Jonathan Somers-Harris of thelakersnation.com was good enough to answer some questions for us on the upcoming season, L.A.’s history with the Blazers and those lovely Laker forum-trolls. We answered some questions for him on their site, so be sure to check that out as well. Without further ado: The Answers.
1. From an outsider’s perspective, what do you think of this Blazer revival?
I like the youth movement. Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden are a fantastic core to build around, and to think you have Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless too. I worry that somewhere between 2009-2010 some players will start thinking about money first and become the Bulls of several years back. having both Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge due for extensions in the same off-season might be a worrisome thing for me if i were a Blazers fan, much as I worry about Bynum’s extension now.
Ultimately though, a lot of the success has to be pinned on Nate McMillan. This is his group of players and the success that Portland has had on the court has to be attributed to his ability to get his young players to perform.
2. What do you realistically think the Blazers can do this season? What part of your matchup with them interests you the most?
I see the Blazers as high as a 5th seed, possibly even a 4th seed if they pip the Jazz to the Northwest title. I don’t think this year’s Blazers will be able to do much in the playoffs, but I expect them to gain invaluable experience and to come back even stronger next season.
Without out a doubt, the match up that I, and indeed most Lakers fans, will be looking forward to is Bynum vs Oden. These two players have both been over-hyped by their respective fan bases, but the fact remains that this could be the birth of a rivalry that defines the NBA over the next decade, much like David Robinson vs Hakeen Olajuwon/Bird vs Magic Johnson/Wilt vs Bill Russel (disclaimer. . I wasn’t actually involved in any of those rivalries, which is kind of why I hope I can call this one my own)
3. How did you survive all the Kobe tantrums?
I assume you are talking specifically about the “Ship Bynum’s [donkey] out” and “I want to be traded/Lakers for Life” radio tour that he did. It was difficult.
Fundamentally, most Lakers fans agreed with what Kobe was saying, we just disagreed, and were disappointed, with the way he was saying it. the Lakers FO had promised him a contending team, and to that point they had failed to deliver.
We can now apply revisionist thinking to the whole saga and conclude that Kobe’s comments were the spur that helped transform Andrew Bynum’s work ethic (which led to his dramatically improved play before his injury), or that because of what happened he grew to trust his teammates and ultimately became a better leader, but that’s a lot of bull. Kobe mishandled the situation, and the Lakers were very fortunate that the season unfolded the way it did.
Obviously, winning covers a multitude of woes, but I won’t deny that it was a bleak summer.
4. If you had to pick would you go with Pau or Bynum for the next 5 years?
Bynum, and it’s not even close. at the end of those 5 years, Gasol would be 33, Bynum would only be 26.
Even beyond that though, Bynum brings so much more to the defensive end of the court right now, and his offense looks to catch up to Gasol within the next two years. To give non-Lakers fans perspective on that, It would be like asking someone if they would take Dirk or Dwight Howard/Greg Oden for the next 5 years.
5. How comfortable are you with the Lakers’ depth?
Quite comfortable actually. We’re always one Kobe Bryant Injury (and by injury I mean broken leg or something that will render him literally unable to play basketball) from dropping out of contention for a title. but we have great depth at every position and for a variety of situations.
Want to go Big? Sun Yue (6’9″) Kobe, Lamar, Gasol, Bynum
Go small? Fisher. Farmar, Kobe, Lamar, Gasol
Shooters? Fisher, Sasha, Kobe, Radmanovic, Gasol
Athletic? Farmar, Kobe, Ariza, Lamar, Bynum
Defense? Fisher, Kobe, Ariza, Lamar, Bynum (hmm. . they’re pretty much the same)
All White? Farmar, Sasha, Luke, Gasol, Mihm, with Radmanovic and Coby Karl as reserves.
Ok, so I doubt that you’ll see that last combination on the floor much, but I hope that little exercise in line up selections shows how many options Phil Jackson has and how many different roles our players can fill.
6. What are your thoughts on Odom? Seems like he’s always at the center of drama during Laker-Blazer games.
The man is an enigma. Lakers fans will often say there are two things you cannot predict: when the Kobe-MJ comparisons will finally stop, and Lamar Odom’s stat line for any given game. as far as Lamar’s foul on Roy last year, I don’t know. It was a bad fall by Roy, but, as the announcers will tell you in this clip, it’s not as bad as it looked live. That’s not to say that he’s not guilty of the occasional bone-headed play. It seems like every game he will pick up a charging foul for running straight into a defender.
We have to remember though that his young son died two years ago, that had to have some kind of psychological impact on how he plays and how he reacts to situations where he’s emotionally invested.
