Preview & Chat: The Seattle Supersonics

Kurt —  November 3, 2006

UPDATE II: Kobe is playing tonight, he says so himself on his Web site. (Thanks to Rob for the heads up.)

UPDATE: If you want to read a good preview, friend of the site Kevin Pelton has his up at the Sonics Web site.

Lights Out: It was such a big hit, that the throwback lighting will be there for the entire season – which is great news. I can’t wait to see what it’s like in person.

Kobe’s On: Kobe Bryant said he would make his decision on whether or not to play tonight based on how he feels today, but that his knee is feeling better. If he’s not back tonight, Sunday looks very likely.

Why Lamar Odom is hot: Look at his shot chart — in two games he has taken 26 shots right at the rim (dunks, layups or something in very close) and 12 from the rest of the field. You shoot better when you can get in that close. Let’s hope he keeps that up whether or not Kobe returns tonight.

Let me add that it’s amazing to me how well Lamar does considering he so strongly prefers to go left — he does it 60.3% of the time he drives (he gets to the basket on three-quarters of those attempts and shoots 63.8% on those). When he goes right he is average at best, shooting 42.1% overall and 55.3% even when he gets all the way to the basket. This is not news — every team in the NBA says “don’t let Lamar go left” and yet he does it nightly,

Passing Fancy: One thing that makes the triangle thrive is big men who can pass the ball — it’s why the offense ran better last season with Luke Walton getting the ball in the high post. But in two games both Andrew Bynum and Vladimir Radmanovic have shown very adept passing skills for bigs, and that is a large part of why the offense has looked better than expected without Kobe.

It also means that Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm need to learn from this when they return or risk losing some of their minutes.

Keep Your Friends Close: Devin Green was the first selection of the Lakers in the D-League draft last night, so he will be playing at Staples for the D-fenders. That’s great news as he is right there for the 10-day contract or if the Lakers make a two-for-one trade.

Also, look for him to be the best player on the D-fenders, at large part because while the rest of the guys are working to figure out the triangle offense Green will be well versed in it.

Swift Demise: Imagine having a promising young center who started to show flashes of his potential, so you give him a bigger role — and he instantly goes down with a season-ending knee injury. That’s what happened to the Sonics and Robert Swift, who was going to do some learning on the job this year but was showing signs of what he could be (and sporting a new look that is, um, well….). Now he’s out for the season. Wilcox and Collison will pick up the majority of his minutes, with Petro getting some as well.

Blogging with the Enemy:
Sonics Central and Supersonics Soul.

Things to look for: The Sonics present the Lakers with a problem that plagued them last year — a team with a good point guard. Luke Ridnour has played well in the opener and got to the rim for 9 of his 16 shots. The Lakers need to make him pull up.

But you have to watch when he (or Earl Watson) passes, because both Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis can fill it up. Lewis had a team high 25 points in the opener (with a 59% true shooting percentage) and Allen had 22 (52.3% TS%). Allen actually gets most of his shots off isolation plays, but shots off screens is a close second. The problem with defending these two is they are good at just about every type of shot. The Lakers are going to have to play good team defense — as they did in the first two games — to make sure the Sonics don’t get too hot.

The good news is, the Lakers face what should be a weak defensive squad — last season the Sonics were last in the league in defense, giving up 115,9 points per 100 opponent possessions (for comparison, the Lakers were 106.9). In the opening game this season they let the Trailblazers shoot 56.2% (eFG%). If LA continues to run the offense, move without the ball and pass they should be able to score plenty.

Kurt

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34 responses to Preview & Chat: The Seattle Supersonics

  1. Good thing Vlad is no longer on the Sonics…he used to light us up when he was on their squad.

  2. I wonder Kurt and Jones, do you think that Kobe’s trust of his fellow players will be at an all-time high when he gets back on the court? For me, this is one of the biggest issues the Lakers have had the past few years…Kobe doesnt feel he can trust his teammates to make shots while his teammates haven’t really given him much reason to trust them.

  3. Big Game, I would say that on an intellectual level he does. The question is, when the game is on the line late and he gets tripple teamed, will he kick it to Walton (for example) for an open look? I think so, but until we see it happen a few times….

    Also, and I kind of glossed over this, fitting Kobe into the offense may not be all that smooth a process.

