Archives For March 2005

Some NCAA Hoops

 —  March 14, 2005

Have you filled out your bracket yet? I just started mine (I run the office pool here, forcing me to get a jump on this) and at first blush here are my final four: Oklahoma State, Wake Forest, Duke and North Carolina, which seems a little ACC heavy but they seem to have the best teams and best paths through. I’ll take the Tar Heels to win it all. I also really like UConn, but I can’t see them beating North Carolina in the Elite Eight. I’d like to see Gonzaga beat Wake Forest, but I can’t pick that either. And is Washington really a #1 seed?

As for UCLA, um… the fact they made it should be a victory in itself. Using the best college hoops stat sight around (offensive and defensive efficiency stats at your fingertips), Bobby Knight’s Red Raiders are 25th in the nation in defense (UCLA is 56th) and they are 50th in offense (the Bruins are 68th). So the other team has better offense and defense, well, in just one game anything can happen.

When your filling out your bracket and trying to figure out if Niagara is any good, log on to’s college stats page — click on a team and it will give you similar teams. For UCLA those teams are Mississippi State and Buffalo. Also, check out the Yoco College Hoops Blog, which will give you more information.

Not that all this is going to save your bracket, or mine.

NBA Minor Leagues

 —  March 13, 2005

One of the reported talking points of the upcoming CBA negotiations is to put in a 20-year-old age limit on players to be drafted or play in the NBA. Let me offer a quick opinion on this — not going to happen.

What is probably going to happen instead (and I have now read this rumor on Chad Ford’s column and heard it from a front office person of the Long Beach Jam, both of whom called it “likely”) is that the NBA is going to start an official minor league. The NBDL would be the base, and it would likely grow some, with teams sending their players there for development and coaching they can’t get in college — no restrictions on hours per week of practice and, in many cases, better coaching.

It would have advantages for NBA teams. Lets use the Lakers as an example. I have called for Sasha to get more playing time, taking some away from Tierre Brown. The reason is not Sasha is better than Tierre, he’s not at this point. But he needs some court time — and some weight — to see what he really can be and he’s not getting that at the end of the bench. Frank Hamblen, And Rudy T. before hhim, didn’t see it that way as they get paid to win (and right now, in a playoff chase, there is not time for players to find themselves). Send Sasha and players like Tony Bobbitt to a minor league team, where they can play and get better with the ability to call them up as needed, and the Lakers are making bigger steps toward the future.

The starting of this minor league would be a direct reaction to all the high school players entering the draft in recent years. If they are not going to college, and they are not Amare Stoudemire or Dwight Howard, they are going to get a couple years of seasoning somewhere.

But the move would be another big blow to the NCAA, where the kids used to go to get that seasoning. If a kid coming out of high school who is on the border of declaring for the draft now had a minor league to go to — no classes and a paycheck, albeit a smaller one — then why go to UCLA or Duke? Some will still go to college, but fewer and fewer of the best players will.

I love the energy of the college game, even if the play is lacking at times, and I’d encourage anyone to go to college for a few years just for the experience of being on a campus. This new minor league, if it comes to pass, will make days like today, and all of March, just a little less mad.


Regular readers will notice that a post I put up for 24 hours on Friday, about the Laker defense in wins versus losses, is now gone. The reason is I found the stat on which I based the post on ESPN while looking for something else and thought it worth of comment. Except that I misunderstood what ESPN was doing (it was not intuitive) and so my information was wrong. The post is now toast and I apologize for not double checking and posting something that wasn’t true.

For the record, the Lakers give up 96 points in their wins and 104 points in their losses.

On Tap: The Charlotte Bobcats

 —  March 12, 2005

Consider this a tale of two cities (and three players).

In one city, Charlotte, you have the future rookie of the year in Emeka Okafer. He’s put up solid numbers — PER of 15.85, scoring 16.4 points per 40 minutes, has an impressive rebound rate of 17.3 (percent of rebounds grabbed while he is on the floor) and about 19.6% of the Bobcats possessions involve him when he’s on the floor (a pretty high percentage, and a stat called usage rate).

Others players are getting mentioned for rookie of the year honors, too. Dwight Howard down in Orlando will likely be the best player from this class five years from now, and the combo of Luol Deng and Ben Gordon in Chicago have given their fans hope. But none of those players face one thing Okafer does — when Frank Hamblen got the scouting report for the Bobcats, Okafer was the first name mentioned. That’s true of every scouting report. He carries more of a load than his fellow draftees, and has done it as well or better.

With Okafer in Charlotte, but from another city, is Kareem Rush. Buried on the bench in Los Angeles, he is now averaging 20.2 minutes per game, scoring 16.6 points per 40 minutes and 11.9 per game since the trade. Last season in the triangle, Rush played a key role as Kobe’s backup, but with the new team and Kobe playing 40+ minutes a night, there was no room for Rush on the floor, and his numbers and demeanor showed it. He is now likely going to get a free agent contract somewhere for next season. A move was best for him.

When Rush was in a Laker uniform his defense was questionable, although so far this year his opponents PER is a very good 13.7. However, Kobe Bryant will test that tonight.

