Archives For August 2005

Fast Break:

Kurt —  August 15, 2005

Things are moving slowly, and not just because I’m back on dial-up until the DSL gets hooked up at my new place later this week. Things are slow in Laker land with little action — even Eric Pincus has resorted to playing fantasy basketball with the Lakers.

Commenter DC is frustrated and I think there are a lot of Laker fans with him. I agree in one sense — this team, as of right now, is not very good. Even trying to keep cap space open in two years, there are some big holes to fill for next year. Where I give Mitch credit are two areas: 1) he shouldn’t be giving the big, long contracts to the current free agents out there because they just don’t deserve them, right now the market is tight and people are overpaying; 2) he’s taken a couple of two-year flyers (Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum) and if one of them pans out the Lakers will be in better shape in 2007.

The question is, when the Lakers finally get under the cap, who can they really go get? As of right now, I’d say the much discussed Amare Stoudemire or Yao Ming are big long shots to leave their current cities. But it’s impossible who will be available in two years, that’s several lifetimes at the speed fortunes turn in the NBA.

Some other notes while we wait for other shoes to drop.

• That Sam Cassell trade is a smart one by the Clippers. Shawn Livingston shows flashes of brilliance and is the point guard of the future, but last season showed just how frail he still is (talk about a guy who needs to eat steaks and hit the weights every day). At age 36 Cassell is not the Cassell he used to be, but like Robert Horry if you limit his minutes he can still be big when you need him. Plus, Livingston picks up pointers for a couple of years. The Clips, if they can stay healthy, are a serious contender for one of those last couple playoff spots in the West (that may not sound like much, but first this is the Clips so that’s a step up, and second the Lakers are in the same boat right now, in fact the Laker boat has more holes).

• Took an afternoon off from unpacking Sunday to head out to Dodger Stadium to take in a game — and it was a great game to choose. Pedro Martinez flirts with a no hitter, the Dodgers win and the game takes just 2:09. Every day at the ballpark should be that much fun.

• Shareef Abdur-Rahim going to Sacramento makes them better — he’ll take over the role Chris Webber could no longer fill. However, the Kings are still a team that gets, 50+ wins, makes the playoffs but will not contend for a title — unless Bibby and Peja become better defenders on the perimeter (and they won’t).

• Doesn’t moving feel like an adult version of Tetris?

Worthwhile Reading

Kurt —  August 12, 2005

While I’m throwing my back out today moving furniture (and without internet access the rest of the weekend) here are some things worth reading:

Eric Pincus has a story up at Hoopsworld about where the Lakers stand, the off-season moves made and looking at who’s left on the market — and it isn’t pretty:

As constructed, the Lakers are not a very good team. They have some good components and a lot of upside, but ultimately little on the bench, inconsistent power players and a gaping hole at the point.

If you have a raw big man you are looking to polish — and the Lakers do — is there a better person to bring in than maybe the best center ever to play the game?

If you want to get a better understanding of the stats I use on this site — the ones you find at places like 82games.com or the Knickerblogger stats page — then check out this piece I wrote for Father Knickerbocker. Trust me, I’m not that bright — if I can understand this stuff, you can too. Thanks to Larry for giving me the space.

Fast Break:

Kurt —  August 10, 2005

Not much news, but:

• Brian Grant is out the door. Not a surprise and I don’t have much to add that hasn’t been said before. With this Jerry Buss will save at least $25 million over the next two years in luxury tax money, and if I were in his Italian loafers I’d do the same (the Lakers are expected to pay about $75 million in salary, the luxury tax level is $61 million, so this keeps the Lakers at or below that threshold).

However, right now there is no backup center (unless you count Vlade) and the backup four is a combination of Slava and Brian Cook, two guys who are power forwards in name only. While priority one for Mitch is a point guard, if he is trying to get Derek Anderson to take less than the full MLE he needs to use any money saved for depth in the bigs.

• I find the situation in Atlanta fascinating — owners fighting it out in court about a trade. My two cents — Joe Johnson is not worth that inflated contract alone, forget the two first-round draft picks thrown in. Johnson is good but his numbers from last season — particularly his per-game numbers — are inflated because of the team he played on and pace he played at. He fits well in Phoenix, but in Atlanta?

If I’m the Hawks, I try to go more of the route of Chicago, building smart through the draft and develop a core. Eventually you are going to have to overpay to get a free agent to come there (it’s the only way a player will go to the Clippers of the East) but now is not the time and Johnson is not the guy.

• For what it’s worth, Eric Pincus is reporting Shareef Abdur-Rahim to Sacramento is a strong possibility.

• There’s no way around it — moving sucks. I feel like boxes are invading my subconscious and appearing in my dreams.

