Archives For July 2005

Bad Idea Jeans

Kurt —  July 12, 2005

Anyone else remember what may have been my favorite Saturday Night Live skit in the 1990s, the Bad Idea Jeans commercial? It was a knock off of a Dockers commercial, with just quick shots of guys pants while you overhear their conversation, but for Bad Idea jeans they said things like, “Normally I wear protection, but then I thought, “When am I gonna make it back to Haiti?”

That brings us to the ongoing NBA rumor mill, where ESPN’s Chad Ford and numerous other national media have the Lakers trading Caron Butler and another part (Slava?) to Washington for a sign-and-trade with Kwame Brown. Count me in the group saying that if this goes down, it will be as if Mitch was wearing Bad Idea Jeans.

Kwame is all potential but has shown none of that so far. Last season the Wizards were 8.2 points better per 48 minutes with him OFF the court, mostly because he was weak offensively. The problem is the 6-11 power forward took 58% of his shots outside of 15 feet and shot just 32.8% on those. When he was closer to the basket, he shot 64%, and he drew fouls on 18% of his shots, making you wonder why he strayed so far from the lane so often. Defensively he is average against power forwards, his opponents PER was 14.4 and opponents shot 45.4% against him, all of which would be a step up for the Lakers. His rebounding, however, is unimpressive, a rebound rate of 12.8% (of available rebounds while he was on the floor) and 13.8% for his career, not great numbers for a power forward.

I’m not opposed to giving Kwame a shot with the Lakers, it’s just that Caron Butler would be too high a price. Butler had a PER of 16.10 (compared to 10.6 for Brown), and averaged 17.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per 40 minutes played. Those are solid numbers, proven numbers at the NBA level that likely will only get better considering Caron’s age. While Brown is all potential, Butler is a proven commodity.

Butler may be the Lakers most tradable asset, but because of that and his perceived trade value (which may be higher than his actual worth), the Lakers need to get more than just potential for him. They need to get something proven. Brown is not that. The Lakers front office is denying this trade is in the works, let’s hope that is the case, because it’s a bad idea.

SPL Game 3 and Other Notes

Kurt —  July 11, 2005

Update: Up at Hoopsworld is another view of the Lakers at the Summer Pro League, plus the latest trade and free agent rumors, all courtesy Eric Pincus. Also, if you wanted to know why some teams were high on high schooler Gerald Green, check out this video from the Vegas Summer League (the link comes via Celtics Blog).

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I caught the first half of the Lakers game three in Long Beach Monday afternoon, and am here to pass along notes from that and a couple other things in my notebook.

• The crowd was a little smaller today but still pretty big — Long Beach State’s team couldn’t draw that big a crowd if they were playing UCLA. In the house were Phil Jackson, Mitch Kupchak, Jerry Buss and even Jack Haley.

• When the season starts, teams are going to lay off Ronny Turaif and dare him to hit any shot more than 10 feet away from the basket. He was even badly missing 15-18 foot jumpers in warm-ups. Until he can develop some kind of outside shot his effectiveness will be limited. He can rebound and his defense looks solid, but he can’t be an offensive black hole.

• The triangle continues to look ugly.

• When I’ve talked about Bynum being raw, I thought I should provide a little detail. I’m not a scout, so use whatever amount of salt you see as necessary with these. He really doesn’t have great positioning skills or box out skills — likely because he never had to develop them being guarded in high school by guys 6-5. He seems like he used to be just so much stronger that he could get where he wanted to go on the court no problem, now he’s got to get a body on somebody rather than just expect his length to do the job and he’s not quite sure how to do it. His footwork is bad; he took one hook shot Wednesday off the wrong foot. When he gets the ball in traffic, he gets flustered (he’s clearly not used to the speed of the game). On defense he made errors, for example: covering a pick-and-pop Wednesday he did something we almost never saw out of Shaq when he stepped out on the guard, but then he stayed with him almost out the sideline, where the guard passed it to the “popper” and Bynum, realizing he wasn’t supposed to switch, was futilely chasing after his guy who scored easily. All can be taught, but means don’t expect much from him for at least a year — he’s going to play Darko minutes this season. It may be three before he can really contribute.

