Archives For October 2006

Suggested Reading

Kurt —  October 25, 2006

Beleive it or not, there are other sites worth reading on the web. Here are a few I found this morning.

• First, the Lakers opened their afternoon practice yesterday to season ticket holders and The Association was there and gives a good report:

Sasha Vujacic is a douche! He was one of the few who didn’t give much of an effort, trailing on drills, throwing lazy passes and disputing with a few coaches. He’s making mistakes running the Triangle, even rookie Jordan Farmar was telling him where to go.

• The roundtable discussing the Pacific Division continues today over at Golden State of Mind:

(From Tom at Sactown Royalty): But I think Vlad-Rad is a big addition for the Lakers. He’s never going to challenge for an All-Star team, but he’s one more guy defenses can’t ignore. That’s what the Lakers really needed last season (besides consistency in the middle) – a dependable shooter. He makes them much better. Now, we get to find out if L.A.’s late season run was a fluke or a tell-tale sign.

• Also, for all you gamers, Laker blogger Yannis has a contest where you can win a Nintendo DS Lite. So, when the Lakers are up 50 on the Kings midseason, you can pop in Mario and be entertained.

Whither Kobe

Kurt —  October 24, 2006

Kobe is not going to win the scoring title this season.

Or, maybe a better way of saying this is: If things go well for the Lakers this season, Kobe is not going to win the scoring title.

I was thinking about this while answering a few Laker questions for an online fantasy basketball Web site. One question asked was about lingering effects of Kobe’s injury, which I don’t think will be much of an impact long term (we hope not, the Lakers need a fast start). But I hastened to add that for fantasy hoops players it mattered that Kobe’s scoring should drop slightly this year.

Now, I’ll add that what I envision is his scoring total goes down slightly but his efficiency should improve – higher shooting percentage (55.9% true shooting percentage last year, which is still good), fewer forced shots because teammates stand around.

I see a couple of reasons Kobe’s scoring will drop.

One, Kobe should have to play fewer minutes. Last season Kobe played a personal high 3,273 minutes, and yet every time he left the game Laker fans held their breath – when Kobe was on the floor the Lakers were +4.5 points per 48 minutes better than their opponents, when he was off the floor they were -7.9. Part of that was that there was no decent replacement for him — Kobe had a PER of 30 when playing the two, his replacements were Sasha (PER of 8.9), Laron Proffit (11) and a little Devin George (7.9). Others picked up a few minutes, but like those three all of them are well below average.

This year there is Maurice Evans – a solid backup. He can defend, he can shoot the three from the corner, last season he shot 51.5% (eFG%) and had a PER of 15, right at the league average. And average would be a step up. Evans may be a more important addition than Radmanovic by the end of the season because rather than Kobe playing 35.4 minutes per game that can drop a few minutes a game. While that is good for the Lakers, it means his scoring should go down.

Second, Kobe should score less because others are taking more shots. Honestly, it felt like that at the end of the last season, when Odom was averaging 16.8 points per game while shooting 55.1%, plus getting, 8.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists (over the last too months). However, if you look at the Lakers last 27 games (the last 20 plus the playoffs) Kobe averaged 35 points per game, pretty much right at the 35.4 average for the season as a whole.

Last season Kobe took 2.173 shots on the season (27.2 per game) a career high. The highest Michael Jordan took in the championship Bulls years is 25.7 per game — and I would expect Kobe’s shots to drop at least that far and probably a couple more. Those other shots will go to Radmanovic, Odom and maybe Walton, and an assortment of other guys.

Kobe should still get plenty of chances — you don’t take the ball out of the hands of the best player in the game. But he can’t carry the team alone if the Lakers want to win, it needs to be more balanced. How much of the load shifts off of Kobe will say a lot about how far the Lakers go this season. If he has to score 35.4 per game again to win games, it could be a long season.

Pacific Roundtable

Kurt —  October 23, 2006

The Algonquin Round Table we are not, but during the last couple weeks bloggers of the five teams in the Pacific Division (Tom from Sactown Royalty, Kevin from Clipperblog, Justin from Golden State of Mind, Brian from The Rising Suns and myself) have been emailing each other both trying to sound witty and impress each other with our basketball knowledge.

The result was a pretty good preview of the division, and it’s going public in a five-part installment. That starts today over at Sactown – it was Tom’s idea so he hosts first. The question of the day:

Who was the most important new addition (not New Edition – that’d clearly be Ricky Bell) in the Pacific, players and coaches alike?

Tomorrow the discussion moves over to Golden State of Mind and moves along throughout the week. It’s good reading.

Courtside Times

Kurt —  October 23, 2006

Last year Courtside Times was my first read every day on the NBA, a favorite place for smart research and conversation about the league and its players. They also foolishly let me also do some writing. Unfortunately, after a fast start, as the writers on the site got overwhelmed by a multitude of personal things (in my case, a second child), it kind of faded away.

But it was too good an idea and site to let go, so Mike (better known as Knickerblogger) has brought it back for the new NBA season, this time with a little more focus on news and commentary. Already there are a couple of good stories – a roundtable preview of the East and a look into the question does defense win championships? – both of which have sparked some interesting debates.

You’ll also notice that a couple of regulars from here at FB&G are now part of the Courtside team, Gatinho and Rob. For that reason alone you should check it out, just to call them two-timers.

