Kwame and Lamar

Kurt —  March 27, 2006

As Kobe has shown some fatigue in the last few weeks (his true shooting percentage has dropped from 55.4% on the season to 51.7% the last 10 games), the Lakers have still played well thanks to Lamar Odom — finally coming around like Laker fans and front office had hoped — and Kwame Brown coming around like no one expected. As CTDeLude said in the comments yesterday, “Who is this Kwame and where is the body of the old one?”

It’s the improved play of those two that not only means the Lakers are going to the playoffs, but also poses questions about the future makeup of the team.

Here are the questions that must be plaguing the Laker front office, like it did the Wizards’ front office before: Has Kwame turned the corner? Can he keep up this play consistently?

In the last 10 games, the much-maligned Brown has played pretty well. He is shooting 68.3% over that span, exactly what you want from him in that he doesn’t shoot much (11.1 points per game) but is efficient when he does it. Also, his defensive rotations have seemed better. He was solid man-on-man in the block since the start of the season but struggled with rotations early, and while not perfect, it’s better. In the last 10 he has pulled down 13.5% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor, right at his season average (which would make him 20th in the league in rebounding among centers, and it’s a number better than Lamar Odom’s 11.6% rate in the last 10 games).

Here’s what has to be running through Mitch Kupchak’s mind: If you thought Kwame could do this night in and night out, and if you thought Andrew Bynum could be a steady backup every night next year, it allows you to consider dangling one of the few tradable assets the Lakers have in Chris Mihm.

I don’t think we can get carried away here and make that step. No way we can say after 10 games Kwame has become a quality center, or is better than Chris Mihm, who has been consistent for a couple of years now. Kwame played half a good season a few years back, only to flop the following year (he started with a broken foot but never fit back in the team, but I’ll just say that Wizard insiders told me plenty of stories that have led me to be suspicious of his mental strength). He’s got a long way to go to prove he can do it consistently. But a journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a few steps.

As for Odom, he finally seems to be comfortable in the initiator role. In the last 10 games he is shooting 68% (eFG%), he is driving to the hole and being more aggressive on the offensive end. You can argue he’s been a better all-around player the last 10 games than Kobe (statistically, if you use something like Tendex, a PER-like stat based on per-possession used at the wonderful dougsstats, it’s true). That you can even have that conversation shows how far he has come.

If he solidifies into the initiator role, it allows the Lakers to really focus this off-season on getting a defense-oriented point guard and another quality big for the baseline (plus add depth). While Odom’s name will get mentioned in trade deals, at this point I’d only give him up for the kind of player who makes the Lakers instant contenders.


On an unrelated topic, I made a few comments the other day about NBA blogs and the recent piece in Sports Illustrated. Then Tom over at Sactown Royalty went and said it far better, and also expressed the frustrations and admiration I have with and for Bill Simmons as well. If the topic interests you, it’s worth the read.

to Kwame and Lamar

  1. A couple things to echo what every Tom, Kurt, and Henry has said on the SI blogger article.

    Ballard outs himself and others in the print media as suffering from some sort of journalistic xenophobia. “I am just a caveman. Your fancy computers and unique opinions scare me.”

    Secondly, the general public today is developing a much fiercer bulls**t detector because of their internet saavy. The saying, “don’t believe everything you read” has never been more poignant. Consequently, bloggers and fans now have a place to call bulls**t on a lot of the previously untouchable drivel that we get in the media (esp. announcers and talk radio). That must scare them.

    For Ballard to assume we are all just swallowing everything we read on the internet whole gives insight into what he truly thinks about his readership.

    Side note: I personally found it funny that in the article Simmons was checking his entry for errors seing as how I quoted said entry in my comments to Kurt’s post: “Ugh. (And not just the Lakers)” about a month ago.


  2. the thought of trading chris mihm passed my mind in the past couple days, too. nah. kwame’s game shouldn’t be all that hurt by chris’s return. and chris is another guy who is probably going to get a little bit better before he peaks. meanwhile he’ll still get in a bit of foul trouble, and teammates will be looking for mr. brown more.

    yeah, i couldn’t believe some of kwame’s defensive rotations the past couple games. so crisp. couldn’t be done any quicker for a big man. textbook. beautiful.

    so you don’t think bynum can be a steady backup next year? that does seem a bit of a stretch, but one that has to happen sooner or later.


  3. I will say this for Bynum, he has made big steps forward. But he still has a long way to go, starting with getting stronger. I’m not sure he’s ready to play the #2 man next year, although he should get more minutes as next season moves along.


  4. notreallyimportant March 28, 2006 at 3:56 am

    I will say this about Bynum, he has to be one of the luckiest guys on earth. A millionare before he is 18. And he gets to train with the Captain. Gets coached by one of the greatest ever, and plays with a future hall of famer. I would have killed to be him.


