The Leak was Not the Primary Target

The Category 2 Shitstorm has officially been upgraded to a Category 4 Clusterfuck.

I figured Kobe would give me a few days before making my last post obsolete, but instead he gave me a few hours. And honestly I'm reluctant to write anything now because by the time I finish writing this post, I just know there will be some new update where Phil's pulled his Zen shit and calmed him down or Kobe's gone on PTI and announced his retirement.

Here are my hopes:
-Kobe's feeling a bit nostalgic for the circus days of old, so is stirring the pot just to make it interesting.
-Phil can do wonders to calm him (particularly because it seems that it was his revelation of the 5 year rebuilding plan that was one of the main sore spots)
-Jim Buss, Kupchak, whoever the Lakers insider was, whoever else ever looked at Kobe the wrong way, let the heads roll
-The keys to L.A. are given to Jerry West to do whatever he'd like to the Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Angels, Kings, Ducks, City Council, you name it.

Here's my fear:
Kobe sounded pretty irreconcilable on Steven A.'s interview. I'm not sure how you step back from this ledge. When you say straight up that there's nothing management can do to keep you there, how do you soften that? JONESONTHENBA's take sounds about right: He's been maneuvering the media just right the past couple days to make him seem totally vindicated gearing up for this demand.

I'm still not prepared to get too bogged down in the trade possibilities because I'm not sure I've accepted it yet. The optimist in me says it sounds like once Phil talked to him he'll take some time to calm down and think rationally about this. But when the time does come (and I'm gradually accepting that it probably will), Chicago is still the only possible place I see. Rooting for Tyrus Thomas someday would be a small consolation, but fingers are still crossed. Steven A. seems to have the most intimate knowledge of the situation of all the talking heads, and he seems to think despite all the shit stewing "at the end of the day" Kobe will be a Laker once Kupchak disappears and West comes back.

What I Say Is Not a Revelation...

"...there's nobody on this planet who thinks we have a team that can contend for a title right now." - the KB on the Lakers not named Kwame.

I go away for one weekend with plans to write a post on whether we should be trading for Pau, Jermaine, Kidd, etc., blah blah blah, and come back to find that's the last thing on anyone's mind right now. Shit's been hitting the fan in Laker Land, and honestly, anything happening in the next couple weeks would not surprise me at this point. A couple of weeks ago I saw this Steven A clip and wrote it off as him trying to stir up drama:

Now after hearing Kobe's interview on KLAC verifying every one of Steven A's claims, I really don't know what to think anymore. He sounded hurt by the Caron trade, bitter about the inaction of management with Artest, Boozer, and Baron, and furious over the different message they sent Phil about the time frame of their rebuilding plans. Throw in the West situation, the Buss family catastrophe (what a rough couple days the Dr.'s having), and a Lakers "insider" blaming Kobe for the Shaq trading, and I can't help but fear that a trade demand is imminent if front office doesn't do some serious massaging and quick. The fact that no one has contacted him since exit meeting does not feel like a good sign. I've long been on the "There's no way he's getting traded anytime soon" train, but this latest Kobe media barrage with the 570 interview, the 710 interview, the KB24 post, and the Bucher article, I'm starting to feel like this is more than the typical pressuring front office to make a move. At this point if they want to keep him around, they might need to just hand the keys over to West if he's willing to take 'em. I know with his age, his loyalty to Mitch, his past with Phil, his son playing in West Virginia, that might be problematic, but desperate times and all that. I'm sure with the right number of zeros the Logo can find ways to get back to see his son's games.

I really hope this is just his way of forcing the Lakers to bring West back. While I'm not sure if he'd be the panacea Kobe is hoping, his track record is pretty impressive. Even looking at what he's done with Memphis, while this year was tankified, they won 4 more games than the Lakers last year and 11 more the year before that. Basically if that's what it takes to soothe Kobe (his list of complaints is long and valid), it's worth it in my view. If it sparks some life into management and the Lakers pull off some bold moves this summer, all the better. I'm not even asking he pull another rabbit out of his hat with a Vlade for Kobe type deal, how about just any deal that rids us of Vlade's snowboarding buddy.

