Jazz-Lakers Preview: The 70-Millionth Meeting of the Year

March 18th, 2012 | by Spencer Hall

Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Game Preview:
Jazz at Lakers, Game 4 of 4 | ESPN Preview
7:30 PM MT | TV: Root Sports

ESPN LA’s Andy Kamenetsky and I preview today’s Jazz-Lakers matchup. Here’s what he had to say on the Land O’ Lakers blog. Follow the Kamenetsky brothers at @ESPNLandOLakers.

Spencer Hall: How do you feel about the departure of Derek Fisher?

Andy Kamenetsky: I’ve expressed my thoughts at length about Fisher’s departure in this article (self-promotion alert!), but I’ll provide the nutshell-ier version. On a personal level, I don’t like seeing Fisher go. He’s among my favorite athletes I’ve ever covered, and I immensely respect him. And as a Laker fan who’s watched Fish since his rookie season, he’s been borderline impossible not to root for. And basketball-wise, even at 37 the man still has a knack for hitting huge shots, and his voice carried universal weight in the locker room.

Having said that, the Lakers needed to make this move. Fisher’s overall production, especially on offense, had fallen off a cliff. The Lakers have stretched their luck to the breaking point with point guard such a glaring weakness. When Ramon Sessions checked in Friday for the first time as a Laker, the Staples Center crowd literally gave him a huge round of applause for essentially just dribbling the ball. I’m not exaggerating. Sessions isn’t an elite point guard, but he’s a massive upgrade as a scorer, distributor, and rim attacker. (The difference in speed and athleticism goes without saying.) Moreover, Sessions makes Steve Blake better in the sense that he’s now just expected to be a solid backup, rather than a reserve everyone hopes can cover for a starter’s deficiencies.

With Fisher potentially out of the rotation, moving him was a no-brainer. Putting aside the financial motivation to shed his salary, there’s only so much leadership he can continue to provide as a bit player, and I’m not positive he’d have taken the demotion well. He’s a prideful man with a lot of belief in his abilities, so the transition could been humiliating. Not to mention, a source of resentment, pro’s pro that he may be. You’d hate to see Fisher become the bad guy, and it’s unfair to ask Mike Brown to bench a leader of the locker room whose trust he’s still trying to earn. The whole situation reeked of potential awkwardness and needed to be avoided.

SRH: How is it possible that no LA salon has gotten their well-manicured mitts on Pau Gasol for a very special makeover?

AK: As someone on the last legs of an uphill battle against hair loss, I can’t make any snide remarks about freewheeling nature of Pau’s locks. (At least none that don’t stem from rampant, blatant jealousy.) But what matters most isn’t Gasol’s hair, but the head beneath that mass. Pau’s been the first to admit his name swirling around the rumor mill has taken a mental toll, and at times, that anxiety has spilled onto the court. With the deadline passed, Gasol still in a Laker uni, and replacing Fisher as a captain to boot, his nerves should be considerably settled. He’s actually played pretty well throughout the drama, but the fewer the distractions, the easier the process becomes. I expect Pau to step up even more over the final 22 games.

SRH: What kind of chemistry vibe do the new-look Lakers seem to have?

AK: Based off one game, good. And I imagine the trade deadline in the rear view mirror will only help. I mentioned before how the trade rumors have affected Pau, but the same could be said about the entire team. The potential for change has been a looming, open secret since training camp, and to say it’s worn on players would be massive understatement. Beyond the natural disinclination most players feel towards being traded, this group in particular really wanted to stay together. They didn’t get their complete wish, but at least the big three remained intact, so it’s not a total makeover. Either way, with the dust now settled, everyone can take a deep breath, exhale and feel comfortable again. I can’t imagine that not being a positive

Read my answers to Andy’s questions at ESPN LA. Follow Andy at @ESPNLandOLakers.

Spencer Hall
Founder Spencer Hall has covered the NBA, Team USA and NBA D-League since 2007 and launched Salt City Hoops in 2009. Spencer is now the news director at KSL.com
Spencer Hall
Spencer Hall

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