Archives For November 2006

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  November 14, 2006

Just clearing out the inbox and some stuff shoved in the corner of my brain.

UPDATE: Reminding us that for all the little things not quite coming together yet, now is a good time to be a Laker fan, Roland Lazenby has a new post up at his blog that is great.

The Running Game, long the heart of Laker lore, was put on the shelf while Jackson and Shaq walked their way to three championships. But now the Running Game is back baby, a tip of the hat to Mitch and Ronnie Lester and Jerry Buss; they found players that both fit the triangle and the running game; and as Tex always points out, the triangle is always ready to be morphed into what works best for the given talent on any team; that’s clearly the case with these Lakers; they just have to work out the kinks. Tex wants them to find ways to get out faster, to go, go, go, because that’s when they truly strike some terror in the hearts of their opponents.

• Here are a few stats to throw in the Smush vs. Farmar debate. Smush is really slumping, shooting just 39.3% on jumpers (which account for 82% of his attempts) and he has a PER of 8.1. He’s hitting threes from straight on to the right side of the court well (47.4%), but he’s ice inside the arc and is only shooting 43% at the rim. How do you shoot threes better than layups?

Defensively, it’s pretty much the same as last year: opposing point guards are shooting 52.5% and have a PER of 21.3. This is the one area where Farmar’s numbers are better — other points are shooting 41.3% against him with a PER of 8.6 — but part of that is Farmar, coming off the bench, has spent less time on the opponents top guard. On offense, Farmar is shooting just 36.5% on jumpers (although he gets to the hole more right now, another sign Smush is off) and has a PER of 9.3.

For me, I’m still in the “let Smush play his way out of it” camp. But I’d still give Farmar some key minutes.

• The Lakers still need to communicate better what they are going to do on the high pick and roll, particularly with Farmar in the game. Usually the Lakers switch, but Farmar fights through those more often. Twice in the first halrf Memphis ran the pick-and-pop with Mike Miller setting the pick, Farmar fought through with Stoudemire but Radmanovic and Evans both went with the switch, leaving Miller for an open three.

• I am totally hooked on Heroes.

• J.E. Skeets is funnier than the current Saturday Night Live. Wait, I was trying to pay him a compliment. Whatever, check out his piece about the gentle love between Kobe and Andrew Bynum.

• Low Post’s blog (one of the better ones on the Web) is interviewing NBA bloggers and is starting with everyone’s favorite Henry Abbot from True Hoop. Very much worth the read.

• The latest Carnival of the NBA is up at Phoenix Suns Rising.

• Kwame looked pretty good, considering the rust.

Getting The Point

Kurt —  November 13, 2006

Kobe moved to the initiator spot out on top of the triangle Sunday night, Odom moved onto the block and the triangle returned to shape against Memphis. I remember someone floating this idea in the comments a week or two ago (I couldn’t find it), and I balked because I am among those who instinctively wanted Kobe in the Jordan role and Odom as Pippen. It just made sense to me.

Now maybe it’s time for that experiment to end, or at least take a hiatus — Odom is not Scottie Pippen. What Odom brings is versatility. He’s a beast down low, and if other coach takes that away by throwing someone big on him you just get Odom the ball on the wing and let him drive. He can do a lot of things, but is clearly more comfortable getting the ball closer to the basket than creating his own shot starting out by the three-point line.

Remember, Kobe was the initiator out top of the triangle during the Shaq era, and while different parts of the offense are emphasized now he still knows how to run it and to get his shots. He drove the lane a few times, other times moved through the offense and got the ball in an attack position on the wing and scored that way.

Another thing I saw was how much better the rebounding looked — Kobe grabbed 6 boards (he had averaged 3.6 per game) and several times pushed the ball all the way up on the break ala Magic. Odom had 16 boards, well above his 7.6 average.

Part of how well things went is that Memphis, sans Gasol, is a good match up for the Lakers. But with four days off, the Lakers have time to practice and get used to Kobe out top more. The Lakers can still switch things up — have Smush or Odom set the table at times, depending on matchups.

But Kobe out top was a stabilizing influence out top, and consistency at that spot is something the Lakers have lacked. With Kobe out top we should see much more of it.

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.

Preview & Chat: The Detroit Pistons

Kurt —  November 10, 2006

Bet the Over. It’s early, so let’s not read a lot into this, but right now the Lakers are second in the league in offensive efficiency at 108 (points per 100 possessions), while Detroit is fifth (105.2). And neither team is playing great defense.

