Archives For December 2005

Kobe Suspended

Kurt —  December 30, 2005

Kobe’s retaliation flagrant foul on Mike Miller in the Memphis game has earned him a two game suspension from the NBA League office.

Kobe will not play in either game against the Jazz, Sunday or Tuesday. According to ESPN, the suspension will cost him a little more than I made this year $289,943 😉

Well, if you wanted to see what the Lakers would look like without Kobe….

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As a side note, the Press Enterprise is reporting Ronny Turiaf will sign with the Lakers before Jan. 15, the day that non-guaranteed contracts become guaranteed. Devin Green, Laron Profit and Von Wafer are the possible cuts.

By the way, I passed along the note in jest but it may be true — Ronny Turaif may return from heart surgery before Carlos Boozer returns from a hamstring injury.

Chicken-or-Egg

Kurt —  December 30, 2005

Rule number one in basketball: the team that shoots better wins.

So it’s no shock that the Lakers shoot better in their wins than their losses across the board. But I broke down the true shooting percentages in wins and losses just to see where the better performances are coming from. (I used true shooting % because it takes in to account three pointers and free throws, it is basically your points per shot attempt, in a percentage form).

When the Lakers lose, Kobe has a true shooting % of 50%, when they win it jumps to 55.6%, an increase of 5.6% (or think of it as him shooting 10% better in wins). By the way, Kobe takes an average of .5 fewer shots per game in wins and averages .5 more assists in wins.

Lamar Odom sees a more dramatic increase — his ts% in losses I 49.5% (close to Kobe’s) but in wins it is an impressive 58.6%, meaning he shoots 15% better in the wins.

Everyone else also makes a healthy jump — the rest of the players shoot a poor 46.4% in losses and a good 54.8% in wins. That is also a 15% increase.

Take from this what you will, but yesterday I mentioned the chicken-or-egg problem of Kobe trusting his teammates, and them being inconsistent in earning that trust. It is everyone around Kobe who has the more dramatic increase in shooting efficiency when the Lakers win.

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Some other random news and notes going into the holiday weekend:

• Is it just me getting older, or do “The LeBrons” ads suck?

• Do you want to be the next John Hollinger? (This is one of my favorite blog posts of the year.)

• Kobe got frustrated at the lack of execution at the end of the Washington game, knocked over a television and yelled at people. That’s got the mainstream media (especially back East) saying Kobe’s back to his Diva ways. A more sane picture of that incident — Kobe was frustrated with himself and everyone else at the end of the game and vented. Kobe and Lamar were angry with each other, but we’ve all been pissed at guys before in the heat of something, then had beers with them 48 hours later and the issue was behind us. Bottom line, this is not uncommon in locker rooms, people get over it, but the media needs drama to sell papers/get ratings. That’s the last mention of this in this blog until it becomes an on-the-court issue.

• As Phil mentioned in the paper today (and Gatinho mention in the comments here yesterday), what Kobe needs to do when he gets frustrated is not start breaking out of the offense and taking everything and everyone on. There are moments for that, but there have been too many of them lately.

• Remember a few days I linked to Mark Cuban’s post about how big a disadvantage it is to be in back-to-backs, well the people over at lowpost.net extended that study out to a few years and found the advantage isn’t quite that big.

• Laker officials are denying the Artest rumor.

• Set up your designated driver or place to sleep on New Year’s Eve now, don’t drink and drive. Just a friendly reminder.

Execute Me

Kurt —  December 29, 2005

Update: The rumor. There seems to be a lot of people looking for it, so here it is: The Lakers would give up Devean George and something (maybe a pick and/or other lesser players) and get in return Ron Artest and Jalen Rose. Toronto is the third team that makes it work. Check out the link above for the details, but know this is still very much a rumor, no matter how much air time it gets on talk radio, and I can think of a number of reasons it falls through (or never was). Now back to the planned post for the day.

End of game execution by the Lakers has become the stone around their neck. If the team could execute in the final minutes of games, the Lakers could have been 2-1 (at least) in the last three, instead it is a three game losing streak.

Last night against Memphis, with just over a minute in regulation and the Lakers in the lead, Lamar Odom rushed a very long two pointer with 12 to go on the shot clock and plenty of room to drive in front of him, later Devean George passed up an open look at a three, and Kobe Bryant kept shooting, and working outside the offense, despite shooting 40.5% on the night. No body could hit two free throws down the stretch. And it wasn’t just on offense, on the Stoudamire three pointer to tie the game, color guy Stu Lantz got on Sasha for going under the double pick the Griz set, but Lamar stood there and did not “show out” on Stoudamire, something he should have done to take away the three — let his man get the layup, that was just two points and the Lakers were up by three (on the final play of regulation Odom and Sasha switched in that situation and it worked). These are fundamental execution problems that have become chronic late in games.

Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times phrased it well today, the Lakers have a chicken-or-the-egg problem — Kobe isn’t showing trust in his teammates all the time, but they are not earning it. They often don’t step up and take the key shots late in games, they give the ball back to Kobe when he is double (or triple) teamed.

Kobe has struggled some in “clutch time” (with less than 5 minutes remaining in the game and neither team ahead by more than 5 points) shooting just 35.8% (eFG%) this season. But the team’s second option, the other guy who can create his own shot, Lamar Odom, is shooting 31.8%. Other key Lakers are shooting over 50% in the clutch — Brian Cook, Smush Parker, Devean George, Luke Walton — but their shots are going to be spot up shots off kick outs from Kobe or Lamar. Unfortunately, they have been hesitant with those shots, often throwing the ball back to Kobe, who is forced to take the awkward shot.

When the Lakers were winning on the road, they were getting good looks through the offense and knocking down their shots. Last night, when Kobe went to the locker room to get his eye worked on, the Laker offense fell apart, scoring one bucket in more than five minutes.

(An off-topic note: Maybe it’s the old hockey player in me, but I loved that Kobe dished out a little payback to Mike Miller, sending a message that this team does not back down. Or at least Kobe doesn’t. Marty McSorley would have been proud.)

I prefer to provide ideas, not just criticism, but this now falls to Phil to fix, to find a way to get guys to make better decisions late, to be efficient, something lacking the last three games. The rest of the team has come to lean on Kobe like a crutch at times, and Phil needs to kick that crutch out and make them walk on their own.

On Tap: The Memphis Grizzlies

Kurt —  December 28, 2005

Record: 16-10 (Pythagorean 12-14), 5th seed in the West
Record last 10 games: 6-4
Record Against Lakers this season: 1-1
Offensive Rating: (105.1, 18th in league)
Defensive Rating: (101, 4th in league)

About the Grizzlies: The last time these two hooked up was the final game of the Lakers 5-1 road trip, and LA won handily, 94-79.

You will hear tonight that Memphis gives up the fewest points per game in the league, but they do that in part because they play at the slowest pace in the league (86.1 possessions per game). That’s not to say they are not a good defensive team, they are fourth in the league in efficency. Teams only shoot 45.4% (eFG%) against them, and Memphis is second in the league in creating turnovers, on 18.6% of opponents’ possessions.

Looking at the stats at 82games.com, Memphis is especially good at perimeter defense, the Lakers need to get some points inside tonight.

One thing I hope to see tonight: The Lakers shoot like they did last time these two hooked up — 57.4% as a team. Take Kobe out of the equation and everyone else still shot 52.8%.

The Lakers coming in: Kobe and Phil — and likely the rest of the Lakers — were frustrated with the loss in Washington. Other Lakers missed key shots late, but Kobe took 27 shots while shooting 40.7% while everyone else shot 51.1% for the game. Other guys need to step up and hit key shots late, but Kobe has to get the ball to teammates when they are shooting well. The Laker execution of the offense fell apart in the second half.

Key’s to a Laker win: It’s going to be a slow down, low scoring game, meaning efficiency with possessions will be at a premium. The Lakers need to take care of the ball, not turn it over, and make shots when they get good looks. Also, last time these two played the Lakers did a good job on Gasol (10 points on 4 of 11 shooting) while Mike Miller had a big game (21 points). You’d rather let Miller beat you — the Lakers need to keep Gasol from having a big night. Finally, the Lakers need to keep Eddie Jones and Damon Stoudamire in check, both can get hot and fill it up for a night.

This is a tough test, a tough game for a team trying not to lose three in a row, but it is one they can win. They just need to play at their best again,

Fast Break

Kurt —  December 27, 2005

Fresh stuff tomorrow for the Memphis game, but in the short term check this stuff out.

• Last night the Lakers lost in the second game of a back-to-back, where they got up by 16 then looked sloppy in the second half. Teams tend to struggle in the second game of back-to-backs, and Dallas owner Mark Cuban has the numbers.

For this season, through December 15th, the 2nd game of a back-to-back makes a team 3.5 points worst. In other words, the best teams are still good, but on the 2nd game of back to back, particularly on the road, they become much closer to average. Making them beatable.

It’s far worse for the 4th game in 5 nights. ON those nights, a team is 8 points worse. Again, more on the road. So basically, a team should lose to just about any but the worst teams if they are on the road.