Amid all the bombs Kobe dropped yesterday, one of the less-talked about nuggets from the interview was basically his singling out of Lamar and Luke as two guys who cared and gave it their all despite injuries. That seems about right as an outsider, although I'd probably add Farmar and Turiaf to the short list of guys in a Laker uniform with a pulse this post-season, but it's understandable why Kobe left them out considering their age and inability to contribute greatly. Ironically, this came out in his response claiming that he wasn't calling out his teammates with his public demands, just management, but it sure sounded to me like a subtle way of questioning the commitment of some of the other guys.

I can't even really get fully into the, "Can we possibly trade Kobe and for what?" debate just yet; basically I want to wait and see if his talk escalates from here or gets appeased quickly with West re-entering the fold. Basically it sounds like if does come to a head, Chicago is where he would want to be and the team with the most pieces to put something together. If we start hearing about Deng, Gordon, AND Thomas, I'll be interested.

Other takes on this shitstorm:
Forum Blue and Gold
Bandwagon L.A.
Sports at Random
True Hoop


When the Last Time

We haven’t posted anything in quite some time, so I thought it would make sense to run down some basketball happenings from around the country. Most of these nuggets have some bearing on our favorite teams, but in reality this post just allows me to say I put something up without actually writing a coherent article. It’s like I’m Bill Simmons or something. Without further ado:

Roy Hibbert Pulls Out of Draft, Owns NCAA
Georgetown center Roy Hibbert, a junior, decided to pull out of the NBA Draft last week. My initial reaction was that this choice seems a bit nonsensical given that he was likely going to get picked in the top 10, but closer analysis proves that this was probably a smart decision. First, not that many top 10 teams need a center. Discounting Portland and Seattle, who will take Oden and Durant, of course, Minnesota and Sacramento appear to be the most likely candidates to take a five, but those teams have other needs and quite possibly could have passed on Hibbert. As such, there was no guarantee that he would go in the first round.

Second, Hibbert is going to rock the entire NCAA next year. In the Big East, UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet is probably best qualified to match up with him in the post, but Thabeet is extremely raw. In the nation, few players have the tools to best Hibbert. If you remember back a few months ago, Hibbert had minor trouble with Oden in the Final Four, but that was Greg Oden. Point being that Hibbert should have no trouble dominating his opponents next year, meaning that he will likely find himself the top big man chosen in what looks like a mediocre draft for posts. Good call Roy.

As for the Warriors and Lakers, Hibbert’s move means that they’ll each have one less player to pick from at 18 and 19, respectively, as there was no way Roy was going to last that long. Bummer.

Brandon Rush Pulls Out of Draft
This decision to stay in college, on the other hand, probably shows why Brandon had a less than easy time qualifying out of high school. Rush is undoubtedly one of the best perimeter defenders in the nation, but he’s somewhat limited athletically (i.e. not a stud). Given those talents, he was likely to go somewhere in the last half of the first round this year, although reports varied on exactly where that would be. Of course, Rush is probably going to be the same kind of player next year, and it’s unlikely that he will improve his stock much (see Afflalo, Aaron c. 2006). Expect some playoff team to draft Brandon in 2008, with the expectation that he’ll be a solid role player for many years in this league.

More bad news here for our teams. Rush actually had a decent chance to go to either Golden State or LA, and I think he would have helped both clubs quite a bit. The Warriors need one or five more defenders, and the Lakers need anyone with a pulse on either side of the ball.

Update: It turns out Brandon Rush tore his ACL and will miss something around six months. This is obviously a very good reason to pull out of the draft, rendering my whole first paragraph stupid. All of us at Plissken wish Brandon well in his recovery.

The NBA Playoffs Still Exist, Apparently
The conference finals are in full swing, although you wouldn’t know it if you actually watched the games; these things barely hold my interest more than a meaningless regular season game between the same teams. But, I guess they’re still important, so we wouldn’t be worth anything as an NBA blog if we didn’t at least touch on the subject.

