Archives For February 2006

Blogging with the Enemy

Kurt —  February 24, 2006

In addition to posting here, I’ll be doing some work over at True Hoop for the next week, tag-teaming with Jeff from Celtics Blog (Jeff’s a good guy and a great blogger despite the character flaw of being a Celtics fan). Check in over there for some ’80s style throwback and throwdown between a Celtics fan and a Laker fan. We know who wins the majority of those battles.

What Ron-Ron Means To Me

Kurt —  February 23, 2006

Rather than one of my standard previews of tonight’s game against Sacramento, I’m giving some space to Tom Z., the guy behind the Sactown Royalty blog (one of the best NBA blogs out there) to talk about what the addition of Ron Artest has meant to the Kings (besides 7 wins in the last 10). I’ll add a couple of thoughts afterward about tonight (and, in the unlikely event of a Laker trade, I’ll break in with a new post).

Right now, I can count six things that Ron Artest has brought with him to Sacramento. In a uncreative list format, here they are:

– Obviously, a top-three defender. His astute ability to deny the ball, deny the floor position, deny the easy shot to the best opposing swing player has been well-reviewed, and it’s honestly what distinguishes Ron-Ron from every other Joe 20-Point Scorer out there.

– A reliable offensive threat. His first step is actually stunning. In a game against Utah, Artest blew by Andrei Kirilenko from the left wing so easily that I literally had to pause the game to collect myself. He’s known as a post-up type, but he has driven at will against most opponents and hits the open three almost as consistently as Mike Bibby. And Lakers fans know all about Mike Bibby from three.

– Instant leadership. Yeah, Ron Artest is the clear leader of this team. It was such a vacuum before, with quiet guys like Peja, Shareef, Brad Miller and Bibby as the stars and louder types like Bonzi Wells trying to push for a last-chance multi-year deal on the basis of being a reformed team-first guy. Ron is trying to rehab himself, but he is innately competitive to a point that he refuses to let the team slink away from a challenge. Note that other than the cold-shooting quarter in Utah, the Kings haven’t been embarrassed in the Artest era.

– The Brad Miller of old. Remember when B-52 was inciting Shaq to throw punches and generally be a redneck asshole? Well, we haven’t gotten that piece of the deal in Sacramento. Until now. Reunited with his old mischievous pal, The Congressman is back to hassling bitches, pushing hoes and causing mayhem in the middle. Also, instead of whining to the refs constantly, he accepts his fouls and gets his money’s worth.

– A resuscitation of the Sacramento scene. Honestly, the Sac State groupie crew was probably getting sick of chasing down Peja and Bibby. Ron-Ron and his posse provide plenty of fresh blood. R.E. Graswich’s career as a metro columnist has literally been rejuvenated. Graswich was struggling to dig up any dirt on Bibby’s Team Dime this preseason. Now? Three items a week on Artest and Company. Absolutely fantastic for sports fans.

– Pure, unadulterated energy. He’s like Brian Cardinal on meth. He shouldn’t be – he’s one of the best players in the league! Doesn’t he know he’s not required to leap into the camera pit or hit the floor for a stray ball? And, my God, the fist pumps! He’s so excited on the court that he has zero ability to act cool and pimp-like when making a killer play. So, like Tiger Woods, he just bursts out in uncontrollably uncool gestures, like double fist pumps, handclap-hop combinations and the ballyhooed audible Marv Albert impersonation (“YESSS!”, especially effective after an And-1). Kings fans love that sort of raw excitement crap – hell, we bang cowbells for fun! I can’t believe no one realized a passionate guy like Ron-Ron and passionate fans like the Cowbell Kingdom were perfect for each other. Essentially perfect.

In sum, we like Ron not despite his crazy, but because of his crazy. Long live Sacronmento!

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Great stuff. Two things from me:

Reasons I’m rooting for Sasha Cohen tonight: Other than the obviously prurient interest reasons, she and I also share an idol.

Cohen hopes that her best is yet to come, and she credited a book by John Wooden with revising her perspective on skating and life.

“You can’t live in the past and you can’t live in the future, but the present and what you do now can have an effect on the future,” she said. “And that’s what I’m trying is, really, to stay in the moment.”

Key’s to a Laker win: If one team is going to jump up into the top eight in the West before the season is out, I think the new-look Kings are the primary candidates.

Nobody stops Kobe, but Artest will slow him. That means four things: 1) Kobe can’t get frustrated and try to out-macho Artest and try to beat him every time down to prove a point; 2) Lamar Odom is going to have to take a big role in the offense, like he did against Portland – the book on him has become to lay off him and dare him to shoot from the outside, he needs to take that shot and hit it; 3) Brian Cook, Smush (a +23 against Portland) and others will have to step up; 4) As has been the case for a while, the Lakers are going to have to play good defense to win. They did that against Portland, but that was Portland. This is a good team.

And this is the kind of team the Lakers need to beat if they are going to make the playoffs.

Trade Talk

Kurt —  February 22, 2006

No, nothing from the Lakers. And don’t expect anything either.

But how about the news from out East — Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis are teammates.

Francis needs the ball, he is shooting just 38% (eFG%) on jumpshots this year but 51.8% when he penetrates and gets in close. Marbury needs the ball and gets in close even more often (45% of his shots are in close, amazing for a point guard) and shoots 49.6% when he gets in there. At least Marbury’s jump shot is better (43.8%).

And you wondered a few days ago how Francis and Kobe would get along…

Nice move by the rebuilding Orlando to free up some cap space and get former UCLA Bruin Trevor Ariza in the deal. Ariza is not an answer unto himself, but he’s a solid young player.

