Archives For September 2005

Suggested Reading

Kurt —  September 29, 2005

Well, I’m in the middle of Polysyllabic Spree and it’s entertaining and a great chance to find out about authors I might not otherwise have read, but that’s probably not what you came here for. If you’re looking for some Laker news and stories in the days before training camp opens, there are a few things I can point you in the direction of (think of this as a lazy bloggers way to come up with a new post).

• The Los Angeles Weekly has a wonderful in-depth profile of Phil Jackson, where the “Alpha coach” talks about his spiritual beliefs, the triangle, politics (and his future in it), Joel Goldsmith, the book, things he would have done differently, Garrison Keillor, dreams and much more.

Now, in summer, the dreams have renewed. They may even have intensified, because three weeks before signing point guard Aaron McKie, Jackson dreamed that someone entirely new was trying to take the ball upcourt, trying to orient the triangle offense — a player whom he gradually recognized to be Oprah Winfrey.

Jackson does not take long to interpret this dream as his imagination’s ode to the difficulty of finding roster spots for possibly mismatched talents. Also, it was about “trying to coach basketball skills to someone who was completely not a basketball player.” Arguably, of course, that is coaching at its purest. But neither Jackson nor his audience is used to seeing him in so ultimate a test.

• Speaking of Phil, he sat down with the rest of the media yesterday and the main topics were Kobe (if you read JA Adande, who used more quotes from the past than the present) or lowering expectations for this coming season (if you read the AP version). As I said before, the media this season will focus more on the Phil/Kobe relationship and if Phil can deal with not being a championship contender this season, both of which I think will pan out to be non-stories. On the court issues will be pushed to the side for the soap opera. (I really need to work on letting this issue go.)

• In Laker news, Vlade’s situation is up in the air, according to his agent. Apparently as a potential backup the Lakers have worked out the Corie Blount, who didn’t play last season after an 11-year journeyman career. Not that the Lakers are desperate for big men or anything. (Update: In Friday’s LA Times Blount’s agent said his client would sign with the Lakers for the vet minimum of $1.1 million and the deal would be done before camp opens Oct. 4.)

• Celtic Blog is one of the premier NBA blogs out there, and Jeff recently put together a list of the blogs that have upgraded their looks during the off-season (FB&G included). It appears just about all the top blogs did some refurbishing this summer.

• Hoopsanalyst has interesting breakdowns on the Eddy Curry situation and NBA team attendance (not much interesting stuff on the Lakers because they almost always sell out, but for other teams it is).

Lakers I Miss: Sedale Threatt

Kurt —  September 28, 2005

I always had a soft spot for Sedale Threatt. I think it stems from the time he gave a chop to the face of Danny Ainge and sent him staggering back like a drunk trying to get off a bar stool.

(Just a quick aside — there was no ’80s Celtic I hated more than Danny Ainge. Bird, Parish, McHale, DJ, Walton, I rooted against all of them as hard as I could, but I respected them immensely even then. Ainge I hated. There’s no one specific reason, he’s just one of those players that got under my skin, like a bad rash. I’ve matured enough to respect him, mostly, but there’s still something about him that makes me cringe every time he shows up on television.)

Years after that incident, Threatt ended up being the best player on some bad Laker teams after the Showtime dynasty came crashing down. But even at the tail end his career (he played just 21 games with Houston after leaving the Lakers and that was it) he put up very solid numbers.

After time in Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle, Threatt came to the Lakers for the 91-92 season at age 30 and was thrown into the unenviable task of taking over Magic Johnson’s spot in the lineup. That season he started 82 games with the remnants of Showtime (Worth, Divac, Byron Scott and A.C. Green were still around) and scored more points than any Laker that season (1,240). His PER was 16.5, his points per shot attempt was 1.08 and he was second on the team in win shares with 23 (Green led with 27). All solid numbers that sometimes got overlooked because they were not Magic-like.