Let’s start with the West, where the Spurs hold a predictable 3-1 lead on the Jazz. I must confess that this series is actually more interesting than I thought it would be, although that’s mostly because of the first two games, in which San Antonio completely dominated Utah. Spurs games are much more exciting to me in blowout form, likely because in close games I always feel like Duncan et al. are just forestalling the eventual outcome of a Spurs win because they feel like. In blowouts, though, they look like a mechanical beast steamrolling the competition, and seeing them embrace their nature as coldhearted killers just feels right. Let’s have some more of that in Game 5.

The Pistons-Cavs series, like all of the Eastern Conference, has featured some absolutely dogshit basketball, the kind of stuff you expect to see in a January game between Oklahoma St. and Texas Tech. As far as I can tell, no one on the Cavs other than LeBron would get starter’s minutes for any Western playoff team, and the Pistons look incapable of winning any game in this series by more than five points. This one is really only interesting when LBJ plays either awfully or wonderfully, and even then those performances won’t really mean much if they lose until we can situate them in the eventual LeBron Narrative.

Kobe Kinda Sorta Demands Zeke from Cabin Creek
A few days ago, Kobe said that he would demand a trade if Dr. Buss didn’t bring in Jerry West to make all personnel decisions, but now it seems he’s rescinded those comments. I should probably let my associate Carter handle this issue in greater depth, but I think Kobe’s gripes with Kupchak are completely legitimate: the dude hasn’t done much to make this team better (like drafting project centers in the top 10 when he has the best player in the NBA in his prime) and I can't think of any great moves he's made (several good ones, though).

(In an earlier version of this post, I underrated West as a GM because I forgot about a lot of his pre-Shaq moves. Apologies.)

As far as trading Kobe, I often say that the Lakers should at least consider it, if only to see what they could get, but that’s a topic for another time.


I Will Rearrange Your Scales

Boston and Memphis weren't the only ones who have had to do a lot of soul-searching because of this draft. We here at Plissken have also been forced to face a difficult reality. Back when this blog was in its nascent stages, we made it our goal to focus on all the relevant basketball happening on the left coast. At the time, we assumed that meant discussing the Lakers, Warriors, and the Pac-10. We felt like we could comfortably ignore the Clippers, Kings, Sonics, and Trail Blazers without anyone really noticing our omission.

Now, a full 4 days later, the landscape of West Coast basketball has been totally rearranged, and to claim we were talking about all the basketball that mattered on this side of the Rockies without talking about the Trail Blazers and the Sonics would be impossible. So now do we:

a) Try branching beyond two NBA teams we were raised on respectively
b) Redefine our scope to be CA basketball and continue to rightfully ignore the Clips and Kings existence

I'm personally leaning to option B. Ty seems to prefer A. Likely we'll continue to focus mostly on the NBA teams we know and love best, but continue to discuss anything else going on in the world of basketball that interests us, which from now on will include Portland and Seattle much more frequently than it otherwise would have.

As a side note, anyone who suggests the Trail Blazers trade the pick (I'm looking at you Jon Barry) is a fucking idiot. First off, try coming up with a list of players that you'd sacrifice Oden straight up for. Honestly I'm having a hard time thinking of one. Kobe, Duncan, Garnett would all be tempting, but would you take 5 years of their prime against 10-15 years of Oden's? Even if that were remotely possible I still wouldn't pull the trigger.


Load up on Guns

Well, here’s to several more years of the unwatchable East in the NBA. Now that Oden and Durant will be heading to the West, every regular season will be a basketball gauntlet for fringe teams like my Warriors and Carter’s Lakers. As far as I can tell, the worst teams in the conference are Memphis, Sacramento, and Minnesota, and it’s not like those squads are as devoid of talent (assuming they don’t blow things up this summer) as the East doormats. Let’s sort through the fallout for the primary teams involved:

Reason enough to buy League Pass next year. The dream lineup looks like it will be Jarrett Jack, Brandon Roy, Martell Webster or Travis Outlaw (assuming they resign him), LaMarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden. I’m not convinced they’ll be a playoff contender next year because of all the youth, but in a few years they’ll be beastly. As productive as Zach Randolph was this year, they might want to try to deal him for a wing.

