Monday, November 20, 2006

Lakers: 10 Games In

While Blair crows about his Buckeyes, let me write about the Lakers.

The Lakers are 7-3. Will they remain a .700 team throughout the season? No, but they will make the playoffs. They made the playoffs last year when they were a worse team.

Three players have improved markedly since last year: Lamar Odom, Luke Walton and Andrew Bynum. Bynum, their 19-year old 7-foot center, is in his second year, so one would expect him to improve over his rookie year, when he was an 18-year old out of high school. This kid is showing excellent footwork, a lot of heart, hustle and courage. Yesterday he went up against the great Ben Wallace and outscored him, outrebounded him and blocked more shots. As one announcer said, someone forgot to tell Bynum he was supposed to be afraid of Wallace. In a few years Bynum will be the best center in the NBA. (It probably does not hurt that he is being tutored by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.)

Odom and Walton are more surprising, especially Walton. Both men have decided to be aggressive, to attack the basket and get their shots instead of always thinking pass first.

The best thing about the Lakers is that they have other scorers now instead of just Kobe Bryant. Radmanovic, Odom, Walton and Cook can all put the ball in the basket. Last year the team stood around and watched Kobe; if an opponent could shut Kobe down, the Lakers were dead. This year when Kobe gets the ball the other guys are moving, cutting to the basket and giving Kobe someone to pass to. They have a balanced attack, with more guys who deserve playing minutes than there are minutes to give. (Coaches LOVE that problem.)

The worst things about the Lakers so far are defense, turnovers and off-season injuries that have kept them from playing at 100% and finding their rhythm. When they start clicking on all cylinders, watch out. Come to think of it, they might end up playing .700 ball all season.

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