And Starting at Small Forward…..

Kurt —  October 17, 2006

There’s an interesting debate in the comments on the last post that I thought deserved its own airing.

In that post suggested that Luke Walton, at least so far in the preseason, has earned the starting spot and that new free agent Vlad Radmanovic should come off the bench. But Rob started the debate with a good point:

Vlad is slowed by injury and adjustment to the triangle. Reason dictates that Luke start and Vlad come off the bench. But Vlad was wooed here by the promise of starting. What happens after a week or two of the season if he is still coming off the bench? Would we get the best play out of Vlad? He could feel that the Lakers went back on their word and we could wind up with a large chunk of salary cap being wasted.

On the surface it seems pretty simple — you should start the best player. The goal is to win, and to do that the best player should start and get more minutes. So far, no doubt, that has been Walton.

But the Lakers put on a full-court press to get Radmanovic the moment the free agent window opened. Kobe and Phil Jackson called him in Europe, they convinced him he was needed. And in pretty much every account he was told – or at least it was intimated – that he would start.

Right now he’s his sprained hand keeps him from being 100%, but what about when he is? Acting coach Kurt Rambis has said several times that RadMan has been a better defender and rebounder than he thought. When his hand is healthy and he can shoot what do you do?

Remember, if you go back on your word you could sour Radmanovic, and he’s got a five-year deal. Worse, other free agents might shy away feeling the organization can’t be trusted.

Craig W. added another good point in the comments:

Think about balance when comaring Luke and Vlade. The individuals don’t matter as much as the team. It may be nice to have the best man starting, but think about our second team. These are the guys who come in at the end of the 1st period and start the 2nd. We need a group that won’t lose a lead gained by the 1st unit. Walton fits these needs to a tee. 1) He would be the leader of the 2nd unit, 2) he would be the focal point of the offense and get more points than otherwise, and 3) he would be responsible for directing the “energy” guys to play the right way – not just energetic.

So what do you do? Start Walton? Start Vlad? Start Walton until Vlad is healthy? A lot of this depends on the players’ attitudes – something impossible to judge from outside the locker room (and plenty of coaches misjudge even inside).

On the bright side, this is the kind of “problem” that bodes well for the team.

Kurt

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14 responses to And Starting at Small Forward…..

  1. I think that for the sake of the team Vlad should start. The main reason being, we should not put our 3 best playmakers in one lineup. Why not punish teams for coming to double lamar and kobe? The best way to do that is to have shooters, and Vlad will be that guy. Also, if Walton is not in the second unit, who will create shots for them: sasha-no, evans-no, mihm-no, cook- no, mayber Farmar can, but his minutes won’t be big. Walton needs to lead the second team, the way Kukoc would for the Bulls teams, it is the best solution

  2. chris henderson October 17, 2006 at 9:02 am

    i agree with the idea that walton can be our 2nd team leader, he’ strong in that dept…but, while Rad is not shooting well because of his injury, it might be best to start walton until Rad gets his hand healed and regains his shooting touch.
    I think the concern about him pouting and being upset would be overcome by the fact that he’s injured, and until he’s 100%, he has to work his way back into form, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
    actually, as Kurt said, this is a nice problem to have, and it’s great to see luke coming back this season as strong and smart as ever, maybe more so.

  3. Not sure if any of you have seen this….but I thought it was cool (cheesy cool).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqZQ7fYavT4

  4. Not to change the topic, but a few days ago someone posted a comment about Brian Cook’s agent saying he likely would be back. Well, from the LA Times today:

    The Lakers are casually negotiating a contract extension with Brian Cook, who makes $1.8 million this season and will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season if the Lakers don’t sign him by Oct. 31.

    “We’ve had some talks with his representative,” Kupchak said. “I don’t know if anything will get done or not.”

  5. I agree that this is the kind of problem that the Lakers should be happy to have. When was the last time this team had this kind of controversy?

  6. Luke is the type of player who can play well coming off the bench. He’s got talent, but he’s also an energy guy, and sometimes that’s good to have coming off the bench to ignite the team after the first stretch of the game.

    Cook has talent, and at less than $2mil he may be a good player to have on the team. He’s also an energy guy, but he hasn’t really built up his strength to play the 4 spot all that well. Still like him though.

  7. Did you read John Hollinger’s scouting reports for everyone? At least on the Lakers?

    http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/teams/hollinger?team=lal

    I think he’s dead wrong about Odom. Listening to bill Simmons too much.

  8. Hollinger sounds like just another ESPN groupie. Don’t these guys EVER do their homework. His analysis sounds like he read a stat sheet, then wrote up the column. The stuff on LO sounded so 2004-05 ESPN drivel.

    Most ESPN people seem not to follow sports, but sports excitement. It really comes out when they try to act like reporters. Either own up to being shills or dig down and do some homework.

  9. Personally I like Hollinger, but that should be no big shock to readers of this site. I read the Odom post (the only one I’ve had time to so far) and it sounds to me like he saw plenty of Odom early in the season and had his opinion formed, Odom certainly struggled to mesh with Kobe early. But the last 20 games or so, and into the playoffs, things felt and looked different. That’s what we Laker fans are basing our opinion on.

    We saw growth, but if you look at the numbers of the season that may not be as apprent. We’ll see who is right in a few months.

  10. Remember that Hollinger does not like Kobe, so, there’s that.

  11. Neither,Odom should be Lakers starting SF. He can slow down the T-Mac’s,Carmelos,Howards where Radmanavich has no chance and Walton isn’t quick enough.
    I still don’t see the logic in killing future cap flexability in signing a player who will not be a starter for you in 3 yrs time.(What must really kill is the news that KG apparently has a player option after this season and if he exercises it,he’s a free agent.C/O RaptorBlog.)Radman to me was a desperation signing to make it appear the Lakers(ie Mitch)were doing something to improve the team. The Lakers don’t need firepower at the SF,they need a defensive stopper-either grow one or trade for him.Then if they felt they still needed a 3pt threat to spread court,a player like Rasual Butler would have been far cheaper.

  12. This may be a bit contoversial. But what about Odom at the 3, Turiaf at the 4? Turiaf is the only true power forward on the team. Odom is a natural 3.

  13. I suppose I don’t mind Vlad starting and this is why…

    Remember that Phil likes to keep either Kobe or Lamar on the floor when the other is getting some rest on the pine. We all know that Luke will surely get his minutes anyway by his strength of play… especially when Lamar sits down.

    Vlad can then man the PF spot while Luke at SF, along with Kobe, are the playmakers on the floor.

    In addition, I think it’s easier for Luke to come in “cold” off the bench rather than Vlad. In my opinion, I think Vlad’s the kind of player that needs the CONSISTENT Starting Minutes to get his game going. I know he has come off the bench both in Seattle and with the Clips the last few seasons, but I think we’ll get more out of him and his talents if he regularly starts and finds himself with more confidence and consistency with a starter’s role.

    Vlad’s shooting hand is injured right now but he can still move his feet and is a big body out there. His lack of offensive production can be masked with Kobe and Lamar on the floor if he starts. If Vlad is playing with the second unit, he will be more of a liability than if Luke was leading the second 5.

    Okay that’s it… I’m done rambling for now. :D

  14. Just dropping in to say thanks for the link in your sidebar for our preview. Since Vlade is the point of discussion I thought I would also throw out that we (the Sonics fans) are glad he is no longer our “potential”. He was enormously frustrating to follow. Though he made some REALLY funny commercials. And the time he put his hair in corn rows has to go down as one of the all-time worst hair-don’ts by an NBA player.

    Big Chris
    SonicsCentral.com Staff