Archives For October 2005

Preseason Stats

Kurt —  October 24, 2005

Let’s say this up front, six games — preseason games at that — is too small a sample size from which to draw big conclusions. That said, I love to jump to conclusions. Don’t even look where I’m leaping. Now that I’ve got this post’s cliche quota out of the way, we can say there are some good and bad things that leap out at you when you look at the stats for the Lakers in the preseason:

The Good: Some of the key players are shooting well — Kobe is at 52.1%, Kwame at 52.2%. Smush at 56.8% and Devean George at 54.8% (all eFG%, of course).

The Bad: As a team the Lakers are shooting 45.5% in the preseason, well below the 48.5% they shot last season. The team shooting from three-point range is atrocious — 16.4%. And one key player has gotten off to a poor start — Lamar Odom is shooting just 38.4%, and he’s just 3 of 18 from three point range, as he tries to adjust to his new role in the offense.

The Good: The Lakers are creating more turnovers. So far this season they have created turnovers of 17.6% of opponents’ possessions, up from the league-last 12.5% last season. Kobe is leading the way averaging 3.3 steals per 48 minutes played, with Devean George at 2.2 and Smush Parker at 2.1.

The Bad: The Lakers are struggling on offense in the triangle, with an offensive efficiency of 98.4 (points per 100 possessions). That is well below the 107 the Lakers averaged last season and would have tied them for 26th in the league. (For the record, I expect the offense will get better as the players become more comfortable, it has looked better against the beat up Bobcats, but it may not be what we’d all hoped to see for a while.)

The Good: Brian Cook is the team’s best rebounder in the preseason. After spending last season pretending to be a two guard, Cook is playing closer to the basket and averaging 16.3 rebounds per 48 minutes this preseason. Chris Mihm is second at 13.4 and last season’s Laker rebounding leader Lamar Odom is third at 12.2.

Let’s leave it on a good note. Thanks to Doug’s Stats for tracking this preseason stuff. Even if I’m not going to read too much into it.

Minor Start

Kurt —  October 22, 2005

We know two things: 1) The Lakers are going to send a couple of players down to the D-League to start the season; 2) there are six players on the Laker roster now who qualify (in their first two years in the league).

So, who gets sent down?

Tony Bobbit?
Andrew Bynum?
Devin Green?
Adam Parada?
Sasha Vujacic?
Von Wafer?

In reality, that is only five as Parada will not make the team (and I’d be surprised if Bobbit did as well). Phil Jackson said in the LA Times Saturday that Sasha was a possibility, but that may be as much to light a fire under him as it being a serious chance (always hard to tell these things with Phil, he loves to use the media to pass along motivational messages). If Sasha does go down where does that leave the surprisingly solid Green — on the roster or on the street? After missing much of camp with an abdominal strain (he is cleared to practice again now), do the Lakers send Bynum down for a while to get some game experience or keep him on the roster to work with Kareem?

Who said there was no intrigue in camp with just 10 days left until the first game?

Update: By Tuesday Phil Jackson had told area papers that Von Wafer and Andrew Bynum will be up with the team to start the season. If that’s the case, Green is likely bound for the NDBL and the big question is what happens to Sasha?

Fast Break

Kurt —  October 21, 2005

Just a few notes from last night’s preseason game against Denver (the Lakers opening night opponent), plus some other stuff from around the NBA and the blogosphere:

• While the offense looked a little smoother than in game one, there is still a long way to go before the starting five reaches a state one could call comfortable with the triangle. Much of the early scoring came with players breaking out of the offense for one-on-one moves. Part of this struggle may be because Kobe appears to have intentionally pulled back a little in the preseason to get others involved, a good idea right now but he needs to step up come November.

• What looked worse was the new full court pressure defense the Lakers run, with Smush having trouble in particular. The speedy Denver guards — Earl Boykins especially — abused this by just using his speed to get past Smush in the backcourt and create outnumbered opportunities. Maybe Phil kept this going because it was a preseason game, but when the games matter the Lakers need to be more careful about when they dial up that pressure and against whom.

• The book is out on Smush, Denver was backing off him already and daring him to shoot from the outside.

• Kwame was not drawing the immediate double team in the post (that may because Denver is deep with good post players), and he took pretty good advantage of that (7 of 8 shooting). I’d still like to see him be more aggressive, take-it-to-the-hole more and less finesse. He did that at points but not consistently.

• In the second half we saw a little of something regular poster Renato mentioned before — getting Odom in the post on occasion to get a mismatch. I hope to see more of that in the future, in the first half Odom hung out on the perimeter a lot.

• Popcorn.net had a game flow up for a preseason game, which confirmed a couple things I noticed without a +/-. 1) Devean George has looked comfortable in the offense and may provide some good punch off the bench. 2) Devin Green continues to do what he did in the Summer League — make smart plays and have things just look better when he’s on the floor. Green may be a good candidate for the NDBL.

• Interesting read at SI.com about the statistical revolution in basketball (in which I consider myself nothing more than a lowly disciple preaching out in the wilderness). Check it out for a good overview and find out why Adonal Foyle considers himself like a fine wine. (I have not read the “original” version, I have to pick up the mag.)

• The latest Carnival of the NBA blogs is up at Give Me The Rock.

• Great work by Knickerblogger to separate Alan Houston the player — who was very good for a decade — from Alan Houston the contract. There’s a player who should not be remembered for the “Alan Houston Rule” but instead as a great shooter (career eFG% of 49.8%).

