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Let's get down to the brass tacks of basketball: How are the Lakers going to defend both Dwight Howard and the Orlando shooters? Where does Andrew Bynum fit in to all this? And will Brandon Jennings be the sleeper of the 2009 NBA Draft?
Kurt Helin of Forum Blue & Gold: "Orlando is an interesting mix. On one hand it's a team that's fundamentally built like the championship Houston Rockets teams of Hakeem Olajuwon - a powerhouse center surrounded by a bunch of guys who can drain the three (although Hakeem had roughly 3,756 more post moves than [Dwight] Howard). But in some ways the team reminds me of a European team because of the all their tall forwards are more comfortable out by the three point line than in the paint. There's a lot of talk about the Lakers needing to defend the three to win the series ... when the Orlando Magic have the ball there are two real actions the Lakers need to stop. One is the pick-and-roll ... the other thing the Lakers need to do is defend Howard in the post and the kickouts from there. The Lakers cannot -- and from what Phil Jackson has said will not -- double Howard in the post. That is when the kickouts to the three point line, then quick ball rotation to the weak side, get them the good looks they love. I would rather have Howard score 25+ and keep the perimeter guys in check every time. Basically, little or no strong side zone when Howard is in the game. Defending Howard in the post starts with not letting him get position in deep -- you want him at least 10 feet out. Farther out if you can."
Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily: "Because [Andrew] Bynum starts at the center position, he will begin games alongside Howard and has inevitably drawn comparisons to the Defensive Player of the Year. But make no mistake - at this point, Bynum is a backup. He's averaging fewer than 17 minutes per game this offseason, and he's struggled with inconsistency when he has been on the floor. Bynum has the natural ability to be a star, but a sharp regression this season has him well short of that mark. Frankly, Bynum should be drawing comparisons to Marcin Gortat instead of Howard. Gortat's playoff numbers outshine Bynum in almost every major statistical category."
M. Haubs of The Painted Area: "Considering that statistics and reports out of Rome have indicated that [Brandon] Jennings has had an erratic year as a rookie 19-year-old, I've been surprised at how impressed I've been by his play. Given the way that NBA rules are currently structured to give an advantage to speed on the perimeter, I consider Brandon Jennings to be the no. 3 prospect in the 2009 NBA Draft. Jennings is extremely quick with the ball, he can finish at the basket in traffic at 6-2, and also has excellent court vision. He is reminiscent of a Tony Parker or Aaron Brooks-type player in terms of speed with the ball, though I would say Jennings is a better passer than those players, but not as good of a shooter. Outside shooting is a big weakness for Jennings right now ... but I do think he has a pretty good stroke to work with. He also doesn't yet have a floater or general craftiness inside like Parker or Brooks, though he does have a sheer explosion at the rim, even with a slight build ... that neither of those players have ... Every time I saw Jennings, he really competed on the defensive end -- his quickness allowed him to be a pest even if his inexperience caused him to struggle in the pick-and-roll. As much as anything, I was impressed at how professional the kid was, at how mature he looked -- there was no pouting, no self-indulgent individualism on display."
THE FINAL WORD
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(Photos by Fernando Medina, Andrew D. Bernstein, Luca Sgamellotti/NBAE and Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)