Archives For January 2006

On Tap: The Miami Heat

Kurt —  January 16, 2006

Record: 23-15 (Pythagorean 24-14), 2nd seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 7-3
Offensive Rating: (110.1, 7th in league)
Defensive Rating: (104.7, 6th in league)

First, some FB&G site news: Today was the day that we’re unveiling an exclusive sponsor here at FB&G, Pony Shoes. For those of you who either are bloggers or know much about the medium, having a sponsor is huge for me, it mean’s I’m not losing money here anymore (which, with a second child coming in April is going to make my wife very happy). But to pimp them for a second, while they never went away Pony is making a more public push back into the shoe market with some very cool gear, worth checking out at their Web site. Plus, they sponsor Chris Mihm, maybe the most underrated of the Lakers. I’d say check it out for me, but really, do it for yourself. Or, if not, Chris.

Also, thanks to Gatinho for stepping in yesterday and providing his thoughts from the back of Tim Kawakami’s head.

About the Hype: I’m not sure if you remember, but these two hooked up in an almost overlooked game by the media on Christmas day.

Actually, Mike Bresnahan from the Times seems to be catching on to where most real Laker fans (and true NBA fans) have been for some time — they’ve moved on from the Kobe/Shaq feud. It’s now almost a non-story for those that follow the NBA before April — however that latter category are the people who drive the Christmas Day television ratings. ESPN is not giving up on it that easily — Mark Stein made the interesting argument that this is still a story because Kobe and Shaq refuse to talk about it. Right, because if they talked about all their feelings and thoughts, you guys at ESPN would throw down your cameras and mikes and walk away. That “not talking makes the story bigger” logic works with the NSA spying scandal, not here. It is the media that brings up this feud and won’t let it die because it’s good for their business, most Laker (and I imagine, Heat) fans and players have moved on. Please join us, Mark.

About the Heat: That Christmas Day game was a thriller, and people will remember that Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant both missed three pointers late that might well have changed the outcome.

What you may not remember is that it was the Laker bench that killed them that day — all five Laker starters had a positive +/- that day. However, Sasha was -23, Luke -14, Kwame -9, while Gary Payton came in for 21 points and Antoine Walker came off the bench to be a +20 for the Heat.

With Pat Riley on the bench and Shaq in the paint, the Heat have become a much better offensive team. In the last 10 games, it has been Dwayne Wade who has been on fire, shooting 57% from the floor. The Lakers are going to have to contain him tonight — nobody can stop him but don’t let him shoot around 60%.

Key’s to a Laker win: They have got to get good bench play and they have got to keep both Shaq and Wade in check. No small feats — the Heat are a good team. They’re not going to win the NBA title, or even the East (without the injury bug hitting Detroit and Cleveland), but they are still better on paper than the Lakers. That said, when the Lakers are on this is the kind of team they can beat — but they’ll need a good game out of everyone.

Resisting Temptation

Gatinho —  January 15, 2006

Poster “Gatinho” (Ga-cheen-yo) dropping in with an in house report from last night’s game. The seats were good, but nobody should have to look at the back of Tim Kawakami’s head for three hours.

The cliche says “Live by three, die by the three,” and that is exactly what the club from Oakland did last night. Taking 32 threes and making only 10 was indicative of the state of the Warrior’s offense. Not a lot of action towards the basket, mixed with a mess of missed free throws is a recipe for disaster in today’s NBA. But the Lakers showed their youth and stuborness by refusing to play solid defense and letting themselves get into the up and down game that the Warriors thrive on. Big nights from Smush and Kwame are enough to make any Laker fan smile, but where , oh where, was Lamar Odom? After flirting with a triple double against Cleveland, he was a disappointing 1-8. There is no excuse for those kind of numbers. In the days where right-minded Laker fans are closely monitoring #8’s volume of shots, it becomes evident that they should instead be monitoring #7’s for different reasons.

