Archives For February 2005

The Last Laker Trade

 —  February 22, 2005

While we wait for more trade information to come down, let’s look at the last major Laker trade — the one with Boston this summer that has defined what both teams have become this season. The two teams face each other tonight at Staples.

After all the retirements (Rick Fox), refusals to report (Gary Payton), changes of mind (Payton) and alterations to the deal, here’s what it ended up being: Payton, the Lakers first-round draft pick this year (if they make the playoffs) and cash for Chucky Atkins, Chris Mihm and Jumaine Jones.

Would you do that deal again? I would. The Lakers got a center for the future in Mihm as well as two guys who can be good backups (Atkins has been thrust into the starting lineup). Plus, they got rid of an aging Payton who couldn’t stop the top points in the West anymore, and whose attitude during the playoffs last year was reason enough for me to want him gone.

I asked Jeff, who runs the very good celticsblog.com, what he thought of the deal 50 games in.

I still love the trade. Looking back, if I knew what I do now about Blount and Mihm, I’d rather have Mihm I think, but that would mean no GP, which is a bad thing. GP has been nothing short of a revelation for us. Even with a step off his game and questionable defense, I’d love to keep him around another year or two if he’ll stay.

I also asked him what the Boston faithful thought about the players they gave up in the deal.

Atkins was great for us in that he gave us a true playmaker at the point (something Marcus has yet to grasp). He ran the pick and roll and really helped set up our offense when we were floundering around. Still, he wasn’t anything spectacular and we’ll always remember him for being the guy that Kenny Anderson torched against the Pistons many moons ago.

Mihm was understandably shaky. He wasn’t really around long enough to establish himself and mostly was prone to dumb fouls.

Jumaine was an enigma. He never got off the bench despite some early promise in training camp. Danny even went out of his way to tell Jones that he believed in him during a pep talk mid season. Still, it was necessary to toss him your way in exchange for Banks because we needed a backup plan in case Gary didn’t work out.

Atkins must have been a better playmaker in Boston than in LA, although Kobe takes all the pick-and-roll chances here. Jones may have been an enigma, but when he got his chance he’s played pretty well (still second on the team in +/-), giving a spark off the bench. And I think Mihm and his potential is the brightest spot in the trade for the Lakers.

Maybe this is a trade that worked out best for both sides.

Travel Story

 —  February 21, 2005

Something to lighten the mood while trade rumors swirl:

My wife, 8-month-old daughter and I landed at LAX Sunday night after an hour flight delay in Phoenix (where we had been visiting relatives from Ireland, several 65-year-old women who liked to complain about how hard it is to get a cab when they leave the pub at night). We get our bags (well, three of the four, the other came 15 hours later) and go outside. While I’m on the phone trying to find out what happened to our ride home, my wife taps me on the shoulder and says, “Is that guy a coach?”

I turn around to see Ben Howland standing there with most of the UCLA team behind him, returning from the Bay Area. Most of the guys head for the team bus, but a couple break off as other people are picking them up.

I find this mildly interesting, but that cannot overcome the frustration I have with the disappearing ride home. So I walk over to an area with better cell reception to make another call and raise my blood pressure a few notches.

When I come back over to my family what do I see — my daughter doing her best to flirt with Jordan Farmar. She’s cooing and talking to him, and he’s smiling and saying “hi” back.

It was very cute, but I think I’m in a world of trouble in 15 years or so.

Carlos Boozer A Laker?

 —  February 21, 2005

Here is the hot trade rumor: Carlos Boozer to the Lakers for Caron Butler, Deavon George and Vlade Divac. Let me stress that as of right now this is just a rumor, one that got legs because Dennis Rodman’s former baby sitter said it on Fox Sports last night. Everyone else is denying it, but that doesn’t mean much.

If it does happen, lets look at the trade:

Boozer is a traditional four, something the Lakers have needed all season. They particularly need it if they are not going to play the triangle long term (remember George was a starter in the triangle for the last few years), the triangle does not need a great four to score. Even in the triangle, Boozer can play the Dennis Rodman roll, but adding a few more points.

Boozer has a PER of 19.47, is scoring 20.5 points per 40 shooting 52.1% eFG%, is scoring 1.12 points per shot attempt, and is averaging 10.3 rebounds per 40, 3.2 of them on the offensive glass. Those numbers would make him second on the team in PER, second in points per 40, second among starters (and fourth overall) in points per shot attempt, third on the team in rebounds per 40 and second in offensive rebounds. Those numbers are better than what the Lakers are giving up, but only because George has yet to play this season. B-R calculates that similar players at Boozer’s age were Shawn Kemp and Elton Brand, pretty good company.

