Preview and Chat: The Memphis Grizzlies

Kurt —  November 12, 2006

About that last game. This was one of those games that last season Kobe would have just taken over, scored 50 and at least kept it close. Right now, he is not capable of doing that. Again Odom made a couple nice plays to start the game then faded (and again had a tough defensive match up). Between the top two options, midway through the third quarter they didn’t have 10 points combined.

It spiraled after the Lakers got behind – needing the scoring and someone to shoot over the zone Brian Cook got a lot of court time, some at the center spot, while Turiaf sat, so the team defense got worse. Cook finished -17. The only guys who had a decent game were Farmar and Evans. It’s best we just try to forget about this game.

Living in the Twilight Zone. The Lakers looked like Team USA in Japan when the Pistons went into a zone defense. That is to say, completely confused. As the NBA is a copycat league, the Lakers can expect to see a lot of zone until they prove they can beat it.

The triangle has formations that beat the zone – either by overloading a side while keeping spacing or using someone like Kobe or Lamar to beat their man and penetrate from the wing, making others to cover and creating inside-out and interior passing lanes. If someone knocks down shots from the midrange and three it helps. The Lakers didn’t really do any of that against the Pistons.

Hold on to the ball. The good news is 17.8% of Laker possessions end in an assist, but the worse news is 20.4% end in a turnover. That’s way too high and is the fourth-highest rate in the NBA. They need to limit those and that starts with Kobe – 18% of the possessions he uses have ended in a turnover.

So much for that big deadline trade. Chris Mihm is going under the knife to fix that bad ankle and is out for the season. I hope he recovers, he’s a good player who was one of the better Lakers last season. This hurts the Laker depth and means the idea of a midseason trade is highly unlikely now. Also, I’d be surprised if the Lakers cut him and eat the $4.2 mil.

What about the Grizzlies? I saw Rudy Gay at the Summer Pro League and I think Jerry West made the right move on draft day – this guy is a future force in this league. Combine that with Hakim Warrick and Stromile Swift and you have a very athletic team.

They’d be more of a threat with Pau Gasol in the starting lineup, but he remains out from the injury he got in the World Championships this summer.

The Griz are a very young team that hasn’t found its way on the offensive end yet – as a team they are averaging 100.6 points per 100 possessions (that is 9.4 fewer than the Lakers). Their leading scorer is the guy in front of Gay – Mike Miller, who is shooting 50.9% (eFG%) and 44.4% from beyond the arc, plus the Griz are +17.4 per 48 minutes when he is on the court. Warrick also has also been a force, shooting 51.1%. The also have athletic guys like Eddie Jones and Damon Stoudamire in the starting lineup.

Things to look for. With Gasol out, Bynum can have a big night matched up on Jake Tsakalidis, a guy shooting just 30% on the season and allowing opposing centers to shoot 44% and with a PER of 20.9. Memphis also likes to go small with their athletic players (although they don’t push the ball much, preferring the half court), Bynum should be able to be a force inside. (Kwame too, if he plays, it’s a gametime call.)

And if Memphis goes small, Odom should be able to post up some as well and get points.

Former Laker Chucky Atkins is the backup point for Memphis and this should be a good test for Farmar – Atkins can fill it up (and has used a lot of shots on the second team despite shooting just 41% on the season) but is not much of a defensive guy. Well, that’s being kind, Farmar and Smush need to be given the green light to penetrate when Atkins is on the court.

Final thought: The Lakers are 4-3, which if they continue on this pace would be 12-8 through the first 20. That would worry me; the Lakers are in the soft part of their schedule and need to get 14 wins or more in that span. This is a game the Lakers should win.