Archives For April 2006

Fast Break

Kurt —  April 4, 2006

Last night, I turned on my computer at home to hear my monitor make a large “pop”, followed by the smell of something burning. Not good. It pretty much went UCLA in the finals on me. So, pardon if posting is a little more sporadic while I figure out how to afford a new computer and a new baby within three weeks of each other.

Ahh, bullet points, an overworked blogger’s best friend….

• Some great sports day in LA Monday, huh? Just like I predicted. The Dodgers are clearly built like the classic Dodger teams of the past, to win with pitching and defense. Ugh. (To be fair, as of this posting Brad Penny is doing much better on Tuesday.)

And did someone pick UCLA to win? Florida was clearly the better team. And add me to the list (along with everyone else) who thinks that Noah can be a good pro. As it did Knickerblogger, Noah strikes me as a Marcus Camby in the NBA, which a lot of teams could use.

• The Phil Jackson/Bernie Bickerstaff jabs aside (but they are pretty amusing), the suggestion that the Lakers may want Rush back was floated by the LA Times.

Really? Yes, he knows the triangle and he’ll be cheap. But outside of hitting the three pointer fairly well (34.4% for his career, better the last few years) his overall shooting has never been great (47.1% true shooting percentage this year, and his carrer average is below 50%). And he’s not a good defender, he’s below average and often disinterested. I’m not Sasha’s biggest fan, but we’re already paying him for next year and he’ll basically give us the same production (very similar offensive numbers). Heck, I’d rather bring Profit back than add Rush.

• Interesting choice last Sunday by the non-porn star looking Van Gundy, choosing to use Luther Head to cover Kobe. As Kobe has shown both a great mid-range and beyond game plus a love of elevating to shooting over players his height or taller all season, covering Kobe with someone four-inches shorter and easy to shoot over was an interesting choice. Not a wise one, just interesting.

• There are some detailed breakdowns out there, but it looks more and more like the Lakers finish the season with 43 or 44 wins and get the seventh seed, which means Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs.

Coincidentally, the Lakers have two games left against the Suns. I’ll be watching and charting those to do some pre-playoff breakdowns, but I will add now that I think the one this Friday may be a poor example of what will come. It will the second game in two nights for the Lakers, traveling in to take on the fastest-paced team in the league. A good test, but not as good a measure of what could happen in the playoffs, especially the first round, when teams tend to get plenty of rest. Not that rest is all the Lakers need to beat the Suns…

• Just to amuse yourself, here is several minutes of Shawn Bradley getting dunked on.

It doesn’t get much better for a sports day in Los Angeles — Dodger opening day in the afternoon and UCLA in the NCAA title game at night. Great day to for me to be stuck in the office, swamped with work.

No deep thoughts here on the Dodgers ’I’ll leave that to those who know the team better, but I’ll talk a little about the NCAA title game (we’ll get back to the Lakers tomorrow).

Actually, I’ll crib from and point you to kenpom.com, where Ken Pomory (he sometimes of ESPN insider) uses all my favorite stats to track the NCAA. And what does his methodology predict for tonight? UCLA 63, Florida 63. Actually, it was 62.9 to 62.9, if you want to be picky. Which means after the blowouts Saturday this one should be close.

About UCLA:

UCLA has balance, with every player except the point guards sporting offensive ratings better than 100 (points per 100 possessions). Jordan Farmar’s shot selection has been maligned in this space before, and a prime example was given against LSU. He took a couple of ill-advised 3s, but they went in. When that’s happening and the Bruins manage to get over 40% of possible offensive rebounds (they got 44.1% against LSU), the opposing defense is in trouble.

About Florida:

Florida’s offense is very effective as well. I’d like to focus on Corey Brewer, who started the season 16 of 67 (23.9%) on 3s and has gone 24 of 50 (48.0%) since. Along with Lee Humphrey (45.8%) and Taurean Green (39.6%), Florida has three solid, nearly spectacular, long-ball threats to go with the two future-NBA big men. So double-team at your own peril, Ben Howland. We know Howland isn’t going to double with a guard, and he may still double Joakim Noah at selective times in the low post, leaving the somewhat more offensively challenged Al Horford.