Feel the wrath of the Pacific Northwest! Actually, I’m somewhat worried about the long term effects of Durant ending up here. I don’t think Seattle’s management is smart enough to realize that resigning Rashard Lewis would give them a potential offensive dream world; it’s far more likely that they’ll see Durant as a cheaper, younger, eventually better replacement for Lewis. As such, the Sonics won’t be markedly better next season than they are this season, and Ray Allen’s not getting any younger. Then there’s the mess of where Seattle will even be playing in the next few years. I just don’t see this working out as well as it could have otherwise.

The Big Lead and others have touched on the possibility of Durant and his agent forcing a trade, but I’ll believe that when I see it.

A damn shame that they couldn’t get a top two pick, but with two lottery picks (3 and 11) the Hawks can’t be too upset. If I were them, I’d explore the possibility of dealing both picks for a proven commodity and a pick in the 5-9 range. With that, they could still pick up Mike Conley and maybe get a solid power forward.

Obviously not what they wanted. I think they have to trade Gasol for a set of athletic young guys and embrace an identity as a run-and-gun team that doesn’t pick up many wins. I have no idea where this team goes next year, but it probably won’t be good.

Start the Bill Simmons Suicide Watch now. I would feel bad about their fortune, but the possibility of the Celtics, Patriots, and Red Sox all being contenders year after year would have been too much to handle for anyone not wearing a backwards green hat. If Ainge doesn’t trade Pierce this summer, then he has absolutely no clue and needs to go. I’d love to see them end up with Yi Jianlian just for the humor of watching drunken New Englanders root for a seven-foot tall Chinese man.

On the bright side, they’ll be terrible again next year, so good luck in the Derrick Rose/Michael Beasley sweepstakes.

Without a top pick to deal, it seems like they’ll have a considerably harder time picking up someone on the level of Jermaine O’Neal or Garnett. That should be good news for the rest of the West and a team like the Warriors that might be looking to pick up KG.

With Lewis likely out of Seattle, MJ and Bickerstaff need to go after him hard. A lineup with Brevin/Felton, Gerald Wallace, Emeka Okafor, Lewis, and whoever they draft (possibly Roy Hibbert, Julian Wright, Spencer Hawes, or Joakim Noah) would be a lot of fun.

Even the Losers

Who's excited about some ping pong balls? Because our teams aren't playing anymore and we have little else to think about, we sure as shoot are! Anyway, this isn't actually a post about the lottery just yet. I just wanted to share quickly the Lakers trade scenario I've been mulling since May 2nd so you could tear it apart:

Kwame/Lamar for Kirilenko/Fisher/Collins

Why it works (other than Trade Machine telling me it does):
-Immediately upgrades our D at two positions, which should be the focus of off-season moves in my mind
-Gives us the "Fisher-like" player that everyone acknowledges we need in Fisher, making his triumphant return to L.A., who would be able to provide the steadying veteran influence we need at the point, without crowding out the development of Farmar.
-Before getting bumped out of position last year, AK was easily more efficient than Odom. Hopefully Utah keeps in mind how woefully out of place he was throughout the year with career lows in points and rebounding.
-With Deron coming on as one of the best point guards in the league, I'm sure Fisher's contract is looking more and more cumbersome to Utah.
-I would be exccedingly happy with a 5 of Farmar/Kobe/Luke/AK/Mihm with a bench of Fisher/Evans/Vlad/Ronny/Bynum.

Why it doesn't work:
-After Fisher's heroics and AK's resurgence, I'm not sure they can deal either of them anymore. After all, they're in the Western Conference Finals now with a very promising young core. If it ain't broke I guess.
-Fisher's contract is absurd. Good one, Golden State.
-Lamar just went under the knife, so not the greatest trade-bait.
-It really just exacerbates our need to get Kobe a legitimate second option. Oh well, I'm confident he could average 40 with AK patrolling the paint to free him up of his duties on that end.
-As Ty is quick to point out, I didn't consider Utah's needs at all in putting this together. But we would be taking Derek's contract off their hands in exchange for Kwame's expiring 9m, which should count for something, right?
-Update: my friend Ric Golbez adds: "Have they ever had a dark black player or a black player who has 'attitude issues.' Moreover...would they really take two of ours??" A very valid point I failed to consider. The man who created the Black Jesus shirt probably wouldn't work out too well in Utah.

