Archives For July 2006

I return from vacation 93 days before the Lakers tip off against the Suns on Halloween night and with very little news to comment on — what little Laker talk out there is not just rumors but pretty much pure speculation. So we’re reduced to talking about Chris Mihm’s golf game.

Instead, let me mention a couple of non-paying job offers.

One is for a pet side project where we (to use a vague pronoun) are looking for some people who may be interesting in doing some NBA writing — but we’re being very picky. The writers already assembled are of a high quality, not only able to string together a sentence but with a different perspective on the game and who can back up their assertations with some facts. We don’t mean you have to be Kelly Dwyer or Kevin Pelton, but you need to have some detail orientation and some skills. Also, this is not a Lakers-focus thing but people looking at the NBA as a whole. If you’re interested, send me an email.

If movies are more your gig, then Yaysports! is looking for you. They will be shooting part of their “Who Shot Mamba?” movie in Los Angeles this week and are looking for extras — you can get all the details at this link. If you go, you get the chance to meet the Inflatable Ben Wallace and have your picture taken with him. You can’t do that every day (unless you own an inflatable Ben Wallace yourself).

There is a poetry that can be found in numbers. When you turn numbers over and around, when you attempt to make them tell you a specific story, those numbers begin to speak to you.

When the numbers melt into the Language, they acquire the power to do all of the things which language can do, to become fiction and drama and poetry.

The Mind of Bill James, How a Complete Outsider Changed Baseball, and basketball, too, by Scott Gray chronicles how twenty-five years ago, Bill James started writing about baseball, and a new way of qualifying a game many love was born.

For those who abandon themselves to the game, for those to whom the hurried and casual summaries of journalism are a daily affront…

Bill James begat Rob Neyer, Billy Beane, and Moneyball, which begat Basketball on Paper, 82 games, APBR metrics, and the new stats. A collection of folks who have been attempting to qualify basketball, and its player’s and statistic’s, in a way that focuses and clarifies opinions.

James has spawned so many folks who have taken his original ideas and mutated and translated them into other arenas, making him a truly iconic figure.

But the biggest achievement of this book is removing the label of “stat geek” and a “baseball by numbers” guy from James’ persona. Bill James was a Liberal Arts major, a lover of literature and rhetoric, politics and discourse. A man who writes things like,

Dan Ford…plays the outfield like a blind man staying overnight at a friend’s apartment.

His own opinion on the role of statistics in sport bucks what the national media has misrepresented him as.

Statistics are to sport, …like the relationship of tools to machine and to the mechanic who uses them, The mechanic does not begin with the monkey wrench. All he wants from the monkey wrench is that it do it’s job and not give him any trouble.

In short, this is not some right brained pedant sitting in his parent’s basement.

This is a book about a man and his unique mind first, second it’s a sports book, and third a baseball book.

And forgive me, but he is just so damn quotable:

On baseball cards:…a chart of numbers that would put an actuary to sleep can be made to dance if you put it on one side of the card and Bombo Rivera’s picture on the other.

Given an option, all men prefer to reject information. to which author Gray adds,

Misguided faith leads to stubborn repetition of foolish decisions.

Bringing this back to the Lakers and being someone who has them on the brain on a perpetual basis, I saw so many axioms that could easily be applied to other team sports and, well, life in general…

Applied to the Lakers and the use and misuse of the term dynasty, from Japanese artisan Kaneshige Miciaki,

Tradition consists of creating something new with what one has inherited. Producing something new while incorporating what came before- That’s tradition.

For Jim Buss and his opinion of Andrew Bynum:

There is a place for impatience in the building of a (basketball) team. All of us have a tendency to coast for as long as we can, and never find out what we can do until we have a time of crises….If he finds himself, great; if he doesn’t, we’ve got a (basketball ) team to run.

Italo Calvino said, a classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say, and Bill James, his contributions to baseball, and his lateral approach to writing about sport fit that mold.

