Archives For December 2006

Third quarter D steps up

Gatinho —  December 11, 2006

Getting statted up: Ginobili had 4 third quarter turnovers, Parker 2 as the Lakers for the first time this season showed signs that they can play lockdown defense against a contender in a crucial part of the game. It is a Phil jackson signature to finish quarters strong, especially third quarters, and the Lakers did that. The run was initiated with 5 consecutive offensive possessions going to the cup, 3 by Kobe, one by Smush, one by Kwame.

Odom and Walton were both +9 to lead the team.

The Lakers out-rebounded the Spurs 9-4 in the third quarter, and 41-33 for the game, 13-5 on the offensive boards.

Robert Horry was -22 and Tony Parker a -14.

The Spurs were in the penalty with 6:46 left in the 3rd quarter.

So much for that sprained ankle: What can I say? I guess he’s healthy. His frequent forays to the basket set the tone for the rest of the offense. Smush followed suit. The ball went frequently into the post and the bail out threes were dropping. And even Pop was impressed:

“The Lakers’ pressure was great in the second half and I thought we folded under that pressure,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Absolutely folded. End of story.”

A SA writer sees the light:

“But when the Lakers pulled away with a 22-3 third-quarter run, he wasn’t carrying them. He was enabling them. Bryant’s energy was infectious, and seemingly everyone in a Lakers uniform benefited from it. Lamar Odom found his shooting stroke. Luke Walton forced turnovers and ran the floor. Kwame Brown crashed the boards. And when it was over, you could tell why people in Los Angeles are saying this is a different Bryant and a different Lakers team than the one that flamed out in the second round of the playoffs last season against Phoenix.”

Random observations: NBA’s Greatest Moments was a 1984 Finals recap and then David Robinson was interviewed? Yuck PTFSW… Cracked fingers and lotto bounces? “How many leather balls does your team have in storage?” asked Mr. Stern… Kwame, one alligator, two alligator, three alligator, and get out of the paint!


Spurs Point differential: +9.2

The Lakers are going to have to keep these guys under 100 points if they are going to give themselves a chance.

The Spurs and the Lakers have almost identical offensive ratings, so this one comes down to the Lakers playing above board defense and the Bynum/Brown duo showing up enough to slow Duncan and more importantly making the Spurs bigs play defense and possibly get into some foul trouble. The Spurs are +11.9 with Duncan on the floor and -6.5 with him off.

Lamar Odom will be an integral factor in this game and must be an aggressor on the offensive end whether Kobe is in the line up or not.

The penetration of Ginobli and Parker will need to be limited, as that is the modus operandi of this offense. If those guys can’t get into the paint then you have a shot. Unfortunately when Thetis dipped the Lakers in the river Styx, she was holding them by the perimeter defense.

This is a test:

“We’re not in competition with San Antonio yet,” Jackson said. “This team isn’t at that level. We haven’t shown that we can play at that level in a game. So those games, we just have to play above our experience and our precision that we normally do.”

Pounding the Rock to perfection: Hop over to this FB and G counterpart for some more insight into this match up. Needless to say, they are feeling pretty good about their team, especially after exacting revenge on their two previous tough losses to the Warriors and Bobcats. Here’s a taste:

“It is not the rampant winning or remarkable feats of athleticism (traits common to all successful sport franchises). It is the unshakeable notion that the Spurs are not truly playing a game. The Spurs goal is perfection; 48 minutes of flawless execution, seamless integration, unbreakable cohesion. The evolution of Five into One.”

Roll over Shakespeare: “Kobe, or not Kobe” is one of the most awful Bard inspired headlines and sadly I’ve seen it more than once. My guess is that he won’t play in an effort to get himself healthy for the upcoming turn through Texas. In today’s Times Kobe seems to have “gotten it” as to whether or not he should play,

“If it gets progressively worse as the game goes on where I start limping and stuff, then that’s no good,” Bryant said. “That will set us back.”

It seems he will again be a game time decision. Updates as information is available.

Finally: DrRayEye asks, “Smushaphobe or Smushaholic?


