Archives For February 2005

Tick, Tick, Tick……

 —  February 24, 2005

Less than two hours until the trade deadline — and the morning after a very good win for the Lakers, getting wins you’re not playing your best is what playoff teams do — and we’ll start with the words of GM Mitch Kupchak from the LA Times this morning.

“It’s unlikely we’re going to make a trade,” Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak said.

The two big rumored deals for the Lakers involved some version of a Peja for Odom deal with Sacramento, but that isn’t happening now that Webber’s gone — they need Peja’s scoring. The other was some kind of deal for Baron Davis, but if he is going anywhere it appears to be to Golden State. I wasn’t fond of either of those deals for the Lakers, so I think Mitch’s stance is for the best.


Two thoughts on executed trades:

• Getting Webber could be huge for Philly, if his knees hold up, but I don’t really get it for Sacramento. I understand they are trying to get back to the success they had when Webber started last season on the IR. I understand it was going to be hard to get equal value for Webber (PER of 21.35) but the three guys Sacramento got — Kenny Thomas (13.48 PER), Brian Skinner (6.13) and Corliss Williamson (14.94) — not only are average or below average replacements, they have contracts that run through at least 2007. Sacramento is stuck with these guys for a few years.

We’ll see what happens to Sacramento, but they are 5 games ahead of the Lakers, so they wouldn’t be easy to catch.

• Jiri Welsch is worth a first rounder?

Update #1:
It’s now five minutes past the noon deadline, and no word of a Laker deal, which is pretty much what we expected. It is possible news of a deadline deal will filter out this afternoon, but don’t hold your breath. Late moves by other teams include the Maverick’s adding Keith Van Horn and the Sixers dumping the Big Dog’s salary.

Update #2:
No Laker moves, none expected, but some interesting other stuff out there. Boston has reunited Walker and Pierce, and the Knicks have taken on some more big contracts (a trading day tradition in New York). Check out Knickerblogger and the Celtics Blog for reaction.

Update #3:
Knickerblogger has posted an interesting break down of the Webber to Philly trade. He thinks the deal isn’t that bad for Sac town. I still think the guys Sacramento got in return have contracts that are too long (for what you are getting).

Trade rumors continue to swirl around these teams heading into tonight’s game. I have yet to see a source I trust say there is something going to happen for sure with the Lakers, although it does appear Mitch K. is working the phones hard.

One rumor getting a lot of attention is a Baron Davis to the Lakers deal, although Davis is currently on the IR and is expected to be there for a couple more weeks. I’m not going to get into this too much until I get the feeling its more than just rumors, but let me ask you this: Do you think Kobe and Baron have styles of play that will mesh?

Now on to tonight: The Lakers won the last meeting between these two, but this game will look a lot different than that one — the Lakers were without Kobe and the Trailblazers were without Darius Miles. That game was also the day the news about Rudy T. leaving became public.

The Lakers won that game because they shot 51.1% eFG% compared to Portland’s 40.3%. In the second quarter, Portland was 2-of-17 from the field, scoring just 10 points. Zach Randolph was 0-12 from the field for the game.

What points Portland did get came from its perimeter guys — Damon Stoudamire had 25, Ruben Patterson 20 and Nick Van Exel 18, which accounts for 79.7% of the Trailblazer scoring. The Lakers should be better in perimeter defense tonight with Kobe back, although Portland is still capable of putting up a lot of points from that trio plus Miles.

Offensively, Patterson will get the chance to be “Kobe stopper” again, but teams have been able to score against Portland well from the four, and just about everywhere else. Odom can have a big night, as can anyone really. Also, if the Lakers play agressive defense they can get turnovers — Portland gives up 16.8 a game, 27th in the league. The question is will the Lakers have the legs left after a win last night followed by travel up to the Northwest.

By the way, Caron is again questionable for tonight’s game, with the official reason being stomach flu. For Portland, Shareef Abdur-Rahim is still on the IR.

Fast Break

 —  February 23, 2005

A collection of thoughts on the Lakers win against Boston, trades and other stuff:

• That was a sloppy game last night from both teams, but the Lakers got it together in the second half. The Lakers had 11 first half turnovers, just three in the second half.

• The Laker triangle spacing is horrible at times, especially if Kobe, Luke or Cook are not in (the guys who played the system last year). The key to the triangle is to keep proper spacing, and the Lakers (Atkins and Mihm in particular) were often in the wrong spot and bunched up the offense. This should get better with time, at least I hope so.

• My favorite stat out of last night — 21 offensive rebounds. Mihm alone had 8, more than the entire Boston team.

