Archives For March 2005


 —  March 18, 2005

When the Lakers moved to Staples, I knew I’d miss the intimacy of the Forum, even though I understood the economic necessity of the move.

Well, this move from Blogger’s hosting service to my own URL is sort of like that, except that I plan to keep the intimacy and there were no economic forces at work. So really, it was nothing like that, but it was time for the move anyway. While the site has only been up for a little over four months, people are finding it — the volume of readers here has steadily picked up over time (and to answer gatinho’s question, the big spike was around the trade deadline but readership has been on a steady rise while the team has been on a steady fall).

There’s a lot of fun ahead of us — the draft, summer pro league in Long Beach (which I will attend) and more. I really appreciate those of you who come here and are part of the community. Thanks. I look forward to the future.

On Tap: The Indiana Pacers

 —  March 18, 2005

Have the Lakers’ luck run out?

John Hollinger talks about it on his ESPN Insider column today (his columns are still the best thing about the Insider), so far this season the Lakers are the second luckiest team in the NBA. Their Pythagorean record (based on scoring and defense) so far is 28-35, four games back of their actual 32-32 record. (The Nets are the luckiest, they are seven games above where they should be.) The Lakers are winning the close games, Hollinger notes, pointing to the Lakers 13-8 record in games decided by five or fewer points, while in games decided by 10 or more they are 8-17.

Has Kobe’s battery run out?

In the second half of the last three games, Kobe Bryant is 3 of 29 shooting, a sign that he is wearing down. He is playing an average of 42 minutes per game, second highest average in the league. He told the LA Times that his ankle is bothering him again. It’s starting to show.

Has the long season caught up with the Lakers and are they about to be out?

We’re going to learn that in the next week. Tonight they have a key game, a winnable game in Indiana, but they need to play better than the last three games. Next Friday, they play Denver in Denver. By the end of that game, we’ll know whether the luck has run out on these Lakers.

As bad as the Lakers luck has been, it’s been worse for the Pacers. They coulda had class. They coulda been a contender. They coulda been somebody. Instead, they are struggling to stay in the playoff hunt in the east. They lost Ron Artest to suspension and now Jermaine O’Neal to injury. Point guard Jamaal Tinsley is considered day-to-day heading into tonight.

Without those key players for long stretches the Pacers have been pretty average, 12th in the league in defensive efficiency and 20th in offensive efficiency.

When these two teams faced off 12 days ago it was one of the Lakers easiest wins of the season — they played great defense in the first quarter, holding the Pacers to 37.5% (eFG%) as they built a lead they never gave up. All five starters scored in double digits. The Lakers packed it in early and while the Pacers got closer, they never really threatened.

The last game of the road trip is always the toughest to win, but if the Lakers lose they fall below .500 and will fall 2.5 games back of Denver (unless the Clippers help out with a win). I really don’t like the phrase “must win” for the NBA regular season — the NCAA tournament is must win — but tonight’s Laker game is about as close to it as you can get.

On Tap: The Miami Heat

 —  March 17, 2005

On all-hype-all-the-time television we’ve been hearing about Shaq vs. Kobe tonight and how Kobe is wearing the black hat for forcing Shaq out. Talk radio guys can’t shut up about how Jerry Buss made the wrong decision and Kobe got what he wanted. Rather than make the retort myself, I turn to Chris Monjoy of Hoopsworld, who said it beautifully in a piece today about the Lakers not making the playoffs:

And To Kobe Bryant who critics will say “Got exactly what he wanted.” But do you really think Kobe wanted a dreadfully unbalanced roster, a clueless coach, no defense at the point, and no real interior presence? Anyone who’s watched the Lakers this year knows Kobe played his heart out every game, and did everything he could to be a team player.

Last night on the Southern California Sports Report, the host dé jour (I’m not going to take the effort to look up her name as fast as they change anchors around on that show) asked Brad Turner, the Laker beat writer for the Press-Enterprise, a question about the Lakers being in “disarray.” His response was that they were not in disarray, they were just “disjointed.”

This led to a conversation between my grammarian wife and I about just how far apart disarray and disjointed are. (That gives you just a little window into the wild life I have at home.)

But it does lead to a bigger question: Just how far are the Lakers away from being good? Right now I would describe them as an “average” NBA team, hovering just above .500 (for at least another 48 hours). How far away are they from being talked about being on par with, if not San Antonio, teams like Seattle and Dallas?

My gut instinct is they are really just a couple of affordable guys and a good coach away from being good. They need a guard who can defend the point and a real four inside. They need a coach who has a philosophy of what kind of team he wants (triangle or fast break) and who preaches a defensive system from day one.