In the absence of a splashy KG/Gasol/O'Neal deal that probably can't happen, I'd be perfectly content with something like this. I'll be checking in with other random unlikely scenarios in the near future, so stick around for that. I'll try better next time.


I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement

This summer is hugely important for the Warriors and their desire to become an annual playoff contender. Finally breaking through to the playoffs this year was a huge step for the franchise, but with that success comes the need to not stand pat and assume all the pieces are there. Take, for example, the Clips this year, a team that won a playoff series the year and nearly won another the year before, and then saw it all crumble the next season when they didn’t do anything to get better (picking up Tim Thomas does not count). For a team like the Warriors with obvious holes, something needs to be done, but it’s unclear exactly which pieces will need to be moved to improve the team.

Don Nelson’s possible retirement is the most important issue of the offseason, as everything Mullin and Co. do should depend on whether or not the team employs the same system. Thankfully, Nellie’s comments appear more like the musings of an aging, tired man than someone looking to leave, but the possibility is still there and will linger until he confirms that he’ll be back. I’m going through with this post on the assumption that Nelson comes back to patrol the sidelines for another year.

The Utah series exposed a lack of defense and rebounding from the post positions, two things that observant Warriors fans acknowledged at the beginning of the season. If Mullin wants to make this team a true contender, then this is the place to start. Biedrins provides necessary rebounding and interior defense, but he’s better as a help-defender and championship teams don’t exist with just one above-average rebounder.

Kevin Garnett is the obvious top prize this summer. It’s been well-established that he wants out of Minnesota, and he’s clearly skilled and athletic enough to thrive in an open style. He’s been one of the best rebounders in the league for years and is one of the few post defenders good enough to handle Tim Duncan one-on-one. Phoenix certainly has the pieces to get him, and it’s not like Minnesota wouldn’t want a player like Shawn Marion or Leandro Barbosa.

The Warriors have some enticing options, too, not the least of which are Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis. At 21, Andris has a lot of years ahead of him to improve his offensive post moves (i.e. developing anything consistent that doesn’t involve backing down and throwing it at the rim), and the necessary bases of athleticism, defense, and rebounding are there. In my first Warriors post for this blog, I called him one of the best five young big men in the association, and guys like that don’t get traded unless it’s worth it. However, trading Biedrins would lessen the impact of getting Garnett in the first place. I realize that Garnett is a much better rebounder than Biedrins ever will be, but the point of getting him is to give us two solid guys on the boards. Trading Biedrins for Garnett gives us one.

Anyone who reads this blog will soon get sick of my love for Monta, so all I can say is that I’d hate to see him go. He’s perfect for Nellieball and he’ll be perfect for everything once he develops a more consistent jumper. The T-Wolves would obviously want him in spite of the fact that all their young guards are undersized. Monta obviously plays an important role on the roster as a scorer and ballhandler when everyone’s healthy, but he’s almost essential because of Baron’s injury history. Having a best player that brittle makes it necessary to have a quality second option at that position, and I wouldn’t be comfortable heading into a season with Sarunas Jasikevicius doing anything other than cheering and constantly getting shown on broadcasts for no reason. Assuming Baron were to get hurt and Monta weren’t around to fill in, I’m pretty sure Garnett’s supporting cast wouldn’t look much better than the one he currently has in Minnesota, and we all know that hasn’t worked out so well lately.

If Mullin doesn’t want to trade the future for the present, then he’s going to have to trade some key veterans, with Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, and Jason Richardson being the most expendable worthwhile players on the team. I will assume for now that no one wants Jax, which makes sense. As good as he was in the Mavs series, he makes reckless decisions on (e.g. entire Utah series) and off the court. Plus, there’s that whole “possibly going to jail” thing.

Al Harrington is a quality player with versatile skills that work well in Nelson’s system, but his troubles throughout the Mavs series made it clear that he won’t ever be anything much more than what he is now. Simply put, this is the kind of player that ends his career with about five trades in the “transactions” section of his profile.

