Before we begin, here are some quick-hit thoughts about the debacle that is known as the 2007 San Diego Chargers:
· Phil Rivers is absolutely killing the Chargers this season. The Vikings-- entering the game as the worst defensive team against the pass, dared Rivers to beat him deep and he couldn’t do it. I’ve been a Rivers backer the past three years or so, but I can’t believe how bad he looks right now. Rivers is missing wide-open guys and his throws look like crap. If he would have made a couple of plays in the first half of Sunday’s game the score would have been 28-7 and Vikings shouldn’t have even had the chance to run the ball they way they did. It was one bad throw after another on Sunday and although UT columnist Tim Sullivan disagrees, I think if he craps the bed against Indy, it may be Billy Volek time.
· It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see the Chargers lose the next 5 games they play. They are going to lose to Indy this weekend. After that they to go J’ville (where they’ll get beat the same way the Vikings beat them), play Baltimore (and could very well get beat), go to KC (which means that they will most likely play in the rain or snow and get beat), and then go to Tennessee (where they will likely get beat). Would you be comfortable betting on the Chargers in any of those games? They can very easily go 0-5 or 1-4 over the next five weeks which would make them 4-9 or 5-8 and that would mean a 6-10 season is very, very possible. I will now eat a broken glass burrito.
· There is no doubt in my mind now that Norv Turner is the anti-Christ.
· Since this season is pretty much a lost cause, let me be the first to say that the worst thing the Chargers can do is bring back Norv Turner and Ted Cotrell for 2008. Watching an under-prepared, out-coached Charger team muddle through another season would be too much for me to handle. Who’s my choice for the next Charger coach? I’ll go with either Russ Grimm or Rex Ryan. The Chargers need to get back to running the ball and getting after the quarterback. Norv Turner has no idea what he’s doing and Ted Cotrell looks like he should be teaching at a community college. The Chargers look like hell right now.
Alright, now that I got that off my chest, the Lakers have started the season 2-1, they’ve easily defeated two playoff teams from last year (the Suns and Jazz) and had they made a few more free throws against the Rockets, they would be 3-0 against three of last year’s playoff teams. Needless to say, I’m bullish on the Lakers this season. Aside from the fact that I think the Lakers can get the 3rd or 4th seed in the Western Conference this year, here are some important questions about the 2007-2008 Laker season:
Are the Lakers going to trade Kobe Bryant?
They’d be smart not to. My friends who are Laker fans and I have been debating the Kobe Bryant trade topic over the past three months like law schools students debating Roe vs. Wade. Our conclusion: The dumbest thing the Lakers can do right now is trade Kobe Braynt. The guy can’t opt out until after the ’08-’09 season so it would be more advantageous if they just saw what they can do with this team this year, maybe try to get Jermaine O’Neal this summer to appease Bryant. And as my friend Gil regularly points out, if Bryant does leave, the Lakers can go with a young team and clear up cap space in ’09-’10 and then make a play for LeBron James that summer.
And while we’re on the topic, if the Lakers are going to trade Bryant would a deal wouldn’t it be better to ask for Kirk Heinrich rather than Luol Deng? For weeks now everyone’s been saying that Deng is the deal breaker, but the Lakers already have two small forwards in Luke Walton and Lamar Odom, so wouldn’t it be better if they got Heinrich, Gordon, Jokim Noah, and Ty Thomas for Bryant? If they swung that deal they would run with Heinrich, Gordon and either Odom or Walton with any combination of Noah, Ty Thomas, Andrew Bynum, Kwame Brown, or Chris Mihm up front. A team like that would almost be better than a team with Bryant.
What was the offseason move that has been completely downplayed so far?
