What I Saw Before Fainting

(HOLY FUCK Gasol part at the bottom)

So I tuned into Pistons/Lakers last night for one reason alone: To watch Amir Johnson, who finally has his spot in the rotation. He lived up to it, looking like he belonged and regularly wowing myself and others. Dude is basically everything every tall lottery pick of the last five years wishes he could be, and all that Bynum's got over him is a few inches and a (Kobe-inspired?) will to self-discipline. I also have to give it up for Rodney Stuckey, who played the way his last name sounds. I'm beginning to think that "combo guard" isn't an inherently flawed concept, just that it's an art in the same way pure PG is. It's not like all "undersized SG's" automatically become combo guards—they can only aspire to that. Stuckey could do it.

If Johnson displaced McDyess, and Stuckey somehow got 25 minutes a game, I'd watch Detroit regularly. You can put that on your graves.

But the real reason I've come back to this wasteland of image-less ruin is the Rip Hamilton/Kobe relationship. During halftime, the Pistons network ran some light-hearted clips of Rip advocating for himself as a Three-Point Shootout candidate. He looked cheery, and said, more or less, "people think I can's shoot threes, but I can. Check the numbers, not the lies snakes tell." Then Kobe, in full fur coat regalia, had on his serious face as he commended Rip on developing past the three-point line (something that once bugged the hell out of Shoals). And then the sillies: "he belongs in there, but I'll take him down."

The Rip/Kobe relationship is endlessly fascinating to yours truly. You know how, whenever you get around your parents, you act like you're sixteen? It seems like these two All-Stars instantly revert back to their days of regional HS battles. You can see it on the court, definitely, where Rip's defense borders on zealous, his offense has an edge to it, and that reptilian glaze is decidedly absent. And Kobe, he almost loosens up in a way that's somewhere between foolhardy cockiness and backyard ease.

It's weird, the whole NBA Brotherhood thing dictates that players' interactions bank on shared pasts. With Kobe and Rip, though, that past is one of rivalry—one that, however low-stakes and goofy it seems now, still awakens in them something awfully vital. Paradox: In all their youthful fronting, you get a whole new kind of vulnerability from the two. They really opened up, didn't they?

UPDATE: Now, it's been well-proven that I don't know shit about basketball. And that anything exiling Javaris Crittendon makes me sad (unless, of course, it's the beginning of a completely amazing and non-sensical Crittendon/Conley backcourt, with Lowry at the three). But this has to be the definition of mid-season monster. Who gives a fuck if Gasol's back is kind of bad? He's a legit All-Star 4, who can do a bunch of shit, and gets paired with that Bynum guy. And Kobe. And Odom, now free to be three (you like that?) That shit is SCARY, and delirious in the way that the best style melanges always are.

Lakers clearly don't care about long-term anymore, since their concern is winning with Kobe—hence those draft picks avalanching away from their person. I'd say that this gives them as good a chance as they'd ever find. And, at the risk of blasphemy, this makes me happier than Kidd would've. This is skilled size—times two—to go with Bryant. They were winning with just Kobe/Bynum, and now you've thrown another Bynum-like presence into the mix. And allowed Odom to be as fluid as he wants to be. Man. I am stoked and I don't even live in California! Might is rising. Boston has an enemy.

If you had ever told me that one day, there might exist a Gasol/Odom/Grown Bynum frontline, I would've thrown up on the ceiling and then cleaned it off with my own tears.


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At 2/01/2008 3:32 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

I'm kind of on the verge of tears. This makes no sense.

At 2/01/2008 4:07 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Nice, Mr. Krabs.

At 2/01/2008 4:11 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

What the fuck does that mean?

At 2/01/2008 4:11 PM, Blogger The wondering Mind said...


I didn't know you were a fan. Yes baby, this must be how it feels to be a millionaire. You know how Lebron said he can't remember the last time he checked the price on an item before he bought it? I feel like i don't need to know who the Lakers are playing anymore, whoever it is they are catching a beat down. Ohmigod, how did this happen.

At 2/01/2008 4:28 PM, Blogger Ziller said...

If you had ever told me that one day, there might exist a Gasol/Odom/Grown Bynum frontline, I would've thrown up on the ceiling and then cleaned it off with my own tears.

Imagine how Lakers fans feel.

Even as a violent Laker-hater, this is a bit of a wet dream. Smush Parker is so pissed right now.

At 2/01/2008 4:43 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Honestly, I'm having difficulty believing that this even happened. Someone needs to do a deep analysis of whether the Lakers are the most blessed team in the history of the NBA in terms of picking up bigs.

Now I'm just imagining the new line up with Caron instead of Odom ...

At 2/01/2008 4:48 PM, Blogger MaxwellDemon said...

This represents some kind of personal singularity, as I am in LA and my brother lives in Barcelona. Mr. Kupchak, you. Complete. Me.

At 2/01/2008 4:49 PM, Blogger Kaifa said...

My head is spinning...

With the Kidd rumors out there, I got really angry today when thinking about what could have been a Kidd/Kobe/Butler or Odom/random PF/Bynum line-up. And now this. Somewhere in Memphis Juan Carlos Navarro is shedding a tear in silence.

How this trade was possible for the Lakers without giving up any of their good players I have no idea, especially keeping Farmar. Walton, Turiaf, Farmar, Ariza, Radmanovic, Mihm, that's a lot of options they have of creating great match-ups combined with the starting 5. And they'll probably be well over 50% with Gasol at C until Bynum returns.

At 2/01/2008 4:52 PM, Blogger Kaifa said...

And maybe this is the final breakthrough for Darko now that he has Kwame on his team, someone drafted higher and doing even less with abilities.

