Archives For November 2005

Suggested Reading

Kurt —  November 30, 2005

The first sports blog I started reading regularly was Dodger Thoughts. As a long-time Dodger fan frustrated (and still frustrated) by questionable moves by ownership, Jon’s site was a breath of fresh air compared to the mainstream Los Angeles media — a rational and measured discussion of baseball by fans that was smart and well written.

If you’re a Dodger fan, or a baseball fan, you need to check it out — I know many of you already have.

Now Dodger Thoughts is a multi-media empire — you can get Dodger Thoughts in old-fashioned book form, the Best of Dodger Thoughts. One of the best parts is not only do you get the great posts, what makes Dodger Thoughts special is the great community of commenters, and the best of those comments also are in the book.

I don’t throw out a lot of book recommendations (although I will say if your thinking of buying the new Nick Hornby, let me save you the time as I just finished it last night — it’s not that great), but this is one I’ve already ordered. Jon is the dean of LA sports bloggers, the best out there (and the guy that inspired the tone and tenor of this site) and it’s the one book where I’ve already read everything in it and still want to own it.

On Tap: The San Antonio Spurs

Kurt —  November 29, 2005

Looking for the advantages in this match up as a Laker fan is not easy.

But here’s one — the best place to attack the Spurs offensively is from the midrange. San Antonio is good at defending inside and at the arc, but their middle is softer. Dean Oliver of Seattle talks about noticing that statistically last season in a Sports Illustrated article (in this season’s basketball preview issue), and that info was good enough to get the overmatched Sonics two wins against the Spurs in the playoffs. Detroit, on top of playing good defense, also has one of the league’s better three point shooting teams, and they pushed the Spurs to seven games in the finals.

The triangle should get the Lakers good midrange looks — it did the first few games of the season. If they can do anything with them is another question all together. These Lakers should not be confused with last year’s Sonics on offense, maybe not even last season’s Pistons.

So far this season, only two Lakers who play regular large chunks of minutes can talk proudly of their Roland Rating (a +/- number for how a team does with a player on or off the court per 48 minutes): Kobe Bryant (+11.3) and Brian Cook (+12.9). Odom is at -3.1.

The Spurs on the other hand the Spurs have guys like Tony Parker (+19.1) and Tim Duncan (+14.6) looking strong. Even Manu Ginobili, who has been “off” this season, is +4.9.

The Spurs remain a defensive force, allowing just 100.4 points per 100 opponent possessions this season (second best in the league). Teams are only shooting 45.9% (eFG%) against them, which is low but would be a step up from what the Lakers did Sunday against New Jersey. The advantage San Antonio has is they can sick Bruce Bowen on Kobe with the occasional double team, maybe slowing Kobe some but shutting down everyone else (insert your own “how hard is that?” joke here). This is a simple but fundamentally sound defense played by San Antonio.

Offensively they are sixth in the league with a rating of 108.7. Of course there is Duncan (25 points per 40 minutes, shooting 53.6% eFG%). Tony Parker has stepped up his scoring this season, scoring 23.6 per 40 minutes and shooting 56.6%. As I said there was some early talk about Ginobili having taken a step back, but he is still averaging 19.7 per 40 while shooting 48.9% (down from 21.3 and 53.3% last season). He started slow with a couple injuries but now is healthy and back to form.

That said, the Chicago Bulls had some success the other night by collapsing the defense in and daring the Spurs in general (and Tony Parker in particular) to beat them with jump shots (according to Pounding the Rock, the Spurs blog). Chris Mihm is not Tyson Chandler, but this strategy might have some success.

Mihm and Odom need to hit the boards hard because the Spurs will. Duncan remains a rebounding force, but so are Rasho Nesterovic and Nazr Mohammed, and those two are each playing about 25 minutes per game.

The Spurs are the best team in the league, but they can lose on any given night. The Lakers, and Kobe, have a way of rising up to challenges. Whether that will be enough, well, um, we can hope. That’s what being a fan is about.

The Laker Offense

Kurt —  November 29, 2005

I’ve put up a post about the Laker offense over at, talking about the lack of options behind Kobe Bryant. Follow the link to check out the entire thing, but here’s a taste:

So far this season, when Kobe is on the court the Lakers shoot 46.7% (eFG%), when he is off the court it falls to 36%. When he is on the court the Lakers have an offensive rating of 106 (points per 100 possessions), when he is off it is 78.4 — a drop of 27.6.