Without a doubt, the Derek Fisher signing. Think about this: The Lakers upgraded from Smush Parker and rookie Jordan Farmar to Derek Fisher and second-year player Jordan Farmar. If you watched the Lakers over the past two seasons and any of the first three Laker games you can see the difference. Parker was pulling a “2007 Phil Rivers” on the Lakers the past two years and absolutely killing them-- especially on the defensive end. Now, they got a veteran point guard who plays defense, can hit some big shots, and mentor Farmar (who I think is going to be a real good player) and bring him along slowly. Plus, Fisher understands how to run the triangle so instead of just giving the ball to Bryant and watching him take on three defenders the Lakers are moving the ball around much better this year.
What’s the wildcard this season?
I’d say it would have to be Kwame Brown’s expiring contract. The Lakers could trade Brown to a team that’s out of the mix and looking to clear up cap space for a veteran player to help down the stretch. An interesting scenario would be Ron Artest who has a couple of years left in his deal with the Kings. What if the Lakers were able to trade Brown’s expiring contract and maybe Brian Cook to the Kings for Artest? Suddenly, the Lakers would have a lineup of Fisher, Bryant, Odom, Artest, and Bynum with Farmar, Walton, et al, coming off the bench. A lineup like that would match up very favorably with the Suns and the Mavs.
Who is the Lakers’ MIP (Most Important Player)?
That would have to be Andrew Bynum. If he continues to develop, the Lakers are going to be pretty gosh darn good. So far this season, Bynum is averaging almost a double-double every night playing only about 20 minutes a game and you know what? With most of the Western Conference teams going small these days, I don’t see anyone out there who can stop him. The only problem with Bynum so far is that he gets too many ticky-tack fouls-- he fouled out playing only about 19 minutes on Sunday, but Phil Jackson has been able to neutralize some of that by brining him off the bench and starting Kwame Brown. But seriously, if he can play better defense, there’s no reason why this guy can’t get a double-double every night on just junk points and put-ins alone. And if he perfects that little jumper he has, WATCH THE FUCK OUT!
What are some key games this season for the Lakers?
The next important game will be Friday against the Timberwolves not because the Timberwolves are good or anything but because that’s when Lamar Odom is expected to come back from shoulder surgery (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the Lakers have gone 2-1 against three playoff teams without the second best scorer). It will be interesting to see how Phil Jackson uses Odom. Watching the game against the Jazz on Sunday I thought an interesting option would be brining Odom as a second scorer off the bench as and having an energy guy like Ronnie Turiaf grab boards when Bryant is on the floor.
And since I just got the NBA League Pass and won’t be missing any Laker games this year here are some other games I’m looking forward to this season: 11/13 at Spurs, 11/14 (the BIG THREE-OH) and a rematch at Houston, 11/23 at Boston, 12/13 vs. Spurs, 12/25 (Christmas Day) vs. Suns, 12/30 vs. Boston, 1/17 vs. Suns, 1/23 at Spurs, 1/25 at Mavs, --what a stretch huh?-- 2/20 at Phoenix, 3/2 vs. Mavs, 4/4 vs. Mavs, 4/13 at Spurs.
What is the best / worst case scenario for the Lakers this season?
Worst case scenario is that Bryant continues to be a cancer on the team, Bynum regresses, veterans like Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and Luke Walton miss significant time with injuries and the Lakers are a lottery team.
Best case scenario is that the Lakers continue to jell as a team. Odom comes back and the veteran trio of Odom, Walton and Fisher keep Bryant in check. Bynum continues to get better which allows them to shop Brown’s expiring contract for another veteran player. Amare Stoudemire misses significant time and the Lakers sneak past the Suns and the Western Conference shakes out like this:
1. San Antonio Spurs
2. Dallas Mavericks
3. Los Angeles Lakers
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Denver Nuggets
6. Houston Rockets
7. Utah Jazz
8. Charlotte Hornets
Then in the Western Conference Semi’s the Suns (with Stoudemire back) upset the Spurs, and the Lakers beat the Mavs. The Lakers beat the Suns in 6 in the Western Conference Finals and beat the Bulls in 5 the NBA Finals.
Possible? Yes. Probable? No.
But it’s always fun to dream.