Archives For September 2005

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.

Fast Break

Kurt —  September 10, 2005 — 

Things are slow in Lakerland, add to that I’ve been busy working on some site upgrades (that should go live before the start of training camp, ideally) and some other surprises and that has meant new posts have been getting the short end of the stick. For example, I started to put together a “what is the triangle” post but decided to save that for closer to the start of camp (or just after the start) when talk of Xs and Os will be a little more fresh and relevant. That’s not to mention Laker and other previews and comments.

I’ve got a couple of ideas for the next couple of weeks, but if you have any thoughts or suggestions on good topics for discussion, put them in the comments or send me an email. Or if you just have site suggestions in general, send them along,

That said, a couple of notes and thoughts:

• Remember Sunday night at 11 p.m. on TNT is the NBA fundraiser game for victims of hurricane Katrina, so tune in for an offensive show (and All-Star game quality defense). Kobe had some good thoughts on the game and the tragedy. Also, if you have not donated yet and can do so, the victims do need your money and anything else you can spare.

• Hoopsanalyst has a nice look back on the career of Hall of Fame inductee Hubie Brown.

• A little fun with stats. Kobe averaged 27.1 points per 40 minutes last season. But what if you broke that down and did a per-40 average when another specific player was on the floor — or, more simply, what returning player led Kobe to score more per 40 with him on the floor? Surprisingly, it’s Sasha. Kobe averaged 31.8 per 40 when he was on the floor. Second was Jumaine Jones with 31.5.

What if you did the same thing with Lamar Odom? Lamar averaged 16.9 per 40 last season, but that jumped to 17.8 when Luke Walton was on the floor. Again Jumaine Jones was second with 17.6.

One thing Sasha and Luke have in common is they are good passers, so that may account for some of the increase. They also are both questionable shooters, leading the guys who can shoot to take more on themselves, that may be a reason for the jumps as well. Don’t read too much into this data (unless you are Phil Jackson, in which case go over to this data on 82games and think about who should be playing more together — and why Jumaine Jones seemed to make people better).

• The Damon Jones signing was a great pick up for Cleveland, he’ll be a good fit with LeBron and Hughes, and he will likely lead the league in three pointers.

• How about my Notre Dame Fighting Irish now?

Need A Hoops Fix?

Kurt —  September 7, 2005 — 

It’s less than a month until training camp opens, but time is dragging now and there is little NBA news anywhere. The good news is it looks like this Sunday, when not watching the first week of my NFL office pool go down in flames, I can get a basketball fix — including some Kobe:

All-Stars LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Amare Stoudemire and Dwyane Wade will play in an NBA Players Hurricane Relief Game organized by TNT analyst Kenny Smith.

The game is Sunday at 6 p.m. EDT at the Toyota Center and will be televised by TNT at 11 p.m. Participating players will donate funds and supplies valued at more than $1 million for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

For those of you who want a little fix before Sunday, Eric Pincus has rounded up all the latest rumors — including dreams of what to do with that 2007 cap space — and if you want to daydream like it was still the warm days of summer (not that its really cooled down any), it’s a good read. But be careful not to get to sucked into the what-ifs and think they will become reality.

One rumor that has picked up steam and is mentioned not only by Pincus but also other publications and their “league sources” is a sign-and-trade for former UCLA Bruin Jason Kapono. Jason is not a great defender (an unimpressive defensive rating of 111 last year, 5 points above the league average, and he guarded mostly threes and they shot 52.9% when he was on the floor) and doesn’t create his own shot well. But, he was still a +5.3 per 48 minutes last year (meaning the Bobcats were that much better with him on the floor than off it) and the boy can shoot the three — 42.4% since he entered the league.

I guess my only question is what are you giving up to get a three-point specialist to back up Kobe? An early rumor was Devean George, which is way to steep a price, you can get more for George (who is solid and a last year contract). If it were someone less, this would fit in with the “I don’t love it but what the heck” bench the Lakers have assembled.

One other note, Kareem met with the media yesterday after his first workout with Andrew Bynum, and the reports are good.

“He’s not a raw kind of talent. He’s got some sophistication to his basketball game, and I think he will progress quickly.”

Don’t expect Bynum to play much this season, but if he can progress next year maybe he starts to see some time off the bench.

Also, keep reading down in that LA Times piece to see Tex Winter will be back as a consultant to teach the triangle. Good to hear.

Finally, the Lakers signed rookie Devin Green, who played well in the Summer Pro League, to a training camp contract. This is a guy who will not make the team, but more bodies are needed in camp.

A Time Of Innocence

Kurt —  September 5, 2005 — 

They call him “Dr. J.” The ABA’s leading scorer in 1972-73, Julius creates the flow of the game. He has a great imagination of the court and is an artist with the basketball.

Those words are on the back of Julius Erving’s 73-74 basketball card, and that was my introduction to one of the games greats. I was too young to really know anything about rival leagues and fights for players, I just remember it was over at a friends house where his dad was watching basketball that I first saw that league with the funny-colored ball.

That memory and more came back to me the other day when, in unpacking from my recent move, I came across my binder of my best sports cards. There are baseball, football, a few hockey and, of course, basketball. The Dr. J in his third season ABA card — complete with a photo inset of him that can’t contain his ‘fro — is just one of them. And they bring back a flood of memories.

