Archives For June 2006

Our condolences

Kurt —  June 29, 2006

As a parent, I can’t begin to imagine what Lamar Odom is going through right now. My heart goes out to him, his wife and his family.

Odom has a foundation for children, if you want to make a donation I would think this is the appropriate place.

By the time the NBA draft ended — when Portland couldn’t find any more dance partners and Steven A. Smith was forced to shut up because the cameras were turned off — the Lakers ended up doing well in my mind with Jordan Farmar, a trade for veteran Maurice Evans and J.R., err, Danilo Pinnock.

Maurice Evans: Let’s start with Evans, because he could pitch in more than the others next season and was a steal for Cheick Samb, who likely will never amount to much, if anything, in the NBA (sorry to our readers from Senegal). Evans is a three-season NBA vet who spent last year in Detroit. Last season Evans, playing mostly the two but also some three, had a PER of 14.1, shot 37.1% from three point range and had a true shooting percentage (think points per shot attempt) of 54.5%, all solid numbers. Also last season he played good defense, allowing opposing two-guards to shoot 49.4% and with a PER of 15.8 (just slightly above the league average).

His offensive game in Detroit fit the triangle — he got 32% of his offense on spot-up jumpers, shooting a very good 64% (eFG%) when unguarded and a good 43.4% when covered. His overall shooting on the catch-and-shoot was a very good 50.2%. Another 18.5% of his offense came in transition and, in a very good sign for a guard, 12% of his offense came on offensive rebounds. Overall he grabbed 8.5% of the available rebounds last season (and 9.1% the season before), which is fantastic for a guard.

The down side is that he has never been in the positive of a +/-, he was -8.4 per 48 minutes last season and -4.4 the season before in Sacramento. In the California state capital opponents he covered shot 50.1% and had a PER of 17.9. One good sign is that each of his three seasons in the NBA both is his offensive and defensive numbers have improved.

My early guess is that he is Kobe’s new backup, filling the Aaron McKie/Laron Proffit role, but Evans is younger and less likely to break down. If he can give the Lakers 15 solid minutes a night off the bench that would be a plus.

Update: Here’s a little something on why Evans wanted out of Detroit, complete with a consipiracy theory that is not all that far fetched. If it’s true, thank you TZ! (Link via True Hoop.)

Jordan Farmar: This is one guy who has generated a fair amount of debate on this site, with some people being his fans while others of us were in the “good player but bad fit” camp.

I’m not sure what I can say about him that wasn’t covered by myself and others here. He is a guy who can play point in the league. I didn’t think of him as an explosive athlete, then he goes to the combine and shows a 42-inch vertical. He needs polish, and as much as I think Smush is a backup guard on a good team Farmar is not ready to step in and start. Rather, the Lakers will still be looking for a guard (Banks/James/Jackson) and Smush will be the number two, which could mean limited minutes for Farmar. He can play his way into minutes with good defense and the kind of smart basketball that Luke Walton displays.

Update: Jones on the NBA has more Farmar stories.

Danilo (J.R.) Pinnock:
He’s strong and tall for a guard – 6-4, 204. Apparently the George Washington junior had a great pre-draft camp in Orlando. He’s got an NBA body and is a member of the Panamanian national team. He’s got a good story, you can learn more about him here (thanks Gatinho for the link). Considered very quick with a good first step and can dunk with authority — he had an eFG% of 52.2% and an offensive rating of 111.3 (points per 100 possessions) at GW, both good numbers. The downside is he gets all that going to the rim, his outside shooting is suspect as evidenced by the fact he shot just 27.5% from three the last two years. Not sure how well that fits with the triangle offense, but hopefully we’ll find out in the summer league.

Draft Open Thread

Kurt —  June 28, 2006

NBA draft day is about hope, about the promise of the future. Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And a good thing never dies.

For the Lakers, the hope is that a raw prospect at 26 this year could become a key cog in just a few seasons. That a gamble at 51 pays off like hitting the number at a roulette wheel. Hope can be fun, and this draft should be fun.

The place to get your draft day information is at True Hoop — Henry has gone plum loco today with more posts and detailed information on potential picks (and we’re talking second round guys, plus some fun stuff on Jordan Farmar) than you’ll be able to read. If you’re not here, you should be there.

Start your comments below, we’ll be here during the draft adding our thoughts and some good links as the day goes on — and especially once the fun starts tonight. Updates on the Laker picks, and any other big news, will get live blogged right here. Come on in and pull up a chair for a fun — and hope filled — evening.

