Archives For July 2006

A few links to click

Kurt —  July 10, 2006

A couple things worth checking out:

• Good on ya girl, the latest Carnival of the NBA is up at Need4Sheed and Natalie continues the trend of keeping the bar high on these. There’s some interesting stuff to follow from there.

• Here’s your chance to be Zidane — headbutt the Italians.

• For some other views on the Summer Pro League in Long Beach (including game two, which I couldn’t attend), check out Draft Express. They also seem to like Douthit’s game more than I.

One game is not nearly enough to really judge a player or draw sweeping conclusions. So don’t read too much into the notes and comments on the first Summer Pro League game for the Lakers in Long Beach today. For the record, the Grizzlies won 89-87, but really, wins and losses are moot in a league all about player development.

By the way, these are Laker-centric notes. Later in the week I’ll post some thoughts on the other guys I’m seeing over at True Hoop, where I’m one of the guest bloggers for the week. One of the bummers was that neither Rudy Gay nor Kyle Lowry played for Memphis.

Jordan Farmar: He was as advertised — a real leader, quick, plays solid defense and needing to work on his long range shooting, but he had as good an outing as you can expect from a 19-year-old rookie thrown in to run the triangle. He finished with a team-high 17 points and was 5 of 6 inside the arc but 0 of 3 from beyond it. By the end of the game Memphis defenders were playing off him and letting him have the long jumper and Farmar became hesitant to shoot it. (This is something that can be worked on, particularly in the triangle where you know you’ll get your threes in specific spots.) His mid-range shooting is good. He got into the lane well and got to the line for nine free throws (hitting 7), and one thing he does quite well is draw the contact and still get off a controlled shot (he had one right in front of me where Farmar drove into the defender, got the whistle then leapt back for a fade-away he hit). Maybe the thing I noticed most was how well he pushes the ball up the court, the Lakers picked up the tempo with him in the game, and he distributes very well on the run. In the half-court set he had a couple nice entry passes into the post, but had a few sloppy ones as well. He played solid man defense most of the game (former Gator Anthony Roberson drove past him seveal times, but that guy was real quick), plus had a couple of steals. And he is a leader, he was directing guys on the floor in the half-court, really taking charge of the offense. Like I said, there were areas where you want to see improvement (a couple times a big switched on to him on a pick-and-roll and he didn’t exploit it well, another time he got caught with a back-court 8 count when he picked up his dribble) but overall he had a good outing.

Andrew Bynum: He has gotten a lot stronger from last year, and his shooting and moves look a lot better. That said, he still has a ways to go. He was 3 of 7 shooting and one of those was the finish of an ally-oop from Farmar on the break that may have been the highlight of the game. (Either that or the dancing cow, which was hysterical but I have no idea how to really explain it.) Last summer Bynum got pushed around on the block by everyone, this year he was getting to and holding his spots. Also, he is shooting from over his head, taking advantage of his height, and his post moves are so much more polished (he finished with 12 points). Maybe the best thing from him is just how well he was running the floor — and Farmar was finding him on the break. That said, sometimes he tried to get cute around the basket rather than use that strength, and other times Griz players seemed to be able to muscles him off rebounds. His defense in the post was good (I’m not sure how much of that was his counterpart’s lack of game) and he had two blocks.

Danilo (don’t call me J.R.) Pinnock:
Maybe the biggest surprise of the day – one game is just one game but he looked like a steal from the second round. He finished with 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting and was 2 of 2 from three-point range. He shot from the outside, drove the lane (amazing baseline drive in the second half) and made plays at both ends of the court. He had the guts to take the last shot of the game to go for the tie — he missed it but I love that he wanted it (even if the smart move may have been to let Farmar drive and create). I’ll be watching him more intently in future games.

Devin Green: Just like last year’s summer league, he just seems to do all the little things right but nothing spectacularly. He had to cover Hakim Warrik much of the day and held him to 4 of 11 shooting. Green had a team-high four assists. Just a solid all-around effort, although I will add that I was fairly close to the Laker bench and summer coach Kurt Rambis made more comments and corrections to Green than any other player (frustrated with his choices in the offense at points, failure to call a timeout after a late-game steal).

