team can come back from an 0-3 deficit for the first time in league history, it's the Lakers, and if any team could cough it up, it's the Mavericks. It seems absurd that it has come to this, but it here we are. Bryant remains indignant to the idea that the Lakers should be concerned. After Game 2, Bryant told reporters that everyone was "trippin'" because they acted like no one had ever won two games before. In reality, they were talking about winning two games on the road after blowing your first two at home. Bryant never wavered from the script after Game 3, talking about mental mistakes like this was a game against Minnesota in February. There's maintaining your composure, and there's refusing to acknowledge your situation. 

There was discussion that the Lakers played "desperate" in Game 3, but we saw the same lazy rotations, the same deviation from effective strategy, the same failure to secure key plays. They are who they've been: a team with extremely talented players with superior physical attributes that doesn't respond when challenged. In years past, the Lakers would respond right when they had to in order to avoid hitting the panic button. 

Panicking won't help the Lakers win Game 4, or four straight, which is what they must do. But coming to terms with their situation may be the only way for the Lakers to really see where they've landed. There's a time for patience, confidence and even arrogance. 

That time has come and gone. If the Lakers can win this series, it will be the ultimate validator of their overconfidence. If they cannot, it will be the final verdict on a core that won two titles and yet infuriated its fans and too often played with the flame. 

Eventually you get burned. 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com