Los Angeles Lakers: Alvin Gentry

Coaching search continues at slow pace

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10
6:40
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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It was surely a jarring scene for the Los Angeles Lakers' fans who turned their televisions to any of a number of sports stations Tuesday morning. There were their former coach and former starting point guard standing in front of a jumbo-sized New York Knicks logo, embarking on a joint mission to bring the same championship success they last shared in L.A. in 2010 to NYC.

The Lakers' faithful have had close to three months to digest the news that Phil Jackson won't be coming back through their door for a third stint coaching the team, but seeing Derek Fisher become the 26th head coach in Knicks history -- rather than the 25th head coach in Lakers history -- surely had to open up old wounds.

[+] EnlargeDerek Fisher
Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty ImagesDerek Fisher, left, and Phil Jackson shake hands Tuesday at a news conference to announce Fisher as the Knicks' new head coach.
The Lakers got out in front of the story over the weekend, with the Los Angeles Times reporting that the team had decided it wasn't interested in Fisher (or any other candidate without previous head coaching experience) and had moved on from the notion of bringing back the five-time champion.

Fisher said otherwise. According to the freshly retired, 18-year veteran, the Lakers indeed expressed interest in him, but he told them he was already so far down the road with Jackson and the Knicks that they shouldn't bother with exploratory talks unless they were ready to talk serious business.

"I was surprised, as some of you were, that they made the announcement they made that they wouldn't pursue me," Fisher said during his introductory news conference. "I don't think they ever intended to. That's fine. I respect it. I never thought of that or tried to compare the two opportunities. This was an opportunity that spoke to me right away. I was excited about that from the beginning."

Whether the Lakers really believe they are better off with a more experienced coach or they were merely saving face to avoid it looking like their former player spurned them for the same guy they had spurned in November 2012 (in Jackson) can be debated.

It is certainly better for the Lakers to make a blanket statement and say they aren't interested in current college coaches or candidates with no head coaching experience in the league than to have the narrative be that a bunch of the guys they had initially targeted -- Fisher, Connecticut's Kevin Ollie, Kentucky's John Calipari, Southern Methodist's Larry Brown, former Atlanta Hawks assistant coach Quin Snyder -- all chose to be somewhere other than with the Lakers moving forward.

Ollie and Calipari both inked lucrative deals to stay with their schools -- five years, $14 million for Ollie and seven years, $52 million for Calipari. This after Calipari turned down a Godfather-type deal from Cleveland that would have netted him close to $80 million over 10 years, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein. Brown told USA Today Sports that he wasn't interested in L.A. because his goal is to capture another NCAA national championship to pair with the one he won with Kansas in 1988. And Snyder, who was previously a Lakers assistant under Mike Brown, was hired to coach the Utah Jazz last week.

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Gentry: 'No doubt' new offense will work for Lakers

November, 16, 2012
11/16/12
9:29
PM PT
Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Alvin Gentry is just passing through. And he's cool anyway. But even he is having a hard time digesting the scene here in Lakerland this week.

Mike Brown was fired a week ago today. Phil Jackson was on his way back, until he wasn't. Gentry's old friend, Mike D'Antoni was hired late Sunday night, then introduced as the Los Angeles Lakers coach on Thursday and there was a chance he would make his coaching debut Friday against his old team, the Phoenix Suns.

D'Antoni, who is still worn out and heavily medicated after knee replacement surgery at the beginning of the month, thought better of coaching Friday. Another ex-Sun, Steve Nash, is still working his way back from a fracture in his left leg. So at least some of the weirdness was gone from Friday's game against Phoenix.

"It's still pretty weird," Gentry said before the game. "I just talked to Steve for a while and obviously I saw Mike and talked to him. This is kind of something that's a little different than we ever anticipated."

Gentry shared his thoughts on this awkward reunion, as well as how he thinks D'Antoni's uptempo offense will work with the Lakers roster:

Q: What was your reaction to the news the Lakers had chosen Mike D'Antoni over Phil Jackson?

A: I think everybody was (stunned). It looked like Phil was going to be returning. It didn't work out that way, but I think that was the general consensus of everyone is that he was coming back.

Q: Will the seven-seconds-or-less offense work with the Lakers?