Marcus Douthit: The former Laker second rounder picked up some polished post moves in Europe, he finished with 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting, plus had a team-best seven rebounds. That said, his defense was average and his performance was not overwhelmingly impressive.

Von Wafer: Last summer he was a shooting machine at the SPL, in this game he went 1 for 6. He looked like he was trying to find his spots within the triangle but he didn’t look comfortable. Did work hard on the defensive end.

I am not going to make the Lakers second game tomorrow against Dallas (if anyone goes send me some thoughts), however I will be there for parts of Tuesday and Wednesday, as much as work will allow.

Just a few more thoughts

Kurt —  July 7, 2006

UPDATE: I just got back from the Summer Pro League kickoff press conference where little happened, but there is this quote from Mitch Kupchak:

“We hope to add a player in the next week or so in our backcourt, and it won’t be a young player.”

He emphasized something similar later. Also, in regards to J.R. Pinnock, Mitch called him potentially a poor man’s Byron Scott (not in those words), but said he will have a hard time cracking the already full Laker roster.

——————————————————-

Some more news and notes as we wait for Summer League to tip off…

• It’s not a perfect system, but one great thing about the NBA’s deal with the union is the rookie pay structure — no holdouts, no huge deals just because you got drafted. If you’re LeBron or Wade or Bosh you will get paid because you earned it, but there are no Ryan Leaf deals that cap strap a team because of a rookie deal.

I thought of that when I saw the Lakers inked Jordan Farmar — he’s guaranteed $1.9 million total for the next two seasons, then the Lakers have a one-year option at $1.1 million for 08-09 and then another one year for $1.9 million for 09-10. If he performs, he’ll get paid after that. (Not that $1.9 mil isn’t getting paid by my standards.)

• By the way, it’s funny when the Lakers put in the official press release on the Farmar signing that “Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not released.” This is a rookie deal with the amounts basically dictated by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. There are no secrets, why not just put the numbers in the release? Plus, the numbers get made public as the season wears on for all deals. There are things in the world worth keeping secret, but when you try to keep everything secret you look like you’re hiding something. (That’s all the basketball talk with political overtones here for today.)

• Really, there can’t be enough good Laker voices and blogs out there, so it’s good to see a new one with a great name out there — The Jello is Jiggling.

• By the way, you all know Roland Lazenby has a blog, right? Great stuff from maybe the best Laker writer, including details on what seemed obvious if you watched Phil Jackson on the bench this season — his hip is bothering him.

• I guess I’m rooting for France Sunday. My reasoning is this — the Italians play such a defensive, often dull, brand of soccer. I’d rather have the guys with the great midfielder and striker win, not the great goaltender. But what I really want is a great match.

• With the signing of Radmanovic, the odds of Cook being involved in any trades went up.

A few thoughts while we are waiting for the other shoe to drop in Laker off-season moves.

Update: Here is the official Summer League roster, now up on the Lakers Web Site, which is slightly different than what was on this site yesterday. The two new guys are Byron Sanders (a former Tar Heel forward) and Marcus Slaughter (the San Diego State forward who lit up a lot of teams and should be interesting to watch). The rest of the guys on the 13-man roster are: Jordan Farmar, Andrew Bynum, Von Wafer, Devin Green, J.R. Pinnock (part of a draft-night trade), Michael Fey of UCLA, Nick Horvath, Marcus Douthit (former Laker second round pick who has been playing in Europe), Nile Murry, Doron Perkins and Kasib Powell. Gone from the list posted yesterday are Cedric Bozeman, Antwain Barbour (sorry Zach) and Sasha Vujacic (he has been around long enough that the team cannot force him to play Summer League, he would have to do so voluntarily).

• After Laker brass chose to spend the MLE on Radmanovic, I have moved farther into the “Trade Chris Mihm” camp. I had been hesitant before, thinking it never hurts to have another big who can score on the roster, I don’t completely trust Kwame and we could always deal Mihm at the trade deadline. But now, I don’t see how else you solve the perimeter defense issues without a trade because the LLE isn’t going to do it. And Mihm is the best trade bait we have.