  4. I really hope Kobe can fit in smoothly and I’m not sure it’ll happen right away, but some encouraging signs (that have already been mentioned) are:

    1) The team is playing well. The last couple years we thought there was a chicken and egg problem. What comes first? Kobe trusting his teammates so they do well, or his teammates doing well so Kobe can trust them? The first couple games, the team is doing well, so hopefully Kobe can trust them more and more quickly.

    2) The other question with Kobe and the offense was that last year, most of the team had not comfortably learned the offense, so Kobe was perhaps too much the focal point of it. It seems like this year the team knows how to run it more effectively, so Kobe doesn’t have to handle the load so much.

    I really hope Kobe can get re-integrated into the offense and with everybody and I’m cautiously optimistic things will go smoothly.

  5. i dont think integrating kobe into the offense will be a problem at all. just look back to the phoenix series, the point of the season where the whole team seemed to finally understand how the offense was ran. kobe made plays for walton and brown all series, and with more weapons on the team now, itll be easier for him to do that. also, remember when we had payton and malone, kobe deferred and played decoy very well, he has the ability this season to avg 7-8 ast a game or score 35, its all about match-ups and what the other team wants to stop

  6. With all the statistics thrown out on these blogs I wonder why everyone has Kobe phobia (either way).

    Look, the statistics clearly show that…
    1) When Kobe shot more the team shooting percentage went up. When he was out the percentage went down noticeably.
    2) Several other team members had career years (that doesn’t mean they were great players, just that Kobe didn’t impede their play).

    There was a piece in an oddsmakers column that illustrated that Vegas did not ignore the fact that Kobe backed off in the playoffs and let the other shoot. While this may eventually have cost us the Phoenix series (I personally don’t think we would have won with Kobe doing all the scoring), at least the real gamblers out there were aware of the strategy and what happened this preseason didn’t come as a complete suprise.

    Kobe’s performance during the 3 ring years and his support this year are all I need to feel comfortable about his reintegration into the team. This all seems like a bad soap opera – let’s just change the channel and move on.

  7. Beg pardon, homies,
    but I for one have grown weary of this
    “how will Kobe fit in”? question.

    I feel he has proven over the years
    that he has the desire and the ability
    to shape his skills around the team’s needs.

    I understand the ol’ “ball hog’ appellation
    and all that, but for this to be a hot stove topic again
    ( especially after last season )
    holds vestiges of the “Blame Kobe” bad karma
    of seasons past, regardless of his performances
    for the Lakers in big games, injury and tribulation
    ( no matter who is responsible for whose own made bed )

    Also it suggests that Kobe’s situation is singular–
    a few folks are asking about Amare Stoudemire
    but there’s not the same undie-twisting going on.

    If the Memphis Grizzlies were able to get rolling,
    would everybody ask if Pau Gasol could blend back in
    without messing up the team mojo?
    Methinks not.

    On the otra mano, I realize
    that Ko-B has set a higher bar for himself,
    that this is a forum for Lakers issues primarily
    and fans are hungry for Lakers to get back
    to the mountaintop,

    but for me it detracts
    from the successes of the team
    and the perfomances of such talents
    as we are fortunate to be able to witness
    because we’re all waiting for something to go wrong
    know full well there’s gonna be rough transitions
    and spectacular games and lame games,
    and the Lakers will still be better than 80% of the league.

    I know that’s not good enough for many,
    and I’m not suggesting one be
    the NBA equivalent of a Cubbies fan,
    but it seems like we still can’t have a Laker season
    without tabloid-style controversy,

    and I can’t listen to some radio shows
    whose hosts know they can get a rise
    by pushing the Kobe button and throwing out
    some “what if,” half hoping that the “if” becomes an “is”
    ( while loudly claiming hardcore
    Laker fan credentials to justify the drama )

    Please know the preceding rant
    is not to throw coconuts
    at the distinguished comrades
    frequenting this fine Forum
    ( butter up, butter up )

    but the topic has struck a sore spot
    and I know you all will suffer me
    knowing whence I come.
    ( more butter )

    By the way,
    I too am digging the “Lights Out”
    with a steam shovel.

    As Money Smith suggests,
    hopefully the “face” crowd
    will now drop the self-consciousness
    and start cheering like the fans in the ozone seats.

