Archives For September 2006

Suggested Reading

Kurt —  September 18, 2006

While we suffer through what feels like the dullest NBA off-season of all time, there are still few things worth reading out on the Web. That starts with the latest Carnival of the NBA, which is now up.

• Over at the very good Blazer’s Edge, he posts something we should all remember as when training camp opens in a few weeks, the 10 Commandments of the preseason:

1 THOU SHALT NOT believe anything you read in glowing reports about returning players until thou hast seen it demonstrated with thine own eyes during the regular season…repeatedly. Everybody is talented in the off-season.

2 THOU SHALT NOT put any stock whatsoever in any team’s pre-season record or what it might indicate.

3 THOU SHALT NOT clamor for a player who gets 22 minutes a game in pre-season (for purposes of evaluation and giving the veterans a rest) to get that same 22 minutes once the regular season starts.

4 THOU SHALT NOT pass judgment on the current year’s draft picks until at least an entire season has passed, preferably two or three. Pre-season is too soon!

5 THOU SHALT NOT judge veterans by whether they show up for unofficial pre-training camp workouts with their teammates. This does not guarantee team cohesiveness or better play. The classic example is the 1996 Indiana Pacers who, after going 52-30, winning their division, and losing the Eastern Conference finals in 7 the year before, showed up to a man a month early to train together. That year they played inconsistently, finished with the exact same record, and bowed out in the first round. Rookies and young guys need to work early. If vets want to rest their bodies, let them.

6 THOU SHALT NOT believe that a guy who comes into camp out of shape can play his way into shape during the season. That used to be true but the pace and intensity of the game has changed. Only two things happen to guys who come in out of shape nowadays: either they get benched and don’t play a lot or they do play a lot and get injured.

7 THOU SHALT NOT give too much credence to stories of personal reform. Guys who have truly reformed don’t tell everybody about it beforehand and expect immediate credit for it, they hush up and let their actions speak for them.

8 IF THOU HAST SPENT the entire offseason convincing everybody in earshot why thy previously putrid team hast improved, thou shalt not abandon said position in disillusioned cynicism when they getteth off to a 3-10 start. And thou certainly shalt not then regale us with stories of how they really suckest! It’s early in the season, improvement is incremental, Rome wasn’t built in a day. If thou expectest more than that, it is thy problem, not the team’s.

9 Similarly, IF THOU HAST SPENT the entire offseason predicting that thy team will stink, thou shalt not gloat, nor even be happy, shouldst thou turn out to be correct. Realistic analysis is fine, but be a fan first, a smug smarty-pants second.

10 THOU SHALT NOT brag that your pre-season predictions are holding true in Week Two. Period!

• Finally, it’s not really Laker related, but great stuff from Roland Lazenby on the glory years of the Celtics:

For example, the Celtics won 11 NBA championships between 1957 and 1969 (seven of those victories came at the expense of the Lakers). Yet throughout that great run, the Celtics seldom sold out Boston Garden. Year in, year out, they drew average crowds in the range 8,000, leaving more than 5,000 empty seats most nights.

The Twenty-foot Lay-up

Gatinho —  September 14, 2006

The ball would swing back behind his left ear and, in a circular motion, move back behind his head, held high above his wiry 6′ 6″ 190 lb. frame. A slight bend of the knees and, without ever passing the crown of his head, it was gone. Released skyward, still moving, in a slow motion, circular fashion before inevitably touching the bottom of the twine.

Sounds awkward; looked smooth.

“(Wilkes) had a way about him that didn’t look like he was doing something, and then you look at the stat sheet and he’s got 29 points. Jamaal used to wind up, but (his shot) was like snow falling off a bamboo leaf, it was so smooth.”

-Pat Riley comparing Wilkes to Tayshaun Prince

Silk was his name, and silently assassinating teams was his game. His play was unassuming and in no way physically imposing but upon checking the box score at the end of the game, he’d have an efficient 22 points, 6 or 7 rebounds, and a handful assists.

A member of a championship team at every level, he was born in Berkley but later migrated to the Southern part of the state where he would be an All America Prep at Santa Barbara High School. From then on in his career, he was never simply a spoke but also never the hub.

First he was placed alongside arguably the best collegiate ever, Bill Walton.

John Wooden when asked to describe the perfect recruit:

“I would have the player be a good student, polite, courteous, a good team player, a good defensive player and rebounder, a good inside player and outside shooter,” Wooden told the New York Post in 1985. “Why not just take Jamaal Wilkes and let it go at that.”