-Gatinho

2006-08 USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team
2006 USA Basketball Men’s World Championship Team Finalists Roster

Carmelo Anthony
Gilbert Arenas
Shane Battier
Chris Bosh
Bruce Bowen
Elton Brand
Kirk Hinrich
Dwight Howard
LeBron James
Antawn Jamison
Joe Johnson
Brad Miller
Chris Paul
Amare Stoudemire
Dwyane Wade

Cuts: Morrison, Ridenour and Marion (injury)

Intial reactions: Dwight Howard A little surprised as he still seems to be finding his way, even if he is about ready to take the league by storm. I love his energy and his nose for rebounding. He is by all accounts a character guy and easily coachable, and that probably was a factor.

Amare Stoudemire This selection should end a lot of discussion about his health.

Brad Miller Isn’t this guy already playing a little long in the tooth? Wonder how his employers feel about this. But he fits the international game well with his passing ability and outside shot.

Special K: Larry Brown is a respected coach, but we can see how he may not have been a good fit for the Olympic job. Coach K is treated reverentially throughout basketball. And as Laker fans know, a coach with credentials has a head start when it comes to dealing with NBA players.

Krzyzewski also revealed a few nuggets of strategy for the tournament: He doesn’t plan to have a regular starting lineup, and nobody will play all 40 minutes in any game.

FB and G’s resident prognosticator: Excerpts from Kurt’s take on Colangelo taking over for USA basketball from a year ago:

They need a full time coach.

The days the USA can just roll the ball out and win on talent alone are gone, this needs to be a team now.

This needs to be a more perimeter based and versatile team, with bigs who can play inside and out and not just a plethora of slasher guards.

Meet the new ball…: There have been some complaints coming out of summer league about the new ball that will be used this year. It has an international look, is a composite (not all leather) and is meant to be game ready out of the box (like a new pair of Jordan’s, I guess). Seems a uniform feel for all game balls was the desired end. No more advantage for home teams playing with their ball.

A long walk ruined: Chris Mihm has greatly improved his game this off-season, just maybe not the right game.

George still looking for a new jungle: Dallas has offered him a one year deal for $2 million dollars…

…He’s still exploring other options, including Phoenix, New Jersey and Cleveland.

In case you missed it: It looks as if the Lakers will spend Christmas in Miami again.

-Gatinho

Being Mitch Kupchak continued…

Is their a sixth and a half floor in the training facility in El Segundo? Because I know that a lot of us would love to take that elevator and pull the emergency stop button in between floors.

What do we as outsiders really know about Kupchak and the inner workings of the Laker front office? Here at Forum Blue and Gold we all try to keep our speculation to a minimum, and if we do speculate we try to do so in as logical a manner as fandom allows. So here’s some back story…

Kupchak the Player…

Drafted 13th in 1976 by the then Washington Bullets, Kupchak was a solid college player who held records for consecutive double doubles (10), and, before Vince Carter’s arrival, was the last UNC player to average 10 boards a game. His college career includes one of the greatest of the games that fills the pantheon that is the UNC-Duke Rivalry.

But Kupchak’s pro career was a turbulent journey which saw him go through several mutations.

In his rookie year he played an integral part off the bench to help the third place finishing Bullets defeat the favored 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Sending them to the Finals against Dennis Johnson and the Lenny Wilkens led Seattle Supersonics, who themselves had finished fourth.

Kupchak helped turn around a deficit in a game 4 that the Bullets eventually lost, and he scored 19 points in game 6 to help force a game 7 that the Bullets would have to win on the road in Seattle. In that game 7 Kupchak had a three point play with less than 90 seconds to go, cementing the win and helping the franchise capture the trophy.

A clutch performance for a rookie and hinting that Kupchak could surpass the expectations placed on a 13th pick.

