Archives For March 2006


Kurt —  March 5, 2006

I caught this game on a snowy television in a crappy little Long Beach club where a friend’s band was playing (I’ll watch the Tivo later), but my night reminded me what this team means to the city.

Early on the people and friends around me were of the same mind: I don’t follow the team as closely as I did a few years ago, I don’t know most of these players and the ones I do know suck, management sucks, etc…

But from the time of the late third quarter run on, we were all cheering (but not being heard over the opening band, which did a bunch of bad Social D covers and one horrific Beatles cover), high fiving and were drawn into the game. When it was over we were buying each other drinks and laughing in amazement.

It’s just fun to be a fan on nights like that. And there is no other team in this city people rally around, that can bring people of different ages and diverse lifestyles, as fast and as intensely as the Lakers.

On Tap: The Detroit Pistons

Kurt —  March 4, 2006

Record: 48-10 (45-13 Pythagorean), top seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 8-2
Offensive Rating: 112.9 (2nd in the NBA)
Defensive Rating: 103.1 (3rd in the NBA)

Lakers and the Playoffs: The win against Golden State kept the status quo: Utah and Sacramento remain 1.5 games back after their wins last night (thanks for the help, Clips).

Lamar The Olympian. Part Deux: Michael Redd and Rashard Lewis have turned down invitations to play for USA Basketball for the next three years, so Odom is getting an invite. Odom (and Iverson) played well last time around, so I can live with that. But not having Redd is a big loss.

What makes the Pistons so good: Let’s try to look past the true but simplistic “they play as a team” idea here.

The key to their offense is they don’t turn the ball over — just 13% of their possessions end in a turnover (next is Phoenix at 14.3%, the Lakers are at 15.6%). This is huge because they have far fewer “empty trips” and they are good shooting team — 49.5% (eFG%) as a team, eighth in the league. Chauncey Billups is a key to this — he averages 9.6 assists and just 2.3 turnovers per 40 minutes.

Billups is having an incredibly good season — a true shooting percentage of 60.2%, a PER of 23.8 and a team high +12 per 48 minutes. Richard Hamilton is a good fit with him, shooting 51.7% (eFG%) on the season. Ben Wallace knows his role — he scores just 8.5 points per 40 minutes but pulls down 20.1% of the rebounds when he is on the floor, second best in the league (think about that, one in five rebounds is his). And the list of good players goes on and on.

Another offensive key is that while the starting five is balanced, they get efficient production off he bench. Antonio McDyess comes in and grabs an impressive 13.7% of the rebounds while Wallace rests. Little discussed Maurice Evans is shooting 53.7% on the season. It goes on and on.

On defense, one key is they don’t foul (which could prove troublesome for Kobe). They lead the league in fewest number of free throws given up per possession. Oh, the other thing is teams only shoot 46.6% (eFG%) against them, fourth best in the league.

One more thing to watch on defense, much like San Antonio you’ll see a pretty traditional defensive style. No doubling out by the half court line on Kobe — they’ll trust their players (Prince mostly, I would guess) and their rotations. That also means they don’t leave the other guys open shots should slow them.

The Lakers coming in:
Lots of heart from Kobe last night, who looked like I used to on Saturday mornings in college (my problems were self-inflicted, however). He had 42 points, was a team-high +22 and a true shooting % of 53.8%. Cook was +14, Odom was less than impressive.

So far this season, the Lakers are 4-10 in the second game of back-to-backs.

Keys to a Laker win: One weakness, the Pistons give up a surprisingly high percentage of offensive rebounds (29.5% of missed shots, 26th in the league) so the Lakers need to crash the glass and try to get some putbacks.

The weakest defensive spot for the Pistons, and it has been a weakness, is the four. If the Lakers are to have any chance, Cook and Odom will have to have big, big nights. Plus Kobe is going to have to have the energy to draw doubles earlier and, hopefully, throw off the Piston rotations.

This is the last game of a road trip, and the second game of a back to back, a time when some teams let down. Back to backs and road trips can be especially hard on the Pistons because their 5 starters account for 75.6% of the team’s minutes (for comparison, the current Laker starting five has accounted for 66.5% of the team’s minutes).

