The Thunder are in Los Angeles tonight to face the Lakers for a huge Western Conference matchup between two championship-caliber teams. The Thunder took game one earlier this season in convincing fashion and undoubtedly the Lakers will be looking for some payback.
Furthermore, the Thunder now have Kobe Bryant's good luck charm in Derek Fisher. The Lakers jettisoned Fisher two weeks ago to upgrade themselves at the point with Ramon Sessions, enabling them to run at a faster pace. The Thunder acquired Fisher to shore up their backup PG position. Will the shift in personnel make a difference tonight?
To address some of these topics, we turn to the phenomenal Lakers site Silver Screen and Roll and one of their lead writers in C.A. Clark. Pay attention in particular to his answer in question #1, as he offers some intriguing insight about the Lakers' current locker room situation.
1) The Thunder will be bringing one of Kobe's good luck charms with them to Los Angeles. What is your take on the Lakers' trading Derek Fisher, how has the team improved because of it, and what effect do you think his addition will have on the Thunder?
SS&R: Two weeks ago, I supported the trade that sent Derek Fisher away from the Lakers because I didn't see how the Lakers could keep Fisher on the team and keep him off the court, and his faults as a player overwhelmed his merits as a person and locker room presence. Now, with the Lakers seemingly in complete disarray, I'm thinking the loss of Fisher's locker room presence might be too much to overcome. That was always going to be a risk, but I was hoping a team with so many veterans would be able to handle it. So far, the results have not been promising.
There's no doubt, however, that Fisher's replacement makes the Lakers a much better team on the court. It's not a stretch to say Sessions has been the Lakers' best player since his arrival, and while we don't expect that to remain true, it is a clear indication of just how poor the Lakers' PG play was prior to his arrival. And Fisher will bring to the Thunder what he has brought to the Lakers for years, an uncompromising belief in self and the calm demeanor that can only be borne from multiple trips into the fire. Fisher's not much as a basketball player, but there's a decent chance he'll hit at least one shot during the playoffs that will make the entire experience feel worthwhile.
More questions and answers after the jump.
2) It looks like a large contingent of the SS&R population is not too happy with Andrew Bynum right now. What is your take on his disposition, the overall team fabric (such as the Kobe benching), and whether the team has the right mental make-up to be ready for the playoffs in a month?
SS&R: My take on Andrew Bynum is at the head of the "not too happy" crowd. At this point, I really have a strong distaste for him as a player, and I wrote that I don't see any way back into my heart. It seems unlikely that he'll continue with the full-fledged petulance that has brought on this latest incident, but I'm also not sure he can go from wherever his mind was last night back to being fully invested in the squad when they will truly need him. As for the rest of the team, including Kobe's benching, they have some major issues to work out in the next six weeks, and I'm doubtful they'll be able to accomplish the feat. But, these Lakers are a tricky group, and as much as they seem weak or flawed, they are also a group any team would be foolish to overlook.
3) The Lakers have a tenuous hold on the 3rd seed right now, with your little brother Clippers biting at your heels. What is your assessment on the lower seeded teams this year? Do any of them give you concern? Do you think the Lakers should try to pair up against a specific team?
SS&R: Honestly, outside of the Thunder, the only team that really gives me any kind of concern is Memphis, because their combination of size and athleticism is really unmatched pretty much league-wide. If they get hot at the right time, like they did last year, they can beat almost anybody. But really, the Lakers have the look of a team that will be their own worst enemy come the playoffs. They are too inconsistent, in both effort and performance, for their inconsistency not to rear its ugly head in a seven game series, and once it does, they are capable of losing to anybody. But if it doesn't, they are also fully capable of beating anybody.
Many thanks to C.A. Clark and Silver Screen and Roll for taking the time to answer our questions. Now it is time to get ready for what should be a great game tonight.