Preview and Chat: The Charlotte Bobcats

Kurt —  December 29, 2006

American Express and Spinal Tap? Has anyone else noticed that the background music for the latest series of American Express business card ads is Spinal Tap? Seriously, you can view it here. The song is “Give me some money” from the band’s 50s incarnation (before becoming the heavy metal powerhouse and star of its own mocumentary). Spinal Tap is a sell out, guitarist Nigel Tufnil also appeared in an ad for a Volkswagen (“This amplifier has air bags!”).

The Greg Oden Sweepstakes. The Bobcats not only have one the worst records in the NBA at 7-21, but if you look at point differential and expected wins, they are actually the worst team in the NBA. They should be winning just 26.4% of their games (instead of the 25% clip they are on), the next worst team in the league is the Hornets are at 30.8%.

Rookie of the Year? Sure he leads in points per game among rookies, but Adam Morrison and his 70s haircut and moustache have not impressed much of anyone in the NBA so far. Look at it this way, he’s not even starting on a weak team. He has an NDBL-level PER of 8.04. David Thorpe, the hoops skills trainer who may be the best thing ESPN.com (and True Hoop) has going, broke down his game recently(insider $ required) – and things were not pretty.

His size (6-8) prevented most college defenders from challenging his shot effectively, which gave Morrison the calm to focus without worrying about whether his shot would be blocked. That calm is deeply important for shooters. In a sense, almost every jump shot he took was uncontested.

In the NBA, he is often seeing the hand of a tall, quick, capable defender. This is one reason his field goal percentage on 2-point shots is 37.3, barely above his 3-point percentage of 35.4. On 3-pointers, the defender has more ground to cover to get to Morrison and thus is often not close enough to distract him as the shot is launched, whereas inside the line the spacing is tighter.

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If Morrison is a disaster as an offensive rebounder, the best word to describe his defense is pathetic. Both his effort and his effectiveness are truly subpar.

People often say that Morrison “plays no defense.” They are right.

I call it a “disinclination to defend.” Here’s what I mean:

Morrison rarely denies his man important spots on the floor; in fact, he does not even attempt to most of the time.

Who is playing well? A few guys. We’ll start with the steady Emeka Okafor, who is shooting 50.6% on the season and he is grabbing 17.8% of the available rebounds. Also there is Gerald Wallace, who dropped 40 on Washington two nights ago (in a losing effort).

Then there is Raymond Felton, who is the kind of quick guard who normally gives the Lakers problems. In this case, the trick may be to let him get into the lane — Felton is shooting 35.8% on threes, a solid 43.1% on jumpers but just 43.7% close to the basket.

Worst team, worst offense. The Bobcats are the worst offensive team in the NBA right now, averaging just 99.4 points per 100 possessions (10.6 worse than the Lakers). The reason is pretty simple — they don’t shoot well. As a team the Bobcats are shooting a league worst 45.2% (eFG%), 7.4% worse than the Lakers.

Pound the ball inside. While the Bobcats are a decent defensive team (11th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, better than the 18th-ranked Lakers), they have struggled to stop teams along the front line, particularly at the four. Without Odom, we again will be counting on the Cook/Radmanovic combo to provide some offensive punch.

Things to look for: Often teams on long road trips take the last game off, but for the Lakers there is a real opportunity. Tonight they get the Bobcats, and then on Sunday it is another weak team in Philadelphia. Those are two wins you just don’t want to leave on the table in the loaded Western conference.

The Lakers catch a break in that Brevin Knight is out with a bum ankle. On the down side Sasha Vujacic may sit out for the Lakers after twisting his ankle in practice yesterday.

This should be another good night for the Laker bench; the Bobcats are not a deep team. The first player off the bench is Morrison, after that it is Jake Voskuhl, Walter Herrmann and Derek Anderson, all with single-digit PERs (the league average is 15, only one healthy Bobcat is above that number).