Fast Break

Kurt —  August 8, 2005

Not a lot of new news to talk about. Add in the fact that I’m moving this week and my world seems to be in boxes so don’t be surprised if I can’t get new stuff up every day this week. At least I’m not going to go Keith Hernandez on any of you and ask you to help me to move.

Some quick thoughts:

• The Lakers’ schedule for next season is out.

They open the season on the road Wednesday, Nov. 2, in Denver. The home opener is the next night at home against Phoenix — just the way you want to open the season, a back-to-back with the second game against a team trying to run you into the ground.

Here’s the good news — 10 of the last 13 are at home, with some of those games very winnable (two against New Orleans, for example). If the Lakers are in a tight race for a playoff spot, it’ll be good to have those games at home.

• There has been some talk in the comments about Odom playing some four next season, which is likely, the question is how much. We know Odom can score from either position, but what about his defense? Let’s look at the stats (via 82games.com) for him at each position the past three seasons, with his three different teams.

While playing the three, Odom had one good defensive season in Miami sandwiched between poor ones in Los Angeles. Last season, Odom played just 6% of the team’s minutes at the three and allowed opponents to shoot a high 54.1%. Those opponents averaged 5.1 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 22.3 points per 48 minutes. His opponents PER was 17.5 (very close to what he did at the four last season, by the way).

In Miami, Odom played 23% of the team’s minutes at the three and held opponents to 39.6% shooting, giving up 7.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 15.7 points (and an opponents PER of just 11.3). With the Clippers in 02-03, he played 35% of the team’s minutes at the three and allows opponents to shoot 52.5%, with 8.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 22.1 points per 48.

Now let’s talk about the four, where Odom had a decent year with the Clippers but struggled the last two years. Last season, Odom played 50% of the Lakers’ minutes at the four, opponents shot 48.6% but pulled down 11.6 rebounds, had 3.5 assists and 19.1 points per 48. His opponents PER was 17.6. While in Miami the numbers were similar — opponents shot 49.1%, grabbed 11.3 rebounds, had 3.2 assists and scored 20.1 points per game. The one good year with the Clippers he played just 6% of the team’s minutes at the position. That season opponent fours shot jut 39.4%, had 8.3 rebounds, 3 assists and 18.1 points per 48.

Some general observations. First, for the most part, Odom’s defense has been below average regardless of position. Second, at the four he seems to give up a lot of rebounds but keeps the shooting percentage against in the high 40s, as opposed to better shooting by threes against him. (It should be added that for the most part, teams in the league have pretty high opponent PER at the four because of the depth of the position league wide, in that context Odom’s numbers were pretty average last season.)

At the three, I’m not sure exactly what to make of the good year in Miami but the two off seasons in the West — was it a matter of matchups? The East (at that time) being weaker than the West? Or can he play good defense at the three but the only times he got the chance last season were in bad matchups?

I will say this, wherever he plays, if the Lakers are going to make the playoffs Odom is going to have to play good defense. That will be a key.

• By the way, the idea of Odom playing some center was thrown out as well. He has played a few minutes each year (1% of team totals, basically) at center and has been crushed each time (for example, his opponent PER last season at center was 23.8 — basically the equivalent a center having a Yao Ming like game against you every night). He’s not strong enough to play in the middle.

• Hoopsanalyst talks about the Lakers picking up Kwame in the latest transactions wrap (by the way, he has a smart take on the Clippers signing Cuttino Mobley, too):

I frankly wonder how well he’ll do with Kobe and Phil Jackson, neither of whom have much use for pouters (albeit for different reasons). On the bright side, Kwame’s trend line was going straight up before 2004-05 smacked him down. Watching Brown, I don’t see him as a great athlete (his block and steal numbers are not very impressive) and I believe that his upside is more of a bruising forward a la Otis Thorpe.

Fast Break:

Kurt —  August 5, 2005

Roster talk, and not just the Laker roster:

• Smush Parker and Von Wafer have been signed to non-guaranteed contracts. They will get their chance at training camp, which is all they really could ask for. Before you ask, Smush signed a two-year deal but it is not guaranteed until he makes the team and sticks on the roster past January 15 (I’m not positive about the date, but it’s the middle of January).

• So, assuming the Lakers sign Derek Anderson, what does the 15-man roster look like right now:

PG Anderson/Sasha/Parker
SG Kobe/Walton/ Proffit
SF Odom/J.Jones/George
PF Brown/Slava/Cook
C Mihm/??/Bynum

NDBL
Von Wafer

A few notes here, starting with this is obviously early and trades or signings could change things. Also, I balanced this out (three per position) more than it will be in practice, I think. For example, Sasha may play back up two, Walton more three than two, but in the triangle the positions are a little more flexible than a traditional offense. The rotation will shake out during camp.