UPDATE: UCLA’s Jordan Farmar! I’m not sure I love him in the Triangle, but I love the guy. Jones on the NBA knows him and speaks very well of him. Here’s what I had to say about him earlier on True Hoop:

For guys like me who prefer things quantified it’s hard to admit, but sometimes we are drawn to the guys with the intangibles. They are the leaders, fearless about taking big shots, taking charge on the court — and their teammates rally around that. They provide a confidence and a swagger otherwise lacking.

Jordan Farmar is that guy for me. I’ve watched the majority of his games the last two seasons and he’s been my favorite Bruin. I’ve also seen enough to know there are key areas he as to improve to make and impact, or even to stick around long, at the next level. He’s not a consistent jump shooter, shooting just 48% (eFG%) overall last season, he had a pretty weak offensive rating of 99.3 (points per 100 possessions used) and a frightening number of possessions he used ended in a turnover.

But he has the intangibles — and a few tangibles — that I love to watch. You saw that if you watched the NCAA championship game against Florida, Farmar almost single handedly kept the Bruins in the game for the first half. I’d describe him as a “crafty veteran” already, both in his moves and leadership.

He is a solid to good defender, both man and in a team defense system. He is a floor general in the classic sense. His first step is quick and he can get into the lane. He plays well up-tempo. He has great court vision and he can thread a pass, both on the move and standing still. He set the table for lesser players like Arron Afflalo and Ryan Hollins, each of whom had huge seasons. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute learned to move without the ball as a freshman because he found that when he did Farmar got him the rock for an easy bucket. More importantly, when it was time for the big shot, Farmar was willing to take it — and if you doubled him too soon you paid with a great pass. He the focal point of a team that went to the NCAA Finals.

If you’re the focal point of a major sports program in LA you get noticed — Matt Leinart walked on water here, or got into the Hyde Lounge without waiting, which is about the same thing — but Farmar lived relatively under the radar. Well, unless you talk to my daughter.

True story, back in early 2005 my wife, one-year-old daughter and I flew to Phoenix for a family reunion. We came back to LAX on a Sunday night, but our paid-for ride is nowhere to be found. So I’m on the cell phone berating a poor dispatcher when my wife taps me on the shoulder and says, “isn’t that the UCLA coach?” Sure enough, Ben Howland, tie stretched out and top button on the Oxford undone, was standing 25 feet away from us, with the rest of his team not far behind, wearing UCLA sweats, returning from a weekend in the Bay Area.

Most of the team headed for the charter bus going back to Westwood, but a few guys split off to be picked by family or girlfriends. I wasn’t paying much attention, my ride still was not there after 30 minutes of waiting and some poor shlub at the dispatching headquarters was going to listen to me vent whether he could solve the problem that second or not.

Then I turn around to see my daughter, who cis strapped in her seat, doing all she can to get the attention of — and flirt with — Farmar, who is leaning against a post waiting for his personal ride. Kids can be remarkably effective flirters, pretty soon she and Farmar are making faces at each other, and he smiles at her as he gets in the car with a coed. I’m not sure what a one year old can see in a guy but intangibles, but that elusive “it” quality. Farmar has that and every UCLA fan, and my daughter, could see it. (I realize that story really points to a future of fretting about this daughter as she grows up. All I can say is at least she went after a guy with NBA skills.)

And Farmar has NBA skills, they just need a lot of polish and more control. That will come with a few years experience, preferably time (at least at first) not as a starter but coming off the bench. He has to learn to harness his skills.

The intangibles he has down.

UPDATE: Cheick Samb from Senegal with the 51st pick. No, I’ve never heard of him either. He’s 7-1, 195. NBA.com says “Raw, lean shot-blocker who has tremendous upside as a prospect.” He apparently played for Barcelona, where I know we have a couple readers, so maybe they can help us out. Draft Express has a little on him, saying nothing good about his offense. And that he’s rail thin — he weighs the same as me but is a foot taller, which speaks poorly for both of us. More here, making me think NDBL.

TRADES UPDATE: In a great move, the Lakers traded likely-never-to-pan-out Samb to Detroit Maurice Evans, a guy who could be a solid 15-minute-a-game backup for Kobe. Also, they traded a future second round pick to Dallas for Danilo Pinnock, a combo guard out of George Washington. More on him and everything tomorrow.

Movin’ On Up?