• This weekend we (my wife and I) TiVo’d and watched the Live 8 concerts. London kicked our ass. Badly. USA Basketball vs. Mongolia badly. Their first three acts in London — U2, Coldplay, the aging but still entertaining Elton John. In Philadelphia the first act was Bon Jovi, followed by the mild rap stylings of Robert Horry, er, Will Smith. Even if it did close with Paul McCartney playing his best work of nearly 40 years ago, I’d rather have been in Hyde Park.

• Sasha’s defense does not look a lot better. He was slow on a couple rotations and got beat twice on ball fakes in the first half Wednesday. I’m curious how much Phil will use him, my guess is not much if he can’t play defense. By the way, after pumping up his catch-and-shoot skills from the weekend, Sasha went back to being a streaky outside shooter Wednesday.

• The emergence of Ronny Turiaf had Marcus Douthit playing harder and with more desperation on Wednesday (at least that’s my guess of the motivation), and at half he led the team in scoring (I think he had 10, maybe 12, stats weren’t available when I left). I don’t think it will be nearly enough.

• If I were Mitch K., I’d give Will Conroy and Smush Parker invites to training camp — I’m not sure they’d make the team but they’d at least be solid in practice. Smush is quick and can score, Conroy just runs a team well and can play defense. They’ve been solid in the SPL.

• Dean Oliver figures that a players scoring hits its peak at age 27. Kobe will be 27 this season.

Summer League Games 1 & 2

Kurt —  July 10, 2005

Two games. Two sellouts.

I’ve plenty of notes on players but that above stat is the thing that most jumped out at me after two days — the combination of Phil and Andrew Bynum has created a buzz around this team that was missing the second half of last season. There’s not going to be a Laker championship in the next couple of years, but there’s unbelievable interest in Dr. Buss’ team again and that itself is a good sign. I’ve been to plenty of Summer League games and it was never a problem to get tickets before. People have had to be turned away at the gates the last two days.

The Laker brain trust has been to the Pyramid already to watch their players — Phil, Mitch, Dr. Buss, Jim Buss, Tex Winter, Rambis (coaching), Shaw (assistant coach). (By the way, funniest thing of the two days was Saturday, when the Summer Pro League inducted James Worthy into their mythical Hall of Fame. Mitch K. was out at mid court to give him the plaque and when Mitch was introduced there was an even mix of boos and cheers, but Mitch was a pro and had no reaction. On the other hand, Dr. Buss was cracking up.)

I’ve tried to bullet point this by players, but there are some general thoughts that need to be brought up as well.

• First, it needs to be noted that this team is struggling in the triangle. The flow is lacking and it is breaking down all the time (with some players doing more playing outside the system than others — yes, I’m looking at you Von Wafer). This is especially hurting the big men, who are not always getting the ball in a good scoring position.

• The first night, fans were there to cheer Andrew Bynum, he got applause for a dunk during pre-game lay-up drills. But, by the end of the second game, it was Ronny Turiaf who has become the big crowd favorite. His energy and obvious love of the game is infectious.

• Bynum is raw. Intellectually we all knew that, but in person it is much more in-your-face — he shows flashes but, at least to me, it’s tough to see how much potential is under there. But there is potential there — he has 26 points and 11 rebounds through the two games. There are flashes of power and good decision making. The first game he seemed to struggle with the tempo of the NBA game (even at the Summer League level), that was slightly better in the second game. He seems to be thinking more than just playing (“Where do I need to be?” “Am I supposed to rotate out to cover that guy?”). Also, his conditioning needs work, he tired in both games considerably. He also needs to bulk up — he could not hold position on the offensive low block or push players out of the block on defense, in fact smaller players pushed him around. Against Dallas (second game) he ended up guarding former Kansas standout Eric Chenowith (who has been in the NDBL recently) and the experience factor showed — Chenowith easily handled Bynum, scoring inside and out. Bynum did have two blocks in the first game. I should say Bynum looks slimmer than clips I’ve seen of him in the past, my guess is he’s been working on conditioning and now he has to work on putting on muscle. Combine his lack of strength and bad passing from the guards and he had the problem of getting the ball well outside his comfort range — when he did get it in close he got off some good shots. He is long, very long, but at times still seems awkward in his body. He is already strong and when he grows into it he could be a beast. But it’s too early to know much.