Fast Break

Kurt —  November 28, 2005

Thoughts collected during a weekend of gluttony and watching the Nets/Lakers game (and some football):

• At the start of the season, I said I expected the Lakers to struggle the first month, so it’s a little to early to panic at the 5-7 record (likely to be 5-8 with a game at San Antonio next). Things are not that bleak — the Lakers Pythagorean record is 7-5 so far, meaning they are playing better than their record indicates. (The Pythagorean expected wins/loss system is common in baseball and uses points scored and given up as a measure of a teams record. This shows the Lakers are losing a lot of close games they could win.)

• That said, I thought the Laker defense would get better — it has — and the offense would still be solid. It isn’t. The Lakers are 25th in the league in offensive efficiency (101.4 points per 100 possessions, compare that to 107 last season).

Against the Nets, for the second game in a row, Kobe has a slow first half (1 of 8 from the field) and the entire offense sputters to just 28 points. He carries the load in the second half, the team scores more, Kobe gets noticed for his 46, and the Lakers force overtime (although as a team they still shot just 36.7% eFG%, a level that will win very few games).

I’m working on a longer, more detailed post about the Laker offense, but here’s the bottom line: Until the above scenario changes — until someone else can become a consistent scoring threat besides #8 — we are going to see a lot more games like last night. The Lakers are going to hang in games then hope Kobe is enough in the end no matter how many people are guarding him. That’s the recipe for an up and down season.

• Saw two good movies over the weekend: Walk the Line and the new Harry Potter (to maintain any shred of credibility I may have left on a sports blog after that admission, let me note that my wife is a huge fan of the Potter series so she dragged me to the theater — I had no choice). Joaquin Phoenix deserves the Oscar for his portrayal of Cash and that movie made me dig through my old cassette tape collection (remember those) and find my Live at Folsom Prison recording. Just classic stuff, and that coming from a guy who can’t stand “country music.”

• How do you grab 23 offensive rebounds and still shoot below 40% — and lose? Ask the Lakers.

• I thought the plan was to back off the pressure defense out top against the better point leagues, for example, Jason Kidd. How many times did he burn Smush? And those errors seemed to get Smush angry so he tried to prove his manhood and got in Kidd’s face more. How’d that work out for you? That was Smush’s worst game, by far.

• On the other hand Sasha was a +22 last night. His numbers weren’t impressive, but defensively he just tried to limit Kidd rather than get in his face.

• I will give Smush this, I love that he’s named his new SUV the “Smushcalade.” (Actually, the car is Devean George’s.)

• Good to see Luke Walton back, that should help the offensive flow some. I hope.

• Kevin Pelton, want to come down to LA and watch the Fiesta Bowl with me? I’ll buy the beer.

On Tap: The New Jersey Nets

Kurt —  November 25, 2005

I’m out of town for the weekend, going out to Palm Desert and hoisting a pint or two in honor of the passing of George Best (yes, that’s a bit ironic, but don’t you think it’s what he would want?). I’ll be back Monday.

This years version of the Nets reminds me of last season’s version of the Lakers: They score a lot of points but can’t stop anyone from scoring on them.

The Nets come into Staples Center Sunday night with the fifth best offense in the league with a rating of 110 (points per 100 possessions), but with a defensive rating of 109.5, fifth worst in the league. That gives them a “rating differential” of +0.5, which is pretty average and the reason they are hanging around .500. (In case you’re wondering, the Lakers rating differential is -0.1, also pretty average.)

The Lakers just came off a win against another bad defensive team, Seattle. That was an interesting game offensively, as Kobe set up teammates early then had to sit due to fouls (from chasing Ray Allen around screens), forcing Lamar Odom into the role as primary scorer and he responded with 23 points. Brian Cook and Smush also had nice offensive games, and Mihm took advantage of the weak centers for the Sonics early (until Reggie Evans entered the game, anyway).

That was the good news, the bad news remains that without Kobe taking charge the Lakers are weak offensively and they were down eight points at the half. In the second half Kobe took charge, Odom stood around again and watched him, and the Lakers won handily. The Laker offense is in a Catch-22 right now.

The Nets enter Staples Center with an impressive line up of names: Jason Kidd at the point, Vince Carter at the two and Richard Jefferson at the three. Jefferson and Carter handle most of the scoring (24.3 and 20.1 points per 40 minutes played, respectively). While Carter is now and always has been a scoring machine (and is using the most possessions on the team by a wide margin), Jefferson has a well-rounded game — he is pulling down 9.2 rebounds (13.6% of the available boards) and is dishing out 4.2 assists per 40 minutes while shooting 50.5% (efG%). Kidd is still Kidd, getting 7.5 assists per 40 minutes with just 1.5 turnovers.

