Archives For October 2005

Spread The Love Around

Kurt —  October 17, 2005

Last season, when Kobe Bryant was on the floor he took shots (or was fouled) on 30% of the team’s attempts. For some perspective, that was the third highest level in the league (Allen Iverson was at 32.7%, Jermaine O’Neal in his limited time was at 32.3%).

What was impressive is that Kobe was still generating plenty of offense despite the heavy workload and focus from defenses —ignore what some in the media are saying about his shooting percentage being at an all-time low. Using standard shooting percentage it was (43.3%, barely down from his 43.8% the year before), but that doesn’t take into account the increased number of three point shots (170 more than the season before) and the fact he was getting to the free throw line a lot more (he attempted 131 more free throws than the season before). Kobe’s eFG% (which accounts for the three-pointers made) was 48.2% (right at his career average) and Kobe had a career high 1.13 points per shot attempt.

That said, while Kobe was taking 30% of the shots, no other Laker was above 20% (Lamar Odom was second at 19.7%). Think about that for a second — if there are 100% of shots available and five players on the court, the average is 20%. No other player was above that level. Odom was just about there as the number two option, the third option last season, Caron Butler, was at 19%.

This season, for the triangle offense to flow properly that has to change. Things should start better with Odom in the point/forward position distributing the ball. If Kwame proves he can pass well out of the post he’ll get plenty of chances down there. Plus, if Kobe can bring his usage rate in the offense down to 28% or so, he can select some better shots and pass up some of the prayers he was forced to take last season.

That is similar to what the triangle brought the Bulls in their glory years. Let’s look at the possibly the best team ever, the 72-win 95-96 Bulls — Jordan took 31.9% of the shots when he was on the floor, but Pippen took 24.4% and Kukoc 21.3. The other key players may have shot less but were efficient when they did.

That’s why one thing I saw in the first preseason game made me a tad nervous (yes, I know it was the first game). When things went poorly early, Kobe took over the offense and kept the Lakers in the game. The Lakers got back in it, but it looked a lot like last season when everyone stood around and watched Kobe.

After the second preseason game, poster Gatinho sent me a quote from Kobe, who had just 11 points in the game, saying he just wanted the offense to flow and pointedly took less shots so that teammates could work on the offense. That’s good, it’s what preseason is for.

There are times for Kobe to take over games, but usually that is in the fourth quarter of close contests. Too much of it with this team, particularly early in the season, will hurt this Laker squad’s development.

Right now, the love needs to be spread around.

NBA Preseason Poll

Kurt —  October 17, 2005

I’m one of a number of NBA bloggers taking part in a “Power Rankings” of NBA teams each week this season. The first one is out right now, up at yayasports.com, with (hold your breath) the Spurs on top. The Lakers are 15th.

Frankly, as with college football, I think doing these things preseason is just a bunch of people making guesses. I’m fine tuning a stats-based model to make my choices, which I may detail down the line, but it will take 10+ games before I’d consider it to be even vaguely accurate. So, until then, I’m guessing along with everyone else.

Fast Break

Kurt —  October 14, 2005

Through the weekend I’ll be filling in over at True Hoop, following and commenting NBA news — except for when my Irish are defeating USC (a guy can dream, can’t he?). The Lakers have left Hawaii and news is a little slow, but here are some team and NBA thoughts:

• Aaron McKie started the second preseason game for the Lakers and went scoreless (and get used to that, McKie is a weak offensive player), but he may get the job when the season starts. Any plans for Luke Walton to begin the season as a starter went out the door with his severe hamstring injury that will keep him out of training camp for at least a couple weeks and possibly until the season is a couple weeks old. Smush got a shot in the opener and his performance will not earn him a second chance. There aren’t a lot of other options with this thin Laker bench.

• As a side note on Luke’s injury, these things can be nagging if not allowed to heal properly. Better to keep him out too long now rather than bring him back too early and have him struggle with the injury throughout the season.

• If you thought Steve Nash was the league MVP last season, or even the Suns’ MVP, look how he does without Stoudemire the first two thirds of the season. (I thought the Suns were taking a step back this year before the injury, but now it’s a big step — Brian Grant is going to get a chunk of Amare’s minutes. I saw that movie last season and didn’t like it then.)

• The much-anticipated John Hollinger’s Basketball Forecast is landing on the doorsteps of bloggers and NBA fans everywhere. Except mine (despite my preorder). I’d hoped to sink my teeth into it this weekend, but the US Postal Service has other ideas.

• If, as rumored, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski is named the USA Basketball coach that makes Kobe even more likely to be a member of the team. As I’ve written before, that is good, because we know Kobe can hit an 18-foot jumper consistently, which would set him apart from the last US Olympic team.

Notes From The First Preseason Game

Kurt —  October 12, 2005

Preseason games are not about winning and losing, although winning is nice. They are really about seeing players and how they fit in your system. Here are some notes from the first preseason game (which I was able to find and watch on NBA League Pass), but be sure to take them with some salt as it is just one preseason game, which will be long forgotton by Christmas.

