OK, HERE IS WHY I AM VERY ENCOURAGED AFTER TONIGHT'S GAME.
1. Dwight's new free throw form will result in him shooting at least 65% for the season, if not higher, thus rendering hack a dwight moot and upping Dwight's scoring average to the mid 20's (he is averaging 26 so far in this young season)
2. We more than doubled up the opponent tonight in the turnover department, 25 to 12. The Blazers scored 28 points off of our 25 turnovers, we scored 18 off of their 12...a 10 point margin in favor of the Blazers which was, coincidentally, the margin of victory in the game for Portland. If we merely match or even beat the blazers in the turnover battle, we win the game. Turnovers will be less of a problem as Dwight and Kobe get healthier.
3. We are going to be monsters on the glass.
4. Even with the usual Portland rose garden 15+ minute referee charge in favor of the Blazers, it was STILL an 8 point game with a minute to go...all things considered, that IS progress. Last season, even late in the year, a referee exhibition like that would have cost us a 20-30 point loss at the Rose Garden. Plus, if you looked at the Blazers, they were never really looking comfortable with that 19 point lead, because they knew we could click at any moment and easily erase the deficit, which we would have done with 3 more game time minutes.
5. Saw some MUCH BIGGER signs of the offensive juggernaut team we are expecting our of this group. When the team learns when and how to put each other in the best spots without turning the ball over 25 times a game, we are going to be UNGUARDABLE. For God's sake, we scored 106 points with 25 turnovers. Cut that down to 10-12 turnovers (or god forbid even single digits, like most championship teams do in a good game) and we score closer to 120-130, and hold Portland to 15+ less points.
6. Steve Blake is DEFINITELY benefitting from playing with Steve Nash in practice. 6 assists last night, 7 points, 3 boards, 3 assists and 2 steals (3-4 FGs) WITH NO TURNOVERS filling in for the injured Nash tonight. If Steve Blake continues to pick up all of these good habits from Nash, we may not need a replacement back-up PG. I am seriously kind of impressed so far...Blake has even started learning the probe dribble. I am excited about this.
7. Dwight is going to be able to foul out opposing team's front court players, especially as our turnovers decrease and we can run more SET defenses, resulting in fewer desperation fouls from Pau/Dwight.
8. Kobe is going to have a career high FG% this season. He is getting so many open looks and easy shots, and it will only get easier for him as he gets healthier and the team becomes less TO prone and more cohesive offensively.
9. Our offensive movement looked good, even with the 25 turnovers. Our Princeton sets AND our traditional sets looked much crisper and more fluid tonight. There were still some glaring missteps, but I can see the offense evolving, and with a better more coherent offense that turns the ball over less, our defense will face less and less shots per game for the opponent, and far fewer disorganized fast break coverages, which will make our Defense MUCH better going forward.
10. Pau is averaging 19.5ppg and 11rpg, 4apg and 1.5bpg so far this year, and there is NO reason to think he won't continue that trend as the team gets BETTER offensively AND defensively.
All in all, I am actually VERY EXCITED after some of the improvements I saw tonight. Honestly, the refs (and Steve Nash's injury) won the game for the Blazers tonight. A lot of the poor play that caused the loss, including turnovers, the Blazers free points at the line and the tentative defense by our starters (with Kobe/Dwight/MWP having 5 fouls) was due to the blatantly obvious home cooking the Blazers received from the referees.
Stay tuned...we are headed in the right direction. Keep the faith, Lakers fans. Brighter days ARE on the Horizon...days so bright, wearing shades won't cut it. We'll be wearing 1 million sunblock and still get sunburnt, plus we'll have to avert our eyes from making direct eye contact with the Lakers offense, for fear of going blind from the brilliant glare...just wait about 10-15 more games....
The End is nigh. Time for a total Cut and Shuffle. Kobe contract was a mistake...time to avoid making more. The future is here, whether we want it to be or not. An era is over, but for the death rattle, and it's time for the cycle to begin anew. Growth and change are scary and painful, but alas...nothing worth achieving comes easily.