Kurt

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23 responses to Preview and Chat: The Charlotte Bobcats

  1. How about PJ’s comments on Radman and Kwame today in the LATIMES? I for one am a big believer that PJ knows what hes doing. When he wants a player to start playing a certain way, he will go public and point out what the player is doing wrong so that the player gets offended and embarrassed by the situation so they make an effort to fix whatever problem they were having. PJ has already done this twice this season. He told Kobe he would “never be as explosive again” in an effort to push him into the “second stage” of his career where he would change his game into more of a careful, smart game (like MJ when he came back from baseball and was in his 30s). and he also called out Bynum earlier in the year for not practicing hard. Well last time I checked, the Lakers were 19-10 with Kobe having the best season of his career as far as being a leader, and we have not heard another peep about Bynum not practicing hard since the incident. This case should be no different. I have no doubt that both Kwame and VladRad will use PJ’s comments as motivation and step up their level of play.
    and by the way, GO LAKESHOW!

  2. RadMan is an interesting case, I think the offense just isn’t natural to him yet, but when it is we’ll see a lot more Borat dancing. He just doesn’t look comfortable right now.

  3. Is there anywhere that breaks down the Triangle offense? I seem to remember some post about it with graphics (least I think so) that showed how things evolve during the tri offense. I’m immensely curious to see how our own players are comparing to what is suppose to be happening within the offense.

  4. CTD, there is a bunch of stuff on the Web, but here’s a good one:

    http://www.cybersportsusa.com/hooptactics/triangle.asp

    The key thing, and maybe the biggest adjustment for players, is that this is a “read and react” offense, meaning what you do is based on what the defense is doing, rather then just “go here, then do this, then go here.” It takes time for players to start recognizing and reacting as a unit.

  5. Okay…I found one already (Google Chris is your friend) http://espn.go.com/ncb/2003/0128/1499926.html and I can’t say I recognize much in our offense that resembles this. The post entry is about the only thing I’ve seen regularly and I’m also confused as to how our players themselves fit to the roles (i.e. Lamar doing all the 2 work in those diagrams) especially considering we don’t employ a traditional 4 (or 3 for that matter).

  6. Also…is there any other offense as layered as the Tri? When we speak of offenses as they currently are in the NBA I’ve never heard anything beyond running and gunning or pick and roll offense. Is the Tri the only well thought out offense? Is that game really that simple?

  7. I’d say only the Lakers and Utah run “highly structured” offenses in the NBA. The other teams certainly have series of set plays, many for different situations, but really the goal (even for the tri at times) is to get the ball to your top scorer or two in a place they like it and let them work. And from that, how to space around said guy (or guys) to take advantage of what they do.

  8. No coincedence the jazz and lakers are usually at the top of the league in field goal percentage. when their offenses are run at all as they should be, many open looks are created. the triangle and kobe’s killer edge are what gives us a shot against good defensive teams.

  9. The thing about the triangle that seperates it from other offenses in the NBA is that when the triangle is run properly, it takes over the game as well as kobe can. When the triangle is being executed correctly, the ball moves fluidly, open layups and jumpshots occur on a regular basis, and the other team spends the whole game running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to come up with a defense for it on the fly. PJ knows this very well, he realizes that as long as his team fully grasps the triangle and runs it properly by playoff time, that along with having #24 on your team, gives you the opportunity to beat anybody in the league no matter what place your in. Thats why Phil is not overly concerned with wins and losses. Just as long as we’re in the playoffs and not starting out against the top ranked teams then thats our goal. Over the course of the season, PJ may sacrifice a win here or there by leaving someone like Sasha in the game for the 4th quarter to teach him to be calm under pressure when it really counts. Phil looks at the big picture and the big picture is get into the playoffs with everybody on the same page.

  10. does anybody know whether if i get nba league pass i can watch the lakers live when kcal broadcasts them on tape delay? does it matter that i live in the los angeles area (e.g. will there be black outs)? does league pass broadcast every nba game or just some nba games?