The difference between the two clubs was evident. One was attempting to run an offense and the other was jacking up threes off pick and rolls. Mike Montgomery may be revered in the Bay Area for his achievements at Stanford, but it is becoming increasingly evident that Chris Mullin can no longer make moves for the Warriors based on popularity and public sentibment. The question on Warrior fans lip’s last night, and the one I continually challenged them with was, “So, how long until Baron Davis has Monty’s head?” The Warriors attempting to be a participant in the Ron Artest sweepstakes (“Who Wants to marry a Socio-path?”) is an indication that Monty is not long for the revolving door that is the Warriors head coaching position. When guys are on talk radio pining for Eric Musselman, you know you’re job security is in jeopardy.

We were all worried that the Lakers were going to look past this game as they did in their season lowlight loss to the Blazers. He would never admit it, but Kobe wants to beat that chubby guy in Miami something fierce. Looking past this game and being too focused on today’s would have been characteristic of a young team immune to growth.

In our continuing evaluation of exactly where/who/what these Lakers are, pulling out a W last night should fall into the category of “Good teams find a way to win on the road.” Last night was not impressive, Kobe was well below 50% shooting and Odom ineffective. Smush held his against Baron “and 1 mix tape” Davis, but on a night where a loss would have started a disturbing trend of losing to lower tier teams, the Lakers prevailed, placing the memory of the loss to P-land in the category of glitch or hiccup, not the gategory of trend.

On Tap: The Golden State Warriors

Kurt —  January 14, 2006

Consider this a short preview with a bunch of other stuff thrown in.

Record: 17-18 (Pythagorean 17-18), 9th seed in the West
Record last 10 games: 3-7
Offensive Rating: 106.6 (15th in league)
Defensive Rating: 108.7 (20th in league)

The Lakers coming in: Hopefully the Lakers learned this lesson against Portland: They can’t look past anybody. Anybody. Play well and they can hang with or beat the second tier teams in the NBA (for example Cleveland). Don’t show up focused and they couldn’t beat my Sunday morning pickup crew. And we’re 30-something slow guys who met at a wine bar. They don’t have the talent to look past anyone.

At the end of the season Golden State may well be one of the teams the Lakers are fighting for a playoff spot with, so the Lakers had better show up ready to play. Besides, Gatinho paid for tickets to this game, and they don’t want to piss him off.

Trivia Question: The movie Glory Road came out this week, the story of Texas Western University being the first team to start five black players back in 1966, a group that went on to win the NCAA title. The team they beat in the championship game was traditional power Kentucky, a team that starred what future Laker great? (Answer at the end.)

One game I will see live this weekend: My Cal State Northridge Matadors crushing my wife’s Long Beach State 49ers.

Three things you should read:

1) From Some answers for Bill Simmons (and a chance to size up the Lakers in the clutch — they need to play better defense).

2) From True Hoop: Vlade Divac and George Clooney are working together. Seriously. Clooney is working with HBO to put together a behind the scenes look at a fictional NBA expansion franchise. But don’t think cheesy like “Playmakers” for two reasons: 1) HBO does good work; 2) George Clooney isn’t just someone on your wife/girlfriend’s “freebie list” — he directed the very good “Good Night and Good Luck.” This has potential.

3) From LA Observed: This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while.

About the Warriors: Jason Richardson and Barron Davis form one of the best offensive back courts in the league. They lead a team that plays at a fast pace — the fourth fastest in the league — and that leads to entertaining games. Richardson in particular has flourished with this style of play — he is averaging 22.9 points per 40 minutes and is shooting 49.7% (eFG%). Baron Davis is good and likely to remember how Smush Parker got under his skin back in those preseason in Hawaii games and could try to take the game over.

The downside is neither is a very good defender. That follows with most of the other people on the team. The only position the Warriors have defended well is the three — the Lakers should be able to score plenty tonight.

Key’s to a Laker win: Playing defense. Not getting into a track meet.

Trivia Answer: Pat Riley.

Fast Break

Kurt —  January 13, 2006

It’s not often the over-hyped games turn out to be entertaining, but the Laker/Cavs game lived up to that. A few thoughts from the game, and other stuff.