When the Wizard knocks on your door, you accept the invitation to the quest.

Jamaal, then Keith Wilkes, was a starter on a team that would win 88 in a row. The freshman battled legendary high-flyer David Thompson to aid Walton and UCLA in cutting down the nets in 1972, a climax to the first of two undefeated seasons.

In his pre-Laker incarnation, he was drafted 11th overall and captured the Rookie of the Year award and his first ring as a member of the 1975 Warriors’ team. But, as part of a developing theme, there he was along side Hall of Famer Rick Barry.

It was as a Warrior that his Islamic beliefs would lead him to change his name to Jamaal Abdul-Lateef, though he would continue to be referred to as Jamaal Wilkes.

He would sign with the Lakers as a free agent in 1979, where two future HOFers would be there to greet him.

Magic Johnson’s rookie performance in the 1980 Finals has been heralded as a mythological big game performance. A jaw dropping 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 dimes while, say it with me, playing all five positions…

But who remembers that Wilkes had 37 points and 10 rebounds in that pivotal game 6?

“Tied 60-60 at the half, Wilkes got 16 in the third quarter…Wilkes drove the lane, drew a foul and made a three-point play…The Lakers were up by seven only 1:16 after the timeout.”

Wilkes was incredulous after capturing his second NBA title, “I thought our chances of winning (Game 6) were 10% to 15%,” he said.

He combined with Magic to score 79 of the teams 123 points.

Throughout his collegiate and pro career he was a steadying force but lucky to be placed alongside some the game’s elite. A solid second (or third) option. Way more than a minute eating role player, he garnered two All-NBA defensive team honors. Those long arms would help the Lakers as they ran a relentless half court trap when they would again meet and beat the Sixers in 1982.

Three times he would play in the All-Star Game. His final one played in 1983 at the Fabulous Forum, where he bobbed his head to Marvin Gaye’s daring interpolation of the Star Spangled Banner.

He was deftly efficient on the offensive end. So much so, Chick Hearn took to marking his patented baseline jumpers, calling them good at the zenith of their arc, and dubbing them “Twenty foot lay-ups.”

In his heyday he posted an eFG 53%, averaged 21.1 points per in ’81-82, and 18 per game for his career.

He would be unceremoniously usurped by another future Hall of Famer out of North Carolina, later known as Big Game James, and would end up earning another ring in 1985 while watching from the bench injured. After an 18 game stint with the Clippers, he would retire.

Jamaal Wilkes: a Laker I miss.


Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  September 12, 2006

I haven’t forgotten about this blog, promise. There are some good posts coming later this week and down the line, but I’ve always tried not to write something just for the sake of having fresh drivel up on the site. That said, while I may not be writing other people are, so let me point you to some interesting stuff:

• UPDATE: Roland Lazenby continues to be the journalist around the Lakers we can most count on for insight into the team. His latest blog post does this in a couple ways, first providing some background to the well known dislike between Tex Winter and Shaq:

The serious breech between the assistant coach and Shaq didn’t come until the 2004 season when O’Neal out of nowhere told Winter to “shut the f*** up” during a team film session. A stunned Winter said that never in lengthy coaching career had a player been so extremely disrespectful. In fact, Winter has long been known for earning the respect and allegiance of an array of players, from the most difficult (Dennis Rodman) to the most hard-headed (Kobe Bryant).

O’Neal’s behavior in the 2004 incident is noteworthy for several reasons. First, O’Neal always describes himself as someone who respects his elders. That’s pretty much a self-promoting crock.

Second, Phil Jackson wrote a supposed “inside” book on the season, which was really a document aimed at cementing Jackson’s political position with the team. Strange that Jackson devoted so much ink to his allegation that Kobe Bryant was “uncoachable,” yet somehow he managed to avoid telling his readers the details of the major incident involving O’Neal.

Also, Lazenby talks about a new article he did on the death of defense by referring to how Joe Dumars shut down Jordan in the 1990 playoffs.

Asked in July if he could defend Jordan under today’s interpretation of the rules, Dumars first laughed, then offered a long pause before replying, “It would have been virtually impossible to defend Michael Jordan based on the way the game’s being called right now.”

I’ll be buying a copy of Lindy’s soon.

