Archives For March 2005

On Tap: The Los Angeles Clippers

 —  March 8, 2005

It’s the time of year when we can look at the Clippers and ask, “Who is leaving at the end of the season?”

This season’s leading free agent contenders are:

Bobby Simmons, playing the three (or maybe the two). He’s got a PER of 16.81 and a is averaging 17.7 points per 40 minutes, he scores 1.12 per shot attempt, has an eFG% of 49.7% and can create his own shot. And he’s only 24. He’s going to get a lot of interest because those numbers show he can play, but he’s not going to break the bank.

Marco Jaric, playing the two (although some think he can be a point). He is a restricted free agent, meaning the Clippers can match. A very good passer with a PER of 15.59 and he can score some (12.2 points per 40 this year). He’s a second year player who will draw interest if his foot problem is not that serious.

That foot issue means Jaric is going to miss tonight’s game. Their other starting backcourt guy, Shaun Livingston, also will be out, meaning the Clippers starting backcourt includes Rick Brunson. GM Elgin Baylor on the radio this morning bemoaned the fact that with Brunson and Corey Maggette in the starting backcourt the Clippers cannot stop dribble penetration. Looking at their opponents PER, the places they are getting killed is in the backcourt. Kobe must be looking forward to this game.

Bryant missed the last one between these two, which the Clippers won. The Lakers won the first two meetings, with Kobe putting up 37 in the second of those Laker wins.

The Lakers catch a couple of other breaks tonight. First, add to the list of walking wounded for the Clippers Kerry Kittles (another unrestricted free agent at the end of the season). Second, the Clippers are in the second game of a back-to-back, having lost to Memphis last night, and they are 7-9 in that situation.

The Lakers need this game — Thursday they start a difficult six-game road trip. While the Clippers may not be able to catch the Lakers (five games back), Denver and Minnesota are still right there and L.A. needs all the wins it can get. And this is one they should get.

I’ll miss Reggie Miller. He is no longer the great shooter he once was (not that the Pacers still don’t run him off multiple picks, just like the old days), but since he played at UCLA he’s been fun to watch. And I’m sure he’s still on Spike Lee’s Christmas card list.

Last night during the Pacers/Lakers game, play-by-play guy Paul Sunderland called Miller a sure-fire Hall of Famer. That made me balk (sorry for the baseball reference, but it is Spring Training). Is he really that automatic? Has he been the kind of dominant player who deserves to be enshrined with the game’s greats?

First, let me say I think he’ll get in. Play 18 seasons and score more than 24,500 points — some of them dramatic points in big games in NYC — and you’re likely going to get there.

But I’m not convinced he should be, and certainly not a shoe-in the same way I consider Shaq or Tim Duncan a shoe-in. First, from, here’s a list of comparable statistical players for Miller’s career:

Mitch Richmond
Glen Rice
Dominique Wilkins
Dale Ellis
Terry Porter
Latrell Sprewell
Clyde Drexler (in HOF)
Chris Mullin
Gary Payton
Charles Barkley

On that list, one guy is in and two others (Payton and Barkley) are in likely will be. But the guys at the top of that list, the guys with the most similar careers, are guys who are on the bubble, guys who had very good careers but I’m not sure belong in the Hall.

Back to Miller, also has a Hall of Fame monitor that, while not perfect, is a good starting point, adding together awards and efficency numbers to get a rating. It has Miller on the bubble, (his score is 128, they say a score of 135 gets you in; for comparison, Shaq has a score of 332, Duncan 379, Kobe even has a 158).

Miller does have some solid offensive numbers (coming into the season). A career points per shot attempt of 1.23, a career PER of 18.4 (with six seasons above 20) and a player wins percentage of 81.5%. He averages 25.6 points per 48 minutes.

A lot of people, when they think of Miller they think of great playoff performances (right Knickerblogger?). While he averaged 18.4 points per game over his career, it is 21.2 in the postseason, but he did that by taking more shots (he shot 54.6% eFG% for his career, compared to 52.7% in the postseason, which is still a good rate).