Get those three things and I think this would be a good Laker team. Get there and then we’ll talk about the tweaks needed to become a championship team.

We’ll get a pretty good picture of how far the Lakers are from good right now when they face a legitimately good team in the Heat.

While the media focuses on Shaq vs. Kobe, the real issue tonight is who is going to stop Dwayne Wade. Back on Christmas day Wade had 29 points (the Heat team high) and 10 assists. Tonight I expect to see Kobe on him until Kobe picks up a couple of fouls. Other guys — Caron Butler, Jumaine Jones and even the Matador defender Chucky Atkins (Ole!) — will get their chance and have to step up. And it’s not just those guys, the Heat have the third most efficient offense in the league (109 points per 100 possessions and an eFG% of 52.6% for the season) and it’s going to take a team effort to stop them. Chris Mihm and his sore back are going to have to keep Shaq from dominating.

Last time these two teams met the Lakers took it to overtime by shooting 52.4% (eFG%) and leading the way was Lamar Odom who had 24 points on 9 of 15 shooting (the four is the weakest spot defensively for the Heat, according to Kobe had 42 points. Both of them will need big nights again and someone else will have to pitch in to get the team into the win column.

The Heat are good. Tonight a disjointed Laker team will get to measure themselves against that standard.

NCAA Tournament Predictions.

 —  March 17, 2005

I posted mine below (I’ll take North Carolina to beat Wake Forest in the finals, with Oklahoma State and Duke rounding out the Final Four). Hoops Analyst now has theirs up, a Final Four of Florida, Illinois, Duke and Louisville, with Duke taking it all.

Who does everyone else have in their brackets?

Fast Break

 —  March 16, 2005

Another busy day at work, so here are some quick thoughts.

• Why, if Kobe has a good first quarter, does the rest of this team seem to go in a funk? We’ve talked about Kobe needing to get other players involved early, but there will be nights when he’s hot early and the rest of the team needs to step up later and they never seem to.

• Sasha was a +12 against the Sixers and Luke was +11, and while some of that came in garbage time some did come against the Philly starters near the start of the fourth quarter. The zone defense they went to helped.

• Lately I’ve needed to keep reminding myself that the moves last summer — keeping Kobe and trading Shaq — were moves that looked ahead three years and were not going to help the Lakers this year.

• I also kept telling myself that I was hoping for 3-3 on this road trip, and so far they are 2-2. The bad news is the last three games have been defensive disasters, the Lakers were just lucky to win one of them.

• I fear that Thursday night in Miami could be another blowout. Check out this note from’s Mark Stein: Miami hasn’t lost a game in regulation since Feb. 1. The Heat’s only two losses in the past 17 games came in overtime — and both without Shaq.

• The guy with the front-line job of stopping Shaq — Chris Mihm — has a sore back that has limited his play lately.

•One other thing about Shaq is you can always count on him for a clever quote (and you wonder why the media likes him better than Kobe). This one is pretty funny.

• The Lakers have used 243 different lineups this season, according to the Dallas Maverick’s stats people. That puts the Lakers toward the bottom half of the league — Charlotte has used the most at 597 and Seattle has used the least at 170.

• Apropos of nothing else, the book I’m reading right now, 1968 by Mark Kurlansky.

On Tap: The Philadelphia 76ers

 —  March 15, 2005

Tonight I hope to see Frank Hamblen’s Lakers take the court, because last night I could have swore I watched the Rudy T. Lakers — and their 34 three point attempts. I kept rewinding TiVo to see if Rudy T. was wearing a Kurt Rambis mask and taking his place on the bench, but there was no compelling evidence to prove my theory. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

For the past five quarters the Lakers have moved away from the triangle. The problem with that is they had success in the fourth quarter in Charlotte so they moved farther away and closer to the isolation-and-three offense of earlier this season in Washington. In part, this move was pushed by Washington’s pressure defense, but the Lakers didn’t fight through it. The result was shooting 40.9% (eFG%) for the game and an ugly loss.

Tonight is a match up of two teams battling to make the playoffs (Philly is 1.5 games back of the eighth playoff spot in the East) with both needing this win.

The 76ers probably thought they were playoff bound when at the trade deadline they picked up Chris Webber. But in the last 10 since the trade they are just 4-6 (Webber has been there for nine of them and they are 4-5).

Offensively, the 76ers have been a little better since the trade. They are shooing 48.5% (eFG%) in their last 10, compared to 47.2% for the season. Their offensive efficiency is 102.4 (points per 100 possessions), compared to 100.6 for the season.