• After the guy he walked out the door destroyed his team, Celtics GM Danny Ainge said after the game he really wanted to keep Chris Mihm. I bet he does now. And that was the Gary Payton I remember, a once great guard who is now average and getting older fast.

• Payton may not be his old self, but why did the Celtics go away from the Payton isolation plays? Atkins and Brown were getting abused by that play. The Lakers never adjusted their rotation to it, but Boston seemed to stop running it when Pierce was on the floor.

• Did you notice Jumaine Jones hit two of his four threes from right in front of the Celtics bench, and after the second one seemed to have words for Doc Rivers? By the way, the Lakers were +20 when Jones was on the floor, the best number from the Lakers last night.

• With the clock ticking down to noon tomorrow, no reliable trade rumors out there right now. The buzz in Sacramento apparently is still some sort of Peja for Odom trade, but I just can’t see why the Lakers do that. Do we want another small forward who hangs out by the three-point line and is a poor defender?

• I hope Shaq’s injury isn’t serious.

• I’ve been looking for the right way to say I’m saddened by the passing of Hunter S. Thompson. I would love to do a Gonzo trip to a Laker game, something that starts out with me heading to Staples and somehow ends with me drunk and shooting guns in the backyard of some guy’s house in the Valley. But I’m not as fearless as Hunter, so those things don’t happen to me.

I first read HST in high school, where my senior English teacher gave us the option of doing a paper on Hell’s Angles. The book hooked me, and I soon read his other classics, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. If all you’ve read of HST is the stuff from the end of his career, when he became a parody of himself, do yourself the favor and read the early stuff. His was a unique voice, and I’ll miss it.

On Tap: The Boston Celtics

 —  February 22, 2005

It’s been almost a couple of decades since this was a must-see NBA matchup, but there is always something exciting about the Boston Celtics coming to town. Twenty years later, those green uniforms still stir my passions.

That said, these are not exactly the 1985 Lakers and Celtics. The Lakers are two games over .500, the Celtics just one (for Boston that’s good enough to lead the Atlantic division). Both are in the playoffs as of now but by just one game and need a strong second half to make sure it stays that way.

In a major role reversal from two decades ago, it is Boston that will want to push the pace tonight — they are fifth in the league averaging 96.8 possessions per game and take 45% of their shots in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock (shooting 52.9% eFG% on those). The Lakers, for contrast, take jut 37% of their shots in the first 10 seconds. Fast-paced teams have not given the Lakers a ton of problems, they are 7-7 against the 10 fastest-paced teams in the league this season.

What has given the Lakers problems is good point guards, and Gary Payton will try to exploit that. He has a just-above-average PER of 15.68 this season, however he is averaging 7.4 assists and just 2.6 turnovers per 40 minutes.

Of course, the Celtic offense focuses on Paul Pierce. He has a PER of 22.73, is averaging 24.2 points per 40 minutes and is getting to the free throw line 9.3 times in those same minutes (being fouled on 15.5% of his shot attempts). He’s also grabbing 7.6 rebounds per 40 minutes, or 11.1% of the missed shots while he is on the floor. Second on the Celtics in PER is Raef LaFrentz at 18.45.

The player I’m interested in seeing is rookie Al Jefferson, who Celtics fans are very high on. He’s playing just 15.7 minutes per game but has a PER of 17.09, and averages 17.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per 40 minutes. He’s grabbing 17.7% of the missed shots when he’s on the floor, a very good percentage.

For the Lakers, tonight is a good night to attack inside. The Celtics have done a good job defending on the perimeter this season but have been weaker inside (18.4 opponents PER at the four, 17.9 at the five). Lamar Odom should be able to put up good numbers, and this is a great chance for Chris Mihm to show his old team they made a big mistake.

The Lakers may be without Caron Butler tonight, who missed the morning shoot around because he really doesn’t feel well (and is not just about to be traded).

These first two games out of the block after the All Star break are going to tell us a lot about the Lakers — both Boston and Portland are teams the Lakers can beat, but will lose to if they don’t show up ready to go. These are tough wins, but the kind the Lakers need if they want to hold off Minnesota.

Apparently, the deal with Utah is dead everywhere but Jack Haley’s mind. Sources reliable (such Hoopsworld) and not so trustworthy (Peter Vessey and Chad Ford of ESPN’s Insiders) all say the Boozer to the Laker talks are not only dead, they were never really all that alive.

No good word on other moves. It appears that, as some of us had said before, the Lakers are standing pat.

Let the Jack Haley bashing begin. (And check out the comments below in the Travel post, where Dan and I started a Haley discussion.)

Update: Jack Haley himself said he thinks Utah “may go in another direction” during an afternoon interview on 570 am. He said he had sources that told him it was a go, but that Utah got buyer’s remorse.