Archives For July 2006

Shammond Williams: A quick look

Kurt —  July 10, 2006

I was holding off on writing about this because I couldn’t believe the Lakers were actually going to go after him — this is as illogical a move as the Lakers have made in my memory. Let’s quote from regular commenter here Xavier, who lives in Barcelona (where Shammond played last season)

ACB (Spanish league) is the strongest domestic league in Europe and it’s doubtful that if a player can’t play great basketball or show potential there, he (would be able to) contribute in the NBA. And Shammond was just above average playing the PG. Sergio Rodriguez played better than him, he’s younger and was drafted 1 spot after Farmar. This season Shammond was a shoot first player who wasn’t a great defender and who had some important turnovers… I think that Wafer will play a better basketball for the Lakers than Williams, and Wafer it’s not the answer so imagine…

Despite Xavier’s and other’s pleas, signing Shammond was the hot rumor at the Summer Pro League and then in a radio interview Saturday Mitch Kupchak said he expected Smush would be the starting point guard next year. He added that they would be signing a veteran guard next week. That seemed like a hint to me (although reports are the Lakers will have to compete with Olympiacos of Greece for Williams services).

The first thing I wanted to write was that this kind of signing would be unprecedented for LA, but Eric Pincus reminded me that the Lakers signed Corry Blount to a deal before last season, then he never played a minute. So the Lakers have precedent in making questionable moves for veterans at the end of the bench. Great.

Why Shammond? Maybe the Lakers only remember his 28-point game against them in April of 2001. Maybe Mitch Kupchak was looking to bring in someone he could talk Tarheel basketball with. Maybe Mitch had an epiphany. Whatever the case if he’s going to be our guy, what do we know about Williams? For help I turned to — and got some unsolicited thoughts — from people who saw more of him and remember him.

The good news: He can shoot the rock from the three (36.3% for his career, in 2000-01 he shot 45.9%) and is really a two masquerading as a point, which should fit well with the triangle. He has a good work ethic. Also, word is he is a very good person, easy to talk to.

The bad news: Let me borrow a phrase from Gary (one of the moderators over at CelticsBlog who played college ball himself and competed against Williams at pickup games): He’s a poor man’s Smush Parker. He said the two have a similar skill set but Williams does not have Smush’s great hops.

Defensively, he seems to have somewhat improved over time based on his numbers, but he had plenty of room to improve. Let me quote the 2001 season wrap on him from Sonics Central (thanks to Kevin Pelton for the link):

On a poor defensive team, Williams was probably the Sonics’ worst defender. Despite excellent speed, for whatever reason (lack of defensive intensity?) he does little to stop opposing guards on the perimeter.

Not that perimeter defense was supposed to be an off-season priority for the Lakers or anything. His numbers seemed to get better a few years later: playing a backup role in Orlando in 03-04 he held opposing guards to shooting 42.4% (eFG%) and a PER of 13.2, nice numbers that were close to what he did after being traded to New Orleans midseason (opposing points shot just 36.6% against him there). In Boston in 02-03 it was 43.5% against him, then in Denver the second half of that season it rose to 51.6%. But remember, while those numbers aren’t bad they were against backups in 14 minutes a game or so.

If you think his defense is good, go re-read Xavier’s quote at the top of this piece again.

Williams offensive game isn’t bad, he had a career PER of 13.1 and true shooting percentage of 51.3%. Each season more than 80% of his attempts were jump shots and he shoots those well — which is why, if you squint, you can see him in the triangle as a spot-up guy.

While Williams can shoot the rock, one thing he apparently is known for is over dribbling, eating up the shot clock while not running the offense. He also gained the reputation in Seattle as a gunner who would shoot first and ask questions later, something that apparently hasn’t changed. Those are two qualities Phil loves in his triangle point guard. What could go wrong?

In Seattle, they wanted Williams to step in and be Gary Payton’s backup. He got beat out at various times by Emanuel Davis, Randy Livingston and Earl Watson. He bounced around and the league for a couple more years — four teams in two years is never a good sign — then had to get paid in Europe.

If he’s in Laker colors I’ll pull for him, but I don’t see what Williams brings to the table the Lakers don’t already have — and spare me the “he’s a veteran” line because that works fine for Eric Snow, who had skills and can now compensate for them (somewhat) with basketball IQ, but Williams never had that level of skills and has been out of the league two years.

Why bring in a guy that, based on what I’ve seen and read, Farmar will likely be beating out for playing time by the middle of the season?

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.

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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 two-piece 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.