Now that the college basketball hoopla is over (congrats to Kentucky, on your first of many championships with
Anthony Davis Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Terrence Jones Marquis Teague John Calipari Kentucky basketball fans), we can get back to NBA business… more specifically, watching the Nets try to extend this three-game winning streak and escape from the bowels of lottery territory. This is Deron Williams’ first time playing the Los Angeles Lakers as a member of the New Jersey Nets, and regardless where he goes next year (Brooklyn or otherwise), it’s also the last.
Joining Justin & I to talk Lakers Nets is Darius Soriano of Lakers blog Forum Blue & Gold. Check that site out for a balanced, intelligent take on the Lakers.
1. Should Kobe play this many minutes?
- Justin DeFeo: No. I still question what the Lakers endgame is here in running Kobe ragged in the regular season. This season especially, being that it was shortened, I always felt just getting to the playoffs should be the end goal and that you can almost throw the seeds away when you get there. A veteran team like the Lakers shouldn’t have to worry about home-court advantage and simply getting to the playoffs with a healthy roster and energy in their legs should be priority one.
- Devin Kharpertian: Absolutely not, but that calls into question whose call it is. I’m no Lakers insider, but if Mitch Kupchak had to make a decision between Mike Brown’s head or Kobe’s, you’d better believe the guillotine strikes down on Brown. If Kobe wants to play more minutes to win the scoring title, or overtake Kareem, or prove he’s the best player ever, or pay his debt to the magic elves that gave him the gift of life once again after he became a vampire, who’s going to tell him no without suffering severe bite marks?
- Darius Soriano: In a word, no. Kobe leads the league in total minutes played and is on pace to play only 240 minutes less this season than he did last year – one in which he played in all 82 games. He’s admitted to being fatigued more than once this year and stated that his 2 for 20 shooting performance was at least partially related to being tired. And it’s not like this is a revelation; earlier in the season Mike Brown even spoke of trying to cut the minutes of his star shooting guard. If Kobe’s going to be at his best in the post-season, getting longer rests in game and putting up lower minute counts should be a priority for the Lakers’ coaching staff that must be executed sooner rather than later.
2. How will the Lakers handle Deron Williams?
- Justin DeFeo: It’ll be interesting because they don’t have a great match-up for him individually. His game is always dictated by how teams guard him in pick and roll situations, so you really have to monitor that in the beginning of the game. Based on Williams high assist numbers the last few games, D-Will certainly seems willing to be a facilitator if the defense is trying to take the ball out of his hands.
- Devin Kharpertian: Help early and often, especially with the bigs. Bynum and Gasol won’t have much to worry about down low, not with projected starters Kris Humphries and Johan Petro. They’ll have to throw bigger defenders at him than Ramon Sessions, and I expect Matt Barnes and possibly even Kobe to draw a few D-Will assignments. Expect blitzes early and often from everybody but Metta World Peace, who will have his hands full with whichever Gerald he’s cutting off.
- Darius Soriano: In theory, the Lakers will try to force him to areas on the floor where he’s least successful, contest all his shots, and try to deny him touches after he gives up the ball in order to make other Nets beat them. Hard hedges on P&R’s will be used to try and make him give up the ball or slow his forays to the rim and his defender will try to fight through screens to avoid giving up rhythm jumpers. This, though, is easier said than done. His combination of size, strength, and quickness will give the Lakers fits and neither of their PG’s are really equipped to deal with him one on one. With this being the case, don’t be surprised if the Lakers cross-match some by having Matt Barnes or Metta World Peace guard him for short stretches just to give him a different looks with bigger, stronger defenders.
3. And the winner is…
- Justin DeFeo: Lakers. I have NO idea how the Nets front-court will deal with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. I think that advantage alone will be enough to get the Lakers the win.
- Devin Kharpertian:Lakers. I’d argue that Deron Williams vs. Kobe Bryant is a push in terms of overall effectiveness, with perhaps a slight edge to Deron given his ability and willingness to create for others. Gerald Wallace and Gerald Green are reckonable forces on the wings, but this game will be won inside — and if Kobe and Sessions can get touches to Gasol & Bynum, there’s nothing the Nets can do to shut them down.
- Darius Soriano: I’ll take the Lakers but with some trepidation. Gerald Wallace has long been a player that’s given the Lakers problems and he’s single-handedly had performances that have turned games in his team’s favor when he sees this team. When you add Williams to the mix and Kris Humphries’ work on the glass, the Nets have some ingredients to make this game very competitive – especially with the way the Lakers have been playing lately. That said, Bynum should play on Tuesday and the combination of he and Gasol should give the undermanned Nets’ front court issues. And then, of course, there’s always that Kobe guy who can go off if his jumper starts falling. So, give me the home team in this one.