• The Lakers lost the game long before then, but about that last play — I like the idea, the execution sucked. Odom is not a great three-point shooter (33.3%), but Brian Cook is (44% this season), especially if he gets a straight-away shot. The idea of a pick-and-pop style play with Kobe was the right idea, but man it looked like, er, the carcass of out Christmas turkey once all the meat was cut off. Not very appetizing.

• I am the Sun King. Ronny Turaif had nine points and five rebounds in his first game in the CBA. His quotes say he knows he’s not in NBA shape yet, but he’s getting there.

Thanks to Henry at True Hoop for posting the link. (Henry, just between you and me, I voted for you for best NBA blog over at Red Reporter.)

• One thing I learned first hand over Christmas — regular commenter Gatinho likes to hang out in dive bars.

On Tap: The Washington Wizards

Kurt —  December 26, 2005

Sorry this post is up late, but been busy with family.

Record: 11-14 (Pythagorean 13-12), 9th seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 4-6
Offensive Rating: (107.7, 10th in league)
Defensive Rating: (108, 23th in league)

About the Wizards: We just saw them 10 days ago, when the Lakers played a flat first half but Kobe pushed them in the third quarter to get the win. Remember, Kobe, shot 62.5% (eFG%) that game, Odom 54.6%, and the rest of the Lakers 41.1%. Kobe had 41.

The Wizards, who like to get out and run, struggled shooting against the Lakers, jut 42.6% as a team. What kept them in the game was their two slashers, Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, got to the line a lot (28 point on free throws between them). The Lakers are going to have to play defense with their feet, because they won’t get the calls on the road. (Does Chris Mihm get the calls anywhere?)

One other note, Antawn Jamison has been struggling of late, shooting just 36% in his last 10.

One thing I hope to see today: Kwame Brown have a big game, because you know the fans in Washington are going to let him have it. What will he do with adversity on him, step up or wilt? He had a solid defensive game against Shaq. Even the Washington fans know he can play well when motivated, and if this can’t motivate him….

One thing I’m glad I won’t see today: More Shaq/Kobe hype. Man, I thought the media had finally caught on that that story had run its course. I know Laker fans had moved on a while ago (even though the local media was slow to catch on), but I thought by now the mainstream media had figured out this was a dead horse. I guess ESPN missed the memo. They ran a whole story on SportsCenter about how the two would not talk about each other, including sound bites of them not talking about each other. Guys — less hype, more news. Please.

The Lakers coming in: It was the bench that lost the Lakers the game in Miami. All five Laker starters had +/- numbers for the game in the positive — Kobe was +1 (meaning the Lakers were one point better than Miami when he was on the court), Smush was +11 (even though my gut reaction was his defense on Williams was not very good). On the other hand, he was better than Sasha (-23) and Luke (-14). Meanwhile, off the Heat bench came Payton at +17 (why didn’t he play like that when he was a Laker?) and Walker (+20).

It didn’t help that the Lakers as a team couldn’t hit a three to save their life. But they kept shooting them like Rudy T. was back on the bench.

Key’s to a Laker win: This being the second game of back-to-backs, the Laker bench has to play better tonight than it did yesterday, and better than it did last time these two met. I would expect, after the last game, Washington will try to take Kobe out of the game (as much as one can) and dare the rest of the Lakers to beat them. Also, the Wizards should try to pick up the pace and run tonight, the Lakers and their tired legs need not to get into a trrack meet.

The Lakers can head home from this road trip with a winning or losing record, 2-1 or 1-2. This is a winnable game.

On Tap: The Miami Heat

Kurt —  December 25, 2005

Welcome to the most overhyped game of the season.


Record:
15-12 (Pythagorean 16-11), 2nd seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 5-5
Offensive Rating: (108.3, 6th in league)
Defensive Rating: (103.9, 10th in league)

About the Heat : How good you think the Miami Heat is largely depends on your opinion going into the season. If you expected one of the top teams in the NBA, you’re in lick. If you expected at title contender, well, ….

The Heat made a bunch of big moves in the off-season, they’ve got Pat Riley as their coach now, but did that make he sixth best defense in the league better? No, 4 points (per 100 possessions) worse that last season. Do you really expect Antoine Walker or Jason Williams to play like Eddie Jones? They are not a bad defensive team, but unless Shaq decides to play like the Shaq of 2000, they are far from better.

The Heat offense remains potent, and since the return of Pat Riley that offense has focused around Shaq, and he has responded shooting 52.8% (eFG%) on the season. As much as we here in LA like to knock Shaq for his weight (Shaq’s so fat he went to the movie theater and sat next to everyone) he is, when motivated, still unguardable in the low post.

Out top there is Wade, he of the 27.3 PER that should make everyone in the NBA a little scared.