The question mark at back up center can be filled one of three ways: 1) Vlade stays with the team for one year; 2) The Lakers keep Brian Grant; 3) They sign someone for the LLE. A fourth option would be a trade. Decent bigs are hard to get, even backup ones.

While there are 15 on the roster, only 12 sit on the bench and the new CBA goes away from the fake “injured reserve” and into a system more like the NHL — three guys will not dress each game. If I had to guess, and everyone was healthy, I’d bet Parker, Proffit and maybe Cook or Bynum don’t suit up.

The reason I have Proffit on the roster and Wafer in the NDBL is only because Proffit’s contract is guaranteed this year, Wafer’s is not. Wafer can be sent down, Proffit has been in the league too long.

• I’m excited about Jeremy Roenick joining the LA Kings. However, I wish the real Roenick had the skills of the NHLPA Hockey 93 video game Roenick.

• From the APBR message boards: Chris Mihm was tied for 19th in the league committing goaltending 7 times last year. The top three: Pryzbilla 38, Dalembert 34 and Garnett 20. For comparison, Duncan had zero.

• If I could have any job in the world, I would want Phil Keoghan’s.

Derek Anderson, a Closer Look

Kurt —  August 4, 2005

Eric Pincus has been mentioning Derek Anderson as a Laker target for point guard since long before it became fashionable. And now it’s fashionable. The Los Angeles Times and just about everyone else has the Lakers ready to offer the $5 million mid level exception to him, and he’s likely to take it.

So, what would the Lakers get for their $5 million? Frankly, it depends on how healthy Anderson is. Do the Lakers get the 2003 version of Anderson, who played in 76 games that year, had a PER of 16.9 and shot 49.6% (eFG%). Or, do they get the 2005 Anderson who played in 47 games, had a PER of 11.7 and shot 46.3%. Let’s take a little closer look at the two versions of Anderson.

When he’s healthy, Anderson is the kind of guard who would fit the triangle well. Back in 2003, Anderson was a +4.7 per 48 minutes (the Blazers scored that many more points with him on the floor versus off), a good number. He can shoot — overall he shot 49.7% that year, 35% from three point range and scored 1.11 points per shot attempt (all good numbers), 81% of his shots were jump shots and he shot 45.9% on those (of course, that’s eFG%). He drew fouls on 8.5% of his shots, not a high number but not bad for someone who hangs on the perimeter — and when he got to the free throw line he hit 85.9% of the time. His offensive rating was a solid 115 (points per 100 possessions, the league average was 104). He split time between the one and the two that year (which is fine the way the triangle works).

Defensively (because, let’s face it, that’s the Lakers biggest need) he was basically average — he gave up 105 points per 100 possessions (for comparison, last year Chuck Atkins gave up 115). Focusing on when he had to cover point guards, he held them to 45.2% shooting and forced about 4.2 turnovers per 48 minutes (something the Lakers need). While he’s no stopper, the 2003 version of Anderson would be a big improvement for the Lakers.

But what if they get the 2005 version? The version with the bad back that keeps him out of games.

That Anderson was basically a neutral force for the Blazers in 04-05 (-0.4 for the season). He could still shoot the three (38.4%) but overall his shooting slumped — 83% of his shots were jump shots and he hit 43.3% of them. He got 1.01 points per shot attempt and had an offensive rating of 103 (per 100 possessions, the league average last year was 106). By the way, he spent little time at the point in Portland last year (which is understandable with Stoudemire and Telfair on the roster), mostly playing the two. Defensively he fell off to a rating of 111 (per 100) and he created 2.6 turnovers per 48. When your back is sore it’s hard to guard anyone.

Anderson would be a good fit for the Lakers — if he’s healthy. (Another “if” for the Lakers next season.) The person who should make the final decision on this contract is the doctor the Lakers hire to do Anderson’s physical. Are the back spasms and problems a thing of the past? Will the Lakers get the Anderson of the past? If so, he’ll be a great fit at the point.

Fast Break

Kurt —  August 2, 2005

If any big Laker news comes down I’ll get to it as quickly as I can (busy work week), but here is some interesting reading to keep your mind occupied:

• The Los Angeles Times suggests that Derek Fisher could be waived under the new amnesty rules and would draw the interest of the Lakers if that happens. I like this idea better than the White Chocolate idea presented yesterday. I don’t have time to get into all the numbers today — and I don’t want to start getting into the numbers for all the potential Laker signings out there, nobody has that kind of time — but Fisher is a pretty average defender, although he has had a more difficult time with point guards than when asked to cover two guards. However, his offensive skills fit well with the triangle: He can hit the three, doesn’t use up a lot of shots and plays his role. Plus, I just have always liked the guy, and being a fan favorite should count for something.