Kurt —  June 26, 2006

Update: Well, really there is nothing to update. Mitch Kupchak talked with the media yesterday (you can read about it here or here) and said nothing new or exciting. He’d like to move up but doesn’t expect to. He said they would take the best player available at 26, but don’t expect said player to contribute much next season. The only new name was Mike Gansey, a “poor man’s JJ Redick” who shot an impressive 42.9% from three, 65% (eFG%) overall and had an amazing offensive rating of 122. He prefers the spot up to shooting off the dribble. He was the outside to Kevin Pittsnogle’s inside at West Virgina (same school as Jerry West). Not athletic enough to be a great defender in the NBA. Basically, I’d take him in the second round as a shooter but not the first, we need a better defender. But the name is out there. Aside that, this post remains pretty much the state of affairs. Remember, open thread on the draft starts tomorrow afternoon.

It’s that time of year, draft rumors are being passed around like a joint at a Cypress Hill concert.

I’m not going to discuss every rumored scenario out there — for a roundup of the fun check out the latest Carnival of the NBA, where Jeff at Celtics Blog does it draft style and has a great roundup. Draft rumors can be found a lot of places right now, I’m not sure how serious any of those are.

That said, I think it’s safe to say the Lakers have talked about moving up the draft board, that’s been reported too many places to be completly made up. Here’s my theory: They want to see how far they could move up for Mihm and the 26th pick (and maybe some other guys like Sasha or Von Wafer thrown in). If that can get them Brandon Roy they will do it, if not they will live with the 26th pick. Now, that’s the rare piece of speculation from me, but it seems to make the most sense in my mind based on needs and who they worked out.

This is the most difficult to judge draft in a while at the top, so maybe they can do it, but apparently a deal for the Hawks to take Roy at 5 and trade him to the Rockets is close to in place. So the Lakers would need to go top 4, and as much as I like Mihm I doubt he gets you there.

Check back here for updates — if anything looks like it is becoming serious we’ll break it down. And Wednesday come by for a draft open thread, where we will talk about what the Lakers do and laugh at whatever the Trailblazers do.

Assuming the Lakers are staying at 26, I think they need to take the best available player, regarless of position. The good news is, most of the guys left will be swingmen/points. Here is a list of guys that they may be able to get:

James White: Rumor now is on a couple sites that this is the Lakers’ guy, that he blew them away in his workout (be cautious as there are a lot of smokescreens out this time of year). He is 6-7 and amazing athlete, maybe the best in the draft, and played at Cincinnati. He had a team best (and very good) offensive rating of 114.3 (points per 100 possessions used), shot 55% (eFG%), shot 34.7% from three and grabbed 12% of the defensive rebounds available. Big finisher at the basket. His athleticism is supposed to make him a good defender, even on smaller quicker guys (but what about the Nash/Bibby/Parker type?). I’m picturing him as a backup to Kobe to start, although if he can defend he could play the point.

Kyle Lowry: If there was one guy I could reasonably choose to fall to 26, this would be my choice, I think we need this kind of defender, but the fact he keeps falling down the draft board may mean GMs saw stuff they didn’t like in workouts (or others just looked better).

Maurice Ager: This 6-5 Michigan State guy would be a good wing player in the tri and can score starting day one in the NBA. Some concerns about his defense in scouting reports, although he looked solid in the couple games I saw.

Shannon Brown: Another Michigan State guy, he’s 6-3 and had a slightly better offensive rating and slightly better rebounding percentage than Ager. Shot 39% from three-point range. Considered a good defender.

Alexander Johnson: You just can’t have enough athletic big men, but I’d be shocked if he fell to 26.

Daniel Gibson: The Texas guard is a good defender and loves the catch-and-shoot, so he strikes me as a great fit as a future triangle point.

Quincy Douby: no doubt he will be able to score, if he can defend he’d be a great fit.

Jordan Farmar: I love Farmar, but I don’t like him in the triangle. Offensive rating of 99 and he shot just 48% last year and turned the ball over too much. Maybe it was the ankles, but if they take him Farmar needs to blow me away at the Summer Pro League before I love this pick.

Guillermo Diaz: Another guy with amazing athletic skills (he was a world-class volleyball player). Considered raw but shot 36.3% from three-point range, with an overall shooting percentage of 49.9% (eFG%) and an offensive rating of 112.9. I’m not sure the Lakers need another young raw kid, but you can’t teach athleticism.