Entry Pass

Gatinho —  December 9, 2006

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”


The uneven play of a young but talented team is a frustration that can sometimes be hard to bear. You see the potential and the flashes of continuity. Sometimes, as happened last Wednesday, you see that potential manifest itself throughout the course of a ball game. But losses to teams like the Bucks and Hornets are gut punches that can be tough to recover from.

The sign of maturity that can be a help in that recovery is the Lakers 5-1 record after losses. The next step would be to avoid losses to lower echelon teams altogether, but even the Spurs have losses to Golden State and Charlotte. More on that tomorrow.

Zoned out: When the Hawks finally went zone in the third quarter, someone forgot to tell Lorenzen Wright, who followed Kwame through the paint leaving Mo Evans to run to the open spot, and causing Josh Smith to have to run over and commit a foul. Camera close ups and courtside microphones caught Smith saying to Wright what we all already knew, “It’s a zone. It’s a zone.”

Ewing effect in effect: Don’t tell me that career highs for Mo Evans, Luke Walton, and Jordan Farmar would have happened if Kobe had dragged his leg out onto the court last night. More distressing was hearing from Jack Haley, who usually causes me to dive for the mute button, that Kobe said he “wished he hadn’t played” against NO/OKC because it “did more damage” to his ankle. A Kobe-less win, and there have been three of them now, does more for the development of this team then what happened against the Hornets.

Westphal said it best when he commented that it doesn’t do the team any good “if Kobe drags his leg out there just to show how tough he is.” Maybe that wasn’t his sole motivation, but there was definitely some machismo involved in his decision to play.

Smush v. Farmar debate: …can end when Phil explains in the postgame news conference that he has:

“…had a number of teams in which guards have split minutes, and I’ve been very happy with it. It gives us an opportunity to play with more momentum and energy out there, particularly in that position, which has to be real active, and we like to get up and put some pressure on the ball.”

Trust the LA media?: Last week Roland Lazenby was kind enough to respond to a comment I made concerning his coverage of the Lakers being an alternate and more insightful source than the LA media. He responded by defending the competence of the LA media, which you can imagine sparked some lively comments. The ensuing discussion is worth a read


Preview and Chat: The Atlanta Hawks

Kurt —  December 8, 2006

The Reverse Ewing. Most of you are probably familiar with’s Bill “The Sports Guy” Simmons, who coined the phrase “the Ewing theory” for when a team overachieves without its star. He based it on those Riley-coached Knicks of the 90s, who had some good games sans Ewing. And while the evidence is anecdotal, I think we’ve all seen teams for a short while rise up and play well with their star out, the Lakers did it the first few games of this season.

Others have suggested it but I agree, part what I think happened to the Lakers against the Hornets was the “reverse Ewing” — Kobe wasn’t expected to play but then decided to, and the team saw him on the court and the Hornets without three starters and just relaxed.

We’ll see if they can bounce back tonight.

Kobe is expected to play. However, his ankle was more swollen on Thursday than before the last game.

Suggested reading. Got a couple of links sent to me you may want to check out. Over at 3-man lift they have listed the top shooting guards in the NBA right now (shockingly, a Laker made that list). Then there is the new blog Bandwagon LA which is higher on this year’s Lakers than I, but he makes a great point about why this is a fun team to root for:

And it’s because these are OUR guys. Not a bunch of hired guns and accomplished transplants. The core of this team are known as Lakers or not at all. Think about it. We have four draft picks making solid contributions in Luke, Bynum, Farmar, and Turiaf and two more getting decent minutes in Sasha and Cook (when he’s not battling vertigo… man, 6’9″ with vertigo…). Also, we have two starters who were essentially NBA castoffs before they arrived in L.A. in Smush and Kwame; for Smush, I’d go so far as to say he was in the NBA dog pound waiting to be put down before we adopted him and gave him a home.

That would be your sixth-seed Atlanta Hawks. Sure they are 8-9 and in the East that’s still 1.5 games ahead of the 9 seed, but did you really think the Hawks would be this good?