That’s because my cards were not purchased with future value in mind. My first cards came when I would go with my dad to the local liquor store/food mart to pick up milk or eggs or whatever it was we needed — my dad would throw a pack of cards I picked out in with it. I’d open the cards in the car and show him what I got, and even try to chew the cardboard-quality gum inside. Later I’d get together with my two friends on the street, Chuck and Jeff, and we’d trade. (I hesitate to think about how many Walter Payton rookie cards I traded away, I still have two but remember thinking I seemed to get one in every pack and who was this new guy anyway?) Later, when we were old enough, the three friends would ride our bikes to the clown liquor store in North Hollywood (I wonder if it is still there, the one with the huge clown as the sign) and buy our own cards.

I’ve got a few Dr, J cards from his ABA days with the Nets. There’s also cards such as John Havlicek (“John was drafted by the Cleveland Browns” is the tidbit on him), Bill Walton, Adrian Dantley, Pete Maravich and more great players that I saw little of but got to learn about, and see the stats of, thanks to those cards.

Then there were the players I did get to see. I have the 73-74 and 74-75 Jerry West cards (West also has a photo inset headshot, but his hair fits within the circle). There’s the card celebrating the 71-72 championship Lakers, compete with Wilt pulling down a rebound.

There are some cards that mean more to me now than they did then — Pat Riley, wearing the number 17 that now belongs to Andrew Bynum. There’s Phil Jackson with the Knicks circa 74-75, where you can learn he was the dominant player at North Dakota University when he played there. I also have Phil in the oversized Tops cards from 76-77, where he looks almost graceful shooting a hook shot over Wes Unseld (I think).

Other cards just have players that I rarely think of any more but smile when I do — Artis Gilmore, Alvan Adams, David Thompson, Dave DeBusschere, Connie Hawkins, Jo Jo White and Cazzie Russell. Just to name a few.

It all transports me back to a time when basketball was more innocent and pure to me because I was those things. It’s good for me, before training camp starts and when I’m fretting over the Lakers lack of a bench, to remember that as much as I love the team I also love the game. The purity of it. And that sometimes I should just sit back and enjoy how much fun it is to watch Phoenix run the break or LeBron James make his teammates better. That’s what’s really important. I’m glad I pulled out that binder.

Why Are You Reading This?

Kurt —  September 4, 2005 — 

Shouldn’t you be out at a barbeque right now? Enjoying the last days of summer rather than being in front of a computer?

Well, for those who stopped by, thanks for coming, but there is little Laker news to report. Here are a couple things:

• The Lakers have hired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a “special assistant coach,” which is a fancy way of saying a mentor and tutor for Andrew Bynum. It’s a good choice — Kareem’s fundamentals were always solid, a sign of good coaching. Hopefully he can pass that along.

• Interesting comment over at Hoopsanalyst about the Aaron McKie pick up:

On the one hand, McKie’s career is basically at that same point that Ron Harper’s was when Jackson embraced playing him in place of an actual point guard back in 1995-96. But McKie has always been a bit more lumbering as a guard than Harper was and it’s possible that he won’t have the same cache with Jackson (remember Jackson buried Mitch Richmond on the bench in 2001-02). I don’t know how this will turn out, but I’m suggesting it’s more possible than you might initially think that McKie could find himself buried on the bench.

• TNT analyst and former Rocket Kenny Smith is trying to organize an NBA all-star game with the proceeds benefiting victims of hurricane Katrina. He said big NBA names are interested, I hope he can pull it off.

• Though next Thursday I’ll be subbing in for Henry over at True Hoops, posting some NBA news and opinions.

Fast Break

Kurt —  September 2, 2005 — 

Basketball has seemed very trivial these last few days. One of the things little discussed on this site is that I’m a big believer in volunteering — that living in a well-off nation as I do and in the manner I do is of great fortune, and I should give back. For the past few years I have done that by giving what free time I can (and money I can) to the Red Cross.

I already know several people sent from Southern California to parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, and many more will follow them. If I could, I would. But what we can all do is try to help people in need on this end.

You can donate to the Red Cross, or you can donate through a host of other reputable organizations that will ensure your money will go to the right place. Help with what you can — to me helping out those in need is a basic quality of humanity.

A few Laker/NBA notes:

• The latest Carnival of the NBA is up at the new and good Sacramento Kings blog. Not only is the Carnival worth reading, check back to this site during the season because Tom’s blog may be new but he is doing good work.

• In case you didn’t see it, the Laker assistant coaches this season will be Brian Shaw, Kurt Rambis and Frank Hamblin. Why do I think Shaw is the coach in waiting when Phil steps down?

• Yao signed a max deal to stay in Houston. This should not be a surprise. Don’t expect Amare or LeBron to leave their situations either (not impossible but not likely). Having cap space available in a few years is a good thing, but in today’s NBA climate it seems better suited for filling in pieces than getting a core player.

• I don’t really get the rumor of Earl Watson going to Denver. Oh, I get why he’d do it — they are offering him the most money. I’m curious how he will fit in Denver, however. Would Andre Miller start at the point but spend time at the two when Boykins and Watson come off the bench?

• Tomorrow night at 5 p.m. (Pacific) you can find me with a beer in my hand, sitting with friends in an Irish pub watching Notre Dame football kick off the season. Hoops is still my favorite sport, but there are few things I look forward to as much as watching football with friends.