Which brings me to J-Rich, a player I would hate to see leave but probably needs to if the Warriors want to become a viable contender. Aside from being a terrific athlete and a valuable scorer, he has been extremely loyal to the Bay Area and the franchise, and of all the players he best understood what making the playoffs meant to every fan involved. If we did trade him, I fear it would end up a mistake just because karma would be sure to get back at the entire team, somehow creating another extended playoff drought.

But for all his talent, J-Rich doesn’t seem to be anything more than the third option on a quality team. Despite performing admirably in the playoffs this year, he never put together a string of excellent games. For instance, Utah had no one to guard him consistently, and yet he settled for way too many jumpers when the lane was open. I realize that J-Rich was hurt and never really got into an extended groove this season, but things like that happen, and you don’t pass up Garnett for guys who may never rise above the level of fringe all-star. In my mind, he’s more expendable than both Ellis and Biedrins, and it’s really not that close.

Let’s assume that the Warriors offer J-Rich, Harrington, and another secondary or tertiary player (or a series of draft picks) for Garnett and whatever awful contract Minnesota throws in as punishment. That is not a particularly good trade for the Wolves, and for it to happen Atlanta would likely have to receive a top-3 pick tomorrow, meaning that Phoenix wouldn’t have a lottery pick to deal along with Marion.

I’m not holding my breath for any of that to happen, though, which brings up the question of who else the Warriors can get to play power forward. Darko Milicic’s name has been bandied about quite a bit in the last week or so. As much as I like watching the Serbian Gangster for reasons unrelated to his pure worth as a basketball player (namely, to see if he’ll ever become anything approaching what everyone said he would be), he is not the kind of guy you trade Jason Richardson for. Richardson, for all his faults, led the Warriors in scoring not too long ago, and Darko averaged 8 ppg and 5 rpg coming off the bench this year—it’s not like he’s ready to take the league by storm. The Magic would probably have to throw in some more players or picks for this to work, but I would not be pleased about this trade if Darko were the main piece.

Mullin has said that he will not explore trading Richardson, but I expect that he would be willing to part with him if a Garnett deal depended on it. Still, it’s not worth trading a team pillar just for the sake of it, and all indications point to that not being the team’s preferred course of action.

It is unclear which big men will be available on the free agent market, but someone as talented as Kevin Garnett or Jermaine O’Neal cannot be had without giving up some solid players. I just hope Mullin and Nelson don’t sell off the future in getting there.

Next time: free agency and the draft.

Don't Look Back in Anger

As loyal readers of Plissken, you all know how frustrating the past couple months have been for me as a Lakers fan. As Kobe pointed out, three years have passed since the departure of the Big Aristotle, and the Lakers still appear to be at ground zero.

Providing a synopsis of the past season has proven to be considerably more challenging than it was for my esteemed colleague Ty. Part of the problem is that in comparison to past seasons a definitive narrative failed to emerge this year. Last year we had the return of Phil, Kobe's MVP push, and the climactic 7-game showdown against the Suns. Before that we had the Rudy T experiment and transition to life without Shaq. The 03-04 season will be remembered for quite some time for plotlines galore: the Dream-Team-a-decade-late, the internal squabbles for alpha dog, Detroit providing the final nail to the dynasty's coffin, etc.

Years later however, the 2006-2007 will probably end up being most memorable for the changes it will have foreshadowed. Kobe's explosion, averaging 40 for the month of March and hitting the 50-mark a ridiculous 10 times, will undoubtedly remain phenomenal accomplishments; but in the long-run, 81 will overshadow all the times Kobe put the team on his back this year. Being the first to average 35 since MJ last year will be what makes basketball historians wonder how he never won an MVP instead of either of his 60 point performances this year. Ultimately from this season, Phil's streak of seven losses might be more important than Kobe's streak of five games of 40 or more that snapped it.