• However, read the latest from Eric Pincus at Hoopsworld and he says the most likely option is no trade, that the Lakers are going to get what veteran point guard they can get for the veteran’s exemption and live with it.

• Wonder what the Laker (or other NBA) scouts are thinking when they watch a game? Check out this great twopiece article by David Friedman at Pro Basketball News — he watched games live and on tape with a scout for the Pacers, all the while picking his brain.

• Here’s a rare bit of speculation from me — if Mihm were to be traded, you still need a third big on the roster, sitting at the end of the bench for nights of foul trouble or injury (basically the role Bynum had last season). Which is why Nick Horvath playing on the Laker summer league team is interesting.

Horvath is 6-10 and 215, played at Duke but was always a guy off the bench. His best season was 02-03, when he played in 30 games (starting eight) averaging 15.5 minutes and 3.9 PPG. He actually got a contract from the T-Wolves, but blew out his knee and spent last year playing and rehabbing in an Australian league.

Not sure what Horvath can do or could add, and the Lakers have a full roster plus some already, but if there is a trade he might be a guy to get for the minimum at the end of the bench.

• The Summer Pro League at the Pyramid in Long Beach starts Saturday, with the Lakes playing Memphis at 3. I’ll be there and have a report up later that night.

I should be able to attend the majority of Laker SPL games this year and will updating here often.

• Big Ben makes Chicago a powerhouse defensive team (they were already the fifth best team in terms of defensive efficiency last season, tied with Detroit at 100.2 points per 100 opponent possessions). But they still need to find some more offense, which is where the Chandler trades come in.

• Everyone seemed to love Charlie Villanueva this past season, saying what was a ridiculed pick the night of the draft turned out to be a steal. But as the legendary Ed Kupfer (who lives in Toronto) pointed out on the APBR board, the pre-draft knock on him of not showing up every night seemed to follow him to the pros. Sure, there was the 48 point game, but what about the 10 games he scored 5 or less? Or, read the Toronto papers after the trade and see columnists make that same complaint about him.

• I stopped calling this the Notes at 3 a.m. column because the 10-week old is sleeping through the night. That’s bad news for you who own Starbucks stock, I’m not there nearly as often now.

Tears in Heaven…

Gatinho —  July 3, 2006

The Lakers’ recent playoff run impressed upon us some indelible moments:

Smush’s steal, Kobe’s jam over Nash, Raja Bell’s clothesline, and Lamar Odom’s glee.

It followed Kobe’s buzzer beater off a Luke Walton jump ball, and it was a moment of unbridled joy.

We are used to seeing athletes celebrate, but it is usually a muted or orchestrated celebration for fear or want of ending up on the continuous highlight reel that is cable TV. But not Lamar. He bounced, he pin-wheeled his arms, and he jumped on Kobe like he was Bob Barker and had just won the Showcase Showdown on the Price is Right.

Following the team as closely as most of us do, we can’t help but become emotionally attached to players and their stories.

In fact, it is a big reason that we are lured to not just watching basketball, and not just rooting for laundry, but pulling for our guys. As much as we attempt in this space to always remain grounded, we all have recollections of times when that emotion over ran us.

We’ve all ranted on the cell, yelled at the TV, and possibly even rifled an object or two at it. But we’ve also jumped up and down on the couch, woke the kids up, and run out the front door into the street in celebration.

The point is that we’ve gone through things together. It’s the same reason why you and your brother are best friends. It’s shared history, it’s shared drama , it’s hello’s and goodbye’s and sometimes, it’s life and death.

We have watched Lamar strive in earnest and watched him desperately try to find his way. But because we’ve watched, we’ve realized that he is, simply put, a good guy.

He is not the typical sports figure. He is flawed. He is not bullet proof. He feels and has felt pain.

He is us.

In Miami, he gave courtside seats to a boy whose family of five had perished in a house fire.

“I’ve had losses in my life, so I understand the pain, even though theirs is different because they lost their family in a drastic, violent way,” Odom said. “For me to get tickets or sneakers or jerseys for them is the smallest thing, and giving of my time is so simple, too, and it means so much to these kids. I’d do it 100 times over just to see them smile.”