They can be beat, even Atlanta did it. Now, would I bet on a Laker win….

On Tap: Golden State Warriors

Kurt —  March 3, 2006

Record: 25-32 (22-33 Pythagorean), 11th seed in the West (3.5 games back of the Lakers)
Record last 10 games: 3-7
Offensive Rating: 106.2 (17th in the league)
Defensive Rating: 107.1 (19th in the league)

Lakers and the Playoffs: The Lakers are the 8th seed, 1.5 games ahead of Utah charging Sacramento (think about how big that win is now). That’s a slim lead with the two games after this against Detroit and San Antonio.

Don’t look to the draft: Sure, lately the Lakers have been as frustrating as my high school girlfriend, but pulling for them not to make the playoffs to improve the draft position won’t work — the Lakers’ first round pick is gone (unless they fall all the way to the top 10 picks, which is not going to happen). Plus, I’m a Laker fan, I can’t root for them to lose. I just don’t expect them to win now. Against any team, regardless of quality.

MASH Unit report: In an occurrence as predictable as the swallows coming back to Capistrano, it’s crunch time for the season and Barron Davis is injured. I love Barron’s game, but this is one reason I was worried when there was talk of the Lakers going after him. Davis has practiced with the team but is not expected to play tonight.

The other half of the Warrior’s stellar backcourt, Jason Richardson (who has been better than Davis this season, a better +/- and PER), will play and is expected to cover Kobe. On one good ankle — he turned it in a recent game against Utah. That sound you hear is Kobe licking his chops.

The rest of Golden State: In the last 10 games, Richardson has been by far the best Warrior player, with an eFG% of 51.9%, but he has gotten some help from former Laker Derek Fisher (just 47% eFG% however).

After that, there’s not much. Troy Murphy is shooting 43% in the last 10, Ike Diogu is a nice rookie (shooting 52.8% from the floor and grabbing 11.4% of the available rebounds) but he’s also shown some rookie tendencies.

The Lakers coming in: Well, at least one guy enjoyed the Laker game in Portland.

Kobe’s fighting a head cold and sinus infection. I have no idea what’s in the heads of the rest of the team.

Where’s Bynum Been? We’ve been asking why not more Bynum lately. Well, according to John Ireland on his radio show yesterday, it’s because Laker coaches think Bynum is not strong enough on defense and lacks a good grasp of the offense.

About his defense, I’d say his help defense has been good but right now he’s not strong enough to play good man-defense on the bigs he’s asked to cover. That will change in a year or two, as he hits the gym. As for the offense, he does look lost at times, but he’s hustling and no more lost than some other bigs, who will remain nameless.

Keys to a Laker win: This is a game the Laker big men need to take charge — Golden State is weak inside but in previous meetings between these two Adonal Foyle has looked like he’s worth what the Warriors are paying him. Mihm, Kwame, and maybe Cook should have big games.

Same with Ronny Turiaf, currently my favorite Laker. He should get minutes tonight but will need to play some defense on guys who can shoot from the outside and run the floor without picking up fouls.

Golden State likes to run — fifth fastest pace in the league — so the Lakers need to control the pace, slow it down and dominate inside. And play some damn defense.

Do that, plus with Kobe beating a hobbled Richardson a few times, and this can be the win needed to keep the team above .500 before the two games against the NBA Finals favorites.

Ugh. (And not just the Lakers)

Kurt —  March 2, 2006

I’m not going to talk about it, no need to rehash the ugliness. The late runs should never have had to happen, and they spent so much energy fighting back they couldn’t get over the hump. (By the way, look at the game flow and see that the Lakers fourth-quarter run ends when Kwame gets inserted for 16 seconds.) That game makes us 1-2 this season against the worst team in the league (by my rankings) but they’ve actually split two games against Dallas. Of course, they’re motivated to play Dallas.

The “easy” 10 games where I said the Lakers needed to go 7-3, they are 4-5.


Instead of the ugliness, I want to talk about a sentiment I heard and read a couple places yesterday, but I’ll use Bill “Sports Guy” Simmons as the example, specifically his piece about the upcoming World Championship and Olympic basketball teams. I think he mostly hits the problems and solutions on the head, but adds an easy but costly mistake.