But Miller was never one of the most dominant players of his time. Look at his two best statistical years, 89-90 and 90-91, and he is still 15th in the league in PER (among players who logged 4,000 minutes those seasons), 10th in points produced, 12th in player wins and 19th in player win percentage. Look at the years of the deep playoff runs for the Pacers (97-98 to 99-2000) and Miller is 22nd in the league in PER, 21st in points produced, 13th in player wins and seventh in player win percentage.

I tend to be a tough grader on who should get into the HOF, I think you should have been “dominant,” a tough word to define, but you know it when you see it in person and statistically. While Miller has had great moments, I’m not sure he’s ever been dominant over a length of time. I think that’s what got me about Sunderland’s assessment, Miller is on the bubble to me and not a sure thing.

If I had a vote, Miller wouldn’t get it. Maybe someone can convince me otherwise, but to me Miller is a bubble guy for the HOF who ends up on the outside.


As a side note, this post is not possible without the great, which now allows the sortable stats by year, has added the Hollinger stats and is the reference site I use most; and, which rocks as well.

Fast Break

 —  March 7, 2005

Bunch of thoughts while watching games, seeing plays and house hunting this weekend:

• Defense, which was nonexistent on a recent three-game road swing, was the key to both wins this weekend. Against Dallas they held the eighth best shooting team in the league (48.8% eFG%) to 40%. Against Indiana, the Lakers played great defense in the first quarter, holding the Pacers to 37.5% when they built their lead. By the end of the game, after the Lakers seemed to decide it was won and packed it in, the Pacers shot 47% (close to their season average of 47.6%), but they never climbed out of the hole.

• The triangle is starting to run a lot more smoothly, it seems Atkins and Odom are starting to get the hang of it. Mihm also is making good decisions out of the pinch post.

• The backcourt combo of Luke Walton and Kobe Bryant in the triangle led to a fast 8-0 run against Dallas. For the game, that lineup was +8 and looked good for the most part (as Some Guy from San Diego said in the comments). That led to another case of “I don’t get the Laker substitution patterns” against Indiana, where those two never saw the court at the same time.

• Vlade, if he makes it back, would be great in the triangle. Get him the ball at the elbow and let him put his good passing skills to work.

• Proof that was a real team win against Indiana for the Lakers — every player was positive in +/-.

• Is there some movie called “Robots” coming out? I wish they’d promote it more, I can’t find anything about it.

(Insider’s note: I talked to a friend who went to the big Robot’s premiere on Sunday. The review in brief: Visually stunning but a bit soul-less. Not as good as the Pixar stuff, where the story comes first.)

• The Pacers couldn’t do their morning shoot around Sunday at Staples because the L.A. Marathon ran right past it. So, from their hotel in Beverly Hills they traveled to Santa Monica’s Crossroads High, where Crossroads alum Austin Croshere felt right at home.

• Jim Gray deserves a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

On Tap: The Indiana Pacers

 —  March 6, 2005

The big number against Dallas was 40. Kobe had 40 and took charge in the fourth quarter, but that was not the biggest 40. While Dallas had 103 points, they shot only 40% (eFG%) from the floor — they were not efficient, they just scored points because this was a fast paced, 107 possession game.

The Lakers need to hold down the Pacers in the same way if they want to make it two in a row at Staples. Los Angeles catches a key break — Jermaine O’Neal will miss the game with a shoulder injury. O’Neal not only has a team-her PER of 23.5, he is one of the league leaders in possessions used percentage. He is the focal point of their offense, especially with Ron Artest promoting his rap album and having lunch with David Stern. Even with O’Neal in the lineup, the Pacers have the 21st most efficient offense in the league, just 101.1 points per 100 possessions.