Kupchak would again have a chance to show his mettle the following year when the same two teams would meet again in the Finals. This time around it was the two teams with the best records meeting in the finals, but you can imagine it was still not a match-up that excited NBA brass.

Kupchak’s role would be diminished as he only played in 8 out of the 19 playoff games, a step down from his previously impressive rookie accomplishments, and Seattle would go on to take the trophy for its one and only title.

Kupchak missed most of the 1980 season but returned to form and played all 82 games of the 1981 season.

It was in that off season that Kupchak was traded to the Lakers for Jim Chones, Brad Holland and draft picks.

Paraphrasing former Laker Eddie Jordan in Mr. Lazenby’s book The Show, it was Kupchak’s plodding style that fueled the fire that would lead to Paul Westhead’s firing. Westhead tried to institute post up plays for the cement shoed Kupchak as he was being left in the dust of the Laker fast break, and Westhead wanted to institute more half court offense to increase Kupchak’s touches. Slow down the Showtime Lakers?

Buss would have none of it, and Westhead would be history.

What happened next to Kupchak, who did not come cheaply, is probably still vivid in most Laker fan’s minds.

Kupchak writhing on the floor under the basket after blowing out his knee in a game against the then San Diego Clippers.

This injury would open the door for the addition of Laker fan favorite Bob McAdoo to be brought in, and the Riley led Lakers would beat the 76ers for their second trophy in three years.

Kupchak would miss the next full season and return at the end of the ‘84 season to bolster the bench. But his game had changed and had to be changed to match up against the rough and tumble style of the Boston Celtics.

Although the Lakers would fall to the Celtics in ’84, the ’85 playoffs would be one of redemption. That Laker team would be led to the ‘chip by an emerging young forward also out of North Carolina, James Worthy. But unlike Kupchak, Worthy, the number one pick, could post up and run the break with gazelle like strides.

Kupchak would play a diminished but important role in helping Kareem, and with fellow bench mate McAdoo intimidate the bruising Celtic front court.

Were the expectations of a 13th pick fulfilled?

Is Kupchak the GM following in the footsteps of Kupchak the player?

A career in both realms that was expected to be solid but never stellar?

Or has Kupchak the GM turned into Kupchak the player in his latter post injury years? Simply running around doing the dirty work for the real stars…

Some news: Devean George is negotiating with the Dallas Mavericks to sign for the veteran’s minimum.


-Gatinho

Vacation All I Ever Wanted

Kurt —  July 23, 2006

The theory was to get away from the heat for a week by escaping to the mountains. Except that Big Bear had highs over 100 degrees much of last week. We’re going anyway. The family and I are off on vacation, but I leave you in the very capable hands of Gatinho, who has a few interesting things planned.

I’ll be back next week. By then I’m sure the Lakers will have plans in place to trade for Kevin Garnett and Allen Iverson and LeBron James.

Mihm gets Surgery

Kurt —  July 21, 2006

Forget about trading Chris Mihm before training camp, he underwent surgery to clean up scar tissue in his ankle.

Much like Kobe’s knee, this was minor arthroscopic stuff to clean up scar tissue and he’ll be good to go by training camp. However, getting a trade for him now just got a little harder.

In Mihm’s exit interview Phil Jackson said he asked him to work on the skills needed for the triangle four. It should be interesting to see if Mihm can adapt where Kwame could not last year.

Summer League Stats, Thoughts

Kurt —  July 21, 2006

What follows are some stats from this year’s Summer Pro League for key players from the Lakers’ squad: Andrew Bynum, Jordan Farmar, Danilo Pinnock, Devin Green, Marcus Douthit, Von Wafer and Deron Perkins and Marcus Slaughter. Bynum and Farmar are the only two we know will be with the Lakers in the fall, the others are fighting for what may be a non-existent roster spot.

If you’re new here and not familiar with a few of these stats, check below for a key.