• Hoopsanalyst has a piece up talking about the greatest trades in Laker history (and the rest of the Pacific division). What do you think was better — the trade that cleared the way for the Magic Johnson pick or the highway robbery that allowed the Lakers to draft James Worthy and add him to Kareem and Magic? This is good work and well worth the read.

• For college basketball fans, really interesting trial starting this week between the NCAA and the NIT that could, down the line, force huge changes on March Madness. The bottom line is this — if UCLA wins the Pac-10 or Cal State Northridge wins the Big West (an alum can dream, can’t he?) then they MUST go to the NCAA tournament. If you get an invite, NCAA rules for all sports require you to participate in the NCAA tourney. But what if a team wants to go somewhere else? Mark McGuire pulled his Marquette team out of the NCAA Tourney in the 1970s because he was pissed at the seeding. Should teams still be able to do that? Now all that’s a bit of a simplification, but that’s the core of what the argument is, the NCAA says you should have to go to their party and the NIT says you should be able to do what you want. If the NIT wins, it may force the NCAA to make changes or allow for promoters and teams to organize their own events (like college football). It’s worth following.

Point Guards and Other Thoughts

Kurt —  August 1, 2005

Tuesday the ban is lifted and NBA trades and free agent signings can become official — including the Kwame deal (Kwame and Laron Profit for Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins). The salary cap will go up to $49.5 million, the luxury tax threshold will be just over $61 million (and will become lower next year according to Dan Rosenbaum) and the mid level exception will be $5 million.

What’s troublesome is the day has come and the Lakers still do not have a point guard in the fold. There are countless rumors out there, all discussed in Eric Pincus’ latest piece at Hoopsworld.

The big one: Jason Williams coming to the Lakers. This one might surprise you — I don’t hate the idea of “white chocolate” in a Laker uniform. I can see why Pat Riley and others also may want him. Yes, he is seriously overpaid (nearly $8 million next season) and his contract runs for three years (the Lakers wouldn’t offer Antonio Daniels three years but would take on Williams for three?). He’s not a long-term answer but not a horrible short-term fix if — and here’s the big part — if you can get him to play a smaller role in his team’s offense.

For the record, his +/- per 48 minutes last year was -0.9, or almost neutral. He’s a decent shooter — his eFG% was 49.6% last year (the same as Lamar Odom’s) and he shot 32.4% from three-point range (not far off his career average). He averaged 14.7 points, 8.2 assists and 2.7 turnovers per 40 minutes played last season. His defense is slightly worse than average — opponents shot 47.7% against him, scored 107 points per 100 shot attempts (the league average was 106), and the opponents PER was 16.2. (For comparison, last season Chucky Atkins allowed opponents to shoot 49.6%, gave up 115 per 100 attempts and gave up a PER of 19.1).

Last season, Williams took 20% of his team’s shots when he was on the floor (which is the average, five players each taking 20%). The Lakers are not going to want him to shoot that much (maybe 16-17%), and with most players when the amount they shoot goes down, their efficiency goes up (they take better shots). If — I think there may be a lot of “ifs” for the Lakers next season — Williams would not chafe against the point guard role in the triangle (read: Gary Payton) then he could be a decent solution in the short term. He’s not the defensive stopper the Lakers need at the point, but he’s better than the person currently in that position. (And while four inches shorter, about equal on offense and maybe a better defender than Derek Anderson, if Portland cuts him, although Anderson would be cheaper.)

Whoever starts at the one, Pincus said it appears Tyrone Lue will be the back up point. I’ve discussed him before, don’t love him but as a cheep back up then I’d live with him.

But if you bring in a new starting point and a back-up in Lue, then what about Sasha? After watching how he was used in the Summer Pro League, I still think he will get a chance to be Kobe’s backup. If he fails in that role then maybe Luke Walton gets his minutes, but I think that Sasha is becoming a two in the Lakers’ eyes.

Some other notes and thoughts:

• Pincus also said it appears the Lakers will waive Brian Grant as part of the Amnesty/Allan Houston rule. My only concern is this — if Grant is gone and Vlade retires, who backs up Kwame and Chris Mihm in the frontcourt? (I assume the Lakers move Odom to the three and both Kwame and Mihm start, maybe Phil has something else in mind.)

• One more note, directed to Eric Pincus — good luck to you and your wife. In a couple of months you’ll have mostly forgotten about how hard the process of giving birth can be and just be happy you have a healthy, happy child. (And if you don’t have TiVo, get it — I taped a lot of Laker games and other stuff to watch when I was up at 3 a.m. with my crying daughter.)

• The Laker pre-season schedule is out. Now, all I have to do is find a way to get to Hawaii in October.

• Is Larry Brown still the Knicks coach or has he moved on to a new job yet?

• If you are not reading Dan Rosenbaum’s new NBA blog you are missing some of the best NBA writing anywhere.