At 2/01/2008 5:00 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

Everything you ever needed to know about David Berri: he's arguing that Mike Dunleavy should have been an all-star:

At 2/01/2008 5:31 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Considering the Lakers were able to get Gasol while still retaining Odom, and considering the Lakers have both Luke Walton and Trevor Ariza at small forward, is anyone else wondering if the Lakers aren't done trading? Could a deal that involves trading Odom for Kidd still be in the cards?

Probably not.

However, Odom's $14m contract will expire after next season, which to me says that if he doesn't step it up while playing with Bynum, Gasol and Kobe, Odom and his huge contract could very well make for massive trade bait either this summer or next year before the deadline. After all, if the Lakers can trade Kwame Brown's expiring $9m deal for Gasol, imagine what they could get in return for Odom's expiring $14m?

Are we really on the verge of another Lakers-Celtics Finals? Also, how pissed are the fans and GMs of every other team in the league right now? How did Mitch Kupchak manage to turn the blunder that was trading Caron Butler for Kwame Brown into gold by flipping Kwame into Gasol?

At 2/01/2008 5:39 PM, Blogger Matt said...

I'm still in the dark on the Mr Krabs thing.

At 2/01/2008 5:43 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Plankton and guns ... under the sea ...

At 2/01/2008 5:44 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Sorry, it's a reference to an episode of Spongebob (I have a 6-year-old, remember), in which Mr. Krabs has Spongebob and Patrick paint his house with "permanent" paint that is, in fact, soluble with his tears, or maybe it is his saliva as he laughs because "he just likes to mess with ya." KD got me started on an SB tangent this morning with an opposite day reference. I intended to compliment your essay, particularly the PLANKTON reference.

At 2/01/2008 6:48 PM, Blogger josh said...

Can I just say how much I HATE LA! 'Scuse me while I "...drop on the deck and flop like a fish."

There is some strange circularity here with the potential revival of a Celtics/Lakers showdown.

Think Magic sent a text to Larry yet?

I'm verklempt!

At 2/01/2008 8:16 PM, Blogger goathair said...

Without him getting traded to the Lakers this never happens.


Keeping the Wizards alive.



At 2/01/2008 9:36 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

I just can't wait until Bymum get's back. The Lakers don't need to make any moves. That team is stacked. Even Sasha "The Machine" Vujacic has turned into a nice back up guard. At this point, all of their top 11 players are decent. Only scrubs they have on the roster right now are Coby Karl, and Mbenga, and neither will see the light of day when everyone is healthy. I really hope the Lakers play the Suns at some point in the playoffs and smack that ass.

At 2/02/2008 11:00 AM, Blogger questionmark said...

Jerry West: once a Laker, always a Laker.

At 2/02/2008 1:27 PM, Blogger Louie Bones said...

?: You're right about Jerry West. He just pulled a mini-McHale right thurr.

...But he also set up his successor with some nifty future (late first round) picks.

At 2/02/2008 10:59 PM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

I think I'm the only dude who's not sold on this = new dynasty (probably because I'm not remotely sold on Pau). Given the starting five of Fisher/Kobe/Odom/Gasol/Bynum, you have exactly one above-average defensive player in the lineup and two that are pretty much liabilities (Gasol and Fisher).

Now, this doesn't mean that the Lakers aren't a title contender -- they're still going to be able to outscore people, it's just that looking at Duncan and Boozer's numbers vs. Gasol over the last couple years, the Jazz and the Spurs still match up relatively well, largely depending on how hobbled Bynum is in the playoffs.

At 2/03/2008 2:45 PM, Blogger Krolik1157 said...

This reminds me of the Iverson trade from last year-from the way it came out of nowhere to the "Wait, they gave up who to get him?" to the "holy fuck, they're going to win the championship now" to the awkward phase where we had to wait for 'Melo to stop being suspended/Bynum to stop being hurt. This trade doesn't have the alpha-dog bizareness or the role overlap, but I still think people get too excited-we forget, the best teams in the West are all fucking loaded. Here's the Laker starting 5:

Fisher/Farmar (good)
Odom (good)
Bynum (really good and moving up)
Gasol (really really good)
Kobe (holy shit)

sounds baller. But look at the Suns:

Nash (holy shit)
Bell/Barbosa (really really good)
Grant Hill/Diaw (really good)
Marion (better than Gasol)
Amare (fucking Amare)

and they haven't even WON SHIT.

Odom is nice to throw out as a 4th option, but he's really a great player on name recognition now. And remember, Bynum's potential and trade value are sky-high, but he's still a 12 ppg guy right now. Here's the question: in their current state, is Kobe/Bynum/Gasol better than Nash/Marion/Amare, Parker/Duncan/Manu, or Dirk/Howard/The two-headed point guard of doom? Shit, how much better are they than 'Melo/AI/Camby or West/Peja/CP3? Boozer/Deron Williams/Kirilenko? The West is full of ridiculous starting 5s, the league won't shit itself over one more.

At 2/04/2008 7:30 PM, Blogger MaxwellDemon said...

Is anybody still reading this? Fuck it, here I go. Krolik, I think your breakdown of the situation is way deep. I can't quibble with much except: the Lakers, unlike last year's Nuggets (if memory serves), have been playing much better than expected *before* this trade. It doesn't seem like the LAL making a jump from overachievers to contenders is out of the question. Also, for Pau, leaving Memphis has got to make him feel like Nelson Mandela or Andy Dufresne or some shit, so that might help.

At 2/04/2008 9:12 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Krolik's right, of course, that the West's elite all have top-tier starters.

But none of them has Mamba.

At 4/13/2009 3:22 AM, Blogger 平平 said...




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