• Sure it’s the one-on-one match up fans wanted to see, but why did Cleveland switch and put LeBron James on Kobe for those last three shots? LeBron is not a great defender, especially if you can get him moving laterally. That’s what Kobe did on the first two of those three consecutive end-of-the-game shots he hit — those first two Kobe got separation and clean looks at the basket.

The last one was just Kobe being Kobe — James and Ilgauskas were both in good defensive position.

• Actually, the reason LeBron probably ended up on Kobe is because he asked to be. You have to like that he wants the challenge. Cavs GM Danny Ferry needs to add a defensive stopper to his shopping list (not that those are easy to come by).

• That’s the Lamar Odom I want to see every night.

• Quick props out to Luke Walton as well, he led the team by a large margin as a +12. The reason — the team ran the offense when he was in the game (plus he was aggressive with his own shot when the opportunity presented itself).

• How does Gooden come all the way across the lane and get that rebound giving Cleveland a chance to win? Put a body on your man.

• This has happened several times but I’ll go with this example: When Kobe re-entered the game with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Lakers stopped running the triangle. I lay this more at the feet of the other players than Kobe, when he came back in they just seemed to want to throw him the ball and watch. The Lakers need to get Kobe his shots within the offense, when that happens everyone else gets better looks.

• I think Detroit is pretty good.

• In case you missed it, Ronny Turiaf is expected to sign with the Lakers at some point over the weekend. This is great to seen not only because it’s a good story but also because he’ll bring that energy inside the Lakers sometimes lack, especially off the bench.

On Tap: The Cleveland Cavaliers

Kurt —  January 12, 2006

Record: 20-12 (Pythagorean 21-11), 4th seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 7-3
Offensive Rating: 111.9 (2nd in league)
Defensive Rating: 105.8 (13th in league)

The Lakers coming in: I’d love to provide some brilliant, subtle insight into last night’s loss in Portland, but what went wrong was painfully obvious — even Joel Meyers figured it out and didn’t blame it on the refs. How do you let a team that shoots 46.5% (eFG%) for the season shoot 55.5%?

In the big picture, this is what you get with a young team, a lack of focus from game to game, sometimes from quarter to quarter. For whatever reason, this Laker team showed no intensity on defense last night, it manifested itself in slow rotations and guys getting beat one-on-one. And the Lakers get crushed by a bad team.

Phil needs to walk into the team shower, call them all a bunch of lollygaggers, and scare the kids a little. It will work for a while, they’ll bounce back with energy for a few games, then out of the blue there will be another unfocused game. I don’t expect mature play from this team.

One thing I have to get to:
Bill Simmons took a riding crop to Secretariat in his latest ESPN the magazine piece.

And what disappoints me is that I like Simmons and he usually gets it, but here he misses the big point — Kobe couldn’t win. Exit that Mav’s game with 62 points and don’t play the fourth quarter and Simmons, along with other media members, jump on him for not going for 80. Play the fourth, go for some records and he gets ripped up and down on talk radio and in the papers for being selfish.

We could get into more detail about the article— like why comparing the classic Jordan teams to this Laker team as he wants to do is idiotic because of the talent level of the surrounding cast, a better comparison is the early Jordan years, when everyone called Jordan selfish — but instead, I’m going to say he had a bad column and just let it go. Everyone’s entitled to a mulligan.

About the Cavaliers: We’re going to talk about LeBron, but the big news in Cavs land is that Larry Hughes is out with a broken finger. He was an athletic player to put out on the perimeter with LeBron, and gave them 17.3 points and 4.1 assists per 40 minutes, while shooting 44.6% (eFG%). Without Hughes, it appears to be the LeBron show with little else (sound familiar?).

The other night against the Knicks, LeBron had 36 points, 7 boards and 7 assists — with just one turnover. In just his third year in the league, LeBron is in the middle of the MVP mix, he has the highest PER in the league, 29.2. He leads the team as a +12.3. LeBron James has an incredible true shooting percentage of 59.2%, scoring 29.3 points, grabbing 6.5 rebounds and dishing out 5.6 assists per 40 minutes. He leads the league in the number of “and one” attempts and conversions — he’s so strong that the fouls don’t seem to affect his shot. LeBron James lost his virginity before his father did. LeBron James does not sleep — he waits. LeBron James’ tears cure cancer — too bad he has never cried.