A: First of all, it was never seven seconds or less. Most of our shots came with less than 12 seconds on the shot clock. We played at a fast pace, but it wasn't like we came down and fired away. We weren't Loyola Marymount. It's more of a rhythm offense than this breakneck pace that everybody thinks that it is. It's a rhythm offense that I think for sure everyone's going to be able to play. Dwight Howard, why would he not be great at it, rolling to the basket? And you've got the best open court player in the game, in my opinion, in Kobe Bryant. And Steve Nash is a great pick-and-roll player. And Pau Gasol, I think he'll thrive in this system, contrary to what anybody is saying. I think he'll be a great fit. He's a 7-foot jump shooting big guy that can post and run and is a great passer. I don't know why it wouldn't work.

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Lakers vs. Suns: What to watch with Valley of the Suns

February, 17, 2012
2/17/12
7:08
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Kobe Bryant does not like the Suns. So strong is his distaste and so deep his competitive nature, it wouldn't surprise me to learn Bryant resents the sun itself. The actual, rises in the east, sets in the west sun, like some sort of hoops vampire.

In Phoenix's first visit this season to Staples Center, Kobe dropped 48 points, shooting 18-of-31 from the floor. Another crack at the team he loves to hate could be the perfect elixir for his mini-shooting slump. In seven February games, Bryant is shooting only 37 percent and has seen statistical decline in just about every category.

Noah Graham/Getty Images
If the Suns are going to win Friday night, they'll need a big game from the underrated Marcin Gortat.


Certainly the Suns are a ripe target, having lost three straight going into Staples for the first half of a weekend home-and-home. And with dates against Portland, Dallas and Oklahoma City on the docket this week, the Lakers would be wise not to let the Suns off the mat. To gain a little more insight into Friday's visitors, we hit up Ryan Weisert of TrueHoop's Valley of the Suns.

1. The last time these teams met, the Lakers won in a walk. What has changed for the Suns since that day?

Weisert: This is really a question of good news and bad news. The good news: Since that game against the Lakers, Steve Nash has taken on a larger scoring load and earned an All-Star spot. Marcin Gortat has recovered from his early-season thumb injury to become a legitimate low-post scorer and double-double machine. The bad news: The bench has not developed at all. None of the free-agent acquisitions have played well consistently, and coach Alvin Gentry has yet to find a reliable second unit. The Suns have lost 13 of their last 21 games primarily because they just aren’t deep enough talent-wise to compete.

2. Gortat doesn't get a ton of publicity but has put up very solid numbers this season. Where does he rank among the league's crop of centers? How will he match up with Bynum in the middle?


Weisert: Gortat is definitely a top-10 center in the league and has the ability to be top 5. He is clearly behind Dwight Howard, but I think he is in the same class as Andrew Bynum, Al Jefferson, Greg Monroe and Marc Gasol. As the Suns leave their run-and-gun style behind and commit more to their half-court offense, Gortat’s scoring numbers and usage rate will increase and get him more recognition around the league. The matchup with Bynum should be a battle. Andrew’s size and shot-blocking definitely give him an edge, but Marcin’s ability to score with either hand and mobility on pick-and-rolls will make Bynum work hard on the defensive end.

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Shannon Brown relishes being Kobe's "little brother" and his time as a Laker

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
3:40
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Monday, I shared how, despite being competitively wired in a way that flirts with insanity, Kobe Bryant isn't looking forward to a potential mano y' mano with former teammate and current Phoenix Sun Shannon Brown. Kobe took Shannon under his wing from the moment he was traded to the Lakers, and the two developed a tight bond, as mentor and protege, plus good old fashioned friends. Thus, derailing Brown's success, even for just one game, isn't an enticing prospect.

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Obi Wan Kenobi on the left, Luke Skywalker on the right.



"I don't like playing against my little brothers," said Bryant after Sunday's win against Memphis. "I don't like it. I watched him develop. I watched him grow. Taught him a lot of things. Those are always tough games for me."

I wondered, however, if Brown might view the situation differently. He is, after all, the student in this relationship, as well as the player with considerably more to prove. What better way to demonstrate just how far you've grown than holding your own -- or even besting -- your future Hall of Fame "big bro?" But as Shannon admitted during Tuesday's shootaround, those same conflicted emotions exist for him as well.

