Archives For September 2005

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.

Fast Break

Kurt —  September 13, 2005

Sorry again for anyone who tried to log on during the “down period” Sunday night/Monday morning. This site was in the process of switching hosts and blog software and it took 24 hours for it all to come together. Things are back to normal, sort of — the archives are up and the links are back here, so the core of the site is up and running again. One of the downsides of the changeover is old comments were lost. New comments may take a little longer to post the first time you do so because of an anti-spam feature, but it will be faster after that (especially for regulars). A new, more Laker-like site design will be coming in a few weeks.

But while I’m working on that, I’m still talking Lakers and NBA here. A few thoughts:

• Kenny Smith’s charity game was great for what it did and the people in Houston it was able to reach (certainly not the level of play). I enjoyed watching the game, seeing and hearing from the displaced and the overall atmosphere. I also thought that Kobe came off as thoughtful and showed something different than his cold media shell persona so many people associate him with. The only thing that I didn’t enjoy was listening to a lot of Charles Barkley, but since he wrote a big check I’ll let it slide.

• Luke Walton is going to do his part for Katrina relief by going on Wheel of Fortune. You can’t make stuff like that up.

• Everyone is now hearing the same thing, that Vlade is retiring. He had an underrated career.

• Thinking a little about the Pacific Division, the two biggest question marks are defensive: 1) How much better will Phoenix’s defense be with their off-season additions, and how much offense did they give up to get that improvement? 2) How good will the Laker defense be with Phil as coach and two 7 footers along the baseline?

• Speaking of Phoenix, talked with a friend yesterday who lives in that sweltering town and says the city’s NBA fans are buzzing about a Sports Illustrated article where Amare Stoudemire does not rule out going to another team in 2007. Don’t hold your breath, Laker fans. First, he’d be an idiot to limit his options almost two years from making the decision. Second, he’s getting plenty of exposure in Phoenix and on the national stage, and the endorsements will come wherever he plays. Finally, the Suns can offer more money, and that usually is the bottom line on these things.

• The best player I saw the first weekend of the NFL — that Burger King guy. He was everywhere.

Sprewell A Laker?

Kurt —  September 12, 2005

They give no source (which should be a hint this is crap), but the St. Paul Pioneer Press is reporting Latrell Sprewell may be a Laker soon. Because of the (obvious) work needed on this blog today I’m not going to get into details, but this is not a move I would make. This coming season will be Sprewell’s 14th in the NBA, and last year he shot just 45% (eFG%), had a weak 0.98 points per shot attempt, scored 99 points per 100 possessions used and gave up 110 to his opposite number (the league average was 106).

Bottom line, his PER was a career low 12.1 (league average of 15), and at his age it’s not going up, and we have an overload at the two and the three already. Don’t confuse the current version of Spree with the good player of the late 1990s anymore, he still uses a lot of shots (20.5% of his team’s shots when he was on the floor last year) but doesn’t give you much for them anymore. Sprewell (with some help from Cassell) dragged the T-Wolves down last year and would not make the Lakers better next year.