Archives For September 2006

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?

Lessons Learned

Kurt —  September 1, 2006

Because as a nation we can often be both arrogant and impatient, sometimes it’s hard for us to admit things. Like that, playing the international game and rules, parts of the world have caught up to us in basketball. It’s hard to accept that the USA made strides toward being the best basketball team on the planet in the FIBA tournament despite the loss to Greece. Good steps were taken, but maybe we need to face up to the fact we had a long way to go and it couldn’t be done overnight.

But there is a deadline, at least in my mind, and it’s two years away. The real question is what steps do we take? How do we get there? I certainly don’t have the answers, but I’ll throw out some ideas for discussion.

1) Getting many of these guys back for next summer’ Olympic qualifying tournament. The problem was never really the USA’s offense — sure, there are some gearing weaknesses, but even in the loss to Greece the USA scored a fair amount of points. But defense takes a team. A team that has seen the pick and roll enough as a team to know their roles in stopping it. Learning defensive schemes and rotations do not happen overnight. Up until they faced Greece, team USA’s defense had gotten better over the course of the tournament. Playing together next summer makes these guys more familiar with each other and the team’s defense.

2) Outside shooting. While Team USA’s overall shooting percentage was the best in the FIBA tournament, nobody that watched them play thought their outside shooting was consistent. For the tournament they shot 36.8% from beyond the arc (not what you’d hope for a 20-foot line), and they shot just 32% against Greece and 25% against Germany the game before. I don’t have the stats from the midrange (sorry I didn’t get up at 3 to chart games) but it didn’t feel impressive either. This can be solved with personnel — Redd and Kobe are places to start, but more outside shooters are needed.

3) Movement within the halfcourt offense. If the USA could not get into transition, it looked like the USA wanted to go with the Phoenix “set the high pick and let the ball handler create” offense. Except that we don’t have anyone with the experience and savvy of Nash. And that meant guys stood out at the three-point line and let Paul/Wade/LeBron/Anthony drive, and they watched from a nice vantage point. I’m not saying run the Princeton offense, but there needs to be some movement, particularly against the zone.

4) Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream. Believe it or not, this USA team looked better than the one I remember from two years ago. It starts with a process that was better for selecting players and getting them in synch. The up-tempo, aggressive style was an improvement. They’ve got two years to build on that.