Another guy to watch for on the Cavs — although he is no LeBron James — is Zydrunas Ilgauskas. He has a true shooting percentage of 56.5% and is pulling down 15.1% of the available rebounds while on the floor, leding to a +7.3. Donyell Marshall has fallen in love with the three ball, but if the Lakers don’t get out in his face he’ll hit a lot of them. Marshall is also +7.3.

Key’s to a Laker win: Defensive effort. They didn’t expend a lot of energy last night so they should have plenty left. That said, the Cavs have LeBron James so do the Lakers really stand a chance? (In all seriousness, the Cavs are damn good; the Lakers are going to need one of their best efforts.)

On Tap: The Portland Trailblazers

Kurt —  January 11, 2006

I’ve been swamped with work the last 48 hours, so I’ve had no time to do a preview (or even read my email). But consider this — in the last two blog polls ranking NBA teams, I’ve had Portland dead last. Portland is 30th in offensive efficiency in the league, 28th in defense. Not a good combo.

What we really want to know is can Kobe continue the streak of 45+ points to a fifth game? Well, the starting backcourt in Portland is Juan Dixon and Steve Blake, so what do you think? This is a road game the Lakers should win.

I’ll post more tomorrow, talking about this game and the showdown with Cleveland.

Fast Break

Kurt —  January 10, 2006

Lately there has been a lot of preview and not enough review on this site, I’ll try to get more done (I do get some in the previews in the “Lakers Coming In” section). Just a reminder, if there are things you’d like to see on the site, suggest it in the comments or drop me an email.

• Here’s the best part about Kobe’s hot streak (45+ points in four games, the first to do it since Chamberlain in 1964) — he’s shooting very efficiently. In the last four games he has taken 41% of the Laker attempts and is shooting 52.5% (eFG%) in doing so. Take into account all the times he gets to the free throw line, his true shooting percentage is an impressive 57.7% in those games.

The other good thing, as mentioned by Derek in the comments under the Indiana preview, the Lakers are doing this more and more within the offense. The other players are learning how to get Kobe his shots within the triangle, then when defenses start to overplay him, how to get open or their own shots because of it.

• By the way, last night it was good to see Odom take — and knock down — a key shot in the stretch. Also, props to D. George, who came off the bench and played good defense (and was +14). He played the whole fourth quarter for a reason.

• Odom’s consistency is just troubling. The Clipper game was a disaster, Mobley just torched him and Odom did nothing to redeem himself on offense. Against Indiana, he has a good game and hits key shots. Do you have any idea what he’ll do in the next game? That said, I still wouldn’t trade him for Artest.

• By tomorrow (Wednesday), non-guaranteed contracts need to be picked up for the full year. For example, Smush Parker has not had his contract picked up yet, but it’s a very safe bet it will be.

But what about Devin Green and Von Wafer? Will one of them be cut loose, or the injured Laron Profit bought out, to make room for Turiaf? If Profit can make it back I’d want him and have to consider cutting Green, but if he can’t I’d just buy him out and try to develop Green and Wafer. And I’d sign Turiaf, even if he has to go to the NDBL for some more conditioning at first.

Update: The Daily News is reporting that Green, Wafer and Smush have been picked up (thanks to gatinho in the comments for the note). So, that means one of three people will be on the outside looking in: Turiaf, Profit or Slava. The latter two would need to be bought out.

• Chris Mihm has quietly become a very solid player inside. He is +6.1 per 48 minutes (the team is that much better with him on the court), the second best +/- on the team of guys who will play again this season (Slava actually leads the team, Kobe is next). Mihm has become the team’s best rebounder (he grabs 14.6% of missed shots while on the floor, the highest percentage of any Laker) and is shooting 51% from the floor. He’s also getting 1.9 blocks per 40 minutes, the most of anyone playing nightly. He’s grown comfortable in the triangle. There is still the foul issue (he is averaging 5.8 fouls per 40 minutes played, right at his career average but up from 5.1 last season) but his contributions to this team can’t be overlooked.