As a side note, Draft Express has the Lakers taking Renaldo Balkman out of South Carolina with their second round pick. That, of course, is a crapshoot, although you are always safe betting that Mitch will take a skinny two guard who can shoot but not defend. Balkman is an athletic swingman but with limited perimeter game right now, he was asked to play inside in college but is not likely to do that at the next level. He is 6-7 with a 7-1 wingspan and likes to run the floor. The kind of guy you can take a risk on and send to the NDBL to work on seasoning.

A few weekend notes

Kurt —  June 23, 2006

Just clearing out the inbox a little.

• I’ll make it more formal next week, but we’ll be doing a draft open thread here next Wednesday, paving the way for comments (and a little live blogging). The draft starts at 4:30 but it will be more like 6:45 or so by the time the Lakers pick.

• The Laker summer league roster for Long Beach is starting to take shape, with Andrew Bynum, Von Wafer and Devin Green all on the team for the second year in a row. Of course, there will be the two draft picks. Some of the other guys signed are former Duke player Nick Horvath, Kasib Powell, Nile Murry, and former Santa Clara star Doron Perkins. (That comes from the LA Times Lakerblog interview with Ronnie Lester, both parts of which are worth reading.)

Wafer and Green do not have guaranteed deals for next year, so they will be playing for a contract. That means we can expect Wafer to shoot a lot, although what he may need to do more is show he has learned to play within the triangle.

The only disappointment is the Turiaf will not be there, he is playing with the French national team this summer.

• I will be at as much of the Summer League as I can, providing thoughts and breakdowns on the Lakers and other goings on.

• Pounding the Rock has got the early line for you conspiracy theorists out there — now that Michael Jordan is part owner in Charlotte, do they win the lottery next year to get Greg Oden?

• Phil Jackson went on the Dan Patrick radio show Wednesday and said a few interesting things. Among them was a strategy for taking advantage of a Wade or Kobe in the current NBA climate: “Give him the middle of the floor. It used to that be the isolation came on the wing or the sideline. But with illegal defenses not being called, so zones are available, the top of the floor seems the best place for players, and also it isolates them in a way in which officials can read then call the foul or the contact.”

• Tex Winter has a book coming out soon. Hoopshype has an excerpt that shows you a little of how Tex came to be Tex, and come up with that offense.

• Hoopsanalyst continues its great breakdowns of different positions in the draft, with shooting guards next. In that group is Shannon Brown, someone the Lakers may end up with at 26.

• Isaiah Thomas coaching the Knicks is a bad idea long term, but I bet they are better and more exciting to watch next season. Thomas, for his many flaws, seems to coach an up-tempo game (the last two years in Indiana the Pacers were in the top 10 in the league in pace). That better suits the Marbury/Francis/Robinson back court plus guys like Frye. They are not likely making the playoffs, but Thomas style will be a better fit than Larry Brown’s.

• Adam Sandler has a new movie “Click,” about a remote that can control the speed of time. Didn’t the Twilight Zone basically do this 40 years ago?

Sliders

Kurt —  June 22, 2006

No, this post is not about the Jerry O’Connell TV show (which I loved the first season or so of, but it went downhill after that).

With less than a week before the draft it’s time to focus there. I’m talking about guys sliding down the draft board. Celtics Blog and Lowpost.net teamed up for an interesting look a few weeks back at the success rate of guys who slide (as well as risers) and found some interesting stuff — basically guys who slide 10 spots or more seem to have done so for a good reason, they tend not to pan out. There are plenty of notable exceptions (hello Gilbert Arenas) but for the most part it holds true.

With the Lakers drafting 26th, Brandon Roy is not going to fall to them, but there are a few other guys that could, and that I wouldn’t mind getting. So I thought I’d point out a few.

Kyle Lowry: He’s a 6-0 point guard out of Villanova who scouts say is likely the best defensive point in the draft. He also is known for having a hard edge (not unlike Smush). Considered very competitive and very quick — he can drive the lane in the NBA, something you can’t have enough of these days, The knock on him used to be his outside shot, but he shot 46.8% overall last year and 44.4% from beyond the arc (getting better like that is a sign of a good work ethic). He had an offensive rating of 113.4 (points per 100 possessions used), very close to more heralded teammate Randy Foye and better than Allan Ray. He may not be tall like Phil likes, but this is a guy who can play out top in the NBA and could develop into the kind of starter the Lakers could use in a few years.