"It's almost kind of the same way," acknowledged Brown. "I don't want to have to steal the ball from him. I know he doesn't wanna have to steal it from me. The competitive part is still there, but you never want to see a person that you built a close, close relationship to fail in any type of way. Even though, if we win, we win, but [as far as] our personal relationship, it's kind of tough."

This situation lends Brown insight towards what goes through Pau Gasol's mind while matched up against Marc. "They've probably got scars and war wounds from they was young going at each other. But I can definitely understand the vibe and the feelings that nobody really wins, even though somebody wins."

This being "probably the first" relationship Shannon's ever had with a veteran superstar, those feelings get mixed even further.

"It's special for me, because him being the type of person he is, he didn't have to embrace me the way he did. He could have just helped me a little bit and then kept it an on-court relationship. But it went off the court and we built it into a friendship. I'm grateful for that, also."

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Lakers vs. Suns: What to watch with Valley of the Suns

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
11:51
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Steve Nash insists he's not asking for a trade now, and won't in the weeks ahead. As long as he's still in Phoenix, the Suns will at least bear some resemblance to those truly high-end teams of years past.

Except any similarities aren't particularly meaningful anymore. Last year, Phoenix finished six games out of a playoff spot at 40-42, and in a highly competitive Western Conference this year's edition is again only a fringe contender for the postseason. They enter Tuesday's game at Staples Center a .500 team, and rising too far above that mark will likely be a tall order.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Steve Nash has recovered from early season bumps and bruises, and is playing well.



Rising to the level of an entertaining team? That's more manageable. Once again, it goes back to Nash. When he's right physically, he's still brilliant and the Suns can be fun to watch.

As of today, he appears to be right. To gain more insight into the two-time MVP and his teammates ahead of tonight's game, we hit up Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns, part of the TrueHoop network. (For my answers to his questions, click here.)

1. In the early going, the Suns have flipped their typical script. The offense has been pretty average, but the defense is in the top third in the league. What accounts for those numbers? Are they likely to stick?

Schwartz: Well, the biggest reason is small sample size, as the Suns played well enough offensively last week to improve to 12th in offensive as well as defensive efficiency. In particular during their last two victories over Portland and Milwaukee the Suns raced out in transition, nailed jump shots and seemed to finally get their mojo back.

Before the Suns rediscovered their offensive rhythm, players pleaded that they were just missing shots they normally make. Channing Frye in particular knocked down just four of his first 23 3-pointers and then drilled all four on Sunday. Combined with Steve Nash playing hurt, the Suns transformed into an anemic offensive crew.

I still don’t think they are as good as the Suns offenses of yesteryear that annually led the league in efficiency being that they are without a go-to scorer and rely so much on Nash, but there’s no reason to think this isn’t a top-10 offense.

The Suns hired Elston Turner to be their defensive coordinator and thus far he has made a difference with a defense that features more ball pressure and traps than the Suns have used in the past, as my colleague Mike Schmitz explains, with the ultimate goal being to force contested mid-range jumpers. I see the defense eventually drifting to the middle of the pack.

2. How has former Laker Shannon Brown fit in? What is his role with the Suns?

MS: It’s been a bit of a struggle to become accustomed to the Suns’ more open system, where he’s not only allowed but required to shoot the ball whenever he has an opening. He’s compared it to going back to his pre-NBA days when he felt he could score without even thinking about it.

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Lamar Odom's technical foul and referee responsibility

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
4:59
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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With just under a minute remaining and the Lakers down by four points in their eventual 121-116 loss to the Suns on Sunday night, Pau Gasol snagged a missed 17-footer from Derek Fisher, then kicked the ball to Kobe Bryant to reset a new possession. Bryant eventually drove the lane, then dished to a baseline-cutting Lamar Odom. LO was met at the rim by Hedo Turkoglu, who couldn't prevent the basket despite a forearm to Odom's chest.

No question, this was a foul, and Odom quickly reacted by screaming "And one!" arguably in the direction of nobody specific, much less referee Tony Brown, who was facing the player's back at the time.