Leading the way is a guy I thought was overpaid but is proving to be a good pick up: Joe Johnson. He’s shooting 56.7% (eFG%) and 39% from beyond the arc. Normally I’d say put Kobe on him, but with the bum ankle that will not work, so it will be interesting to see what Phil chooses to do (Odom? Extra minutes for Mo Evans? Smush?).

Curse of the underachieving former Laker point guards.
Last game it was Pargo having us all saying, “wait, he’s not that good” and with the Hawks that role falls to Tyronn Lue. Lue has a PER of 18.14, and is averaging 19.8 points and 5.2 assists per 40 minutes. He’s the Hawks second scoring option right now. If he can keep that up he’ll be proving me wrong, too.

Lue, however, is not a great defender (Laker fans often remember that wrong because he had the one good series against Iverson in the NBA Finals), opponents are averaging a PER of 19.8 against him. So, this is a night Smush should step up.

Vegas, baby. I am out of town for the next few days, in Vegas visiting the in-laws (trust me, not that much fun, having in-laws in Vegas turns the town into Fresno because you don’t get to go near the casinos). The good news is I’ll be watching the San Antonio game Sunday on their new 60-inch high-def plasma television, although I’m not sure I want to see what Smush looks like up close on that thing.

While I’m away the site will be in the more than capable hands of Gatinho.

Things to look for:
The Hawks mirror the Hornets in that they are not a very good offensive team (24th in the league in offensive efficiency) but they play decent defense. The Lakers need to play better defense to keep the Hawks down and not let them up.

The good news, the two positions the Hawks have struggled to defend the most this year are shooting guard and power forward. So, the Laker big guns should be able to have a big game.

Josh Smith is having an off year, shooting just 25.2% (eFG%) on jump shots and 41.9% overall and is turning the ball over on 15.7% of his possessions, He is, however, athletic and if you let him lose inside can be a force. So, it’s pretty simple, make sure he is shooting jumpers and pressure him defensively.

Josh Childress has been out with a hairline fracture in his foot and Speedy Claxton’s knee has forced him to sit, but Marvin Williams has been cleared to play his first game of the season against the Lakers.

He comes off the bench, but Salim Stoudamire appears to be a spark plug for this team and plays a lot of minutes. The good news is he is turning the ball over on 8.8% of his possessions, so the Lakers should try to pressure him defensively.

The Hawks are coming off a thrilling come-from-behind win against the Nuggets and are feeling pretty good about themselves. The Lakers, if they play like they did against the Hornets, will lose this one too. Hopefully Phil lit a fire under the team – or better yet they did it themselves – and will come out and secure the win.

The Switch

Kurt —  December 7, 2006

At one point during last night’s Laker loss, color commentator Stu Lantz said he didn’t want to see the Lakers playing zone for too long because it sends a message to the team you don’t trust their man-to-man defense. I thought that sounded like a pretty good message to send, especially watching how the Lakers defend the pick-and-roll.

For the last couple Laker games, I have been watching and tracking how the Lakers are dealing with the screen and roll this season — and last night the Hornets won in part by exploiting how the Lakers defend it (or in this case didn’t).

First, the ever so brief refresher: There are really four ways a team can defend a pick-and-roll, and I’ll just steal the descriptions from an amazing article Kevin Pelton did last year for

Switch it – The players defending the ball handler and the picker switch, usually creating a mismatch.

Trap – Both defenders go towards the ball handler and aggressively trap him while the other three defenders zone against the four remaining offensive players.

“Show” or “Hedge” – The player defending the picker briefly steps out into the ball handler’s path, slowing him up enough that the player defending the ball handler has time to recover. Then the player defending the picker recovers to his original man. It’s worth noting that this is how the Spurs usually defend the pick-and-roll.

Go under the pick – Done only against weak shooters, the player defending the picker steps back to allow the player defending the ball handler to go between him and the screen and get to his man. This leaves an open jumpshot for the ball handler.

Occasionally a player can fight through the top of a pick, however if the offensive pair sets a good pick and runs off it well, that doesn’t work.

Last season the Lakers were all about the “show,” it’s what they did 46% of the time and it was quite successful, also last season the Lakers varied how they approached the pick-and-roll more than this season.