Alexander Johnson: I doubt the Florida State power forward will fall to the Lakers simply because he has the “athletic with upside” tag that gets guys drafted early. That said, if he did slide he’s potentially too good to pass. He’s a 6-10, 235 power forward who is strong enough to push people around on the inside and has a consistent 12-15 foot jumper (he had an eFG% of 56%). He grabbed 23.8% of the available defensive boards when he was on the court last year and a very good 12.9% of the offensive ones. He also blocked a lot of shots. He needs polish but could be very good some day.

Hilton Armstrong: Another big, and I know all things being equal the Lakers are more likely to go with someone to be a triangle point/Kobe backup. But Armstrong, like Johnson above, might be hard to look past if he slides down the draft board (even if just as future trade bait). He’s 6-11, 235 out of UConn and has a rep as a very good weak-side shot blocker. He grabbed 16.2% of the available defensive boards last year. He also can shoot the mid-range and finished last year with an eFG% of 61.1%. That would fit nicely in the triangle.

Congratulations Shaq

Kurt —  June 21, 2006

In some corners of Lakerdom today there is bitterness that Shaquille O’Neal went on to win a title in Miami, and to do it before Kobe got his. Not in my heart, however. I’m happy he cemented a well-deserved legacy as one of the games all-time great centers.

What he did in Miami does not diminish or tarnish the three titles in LA, nor does it diminish Kobe or his role in them. Only small minds who don’t love the game think that way. Those were different Shaqs on different teams. He brought me many joyous memories, and I’m not bitter that he’s doing well 3,000 miles away.

Yes, I have had my frustrations and disappointments with Shaq. I wish he and Kobe could have figured out how to coexist in the same locker room. I wish Shaq had shown the dedication to conditioning he had under Riley the last couple years he was in Los Angeles. I wish I could have seen him jump out and show on the pick-and-roll at Staples Center like he did in Dallas.

Father time was telling Shaq it was time to be more like Kareem to Magic rather than the big dog, but maybe he needed a change of scenery to see that. So be it. Like after a relationship had crumbled with a long-time girlfriend, I have moved on. And I’m happy to see he’s done well.

Notes at 3 am

Kurt —  June 20, 2006

• One follow up note on Marcus Banks: in the comments on the post below Kevin Pelton reminded us that Dan Rosenbaum (now employed by an NBA team) came up with as good a defensive statistical metric as anyone ever has, and it ranked Banks as the second best defensive point guard in the league.

• Last year, just one mock draft had the Lakers taking Andrew Bynum at 10 — Basketball Draft Central. Check out thier interesting predicted draft order for this year (Farmar at 13 to Philly?). For the Lakers at 26, this year they are predicting Shannon Brown, which has come up in a few places and would seem a good fit.

• If you want to read the latest draft and free agent speculation, check here for the latest from Eric Pincus — but you’ll be disapointed if you think moving Odom (or Bynum) is a good idea.

• I don’t think this can be said enough — no major talent leaving his rookie contract to become a free agent in 2007 or 2008 (or a few years past that). I can give you 30 million reasons why. Remember that the team that has the rights to a player can offer him larger pay increases and one more year on a max deal, which works out to about $30 million in garunteed money over the course of the contract. Nobody is leaving that on the table (Kobe didn’t). The best you can hope for is a sign-and-trade, but you then are going to have to give up a lot of talent to get your guy.

• The latest Carnival of the NBA blogs is up at the always good Raptor Blog.

• I’m loving having Vinny Chase and the boys back for the summer. Best line from last Sunday, from Drama, made this former Valley boy laugh out loud (and wake up my two month old, who I was holding), “You know everything north of Ventura Boulevard is the devil’s waiting room.”

• From the “yes I’m petty” file: After what a black hole he was in the Finals two years ago for the Lakers, it just pisses me off to see Gary Payton hitting big shots now.

• I really shouldn’t use the word “petty” in relations to these finals because ABC has already tainted it (think Tom).

• As an NBA fan, I can’t say enough that these Finals, and these playoffs, have been way more entertaining than I could have hoped for. There really just is something in the air about the NBA right now, you can feel the energy.

• The only person dragging them down is Bennett Salvatore.

• I’m not saying Wade wasn’t fouled on the last play of the game, or that the majority of calls were not justified, I just think it’s pretty amazing that the Heat had 49 free throws on 69 shot attempts in game 5. My theory is that stars that can penetrate get calls — and that is Wade — and that the home team gets more calls. Look for things to even out tonight in Dallas.

• The Stanley Cup is still the coolest trophy in all of sports, in part because of the great rituals and traditions around it (how many other trophys have gone to strip clubs?). I love watching the players skate around with it, even when I don’t care about the team.