Archives For February 2005

Let’s Make A Deal

 —  February 14, 2005

It’s impossible for Laker fans to watch a game like yesterday and not think about trades — we’re used to winning (unlike Knicks fans) and watching us lose 7 of the last 10 really hurts. There are clear weaknesses on this team, for example a ball-handling/defense playing point and a real four. (Guys like Gary Payton and Karl Malone.) Ones and fours are things we may be able to trade for.

The bigger question is, can we fill those needs at a reasonable price?

Before the trigger is pulled, the long-term picture needs to be considered in any trade the Lakers make. First, as I have said before, the Lakers need to make sure any players they pick up will fit in with the long-term direction of the team (whatever that is) and the new coach (whoever that is). Second, the CBA is being renegotiated after this season, so long-term contracts could bind the team in ways yet unseen in in future years (while other teams remained flexible).

The Lakers have one other problem in making a trade: What they have to offer. Do you put Luke Walton on the block? If I’m another GM I have to question why I trade for a guy I can get as a free agent at the end of the season (on the other hand, if you’re the Lakers and aren’t sure you can keep him you should try to get something). Slava Medvedenko? You want to pay him $3 million for next year? Do you think anyone else does? Devean George? He’s missed all of this season with injuries and GM’s are going to be hesitant to take him on without seeing he can play close to his old level. Vlade Divac? Same thing as George, but he’s much older. Yet, to make a trade really work for the Lakers these are the guys who need to be the key parts.

Maybe the most tradable Laker is probably Caron Butler — athletic, young and just one more year on his contract ($2.4 million next year with a qualifying offer for $3.3 the year after).

That said, there are some intriguing ideas out there.

How about a real Shareef Abdur-Rahim? He’s a real four, scoring 17.8 points per 40 minutes (that would be second on the Lakers) and grabbing 3.2 offensive and 9.1 total rebounds in that same amount of time. He’s making $14.6 million this season and is a free agent at the end of the year. To get him, the Lakers would have to ship out both Lamar Odom and Devean George, which is a steep price. I can only see this working if Mitch wants to clear out cap room — let Abdur-Rahim walk at the end of the season then go after someone out on the market.

A few commenters (DC, Gatinho) like the idea of Rafer Alston out of Toronto. He’s averaging 16.4 points and 8.4 assists per 40 minutes (and just 2.8 turnovers). He’s got the 13th best assist/turnover ratio in the league. The downside is he may be a serious head case, based on his fights with Sam Mitchell. Well, that and his defensive stats are not good. He also has a long-term contract now. You can get Alston for Caron Bulter and Jumaine Jones, but that may be a steep price.

Eric Pincus at Hoopsworld suggests something like Rafer Alston and Donyell Marshall for Vlade and George. If I were the Lakers I’d do that in a heartbeat, but I’m not sure why Toronto would (save clearing some cap space after Vlade’s gone, or buying him out next year).

Pincus (still the best beat guy) lists a bunch of other trade ideas — Marcus Banks (Boston) for Luke Walton and Tierre Brown, Frank Williams (Chicago) for a second round pick — in a recent piece but he is of the opinion the Lakers won’t make a move. Take the time to read his entire article, it’s worth it, but it won’t make you optimistic about a trade.

I’d like to see a move, but sometimes it’s just best to stand pat and make your moves later if there aren’t good options. I’m not sure the Lakers have a good one right now.

On Tap: The Cleveland Cavaliers

 —  February 12, 2005

Is Kobe going to play? From the Ironic Returns Department, he may come back against the team he suffered the severely sprained ankle against. Kobe practiced with the team Saturday and said afterward he was about 75%. If he doesn’t feel any pain and there isn’t any swelling Sunday, he said he would be ready to go.

Does 75% of Kobe make the Lakers better? Probably on offense – run the triangle through him and it should go more smoothly than when run through Odom, who never played it until a month ago. On defense, Kobe will not be the shut-down perimeter guy he can be, so he shouldn’t be matched up much on LeBron, but the Cavs do not get much of their scoring from their true guards (they count LeBron as a three) so Kobe wouldn’t be a liability.

If Kobe plays Sunday (or Tuesday against the Jazz), he will have to play in the All Star Game Sunday. Frankly, I like the idea of him not playing in that game – especially with a back-to-back right after the break – but Kobe’s not going to play 40+ minutes in Denver and would still get treatment. It’s not that big a deal.

There are two things the Lakers need to keep doing when Kobe does come back, whether it is against the Cavs or whenever:

1) Keep using Atkins off the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop. With Kobe running the show before Atkins was largely relegated to the role of spot-up shooter. He’s shown (as he has previously in his career) that he works better in a high-pick offense where he can penetrate/dish/just shoot. With Kobe on the weak side drawing attention, Atkins may have even more room in these situations.

2) Run more plays for Lamar. In Rudy T.’s offense it was All Kobe All The Time. Lamar has shown he can be the focal point of the offense and needs to be given the chance to be so more often.

Kobe or no, the Cavaliers will be a tough test for the Lakers – the Cavs are 18-5 at home this year. When the Lakers beat the Cavs last month, they reversed season trends by grabbing more offensive rebounds (17-11), winning the turnover battle (18-13) and taking more shots than their opponents. They also got to the free throw line 35 times (making 28) compared to Cleveland’s 16.

The Lakers also held down the guys with the second and third best PERs on the team ‑ Drew Gooden (20.54 PER) scored just 8 and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (18.83) added just 13. The Lakers will have to repeat that type of defensive performance to get a win.