• Turiaf hustles as advertised and that with his personality have made him a crowd favorite. He’s showing the reason’s I’m glad the Lakers picked him — but his game has big holes. He shows that four years of college polish that Bynum does not, Turiaf sets good picks and does a good job in getting in rebounding position, plus boxing out. He has one style with the ball — power moves to the basket from the low block. That leads to a lot of fouls (he shot 18 free throws in the two games), at least in the summer league, let’s see about the bigger NBA bodies. He has no outside shot and needs desperately to develop a jumper out to 15 feet to compliment his inside game. His defense is average and he has just one block in more than 50 minutes of play — this needs to improve. While he is big, he still needs to add 10 to 15 pounds to his frame to deal with the stronger NBA players. I think the upside for Turiaf could be a Rambis-like role.

• Everything I knew about Von Wafer I got from the Internet, and it didn’t do him justice — he is much more athletic, smooth and tenacious in person than I had expected. He is very quick and his shot is fluid, the problem is it doesn’t go in enough. He was just 4 of 12 in the first game and through two games is shooting 44.4% (eFG%), which says NDBL not NBA for the Lakers right now. I will give him this, he may have had the two best dunks for the Lakers so far, going right at guys five to seven inches taller. He plays fearlessly. He also seems to still be adjusting to the speed of the players and the game at this level, for every two smart moves he makes there is mistake. In both games he started drives that had no hole and left him stuck behind the basket or some other spot (this improved some in the second game).

• Sasha Vujacic may be a better back up two than point, and they may be grooming him for that role. The times he looked best was when he was used in a Ray Allen style — he would pop out off a screen, get the ball, turn and shoot. When he did that he was 3 of 4 by my count on Saturday, but when he tried to create he was 1 of 4. Much of the time he was in the game Saturday other people played the one and he played the two. The good news is his passing skills are still there, he made some sharp passes. The bad news is his defense is still questionable — he picked up a lot of fouls rather than stops and he was late on several rotations.

• Marcus Douthit, the Lakers second round pick last year, still is not ready. He looks bigger than last year, but he still got pushed around some inside. It’s only been two games, but he is averaging just 8 rebounds per 40 minutes, not great numbers for the SPL (if you’re looking to make an NBA roster as a rebounder). Defensively he had trouble stopping much of anyone in the lane either night.

• Will Conrony, a free agent out of Washington, knows how to run a team and plays pretty good man-to-man defense. The downside is he is limited offensively — not great at creating his own shot on the drive at this level and his outside shot is inconsistent (1 of 6 in the two games, 0 of 2 from three point range). He does have good passing skills.

• Smush Parker might be an NDBL guy, if not for the Lakers than someone. He has skills and can shoot the ball (he is 12 of 17, 2 of 5 from three point range). He also seems uncomfortable playing within the triangle, although he did make some good passes. He might be a great insurance policy to be called up in case of emergency.

• Devon Green gets his points quietly — he has 23 points and 14 rebounds in the two games, but never did anything that stood out athletically. He just seems to keep being in the right place and converting. I’ll be watching him more closely in upcoming games to get a better idea of what he is doing right.

• Tony Bobbitt went 0 for 8 in the first game and was generally unimpressive — in the second game he only played the last 3:36. It looks like he is on his way out the door.

• I have some notes on players from other teams (Charlie Villenueva among them) but I’ll save them for another post.

Fast Break

Kurt —  July 8, 2005

Just a couple of notes to pass along, I’ll be out at the Summer Pro League today, with my first post going up very late Saturday night/Sunday morning.

* Andrew Bynum has officially signed with the Lakers, as have most of the first round picks in the NBA. One of the good things about the NBA’s CBA is that you avoid ugly holdouts of first round picks. Sure the top picks are underpaid for their first four years in the league, but no matter where you are picked if you prove yourself you’ll get the big money after that time.