Preseason Stats

Kurt —  October 20, 2006

It’s hard to take much from any one preseason game (even if Mo Evans was +12 and both Odom and Farmar were +9, or if Bynum was -14 against the Clippers). But through five preseason games I thought I’d put up some stats and let people draw their own conclusions:

Name eFG% 3pt % TS% Reb. Rate Pts. P40 Reb. 40 Ast.40
Bynum 65% NA 71.7% 13.1% 15.1 8.6 2.6
Kwame 46.2% NA 42.3% 12.5% 11.8 8.2 4.6
Odom 48.7% 36.4% 53.1% 9.9% 16.1 6.5 5
Walton 55.7% 25% 57.8% 6.3% 14.7 4.1 8.2
Turiaf 60% NA 61.3% 15.1% 17.4 9.9 2.8
Smush 60.3% 56.3% 65.1% 5.9% 21.8 3.9 4.7
Farmar 55% 33.3% 55.4% 4.2% 18.9 2.8 5.1
Evans 41.2% 40% 46.3% 7.2% 14.5 4.7 1.2

Okay, one little comment: While Farmar has wowed us all, Smush has put up good offensive numbers. However, to emphasize a point I have made since the end of last season, it is the best point guard defensively that should get the minutes.

A key for the stats:

eFG%: Shooting percentage combining two and three pointers
3pt.%: Shooting percentage from beyond the arc
TS%: True Shooting Percentage, think of this as points per shot attempt, it covers twos, three, free throws all adjusted to be a percentage.
Reb Rate: Percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while on the floor.
Pts. P40: Points scored per 40 minutes of playing time.
Reb. P40: Rebounds grabbed per 40 minutes of playing time.
Ast. P40: Assists per 40 minutes of playing time.

For more info on these types of stats, check out Kevin Pelton’s primer.

M*A*S*H*

Kurt —  October 19, 2006

Kwame’s shoulder injury is worse than previously thought — it is being reported that he will be sidelined three to four weeks.

Normally that would not be a big deal, but Chris Mihm is not yet right from ankle surgery. He said in today’s LA Times he wants to be ready by the start of the season, but then I want a Maserati. Jon Black (Laker spokesman) says in the above-linked article he will not be ready.

Combine that with Kobe likely to be there opening day but not being ready for 45 minutes and 60+ points, Radmanovic’s hand, Cook out, Shammond Williams pelvis and every part of Aaron McKie south of the neck injured in some ways and the Lakers are one banged up team that will be taped together but slowed to start the season.

Which has to be concerning — remember 15 of the first 20 Laker games are at Staples, while the middle of the season sees some long road trips and tough stretches. The Lakers are not a team — in a deeper-than-last-year West — that will find it easy to dig out of a hole (and I would call 12-8 after 20 games a hole).

Being without Kwame and Mihm to start the season means last seasons draft picks — Andrew Bynum and Ronny Turiaf — will play a key role in whether the Lakers get off to the start they need to make the playoffs. On that note, I may head over to the Catholic church up the street and light a candle.

Lazenby + Winter = Good Copy

Kurt —  October 18, 2006

When Roland Lazenby and Tex Winter talk, good information flows — and the latest post on Lazenby’s blog proves that again. You need to go read the whole thing, but here are a few interesting topics covered:

Mihm is the team’s only true offensive threat at center. But his recovery has dragged on leaving huge questions.

The other posts — Kwame Brown and teen-ager Andrew Bynum — have both improved. “Brown and Bynum have got a long way to go,” Winter said. “They’re working hard, and Brown is a good strong defender, a strong rebounder. Bynum has improved and has turned in some good play recently.

“But neither one of them can score the ball. They both want to score and try to score, but they don’t. So we lose the post scoring option out of the triangle.”

That sort of flattens the offensive geometry into a beeline for Bryant.

What’s worse, with Brown and Bynum pressing so hard to score “they’re really not the feeders out of the post we want them to be. Seeing and feeding the cutters is important for the post in the triangle. They realize it, and they’re trying to do the right thing. Both of them are pretty good passers. So they’re supposed to be feeders first. But right now they’re looking to score and struggling to score as opposed to being feeders first.”

That’s the frontcourt, but what about the other area of concern, perimeter defense?

Traditionally, Jackson’s teams have featured lots of ball pressure. But the league last season began a new policy of calling touch fouls on the perimeter to help free up offensive players. Thus, Miami’s Dwyane Wade’s big performance in the NBA Finals last June. That means the Lakers’ pressure style has to shift.

“I think you have to play more of a containing defense,” explained Winter, a critic of the NBA’s new guidelines for officiating the game. “You can still put some pressure on the offense. You can contain them and slow the ball up.”

But the new guidelines “change how you force turnovers,” Winter explained. “You can’t be as aggressive as you’d like to be with your hands. You can’t be ‘into’ the guy as much.”

As a result, defense now becomes a matter of waiting for the offensive player to make a mistake, rather than forcing a turnover, Winter said.

The Lakers would like to exert the kind of ball pressure they used to deploy when Derek Fisher wore the Forum Blue and Gold. But the new guidelines are still murky, Winter said. Before games, officials have visited with teams to explain the new approach, Winter said. “They come in and tell us all this stuff. Then the first four or five plays of the game, you see them doing just the opposite from what they said. You don’t know what they’re going to call. So you have to adjust accordingly, depending what’s going on from game to game, even half to half.”

I like what Tex had to say what Kobe too, but that is a topic for another day.

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.