He has had losses. His father drifted out of his life at an early age, and more poignantly, his mother passed from cancer when he was 12. She is the inspiration behind Lamar’s charity Cathy’s Kids.

And in an even crueler twist of fate, he was in new York attending his aunt’s funeral when the tragedy occurred.

Lamar has made us laugh, Entourage and his calves, and made us cringe, Sacramento and a late game turnover. With the events of the past few days, he has made us realize that the hard knocks and tough lessons of basketball that he has been prone to since becoming a Laker are nothing compared to this.

In Loving Memory
Jayden Joseph Morales Odom
December 15, 2005- June 29, 2006

-Gatinho

.

Our Man Vlad Is Rad

Kurt —  July 2, 2006

One of the two off-season priorities for the Lakers was to get some more scoring punch out of the three spot, and it took all of one day to do that.

The Lakers apparently have agreed in principle to sign Vladimir Radmanovic to a deal for the full MLE for five years (that starts at $5 mil this year and is worth about $31 over the course of the deal). Nothing can be finalized until July 12, and Vlad has had some squirrelly contract dealings before (ask Seattle fans) but it appears to be a done deal.

The signing of Vlad makes the Lakers a more dangerous offensive team — they have a deadly outside shooter who will make it harder to just collapse on Kobe (or Odom). But the Lakers were the eighth best offensive team in the league last season (scoring 109.8 points per 100 possessions, ahead of teams like the Spurs and Cavs). However, they were weaker on defense (15th in the league), particularly on the perimeter, and this signing likely makes that problem worse.

What Vlad can do is stretch the defense — he hit 39% of his threes last season, 41.8% in his time with the Clippers. And you can expect plenty of them, 55% of his shots last season were threes. It’s not hard to envision what the Lakers picture, Kobe drives the lane, draws the double, kicks the ball out and one pass later Vlad’s draining a three. Also, Kobe could have another very dangerous pick-and-pop partner. With the Clippers Vlad averaged 15.4 points per 40 minutes, shot a good 54.4% (eFG%) with a true shooting percentage of 56.8%. No doubt he can shoot the rock.

It’s a bit cliché to say this about Euros, but he may be 6-10 but he won’t be hanging out near the hoop. Last season 79% of his shots were jumpers (and he shot 55.6% [eFG%] on those and just 50.9% on his shots close to the basket). Also he’ll grab a few boards but not a lot, last season he pulled down 10.8% of the available rebounds, a number that is pretty average (and maybe weak for his height).

While Vlad will fit well in the triangle offense, his defense is a liability (it’s the reason he was -2.9 with the Clippers and -1.9 with the Sonics last season).

He is particularly weak on the perimeter, where the Lakers need the most defensive help. Just to jog your memory, in the Suns/Clippers playoff series the Suns started using whoever Vlad was guarding to come out and run the pick-and-roll with Nash so they could get that switch.

Last season with the Clippers, opposing threes shot 53.1% (eFG%) and had a PER of 19.1 — basically the equivalent of having Richard Jefferson playing against you at the three nightly. In Seattle4 it was worse, threes shot 54.7% and had a PER of 22.7. For comparison, Walton held opposing threes to 44% shooting and a PER of 13.2 (below the league average of 15). If you’re saying to yourself “Well, he’s 6-10, make him guard some fours” the idea is a good one — but it doesn’t work. In Seattle last season he allowed opposing fours to shoot 53.4% and have a PER of 19.8. And, the season before, when he played more four for the Sonics (their better offensive season) he allowed fours to shoot 54.8%.

You can try to hide him defensively, but you’re going to have to ask more of Odom and expect Kwame to be better on defensive rotations than he was last year.

If Vlad doesn’t solve the perimeter defensive issue, and he’s taking up the full MLE, then how do you solve it? Specifically, how do you get in that better defensive point guard? I’m not sure we’re going to get anyone better than Smush for the veteran’s exemption. Maybe this means you have to trade Mihm (and some other players/picks) to get your starting point. I’m not sure that Minnesota wants to do a sign-and-trade for Marcus Banks, they would prefer to keep him. Toronto has Mike James, but they just got their center in a trade. So, who do you get?

