Fast Break

 —  February 16, 2005

Some quick shots from last night’s game, and other stuff:

• Well, that wasn’t “48 minutes of hell”, but it was enough to beat the Jazz. The Lakers defense was spotty, but they got away with it against a poor and depleted team.

• Slava clearly has been working on his defense and rebounding techniques. Not that he’s good by NBA standards at either of them yet, but he has improved from years past — he had three steals in this game. His shooting was off last night, but he still ended up a +8 for the night, not bad for being thrust into the starting lineup. The new “overload/triangle” offense flowed better with him in the game than Odom.

• Remember that brief stint in the fourth quarter when Hamblen tried the radical concept of playing Chris Mihm and Brian Grant at the same time (before Grant fouled out)? The Lakers were +6 in that stretch, part of a 17-7 run that was key in the team’s win.

• I’m not that worried about Kobe’s ankle anymore.

• There are nights, like last night, when you think Butler is figuring out how to play with this team.

• Kobe is not going to be the only Laker in Denver this weekend. Luke Walton will be there to play along side Magic Johnson and Lisa Leslie in the Shooting Stars competition (part of the Saturday events that jumped the shark a few years back). Too bad it’s a shooting contest and not a passing contest with those three. Remember, the Lakers actually won this thing last year with Magic, Leslie and D. Fish.

• For the past few days, Joel Meyers has been hyping Marcus Douthit during his morning talk show as future help inside. I’m not so sure. The Lakers second-round pick from last season is playing for Pepinster in Belgium and is putting up decent numbers — 14.5 points, 2.2 offensive rebounds and 8.1 defensive rebounds (calculated per 40 minutes) while shooting 52.9% (eFG%). But, according to those that follow Europe more closely than I, Belgium is a third-tier European league. The fact that he is solid but not dominating that level of play makes me very cautious.

• The latest installment in the very good series about how the Seattle Supersonics use the new NBA statistics to play “Moneyball” is now up on the team Web site. This one talks about the stats guys’ interaction with coaches.

• Speaking of good stats reading, John Hollinger (the guy behind the great Basketball Forecast books, the NBA equivalent of Baseball Prospectus) has reportedly been hired as an ESPN insider. I don’t pay for the insider stuff now because their NBA guy is Chad Ford and I can make up my own ridiculous trade rumors for free. Hollinger will make me reconsider (plus I would get Rob Neyer on baseball). Knickerblogger posted this breaking news, just another reason to read him, too.

• It’s close to the end of the college hoop season, with March Madness just weeks away. You can get offensive and defensive stats efficiency stats for every Division I college team, as well as RPI and more, at this great site. Check it out now, and before you fill out your bracket.

Man, the North Carolina team looks good on paper….

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