  11. This may be the worst defensive game the Lakers have played this season, which is saying something.

  12. nothing like losing to the bobcats. in fact, they have a winning streak against us now. our defense just gave up and wasted a great offensive show by kobe. 3 OT’s on the road. let’s hope we come home and have enough in the tank to stomp the 76’ers. we wasted a great opportunity to keep up with the top 4 in the west. i am going to go vomit now. kurt, i hope you have an answer on why kwame brown can’t catch a pass by the time i am done blowing chunks.

  13. I agree with Kurt — one of the worst games of the season defensively. To paraphrase Magic coach Brian Hill, we can’t be giving the Matt Carrolls of the league games like that. I also hope all the Lakers make better screen-and-roll defense one of their New Year’s Resolutions, since Santa obviously did not put it in their stockings this Christmas.

    One the offensive end, Kobe looked to be trying to make up for his poor shooting performances recently. Unfortunately, that took the other players out of the game, since it’s hard to develop any rhythm when you only put up a shot every few minutes. Also, this team has shown that its defense is keyed by its offense (when it should be the other way around), so offensive futility hurts on the other side of the court as well.

    Overall, a disappointing end to the road trip. We knew that the Bobcats would be geeked for the game (in front of their largest home crowd ever, as Joel Meyers reminded us time and time again), and our guys weren’t able to match their offensive intensity with solid defensive intensity.

    Hopefully there won’t be a hang-over from the 3OTs. Hopefully they won’t be tired after getting a good night’s rest back at home. Hopefully they can take care of business at home against Philly and keep it rolling through the first week of January to get 10+ games over .500.

  14. And yet at the same time it was one of their best….

    It’s just those last plays that made it look ugly. 133 points in 63 minutes actually sounds about average.

  15. Derek, prolly too late, but there’s blackouts. Pretty sure there is, at least for dishnetwork. F Dish Network.

    Anywho, our defense was horrible. I mean, honestly, does PJ do this on purpose? Does he want to collect video so he can show Smush/Sasha & co. how to handle the pick’n roll? I’m just baffled on why Phil doesn’t go over the pick n roll.

  16. “. . .worst defense the Lakers have played this season . .”

    Let me try to add some nuances, Kurt.

    In the first quarter, the Lakers started out crisp and tough. Kwame was a rock in the center with blocks and rebounds. Smush defended the perimetry and followed through. Though defense soon betrayed them, it didn’t show up on the scoreboard. They were bailed out almost single-handedly by Bobcat Adam Morrison. Adam went 1 for 12 before he was finally mercifully benched.

    Meanwhile Kobe was on his game and the baskets came regularly enough to have the Lakers well in the lead. Ominously, Kwame left at the end of the first quarter–not to return for some time.

    With Kwame gone, the Bobcats began penetrating and dishing–Stealing, rebounding, and/or running. The Lakers began fouling. The game degenerated into playground, and the Smusher went into seventh Heaven. He gambled at steals on defense, and occasionally did an imitation of Kobe on offense. Except for the fouls, the Lakers would have remained ahead, but with the fouls, it was a 60-60 tie.

    In the third quarter and most of the fourth quarter, the Lakers buckled down on defense. It was see/saw most of the time. With only a few minutes to play it was 94-90, Lakers–the second half 30/34 were only about half of what had been scored in the first half.

    Then, inexplicably, Phil substituted in the Smusher to close things out. In his first defensive stance, he fell down as Felton ran by. After a Laker miss, he was penetrated again, and the score was 94-94.

    Nevermind.

    With about 40 seconds to go, Smush drained a long shot that put the Lakers ahead. But the Lakers were back in playground mode and the Bobcats again became a scoring machine.

    With a few exceptions, from then on, Laker defense was an oxymoron for 3 overtimes. The Smusher, who seemed so brilliant early on, and almost a savior near the end of regulation, reverted to almost a cartoon of himself. The Smushaphobes were not amused.