    AND, not insignificantly,
    it conserves a little energy, no?
    A big ol’ win-win, by golly.

    – 5 -

  8. I would like to add, for the record, that what I meant wasn’t that Kobe couldn’t or wouldn’t fit into the offense. Rather, I think it may take a handful of games for everyone to get comfortable, it’s an adjustment. But they will get there and be better for it.

  9. kurt, i see what your saying, and to expand on that, the main people who will have to adjust to kobe coming back are the young guys and the new additions, as well as the guys from last season. They cannot climb into a shell when kobe comes back, they have to remain assertive, and most importantly, keep running the triangle the way they have been. the off-ball movement, especially with vlad rad, has been great, they must continue this, especially when kobe has the ball, lanes will be open and he has always hit cutters. this process will take some time, but its good that the guys are getting real season experience and confidence

  10. chris henderson November 3, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    I want to see Lamar continue to take a team leadship role when Kobe comes back, there’s no reason they both can’t be team leaders, and when Lamar takes that “back seat” role and defers to Kobe, the whole team tends to start standing around and watch, wait for Kobe to do some amazing thing with the rock.
    I’ve been very impressed with Lamar and his leadership, especially so at the end of the Golden State game when they almost made a come-back, Rambis inserted Lamar, and he took over, saved the game.
    I’m also very impressed with Evans, his on court IQ seems pretty high, like his hustel, and mid range shot.
    Vlad is impressing me with his passing, hustle, and rebounding.
    Cookie comes in cold and hits the hot streak instantly, and he’s showing me more on the D and rebounding as well.
    and what can we say about Ronnie and Andrew? they’re playing way above their heads, way more than any of us expected I am sure.

    the one dissapointment I’m having is Smush, he seems to be playing flat, about where he left off last year, no improvement in ability, or attitude. the reason Andrew got into foul trouble against GS was Smush letting is guy get past him and ‘Drew had to step up and take the foul, I much prefer seeing the hard working Farmar, he’ll surpass Smush this year.

  11. Anyone with any word on Kobe’s status for tonight?

  12. According to ESPN’s bottom line they show Kobe as expected to play. Extra Sports 570 am has also said something of this as well.

  13. Going back even farther into the past, in 2001 when Kobe had a broken hand and missed the first 15 games (which the Lakers went 11-4 without him), he was forced to integrate into a team that was already winning and he did a fantastic job of not upsetting the already built momentum.

    It would be great for this transition to be smooth to hush all the pundits that think that Lamar will revert to his passive ways upon Kobe’s return.

  14. Rob posted (it was accidentally erased):

    Funny you should ask, Jones. Kobe would like to tell you something personally.

    http://kb24.com/home.php

  15. You know….that site is awesomely designed. They using music from Batman Begins for videos?

  16. suns signed jalen rose, my reaction: big whoop, the suns are headed the wrong way, diaw is fat, out of shape and due to amare, his role will be minimized and he will become more passive, amare isnt 100%, theyll really miss tim thomas and nash is getting older, the suns are gonna fall back, the pacific is a la battle, lakers need all the early ones they can get

  17. I thihk kobe coming back would be much more problematic if he had missed many games, but missing just two, I don’t think there are a lot of adjustments. As Kobe said last year, he would have to take on a heavy load in the beginning, and then become facilitator when everyone started understanding the offense. You saw that toward the end of the season and into the playoffs, so I think that that will just continue. The core of the team is virtually the same anyways… really the only additions are veteran Evans who will back up Kobe mostly, Farmar, and Vlad… (oh, I guess and shammond…). So, that is my take.

  18. Given those Supersonic point guards, it should be a good chance to compare the defense with and without the Smusher/Farmar.

  19. Kwame A. hit the nail on the head. I think one of the big issues the Lakers have had is a pretty weighty fear of faliure. If the “supporting cast” can be as assertive and confident with Kobe on the court as they have in the past two games, they will be just fine.

    Also, Kobe will need to have a bit longer leash with his teammates regarding on court mistakes. Kobe seems to be supportive as ever of his teammates and I think last season may have cemented the fact in his mind that he cannot win this thing singlehandedly.

  20. 15. CTDeLude, the site is designed and maintained by the guy who did the Blazer blog for the Oregonian the last couple of years, which was maybe the most informative blog on the web. The guy rocks.

