Archives For June 2005

Fast Break

Kurt —  June 9, 2005

Some day of Game One thoughts:

• I have no idea what Phil Jackson is going to say tonight in his pre-game interview on ABC — he may say he’s taking the Lakers job, may say he wants to sit out a year, may dodge the question entirely, may say he wants to marry Jeannie. Well, probably not that last one.

My guess is not he’s not going to say much of anything. If he does announce he took the job in that interview, it would be a big slap in the face of the Los Angeles media. To make the announcement in a national broadcast and not give the scoop to the local publications and stations would fly in the face of how things are traditionally done. That said, the Laker organization has had an obvious frustration with the Los Angeles media this past year — particularly area columnists who essentially took the Shaq side of the story in the end of the Laker dynasty. If Phil does announce on ABC, it will show just how pissed the organization is.

• For those that want to know, here’s a quick rumor roundup: Laker team sources saying Phil takes the job today; Kobe’s people saying that is not the case, he is staying out for a year and Brian Shaw will be the next Laker coach. Buss had ego clashes with Phil and that’s an issue. Jeannie is now saying plans won’t be announced. Everyone’s got an agenda, so take it all for what it’s worth.

• If you want to see a perfect example of why the Laker organization is frustrated with the local media, check out JA Adande’s poorly thought out column in the LA Times from the end of the Heat/Pistons series. It’s not just a “the Lakers never should have traded Shaq” mentality (an opinion that is at least defensible) but comments like this:

It’s interesting that owner Jerry Buss helped explain the Lakers’ 34-48 season by lamenting injuries to Vlade Divac, Devean George and Lamar Odom but never considered the injuries to Karl Malone and even Horace Grant last year when deciding to break up the old team.

There are a couple of things wrong he, but here’s the big one — by the end of last season this team was going to break up whether Buss wanted it to or not. Either Shaq was going to go via trade or Kobe via free agency. They were not going to play together again. Buss’ only choice was which player to keep, not whether or not to break up the team.

• While I’m venting, let me mention problem with Adande’s column and with the coverage of the end of the Shaq/Kobe era in general — what took that team down was less their egos and more the supporting pegs around them being knocked out. But that’s never discussed.

Look at the other key members of the lineup from the first Laker title team: Glenn Rice, Ron Harper, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Brian Shaw, Derek Fisher. As the team moved through the next five seasons the surrounding cast got much older and poor decisions were made by management — resigning Devean George and Slava to overpriced deals, drafting Kareem Rush instead of Tayshon Prince, expecting Horry and Fox to play bigger roles as their bodies aged, just to name a few.

How did management address that problem — bring in two well-aged future Hall of Famers and make one more run at it. Both showed their age — Payton through his play and Malone through injuries — and so the team falls short because Kobe and Shaq can’t do it all on their own.

If you’d seen smart moves — like you’ve seen in San Antonio — Kobe and Shaq may have stayed together because they were winning titles. We’ll never know because they weren’t given the chance.

But read the local papers or listen to the radio and it’s Kobe’s fault. Or Shaq’s. Whatever.

• Oh, about that game tonight. I think the most interesting part will be to see who is matched up on whom. A quick prediction for the series — look for Brent Barry to have a big one. At times the Spurs are going to shoot over the top of the Pistons defense and Barry is the guy who can do that best.

Smoke Signals

Kurt —  June 7, 2005

There is no white smoke coming out of Staples Center, but according to the latest article from Eric Pincus at Hoopsworld we’ll know in the next couple of days about Phil. Since Pincus wrote that article he said on a message board he has gotten additional information to say Phil will make an announcement on ESPN Thursday.

After all the waiting I’d like a sign that is a little more certain, maybe some white smoke, but my guess is if you turn over the Magic 8 Ball it says “All Signs Are Good.”

Update: Reports early Wednesday night are that Phil will go on ESPN or ABC right before Game 1 tomorrow for an interview to “announce his intentions.” Predicting what Phil will do is risky business, but I’ll stick with my Magic 8 Ball guess.

Fast Break

Kurt —  June 7, 2005

What, you expected some kind of coaching announcement? Here are some general thoughts while the Laker front office treads water.

• That was a really entertaining game 7 between the Heat and Pistons — maybe not the up-and-down play that David Stern wants (and Phoenix delivers) but filled with drama. For my money it was the best game of the playoffs so far, and may be the best overall this post season when said and done.

• Here’s an interesting note from that game from PopcornMachine.net and its game flow — the Piston with the best +/- in that game was Eldon Campbell (+7), the Heat player with the worst +/- was Zo (-11). No Piston was in the red for the entire game — while their bench has been maligned it was a key difference in that game. The Pistons are still pretty deep with good players.

• Tim Duncan sat watching that game and I bet all he was thinking was, “Man, my ankle feels so much better after a week off.”

• Let thee mainstream media howling begin — “This series is going to be unwatchable with two defensive-minded teams” — but the best team from each conference made it to the last dance.

• I’ll still take the Spurs, let’s say in six.

• If the Lakers really are close to announcing Phil Jackson as coach, I think they would have loved to have done it while Shaq was playing in the NBA Finals, just to pull the spotlight off him and make him answer Laker questions.