What’s the Under/Over on Ts? Four games in, Rasheed Wallace has four technicals, and while other vets are getting some slack on the new “no sass” rule Wallace seems to be on the short leash. Which led to Natalie from Need4Sheed’s brilliant idea of an online petition to David Stern. Not that it’s going to work, but it is a classic idea.

Aren’t the Pistons a defensive force? Well, two seasons ago they were a force and last season, even with a more offensive minded coach, still finished fifth in the league in defensive efficiency. But so far this season they are 1.5 points per 100 possessions worse, which drops them to 14th overall.

The reason, well Chauncey Billups told ESPN that out of habit they are still funneling guys into the paint where Ben Wallace used to be waiting. Nazr Mohammed is nice but no Ben Wallace defensively.

Spread offense.
I caught the end of the Pistons game against Sacramento Wednesday night (after the Laker game ended), but by the time I tuned in the Pistons were down double digits, Mohammed was out because they were trying to come from behind so they put the shooters on the floor, and they really spread the floor and tried to drive and dish. It was isolation basketball.

One thing the ESPN guys said Flip Saunders told them: Detroit goes as Rasheed Wallace goes. Which may be why they are off to a slow start: He is shooting just 45.4% for the season. His line against the Kings two nights ago: 0 points and 15 boards. Apparently he was doing his Ben Wallace impersonation.

Getting Odom involved.
After a couple of passive games from Lamar Odom, theories are flying around, but Kwame a. made a great point in the comments:

Take a look at where Odom is receiving the ball, in the first 3 games he was moved all over the court, and got some post-touches, free-throw extended and the perimeter. The last two games he’s been stuck behind the three point-line, and that’s just stupid, he’s not a spot-up shooter, he needs to be closer to the hoop and have the ball more, this will allow him to create for others and score, otherwise, expect games like last nite from LO.

In today’s LA Times Odom himself echoes that same thought.

“Try to catch the ball closer to the basket, not rely on the three,” he said. “Get back to the free-throw line. I haven’t been to the free-throw line the last couple of games. I just need to concentrate on driving the ball a little bit more.”

Something to look for early.

Keep passing the ball. So far this season 17.8% of Laker possessions involve an assist, the third highest percentage in the league. They are moving the ball around, or at least are doing so when they play well.

Things to look for.
The Lakers may catch a break as Rip Hamilton is questionable for tonight. If he can’t go that means more Flip Murray, who is shooting 55% (eFG%) on the season and 45% from beyond the arc.

The Lakers have a couple of tough matchups for the Lakers here, with Rasheed at the four and Prince at the three. Luke Walton is going to get one of them and have to play some of his best defense of the season. The other is Smush (and Farmar) on Billups — he’s shooting just 40.7% (eFG%) on the season but is getting into the paint and getting to the line a fair amount.

The Lakers get Kwame Brown back, which should be good for the Lakers and Bynum. In the Orange County Register yesterday, Laker coaches were quoted as saying they think Bynum fades after six or seven minutes of game time, that is conditioning is not where it needs to be. This gives the Lakers more depth.

Bynum goes up against Nazr Mohammed in an interesting matchup. Both have had surprisingly good offensive seasons so far (Mohammed has a PER of 23.6, Bynum 24.7) but Bynum’s defense has been much better. This could be a good night for him.

Watch out for Jason Maxiell of the bench, he has a PER of 19.8 so far this season and the Pistons are +5 (per 48) when he is on the floor

Thank You

Kurt —  November 10, 2006

Today is the two-year anniversary of Forum Blue & Gold, and I just wanted to quickly say thank you to all of you who have made this place a regular stop.

The comments that came in last night are a perfect example of why I’m proud of what this little blog has become. In case you missed it, John R. made a comment and threw in some stats about the Lakers getting favoritism from the refs. What followed was an interesting discussion, with both Derek Banducci and Rob using statistics they keep to bolster their arguments. It’s well worth the read (and maybe it’s own post next week).

It’s those comments — and many more like then from many more commenters — that make this so enjoyable for me. Smart discussions take place and I learn new things and alter my views from what I learn from the people who stop by. That’s more than I ever expected. And many new doors have been opened for me. The site has grown from that first day when I had 21 visitors (thanks Mom), now more than 230,000 have stopped by. But even with hundreds and hundreds coming by every day now, the site has retained its intimate feel (as intimate as one gets on the Web). And, most importantly, the discussion has remained sharp.

So thanks. And keep coming by, this is shaping up to be a very fun season.