One thing I hope to see today: The morning game between Detroit and San Antonio — those are the two best teams in the NBA right now.

Under over on the number of times the announces mention Kobe’s new shoes:
Three.

The Lakers coming in: A good team win for the Lakers in Orlando, another game where the supporting cast stepped up — take Kobe out of the equation and the Lakers shot 57.8% (eFG%) for the game. Four of the five starters plus Luke Walton — the five on the floor for the big late second quarter run that won the game — all finished at least +16.

The Lakers got a huge game out of Chris Mihm, who had 20 points on 8 of 9 shooting, and led the team at +18. They need him, plus Kwame Brown, to step up in this game.

Key’s to a Laker win: Expect James Posey to spend a lot of time on Kobe. If he can slow Kobe, the key is the shooting or everyone esle — Posey is good but he can’t guard everyone. The Lakers will win because of everyone outside of Kobe and Lamar, or lose becuse of them.

On Tap: The Orlando Magic

Kurt —  December 23, 2005

Record: 9-14 (Pythagorean 8-15), 11th seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 2-8
Offensive Rating: (101.1, 28th in league)
Defensive Rating: (105.2, 12th in league)

About the Magic: Orlando plays solid team defense, opponents shoot a pretty average 48.6% (eFG%) against them. And those teams only get one shot — the Magic grab the defensive rebound on 71.4% of opponents missed shots, the second best percentage in the league.

What hurts the Magic is their offense is pathetic. They shoot poorly (46.6%) but make up for that by turning the ball over a lot (18.7% of possessions, 28th in the league). They don’t have anybody who shoots particularly efficiently — the guy who shoots the most is point guard Steve Francis and he is hitting just 44.4% of his shots. In case you were wondering whatever happened to Hedo Turkoglu, he’s in Orlando and continues to be pretty average (a PER of 14.8), but that’s good enough to start in the City that Disney Owns (well, the other one, east of the Mississippi.).

The offense should pick up now that Grant Hill is back, he has played the last four games and looked good doing so. He has led the team in that time, scoring 19.1 points per 40 minutes, shooting 52.3% (eFG%) and has a true shooting % of 57.9%.

The future of the franchise — and the one guy that could take over a game for the Magic — is second-year man Dwight Howard. His offense still needs some polish: he’s scoring a nice 16.7 points per 40 minutes played while shooting 49% (a true shooting percentage of 52.8%). Pretty good numbers but you know he’s getting better at that end. Where he is already a beast is on the boards, grabbing 14.1 rebounds per 40, or 21.5% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor, the second best pace in the league. Howard is capable of — and has this season — scored a 20-20.

One thing I hope to see tonight: An end to the discussion about whether Kobe should have gone for 80 or more points in the fourth quarter against Dallas. Personally, I think he did the right thing — it’s a long season and guys who log a lot of minutes should take their rest when they can get it and not risk injury if they don’t have to. The game was over at that point.

But while you can make an argument the other way, why would you? I mean, outside of trying to stir up radio calls or television ratings? The decision was Kobe’s and who has been in that position before and stepped forward to rip Kobe? I didn’t hear Michael Jordan or Elgin Baylor comment.

Off topic college basketball thought: Cal State Northridge beat USC. USC defeated defending national champion North Carolina. Ergo…..

The Lakers coming in: While it’s hard not to talk about Kobe’s amazing 62 points in three quarters, the overlooked part is this — Dallas only scored 61 in three quarters and shot 37.5% (eFG%) for the game. To be fair, Dallas (and Nowitzki in particular) missed some open shots and things they normally hit, but the Laker defense was much better Tuesday night.

The bad news is that Laron Proffit is out for the season. He had been providing some decent minutes off the bench for the team, with a PER of 12.6 but shooting 49.4%.

His absence, if the Lakers choose to buy out his contract, could make things easier for Mitch Kupchak, who would have had to let someone else go to make a roster spot for Ronny Turiaf. He is working his way back to playing shape — Turiaf signed with the Yakima Sun Kings of the CBA, and will play with them for a while.

Key’s to a Laker win: I’m curious, after the 62, how Orlando will choose to defend Kobe. If they do everything in their power to make sure he doesn’t beat them, the rest of the Lakers need to hit their shots. It’s that simple. When the other Lakers shoot well, the team usually wins.

The big key will be to play defense like they did against Dallas — the Magic are a team the Lakers can shut down. They should be able to get some turnovers and turn those into easy baskets the other way. Grant Hill needs to be a focus and may have Kobe on him. Smush needs to keep Steve Francis from having an efficient night, and the team needs to keep Dwight Howard off the offensive glass (where he can score points on putback and draw lots of fouls). Play good “D” and this is a very winable game to start the road trip.