Throughout his five-year stay with the Lakers he put up similar numbers, although as Nick Van Exel developed Threatt started coming off the bench. His PER the first four years were 16.5, 16.5, 15.3 and 15.8, and he also always averaged at least at least 16.1 points and 6 assists per 40 minutes during that time. However, his last season in Laker colors (95-96) his age started to catch up with him, and it showed.

But to me Threatt is less about the statistics and more about the memories. There was the 1993 game one of the playoff series against the Kevin Johnson-less Suns, where he dropped 35 points on the way to the Lakers stunning 107-103 upset. I remember being up 2-0 in a series where we were supposed be crushed and instead me being crushed when we lost.

Then there were the stories of Threatt on the town and at the Forum Club. To give an example from his Seattle days, Threatt allegedly used to sleep off his night outs in Gary Payton’s cars so he could be closer to practice. Back in the days Threatt was one of the Lakers’ big dogs I was working for another sport often at the Forum and employees there still had stories of how Threatt loved a good night out.

Threatt is not ever going to have his jersey number hanging from the rafters at Staples Center. But this is one Laker fan will always think back on him and smile, remembering a good player in bad times.

Fast Break

Kurt —  September 26, 2005

Slow Monday so far, which is always how it is heading into training camp. But a couple of things I’ll pass along.

• According to the “where will the Lakers finish” poll (look to the right), most of you are most optimistic than I am about the Lakers this season. The winner as of now in the poll is the Lakers finishing sixth or higher. For the record, I voted for 7th but think they need to keep the starting five healthy this year to make that happen.

• While you almost never see trades this time of year, the Laker rumor mill is humming, as mentioned in the comment thread below. Inside Hoops is reporting that Sprewell is still likely to be a Laker and that Los Angeles and Minnesota are now working on a multi-player deal (it reads as if they got this from Sprewell’s agent). Over at Hoopsworld they are hinting that some big-name players are involved in this trade. Personally, I’m not sure there’s enough salt in the Salton Sea for me to swallow this rumor, but there may be a little smoke at least (but not a fire).

• Joke that made me laugh out loud last week, from comedy Writer Jerry Perisho via Ben Maller:

The dramatic landing of a Jet Blue jetliner in Los Angeles on Thursday ended with a loud grinding noise and the smell of burning rubber. It reminded me of Timberwolves center Michael Olowokandi running down the floor.

New Look, Same Site

Kurt —  September 23, 2005

Daddy’s got a new pair of shoes.

How do you like the new crib? I’m still trying to get comfortable in the newly refurbished Forum Blue & Gold, but I love the way it looks and feels. There are a few new furnishings but hopefully it still feels homey. It’s taken some effort to get here, but much more like what I’d ultimately envisioned when I started this humble little Lakers blog (but I never thought it would really come to be).

There’s a new polling feature running on the right, guaging people thought’s about what’s going on with the Lakers and the rest of the NBA. The commenting system is better. But that’s just a tip of the iceberg with the new host. I could do a lot more if people want it — a message board? Any other ideas you want to see just post a comment or send me an email.

There are also now some ads on the site, and this will be the first and last time I plan to mention them. The new host, the new look, costs money and I’d like to be able to offset at least some of my expenses. I don’t expect this to become a full-time gig, just help cover some of my costs and if there’s enough to take my wife and daughter to dinner every month or two, that’d be nice too (even if it had to be Chuck E. Cheese). I hope they don’t bother anyone, but I felt I had to take this step.

What will not change is what this site is about — it’s a home for Laker fans and basketball fans in general. I started this in large part because I wanted to talk on-the-court Laker analysis and information, not the off the court soap opera that dominates the local and national media. I don’t care if Phil Jackson and Kobe have lunch with Lamar Odom. I don’t care about who Kobe’s wife talks to. I don’t care who Chris Mihm goes fisihing witb. I don’t care what Shaq thinks of the Laker front office. I do care about the Lakers and the game — and that’s ALL we talk here. No soap opera. No off the court distractions.