  17. I typed that first comment about defense after watching a second quarter where the Bobcats shot 64%. The other three quarters they were at 41% or lower. For the game the Bobcats eFG% was just 45%, but they got to the line a lot so their true shooting percentage was a decent 52%. The fact they also got 20 offensive rebounds didn’t help.

    Smush is part of the problem on the pick and roll defense, notice how much better it got with Sasha in there, but part of it is Smush and Kwame don’t seem to communicate or play off each other well. By the end, the Lakers were intentionally putting a small guy, a mismatch, on Okafor just so Kwame didn’t have to defend the pick and roll.

    Then there is Matt Carroll, a 47% shooter on the year, 27.8% on threes. But not when he gets good looks, apparently.

  18. I’m imagining that Phil is ready to sub Smush out of the starting line up. We all know he plays the regular season (first half) to know what he has. Obviously he must be getting a picture.

  19. “Smush [Parker] is getting knocked off his man with screens and we wanted Kwame to come out hard, and Okafor was getting short one-dribble dunk situations,” Jackson said. “I know Kwame got perplexed out there with the screen-roll and how to play it. He got concerned about some of the things that were happening to him. We tried to help him through that situation.”

  20. Am I the only one who found Phil’s comments about the game strange? Laying primary responsibility for the high pick and rolls on Kwame in overtime is a dog that doesn’t hunt.

    The repeated dunks by Okafor on high pick and rolls were obviously going to be repeated over and over. Even I could call that one.

    Phil might want to look in the mirror and wonder why he didn’t immediately call time out and keep Kwame from getting “perplexed” by facilitating communication with Smush–or substituted high energy Ronny if he really believed that the rotation was too slow or nonexistent.

    Or. . .

    he could have asked himself why he even had the fatigued Smusher on the floor in obvious defensive stop situations to back up the heroic and truly amazing scoring of Kobe. It is no secret in this Forum that most of us rank Farmar #1, Sasha #2, and Smush last on perimeter defense. In the Times, and by his substitutions, Phil must be seeing Smusher perimeter defensive genius invisible to the rest of us.

    The facts on the ground were that Phil finally removed Smush and substituted Sasha (after too many consecutive points were scored). Surprize! The problem disappeared.

    Later, there were further adjustments–and the Bobcats went away frm the play.

    Now if Phil spent more introspective time looking in the mirror and less attribution time talking about Kwame . . .

  21. I watched the game this morning on TiVo. My wife even recorded the overtimes for me(smart woman)
    First off……Terrible defense overall. Kobe played bad defense pretty much all game. He had trouble handling Wallace down low. Smush was just awful. The team rebounding was awful in crunch time. And someone….please…. when a jump shooting whiteboy gets hot…..DONT LET THE WHITEBOY SHOOT….DENY HIM THE BALL!!! PLEASE!!! Tha’s all you have to do. And Smush is DOUBLING OFF HIM???? He did that at least 3-4 times and got burned. What is Phil doing??? I would have yanked ANY player that did that after the 2nd offence. And Farmar plays ONLY 6 MINUTES in a triple overtime game. Give me a break. I just don’t get it.

  22. I don’t think it’s ever easy to figure out what Phil is thinking.

    We know that he uses the media as a channel to communicate with his players and to tweak them and motivate them, so we can’t take all (or any?) of his comments at face value.

    We also know that he cares more about learning about his players and letting his players learn while on the floor than he does about winning each individual game (at least early on), so his substitution patterns and time-out calling are going to be perplexing at times.

    My wild guess is that he wanted the guys (e.g., Kwame) to get mad about the screen-and-roll defense. That way, they are more internally motivated to get it fixed. I could also be way oversimplifying it.

    Either way, if they had won this game, it would’ve just covered up their various defensive deficiencies for another game or two, but they really need to start dealing with them so that they can validate their place among the league’s best teams.

  23. All your criticism about the opposing team, and you still couldn’t win…