No, this isn’t about him leaving Kobe off of his final 12. Although I will say this as a regular reader and fan of his: It’s clear he just doesn’t like Kobe. That’s fine. But just come out and say that’s why you’re leaving him off the Olympic team, rather than coming up with a convoluted reason that doesn’t really hold water. Kobe’s rusty at playing “real team” basketball, and you base this on what happens at an All-Star game? Just own up to your biases.

My bigger issue was his and others suggestion of having Shaq on the team. If this were the pre-2000 Shaq I’d be all for it — that was an athletic big man who could run the floor and dominate inside. The current version of Shaq is exactly the kind of player we keep sending to the Olympics that is poorly suited to the international game. International ball, with its trapezoid key, is a poor fit for classic low-post players. Look at Ben Wallace.

One of the big problems with the last Olympic squad was Larry Brown’s insistence at running the offense through Tim Duncan in the post. Great idea in the NBA, but with the shorter three-point shot and the wider lane the international game is better suited to motion-style, flash-in-the-lane offenses. Shaq can’t shoot from the outside and is not going to deal well in a motion offense. I’d say defensively he could be an intimidator inside, but what happens when his man starts going out and dropping threes? International centers do that all the time (they’re poor man’s Nowitzki’s).

Plus, look at Shaq’s conditioning and health now. How is he going to be in two years? Amare, even Brad Miller (with a good outside shot) are better fits inside for Beijing than Shaq right now. Shaq is still a great player, but he should not be on the Olympics squad.

Fast Break

Kurt —  March 1, 2006

The Lakers beat a team they were supposed to, something we shouldn’t take for granted, especially heading north tonight. I’m not doing a full Portland preview because we saw them just a week ago, but don’t underestimate the importance of this game. The Blazers have dropped six straight and the Lakers need to get on them early, shake their confidence and not let up.

• The Lakers followed Kobe’s lead last night in playing an aggressive, gambling style of defense that still allowed Orland to shoot 55% (eFG%) on the night but forced them into 16 turnovers. That might work again against Portland, but the three point guards the Lakers see after that — Barron Davis, Chauncey Billups and Tony Paker — are more likely to exploit gambles.

• Nice to see the good third quarter, nice to see the energy and guys bringing energy off the bench. Now, they need to carry this kind of effort over to the second game of the back-to-back. The Lakers this season are 4-9 (.308 win percentage) in those second games, not great but a little better than last year’s 5-14 (.263).

• In case you didn’t see it, the tryout invitees for the World Championship/Olympics has been leaked. Kobe is on there, as he should be, but Odom is not, and I don’t think he would have made my list. I like the mix of guys (although some choices could be quibbled with, like Jamison). Clearly someone watched the last Olympics and took notes.

• Of course, we could just go with The Onion’s suggestion for the 2008 team.

• When did Ronny Turiaf develop that mid-range jumper? I saw him in Summer League and thought his range was six feet and in. Still, great all-around game and effort from him last night, he changes the team dynamic when he is on the floor. I can’t get enough of this guy.

• It’s a long time to the draft, but let me say now I love the idea of Washington’s Brandon Roy as the initiator for the Lakers’ triangle. He is a 6-6 guard who can drive and has developed a nice outside shot, plus (from the couple games I’ve seen) seems to have the kind of basketball instincts the postion needs. Problem is, he may not last until the Lakers draft near the end of the first round. (Remember that the Lakers traded their first round pick to Boston, although it has been passed around like a joint at a Foghat concert and now I think the Suns have it. The Lakers still have the Miami first rounder, but it will be late.)

• Kwame was aggressive and confident on offense last night and finished a team-high +20. What was the motivation: Tired of being told just to rebound and play D? Wanted to show up the high-school number one pick who is getting raves? His biorhythems were at their peak? Whatever it was, I hope he brings it tonight in Portland.

• After reading so much about Darko’s failings, I was curious to see him in action. Not bad. Not a future star, but not bad.

• This year is the 30th anniversary of maybe my favorite movie, “Network.” (Think “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore,” a phrase I may soon need to tie into some Laker commentary.) Sadly, what was then an over-the-top satire three decades ago, and still seemed like a less wild satire when I first saw it 17 years ago, now looks damn prophetic.