I use a lot of “moneyball” NBA statistics, because I believe in observation. I don’t want the Lakers to get a player because he’s “got an NBA body” — prove to me he can play. Kwame Brown may look great in a Laker uniform, but I want to observe he can live up to the hype, and statistics are simply a tool to help more clearly define how a player is doing. So we use them.

Everyone’s welcome here. I have been exceedingly fortunate with this site to have attracted some intelligent and clear thinking basketball fans and more are always welcome. I don’t expect — or want — everyone to agree on topics. Just be respectful and be ready to back up your arguments.

Come on in, take off your shoes and make yourself feel at home. And let’s tip off the season and have some fun.

Fast Break

Kurt —  September 21, 2005

A handful of notes and thoughts this morning:

• Apparently we should all be fans of the Fort Worth Flyers, the Lakers new D-League affiliation (shared with Golden State, Dallas and Portland).

While we all know this is a developmental league, what kind of players would best benefit from the development down there, and who are coaches going to want to go down? Will it be higher draft picks that need work but are considered potential core players by a team, ala Andrew Bynum? My guess here is no, that coaches will think that for most “projects” daily practice against NBA players and more one-on-one coaching (hello Kareem) will be a faster path to improvement than playing more in somebody else’s system at a lower level of competition.

So what kind of player will coaches send down? My guess is lower first round and second round picks who need more professionalism and some motivation, as well as playing time. Likely not four-year college guys but guys who skipped college or played just a year or two but may not be ready for the NBA. Again using the Lakers example, Ronny Turiaf would not have been sent down (you know what you’d be getting, if he could play) but Von Wafer is a much more likely candidate.

• Slava Medvedenko has been playing for his national Ukrainian team in the ongoing European Championships. I haven’t seen any of the games, but the book on Slava via people and Web sites who are watching sounds very familiar — he’s shooting well and scoring 13 points a game but doing little else well. He’s not the best player on his own squad.

By the way, the other rumor out of this tournament is that a slightly-injured Tony Parker had been very unimpressive until he played well in a win against Serbia yesterday.

• In news of interest primarily Kevin Pelton, the Lakers have signed Will Conroy to a contract for training camp. His is a “make good” contract saying he gets the chance to make the team, the same deal that Smush Parker and Von Wafer have been given.

For those that don’t remember Conroy (a University of Washington grad) from the Summer Pro League he was a solid defender and a good floor general with the offense but his shooting was questionable and the Lakers certainly had better prospects at the point. Conroy is just one of the five guys coming to camp likely to be cut, but he will land on his feet in the D-League or Europe because he has skills that could be of use in the right system, just not likely the NBA. (By the way, if I really wanted to pick on Kevin I’d talk about how much my Irish are going to beat the Huskies by on Saturday.)

Also signed as training camp fodder by the Lakers was Jack Michael Martinez from the Dominican Republic.

• In case you didn’t see it already, Kobe Bryant sat down with the media this week, but said little new of much interest. He said what we can expect to read a lot from him and Phil Jackson because the mainstream media will not stop asking the question — they can get along fine in a business-like setting because they both want to win.

Between now and the middle of the season expect to read and watch as many stories about the Kobe-Phil relationship in the media as the Brad-Angelina relationship, and far more than stories about the Lakers’ on-the-court issues and performance.

Fast Break

Kurt —  September 19, 2005

Just clearing out the inbox on a Monday morning:

• Updated: Using better math ideas provided by the people at APBR, I have refigured some thoughts along the lines of the passing post below, trying to figure out roughly what percentage of Laker assists went to three pointers last year compared to previous years. Remember, Rudy T.’s offense largely consisted of Kobe or Lamar penetrating then, if they didn’t have the shot or the foul, kicking out for a three. Last season, about 29% of Laker assists went to three pointers, up from closer to 14.3% the last year Phil Jackson coached the team. Even in the championship Laker years the number was never higher than 20.4% (01-02,). While I’ve changed the numbers the point remains the same — when I was saying I was hoping that better Laker passing would lead to a few more easy baskets this season I didn’t mean threes, I don’t consider those easy.

