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The habit of talking to opposition bloggers over the years has really given a far better understanding of the teams the Grizzlies are playing to 3 Shades of Blue. This season we have decided to give our readers this insight as well.

Joining us today are Darius Soriano and J M Poulard from Forum Blue and Gold as well as Andrew Kamenetzky of ESPN Los Angeles. These three are among the most respected followers of the Lakers and their perspectives should interest any fan of the Grizzlies heading into tonight’s game.

1) Kobe looks like the old Kobe but he is once again complaining about an injury that seems to have no effect on his game, is he 100% or not?
Daruius Soriano: No, he’s not 100%. His hand is quite swollen, he’s taking a pain killing injection before every game, and has his wrist is getting worked on during games by a physical therapist. That said, the wrist is hampering his ball handling more than his shot (though his touch around the hoop has diminished). You’ll notice that his dribble is not as tight and he’ll lose the ball more on strips as the strength just isn’t there in his right hand.

Andrew Kamenetzky: Kobe’s ability to manage the pain and play through torn ligaments in his right wrist is both amazing and precisely what I’d expect from him. However, the process isn’t without its kinks. By Kobe’s own admission, it’s been a “pain in the ass” trying to discover just the right shooting technique, and the results can be erratic. At times, you’d never know the guy was even hurt. Others, however, the injury clearly affects his aim and handle, which can lead to low shooting percentages and turnovers. Factor in how Kobe is shooting even more than ever and his additional responsibilities due to roster limitations (see below), and the situation grows even potentially dicier. Defensively, I also think the wrist hinders Kobe’s ability to fight through screens. 

Either way, Kobe’s not about to take games off, and he’s playing remarkably hard in spite of the injury. Thus, in the short-term, Mike Brown and Kobe’s teammates have to find way to help 24 manufacture easier shots and lessen his play-making burden. From there, you just hope the grind doesn’t end up more than he can bear.

J M Poulard: Kobe is not at 100%. He is doing his best to not let on during games that his wrist is an issue but during free throws and timeouts it’s obvious that he is experiencing some pain and discomfort. With that said, he is performing as well as he always has but pay attention to him when he braces for landings after collisions.

2) How much has the loss of Lamar Odom hurt team chemistry?
DS: It’s hard to say. Odom certainly was a leader in the locker room and was known to keep guys loose. However, the Lakers have other leaders (Kobe, Fisher) that can carry that load. On the court, LA misses Odom’s talent and versatility but his absence has also given more minutes to Bynum and the big man is flourishing with the extra responsibility. The Lakers are definitely a weaker team without him, but considering Bynum’s growth and the solid play of McRoberts and Murphy it’s hard to say how much.

AK: In a general sense, losing a player as versatile as LO means assets — scoring, rebounding, defense, play-making– diluted across the board. But the most glaring effect of Lamar’s departure is the lack of perimeter players capable doing damage off the dribble. The list of wings capable of creating their own shot now consists of Kobe, Kobe Bryant, and Kobe Bean Bryant. And save Blake (who’s merely adequate), Kobe’s also the only guy dependable at breaking down a defense off the dribble from the perimeter. Beyond handcuffing the overall offense, this places a ton pressure on Bryant, and as discussed earlier, he may feel the effects of such a burden down the line. 

Even worse, without a trade, it’s an issue the Lakers probably can’t fix this season. How far they can go in spite of this hurdle remains to be seen.

JMP: Odom’s departure created a lack of talent coming off the bench and also reduced the amount of ball handlers on the team, which have caused Kobe to be on pace to have the highest usage rate in league history.

But in addition, Odom’s absence meant that other players would have to play his position and it’s been somewhat problematic early on this season.  Josh McRoberts is a scrappy player that sets screens, runs the court and finishes at the basket while Troy Murphy is a solid rebounder and shooter. Mind you, Murphy often seems at a loss for when to shoot the ball while McRoberts is still trying to fit in. As a result, the offense can at times look a little discombobulated.

3) Mike Brown is no Phil Jackson but what has been the major result in the swap of coaches?

DS: I think a new voice has allowed a re-emphasis of defense to take hold with the players. It’s not that players weren’t being held accountable under Phil, but Brown’s authority is fresh and his approach is new and I think that’s allowing his message to get through to the players. Guys are closing out harder, challenging more shots, and simply playing harder on that end. I credit Brown for that.

AK: Beyond the Triangle and Phil’s infamous throne chair now gone the way of the Dodo Bird, the biggest change is just the overall vibe with Mike Brown at the helm.

 Phil Jackson was a coach famously laid back and hands off, for largely better or — in the case of last season — worse. And while PJ’s “letting players work through issues in lieu of actually coaching” reputation was a bit exaggerated, there’s no question he afforded guys an exceptionally long leash. Mike Brown’s demeanor couldn’t be any different. A game film junkie, he sweats even the smallest detail and is meticulous to the point of OCD. He also never stops coaching and has an inexhaustible supply of energy. Brown’s practices are more rah-rah (it helps that his staff is younger), and he stand throughout the entirety of a game shouting instructions. 

 Throw in how much more approachable and straight forward Brown is than Phil, and it’s basically impossible to confuse the two.

JMP: Something that Lakers fans are not accustomed to considering recent success: evolving expectations. Whether it’s with the tinkering in the lineups, Kobe’s shot selection, the reintegration of Bynum to the team or the Lakers’ defense; the team as well as its fans have had to adjust to the team growing and progressively getting better all the while only winning  around half of their games.

In the Gasol era, the team has always showed signs of their championship pedigree and confronted issues with a few winning streaks, whereas now the team merely looks like a playoff contender. Granted, things should undoubtedly change as the season progresses but as it stands right now, few truly expect Mike Brown to raise the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the season.

3 Shades of Blue appreciates the insight that these three writers offer on the Grizzlies. If anyone has any other questions feel free to leave them in the comments section and we will forward them along to the writers. Also, take a minute and check out their blogs for more insight into the Lakers.

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