Archives For July 2006

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



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.