1) What’s your take on the Mike D’Antoni hiring in Los Angeles?

Robd: I like it. I don’t think you can underestimate the Steve Nash connection there. He and D’Antoni basically caused a basketball revolution in the middle of last decade, and with a little luck they would have had at least one Finals appearance and perhaps a ring together. You really have to wait till Steve gets back before you can judge their potential, because I think it will become a very different team to the Lakers we’re watching right now.

Ash: I’m not usually a fan of hiring coaching re-treads, but I can understand the move. D’Antoni was probably the only coach available (other than Phil Jackson and he wasn’t coming back for less than the moon and the stars) who could work with this mess of personalities given his prior relationships with Kobe and Steve Nash. I also think his offense will be good for this team.

Obviously the question is defense – however he’s never had a defensive anchor that compares to Dwight. I think it’s gonna work, unfortunately. The last time the Lakers had a fast paced, no-D coach (Paul Westhead in the early 1980s) they won a championship and the Showtime Lakers were born. (Of course Westhead was forced out a year later by Magic Johnson…)

JT: I would have chosen Phil but I can see the logic (and I use that term loosely with Jim Buss) behind D’Antoni because it will maximise the talents of Steve Nash (and thus, Dwight Howard to a degree – in the pick-and-roll). BUT, everyone must remember here, STEVE NASH IS 38 YEARS OLD. D’Antoni is notorious for having short rotations and flogging his starters to death, so the question begs – can Nash handle the responsibility of driving this thing, again, at age 38? They have to be careful with his minutes and workload, and if they aren’t (huge possibility with D’Antoni) they could pay dearly for it.

2) Should the Lakers trade Pau Gasol?

Robd: No. While trading Gasol for a forward better equipped at spacing the floor would make sense for D’Antoni’s system, I think it also throws away the huge edge the Lakers have on just about every team in the league. That being a pair of skilled seven footers that will dominate the interior (on both ends of the floor) in tough, defensive playoff situations where size trumps everything. Plus, pound for pound, it will be hard for the Lakers to get anything close to fair value for a player as skilled as Pau.

Ash: Not unless they get a deal that boosts their depth as well as gives them a replacement. An Amare/Pau swap is a bad idea for the Lakers. Maybe Josh Smith+pieces.

I don’t think it’ll happen though. Pau trade rumours are becoming as constant as death and taxes but I suspect he and Kobe’s bond is a bit deeper than we realise and that Kobe won’t want him to go that easily.

JT: He’s clearly playing out of position and it’s hard to see him thriving next to Dwight, so IF you can get quality in return and something that fits (and is compatible with Dwight going forward), then yes, I’d trade him. If Josh Smith was on the table I’d consider it, but the better one I’ve heard is to Denver for Danilo Gallinari. If I was LA and that presented itself, I’d do it in a heartbeat (not sure Denver would though).

3) What’s been the biggest surprise/disappointment so far?

Robd: On topic, it’s hard to go past the struggling Lakers – I don’t think anyone would have predicted them to be hovering around .500 fifteen games into the season. The Nuggets and Pacers have both been very underwhelming given their pre-season hype. The biggest surprise for me though at this point, is to see the Hawks at 9-4 with the 4th best record in the East. Horford and Teague have been rock solid and Louis Williams has been superb off the bench. Did not seem them all coming together to play this well. True credit to Larry Drew.

Ash: Biggest surprise: Memphis being so good. They’ve really reinvented themselves and their offense. I’d look to sink a few bucks on Lionel Hollins as Coach of the Year right now. Also Charlotte being over .500. Disappointment? Lakers are too obvious. Denver haven’t lived up to expectations. Cleveland are making my pre-season sleeper pick look stupid.

JT: Surprise – the Bobcats. Former Adelaide 36ers coach Mike Dunlap has his team competing and miraculously winning games, despite trotting out three below average NBA players (Byron Mullens, Jeffrey Taylor and Brendan Hayward) in the starting unit. Now that’s impressive. They’ve still got a ton of work to do in acquiring talent but in Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist they have a nice gritty twosome to go forward with.

Disappointment – Indiana. They shouldn’t be this bad, even with Granger out. This would suggest a) they have crappy depth, b) Roy Hibbert’s overrated (and now grossly overpaid), c) at this stage of his career David West’s a third or fourth option on a championship level team, and d) Paul George still has a long ways to go.

Royce White sabotaging a promising career in Houston is also a tad disappointing.

4) This guy needs to be traded.

Robd: Andrew Bynum? Just kidding. I’ll go with my own team, the Pistons. I never thought I’d say this, but Rodney Stuckey needs to go. At 26 years of age he’s just entered his prime, yet he’s clearly not going to deliver Detroit anywhere near the potential we dreamed of. Fifteen games in he’s shooting 34.6% from the field, which is horrible for a supposed shooting guard. On the floor he simply doesn’t fit with this team, and he simply looks disinterested. I say the Pistons trade him while he has a semblance of value left. I’m sure there’s a team willing to take a bet on Stuckey, and in the right environment he might be able to thrive (a faster paced run-and-gun team where he doesn’t have to think as much). But right now he’s taking up space in Detroit, and it really, really pains me to say it because I used to be one of this guy’s biggest fans.

Ash: I’m going to go with an easy answer here – Josh Smith. Expiring contract, probably isn’t getting an extension from the rebuilding Hawks, a GM in Danny Ferry who understands the need to get assets for probably departing star players more than anyone.

JT: Al Jefferson needs to go in Utah to make way for Derrick Favors. As much as they don’t want to admit it they are a rebuilding club, so I can’t see any logic behind keeping the hugely talented Favors on the bench with limited opportunities.

5) Gripe about something.

Robd: Has to be the league’s decision to fine the Spurs $250,000. Ridiculous. A coach is not allowed to rest his players for the longer-term good of his team? Would have the league have fined the Spurs if Duncan, Parker and Ginobili had played 2 minutes before Coach Pop benched them for the rest of the game? Because those are the types of games Coach’s might have to start playing if the league is going to play hardball on this. I understand the “timely notice” angle here, but in some situations that itself is a tactical decision by a coach to throw the other team’s planning out. Would I be pissed off if I was a fan? Sure, but there’s no guarantees in this league. Players get sick. Players get hurt. Older players might need a game off every now and then. It’s all about managing the health of your list. You can’t fine teams for that.

Ash: I can’t afford League Pass for one of the best NBA seasons in memory. That’s about it really.

JT: That bad teams with no hope this season (ex. Detroit, Orlando, Washington etc.) are playing veterans over young guys, when they should be focused on next year’s lottery and developing their youth. It makes no sense to me.


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