Update: Trade deadline, shmade deadline. What I keep thinking about is Ron Artest covering Kobe tomorrow night. That will be fun.

On Tap: The Portland Trailblazers

Kurt —  February 21, 2006

Record: 18-33 (17-34 Pythagorean), last in the West
Record last 10 games: 3-7 (same as the Lakers, sadly)
Offensive Rating: 102 (29th in the league)
Defensive Rating: 112.3 (28th in the league)

The goal: There are 30 games left in the regular season, and if the Lakers are going to get to 45 wins, they are going to have to go 19-11 to do it. They likely need to do that, or at least 18-12, to make the playoffs. They have some winnable games coming up that they need to capitalize on, then win most of the games against the teams they are fighting for a playoff spot with (Sacramento on Thursday is a start). If they could steal one of the three games against San Antonio they have left, or one of the games against a Cleveland or Phoenix, it would be a big boost. Basically, they need to get hot.

The good news is this is about the best team to start a run against.

Final All Star game thoughts: It goes to show you just how much the little-discussed guys can mean. Know who had the best +/- for the West? Elton Brand. Out East, it was the two guys on the floor for the second-half run of that side — Billups (+14) and Wallace (+19) from Detroit.

The Lakers coming in: Hopefully the long weekend let the bad taste of the team’s recent play get replaced with some enthusiasm for the rest of the season. Defense will be the key. The Lakers have been inconsistent at the defensive end of late, something more in their head and effort than their feet. How they have done defensively has determined recent games — play well and you blow out Houston, take the night off and Atlanta outscores you.

The good news, Chris Mihm is expected back tonight, playing with a pad but still giving the Lakers a stable inside presence. Apparently, we will see more of Bynum in the coming weeks as well, a good thing as he needs the experience (and usually plays fairly well). And Let’s hope Phil decides to start Cook at the four and bring Kwame off the bench.

Things I’m trying to do: Get through this preview without making a “Sebastian Telfair was just protecting himself from Dick Cheney” joke. Oops. Damn.

About the Trailblazers: With all due respect to Henry and other Blazer Fans out there — this team sucks. They have been weak on offense and on defense, their young guys have looked young. For a little while things looked better, but the week before the break things reverted to form.

That said, last time these two played the backcourt of Juan Dixon (27 points) and Steve Blake (19) torched the Lakers, plus Ruben Paterson came off the bench for another 21. The LA backcourt is going to have to be focused and play defense tonight. Smush, I’m looking at you.

On the season, Joel Przybilla has been solid at center, with a PER of 16 and a true shooting percentage of 58.1%, plus pulling down 16.3% of the rebounds when he is on the floor. In the last 10 games, Zach Randolf has been their best player, but his scoring continues to be inefficient (shooting just 44% [eFG%] this season).

By the way, expect to hear plenty of trade talk during the game. Ruben Paterson is on the block, and may try to be showcasing his defense against Kobe (he had 41 the last time these two hooked up). Theo Ratliff also could be on the move.

One thing I hope to see tonight: Kobe pass like he did to Tracy McGrady in the All Star game — and the other Lakers shoot like McGrady.

Key’s to a Laker win: Just play some damn defense, they should be able to score plenty against Portland. While the Lakers should beat the Trailblazers, they’ve already lost to them once this season. Just like Atlanta, the Lakers can’t afford to look past anyone.

Fast Break

Kurt —  February 20, 2006

Trades and All Stars and Olympics, oh my:

• Kobe, the Mona Lisa for a new generation? Check out this art exhibit. (Thanks to LAist for finding this.)

• The rumor seems to have gained some attention — even though everyone involved is denying it — so let’s talk about Steve Francis, or specifically Francis for Lamar Odom.

While they get there in very different manners, Odom and Francis are very similar in terms of production — both have a true shooting percentage of 53% (although Francis gets to the line more) and their PER is almost identical (16.3 to 16.4). Francis gives out more assists, Odom can grab you more rebounds. Francis is a solid defender at the point, but he lacks Odom’s versatility.

So that begs the question, straight up would Odom for Francis really an upgrade on the court? Francis is an All-Star level point guard, but would he be happy in the triangle, or would he go Gary Payton? My guess is that he would not like the initiator role much as most other traditional point guards have not. To his credit, Francis would provide another guy besides Kobe who will drive the lane every night.

Also, you’re actually spending more money — both are signed though 2009 and Francis actually makes a couple million more per year than Odom. Now, we’d have to assume that other players would be part of this deal, but outside of the untouchable on the Orlando roster (Dwight Howard) who else helps the Lakers build toward a title? Also, is Francis’ attitude what you want in a young Laker locker room?

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, Francis would adjust to life out West and in the triangle, and put up numbers similar to what he’s been doing in Orlando. Then, if you are the Lakers, you’ve traded a 6-10 guy for a 6-3 guy giving you basically the same level of production. And, all other things being equal, you take the taller guy in the NBA.

• That LeBron James guy is pretty good. They should give him some TV ads.

• And no, he’s not going to leave Cleveland as a free agent and come to LA (or NY for that matter), so don’t go there.

• Pabst Blue Ribbon is good beer, if served at below 30 degrees in a schooner in a dive bar.

• Kobe the playmaker made McGrady look good at the All-Star game.

• Curling is not a sport (but I like to watch it anyway).

• Great bit over at Deadspin, tracking things actually said by Charles Barkley on the air:

Kevin Harlan: “(Andre Iguodala) had 9 dunks, and 4 threes. He was on fire.”
Charles: “He wasn’t on fire, he was just excited he got to shoot in a game.”

• Speaking of Chucky, he’s up for induction in the Basketball Hall of Fame. What really frightens me is not his induction speech, but the one that would come from another nominee — Dick Vitale.