Let me be clear — I like the pick up of Vlad. However we’ll have to see what other moves Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss have up their sleeves to see how this really fits in with the overall plans for next year. In and of itself signing Vlad is not moving the Lakers very far up the ladder in the Western Conference.

Free Agency Opens

Kurt —  July 1, 2006

Right after midnight, Mitch Kupchak made a phone call or two. Not the kind of midnight phone call I used to make back in my single days after stumbling home from a bar, although I guess we were both looking for a little help.

The Lakers are looking for help in two key areas from free agency (or possible summer trades): 1) backcourt help, specifically a veteran who can defend at the point; 2) some scoring punch at the three (so Walton can come off the bench). These were pretty obvious areas of need, but Kupchak has confirmed these as priorities in recent interviews.

Below are the names of some guys who the Lakers will likely take a look at and maybe even offer a deal to, with a few thoughts and stats thrown in. These are preliminaries, if things get serious with someone we’ll get into detail then.

First, let’s start with the one guy we know will be in a Laker uniform next year, Maurice Evans. I turned to one of the best bloggers out there, Tom Ziller from Sactown Royalty, to give me his impressions (remember Evans played for Sacramento two years ago):

Mo Evans is one of those guys with a “motor” that does some of everything when he comes into the game. He’s not a sparkplug like a Bobby Jackson or Ronnie Turiaf, but he does get in to do the gritty work when needed. Not a great scorer, so the Lakers will still need someone to break Kobe as far as the scoring load goes, but he’s not going to embarrass himself out there either. He needs consistent minutes to stay confident. He rebounds well as the need arises. Best asset might be man defense – not a Bowen, but he can definitely stay in front of his opponent. A true role-player.

Marcus Banks: This is the obvious choice, and it’s certainly not a bad one. I’ve written about him at length on this site, but the bottom line is he can defend and he can shoot the three. Most importantly, he’s within the Lakers price range — his agent says he wants the full MLE, which is what the Lakers likely would offer. His agent also talked up the Lakers. And Mitch tried to get him two years ago. You get the idea.

Sam Cassell. This is the hot rumor, apparently even Kobe has backed the idea of getting Cassell (although I wonder how much of this heat is driven by Sam’s agent — if you wanted to put pressure on the Clippers is there a better way than suggesting you might sign with the Lakers?). I am not a fan of the Lakers signing Sam for three reasons: 1) He’s 36; 2) I don’t think he’d like his role in the triangle, Cassell is used to having the ball in his hands, which could lead to “Gary Payton Syndrome”; 3) He can’t defend. Here’s what Kevin from Clipperblog said:

Herein lies the problem with Sam Cassell – Jack Black could take him off the dribble…..

Now, I know if you look up Cassell’s stats for last year you’d argue that he defends quite well (opposing points shot just 45.9% and had a PER if 15.4)) but I think that had to do more with the fact anyone who got past him had to deal with Kaman and Brand. The year before in Minnesota it was a PER of 17.9, and Cassell is two years older now.

Bobby Jackson: This would probably be my guy, but with only a two-year offer of the MLE with a team option for the third year (when ideally Farmar can step in). He’s not tall like Phil prefers (6-1) but he’s a solid defender (opponent PER of just 15.5, about average, although they shot 50.2%) and he hit 38.9% of his threes last season. He was a +2.1. I think he fits the “point” position in the triangle well. And, like Ziller said above in the Evans quote, Jackson is a spark plug.

Al Harrington: Atlanta is looking to deal him and he’d be a great fit at the three for Lakers. To get him likely will mean a sign and trade of Mihm and another player/draft pick. Rumor is Indiana, Golden State and Minnesota also will go after him, so would that Laker offer even be good enough? Last season in Atlanta Harrington had shot 34.6% from three, had a true shooting percentage of 51.3% and had a PER of 16. He will not be option #1, but if he’s willing to be #3 he’d be a good fit.