• Smush Parker was the surprise starter along with the expected four of Kobe, Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm. Don’t read too much into that — Smush won’t be starting Nov. 2 in Denver. However, it is a sign that he is well ahead of others fighting for a roster spot as a backup guard. Smush was not great but solid, looked good shooting inside the arc and did hit a three (4 of 6 overall from the floor), had a running battle with Barron Davis (which Davis won but Smush did well enough to get Davis’ dander up) and Smush did look a lot better than Tony Bobbit (who was with the team last season).

• The triangle offense looked horrible in the first quarter and rarely looked smooth throughout the game. Spacing was off and players appeared to be thinking about their next step (and were tentative when they did make a move) rather than just reacting naturally. Kwame was particularly guilty of this. (Kwame did not impress me much in terms of shooting from the field [2 of 7, one of those makes a dunk, plus he drew a couple fouls] or on defense either, but that could be byproducts of not feeling comfortable.)

The offense didn’t really start to flow until Brian Cook, Slava and Devean George came off the bench — all three guys with prior triangle experience.

In the second half the Laker starters looked more comfortable in the offense, but they ran the triangle to set up more weak side isolation plays for Kobe and Lamar than the strong side sets they tried to get going in the first half. At times the triangle was ignored for high pick-and-roll plays with Kobe. Throughout the game, and particularly early, the Lakers were not making good entry passes to the post.

• The full-court pressure, trapping defense backfired early when Barron Davis was in the game — he pushed it passed the first wave and set up a lot of easy transition baskets. Part of that was the Lakers missing a lot of shots early, but the pressure did little on a good point guard and strong backcourt team. However, the second and third string of the Warriors had more trouble dealing with the pressure, at times.

• A good sign is that the Laker won the turnover battle, something that rarely happened last year. The Lakers biggest team defensive problem last season was being last in the league in creating turnovers (just 12.5% of opponent possessions when the league average was 15.5% and Memphis led the league at 17.4%). That at least appears to be improving.

• Lamar as the point/forward led to some good transition opportunities — he ran the floor with his head up and pushed the ball for a few easy fast-break baskets. I think he’s going to like (and hopefully flourish) in his new role in the offense.

• Kobe looked in mid-season form. I will add he appeared more comfortable when he got the ball out on the wing and could attack as opposed to when they tried to post him up.

• A sign of what the Lakers current makeup and offense can do to give the team an advantage — at points Barron Davis was forced to cover Devean George, at which point the Lakers wisely tried to post George up.

• I’ve never been a big fan of George more because I think a lot of Laker fans, as well as Laker management, overrate him. But he’s a solid, average player who should have a nice year coming off the bench for this team. He had that kind of a nice game in this preseason opener.

• Speaking of guys I’ve been hard on in the past who played better than expected — Brian Cook. He played both inside and outside and looked decent as the backup four.

• As mentioned in the comments on the last post, Luke Walton injured his hamstring and that’s not a good sign because that injury can linger a long time.

• Baron Davis is a great player and fun to watch. How well Golden State does this season will largely depend on how healthy Davis stays (and secondarily, how healthy Richardson and Foyle stay).

• Signs you’re not going to make the team: Laker camp signee Adam Parada’s name was spelled Perada on his jersey.

• Mihm struggled at times covering Adonal Foyle, but that’s not a shock. Mihm was hustling, diving on the floor at points, and showed the effort that earned him love from the fans last year.

Honolulu or Rome

Kurt —  October 11, 2005

Tonight’s the first Laker preseason game is against Golden State from Hawaii and at 10 p.m. (Pacific) and you can bet I’ll be in front of the television — either watching the game or my Tivo’d Rome from Sunday.

See, the first three Laker preseason games are not being broadcast here in Southern California because KCAL (channel 9) and the Lakers couldn’t reach an agreement on the additional games. Basically, KCAL didn’t want the added expense of getting crews in place and feeds set up from Hawaii.

However, all is not lost for us in So Cal if you have DirecTV or Dish Network you can get the game on a free preview of the NBA’s League Pass. Same for those of us with digital cable, allegedly, although last night when I tried to find where it would be shown I couldn’t figure it out on my system (Time Warner). My best advice is to light a candle in a church on your way home tonight then search around for it if you have cable.

The rumor is the game will be shown in the Bay Area on that area’s Fox Sports Net. Also, since it’s on League Pass theoretically people in other parts of the nation can catch it, too.

If you do watch it, post comments on what you see and think below.

One thing you may see is Luke Walton in the starting lineup. Phil Jackson suggested that was a possibility yesterday — a lineup of Odom at the point (or point/forward, if you prefer), Walton at the two, Kobe at the three, Kwame at the four and Mihm at the five. With the way the Lakers will run the triangle using interchangeable parts, I think this could be good offensive unit — Walton’s passing skills will be a great fit, especially if he can consistently hit 18-20 foot jumpers (Walton hit just 39.6% [eFG%] of jump shots last year and 42.6% in his rookie years, both numbers that need to improve).

My only question about that lineup — which I imagine we’ll see at points whether Walton starts or not — is who will defend smaller point guards, like Barron Davis tonight? Walton isn’t quick enough to do it. Kobe could do a good job but you will be forcing him to expend more energy on defense and risking foul trouble.

I guess we’ll find out starting tonight. If I can find the game.