• Eric Marentette used to have a Portland Trailblazer blog at Oregonlive, but left it this summer — to work for Kobe Bryant. Via True Hoop:

KB is starting up his own company to market himself, since there’s currently a severe lack of Kobe-related products and information, and he’s hired away Eric to head up his new website, which supposedly will have something to do with Kobe’s number change. Eric will be working hands-on, with Kobe Bryant, on all things Kobe Bryant.

To me, this makes a lot of sense. You see other major athletes like Tiger Woods and Barry Bonds taking steps to control the marketing of their name and image. Bringing it “in-house” strikes me as a smart business move by Kobe. And, somehow, he’s the one guy I’m not worried about this being a distraction from his on-the-court responsibilities.

• Does playing in international summer competition — say, the recent World Championships in Japan — mean a drop off in the next NBA season for the players who go?

It’s been a long-discussed and disputed theory, but Kevin Pelton took up the idea for 82games and found:

There does seem to be a slightly higher probability of minor, nagging injuries for the players who participated on USA Basketball, but this effect is mild at best.

While there is always the concern of what happened to Pau Gasol at that tournament, sending guys to play for Team USA does not generally seem to mean less games the next year. Check out the whole article for yourself.

Roster Decisions

Kurt —  September 7, 2006

I’m moving this from the comments below to its own thread — as you know, yesterday the Lakers signed the player they traded for in the second round, Danilo (J.R.) Pinnock. First and foremost, I like the signing, I thought he showed potential in the summer league.

But there are questions. First, what kind of deal was this? Almost certainly a non-guaranteed deal, meaning you get to come to camp and play your way onto the 15-man roster. If you cut him in camp, he becomes a free agent. But giving Pinnock a deal (combined with the way he played this summer) implies the Lakers want to keep him.

The problem comes in creating roster space. The Lakers have 13 guaranteed deals (Kwame Brown, Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Brian Cook, Maurice Evans, Jordan Farmar, Aaron McKie, Chris Mihm, Lamar Odom, Vladimir Radmanovic, Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton, Shammond Williams) and two partially-guaranteed deals they want to honor (Smush Parker and Ronny Turiaf).

That’s 15. That’s all you’re allowed. So how do you make room for Pinnock? What about Devin Green? Or Laron Profit?

As I suggested before, I see two logical options to create roster space:

One is some kind of two-for-one trade. The logical trade bait remains Chris Mihm plus filler (like Cook or Sasha) for something of value. If some team loses a center for the season to injury during training camp, this scenario becomes more likely, but the Lakers seems cautious about making a deal — trade Mihm and you are betting that Kwame can play the year as the starter and Bynum can be a solid backup every night. Both of those are risks, so to trade Mihm you better really like what you get back in return.

The other, and I think more likely option, is to buy out McKie’s contract. Look at it this way, McKie is old and injury prone, Pinnock is the future. You keep a guy like McKie around over Pinnock only if you think you can compete for a title this year. The Lakers are not there with this roster.

But there may be more creative ideas out there. Any ideas?

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  September 4, 2006

Just a few thoughts while celebrating Los Angeles’ 225th birthday. (She doesn’t look a day over 200.)

• I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud of this humble little blog than while reading the comments on the last post, discussing USA Basketball’s future. It is some of the best conversation ever on this site (and that has me more pumped for the season). So let me bring a couple other thoughts into the conversation. First, from Roland Lazenby’s latest blog post:

As much as this loss hurts and embarrasses a U.S. team that once dominated international basketball, it may actually serve a greater purpose — to remind the American stars how much they must work to build team chemistry and to reinforce the idea that there will be no more cakewalks for American teams in international competition.

The Dream Team is just that, a distant dream in the rearview mirror of American basketball.

Now, every major international competition will be a dogfight. The Greeks, Argentines and Spaniards all showed that they are all quite capable of running with the USA’s best athletes.

Then there is Henry over at True Hoop, who says USA attitudes need some adjustment:

This is an incredibly important tournament for all of the players here except the Americans. None of these players grew up watching the World Championships on TV. For the Americans, it’s an after-thought. It has a tiny fraction of the importance of the NBA title…. That’s not an excuse, but it is a practical problem.

• Are we ever going to see an athlete transform before our eyes like Andre Agassi, who went from “image is everything” 20 years ago to substance in the last few years? I’m going to miss watching him play.

• I’m working very hard at not crowing about Notre Dame football right now (yes it was close, but that was a quality win in Atlanta Saturday). Instead, I just log on to Blue-Gray Sky three times a day now.

• For those jonesing for a little Laker/NBA action, well, is there anything better to look back on than this?