7. What was your take on last year’s Finals? What happened to Kobe? Do you feel like you were the better team?
I was gutted. I didn’t necessarily believe that we were the better team, but I believed that we should have won. watching your team let a 24 point lead slip away, at home, it makes you wonder how you even got to the Finals The silver lining is of course that we actually got the 24-point lead in the first place. People often gloss over that and assume that the Celtics totally dominated in the series. Not true. Game 1 wasn’t decided until late in the fourth quarter (Lakers fans will bitterly talk about Pierce’s miraculous recovery from injury). Game 2 was the Lakers almost coming back from a 20-point, fourth quarter deficit. The Lakers won Games 3 and 5. It was only in Game 6 that the Lakers got thoroughly outplayed.
It kind of pissed me off that KG and Allen were able to get their ring by jumping to the Celtics (unfair I know) just because Malone and Payton weren’t able to get one with us back in 2004.
The fact that the Lakers teased me with hope by winning Game 5 before utterly dashing it by kneeling over and playing dead didn’t help either.
No, the Celtics were the better team last year, the Lakers weren’t able to assert themselves on either end of the floor, and that was because of how the Celtics played. until we can get the opposing team to change how they play to beat us, we won’t be winning a title.
7.5 Who is the biggest threat to your title dreams this year?
there is no one major threat. anything could derail us. We could become complacent. any number of our players could miss time with an injury. we might end up having to play the Rockets in the second round (no one has been able to beat Houston in the second round while T-Mac has been there).
Okay, so the last one was a joke. Basically, I feel, like most Lakers fans, that we’re going to be good enough this year to win it all, regardless of who stands in our way. (And yeah, that’s a pretty good reason not to like Lakers fans right there)
If we’re being honest though, Houston and New Orleans scare me a bit, because Houston could turn out to be very, very good, and Chris Paul IS very, very good.
8. Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals was a horrific day for any Blazer fan that remembers. We were in middle school then and I don’t think SJ came to class for a few days. How was it on the other side of the trenches?
I have to admit I am a relative newcomer to Lakers first-hand knowledge. I grew up in Japan as a Missionary kid, so I was limited to Internet coverage when it came to following the Lakers (and that was only when i got Internet). It was only during the 2003-04 season that I started being able to follow games with regularity, and then again it was only once I starting attending University in Canada that I was able to watch some games. I’m mostly caught up now, but I couldn’t tell you much about those times beyond what you can already find on Youtube.
9. On that note, is there a Blazer-Laker rivalry? Or are we just another kid to push into a locker for Laker fans?
There will (hopefully) be a Blazer-Lakers rivalry, you can (pretty much) bet on it. I don’t think there is one now, as SJ said in the comments thread a couple of posts back, Lakers fans probably won’t recognize the Blazers as a rival until you beat us. . in the playoffs.
That being said, you were the only team we lost to in April last year (11-1 that month), and we split the season series 2-2, so it’s not like the Lakers have a history of easily beating the Blazers. The problem with this rivalry taking off is that the Blazers are so likeable that it’s hard to hate them like I used to hate the Suns and currently hate the Celtics. Maybe if Travis Outlaw pulls an Odom and takes out Kobe mid-air, then that coupled with Odom’s penchant to play physical defense against the blazers (and Ray Allen) and Sasha’s overall annoyingness will lead to bad blood between the two sides.
Because nothing says “Classic Rivalry” than bad blood. Well, bad blood and (hopefully) two of the best centers in the next decade going at it 4 games a year, and thats not even including the possibility of multiple epic playoff series.
I hope it turns into a rivalry that defines the NBA, I would love to be a part of that.
10. Most Blazer fans will tell you, wherever they go to congregate and talk about the team online, Laker trolls talking about how Bynum is one of the best centers of all time seem to show up. What’s your take on this phenomenon? Can it be difficult being a Laker fan because of these people?
I would imagine these Lakers fans are scared that Oden might turn out to be a better player than Bynum and so they feel the need to proclaim Bynum’s greatness to anyone who will listen. It’s not the smartest thing to do, and I cringe when I see it happens, but it’s not a Lakers-only phenomena. there is currently a lovely chap on The Lakers Nation’s forums right now taking on the entire board in his quest to let us know that the Blazers are going to sweep us this year. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, Lakers fans proclaiming Lakers greatness on non-lakers websites (trolls essentially) are to us what terrorists are to the Muslim faith. I’m sure they mean well, but they’re not giving us a good name, and we don’t really want to be associated with them.
I would imagine these Lakers fans are scared that Oden might turn out to be a better player than Bynum and so they feel the need to proclaim Bynum’s greatness to anyone who will listen. It’s not the smartest thing to do, and I cringe when I see it happens, but it’s not a Lakers-only phenomena. there is currently a lovely chap on The Lakers Nation’s forums right now taking on the entire board in his quest to let us know that the Blazers are going to sweep us this year.
I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, Lakers fans proclaiming Lakers greatness on non-lakers websites (trolls essentially) are to us what terrorists are to the Muslim faith. I’m sure they mean well, but they’re not giving us a good name, and we don’t really want to be associated with them.