Some Lakers and NBA notes on the day I get to see the machine (and The Machine!) in the flesh from courtside (thank you baby!):
After the Lakers blew out Portland on opening night, Blazers coach Nate McMillan opined that the Lakers are the present and the Blazers are the future.
TNT analyst Kenny Smith begged to differ: “No, the Lakers are the present and the Lakers are the future.”
The Laker starters are scoring 66.2 points a game, the bench 40.6, a sign of a) how good the bench has been and b) how dominant the team has been. Yes, there is some chicken and egg there.
Another sign of the early dominance: the Lakers have been outscoring their opponents by more than 10 points per 48 minutes with every player on the floor with the exception of Josh Powell (even in 18 minutes) and by more than 10 with every player off the floor.
To emphasize how good the bench has been, they are +32.1 with Ariza and +30.6 with Odom. And the difference between Kobe being on (+22.6) and off (+22.0) the court is negligible, a welcome change from what we’ve previously seen in the post-Shaq era.
Bynum is off to a slow start statistically as he works his way back into game shape, but his defense has been awesome – opposing centers have put up a 5.6 PER (league average is 15) with him in the lineup. And his help defense has really shut down the paint. His return, along with the training camp emphasis on schemes and rotations, is what has turned this thing into a defensive juggernaut in the early go.
The Lakers have been shutting down their opponents’ go-to guys:
Brandon Roy 5/15
Baron Davis 4/13
Carmelo Anthony 5/15
Baron Davis 7/21
Tracy McGrady 1/11
That’s 22/75, a cool 29.3% for the players considered to be their teams’ first options. Expect lots of strong side zoning and trapping against the taller Dirk tonight.
The Spurs rank dead last in the league defensively so far. Their age is obviously a factor, as the team athleticism continues to fade, but I think the big thing is that, with Ginobili out, Duncan has to expend so much more energy on the offensive end that he has little left on D. The same was true to a lesser degree with the younger and much less defensively oriented Parker, and with him now out and Duncan alone this could really get ugly.
We can’t discount that they have just suddenly fallen off a cliff, that’s what all old teams do at some point, but there is some question just how much of the decline is real and how much is injury. My guess is that they were going to drop off a good deal anyway, but that they will still prove to be an uncomfortable first round out for somebody, even as bad as it currently looks.