We like to deviate from our usual preview format and do something different for big games, and any game against the purple and gold qualifies. In anticipation of the season’s first match-up against the hated Lakers, I asked Kurt Helin of the Lakers blog Forum Blue & Gold some questions about the defending champs who somehow recovered from the emotional beating of the 2008 Finals to achieve something in life. (I keeed, I keeed).
Here’s the transcript of our q-and-a:
Celtics Hub: Is there a definitive prognosis on Kobe’s finger?
Forum Blue & Gold: It’s an avulsion fracture on the index finger of his right (that’s shooting) hand. This is a where a tendon pulls off the bone and takes a little bit of the bone with it. If you or I got this, we’d get a splint on the finger, some quality prescription pain drugs and be told to rest it. Kobe is taking the approach that in the splint it is going to heal normally — at the same pace whether he plays or not — so it’s simply a matter of pain management. Whether or not he should actually take time off can be debated, but it’s moot because he won’t.
He has tried a number of different splints (from soft to with metal in it) trying to find one that works best. The problem is, the stiff splints help him shoot better but hurt his ball handling. At the end of the day, mentally he is still Kobe, and if he feels he has to take the game over for the Lakers to win he will. Whether he is shooting well or not.
CH: With the Lakers on the hook for a ton of money next year (and, most likely, the next few seasons), are they really willing to deal an expiring contract like Adam Morrison’s in exchange for salary that stays on the books past this season? If so, any chance they go in a direction other than point guard?
F B&G: First, point guard is most likely the direction, unless there is a minor deal for a backup power forward or something (which is not likely). To be clear, the Lakers have to address the point guard situation at some point — father time has caught up with Derek Fisher (who will seem like an orange traffic cone for Rondo to dribble around) and Jordan Farmar is better suited to a more open system. Shannon Brown remains inconsistent in his decision making on anything not related to a dunk.
But, the Lakers are unlikely to make a trade using Morrison’s deal (likely it would have to be combined with a player like Farmar) unless the deal is just too good to pass up. There are all sorts of Kirk Hinrich rumors around, but he is due to make $17 million over the next two years, and that is a lot to pay the number five offensive option. Like you said, the Lakers have a lot of salary tied up for the next few years, they likely will not take on a big salary back (Jerry Buss has already said he would like the payroll to be lower).
CH: Henry Abbott wrote a post this week about Phil Jackson doing some unexpected things with the crunch-time line-up—not playing Artest, playing Odom and Bynum separately and using two point guards. Is this just Phil experimenting? Are any of these three trends meaningful?
F B&G: Early in the season Phil often experiments with lineups, and after the All Star game he starts to try to settle in on the rotation and roles. However, with the injuries to Gasol and Ron Artest he hasn’t really been able to experiment like he normally would. So he is doing more of it now.
Should we read anything into it? You’re asking what Phil Jackson is thinking, and I stopped trying to guess that long ago. It’s a futile exercise. (But that kind of thing keeps the players on their toes.)
CH: You’re an advocate of giving Sasha Vujacic some time at the point. Tell us why we shouldn’t mock this.
F B&G: Go ahead and mock. However, in the limited bit of run Sasha has gotten lately, he has played pretty well. Actually, very well — this was brought up in our Philly preview post, in his last 10 games his PER would be around 41. He has played the point guard role in the triangle before and done it decently, which would be an upgrade over our recent PG play (all you have to do is not turn the ball over, hit threes and defend).
I have no idea if Sasha is a great option at PG, but the only way we are going to find out is to give him some real burn. He tends to play better when he gets more run, so give it a shot is all I’m saying. He may regress, in which case he’s back to the mop up role. But his recent play (and the play of everyone else) has me thinking he deserves a chance.
CH: How is Kobe’s gradual movement into the post changing the way the triangle works? Are other players spending more time in different spots on the court?
F B&G: The triangle is an incredibly flexible offense, and moving Kobe more into the post is a great fit because he has fantastic post moves and can pass well out of that spot. Obviously, Jordan moved there more later in his career and was very effective.
The challenge is really lineups, matchups and spacing. Andrew Bynum needs to be in the post to be effective. Pau Gasol is best in the high post but is very effective in the low post as well. So when those two are in Kobe has to play more on the perimeter (which he is still very good at). For the Lakers, it’s really a matter of exploiting the mismatches, and if that calls for Kobe in the post them maybe Bynum’s minutes go down some for a night. It falls to Phil to get the rotations right, and more importantly for the players to buy in.
CH: How do you live with yourself as a Lakers fan? *
F B&G: (prolonged silence)
*Exchange may not have happened.