Name eFG% 3pt % TS% Reb. Rate PPG Pts. P40
Bynum 60.1% NA 62.4% 11.6% 14.7 18.7
Farmar 56% 26.1% 59.9% 4.5% 16.1 20.6
Pinnock 54.2% 40% 60.9%% 7.4% 10.6 17.1
Green 56.6% 42.8% 63.3% 7.7% 14.4 20.1
Douthit 48.8% NA 51.5% 15.6% 7 10
Wafer 39% 36.4% 44.1% 3.6% 7.1 15.9
Perkins 62.9% 28.6% 68.9% 11.7% 9.6 23.3
Slaughter 49% 0% 52.6% 12.5% 8.5 16.4

A few other statistical notes. Jordan Farmar also averaged 5.7 assists and 3.7 turnovers per 40 minutes. Andrew Bynum averaged 2.9 blocks per 40 minutes. To compare this year’s numbers to last season’s check here (look how far Wafer fell off).

Bynum and Farmar both showed promise and areas that need work. For Farmar, he showed a great first step, a willingness to push the ball and real leadership. However, he needs to work on his long-range shooting, get stronger and, if he wants significant playing time this season, improve his defense. As for Bynum, he looked great at times but consistency was an issue. So was rebounding, while it’s not bad it’s not what it should be for a man of his size and length (he doesn’t anticipate rebound angles well). Also, he seems to have gone to the Chris Mihm School of Foul Trouble, he needs to work on not trying to block everything and pick his spots.

A key for the stats:

eFG%: Shooting percentage combining two and three pointers
3pt.%: Shooting percentage from beyond the arc
TS%: True Shooting Percentage, think of this as points per shot attempt, it covers twos, three, free throws all adjusted to be a percentage.
Reb Rate: Percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while on the floor.
PPG: Points per game
Pts. P40: Points scored per 40 minutes of playing time.

For more info on these types of stats, check out Kevin Pelton’s primer.

One side note: If you look up the SPL’s official team stats from its Web site, there are a number of errors — the numbers for Devin Green are listed after Pinnock’s name, while Pinnock’s stats are under Powell’s name, and the stats for Wafer and Perkins are switched. I double checked everything by compiling game-by-game data.

I missed the start of this one and watched the game not in my usual near-the-floor seats (gotta love the media pass for that) but up near the top with a couple buddies. These are just a few notes on the top players, I’ll follow with some stats and final thoughts in the next day or so (once I get the chance to work and format everything).

Andrew Bynum did not play, in fact he did not even dress. Reports are he banged up his thigh and got a quality bruise the night before, so he got the night off.

Jordan Farmar: He showed a little more shooting range in this game, going 2 of 4 from three (hitting a couple early). Not his best game, there were a few turnovers on passes he tried to cut too fine, but he is clearly listening to the coaches and adapting. In the first few SPL games he was not fighting through picks defensively (you don’t see many quality picks from big men in college). Yesterday he was working hard at that, if not always succeeding. He needs some strength for that, but he is learning fast.

Danilo Pinnock: First off, here’s a rumor I was told: the Lakers may ask him to play in Europe this coming season so they can maintain his rights. They like him, but there are 15 guaranteed contracts already and are the Lakers going to buy out McKie to bring in Pinnock? Neither guy is going to make a huge impact on the team, so is it worth the money? As for last night, had one of his more quiet games, finishing with just six points.

Devin Green: Here’s the guy that in the last couple games has made a statement about wanting to make the squad in the fall. He scored 22 points on 10 of 17, 2 of 3 from three. He’s had a very impressive last few games and I can see why the coaches like him, but he’s in a difficult spot because of the 15 roster spots as well. I would like to think another team might be interested in picking him up if the Lakers let him go, this is a guy who has earned another year in the NBA, at least to my eyes.

Marcus Slaughter: Also played well the last couple games and finished with 12 points in the fourth quarter against Memphis Wednesday. Another guy that the Lakers may like to keep around but another team, with a roster spot for a project, may have interest in.