  5. As a Laker fan, I love your blog. I just wanted to say that I can’t understand why more people aren’t making a big deal about the way Kwame is playing. If he would have played this way the entire year, the Lakers would have easily been a 50 win team. He is the missing link. I’m not saying that he is going to continue playing like this, but for some reason I have faith in him. Everything with Kwame is mental. He has all of the physical gifts, but has been beaten down mentally his entire life. First by his family life as a child and then by MJ, the media, and the fans in Washington. Kwame just needs to be embraced and nurtured. I think the Lakers are doing a good job with that. He is starting to feel comfortable and feel wanted and needed, which has probably allowed him to loosen up a bit. He played with a bad hammy and bloody nose and still got 17. I’m telling you, I always take issue with the way the NBA fans, GMs, and Media always expect these young kids to produce right away. Big men traditionally take longer than others to develop, so if you are getting a big man out of high school, how the hell are you going to expect him to produce right away? As for Bynum, I think he could be a back up next year. The Lakers are handling him perfectly, allowing him to be coached by Kareem and not putting any expectations on him (something Kwame Brown never had). I don’t think Mihm and Kwame can play on the court together. I would trade Mihm if it meant I could get a high post big who could knock down a 15 foot J consistently or if I could get a pure shooter that can sit out and just drill three pointer after three pointer. If Kwame continues his growth, those would be the Lakers only two weak spots, so why not? I hate to dream up scenarios, but Bosh and Kwame (at least this version) would be an unbelievable high low tandem. Could you imagine? Maybe they could trade Mihm and get a poor man’s Bosh replica in the draft?


  6. notreallyimportant March 28, 2006 at 1:19 pm

    From what I hav watched Mihm is able to knock down a 15 footer pretty well. He also is a prettty good free throw shooter.
    I really like his development. When he got injured in the Seattle game he was sitting on what, 20 points?


  7. Re: “with Kwame is mental.”

    Well, it’s no secret his hands are a problem. If you were insinuating that he has no physical limitations, that’s not true. It’ll be harder for Kwame to be a premier forward/center in the league because of his hands. I’m not saying he can’t do it, it’s just a reminder of why he was booed a month or so ago.

    If I’m Kupchak – and I’m not – I would focus on getting the best 3 shooter available. That would do wonders for Kobe’s driving frequency. (This is of course assuming that it’s not feasable to aquire a premier player.)

    Re: “Consequently, bloggers and fans now have a place to call bulls**t on a lot of the previously untouchable drivel that we get in the media (esp. announcers and talk radio). That must scare them.”

    I totally agree. comes to mind. Haha


  8. I think Mihm has a had a good season and has been a consistent, productive Laker. I know Kwame is not a lock to continue this (its only been 4 games out of 72), but i would trade Mihm. After guaranteeing Kwames contract, we cannot give up on him. Mihm and Kwame, like Elden and Shaq, cannot get the proper spacing on the floor to be effective. Thus, we must trade Mihm, his value is high, he is a legitimate starting nba center, and we should get a starting 4 back for him. Obviously the target should be Carlos Boozer, can hit the 15-17 ft high post, corner jumper and can board as well. He looks healthy now, hes been putting up big numbers and this would facilitate the proper progression of Bynum playing 20-24 mins a game.


  9. Here’s my concern with Mihm for Boozer (plus other guys to make the $ match) — you’re now locked in. Your big three, all making big money for the next three years, are Odom/Boozer/Kobe, with some guys around them (Kwame, a PG for the MLE, whatever else you can get), and I wonder if that is enough to be contenders. If Boozer is healthy and Odom are Kwame are playing like they have for the past week, yes. But is that something you can count on.

    It would be a calculated risk.


  10. chris henderson March 28, 2006 at 5:14 pm

    I’m not sure about Boozer either, seems to be either a malcontent, or injury prone, remember that it took him longer to come back from whatever his last injury was than it took Ronnie Turiaf to come back from open heart surgery, we need more guys like Ronnie on our team. remember how well we did with Mark Madsen…Kurt Rambis…AC Green??? (role players!)

    I know I used to bitch about this all the time…that Lamar and Kwame would NOT slam the ball when they were underneath, (actually Mihm too), but lately they’ve been converting with authority lately, so I hope that continues, we can all see the positive results from that.

    Now, my latest pet peeve has got to do with the way Smush gets continuously beat on the first step, then he winds up chasing his guy until they all collide under the hoop, because Kwame has done a decent job of rotating and filling in that very necessary last line of D!
    But…this will lead to trouble, cause it’s gonna get Kwame in foul trouble, and the way he’s been playing, we can’t lose him due to foul trouble.

    it seems to me, since I’ve been watching this, that Smush is not trying to stop his man, but divert him to get him pinched down low, but sometimes it’s like he’s the only one who’s aware of that and it results in the other team getting a layup.
    We have to be prepared against San Antonio, cause Tony Parker is going to get that first step, and when Kwame rotates over, Tim Duncan will tear us up. we are gonna need a plan to stop them from exploiting that weakness we have.


  11. lamar, mihm, brown, and bynum are all playing better, but not fast enough. im afriad that kobe’s prime will pass us by before any of them can be the legit help kobe needs to win championships. they all have potentials but it is limited, and i believe we wont be able to contend with san antonio or detroit with this line up even with vast improvement next year..maybe the conference finals but no way will the lakers be good enough to beat the chemistry and the defense of san antonio or detroit. the only option that will remedy the lakers being without the championship for the next decade is chris bosh, or kevin garnett. this season phil has already publicly spoke out about his interest in both of the players..especially bosh. (even though jackson got fined heavely for it by the nba) i believe with kobe’s prime limted to 4-6 years, and phil’s short 3 year contract, the lakers need a big move. we dont have Time for BYnum or odom. garnett works out with kobe every summer, and the two of them are very good friends…maybe a possibility of bringing kg to los angeles. plus kg has already stated that he does not mind being the 2nd option on a team as long as we are winning championships. i say go for bosh or kg at all costs…if that means gettin rid of odom, mihm, brown, or even the big project bynum…so be it. i cant live without the championship for a decade.