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    The Audible: The Lakers’ ‘daddy,’ an improbable World Series and a QB dilemma
    • October 26, 2023

    Jim Alexander: As the NBA season began Tuesday night, we were reminded of one indisputable fact: Every fan base in the Western Conference hates the Lakers. Always have, always will. Even Seattle, which hasn’t had a team since … checks notes … 2008 – I’m guessing those folks hate the Lakers, too. (Maybe they’re getting prepared for when they get another team, which hopefully will be soon.)

    So the “Who’s Your Daddy” chants at the end of the Nuggets’ convincing opening night victory Tuesday in Denver, playing off a one-liner at last June’s parade, shouldn’t have been surprising. “Daddy 119, Lakers 107,” wrote columnist Sean Keeler in our sibling publication, the Denver Post, and I’m sure the good folks of Denver are going to savor this victory far beyond what Nuggets coach Michael Malone has in mind.

    “There’s no statement win in the first game of the season,” Malone said, which isn’t quite the same as Bill Belichick’s famous “On to Cincinnati” dismissal, but you get the idea.

    What I found interesting, though, was the way the Lakers apparently intend to use LeBron James. He played 29:01 according to the official box score, and indications are that they’re going to try to limit his minutes to no more than 30 per night during the regular season. Which makes sense for a guy who turns 39 on December 30, but they were outscored by 19 on Tuesday night when he was off the floor.

    And, according to that official box score, Anthony Davis was a minus-17 for the evening. Which tells me that one of the superstars is pulling his weight and the other needs to pull harder. A lot harder.

    Mirjam Swanson: Oh, for sure. It’s “Beat L.A.” everywhere outside of L.A. Which is a compliment, clearly.

    And, yeah, seeing headlines today about LeBron’s “surprising” minutes limit. I don’t know what’s surprising about wanting to take it easy with your 39-year-old star in the regular season. I’m curious, though, if Coach Darvin Ham and the Lakers will be disciplined enough to keep to the plan as the season progresses. Because against the Nuggets, at least, it looks like they’ll need more of LeBron.

    But the Nikola Jokic-led Nuggets are the defending champions and they played like it on ring night Tuesday in Denver. It’ll be easier to succeed without LeBron doing heavy lifting against some other teams – but maybe not so many other teams, not in what could be a wild Western Conference.

    If the Lakers are serious about playing it safe with his workload, it’s going to be hard on lots of nights to stick with it – and if you’re a fan, to watch the Lakers stick with it.

    Especially if A.D. isn’t, as you said, pulling more weight. He went scoreless in the second half on Tuesday, when he missed all six of his shots after halftime. Pretty apparent: He’ll need to be more aggressive and more involved in the offense when LeBron’s off the court – but it isn’t as though he’s facilitating the offense, ala Jokic, so his Lakers teammates and coaches will have to help with that too.

    This was just one game, of course, and the Lakers will have time to work through this plan, yeah, yeah, yeah. But Tuesday’s opener rang pretty hollow considering all the talking the Lakers did about Denver’s talking leading up to it. Including Davis.

    Recall his comments at media day about the Nuggets’ banter: “It’s very motivational. I mean, obviously KCP is my guy so you kind of congratulate him, like ‘you got this one.’ But it was just a lot of like, the talking, and ‘the Lakers’ daddy,’ there was just so much of that going on it was like ‘all right, we get it, y’all won.’ But me and Bron had some conversations like ‘we can’t wait.’”

    Well, now they’ll have to wait until Feb. 8 for another shot at shutting up Denver.

    Jim: Jokic is the best player in the world, period, and assuming good health the Nuggets are still the best team until proven otherwise. That said, the Phoenix Suns will be in town to play the Lakers on Thursday night, and they seem to be Denver’s biggest threat in the West. They got off to a solid start Tuesday night by beating the Warriors in San Francisco. Devin Booker had 32 points, six rebounds, eight assists and a steal, and he’s capable of being the difference-maker any time Kevin Durant has an off night or even a slightly off night.

    My picks right now in the West: 1. Denver, 2. Phoenix, 3. Golden State, 4. Lakers, 5. Clippers, 6. Memphis, 7. Minnesota, 8. Dallas, and New Orleans and OKC also qualifying for the play-in rounds. But feel free to forget them by midseason.

    Mirjam: Been thinking about this too! Here’s what’s gonna happen in the West: 1. Denver, 2. Phoenix, 3. Lakers, 4. Sacramento, 5. Clippers, 6. Oklahoma City in the playoffs proper. The wild cards: Dallas, Golden State, Minnesota and Memphis. Don’t forget that I called it! Haha.

    Anyway, what a World Series pairing, huh?