One thing to look for — the Nets get to the free throw line a lot. Carter is averaging 6.1 free throws attempted per 40 minutes and Jefferson is at 8.8. The Lakers, with their injury-depleted bench, need to be sure not to get into foul trouble against New Jersey.

By the way, don’t laugh because the Nets are starting someone named Nenad Krstic at center (well, okay you can laugh at the name Nenad). The guy as a PER of 18 so far this season and has been solid on the defensive end.

Where New Jersey is weak defensively has been on the perimeter, where Kidd is not that fast anymore and Carter hasn’t cared about defense since the sixth grade (but he can play it well when he wants to). Jefferson has been a good defender for his career but the three is where the Nets have been weakest statistically this season.

The Nets let teams shoot well (48.9% eFG%), don’t create a lot of turnovers (16% of opponent possessions, 24th in the league) and they foul a lot (26th in the league in opponent free throws made per 100 possessions). All of which leads to other teams scoring a lot of points.

Which is what the Lakers are going to have to do to win — the question is will it be all Kobe or are other players going to pitch in enough to get the victory (like against Seattle)? The Nets may have been preseason favorites in the Atlantic, they may have some big names, but this is a winnable game for the Lakers. At home, this is the kind of games teams going to the playoffs do win.

On Tap: The Seattle Supersonics

Kurt —  November 23, 2005

Normally I would warn you to guard against getting sick by eating too much turkey and stuffing then trying to watch the Laker offense.

But if the Lakers are going to get their offense looking like something less dysfunctional than the Bundys, this is the right team to do it against.

Seattle has the worst defense in the NBA so far, with a defensive rating of 116.8 (points per opponent possessions) and they are allowing other teams to shoot 53.7% (eFG%) against them, the worst in the league by 2.6%. Their defense has been suspect at every position except the two (Ray Allen likely will cover Kobe, that pair have great duels) — this is a chance for Lamar Odom, Chris Mihm, Smush Parker and just about everyone else who isn’t too banged up to play to step up.

And they need to start, because it is the lack of options outside of Kobe that is holding back the Laker attack. Kobe is taking 31.5 shots per 40 minutes, Odom is second on the team at 13.7 — less than half as many — and Smush is third at 12.9. It’s no wonder teams are double and triple teaming Kobe, and it’s no wonder that Kobe has seen his shooting percentage fall facing that pressure. Odom said in the L.A. Times he needed to be more aggressive, and he’s right. And now is the time to start.

Seattle also is allowing far too many easy put backs, letting opponents grab 34% of the chances on the offensive glass (the league average is 28%). This is a big chance for Mihm and Odom (still the Lakers best rebounder) to get some points inside, at least when Reggie Evans isn’t on the floor. (Seattle is very weak at the five with Johan Petro and Vitaly Potapenko, so this could be a good game for Mihm.)

Despite the defensive woes, Seattle has played better lately, having won four of their last six. Not coincidentally, that started to happen since Nick Collison was inserted in as the starting power forward, providing some defense and rebounding. And the Sonics can still fill up the bucket.

Ray Allen is still maybe the game’s best sharpshooter, hitting 51.2% (eFG%) while shooting 46.9% of his shots from three-point range (he is shooting 33% from beyond the arc). He’s averaging 24.8 points per 40 minutes. What’s more, Allen leagues the league in +/-, with a +34.9 Roland Rating so far this season (that means over the course of 48 minutes, the team is nearly 35 points better with him on the court rather than off).

The other key scorer for Seattle is Rashard Lewis, who is averaging 23.4 points per 40 minutes and is shooting 56%. He’s also getting the free throw line 6.6 times per game, so his true shooting percentage is a very healthy 62.3%.

However, things have started colder for guys who were keys last season for Seattle — Luke Ridnour is shooting 35.8% as the go-to guy out top and Vladimir Radmanovic is down to 46.8% coming off the bench. This is a team that misses Antonio Daniels.

So enjoy your turkey dinner and have a slice of pumpkin pie when the Lakers tip off at 7:30. And let’s hope what we see doesn’t make us sick.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Polls and Trades

Kurt —  November 22, 2005

First off, the latest Blogsphere Poll Rankings for the NBA are up over at Detroit is now on top, with San Antonio, Dallas, Cleveland and Indiana rounding out the top five. The Lakers are ranked 22nd in the league, which is one spot below where I had them in my poll.