Setting legacy aside for a moment, what actually happened this year for the Lakers? In brief, they got off to a hot start, at times looking like a second-tier contender, before collapsing down the stretch, largely due to injury. Quickly lost in the cries to blow up this core is the fact that at one point this team was sitting nicely with a .677 winning percentage, fifth best in the league. As of January the Lakers looked a step behind the Mavs and Suns, but right there with the two teams currently meeting in the Western Conference Finals. This is not to say that the Lakers were ever that good, just that they are by no means as bad as most seem to have written them off as. Before the string of frontline injuries revealed the weakness of the Smush-led point, the Lakers looked to be in a position to get a 4- or 5-seed, ready to make some noise in the post-season. Then the two longest losing streaks of Phil's career dropped them to a point where despite Kobe's heroics they would be forced to face either the Mavs, Suns or Spurs and an inevitable early exit.

Apart from the big-picture story of the team, there were a few individual developments of note:

  • The End of the Smush Parker Experience. Smush's two-year career in Purple and Gold might merit its own post sometime this summer when we're running low on topics. For now, suffice it to say I'm not sad to see him leave, but a very small part of me will miss him.
  • The Yeast. Of the 22 games Luke missed, we won 7. Kobe's explosion coincided with his return. These are not coincidences. This team weathered injuries to both Lamar and Kwame fairly well, but once Luke went down the team collapsed.
  • Kareem's Protégé. As many have noted, Bynum has developed nicely as one of the more promising young big men in the league. At the time many questioned the decision to draft a project with Kobe needing to win now. Now, the only mistake worth mentioning from that draft was picking Von Wafer a spot ahead of Monta. At any rate, Bynum's potential (and health) means he'll likely be at the center of any trade talk. The what if's might come back to haunt us, but bringing back something proven is probably a must at this point. The strength of this draft pick has put us into a spot where significant moves will be possible.
  • My Favorite Former-Bulldog. How can you not love Ronny? Even though it wasn't a transplant, I still think he should be the one saying "What would you do with a second chance at life?" ad nauseam. Zo's kidney shit pales in comparison. Plus if he danced in the ad I'd be much less likely to want to throw the remote through the screen.
  • Farmar Superstar. Another great pick for the Lakers, I said at the time he'd have Smush's job by January. It took a little longer than that, but I was happy to see him finally there. Furthermore, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised (or disappointed) if he managed to keep the starting spot despite whatever moves are made to bring in a veteran at the position. The leap after your rookie year is usually the most important, so I'm confidently anxious to see how he progresses.

I'll save my hopes for the summer for next time. We'll also probably have something to say about the lottery tomorrow (personally crossing my fingers for the Hawks, mostly out of spite for Phoenix). Till then.


Shooting at the Walls of Heartache

For Warriors fans, making the playoffs this year seemed like an afterthought at the beginning of March, but by the end of the month the prospect of not making it seemed downright unfair. Outside of a horrific loss in Portland, the team was playing as well as they had since Webber’s rookie year, utilizing small ball and swarming defense (one of the few times this term has actually been appropriate) to run teams out of the gym. The home win over Phoenix in the last game of March was the most obvious example of the Warriors’ newfound quality. Never mind that 45-point first quarter: two teams playing that fast can produce that kind of score if one of them shoots incredibly well. The most amazing part of that game was that Phoenix—the greatest running team in the history of mankind, if you are to believe some people (and you shouldn’t, that’s a ridiculous claim)—had to slow down to get back into the game. It’s rare that a fringe playoff team can beat the best running team in the league at their own game, but that’s probably because that version of the Warriors wasn’t a fringe playoff team.

And what was that team, anyway? A few personnel changes that got the Warriors to that point:

  • Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird had to appease their almost entirely white fanbase. The Indiana trade justifiably gets a lot of credit for improving the roster. Despite some inconsistency, Al Harrington is just a quality, versatile player, and Stephen Jackson wins games for you. As much as I hate Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy for their lackluster skills, they’re worse for being soft, something that Harrington and Jackson are definitely not. That change in attitude had a huge effect, and it can’t go unnoticed.

  • Monta Ellis decided to become one of the best young players in the NBA. He is absolutely my favorite player on the team, and I giggle whenever I imagine what he’ll do when (not if) he develops a consistent 18-20 foot jumper. The guy is one of the three fastest players around, shows no fear when driving, and will finish just about everything. People compare him to Gilbert because of the draft round/team and lack-of-positionness, but he’s really more like Tony Parker would be if Popovich hadn’t swallowed his soul.