Without him the Pacers have gone to a retro look — Reggie Miller and just-signed Dale Davis are starting. In his farewell tour Miller has a PER of 14.59 — just below the league average of 15 — but he is still capable of the hot night. They may be old the Pacers already played at a slow pace, 26th in the league in the number of possessions per game (91.6, less than the 18th ranked Lakers at 93.7).

The potential trouble for the Lakers is in the back court, where point Jamaal Tinsley has a PER of 18.97 and off guard Fred Jones stepped up with 23 in O’Neal’s first game out. The Lakers need good defense out of the Atkins/Brown again to get the win. Laker Center Chris Mihm is going to have to step up and play good defense on Jeff Foster, who averages 12.5 points per 40 minutes with a respectable PER of 17.62.

Without their stopper Artest, the Pacers are an average defensive team, 12th in the league giving up 102.1 points per 100 possessions. The good news is they are pretty average at defending the two, a opponents PER of 15.4 on the season, and they are week inside, an oPER of 16.0 at the four and 17.7 at the five. Odom and Mihm can have big nights if they come out aggressively.

With a daunting schedule the rest of the way, the Lakers need to take advantage of the breaks that fall their way. An O’Neal-less Pacer team is one of those breaks.

On Tap: The Dallas Mavericks

 —  March 4, 2005

Last time these two met it was a fast-forward on TiVo evening — the Lakers were down 13 in the first quarter and the Maverick’s shot 59% (eFG%) for the game. That tells you all you need to know.

Since that Jan. 5 meeting, the Mavericks have been playing better and better, the Lakers have lost four and a row (and have not lost five in a row since 1994, back when Vlade led the team in scoring). The handful of smart writers at are talking about Dallas. The Mavs are beating teams like Miami, Phoenix and Seattle.

Dirk and his new haircut are getting MVP talk, and they should. He has a PER of 26.38, fifth best in the NBA. He’s fourth in the league in points per 40 minutes at 27.2, with a healthy 1.14 points per shot attempt. He leads the league in +/- (adjusted for 48 minutes) at +19, suggesting he is the most valuable player to his own team in the league. His defense is not great (an opponents PER of 16.3) but it has improved each of the last two years. Heck, he’s even got his own advice column.

Dallas has the fourth most efficient offense in the NBA, averaging 106.8 points per 100 possessions (as an update, the Lakers are seventh at 104.5). They still like to move the ball quickly, taking 42% of their shots in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock (compared to 37% for the Lakers). As a team, they are shooting 49.1% eFG% on the season, seventh best in the league.

But the days of the all offense, no defense Mavericks are gone. They are ninth in the league in defensive efficiency, giving up 101 points per 100 possessions. Teams are shooting 47.3% eFG% against them this season.

Last time these two met, Mavs point guard Jason Terry torched Chucky Atkins for 28 points. One break for the Lakers is that Eric Dampier remains out, and with him out the Mavs have been out rebounded significantly the past two games. The Lakers need a big game inside to take advantage of that. Yes, I’m looking at you Chris Mihm. I’m also looking forward to the Odom/Nowitzki matchup tonight.

If the Lakers lose this game, they fall out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. If that’s not motivation to play the defense that was missing on the East Coast road swing than things are worse for this team than I think they are. And I don’t think their good.

Bill Sharman

 —  March 4, 2005

Bill Sharman didn’t like to lose.

Jerry West tells a story from his rookie season where he came down and hit six consecutive shots against Sharman, a Celtic. On the seventh, Sharman took a swing at West. The punch missed but the message had been sent, and West was far more cautious around Sharman the rest of the game.

He brought that same intensity to the bench as a coach for the first Laker championship team in Los Angeles. Sharman will be honored tonight at halftime of the Lakers/Maverick’s game.

The Lakers had been to the finals and lost seven times when Sharman took over as coach for the 1971-72 season. This was a team that had West, Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich, Jim McMillian and Happy Hairston as a starting lineup. That talent was there but it needed a push to get over the hump. (Sound familiar, like maybe the 1999-2000 Lakers?)