• Every paper in the United States and Europe has now reported Vlade has said he will retire. The Lakers say they haven’t heard anything yet.

• Among the generous offers the New Orleans Hornets have received is one to play their games this season in the Fabulous Forum. This is about as likely to happen as Pat Robertson officiating a gay wedding, but it’s a slow week so it gets mentioned. The offer was extended from the religious organization that runs the facility now (for those that don’t know, the majority of events that take place in the old Forum now are religious services/revival style meetings).

• When New Orleans gets rebuilt, there needs to be a concerted effort to bring back the distinctive feel and style of the old French Quarter and other areas of the city. Having dealt with numerous developers over the years — and with the current trends in building residential and commercial centers — I have serious concerns about the “Disneyfication’ of New Orleans. There needs to be a historical preservation organization deeply involved in the rebuild process from the start.

Little Help Here

Kurt —  September 16, 2005

If there is one thing I hope and expect to see more of from the Lakers this season — and one thing that will be a good test for how well they are adjusting to each other and the triangle offense — it is passing and assists.

The triangle is an offense largely about spacing and passing, getting a few open and easy shots rather than expecting players just to create them one-on-one. The Lakers could use that after last season, when 57.8% of the Lakers baskets came with assists. That was 20th overall in the NBA and was below the Western Conference average of 60.3%. Just so you know, leading the way in the NBA were the Clippers at 65% — the Lakers actually were ahead of Phoenix at 57.5%. (BasketballIQ had posted this data recently and that sparked my thinking that led to this post.)

Creating your own shot is a key in the NBA — most players/teams can play some defense so a guy like Kobe or Lamar that can break a team down or demand a double team are key. But let’s face it, crisp, smart passing can create open and easier shots, and the more of those the better.

The triangle did that for the Lakers in the past. In 03-04 (the Malone/Payton season), the Lakers had assists on 64% of their shots. The triangle is really only part of the story there — you had a point guard who could pass the ball (if not defend) and both main options in the post, Shaq and Karl, were good passers out of it.

But the Lakers in Phil Jackson’s first tenure had already developed more of a passing culture. In 02-03 (lost in the Western Conference semifinals), 62% of the Lakers shots came off of assists. In the three championship years the Lakers averaged 61.2% in 2000, 60.7% in 2001, and 59.7% in 2002.

Last year, in came Rudy T. with his “penetrate and kick” offense that led less to assists and to Kobe going to the free throw line more. And far fewer easy baskets. Laker fans need to hope that changes this season.

A key part of that will be what kind of passer Kwame is out of the post. Part of making the triangle work is having an anchor on that triangle that can ideally draw a double-team (ala Shaq) and certainly make good decisions on getting the ball to teammates. Kobe is certainly going to be making a lot of those decisions, but Kwame is going to get his fair share of chances too. One thing I’m really interested to see is where they start trying to get Kwame the ball — in a low post or high post spot. He’s good close to the basket and quick, but prefers to face up. If he gets the ball at a high-post spot, say closer to the free throw line 12-15 feet out, the book on him is to step back and let him have that shot (he hit just 32.8% of his jump shots last year).

If he can both make good passes out of that position and hit enough of those 12 foot shots to keep the defense honest, the Laker offense (at least with the starting five in the game) could really hum this season.

Some Reading

Kurt —  September 14, 2005

Just want to point you in the direction of a couple things this morning.

First is the latest from Eric Pincus at Hoopsworld looking at who the Lakers are looking at to fill in their roster with a little depth. The pickings are slim. One potentially amusing possibility is getting Aaron Williams out of Toronto to play some backup four. You thought Chris Mihm got a lot of fouls? Last season Williams averaged 8.9 fouls per 40 minutes played (Mihm was 5.1), but that’s better than the year before when he averaged 11.

Also, one of the best NBA blogs out there, the former Bulls Blog, has a new home as part of the growing SB Nation at Blog-A-Bull. Check out the new digs and during the season check back because Matt will have fun with the ups and downs of the Baby Bulls.