In a comment thread below, Gatinho asked about Kobe and if the stats show just how well he has been playing recently. They do. In the last 10 games, Kobe’s eFG% is 51% (compared to 46.7% for the season), and that is a dramatic improvement from the early part of the season when poor shot selection led to a much lower percentage. He also is averaging 6 assists per 48 minutes compared to 7.2 for the season, although I suspect that is lower because of the triangle as opposed to an offense based around Kobe driving than dishing. Kobe averaging 4.6 turnovers per 48 in the last 10, compared to 5.0 for the season.

I think we can say Kobe is more comfortable and finding better shots in the triangle than he got before, and his shooting percentage has gone up. That will challenge Rush and the Bobcats tonight.

Two wins to start this six-game road trip would be the kind of thing that, if the Lakers make the playoffs, we would look back on as a key stretch. And it is within reach if they play up to their potential tonight.

Talking Draft

 —  March 11, 2005

I know it feels a little odd to mention potential draft picks after a game where the Lakers looked like they could make the playoffs, but it’s not me doing the mentioning. Blame Knickerblogger (well, actually one if his regular contributors, David Crockett). He has a two part series looking at some of the top draft prospects, which makes more sense there because if you’re a Kinicks fan you’re already lighting candles in church for the ping pong balls. The first one looks at the two guard spots, the second part at forwards and centers.

Laker fans may not be there yet, but this is a good breakdown of people coming out of college (no internationals or high schoolers). Take the time, this is worth reading.

On Tap: The Dallas Mavericks

 —  March 10, 2005

A comment thread below started to drift toward a discussion of how the Lakers don’t need to get stars this off-season but more role players — someone who can bring to the Lakers what (for example) Reggie Evans and Danny Fortson have brought to Seattle.

Another great example is tonight’s opponent, Dallas Mavericks. When you look at their lineup the first guy to pop into your head is certainly not Erick Dampier. But he went down with a stress fracture in his right foot last month, and since then the Mavericks are just 5-4. (To be fair, both Michael Finley and Dirk Nowitzki have missed some games in that stretch as well).

Without Dampier in the middle as a last line of defense on penetration and grabbing rebounds, six of the Maverick’s last nine opponents have shot better than 50% eFG% (for the season teams shoot 47.4%) and all have pulled down double-digit offensive rebounds. Those things have cut into their ability to stop opponents and led directly to losses. The Lakers, in a win last week, shot 52.4% and had 12 offensive rebounds.

The good news for the Lakers tonight is that Dampier is still on the IR. The bad news is that both Finley and Nowitzki are expected to play.

Last week when these two hooked up I wrote about Nowitzki’s MVP-caliber year. This time, lets talk about his new, short-cropped haircut. “My bangs were too long and I couldn’t see very well,” was his explaination. The good news for me is I have the same hairstyle as Dirk, the bad news is I went short for the opposite reason of the bangs hanging in my face.

His quote comes out of Dirk’s new advice column on the Mav’s Web site. It rates pretty high on Bill Simmon’s “unintentional comedy scale” and is well worth the read.

Dear Dirk … I grew out my blond hair because yours was long. Now that you’ve cut yours, should I do the same? Thanks for you advice Dirk.

Dirk says: Yes, of course you should do the same.

Dear Dirk … Hi! Great job this year — MVP for sure. I have been married almost three years and I am really searching for a romantic restaurant in the Dallas area can you recommend any that are really special and will leave my wife breathless?

Dirk says: “Do I look like I take anyone on romantic dinners?”

Dear Dirk … I have a lady problem. Since you look like a ladies’ man maybe you can help me out. I like this girl. She seems somewhat interested. What is a good date that would win her over? Also should I trade Jason Richardson and Chris Bosh to get you on my fantasy basketball team?

Dirk says: “Fly her down for a Mavs game, and I recommend sticking with Richardson and Bosh for your fantasy basketball team.”

Dear Dirk … Help, my cable is out, can you send someone?

Dirk says: “I am on my way!”

As for tonight, Chucky Atkins is going to have to step up for the Lakers to have a chance. In the first game between these two Dallas point Jason Terry pretty much had his way with Atkins, scoring 28 on 10 of 11 shooting. He had 12 points and six assists in the next game. Meanwhile Atkins has shot 35.7% (eFG%) in the two games.

While we’re talking defense, a lot is going to fall on Caron Butler tonight, who has to make sure Finley doesn’t take over the game. It was Kobe who took over the fourth quarter of the game last week, look for Dallas to make the defensive adjustments and force someone else — Lamar — to step forward.

The Lakers are 30-29 heading into this six-game road trip and, if at the end of it, they are not 33-32 or better, the odds of making the playoffs will be pretty long. A win in Dallas would be a big start to this, but (like everything on this trip) it won’t come easily.


 —  March 9, 2005

It’s that time of year when talk of RPI, seedings and bubble teams fills the air. You’ve got to love March Madness. UCLA is likely in the Big Dance and has an RPI ranking of 29th in the land. The second best team in Southern California based on RPI? Cal State Fullerton, ranked 111th, followed pretty closely by my Cal State Northridge Matadors at 118. Pepperdine is in there at 121, and all those teams are ahead of USC at 130. And you wonder why the Trojans are staying home.

