I lived in SoCal for over half a decade and nothing gets me more hype than a good old fashioned Laker-Warrior showdown. Sure the Lakers have beaten down the Warriors in roughly 97.23% of the battles in the past 30 or so years, but who cares? Win or lose as Warriors fans we always keep it Unstoppable Baby! (Yeah, I'm getting ready for a beat down tonight).
In preparation for tonight's game I thought it'd be a great time to check in with Kurt from the savvy veteran Los Angeles Lakers blog Forum Blue & Gold. It's the Michael Cooper of Laker blogs and always a great spot to check up on our long time Pacific Division rivals.
Kurt also mic-ed me up for tonight's game. You can read my answers to his questions over at FB&G in their preview for today's game.
Make the jump for a quick scouting report on the Lakers along with some other sharp insights from Kurt.
Golden State of Mind: Last week the Lakers inked Phil Jackson to a two-year extension. Were you surprised by the move? Was that the right move for this franchise? Do you think this has anything to do with getting Kobe Bryant to stay in LA as a Laker?
Kurt (Forum Blue & Gold): This may have an impact on Kobe, he and Phil have developed a pretty solid relationship over the last couple years, but that's not why I'm happy he's staying on board.
Winning franchises have a vision for what the team will look like on the court and execute it from president down to towel boy. You have seen that recently in the Bay Area - the choice was made to be a run-and-gun team and the front office brought in the coach to teach it, one of the best point guards to execute it and got players to fit the system. In the case of the Lakers, the year after the Shaq trade they were a franchise adrift, bringing back Phil Jackson gave it direction. This is a triangle team, and we know that system can win. Finally this year the team has started to really gel into a squad that can execute that style ‑- they have the players to fit the system and they are finding their roles. Keeping Phil around insures that there is not some sudden change of direction.
Golden State of Mind: Kobe, Kobe, Kobe. It seems like that's all we heard about the Lakers since his trade demand last spring. Do you think he'll finish this season of as a Laker? Do you see him finishing his career in a Laker jersey? Also how do the Laker fans in LA feel about Kobe right now? Has his popularity level taken a hit?
Kurt (Forum Blue & Gold): I don't think anyone can answer the "Will Kobe remain a Laker?" question with any certainty. (And that includes all the talking heads at ESPN.) He seems to be having fun right now and he must be seeing this team coming together. Meanwhile, if he looks around the league where can he see a situation that is vastly superior? Especially after a trade that would likely gut any trading partner of much of the talent Kobe wants to play with. He's not flush with good options.
As for his popularity, right now Los Angeles the city is somewhat divided on Kobe. There are the rigid supporters who think he is the second coming of Jordan, and those that say he is selfish and a bad person dragging down the franchise. Talk radio folks and newspaper columnists around here uses him like they used to use the "Pete Rose to the Hall of Fame" topic - Kobe's an easy way to fill the phone lines with heated debate. Kobe is a complex person in a world where the media wants black-or-white story lines. That said, most Lakers fans want to see him stay, want to see his redemption come in Lakers colors. They stood by him through everything in Colorado, and they were hurt by his not standing by them this summer. But right now they are still with him, more than not.
Golden State of Mind: Both the Warriors and Lakers have young centers putting up similar nice numbers whose last names begin with "B"- Andris Biedrins and Andrew Bynum. Who would you rather have on your ball club for the next 5 years and why? Do you see either one being a franchise center?
Kurt (Forum Blue & Gold): Outside of the initials AB and being 7 foot, the games Bynum and Biedrins bring to the floor are very different. Bynum is an old school, back-to-the-basket style center. Biedrins is more finesse, albeit he has learned to make sure his shots are near the rim, where he is good. That said, Bynum is the better defensive and rebounding presence. Biedrins could develop some outside touch that Bynum is not likely to, but I think Bynum is more athletic.
Five years from now, I want Andrew. I think even in this up-tempo style that is becoming all the rage, the ability to defend the paint will still be key. And Bynum is starting to do that.
As for this year, both of them seem to have bouts of inconsistency --- flashes of promise followed by forgettable games. Because of that it's a little hard to say how this all turns out, if one or both can overcome that.
Golden State of Mind: Regardless of how good or bad they've been in the Pacific Division standings, the Warriors and Lakers have always had a big rivalry from the fans' perspective. A big reason is the large number of Bay Area transplants living in LA and vice versa. Last spring did the Warriors win over any Laker fans with the We Believe movement?
Kurt (Forum Blue & Gold): I think the entire nation (outside of Dallas) were believers last year. Golden State, as much as we may not want your team to beat us, was the most compelling story in the playoffs. And, remember that Baron Davis is still wildly popular in Los Angeles, having played his high school and college ball here. So did Matt Barnes, who also is popular at every tattoo shop in the city. Nobody was making a long-term conversion, but for a few weeks it was a fun ride.
All of us at GSoM wanted to thank Kurt for sharing his Laker and hoops knowledge with us this fine December weekend. Forum Blue & Gold is one of the reasons the Pacific Division has the best collection of team blogs in the league- yeah I said it!