On Tap: The Indiana Pacers

Kurt —  January 9, 2006

Record: 18-13 (Pythagorean 19-12), 5th seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 5-5
Offensive Rating: 105.7 (21st in league)
Defensive Rating: 102.2 (3rd in league)

About the Pacers: With Ron Artest, the Pacers were 11-7, without him 7-6, which includes a win last night in Sacramento (a blowout that allowed some key guys to get rest). Due to injury and illness (in the case of Artest, mental illness), this is the starting lineup the Pacers had to go with: Stephen Jackson, Anthony Johnson, Danny Granger, Austin Croshere and David Harrison. Not the title-contending lineup pictured before the season.

The best guys had to come off the bench. That starts with Jermaine O’Neal, who had missed the previous three games with a bout of pneumonia. He was still +20 last night, not bad for a sick guy. Not sure how much energy he’ll have for tonight, but he is still dangerous — shooting 47.9% (eFG%) from the field, scoring 24 points per 40 minutes and pulling down 10.9 rebounds in that same time (15.9% of the available boards).

Two other guys to watch are Austin Croshere — who can fill it up (a true shooting percentage of 61.9%), grabs 14.4% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor, and is +9.3 per 48 minutes — and Stephen Jackson, who is second on the team averaging 17.4 points per 40 minutes (he had 31 last night in Sacramento).

There’s a couple of rookies I’m really looking forward to seeing — Sarunas Jasikevicius and Danny Granger. Jasikevicius, who for three straight years led Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Euroleague title before coming to Indiana, has a true shooting percentage of 62.4% (third best in the NBA), is shooting 40.5% from three point range, is +7.3 per 48 and is averaging 15.4 points and 4.9 assists per 40 minutes. What I have seen of him so far has impressed me, he makes good decisions with the ball. With Granger, I really liked the stuff I saw before the draft, he was very athletic, and he is averaging a solid 11.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per 40 minutes.

One thing you should see: Yesterday my wife and I went to see the Cezanne & Pissarro exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Having lived with an artist all through college, I’ve been told and shown more than my share of art history stuff before, but this exhibit was set up in a way that really made the points they were getting at clear and enjoyable. It’s not there much longer but go if you can

One thing I hope not to hear tonight: Too much Artest-to-the-Lakers talk. Just because they are playing the Lakers doesn’t mean the trade is going to happen right after the game. By the way, I think the Pacers are doing the right thing being patient, some team will eventually panic and give them a deal they can live with. If you want more Artest talk, check out the Hoopsanalyst breakdown.

The Lakers coming in: How about that Kobe Bryant? He is a marvel and just fun to watch, wherever he is stealing his moves from. (Michael Vick? Well, it’s better than stealing a move from Marcus Vick and getting another suspension.)

Today though, Phil Jackson and Kobe both say what is has been bothering me more lately — the other Lakers are looking to Kobe too much to bail them out. During the winning streak, other players were stepping up, taking and hitting their shots, they need to do that again, and Kobe has to let them. There are times for Kobe to take over, but that can’t be every night.

What I am liking — Kobe and Cook on the pick and pop. (Again the Times beat me too this note, nice to see some good stuff out of them.) Cook was 6 of 9 against the Clippers, 2 of 3 from beyond the arc, and led the team as a +9.

Key’s to a Laker win: Again the Lakers get good timing — this is the last game of the road trip for Indiana, they are in the second game of a back-to-back, no Artest and O’Neal is just starting to get healthy.

This is a night that Odom should step up, defending the four is a weakness of Indiana and Croshere can’t hang with Odom, he needs to be aggressive. Smush (or Sasha) also should have a big night, the Pacers have had trouble defending the point this season.

That said, even without Artest and a full-strength O’Neal, the Pacers are a good defensive team. The Lakers are going to need to match that and play good defense to win, this is a Pacer lineup that can be slowed. Before the season this was a game you may have thought the Lakers would struggle in, but timing is everything — this is a chance for the Lakers to pick up a win against a good team that is in a tough spot.