Sunday, May 08, 2011

Purple Pain: Mavs Sweep, End of an Era

Even a billion douches can't keep him from believing it, either.
After losing the third game in their second round playoff series versus the Mavs, I penned a letter to my Laker friends. And yes, I call the Lakers the "Lakes" - it's an old habit, so buy an rpg and shoot me.

With today's slaughter, the "Mother's Day Massacre" which saw the Lakes meltdown like our economy, the public rape and torture is at least over. The Mavs were unstoppable, and everything I said about game 3 applies in spades.

Now that Phil's gone, it may be time to bring in Coop to lead them. Here's a guy who has the champion and Lakes pedigree, played with the greatest floor general the game will ever see who happens to be an owner and vp, and obviously has expressed interest with his coaching stint in the WNBA.

And then there's the sad spectacle of Pau's meltdown. Pau, as talented a big in the league, was just sad to watch. LakerNation's David brickley put it into perspective:
Gasol’s struggles are mental; there is no other way to explain it. After he fails at something on the court Pau shrugs his shoulders, hangs his head, and complains to the refs.He is not performing at even close to what he is capable of when the Lakers need him, and it seems as if he doesn’t even care.Or at least comes off like he doesn’t have the answers to fix his issues.He gets paid 17.8 million dollars per year to be the Robin to Kobe Bryant’s Batman.The Lakers traded a player away for Gasol that Laker fans couldn’t stand, and what many call the biggest draft bust in history, Kwame Brown.Kwame Brown in the 2006 playoffs with the Lakers averaged 13 points per game, while shooting 53% from the field, and pulling down 7 rebounds per game.Pau Gasol in the 2011 playoffs with the Lakers is averaging 13 points per game, while shooting 42% from the field, and pulling down 7.8 rebounds per game.Look familiar?
$17.8 mil is a ton of meltdown money. It really is sad. Kinda weird, too.

Let this series be a harsh reminder that while the Lakes were loaded with talent -- much more so than the Mavs -- they were completely dominated and swept. It is one of the most stunning upsets in sports ever. And for that, give credit of course to Nowitski, Terry, Barea (super off the bench), and Rick Carlisle, who outcoached Phil at every turn of the road. Oh, and old man Jason Kidd.


From May 7, 2011 after the game 3 loss.

Dear Chicky Baby Fan Club,

The hated Celtics in their game 3 with Miami today did what I had hoped the Lakes would do Friday in theirs; they got attitude. That may sound like mumbo jumbo to those of you who know me; that when it comes to sports, it should be about strategy, tactics and techniques. But psychology is arguably the bigger part of sports, and in this area, I think the Lakes have just burned out. Not even Phil thumping Pau's chest can revive this patient. So, to drown my sorrows I'm going to torture y'all with my breakdowns of why -- in my boy MM's words -- the party's ova for the Lakes.

One thing first; Imo, the series at worst should be 2-1 Mavs. In fact, I think all three games have very key correctable reasons -- different in each game but related in one overall aspect. Here we go....

The Mavs were down by 16 in the third. The first game thus set an ominous tone, but I think the very last play said a lot about why we're now down by 3, and it's this; WHY when you have to score, would you go for a 3??? I don't care if it's Yoda shooting with the aid of The Force, Kobe shot a 25 footer - at best a 45% proposition. And, if I remember correctly, it wasn't a clear shot, and I believe he was falling away, thus compounding the degree of difficulty.

Percentage basketball says; work for a good percentage shot, or at least (some would say this would be option 1), drive and increase your odds of getting to the foul line.

The Lakes instead made the worst choice that makes the least sense (Phil and staff are sounding like our government, right?). That's a basic, fundamental tactical mistake - a big one, at a big time in a big game.

The Lakes have never been a distance shooting team. There have been anomalies -- Coop in the day could hoist. Zeke from Cabin Creek could gun (in one of the most remarkable achievements ever, he averaged 43 through a playoff series)Despite history and Chicky Baby rolling his eyes from the grave, the Lakes continued their assault on the "worst distance shooting in a playoff game" record. At one point I think Mike Breen said they were 2 for 20 when yet another 3 was launched.

My head couldn't explode anymore because the damage had been done way before.

Yet again, another violation of basic strategy which says; if something isn't working, you must change, shift gears.

Obviously this was a disaster, but in a game that will rank in Purp & Gold infamy, when everyone else was out of it, Shannon Brown came off the bench and gave the Lake body on the gurney a desperately needed transfusion, much like Coop in the day did. I've long been a fan of this kid, and believe he should have been developed better. So anyway, what does Phil do after this kid puts on a terrific show?

He takes him out.

And the Lakes corpse -- once again -- reverts back to dying on the gurney, its adrenaline rush soon to be forgotten.