With Sharman at the helm the Lakers had maybe their best team ever. They won 33 in a row at one point and finished 69-13 on their way to an NBA title (losing only one game in the playoffs).

The next season, the Lakers reached the finals again, only to lose to the Willis Reed-led New York Knicks. Then Chamberlain retired, followed in a couple of years by West, but the Lakers were still constantly not only making the playoffs but also winning rounds.

In 1976 Sharman left the Laker bench and moved upstairs to become general manager. Almost immediately he helped arrange an controversial deal that allowed an unhappy Goodrich to sign with the New Orleans Jazz for several draft picks, including a first round pick in 1979. That pick turned out to be Magic Johnson, setting the table for the run of titles in the 1980s.

He was the GM for the 1980 and 1982 titles, before turning that job over to West and taking on the role of team president. He held that job through 1988, when he finally stepped back from the game (although he remained on as a consultant).

When you look at the lack of direction the team is currently experiencing, you realize just what Sharman helped bring to the organization. And you wish he and those days weren’t gone.

Lakers Finish 38-44

 —  March 3, 2005

I’m not above stealing a good idea. Matt over at Bulls Blog recently looked at Chicago’s schedule through March using an “expected wins” system he got from his father (which is inheritance in his case, not stealing). The idea is to count wins by assigning a number between 1 (a sure win) and 0 (a sure loss) to each game. In practice, because there are no such things in the NBA as sure wins or sure losses, games are really given a number between .9 and .1.

I decided to try this system out for the remaining 26 games on the now .500 Lakers schedule, and the results depressed me.

Dallas .3
Indiana .6
Clippers .6
@ Dallas .1
@ Charlotte .7
@ Washington .5
@ Philadelphia .3
@ Miami .3
@ Indiana .4
Seattle .3
@ Utah .6
@ Denver .4
Philadelphia .6
New York .6
Minnesota .6
@ San Antonio .1
@ Memphis .3
@ Phoenix .1
Houston .4
@ Seattle .2
@ Sacramento .2
Phoenix .2
Sacramento .4
Dallas .3
@ Golden State .5
@ Portland .7

Add it up and it totals 10.3, so I rounded that off to 10 wins the rest of the way. That ends the Laker season at 38-44, which is certainly out of the playoffs and likely closer to 11th in the West. Just looking at who remains on the schedule for the Lakers, with their slim hold on the eighth spot in the West, is depressing.

On Tap: The Boston Celtics

 —  March 2, 2005

Sure we only played them one week ago, but this is not the same Boston team the Lakers beat.

The next day the Celtics went and got Antoine Walker, then a couple of days later went and beat the Suns. Celtic fans are ecstatic. There’s going to be a playoff atmosphere in the building tonight, with Celtics Blog saying, “Walker likely to get a “Beatles land in America” type greeting from the crowd.”

In the last two games, the Celtics have shot 51.5% (eFG%) compared to 49.6% earlier in the season. They’ve had an offensive rating of 116.2 (points per 100 possessions), compared to 104 for the season. Walker led the team in both scoring and rebounding in both games.

Into that walk the lost-three-in-a-row Lakers. The Lakers who apparently left their defense back at Staples (“We put it right next to the door so we wouldn’t forget it, I don’t know what happened”).

Only one thing has me at all optimistic today — every time I have thought the Lakers would pack it in this season, they have surprised me with a win.

For that to happen a few things need to come to pass: Chris Mihm is going to have to have another game like he did last time these teams met — 19 points, 8 offensive rebounds and 4 blocked shots; another former Celtic, Jumaine Jones, added 14 and was a +20, and will have to be close to that; Kobe and Lamar will need to match or improve their 21 points from that game; and the Lakers will need to clean the offensive glass — they had 21 offensive rebounds.

This is going to be a tough one for the Lakers. If they play defense like they did the last couple of games, it will be over by halftime. I’d be surprised if it’s not, but I’ve been surprised a few times this season.


As a side note, Gary Payton is not expected to play, although some people are hopeful he will and some in the press think so.