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Lamar Odom's technical foul was a bigger mistake on referee Tony Brown's part than LO's.


Brown hit LO with a technical foul, which sent Steve "automatic at the line" Nash to the free-throw line. Freebie drained, Phoenix was up by three and retained possession of the ball after a timeout. Seventeen seconds later, Turkoglu buried a deep 3-pointer with Kobe's mitt in his mug.

The end officially began for the Lakers.

True, this technical didn't literally "cost" the Lakers a win. They were behind in any event. There was a matter of both teams playing out the remaining 53.7 seconds. But it definitely shaped the game. Phoenix literally gained a point, and the Lakers had to shake off the psychology from a bad turn of events. I have no idea how the game would have turned out if no tech had been issued, but I refuse to believe it didn't matter.

Before I go too far, Odom's responsibility in this matter bears mention. Even before the league dropped the "Respect The Game" hammer, players reacting to calls and/or non-calls with outbursts were susceptible to techs. Perhaps not with a minute left, but in a vacuum, the risk was present. This season, demonstrativeness is explicitly verboten. While one could rightly argue this rule hasn't been consistently enforced, it definitely has been drilled into everyone's heads.

With his team clawing its way back into the game -- a bucket from tying the score after his layup -- LO has to be aware of circumstances and stakes. Sometimes you just have to sit back and take it to preserve the bigger picture, and with that in mind, Odom lost his head.

Like any sport, basketball is and should be an emotional game, which provides a legitimate explanation for LO's reaction. Emotion, however, can't be the catch-all excuse. We live in a world where people are responsible for their actions. Odom is no exception.

But to reiterate, we live in a world where people are responsible for their actions. Along these lines, Brown failed considerably more than Odom to hold up his end of the bargain.

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Alvin says relax!

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
10:43
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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He didn't bust into song, but even without musical accompaniment, Suns coach Alvin Gentry's point about the "significance" of last night's 121-116 loss -- from a purple and gold perspective -- was crystal clear.



Lakers fans and media alike have a tendency to flip their collective wigs after a competitive win, much less a loss, but Alvin thinks everyone should just chill. As much as Gentry would surely love to believe the two-time defending champs have been exposed, and at his squad's future expense to boot, dude sounds ready to hit a Vegas window and lay a C-Note on a Lake Show Three-peat. Like Gentry emphasized, a Suns franchise record for three's (22) were netted, and Phoenix still scrapped hard to put away the Lakers. Might be a smidge early to hit the panic button.

Because Kobe Bryant has complete faith in the Laker Nation's ability to keep this in perspective, he declined to offer words of reassurance after the loss. That, and he couldn't help being a smart aleck to a question he clearly found dubious.

Still, better than The Mamba treating y'all like a bunch of Chicken Little's, right?

Big shots and disrespect: Practice report and video

May, 28, 2010
5/28/10
10:32
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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As one would expect, El Segundo's man of the hour was Ron Artest, he of the offensive rebound and layup heard 'round the world. One hell of a redemptive effort for Ron-Ron, who'd put his team in a pickle-pickle with two horrible late-game shots within seconds of each other. Still, things turned out fantastic, and it would be understandable if Artest spent the night basking in the afterglow. Maybe an impromptu night out with friends. A celebratory glass of bubbly at home. Hell, just sitting in bed watching SportsCenter highlights on a loop.

Turns out Artest commemorated the achievement with a late night workout. There wasn't even a TV on at the gym so he could admire his handiwork while getting a sweat.

"The lights was out," smiled Artest. "They was trying to kick me out."

Artest has talked all season about staying in the moment. Letting games go, win or lose, and being satisfied if he simply played hard. This is no exception. He downplayed the shot as luck and ugly. ("I freakin' got the ball over my head. No form, and just threw it up off the backboard.") He gave all the credit to Kobe Bryant for drawing attention so he'd have a path to the ball. And while Artest enjoyed celebrating with his teammates, the initial urge was to make a beeline off the court and away from the hoopla.

"If it was up to me, I would have just gone into the locker room."

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People grieve in different ways. Some find a quiet corner of their house and shed a few tears. Others channel anger and sadness into a vigorous workout, sweating the pain away. Others still quilt or write haiku.