Pace could be key in this one, a few easy baskets in transition (or, conversely, sloppy transition defense) could swing this game. The way LSU was overwhelmed with UCLA’s defensive intensity and speed, I think Florida will have a challenge adjusting as well. The Bruins will need some big nights defensively from their big men — Hollins and Mata in particular — but I say they get it and win by 5.

On Tap: The Houston Rockets

Kurt —  April 2, 2006

How happy is ABC? Do you think, before the season when they put this game on the schedule, they thought they’d have the 7th and 11th seeds in the West?

Moneyhoops comes to Houston. The Rockets may be the most disappointing team in the NBA this season so you knew there would be changes, and they have made them in the front office — the Rockets have tabbed Daryl Morey as their new GM. He comes from MIT and the Celtics, where he crunched the stats for the C’s. And not just the usual stats, Morey (like myself) uses many of the “new stats” that track efficiency, stats by possessions and others that give, in my opinion, a more accurate picture of a team and a player.

Tom Z. over at Sactown Royalty was on this fast and has a little primer on Morey (and came up with the clever moneyhoops term). Morey has done some good work, and the Celtics have built a nice, young core — although Jeff at Celtics Blog points out Morey also defended the Brian Scalabrine pick up. Other teams, the Sonics, Spurs, Mavs and others, have used advanced statistics in one way or another, but this is the biggest step forward for this little movement so far. I have to say I am going to be rooting for him to do well, but I’ll add that basketball is such an interactive team sport that stats alone can’t be the answer. I’m not sure it is in baseball, but there the universe is a lot easier to define because most of the action is around the plate (pitcher and hitter stats). With hoops it takes more of the classic scouting to do the job right. That said, the right statistics can go along way to help with that job.

Yao vs. Kwame: This is really going to be the big defensive match up for the Lakers — in the last 10 games Yao is scoring 27.1 points per game on 62.8% true shooting percentage and is pulling down 10.7 boards per game. His foot is finally healthy and it shows.

However, Yao plays to Kwame’s strengths — on the block where Kwame can use is strength advantage to keep Yao out of positions he likes. Last time these two teams played back in February Chris Mihm was out so Kwame got the call and he held Yao to 14 points and a -12 for the game. If he can do that again, the Lakers win.

Other keys to the game: Without McGrady, and really even with him, the Rockets do not have anyone who can slow Kobe, so this could be a big game for him. Last time these two played Kobe had a game high 32 and was +18, also the best on the court.

Without McGrady, the Rockets have been getting better play from Rafer Alston, although he has shot just 46.1% (eFG%) in the last 10 games, and Luther Head. However, the Rockets backcourt defense has been weak, so not only Kobe but also Smush could have a big night.

Finally, expect a slow pace as the Rockets are the 5th slowest team in the NBA this season.

Trump Buys Lakers

Kurt —  April 1, 2006

In a shocking move, Jerry Buss has sold the Los Angeles Lakers franchise to famed New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump, setting off a chain reaction of events within the organization.

It had long been assumed Buss would leave the team to his children, and he chose not to disclose the reason for the change of heart. However, sources within the Laker organization suggest it may be fund more no-limit Texas hold-em poker shows for television, events in which Buss also would play. Several sources said Buss almost lost the Lakers to Phil Hellmuth in a late night, big money pot recently at the Mirage, but got bailed out with an inside straight on the river.

At the press conference announcing his takeover, Trump called General Manager Mitch Kupchak into the room and told him “You’re fired!” Kupchak seemed shocked and, in an interview in the town car that took him to the airport, alternated between complaining that it was the other members of the front office let him down and saying he was just thankful for the chance Mr. Trump gave him.

Kupchak’s replacement will be chosen on the next season of “The Apprentice.“

In the interim, all Laker player/personnel moves will be decided by a Magic 8 Ball. Trump said that should make Laker fans happy, as the moves will still make more sense than what has gone on in recent years.

When reached for a comment, Coach Phil Jackson took the news of the change with a Zen-like calmness, saying that change was a part of life he was the reed bending with the new direction of the river. He then asked if Trump had any daughters.

Kobe said the move would not affect him on the court.

“’Trump can Love me or hate me, it’s one or the other. Always has been. He can hate my game, my swagger. Hate that big, fat max contract I signed and now he has to pay. And he can hate that I’m loved, for the exact same reasons.”