Losing five of the last six has Laker fans looking for what is wrong and — as is often the case — looking for trades that can fix some of the problems. I’m not someone who likes to speculate about trades, and this early in the season all that’s out there is speculation, I prefer to link to the guys who have the inside contacts for that kind of thing.

Here’s the problem with the Lakers and trades right now — they have little anyone wants.

There are two things NBA general managers want in trades: talent or cap room flexibility (last-year contracts or draft picks).

The Lakers have only a couple last year deals people would take on — Devean George ($5 million) and Slava Medvedenko ($3 million). Together they get PJ Brown, but why would New Orleans make that deal? They can do better, big men are in demand. It doesn’t help that George and Slava are banged up right now. (As a side note: I get why they did it — how do you gamble $30 million in savings — but cutting Brian Grant this summer through the “Alan Houston/Jerome Williams” exemption cost the Lakers they one guy that had value as a last year contract, but he would not have been tradable to next summer at the earliest.)

Then there’s the question of talent: Who on this Laker roster would other teams covet? Maybe Chris Mihm to a degree, but the Lakers would have to get a big in return that is better, and teams mostly want size rather than to trade it. Teams may ask about Bynum now, but the Lakers aren’t making that move. Nobody is touching Kwame.

The only other answer is to end the Lamar Odom experiment. I seriously doubt 10 games into the season Phil Jackson is willing to write him off, but he is one guy still with value around the league. Maybe, maybe in the off-season if everything doesn’t work out the Lakers consider it.

But that’s just speculation. And I’m not going down that road.

Fast Break

Kurt —  November 21, 2005

Thoughts after a game the Lakers should have won.

• Kobe still taking way too many shots for the Lakers to win consistently, he is using about 34.7 possessions per 40 minutes (most of those are shots, but it includes things like turnovers), almost double the next highest Laker (Lamar Odom at 17.8) and by far the highest number in the league.

The bigger problem is: Who else is going to take them? Sure, we’d all like to see Odom shoot more and be more aggressive, but after that who is left that you want taking a lot of shots? Smush still has a good shooting percentage on the season (55.2% eFG%), but he is clearly someone who can go cold for long stretches. Chris Mihm and Brian Cook are shooting well within their respective roles, but the more you ask them to do the less consistent they will be. Who else should shoot more? Kwame?

Last season Kobe took a lot of shots (30 possessions used per 40 minutes) but there were several other scoring threats — Odom, Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins. (Atkins has been much maligned by me for his defense, but he filled up the net last season.) This season there were fewer classic scorers but I thought the triangle offense and an increased pace for the Lakers would get them some easy buckets to counter the lack of classic scorers. Now the triangle is sloppy (at best), Kobe is seeing double and triple teams (did you notice Tyson Chandler was way out contesting Kobe’s last three of the game) and no one else seems capable of decreasing his burden.

If someone doesn’t step up, if something doesn’t change, it is going to be a long season.

• I had higher hopes for the lineup that started against the Bulls because Odom was playing the four again, rather than Jackson’s “initiator.” But the starting five was -6 for the game and Odom got in quick foul trouble. With Kwame out I still think you should give this starting five another shot (or have Walton take Profit’s spot), but the group looked poor on defense.

• The Lakers are averaging 97.1 possessions per game, the sixth fastest pace in the league. That’s just for all of you who may have bought into the “triangle is boring” theory.

• Good minutes from Bynum, who picked up his first NBA points. So far this season he is averaging an insane 7.1 blocks per 40 minutes played. His game is still plenty raw, but I have a lot of hope for him. The big questions that I have are ones I brought up around the draft, the ones that I think are key to drafting any high school player — Does he have the work ethic? Will he listen to and absorb what Kareem and Phil are trying to teach him? How badly does he want to be good or great? I have no idea what the answers are (we won’t know for sure for a few years), but the improvement I’ve seen from Summer Pro League to now makes me optimistic.

• Rarely do I ever go to the “I told you so” card, but what did I say about Sweetney? To be honest, this was not my original idea — Knickerblogger was high on him for two years in New York and wore black for a week after he was traded.

• Sweetney had a good game and Tyson Chandler seemed to be more quiet (save for that block on Bynum), but Chandler was a game high +13. He makes an impact because he is a defensive and rebounding force.

• Did you know that when the Lakers drafted Sasha when Chris Duhon was still on the board?

• Rough game for Smush Parker, who was -12.

• How about my Cal State Northridge Matadors now? Mid-major fan Tim from over at Hoops Junkie told me he liked what he saw in them before the season but I was cautious. Now, I’m feeling pretty good.