1-With Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace gone, the primary task of guarding Kobe falls to Henderson – how does this matchup go?
Brian Kamenetzky: Well, Henderson is as good a choice as any, in that you know he’ll give the requisite amount of effort. Still, I don’t think he’s got the length to really bother Kobe in the mid-post, and if you can’t do that stopping Bryant is a brutal task. One big key will be how well he works through the maze of baseline and weakside screens the Lakers have been using to spring Kobe for clean looks on the catch. Lost in the constant talk about Kobe, shot selection, and the rate at which he “trusts” his teammates via the pass (very high this year, by the way) is the number of assisted buckets he gets a night. Over five through the first month-plus. If there’s one thing Mike Brown and John Kuester have figured out, it’s how to use Bryant in the offense.
Spencer Percy: Probably not too good. Considering the fact that Kobe is as motivated as he’s been in his career with the critics starting to give the Lakers the backseat in the league and in Western conference, and on top of that Bryant is currently leading the league in scoring. Let’s put it this way- Kobe definitely gets his tonight.
Bryan Wendland: Not well for Henderson. Even though his defensive rating suggests otherwise, Henderson isn’t that bad of an on-ball defender. Still, when Kobe is on, he can shred anyone, and I don’t see the former Dukie stopping him tonight.
Jenn: The onus of defending Kobe will not simply be the responsibility of Henderson, but that of the entire Bobcats squad. It is likely the Bobcats will end up double teaming Bryant, leaving an open Laker on the court. While Henderson has the size and athleticism to guard Bryant, the overall success of the Bobcats will depend on the team’s ability to slow down Bryant offensively.
2- Coach under more pressure – Silas with the rebuilding Bobcats who are league worst or Mike Brown and the just above mediocre Lakers’ record?
Brian K.: Brown. Frankly, and really I do mean this with all the respect in the world for Silas, who has been a great contributor to the game for decades, expectations are so low for Charlotte as a franchise I’m not sure it really matters who is coaching them. Not in terms of a national story at least. Brown, meanwhile, takes over a team with championship aspirations, stepping into the void left by arguably the most successful coach in the history of professional team sports. He wasn’t a particularly popular hire, either, among the locals, who were pulling for Brian Shaw or perhaps Rick Adelman with more vigor. The current offensive struggles of the Lakers only feed into Brown’s rep as a guy who can’t coach that side of the ball, which doesn’t help him, either.
Overall, he’s got security. The Lakers signed him for four years, and Brown is absolutely a statement hire from Jim Buss (Jerry’s son), who will give him every opportunity to succeed. And this year, it’s almost impossible to measure the work he’s done thanks to the lockout, and the damage caused by the nixed CP3 deal. So he’s got some time, which might differentiate him from Silas (is he on the hot seat?), but overall it’s a much more pressure filled gig.
Spencer Percy: Mike Brown. Lakers have the best front court and arguably best pure scorer in the NBA. Paul Silas has, well, essentially nothing.
Bryan Wendland: Mike Brown. As morbidly as the ‘Cats are playing on both ends of the court, no one expected them to be much better. Throw in injuries to your starting point guard and small forward and there’s no way anyone should blame Silas for this mess. For the Lakers, though, every year is deep playoff run or bust, and right now that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. I doubt either gets fired, but Brown is definitely under more pressure.
Jenn: In short, Mike Brown. The Lakers have won 5 championships since 2000, while the Bobcats’s best performance over the past decade was a 1st round playoff appearance in 2010 where they were swept by the Orlando Magic. Mike Brown has the proverbial big shoes of Phil Jackson to fill and a lot of die hard Lakers fans to appease. Given the depth of its roster and relative lack of experience, the Bobcats simply cannot hold Silas to expectations anywhere near those of Brown.
3- The Lakers are 13th in defensive efficiency, but have played 6 straight games where they allowed 105.8 or worse. The Bobcats are one of the worst offenses in the NBA. Which gives tonight?
Brian K.: At home, the Lakers have been a stronger group on their own end, but you’re pointing to a disturbing trend. Early, the Lakers were a pretty ordinary offensive team, but really showed great progress over last year defensively. They were routinely holding opponents in the 30’s for field goal percentage. They scored 73 points against Dallas… and won! Now, though, as often seems to happen with teams struggling to score, they’ve seen some slippage stopping the other guys. I suspect tonight the Lakers will get their act together and put the clamps Charlotte. Shouldn’t be that hard, given how few threats the Bobcats have.
If they don’t, I would expect a very, very long practice for the Lakers Wednesday in El Segundo.
Spencer Percy: Lakers will recover with a good defensive performance tonight. Bobcats will have to move the ball quickly and knock down tons of outside shots to even compete.
Bryan Wendland: Charlotte’s offense will make the Lakers D look like a brick wall erected around the basket. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure what I’d rather watch more; Charlotte playing on a normal rim, or trying to shoot it up and over an actual brick wall. At least the second option would be entertaining.
Jenn: Unfortunately, I don’t think the Bobcats have the wherewithal to score anywhere near 100 points. The Bobcats’s offensive efficiency is 93.3 points per game, while its defensive efficiency is 105.7 points per game. Against an above average squad, such as the Lakers, it is safe to assume the Bobcats will end on the worse side of these equations.