Right now the Lakers switch, and do it 65% of the time. My guess is that the Laker coaching staff sees its long and versatile lineup and thinks the team should be able to switch and still be effective much of the time. My observation from the last few games is that how successful teams are in exploiting the resulting mismatch fron the switch goes a long way to how effective their offense is against the Lakers. As I noted the other day, the Pacers at one point in the third quarter ran a pick and ended up with Jordan Farmar covering Jermaine O’Neal in the post, and the Pacers never got the ball inside, instead settling for a jumper.

The Hornets, on the other hand, made great use of the pick to free up the insanely quick Chris Paul. In the first half they put the “high” in “high pick-and-roll,” often running Paul off a pick just a few steps inside the half court line (as opposed to near the three point line, where most teams run it).

Now, Kwame Brown, seeing his man 35 feet from the basket, sagged way off, so Paul would run around the pick and then just take off toward the basket. The defender often tried to go under the pick but it was fairly useless, Paul was too quick and at best the defender was running along side Paul into the lane. Kwame then had to try to pick up the speeding Paul, other Laker “help the helper” rotations were slow and the shorthanded Hornets were living in the paint. (To be fair, the Lakers tried other things as well on Paul and all were unsuccessful.)

One thing the Lakers are doing some this year that they didn’t much before is try to trap the ball handler, taking advantage of the Lakers’ length. They don’t do it much, just a handful of times a game trying to catch a guard unaware. The results have been spotty — it led to some turnovers and easy buckets, but also a couple times (including once against the Hornets) the point guard made the correct pass and it was an easy basket.

Another thing of note, Jordan Farmar tries harder and has more success fighting over the top of the pick than any other Laker, something he does 16% of the time I tracked it. When he does it’s very effective, often leading to a reset (and usually another pick).

The Laker coaching staff is varying how the team defends the screen and roll depending upon the team and situation to a degree, but I think they like the Lakers versatility and think they should be able to switch and still have a reasonable matchup. My sample size for this post is very small (from the last several games), but it is something that needs to be watched as the season goes on, and maybe the strategy adjusted if it isn’t working.

Man, Byron Scott had a sweet stroke. I was inclined not to like Byron Scott when he came to the Lakers because he was traded for personal favorite Norm Nixon (the guy I wanted to model my game after, as much as a fifth grader could in the YMCA league). But Scott could shoot, providing the perfect three-point counterbalance to Kareem, Worthy and Magic getting into the paint. I loved that he played his high school ball a couple blocks from the Forum at Inglewood High. I loved that quick catch-and-shoot jumper (but he could still create his own shot). Man, he was just fun to watch.

Not that I can root for his team to win tonight.

Let’s talk about Bynum. His removal from the Laker starting lineup and Phil Jackson’s comments to the media about his work ethic led to a lot of ink and talk show air time along the lines of “Phil rarely publicly criticizes his players, he must be really frustrated” articles. I’m sure he was a little frustrated; Bynum had a few down games in a row and made some poor offensive and defensive decisions.

But Phil is the master motivator, he goes to the media for the effect. It was a calculated public slap on the wrist because Phil thought that would work better than a private conversation. Nothing more, nothing less. Let’s not read too much into it.

Finally. So you said to yourself, “Kurt, those new NBA stats you use are nice, but why can’t we apply these concepts and equations to things that really matter?” Well, someone finally has: Babemetrics.

Congratulations to Jon from Dodger Thoughts being named to Los Angeles magazine’s list of the most influential people in the city. He’s not sure he deserves it, but I am. For my money, the best blogger in Los Angeles can’t get enough credit.

Whither Kobe? He will be a game-time decision (I’ll update this as soon as I see any word). My personal thought: it’s a long season, don’t rush back for one game and have the problem linger. If Kobe does play, look for a lot of both Rasual Butler and Desmond Mason to cover him (often at the same time). If Kobe sits, Mo Evans will get more minutes.