All the talk of RPI this time of year reminds me to check out ESPN, which does a meaningless but interesting RPI rankings for the NBA.

Not much shocking this year. The best NBA team? San Antonio (.578). Filling out the rest of the top five are Phoenix (.567), Miami (.555), Seattle (.550) and Dallas (.545).

The Lakers land at 16th (.500). This seams about right, if you took the top 16 teams in the NBA into the playoffs the Lakers would be hanging on by their fingernails, with Orlando and Indiana right behind them. Minnesota (.504) and Denver (.504) both would be in. Only six of the 16 would be from the East (Miami, Detroit, Washington, Chicago, Boston and Cleveland).

The Lakers expected win and losses, by their calculations, would be 27-32, a full three games back of where they actually are. That jibes with the Pythagorean win/loss expectations for the Lakers, which have had the team winning more than their offensive and defensive ratings would predict this year. (Stats Pimp keeps Pythagorean records, but his site seems to be down temporarily.)

All of this doesn’t mean a thing for the NBA, but it’s a fun exercise. Next week, after the NCAA brackets are announced, I’ll throw my final four and other predictions out there, which should provide everyone with a good laugh.

And this weekend, Go Matadors!

Quality Reading

 —  March 9, 2005

I got home late last night and am busy this morning, so rather than me writing let me direct you to some interesting things smart people have had to say. I said smart people, not Plaschke.

(I’m not even sure what I could say about last night’s loss. With the playoffs on the line and a big road trip coming how do you come out flat? How do you give up a 7-0 run to start the game and a 12-0 run to start the second half? After two games of good defense, how do you take the night off on that end of the floor? Mihm has got to stay out of early foul trouble against teams with good front lines. I could go on, but it all seems redundant.)

1) Following the pathetic showing last night you might be looking forward to the off-season and who the Lakers can acquire. Eric Pincus at Hoopsworld is. He compiled a dream list of players the Lakers can go get, then explains why it’s not going to be easy to get any of them.

2) Really interesting piece in the New York Times by Dan Rosenbaum about the soft cap/luxury tax system used by the NBA. I’ve linked to Dan before, he is the most knowledgeable person on NBA finances and the cap not working in a front office (and is better than many in front offices). This really is a must read.

In 2002-3 and 2003-4, the tax redistributed $680 million from players and high-spending owners mostly to low-spending owners.

That $680 million equals one-eighth of total N.B.A. revenue over these two seasons and dwarfs the $80 million redistributed during the five years of Major League Baseball’s luxury tax. (This does not include its revenue sharing.) N.B.A. welfare for low-spending owners even surpasses the cash welfare systems in 30 states.

3) Just because I found it interesting, here are the most traveled men in NBA history, compiled by Ben Maller. A few of these guys are still going.

12 Chucky Brown Cleveland, L.A. Lakers, New Jersey, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Charlotte Hornets, San Antonio, Golden State, Sacramento

12 Tony Massenburg San Antonio, Charlotte Hornets, Boston, Golden State, L.A. Clippers, Toronto, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Vancouver-Memphis, Houston, Utah, Sacramento

11 Jim Jackson Dallas, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Golden State, Portland, Atlanta, Cleveland, Miami, Sacramento, Houston, Phoenix

10 Mark Bryant Portland, Houston, Phoenix, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Denver, Boston

10 Kevin Ollie Dallas, Orlando, Sacramento, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Chicago, Indiana, Milwaukee, Seattle, Cleveland

9 Tony Brown Indiana, Chicago, New Jersey, Houston, Milwaukee, L.A. Lakers, Utah, L.A. Clippers, Seattle

9 Tyrone Corbin San Antonio, Cleveland, Phoenix, Minnesota, Utah, Atlanta, Miami, Sacramento, Toronto

9 Greg Foster Washington, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Chicago, Minnesota, Utah, Seattle, L.A. Lakers, Toronto

9 Jaren Jackson
New Jersey, Golden State, L.A. Clippers, Portland, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington, San Antonio, Orlando

9 Tim Kempton L.A. Clippers, Charlotte Hornets, Denver, Phoenix, Cleveland, Atlanta, San Antonio, Orlando, Toronto

Supersize Kobe

 —  March 8, 2005

“I’ll have the artery-clogging pastrami burger, fries, and the Kobe bobblehead.”

Soon enough, if you live in Southern California, you can go through the drive-thru at Carl’s Juniors and utter that sentence. Starting in April, Kobe bobblehead dolls will be available.

What’s notable about this is it is the first major marketing campaign to involve the Laker star since the incident in Colorado and ensuing fallout, which cost him at least $4 million in endorsements. This promotion will be only in his home base, where he has more support than the rest of the nation

“There was some discussion internally” concerning the appropriateness of including Bryant, Renae Scott, vice president of regional marketing and media for Carl’s Jr. said Tuesday. Ultimately, Bryant was included because “he is an integral part of the Lakers team and a fabulous player.”