Once again, this is a violation of a cardinal strategic rule; never change a winning tactic. Remember in game 2 when Carlisle put in Barea and the way that kid turned on the Mavs as if a turbo charger had been shoved up their asses? You didn't see Carlisle yanking that kid out before the Mavs had thoroughly stomped and psyched out the Lakes. In other words, Carlisle let Barea play out his rush.

This is a basic 101 strategy in war, investing, business, even gambling, perhaps more so in gambling. If you're cranking at the tables, let's say you're on your way to tripling up, what, you should pick up your chips and all of a sudden call it a night?

The irony in a footnote here? Bynum all of a sudden decides that now is the time to get fired up. All of the shots of him shouting and getting all worked up seemed like so much posturing - desperate posturing, by someone who because of circumstances and all, has been far from what I thought he could be.

It should be obvious by now, but Phil's the common denominator in all of this. A few of my friends and I are of the opinion that Phil's overrated, and I think this proves it. In games 1 & 2, arguably, for as bad as the Lakes played, they could have won if the fundamental mistakes would have been avoided.

There's a poker saying; it's a game of making the least mistakes. In a way, sports (and everything, really) and in particular hoops can be thought of this way. But with these three games, the Lakes added another dimension to that adage; because when you commit errors on such an elementary level, you go to the core. And if things are off at the core, how can you possibly expect the billion other things that basketball imposes to not be affected? It's like trying to build a bridge without understanding physics.

The late Arthur Ashe told one of my favorite stories about a time when he was playing Davis Cup, and during a changeover, his coach said, "Get your first serve in." Ashe cited this because it's silly to tell a tennis player, but particularly a pro like Ashe, to get his first serve in, because it'd be like telling Kobe: "Make 80% of your freethrows." While that's an example of bad coaching, at least Ashe's coach was thinking about strategy, even if it was on a kindergarten level. But it's kind of obvious that Phil hasn't been; maybe he's daydreaming about Jeanie.

This lack on the fundamental level has reared its ugly head in some conspicuous ways, particularly on D. Dirk was so open on one 3 there was a campfire beside him.

Obviously, Kupchak is gonna have to work this summer, really, extra hard. Blow up that cell of yours, Kup, because you know what? We haven't had a real point guard in a while. I like Fish, but even in his prime, Fish wasn't the caliber 1 that a team as storied as the Lakes deserved. But guess what; Chris Paul's unrestricted in 2012. So is Deron Williams. Hello? You're breaking up....

Baron Davis is also up in 2012 as are fellow Bruins Westbrook and Farmar, but I don't know if Baron's a good fit. He can run 1, but he loves to get wild. I think Westbrook's good. I'd take a chance on him. I don't know how the Celts managed to get Rondo, but that kid's the find of the decade. But if we get CP, then it's on. But that raises the obvious; what're we giving up?

Magic said that except for Kobe everything's legit bait. Think about that; he's basically cleaning house. I don't know if I agree, but let's not forget that before the playoffs, the Lakes were a legit 3-peat threat. Very legit. Also, while I think Magic was the greatest player ever, as a coach he made Del ("Dull") Harris look interesting. So as a GM, I don't know how much more insightful he'd be. 

The other historically glaring need is for a 4. Gone are the days of hard helmets like AC or Clark Kent; we need someone to get in, plug up the middle and grab some fucking boards like he's starving and missed shots are cheeseburgers. Zach Randolph, after a billion teams (including everyone's bus stop, the Clips), is having the time of his life. I heard earlier he had 14 boards and it was only the 3rd quarter or something. And guess what? He's unrestricted.

When was the last time a Laker power forward just went off and dominated the boards? No Rodman doesn't count.

But arguably the biggest change is Phil. As I said before, I think his lack of attention on basic strategy has been key. In prior years the Lakes have relied on talent and youth, but it was only a matter of time before 1) they got older and slower (Barea made them look like they were wearing lead boots) and 2) the league caught up to the vaunted triangle offense. The Lakes certainly contributed -- the lack of mental fortitude I mentioned at the top is but one example. Not paying attention to other basics -- such as pounding it down the lane or in the block when you've talented players like our bigs and one of the premier shot creators in history in Kobe is a sin. Instead, the Lakes were reduced to giving it to Kobe (or Pau), everyone fleeing to the weak side and then standing around as one on one ensued and a J was launched. Not only is it boring, but, violating yet another strategic rule, it's predictable. Communicating and rotating on D is yet another.

The Lakes are the sports meltdown to go with the economy. With the Spurs ouster and the Celts dropping their first 2 (they're still holding serve though), change is obviously the operative word.

I've now seen 3 of the 4 classic team incarnations (Baylor/West/Chamberlain, Magic, Kobe). What hurts so much is not that they lost -- "all good things must come to an end" was my ma's mantra when I was a kid and my eyeroll cue -- but the way they lost. Unlike our economy, the Lakes can recover. In the big scheme of things, I know this peasant wish of mine doesn't mean jackshit, but I have way too much emotionally invested in this team to let go now. So here's to the future.