* Now this is a new NBA blog worth reading — Dan Rosenbaum, the best writer on the CBA, salary cap and NBA finances has started his own blog. By the way, he’s really good at game/trend statistical analysis as well. Already he has come up with this interesting calculation:

2005-06
Salary Cap – $51.0 million (range of $50.0 to $52.0 million)
Luxury Tax Threshold – $61.9 million (range of $60.8 to $63.0 million)
Mid-Level Exception – $5.18 million (range of $5.10 to $5.25 million)

2006-07
Salary Cap – $49.4 million (range of $47.0 to $52.0 million)
Luxury Tax Threshold – $59.9 million (range of $57.0 to $63.0 million)
Mid-Level Exception – $5.66 million (range of $5.35 to $5.80 million)

Yes, you read that right. Check out the site.

* I’m afraid to even attend a Los Angeles Dodger game for fear of becoming injured.

* Interesting story in the LA Times about how more and more NBA teams are moving their summer league teams to the new Las Vegas league (a place it’s easy to convince players and front office people to spend time). I get that, I love Long Beach but it lacks some of the attractions and distractions found in Vegas. I’m curious what the long-term implications of this are for keeping a good summer league in Southern California. If all the teams are going to Vegas, if that location is going to become a virtual convention for players and general managers, then the Lakers are going to have to move there eventually.

* By the way, in the Clippers first summer league game in Vegas (with Shaun Livingston, Chris Kaman and Q. Ross playing) the Clips fell behind 23-4 to the Celtics and lost 76-59. Yes, summer leagues are about development not wins and losses, but that must have been ugly.

* Some team is going to pick up Eric Musselman as a coach, and some team is going to be glad they did.

* Apparently Larry Hughes is going to Cleveland to play along side LeBron. My gut reaction is, if they wanted an outside shooter and couldn’t get Allen or Redd, they would have been better off with Bobby Simmons of the Clippers. Last year, Hughes took 74% of his shots from outside 15 feet, 48% of those were assisted and he shot just 37.4% (eFG%). Simmons took 81% of his shots from outside 15 feet, 85% were assisted and he shot 46% on those. And Simmons is a better defender.

Fast Break

Kurt —  July 6, 2005

Here’s the one place you can read some news and notes that don’t talk about Tom Cruise or who to nominate to the Supreme Court (what about David Stern, he is a lawyer).

• Teams are talking free agents and blogs like this around the Web are trying to keep up — the best place to get a look at what everyone is saying is at the latest Carnival of the NBA, up at Motoring, the Detroit Pistons blog.

• Update: A number of people seem to be coming here looking for what happened to the Lakers Ground message boards — they moved. Just follow that link and you will be there. I’m not really a message board guy (clearly), but this is the one I check the most often, and the new server is faster than the old server like James Worthy was faster than Kevin McHale.

• Frank Hamblin will be back this year as an assistant coach under Phil Jackson, along with Kurt Rambis. The other coaching spots are less firm (Brian Shaw is in the mix), but expect those first two to handle the duties at the Summer Pro League.

• Knickerblogger will be happy to know Scott Layden still has a job.

• Update:: Here is the full Lakers Summer Pro League roster: Andrew Bynum, Ronny Turiaf, Von Wafer, Sasha Vujacic, Marcus Douthit (last year’s second round draft pick), Smush Parker (a tall guard with decent defense but prone to turnovers and questionable shooting), Will Conroy (thanks to Kevin Pelton, the man-of-many-places, for that last link), Devin Green, Tony Bobbitt, Trevor Harvey, Carlos Powell and Eric Sandrin (the only non African-American on the Harlem Globetrotters earlier this year).

• By the way, check back here on Sunday for my first post from the Summer Pro League, looking at the Lakers first two games plus notes on any other players that look interesting and random stuff that I pick up (ie., the brands of beer served at the Pyramid, the quality of hot dogs, how many autographs Mitch Kupchak gets asked for in an average 10-minutes span, etc.).

• The Lakers have hired 26-year-old Spero Dedes to do their radio broadcasts. Has anybody out there heard his work? I’m curious to hear a report.

• Years of being the Clippers is coming back to haunt that team. They couldn’t get Kobe last year, Ray Allen never seem to seriously look their way this season. Years of stingy and poor management make it hard to attract free agents, even to a big market team with the potential to be good.