• Here’s the new information out there on the Laker coaching situation:

• No, that last blurb was not a typo.

• More interesting stuff on the “Nash is MVP?” debate up at Hoopsanalyst.

Who Are They Rooting For?

Kurt —  June 6, 2005

Big game seven tonight, with plenty of story lines and sub plots. To help paint the big picture, here’s a rundown of who the interested parties are rooting for:

ABC Television executives: “Please give us Shaq and Wade. Please. We’re down on our hands and knees here.”

David Stern: “I want whatever ABC wants.”

The San Antonio Spurs: They’ve said all the right things — that they don’t care who they face — and in one aspect they are right because the Spurs should beat either of those teams. But you know they care.

I think the Spurs would prefer the banged-up Heat, mostly for match up reasons. During the regular season the only teams that sort of gave the Spurs problems were teams that 1) played good shooting defense (the Heat and Pistons were almost identical here) or 2) shot well themselves (the Heat had the second best eFG% in the NBA). (As a side note here, what is true of the Spurs is basically all teams, shooting well and keeping your opponent from doing well is obviously Hoops 101 on winning, so teams don’t do as well against teams that do those things.)

Based on that, at first glance you might think the Heat would be a tougher series, but when you look at potential player matchups I think it’s easier to cover the Heat right now. Wade is the biggest problem, but he is slowed by the rib injury and Bowen will make him work for his points, and Parker provides more speed to create problems up top. Then there’s Shaq — the Spurs have 18 fouls to give with Tim Duncan (who will cover the four mostly but can change out), Nazr Mohammed and Rasho Nesterovic, not to mention double team fouls from Horry and others. Shaq is a force inside, but one that can be slowed down now (unlike, for example, in 2000). For the Heat, the two best +/- players in the playoffs have been the two Joneses, but the Spurs fast-rotating team defense will take away some of their easy looks.

On the other hand, the Pistons may not have a dominant force on offense but they do have a spread of options. Bowen can cover Rip Hamilton, Paker will haunt Billups, Duncan on Rasheed Wallace is another key. But then who stops Tayshaun Prince? The Pistons have more options and Larry Brown will put them in better situations.

Tonight’s referees: Does anyone know what they’re thinking in this series?

Jerry Buss: If you were on vacation in Europe, likely with a smoking-hot 20-something woman, would you care who won this game? He needs to care more about who is coaching his team, anyway.

Me: I’m just rooting for a good game. These playoffs need one.

Fast Break

Kurt —  June 3, 2005

For the record — I did not shoot Biggie Smalls, the LAPD was just trying to frame me. Now, on to some basketball thoughts.

• Let me start out bragging, I think I am the Michael Jordan Mattel Classic Basketball. Sure, there are far more modern hoops video games complete with Amare Stoudemire’s 360 dunks of flaming basketballs, but I’ve been hooked on the Mattel game since I was in elementary school — where my friend John and I played all the way through recess ever day. I hadn’t seen the game in years but got a re-release as a gift from my brother last Christmas and I’m hooked again. I can make the little red LED light drive the lane like Kobe with the clock running down — I am unstoppable. There needs to be a world championship for this.

• According to Larry Stewart at the LA Times, Joel Meyers is the new TV voice for Lakers. Hopefully he’ll have a more interesting season to call than the ousted Paul Sunderland did last year.

• Whether you’re optimistic about the Lakers this summer or pessimistic, Eric Pincus has a piece up at Hoopsworld that backs you up. This is the usual gret work from Eric, it will get you up to date on all the rumors out there.

• Two potential Laker draft picks, international forwards Fran Vasquez and Tiago Splitter faced each other in a recent game and Draft City has the play-by-play. Not a lot there but what is basically confirms the existing rumors — Vasquez can come in now and play (with good defense and rebounding) but Splitter has more potential. Other reports out of the European playoffs rave about Vasquez. More and more mock drafts have Vasquez gone before the Lakers draft at 10.

• Including the Hoopsworld piece above a couple of stories now have the Lakers looking to trade up in the draft. While a number of scenarios are out there, the only one that makes sense to me is trading Caron Butler and the 10 to New Orleans for the 4th overall pick. I don’t love it but if they can get Chris Paul the Lakers will have the point guard of their future, so it may be worth it (it’s going to be hard to resign Butler at the end of the year and if he’s gone we need to get something for him, and the Hornets need a three). This trade wouldn’t happen until draft day — if Bogut or Williams fall to them New Orleans isn’t giving up that pick.

• Shaq, good on ya.

• Looks like expected #1 pick Andrew Bogut and Kobe won’t be having a couple beers together soon:

Bogut was asked for specifics of the American attitude toward the game, what he does not like. Guess who’s name came up?

“There’s no one I really hate, but Kobe [Bryant] had a demeanor of being very cocky,” he said. “What happened with Shaq. . . . If I had a chance to play with Shaq or Tim, if they told me to buy them groceries, I don’t care, I buy them groceries. It’s a gift to play with somebody like that. Kobe is probably one of the guys that, everybody knows it, he’s got that cocky arrogance to him, everything has to surround around him the whole time.