Andy and me? We head to the studio to record another edition of the Kamenetzky Brothers Land O'Lakers PodKast. The incredible specificity of it makes it tough for counselors to recommend this
PODCAST
Andy and Brian recap the WCF Game 3, with topics ranging from Amare Stoudemire, Andrew Bynum, Robin Lopez, and zone defenses. Plus, why Andy is every bit as tough as Steve Nash.


Podcast Listen
strategy to the public generally, but it seems to work well for us. So when the Lakers dropped Game 3 Sunday night, we didn't pout but instead demanded people stay late at the office so we could indulge ourselves a little basketball chatter.

And so we could watch All Night's Jason Smith through the glass separating the two studios. (Go ahead and look at the man behind the curtain. He dares you...)

The show is all about Game 3, with a lookahead to Tuesday's Game 4. Topics include:
  • Steve Nash's self-service rhinoplasty, and why Andy thinks he's just as tough as America's favorite Canadian.
  • Amare Stoudemire's big-time bounce back. 42 points, including 18 free throws, plus 11 boards answered those who questioned his pride after Games 1 and 2 plus the huge contributions (and cactus elbows) of Robin Lopez (@7:30)
  • Too many fouls for the Lakers (13:25), plus the Phoenix zone, and why it befuddled the Lakers... or did the Lakers just befuddle themselves? (16:30)
  • Phil Jackson suggested Sunday night he might sit Andrew Bynum for Game 4. Today, he reconsidered. Good idea, or bad idea? (Read my written take here...) (22:10)
  • Does anything really change now that Phoenix is on the board? (28:00)

There are a few more subjects tossed in here and there, but those are the highlights. It's not quite nervous time yet (frankly, even if they lose Tuesday, I wouldn't worry until they dropped Game 5), but Lakers fans are certainly hoping to come back to L.A. with a chance to polish of the Suns.

Five big questions for Lakers vs. Suns, Game 3

May, 22, 2010
5/22/10
11:14
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Look, folks, just because the basketball world (or at least the purple, gold, and green parts of it) has turned giddy in anticipation of an L.A. vs. Boston Finals- and Saturday night's pasting handed to the Magic gets us one step closer- doesn't mean the work at hand can be totally ignored.

Phoenix remains a dangerous team, particularly at home. So sure, go ahead and guesstimate how many chickens you'll have once they've hatched, but don't work a firm count quite yet. Game 3 matters. Here are five big questions surrounding the Sunday afternoon's tilt:

1. So, seriously, does Amare Stoudemire have any pride ?

We'll find out. No player I can think of has been so widely eviscerated for his play on the defensive side of the ball as Stoudemire has been since Game 1. People are piling on to the point that the piles have piles, and deservedly so. Praised down the stretch for, belated as it may be, attention and improvement to that part of his game, Amare has been a massive impediment to his team's fortunes in the first two games, failing in the pick-and-roll, in the post, as a help defender, and on the boards. The Suns cannot win unless he improves.

At the very least, I'd be shocked if Stoudemire doesn't come with more effort in Game 3. He won't be Dwight Howard, but he can't possibly again be Curly Howard, can he?

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PodKast: On Game 2, Amare's (lack of) D, looking ahead, and Billy Mac

May, 22, 2010
5/22/10
12:55
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The NBA has been kind enough to build in a lot of down time since the end of the conference semi-finals. As such, we were given ample opportunity to form an opinion on the Lakers vs. Phoenix. Would L.A. be able to contain the potent Suns attack? Would Phoenix's improved defense slow down the purple and gold, despite a serious size advantage for the champs.
PODCAST
Andy and Brian break down L.A.'s big wins over the Suns in Games 1 and 2, digging deep into Phoenix's defensive problems before looking towards Sunday's Game 3. Plus, Phil Jackson's future, and FSN's Bill Macdonald joins us to talk WCF, 81, and media catering.
Podcast Listen
We start with the action on Phoenix's end of the floor, breaking down Games 1 and 2:
From there, we welcome the venerable Bill Macdonald of Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket, host of Lakers Live (and every other show on FSN, we think). We talk about his call of 81- he was sitting in for Joel Meyers that night- the series to this point, the stark nature of his Wikipedia page, and his prima donna tendencies when it comes to media dining.

