Behind Enemy Lines: Los Angeles Lakers

It's Lakers vs. Hornets, Part Two tonight at the Hive. At a quick glance, these appear to be two teams rolling in opposite directions. The Lakers are wrapping up the final game of an Eastern swing, dropping contests in Orlando, Miami, and narrowly escaping Memphis with a win. They've also lost the best backup point guard in the game- Jordan Farmar- until February. The Hornets, meanwhile, have taken care of business against quite a few lowly teams and have surged up the offensive and defensive efficiency rankings. Peja is a game time decision for tonight, Tyson is healthy again, and Chris Paul is on par to tie the greatest single season PER in NBA history. So as a Hornet fan, you've got to be feeling good about tonight.

That said, momentum is one thing; talent level is another. The Lakers are still the class of the West, their current issues notwithstanding. They're deep, they have two of the most talented 7 footers in the league, and they have the MVP (sorry, "MVP"). I talked to Forum Blue and Gold for more on the Lakeshow:

At the Hive: Let's start with the obvious question: what's with the Lakers as of late? What's missing now that the Lakers had in their initial outburst to start the season?

Forum Blue and Gold: A little part of it is that other teams have adjusted to the Lakers new defensive scheme and are doing better picking it apart, either getting points in transition or using good cross-court skip passes. But the bigger issue with the Lakers lately is passion — they don't have any. They seem to be sleepwalking through games, letting their opponents dictate the tempo and style of play. Andrew Bynum has seemed timid and afraid of picking up fouls. The mercurial Lamar Odom should have his picture on the back of a milk carton. And, on top of all that, Phil Jackson lets his teams play through these things, wanting the players to figure out for themselves what to do.

@tH: I saw today that Jordan Farmar will miss a couple games at the least. What's the expected return date on him? If he ends up needing surgery, who do you expect will fill his role?

FB&G: In case you missed it, Jordan Farmar injured himself landing funny after an uncontested fast break dunk. He has been advised he does need surgery, and he'll get it in the next few days. Typical recovery with surgery for a torn meniscus is six to nine weeks, so he is out until February. In his stead, the Lakers may sign somebody for a short contract (but the free agent pickings are slim). However, look for Sasha Vujacic to get the majority of backup point guard minutes. The triangle offense does not require a traditional PG, and Sasha is a pesky defender.

@tH: In watching Kobe play this year, I've noticed two things somewhat off from last year: his eFG% (due to a decline in 3P%) and his free throws attempted per 36 minutes (lowest since 2001). I'm particularly puzzled at the second one because Kobe is using almost exactly the same amount of possessions per minute as last year. What gives?

FB&G: Simply put, his jump shot is not falling as often. He is shooting 44.1% on jumpers this year (eFG%), down from 45.7% last year. His shooting in close is also down a couple percentage points. Maybe all this is tied to the injured pinky finger he never had surgery on, maybe his legs are a little tired from the Olympics, maybe he's just in a little slump. He is still amazing at creating his own shot and still hits a lot of those long jumpers, but this season, simply, the shots just aren't falling. I don't see him having lost a step or any of his focus.

Thanks to insight from Forum Blue and Gold. Check out their site for the Lakers' perspective. Geaux Hornets!!!!!

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