Boozer is 23 years old and is making $11 mill this season and $11.6 million for the four after that. He is under contract through the 2008-09 season, with a player option for the 09-10 season. Utah allegedly wanted some cap relief (something they can get by buying out Vlade for $2 million at the end of the season plus Butler’s contract runs out after next season) and some athletic people who can play the three (they get two of them).

My first reaction is that I like this trade for the Lakers. Odom finally is forced to move to the three, which we have wanted to see all season. Boozer and Mihm make a strong front line, even though Boozer is not considered a great defender (opponents PER against him is 17.1). I think this makes the Lakers far more balanced team, at least on paper. I’m not sure why Utah would do this — they just signed Boozer as a free agent.

Updates throughout the day as we hear/read things.

Update #1: David Aldridge reported yesterday a Lamar Odom to the Kings for Peja and Bobby Jackson deal . I didn’t mention it because I find it hard to buy, that kind of a deal within the division is very rare. That said, Aldridge is one NBA reporter who tends to get his facts right. This would give the Lakers a point but gets us another small forward, something we need like we need more rain today. We shall see, but this seems unlikly to me.

Update #2: In case you didn’t see it, here is the quote from a Utah paper on the proposed Boozer trade: “Absolutely ludicrous,” said Jazz basketball operations senior vice president Kevin O’Connor.”

Update #3: Poster Gatinho mentioned it and here’s the link: Eric Pincus leans toward thinking this deal can get done, and if not Haley should update his resume quickly.

Update #4: Two people were not doing their jobs yesterday. Caron Butler missed Laker practice with a “stomach flu,” although it is common for players about to be traded sit out practice to avoid injury. Second, Jack Haley was not on the So Cal Sports Report last night. My guess is that pretty soon, one of those two will not be in Los Angeles.

Update #5: In case you haven’t seen it, T.J. Simers writes about Haley and his column today. He seems to think Haley is full of it, but we already knew that.

All Star Break

 —  February 18, 2005

As a Laker fan, I’ve already watched 50 games where there was no defense, why would I want to watch another?

So, while the NBA tries to figure out things to do in Denver when you’re dead, I’m off from the blog until Monday. I’ll be spending the weekend with a bunch of inlaws, including ones all the way from Ireland, in Mesa, Arizona. (Anybody have any suggestions of things to do when your trying to get away from the inlaws in Mesa?) I’ll be back and writing on Monday. Enjoy the weekend.

Who Worries You?

 —  February 18, 2005

As of the All Star break, here are the standings in the West:

(6) Houston 32-21
(7) Memphis 30-23
(8) L.A. Lakers 26-24
—————–
(9) Minnesota 27-27
(10) Denver 24-29
(11) L.A. Clippers 23-30

The Lakers on the bubble for the last playoff spot in the West (and the rights to lose to San Antonio in the first round). While you can make a case that the Lakers would be better off long term falling out of the playoffs and keeping their first-round pick this season, I can’t root for that to happen. I want to see them make the playoffs, even if I know what awaits us on the other side.

Will the Lakers make the playoffs? Can they move up out of eighth? Let’s tackle the second question first. Houston is one of the hottest teams in the NBA and we’re 4.5 games back of them, so let’s not pretend we’re not catching them. We’re 2.5 back of Memphis, only one in the loss column, so this is more doable. Looking at the upcoming schedule, this is a case where I’m not sure we can catch them without some help, like the Griz hitting a losing streak. If that happens and if we start to win again at the pre-Kobe-injury pace, maybe this can come true.

Directly behind us are two teams with new coaches. I think Denver’s chances of making the playoffs have more to do with any trades made at the deadline than George Karl. This is a flawed team, but if they can get someone who can shoot from the outside they can suddenly start to look like last year’s Nuggets again.

Minnesota, on the other hand, worries me. They have all the pieces, those pieces have just been getting older and playing poorly. They are 19th in the league in defensive efficiency at 103.8 points per 100 possessions, last season they were sixth at 96.6. Last season, Spreewell’s PER had already started to slip and finished at a pedestrian 14.7, this season it is down to 12.08. Those are the kind of things that can be turned around for the final 30 games, making it tough for the Lakers to keep the Twolves at bay. The question is can McHale get them to play defense.

All that said, I’d rather be the one being chased rather than the chaser. For all the problems the Lakers have had this season — lack of a team identity, losing a coach, Kobe missing 14 games — they are still in the playoffs and can make a push. I like our chances. Minnesota just worries me. Who worries you?