After, we turn to Games 3 and beyond. How competitive is this series going to get?

And to wrap it up, more talk of Phil Jackson. If, as has been reported, his salary for next season will be capped at $5 million, what impact would it have? Is it an offer designed to be refused? Would it be a mistake to let the Zen Master walk? Or is this all just more smoke and mirrors in a situation that'll work itself out?

To double or not to double Kobe Bryant: Phoenix, they have a problem

May, 20, 2010
5/20/10
4:43
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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In Game 1, facing mostly single coverage, Kobe Bryant lit up the Suns for 40 points and five dimes as the Lakers shot 58 percent and rolled up 128 points. Not exactly what the Suns had in mind. So Wednesday night in Game 2, Suns coach Alvin Gentry went with Plan B, more frequently throwing extra bodies at Bryant. Kobe scored 21 points and handed out 13 assists as the Lakers shot 57.7 percent and rolled up 124 points.

A few more games of this, and the Lakers could be down to 55 percent and 117 points.

After the game, I asked Gentry if he thought last night's strategy on Bryant could be considered a success. "You look at Kobe's line, he's eight for 18. Has 21 points," he said. "But then when you do that, he has 13 assists. Guys, there's a reason he's the best basketball player in the world. he's not going to force things. He doesn't do that anymore. And so if you ask me if we did a good job on him, we took him from 40 to 21. So that's a good job. But when you add in the 13 assists, that's 26 more points. So you're looking at 47 is the way we look at it."

Technically, it was over 50, since at least four of Kobe's dimes resulted in threes, not twos. But let's not split hairs. For a great look at where Phoenix went wrong, check out this video, another top-shelf Kevin Arnovitz joint:



The basic problem? Phoenix isn't a good enough to pull off frequent double-teams, particularly with Amare Stoudemire having gone off the grid defensively. They neither rotate nor recover well, evidenced both by the number of wide open threes- players frequently face more pressure in pregame warmups- and easy layups generated when Kobe saw the additional attention. I realize the Lakers aren't the strongest perimeter shooting team in the league, but they're still professionals and when given time to set their feet, spin the ball, check for any prevailing drafts, and run through a few affirmations will more often than not knock down the shot.

No wonder Gentry was fishing for suggestions after the game.

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Given the Lakers scored 128 points in Monday night's Game 1 matchup with the Phoenix Suns, this may be the wrong time to talk about how Alvin Gentry's crew has, in fact, improved on that end of the floor. But clearly they're not the Celtics, and the largest reason is due to a fundamental problem of personnel.

Their two best players- Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire- are two of their worst defenders.

Obviously both need to be on the floor for Phoenix to be successful, but while solid teamwork or clever manipulation of matchups and schemes can often hide one weak link, it's hard to protect two players, particularly against a team like the Lakers.

Nash is what he is, a 36-year old point guard with All World offensive skills and average ability on the other side of the ball. Stoudemire, on the other hand, is supremely athletic but only recently seemed to take any interest in his defense. They- meaning people who watch him on a day in, day out basis- say he's improved, but "better" is a relative concept. I, for example, am better at basketball than my brother. In a pickup game, you want me, not him.

But you don't want me, either.

Offensively, the Lakers did myriad things right Monday night, and chief among them was taking advantage of Stoudemire's defensive deficiencies in a variety of ways.

Here are five examples:

HELP AND RECOVERY (or lack thereof...)
1) 9:00, first quarter:
The Lakers aren't exploiting Stoudemire in isolation, but exploiting what they know he won't do with consistency and effectiveness, namely help and recover. Ron Artest takes Jason Richardson left off the dribble from the right wing, putting Richardson on his hip. Artest is so big there's not much a defender can do once placed in that position except hope for the help to come. It should come from Stoudemire, guarding Andrew Bynum on the left block, except he makes virtually no move to stop Artest save appearing to put a forearm in his back as Artest lays it in with the left hand.

1a) 7:00, first quarter: Artest again penetrates. This time, Stoudemire does help. Artest makes the right play, dishing to Bynum. Drew hesitates, giving Amar'e a chance to recover. Stoudemire takes a quick jump out, but it's more posturing than a real attempt to close on Bynum. Stoudemire doesn't contest in the slightest as Bynum finally makes his move, putting the ball on the floor and rising for the dunk. Ineffectual work at best from Amar'e.