It’s not just Kobe. The Hornets are banged up too, with three/fifths of their starting lineup out tonight. Try not to be shocked by this: Peja Stojakovic is injured (back spasms). Also out are Bobby Jackson (cracked rib) and forward David West (strained right forearm).

And the injuries don’t help this:
The Hornets are the worst shooting team in the NBA right now, shooting just 45.9% (eFG%) as a team. Chris Paul is the go-to offensive guy but he is shooting just 47.1% on the season.

Then there is the fact Desmond Mason (he of the 39.5% shooting percentage and 7.9 PER) is starting. And guys like Marc Jackson and Rasual Butler (both with PERs under 10) are playing 19 minutes or more a game.

The bright spots. Chris Paul is the focal point and he is good, he’s averaging 19.9 points and 10 assists per 40 minutes (he uses about 25% of the Hornet possessions, and a third of those are assists).

And Tyson Chandler is a beast on the boards — so far this season he is the second best rebounder in the NBA, pulling down 21.3% of the available rebounds (only Dwight Howard is better). He’s not a scoring threat (7.1 points per 40 minutes) but the Lakers need to keep him off the board.

Old School blogging. If you’ve been at this a couple years you’re considered old school, but Hornets 24/7 is still doing well because it’s such a good and smart read.

Things to look for. The Hornets have actually been a good defensive team this season (eighth best defensive rating in the league) but where they have struggled is to stop good power forwards. This is a game Odom can do a lot of damage.

When the Hornets have the ball it’s pretty simple: The Lakers must not let Chris Paul control the game. Defending the point has been a big Laker weakness, and while some of that falls to Smush (and Farmar) we can’t expect anyone to stay in front of the speedy Paul. Rotations inside will be key. Also, make Paul work on the defensive end a little.

Day to Day

Kurt —  December 5, 2006

Kobe’s “moderate” ankle sprain from last night’s solid win over Indiana has him listed as day-to-day — but, then again, aren’t we all? The Lakers should be fine for a game or two without Kobe, and I’m not going to worry unless he misses the game against San Antonio Sunday.

Kwame Brown had his best offensive game of the season, scoring 17 on 8 of 12 shooting, but he grabbed only four boards. Odom was the force on the boards, doing his Magic impersonation by grabbing 13 boards and often taking the ball up the court himself to lead the break.

The Laker defense was solid, holding Indiana to 47% (eFG%) shooting as a team. I loved Phil’s moving of putting Odom on Harrington and letting Walton have the larger but less dangerous Foster. I’d like to see more of that, hiding Walton on D if possible. Also, part of the good Laker defense was Indiana doing a poor job of exploiting their advantages. Case in point, with about six minutes left in the first half the Laker defenders switched on a high pick and roll, leaving Jordan Farmar on Jermaine O’Neal. So what did the Pacers do? They swung the ball around the perimeter for a long jumper they missed.

One other note from the game — this was all about the Laker starters outplaying their counterparts. All the Laker starters were at leat +16, while everyone off the bench was in the negative.


I think my favorite thing I’ve read in the last few days is from Jones on the NBA — a list of the best international players ever in the NBA. Of course, that list includes Vlade Divac.

Vlade Divac is another one of the O.G. European players to make it big in the NBA. He first made his mark with the Los Angeles Lakers back in the 1989-90 season, replacing Kareem as the teams starting center. During his stint with the Lakers he slowly evolved into one of the top centers in the game and was one of the young Lakers that helped turn around the franchise during the 1994-95 season. Vlade would eventually move on to the Charlotte, after being dealt to the Hornets by the Lakers in exchange for Kobe Bryant

Side Note: How great of a trade was that for the Lakers? Seriously it’s up there with Red Auerbach’s draft day two for one deal that brought him Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.

What Laker has the best +/- number this season? When you ask what player is most often on the court when the Lakers are doing well, the standard answer is Kobe. But so far the guy leading the way this season is Kwame Brown — the Lakers are +11.7 (per 48 minutes) when he is on the court (Kobe is +0.2 per 48). Kwame’s impact is largely on the defensive end – the Lakers give up 100.9 points per 100 opponent possessions when he is on the floor, which jumps to 108.3 when he is sitting.