  • The coaching staff let Andris Biedrins play to his strengths instead of forcing him into a classic back-to-the-basket big man model. Andris is a fast, lean, quick-jumping big man; he should not be block-to-block at this point in his career. Nelson saw what he had here, and letting him dart through the lane on a pick-and-roll is exactly what he’s made for. In this system, he’s one of the best five young big men in the league. (He still could become something approaching a classic big man—you do not control the boards in an NBA playoff game by accident.)

  • Baron Davis cut the bullshit to a minimum. Baron’s highlight reels are the best, but he usually makes five retarded behind-the-back passes in traffic per game. Watching him at the end of the season was a revelation: he would actually drive-and-kick like a normal person and finish with intelligent moves when they were open. The important thing here, though, is that he always played like himself, just with fewer silly plays. He still brought that stuff out when he had to, but he picked his spots.

Despite these and other improvements, some injuries (most notably the several suffered by Jason Richardson) and the growing pains of having a new coach/system gave the Warriors little more than an outside chance of making the playoffs. At that point, though, things like that didn’t matter much, and they won the last nine of their last ten game to finish two games ahead of the Clippers for the eighth spot. I won’t say that all those wins were classic—the majority of the opponents were in full-on tank mode—but they still counted, and the thrill of a playoff push was enough for me. More importantly, everyone on the team played like they were trying to make the playoffs (for themselves and the Bay Area), which was nice to see in comparison to the completely lifeless play from the Clips. If that wasn’t enough for me, the clinching win in Portland happened on my birthday. How adorable.

Going into the playoffs, I thought we had a 50/50 shot at beating the Mavs. I guess I believed that three regular wins (well, two real ones) counted for something. Plus, it was just clear that we matched up really well with that team. After winning Game 1 on the road without playing our best ball, I was confident we had the series.

I won’t rehash the specifics of those games; by this point I think everyone knows that the Mavs didn’t rebound well enough to make us pay for our lack of strength inside, Dirk shat himself in all but a few moments, Baron had an obvious advantage on Harris and Terry and realized it, Jax decided to make all shots, etc. This series was important, though, in that it validated the most loyal fans in the country and showed everyone what a real crowd looks like. In the long run, I don’t think this series will register as anything more than a footnote in the broad NBA landscape, but it will matter a hell of a lot to Warriors fans, and that’s enough for me.

Although it didn’t seem like it at the time, the letdown of the Utah series seemed inevitable in retrospect—it’s just too hard to maintain that kind of intensity and win four games with a glaring weakness on the boards. Those games exposed our massive hole at the four-spot this entire season, something that fans recognized months ago, and it should be the first roster situation that Mullin addresses after getting the Monta and Andris situations worked out.

I have no idea what will happen next year. I’m sure Clippers fans felt extremely confident after last year’s playoffs, and I’m not willing to buy my 07-08 playoff tickets yet when we have an injury-prone star and a coach who says he’s not sure he’ll come back. These are issues I will look at on other days and in other posts. For now, I’m willing to bask in the greatness of making the playoffs, pulling off the greatest upset in NBA history, and finally getting some national attention.

That said, fuck it, the Warriors need to make the playoffs again next year.

Welcome to the Terrordome

Plissken at the Buzzer is a basketball blog focusing on the West Coast. We will discuss the Lakers, Warriors, Pac-10, and anything else that strikes our fancy. If that sounds reductive, it’s because it is, but these are the things we’re most qualified to write about and it would be stupid for us to focus on anything else.

Your hosts are Ty Keenan and Carter Blanchard, college recruiters for Indiana Basin Silt College and LaFonte University, respectively. Our name draws from Snake Plissken’s late-game heroics in Escape from LA, the finer of the Escape franchise/bilogy. Our goal is to be the second-best basketball blog in the world.

You may question the smarts of starting a basketball blog just as the seasons of our favorite teams have ended, but we were/are lazy and didn’t get around to it until now. Rest assured, finding topics to discuss will not be a problem. Expect updates this summer on the draft, recruiting, national team stuff (ok, maybe this not so much), and youtube. Lots and lots of youtube.

We believe that basketball matters. Hopefully this blog will help us figure out why.