Both examples show how Stoudemire doesn't frighten people inside. And perhaps why he finished 33rd in blocks per 48 minutes this season.

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Lakers crush Phoenix in Game 1: The reactions

May, 18, 2010
5/18/10
9:03
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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As Andy and I noted when it was over, the third quarter of Monday's impressive 128-107 Game 1 win over the Suns at Staples belonged to L.A.'s star tandem of Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant. Particularly Bryant, who scored more than half of the 40 points he'd log on the evening coming out of the halftime chalk talk/orange wedge break.

As you'd suspect, though, in such a dominating win, the Lakers saw contributions up and down the roster.

Start with Lamar Odom, who contributed 19 points and 19 rebounds off the bench. He

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Kobe was on top of his game Monday night in Game 1, but he had plenty of help.



was unusually aggressive right off the bat, finding his shot and at one point scoring seven straight for the Lakers after entering in the first quarter. Writes ESPNLA.com's Dave McMenamin:
"I didn't really want to wait," Odom said, speaking to a throng of reporters after the game, with the big blue NBA backdrop behind him -- his first podium game of the postseason, as ESPN colleague J.A. Adande puts it. "I said to myself, 'If I'm going to have a bad game, I'm going to have a bad game going out swinging,'" he continued. "I'm not going to wait for the game to come to me tonight. I'm going to try to attack, and if a jump shot is there, I'm going to take it." And if a rebound was anywhere near his 7-foot-4 wingspan, he was going to take that, too. Odom tied his playoff career high by corralling 19 rebounds and secured the symmetrical double-double with 19 points, the most points he has scored all postseason. Odom's output buoyed the Lakers' bench to a 44-35 scoring edge over the Suns' much-ballyhooed second unit.

Rounding up the rest of the ESPNLA.com crew, Ramona Shelburne wonders if the Suns have the wrong makeup to take down L.A.:
"...To beat the Lakers at the moment, a team must be either brash (like the Oklahoma City Thunder) or crass (like the Boston Celtics?). The Suns, unfortunately, might just have too much class... "They beat us down a little bit," Suns center Channing Frye said. "In the past series, we've done a better job of establishing how we want to play, being aggressive and taking things away. Tonight we just didn't do that. But the Lakers are a great team. What do you expect?" Afterward, Nash was even more blunt. "You know," he said. "I think our room for error is small. They're a lot bigger than we are. They had a lot of points in the paint. They're probably going to continue to be taller than us as the series goes on." In other words, the odds are long..."

At the same time, don't discount what the Lakers are doing, writes Arash Markazi. The days of the up-and-down, often disappointing Lakers may have passed:
"...That's right, throw out everything you've seen this season. Trash everything you saw in Games 3 and 4 in Oklahoma City, forget about that 4-7 conclusion to the season and that dreadful 2-3 road swing that started it all. It doesn't matter. The Lakers have now won seven games in a row in the playoffs and in the process have closed out the Thunder in Oklahoma City, swept the Jazz in Utah and beat the Suns at their own game, blowing them out 128-107 to take a 1-0 lead in their Western Conference Finals series. I know you're surprised. About as surprised I was the first time my cousin was waiting for me at dinner and ended up paying the tab. You're probably thinking, "Who are these guys and where have they been all season?" You're not the only ones. "Well, you know this is a surprise for us," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "Maybe they've peaked, I don't know. I think their attentiveness has been great. I think their focus has been very good. They're trying to do things that we're trying to get operated out there on the floor, so those things are good..."

If you're keeping score, Phil Jackson is 46-0 in the playoffs when his team wins Game 1. For more from around the web after Monday's win, click below...

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Lakers 128, Suns 107: One moment... and beyond (postgame analysis and video)

May, 17, 2010
5/17/10
8:37
PM PT
By Andy and Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
So far, so good for the purple and gold...



Much, much more below the jump...

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SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 9.7
AssistsK. Marshall 8.8
StealsJ. Meeks 1.4
BlocksP. Gasol 1.5