Or, look at tit this way, the regular starting four with Bynum at center have outscored their opposing five 53.8% of the time they have been on the floor. Sub Kwame in for Bynum, and that jumps to 71.4%.

In case you wondered why Kwame is in the starting lineup.

Not to sound like Bill Simmons….
The Pacers come in to LA with a 9-9 record, which is the fourth best in the East. Out West, nine teams have above .500 records.

And they come in tired. Check out what the Pacer beat writer for the Indianapolis Star, Mark Montieth, said on his blog about the Pacers for tonight’s game:

They’re playing the sixth and final game of a nine-day trip, so they’re tired. The Lakers, meanwhile, haven’t had to leave town for more than a week. The Lakers (11-5) also happen to be good.

In other words, the Pacers have about as much chance of winning this game as Evan Bayh has of becoming the next president.

Thanks to Henry from True Hoop for finding that.

Good glove, no bat. The Pacers have been playing pretty good defense this season, holding opponents to a defensive rating of 105.7 (points per 100 possessions) and allowing them to shoot just 48.3% (eFG%).

However, their offense is the weak point. They have an offensive rating of 103.2 (points per 100 possessions), 26th in the league. For some comparison, the Lakers are 7th in the league with a rating of 110.2. What is holding the Pacers back? Well, they shoot just 47.6% (eFG%) as a team, but to make up for that they turn the ball over on 18.8% of their possessions (28th in the league, tied with the Lakers, but at least the Lakers shoot 52.1%). As we well know, turnovers on offense can also lead to easy baskets for the other team and a tough night defensively.

Jermaine O’Neal is good. So far this season he has been by far the best thing on the Pacers, with a PER of 20.52. But his shooting has not been special (just 51.6% true shooting percentage), what he is doing well is passing out of the double teams he gets (13% of his possessions end in an assist, third best percentage on the team) and he is rebounding well, grabbing 15.5% of the available boards (or 11.1 per 40 minutes).

But maybe the biggest sign of his impact is +/-, the Pacers are +14.0 per 48 minutes when he is on the court. However, two other starters, point Jamaal Tinsley and forward Al Harrington (both who have above average PERs of higher than 16) have some of the worst +/- numbers among starters in the league at -9.2 (Tinsley) and -8.3 (Harrington). Think about that for a second, they get to play a fair amount of their minutes with the strong +/- of O’Neal, so all that drop off has to come in the limited time he sits and they play.

Stephen Jackson can’t shoot. He’s hitting just 40.4% (eFG%) of his attempts, but is still taking 19.2% of his teams shot attempts when on the floor (almost one in five shots). That will slow a team’s offense. That said, this stat is just here so I could write that kicker.

Things to look for. Two teams that are near the top of the league in turnovers, so if one of them could curb that habit for a night they’d have a big advantage.

If you just look at the numbers, you’ll see the Pacers playing at the fourth fastest tempo in the league right now. But that is a little misleading: The three fastest teams (Denver, Phoenix and Golden State) are way out in front of everyone else, then from the Pacers at four to the Wizards at 12th fastest, every team is within one possession a game of each other. The Lakers are in that group.

I haven’t seen the Pacers play yet this season, but just looking at the numbers you would think if the Lakers can come out and play good defense (like against the Clippers the other night, although the Clips helped us there) they should get the win. The Lakers other strength, the deep bench, also could be an advantage as the Pacers lack depth.

The Pacers have won just one game against the Lakers in LA since 1992. They are tired and at the end of a long road trip. It’s a game the Lakers SHOULD win, which has me worried because the last one of these games was against Milwaukee and we all remember that disaster.

Updated note: great thought from Kwame a. in the comments, so I moved it up:

I will be looking at our perimeter defense, especially Walton on Harrington and Kobe on Jackson. Teams with two wings who can attack have hurt us (Seattle w/Allen and Lewis, Det w/Rip and Prince). This is good preparation for teams like S.A. and Dallas, who have multiple perimeter options. Hopefully we can rotate and recover, limit the number of open looks and keep our bigs out of foul trouble