• The best blog your not reading is focused around the Sacramento Kings, and it just moved to a new address. Tom does good work and the SB Nation (which includes Blog-A-Bull, the very good former Bulls Blog) made a great pick up.

• Earlier this week, Mark Heisler of the LA Times did a piece I liked about the new NBA dress code, which is Sterns’ sad attempt to deal to close the cultural gap between the players and those who can afford the high-priced close tickets and luxury boxes at games.

The Grim Reaper

Kurt —  October 19, 2005

Smush Parker was born in Newark, grew up bouncing around the five boroughs and honed his game on NYC playgrounds, including “The Cage” at the West Fourth Street Park in Manhattan.

He was known as “The Grim Reaper” — every time he went out on the court, he killed (to paraphrase Smush himself). He’s got the Grim Reaper tattoo to prove it.

Even if you didn’t know that about him, you could have guessed it after watching him for a few minutes on an NBA court. Smush is not NBA polished, but he’s got plenty of playground grit.

And the Lakers could use that out top — they need someone who is tenacious on defense, who will slow down Steve Nash and get in the face of Tony Parker or Barron Davis. They need a little New York attitude.

After looking like he might become the latest addition to a long list of NYC playground legends who never made it in the NBA, Smush is getting his big chance 3,000 miles from those playgrounds, in a town that lacks a reputation for toughness but where its basketball stars have always been nails (from West through Kobe.)

To Smush’s credit he has worked to be more than a playground powerhouse for years. He played his senior year of high school ball in Queens, two years of JC ball in Idaho (talk about culture shock) and then a season at Fordham. He’s played 82 NBA games since the start of the 02-03 season, plus spent time in the NDBL and in Greece.

Time overseas and in the minors has not changed Smush’s New York state of mind — which is why Phil Jackson has mentioned him as a starter and Laker fans who have seen him have taken a liking to him. He plays hard on defense and is fearless — the Lakers don’t need him to be a stopper, just slow down the points and funnel them toward the two seven footers along the baseline.

But if Smush is going to stick, he needs to pick his spots on offense. Last season with Detroit, Smush shot just 27.8% on jump shots. His rookie year in Cleveland, when he played in 66 games, he shot just 37.8% on jumpers. He is a career 31.3% three point shooter.

Smush has shown he can do better than that — in the Summer Pro League he had an eFG% of 55.6% but shot just 28.6% from three-point range, which led to 17.9 points per 40 minutes and a good 1.33 points per shot attempt. In the first three preseason games the numbers are similar: an eFG% of 54.2%, but 18.2% from three point range.

My perception, based on watching him in five games and the statistics — Smush seems pretty solid from about 18 feet and in, but iffy beyond that. That can work just fine for this Laker squad — they don’t need him to score.

Smush: Stay away from the three ball, take the midrange when you get it, penetrate when you can and finish on breaks and you’ll get some points and be very efficient on offense. Combine that with some in-your-face, Fourth Street Park defense and you can fit in with these Lakers. (And don’t worry about fouls, with McKie playing key late-game minutes behind you, a few fouls are no concern.)

This is a Laker team full of second chances — they are looking for players they can build and grow with. Staples Center is a long way from Queens, but Smush has a chance to do that here.

One this is for sure, he will be a fan favorite — Hollywood has always had a fascination with the Grim Reaper.

Fast Break

Kurt —  October 18, 2005

The Lakers have a preseason game tonight up in beautiful downtown Bakersfield. If anyone sees the game and has comments post them, as it again is not being televised. Since there are no game thoughts, here are some general ones.

• Smush Parker apparently is going to be the Lakers starting point guard after all, according to Phil Jackson via the OC Register. They like his defense and “moxie.” Aaron McKie would still play key minutes, particularly at the end of games, Jackson said. For the record, this scares me — Smush has been okay, but none of his past NBA performances, his Summer Pro League effort or what I saw on the one televised preseason game showed he was ready to be a starter. Man, are the Lakers thin out top.

• A must-read on ESPN about coach John Wooden turning 95, from my favorite of their writers, Eric Neel. For two years in a row I attended the John Wooden Basketball Camp as a kid and have some very fond memories of those times and experiences, not to mention I daily put in practice things I learned there. Starting with how to tie my shoes properly.

• So it’s the young kids ruining the NBA and we need an age limit?

Over at the APBR board (for the stat minded), poster Jambalaya did the work and found last year there were 38 players ages 21 and younger who played in the NBA last season, with 23 of them logging at least 500 minutes (average of 6 a game) and eight averaged at least 25 minutes a game. All together, they played about 7% of the total league minutes available in the regular season. Those players average PER rating (weighted by minutes played) was 14.8, right at the league average of 15. And they are likely to get better.

• How about the Raptors losing to Maccabi Tel Aviv in the preseason? In Toronto. I love that the game is now this global and the best from Europe can play with an NBA team. And while it was a preseason game for maybe the NBA’s worst squad, remember this — the best player for the European champion Maccabi last season was Sarunas Jasikevicius, but he wasn’t there because he signed with the Pacers for this season.

• Noooooooooooooooooooo!

• Count me in the majority in the poll completed yesterday on this site — I’m picking Indiana to come out of the East. That’s what 49% of you said. Miami (second in the poll with 30%) is going to put up a lot of points, but can they play defense? The guys they brought in are (mostly) not as good defenders as the guys who left. As for Detroit (14%), I think Flip is a good coach but not as good as Brown. Plus, picking them just seems too easy.

• I thought about putting up a “Who will win the West” poll next but the only question in my mind was whether San Antonio could beat the over/under of 95% of your votes.