    Jim: Here’s a set of odds that we probably wish we would have taken advantage of months ago: Before the season began, an Arizona-Texas World Series was a 965-1 longshot, according to one of the many online oddsmakers who flood our inboxes.

    This is an incongruous World Series between teams that lost 100-plus games as recently as two years ago and, in Arizona’s case, was buried in the NL West standings at midseason. I’m sure that Fox executives are wondering how they’re going to make the best of a matchup that is not only unexpected but doesn’t figure to have much juice with the casual fan.

    That said, do Dodgers fans root for the team that beat them in the National League Division Series – losing to the World Series champion would make it sting a little less, for sure – or do they root for former Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager and the Rangers (and, not incidentally, former divisional foe Bruce Bochy)?

    And here’s another angle for Dodger fans to keep in mind: If the Rangers were to win this thing, would it make Clayton Kershaw more or less likely to finish his career at home in Texas rather than coming back to L.A.? Or will we ultimately find out that his shoulder is in bad enough shape that it’s time to walk away from the game, period?

    Mirjam: Great questions. Complicated questions – especially the rooting-interests conundrum in this case: Root for the guy who you used to root for or for the chance to say, hey, at least my team lost to the team that won it all?

    Brought on largely by a get-in-and-get-hot crapshoot of a playoff format that’s as unpredictable as it is frustrating for fans of clubs like the Dodgers.

    I don’t mind the unexpected matchup, personally. Not going to knock it because the headliners checked out early. Not going to worry about network ratings. The teams who played the best got there. That’s it.

    As for Kershaw? Obviously, that’s a lot for him to think about. But surely Dodgers fans want him back in blue next season. That’s not complicated.

    Not like who’s starting at quarterback for UCLA.

    How’s that for a transition?

    Jim: Well played. Or else we can say Coach Chip Kelly’s rotation is just as scrambled as was that of Manager Dave Roberts – a Bruin alumnus, incidentally – by the end.

    I must confess, I stumped for Dante Moore to win the starting quarterback job because of the talent level he possesses. But the transition from high school ball in Detroit to the Pac-12 – especially this season’s Pac-12, going out with a roar – turned out to be far tougher than I think Moore might have expected.

    And I think at this point it makes perfect sense to go back to the veteran, Ethan Garbers. I scoffed at the idea of using multiple quarterbacks early in the year, and I’m still not a big fan of it. But you’ve got to go with the guy who you feel gives you the best chance to win. The dilemma here is making sure Moore understands that this isn’t punitive, it’s part of the learning process, and if he sticks with it he’ll have plenty of opportunities to succeed in Westwood.

    The alternative, of course, is that he’ll bolt to the transfer portal at season’s end. Ain’t college free agency wonderful?

    Mirjam: The learning curve for most true freshmen, even one as talented as Moore, is steep and sharp and scary. There’s just not much that replicates the speed and impact of big-time college football. Even in college practices, quarterbacks don’t get hit. So until you’re on the field and Utah’s defensive linemen are hunting you, you can’t know how you’ll respond until you’re forced to respond.

    That said, I would have liked to see more of Moore last weekend against Stanford – an unsuspenseful 42-7 Bruins victory – so that he could get some of those all-important game reps against a defense that’s not as fearsome as Utah’s or Washington State’s. Because that was, to me, the point of playing him so soon – getting him game experience this year so he’s ready in the future. And if he had played better against the Cardinal, it would have helped his confidence too.

    Yes, Garbers got the job done – 20 for 28 for 240 yards and two touchdowns through the air – and now we’ll see whose number (or numbers?) Kelly calls this weekend against Colorado before what’s expected to be a sold-out Rose Bowl.

    He told reporters at practice that Kent State transfer QB Collin Schlee will be available after being injured in the Oregon State loss – a game in which he came on as the Bruins’ change of pace, a breath of fresh air. And he made a notable impact (six carries for 80 yards) before exiting.

    Against Colorado (which lost to Stanford), I’d send Moore back out there. As much as he’s struggled, I hope Kelly finds spots to keep getting him those all-important game reps this season, even against elite Pac-12 competition. Especially if the Bruins fall further back in the conference standings.

    Not necessarily because I think Moore will bolt in free agency, but because he’ll be better for it next season in the Big Ten – and the Bruins will get only the one chance to make a first impression.

    But I think we’ll again see a mix of quarterbacks against Colorado. And I’ll say this: Whoever is throwing passes for UCLA on Saturday, it’s going to be great fun to watch college football in a full Rose Bowl (albeit the tarp-covered version of “full” – approximately 67,000 fans as opposed to the 94,000-plus the venue hosts for its annual New Year’s bowl game), the Deion Sanders effect in full effect.

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    ​ Orange County Register