  21. I am maaaaaad excited for this game…

  22. Im super excited as well…too bad I’m being forced to watch it later on tivo due to a sushi dinner I have to head to in 20 mins.

  23. So far looks like there isn’t one bit of a chemistry problem. It’s still early but looks like the media is gonna have to find something else to complain about Kobe other then the lakers play better without…

  24. It really is amazing looking at our play in three games and realizing our success hinges on one thing essentially, going inside more then the other team. Bynum is still at the point where he only remains alert when he is consistently fed. And then it’s interesting to see Sonics decide…hey we’ll go inside too and see them have success.

  25. Kurt or anyone else,

    Stats notation question here. Lakers had 18 turnovers. Are all 12 sonics steals counted as turnovers? Are there other common stats that double count as turnovers, like travelling calls, etc Thanks.

  26. A definitive finisher-Rony Turiaf

    Blocks, rebounds, a showdown with Wilcox, a key 20 footer–and free throws

    WOW!

    Team defense, to be kind, was more improvisational than it had to be.

    Farmar didn’t play much, but the contrast with the Smusher was best expressed in respective defensive plays.

    While Farmar was still in, he followed Ridnour down court, timed his response perfectly, and blocked Ridnour’s shot out of bounds. When the Smusher came in, on a similar situation, the Smusher defended as Ridnour came by–then watched Luke drive by and make the shot.

  27. 25. yes, steals are a turnover as are passes out of bounds, draveling or carrying calls, and I think even three second calls. I tend to think of it in a tennis term — an unforced error.

  28. Bynum/Turiaf on the season:

    Game 1: 8-13 FG, 4-5 FT, 20 pts, 0 blocks, 9 reb, 26 min
    Game 2: 9-14 FG, 10-16 FT, 28 pts, 3 blocks, 13 reb, 41 min
    Game 3: 5-5 FG, 12-15 FT, 22 pts, 6 blocks, 15 reb, 38 min

    If this keeps up, I hope Kwame and Mihm stay injured!

  29. Turiaf and Bynum have been great, but I still really want Kwame and Chris back. They’re going to have to play for their minutes now though. Depth is always a good thing. Mihm and Brown both come back strong. You also have to keep in mind that the Suns, Warriors, and the Sonics aren’t exaclty the most powerful post teams in the league. When we go against teams like the Spurs or the Rockets it’s going to be nice to have Kwame on the block for his man defense. So yeah, it’s great what they’ve done the past few games, but I’m waiting to see them play against quality post players before I get too excited.

  30. Bynum-Yao is a match up I definitely want to see.

  31. Here’s the thing LaFleur…beyond the two teams you just mentioned and maybe two or three other teams, who has quality post players? This is our ace in the hole…we have FOUR count them, four quality post players and the rest of the league is severely lacking. This is how it will be for a lot of the games here on out as the league erroneously tries to copy the Suns. The Suns have been incredible the past few years because no one in the league had yet figured them out. That is until last year when the Lakers almost eliminated them. You’re now going to seem teams smarten up when playing teams with the fast paced running and gunning.

    So yes it will be interesting what will happen against the Spurs and Rockets (who haven’t looked like a good team at all yet) but I’m not really worried about it because they’re now the exception to the rule so to speak.

  32. Conspiracy theorists rejoice…

    Bob Hill was an unhappy man last night.

    ‘Can you believe this (expletive)?” he said, looking at the box score. “It’s difficult to win a basketball game when one team shoots 48 free throws and your team shoots 16 and you go to the basket for two-thirds of the game. When it happens right in front of you, you can see it.

    “I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but we deserved to win that game.”

  33. My take on the reason that going small has been so successful in recent years is that there are very few bigs who have any degree of talent. For example, I love Chris Mihm, but when I say with a straight face that he’s a quality center, that speaks more to what it takes to be a quality center than to anything else.

    The bottom line is that when your choice is between some guy whose only asset is his height and another player who is smaller but genuinely talented, then it makes sense to go small. However, big beats small every day if your bigs have any talent at all.

    Another interesting note on this topic is that it’s interesting how Mark Cuban’s decided to switch from small-ball to going big at exactly the time when small-ball started to become popular. And, that decision has helped the Mavs.

  34. Actually…most of the fouls didn’t occur until the last 2/5th’s of the game. When Seattle stopped going into the paint…