Cleveland has the seventh best defensive efficiency rating in the league at 100.4 points per 100 possessions. (For the record, the Lakers remain 22nd at 104.5.)

The Laker game is scheduled to start at 12:30 on ABC, or after the end of the NBA Finals preview in the morning. Kobe, finding a way to get back in time for the nationally televised game, that sounds just like the dramatic kind of thing he’s done for years.

Tex Winter Talks

 —  February 12, 2005

Interesting interview with Tex Winter on NBA.com (done by Rob Peterson). Winter talked about a few things, including efforts to alter the offense under Hamblen.

I think if Hamblen had a chance and time [to change their strategy], he would. I think even now, he may implement certain phases of the old Lakers offense, but right now it’s a question of time. He also knows the game well enough to know that you can’t make a whole lot of changes midstream. You have little time to teach and make a system function. So, consequently, I think he’s relying more on the pro sets and the individual talents and matchups, which he understands.

He also said it is good Kobe has gone on this road trip with the team, even if he doesn’t play.


I think he can learn the importance of team play, ball movement and not just relying on one individual and that everyone has to act. Everybody has to play their role, whatever it is. It’s a team game and I think Kobe knows that, but because of his great individual talent, oftentimes he’ll forget and try to do too much.

There’s also more about Kobe growing into a leadership role and on Phil Jackson coming back (he said if Phil is healthy he wouldn’t be surprised). Read it for yourself, it’s well worth the time.

Talking Chris Mihm

 —  February 11, 2005

For a blogger who loves his stats, my posts the last few weeks have seen more posts about philosophy and coaches than the cold, hard facts. So, today let’s talk stats and let’s talk Chris Mihm, a guy who has been good enough for Laker fans to see him as the starting center for years — and with enough problems to make you question if can really grow into that role.

At the top of the problem list is the foul trouble. Mihm gets a lot (he did that in Boston too) and when he racks up a few his defense becomes tentative.

I had been among the group that thought Mihm’s seeming continual foul trouble came from picking up extra fouls sliding over to pick up the guard who blew past Chucky Atkins or Tierre Brown into the lane. It sure seemed that way. I even posted that hypothesis as part of a longer thread at the APBR discussion board recently.

Ed from Stats Pimp went me one better and did the research on this — and it appears, cough, cough, that I am wrong. Props to the Pimp and what follows is a direct quote from the man himself in that thread:

Here’s how Mihm’s fouls break down, games from Nov 3 – Jan 21:

Shooting 63
Offensive 13
Loose Ball 19
Personal 26
Illegal D 2
Technical 2

Of the fouls which resulted in FTAs (there were 70), here’s how the victims broke down:

PG 8
SG 9
SF 5
PF 21
C 27

I have no context to put those numbers in (neither did Ed), but at first glance that having 25% of your shooting fouls and 13.6% of your total fouls coming from the guards seems like a reasonable amount. Most of Mihm’s fouls are covering the fours and fives in the league (68.5%)

Chalk it up to another case of things appearing one way but actually being another. Mea Culpa.

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In some ways it’s been tough to accurately assess Mihm because of the minutes he plays —he’s averaging 25.58 minutes per game and 3.27 fouls per game.

A better way to get a picture of players is not to look at things per game but to look at things per minute played. Do that and you can easily see what a players numbers would be if he played 40 minutes a game, like top starters (the Sonics people prefer 36-minute averages, but the idea is the same). Convert all of a team’s players to 40-minute stats and they are on a level playing field for assesment.

Take Mihm’s numbers to that standard 40 minutes per game and he averages 5.1 fouls, to go with 16.6 points, 5.5 free throw attempts, 11 rebounds (4.3 of which are on the offensive glass) and 2.5 blocks. Compare those to Brian Cook, who gets the key fourth-quarter minutes at center for some reason. Per 40 minutes, Cook gives you 16.9 points and 5.0 fouls (both basically the same as Mihm) but 1.4 free throw attempts, 1.0 blocks and 8.2 rebounds, of which 2.3 would be on the offensive glass (all of which are lower than Mihm).

Mihm’s far from perfect, but he’s a better option at center, particularly late in games, than Cook. That decision by coaches is the most perplexing of their rotation decisions.

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While we’re talking Laker numbers at 40 minutes averages…

Kobe still leads the team in scoring, averring 26.1 per 40. He is followed by Odom (17.2, a number that has gone up with Kobe out), Brian Cook at 16.7, Mihm at 16.6, Butler at 16.4 and Atkins at 14.8. (As a side note, Slava actually averages 20 points per 40 minutes, although his numbers project out less accurately because he’s only playing 6.0 minutes per game.)

Kobe takes the most shots on the team per 40 minutes (19.7), followed by Cook (15.2), Brown at 13.7, and Odom and Butler (both 13.5). Kobe also leads the per-40 free throw attempts with 10.4, followed by Odom (5.6) and Mihm (5.4).

As for the Lakers turnover issue, Kobe leads the team there with 4.2 per 40, followed by Tierre Brown (3.1), Odom (3.0), Luke Walton (2.7) and Mihm (2.5)

Malone Retires

 —  February 11, 2005

Just passing this along, in case you haven’t seen it yet, but Karl Malone is hanging up the shoes. For all his years in Utah he was the player we Laker fans loved to hate, but you had to respect his game. Last season, he was the only Laker who (when healthy) showed up night in and night out to play. No agendas, he just wanted to win. He was a professional and grew on the fans quickly. I wish him the best.