Defensively, however, they have gotten worse. In the last 10 games, teams are shooting 51.1% against Philadelphia, compared to 49.1% for the season. Their defensive efficiency in the past 10 is 105.1 (close to the Lakers 105.8 for the season) compared to their season average of 102.2.

The Lakers can try to exploit this defense tonight by going right at Webber. He and his bad knees can’t cover Lamar Odom and his quickness. If the Lakers are going to go away from the triangle tonight, isolation plays with Odom are the way to go.

The Lakers will need to show up defensively tonight as well, particularly in transition. Look for Philadelphia to push the ball, they have the second-highest average number of possessions per game in the league, 97.8, trailing only Phoenix (98.6).

Obviously, stopping the 76ers starts with playing good perimeter defense on Allen Iverson. He has a PER of 23.8 this season (ninth best in the NBA). He is averaging 28.5 points per 40 minutes but is only shooting 44.6% (eFG%) for the season. For comparison, Kobe has a PER of 24.01, is scoring 27.2 points per 40 minutes and shooting 47% for the season.

One other Sixer to watch is Lakewood-born Kyle Korver, who is shooting 56.2% this season and leads the Sixers with 1.17 points per shot attempt thanks to his proficiency from beyond the arc (40%) and good free throw shooting (87.3%). (The highest Laker in PSA is Atkins at 1.15.)

With tough games in Miami and Indiana looming, the Lakers need to win tonight to make sure they finish the road trip at least 3-3. I just hope Rudy T. isn’t hiding on the bench again.

Carnival Time

 —  March 15, 2005

Busy day at work for me, I’ll get the 76er preview/Wizards recap up as soon as I can. Not that we really want to relive last night.

In the short term, check out what everyone around the NBA is saying with the Bulls Blog Carnival posting. It’s a great review of other NBA blogs — you can see why the people in Boston are happy right now and the fans in San Antonio aren’t that worried about the Suns. (What they should worry about is Duncan’s knees.)

Another good read is over at, where Eric Pincus has his latest article up looking at the Lakers down the stretch.

The realist admits it’ll be tough for LA to make the playoffs, but they have a legit chance. If they play well enough, they’ll likely get a first round match up with the Spurs. Maybe they win a couple of games, but it’ll probably be an early summer for the Lakers in either case.

On a separate note, a big change is coming to this blog in the next week or so. Nothing to worry about yet, but when it happens, you’ll be the first to know.

On Tap: The Washington Wizards

 —  March 14, 2005

Things were off and running earlier this season in Washington D.C., but like the president’s Social Security plans, things have slowed down of late for the Wizards. And it hasn’t been good for either of them.

So far this season the Wizards are averaging 97.1 possession per game, the fourth fastest pace in the league. They take 44% of their shots within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, and shoot 51.8% (eFG%) on those. The Lakers got a first-hand view of that earlier this season when the Wizards dropped 116 points on the Lakers (and won).

However, in their last 10 games the Wizards are averaging 93.6 possessions per game. The slower pace and lack of easy buckets has hurt their shooting — as a team they are shooting just 44.1% during that span (down from 46.7% for the season). The result, the Wizards are 3-7 in those last 10.

Part of the problem is the “Big Three” in Washington — Larry Hughes (22.85 PER), Gilbert Arenas (21.93) and Antawn Jamison (16.66, he is not 100% physically right now). Back when they last played the Lakers, those three accounted for 92 of the Wizards 116 points. However, in the last 10 games, those three are shooting 43.4%, and as they take the bulk of the Wizard’s shots the team is struggling.

They will try to get healthy against a porous Lakers defense ranked 27th in the league in efficiency, giving up 105.8 points per 100 possessions. With the Wizards’ strength being the backcourt and dribble penetration, they play right into a Laker weakness.

Despite their defense the Lakers have won the first two games on this road trip, led by Kobe Bryant, who is shooting 52.1% in his last 10 games. The two possessions the Wizards have struggled to stop this season have been point guard (16.9 opponents PER) and center (16.6), so this is a night Atkins and Mihm can step up big.

My guess is, just like the other night in Charlotte, this one should be fast paced and entertaining. That said, the Lakers would do well to slow down the Wizards, who shoot just 38.6% on jump shots. Besides just slowing them down, the Lakers need to stop the dribble penetration of Washington.

I said going into this six-game road trip the Lakers needed to be at least 3-3 when they get back home to stay in it, and getting off to a 2-0 start has been huge. Get a split of the back-to-back tonight and against the 76er tomorrow and the Lakers can reach that goal with games to spare. Including that little game in Miami Thursday.