Archives For January 2007

Lace up the track shoes. Under Mike Fratello, the Grizzlies averaged 88.2 possessions per game, third slowest pace in the league. They also had the worst record in the NBA.

Under coach Tony Barone, things are different. I’ll let Kevin Pelton explain, in an article from Courtside Times:

In case you’re curious, the Grizzlies have averaged 97.2 possessions per 48 minutes in five games under Barone, up 10.2% from the 88.2 they averaged under Fratello. Their Offensive Rating (points per 100 possessions) has gone from 105.0 to 118.7, their Defensive Rating from 109.6 to 121.2. If maintained over a full season, the Barone Grizzlies would have far and away the league’s best offense and worst defense.

Whatever happened to… Dancing Barry. Ever wonder what happened to the guy in the white tux who danced his way through the Showtime era at the Forum. We’ll, he’s doing well, if a little bitter.

In case you missed it. After the Lakers beat the Nuggets Friday night, George Karl called the Lakers the best passing team in the NBA.

For what it’s worth. These two met way back in the eighth game of the Lakers season, the Lakers winning a grind-it-out game 91-81. Lamar Odom had 20 points on 57.7% (eFG%) shooting, pulled down 16 rebounds and had seven assists. Kobe added 21. Pau Gasol didn’t play.

Because of all the changes, I’m not sure that game means squat tonight.

What to expect tonight. Honestly, I don’t know. I haven’t seen the new-look Grizzlies. On paper, guys like Hakim Warrick and Stromile Swift and Rudy Gay should thrive in the more open, up-tempo system. The Griz have some athletes to start building around (the question is will they change team philosophies again next summer, or in two years).

Memphis is 2-3 since the coaching changeover, with wins over we’ll-run-with-you Toronto and Golden State. The Lakers did a good job slowing the Nuggets in transition (by making shots, pounding the offensive glass then getting back) and they need to do that again tonight.

Pau Gasol is back and in his lat 10 is shooting 60% and is pulling down 6.8 rebounds per game. This will be a good challenge for Bynum defensively, here is a guy who can hit the outside shot (shooting 50% on jumpers) or get some points inside (74.3% close to the basket).

Last meeting between these two Mike Miller led Memphis with 21 points, shooting 71% (eFG%). He’s been a thorn in the Lakers side for a while, so slowing him would be nice.

Luke Walton said it after the Dallas game — the Lakers can beat the Mavs, Suns and Jazz of the world, but to be considered elite they have to stop losing to the Charlottes of the world. This is one of those game, the Lakers can and should win this one.

Just Be A Fan

Kurt —  January 8, 2007

We’ll stay cautious and level-headed, right?

DrRayEye asked that after the Lakers best win of the season last night, and it’s a fair question.

On one hand, my head keeps reminding me that they don’t award any NBA hardware in January; that beating Dallas in one game and in a seven-game series are two very different things; and that the Lakers still have the 21st-ranked defense in the league (in terms of defensive efficiency) and that could well come back to bite them; that based on point differential the Lakers look more like a 48-49 win team.

But I’m a fan — I want my team to win and by extension am naturally optimistic about their chances. Rose-colored glasses look good on me. And it’s hard not to be excited about this Laker team today.

This is what being a fan is about, enjoying wins like the one over Dallas. It’s about seeing a team come together before your eyes. It’s about seeing guys you’ve watched struggle — like Sasha — blossom when you least expect it. It’s about guys with great stories — like Ronny Turaif — stepping up and making big plays when maybe they shouldn’t even be in the league. It’s about watching your biggest star grow and mature.

…This team has been a joy to watch this season. Seeing the ball work its way around on a set has been fun instead of excruciating (see 2004-2005).

Rob L. said that and he’s right. We can break down all the numbers and plays (and we will), but there are times to just sit back, watch it all unfold and be a happy fan. Today is one of those days.

I’ve been a Lakers fan since the ’60’s; Baylor was my one of my role models as a kid. But I haven’t liked them much in the post-Magic era, though I tried when Phil came to LA a year after I did. But early on this year, I saw a huge change in Kobe, and started tuning in. Even bought a Laker’s jersey last month. Loved what I saw Friday night; great camaraderie and everyone having a ball.

The comparisons to the first Bulls’ 3peat squad are obvious. Nobody’s getting in the way of the team so they can show up on ESPN. They’re playing the game, and I’m lovin it!
—Chicago Al

It was 35 years ago today. Dallas comes to town winners of 13 in a row, the most recent one an impressive win against San Antonio Friday. This would be an appropriate day for that streak to end — it is the 35th anniversary of the end of the Lakers record 33-game win streak. That team (led by Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain) started the season 6-3 then got hot and won every game from mid-November through their fourth game in January.

That Laker team went on to win the title, this Mavs team might yet.

I must have had too much single malt Friday night. I could have sworn I saw Shammond Williams and Aaron McKie on the floor at the same time.

Kobe does his best John Stockton impression. Kobe was dishing and every other Laker starter shot 70% (eFG%) and ended up with an offensive rating (points per 100 possessions used) of 136 or higher. That will win you a lot of games. Also in that game, as was mentioned the comments, it was good to see Bynum have two good games in a row – especially since he’ll have to have a third for the Lakers to have a chance tonight, he needs to ready to rotate and stop Terry, Harris and Howard from winning the game in the paint.

Last meeting.
When the Lakers and Mavs got together last month, Dallas won because their starters dramatically outplayed the Laker starters. There were a couple of mitigating factors – it was the second game of a back-to-back and the Lakers first without Lamar Odom.

The Lakers forwards that night – Walton and Radmanovic – had bad nights. Meanwhile, the Mavs got big nights out of Josh Howard (29 points, 60.5% shooting), Jason Terry (26 points on 60% shooting and a crazy offensive rating of 143), and of course Dirk Nowitzki (23 points on 57% shooting, 14 rebounds and 8 assists). Then off the bench there was speedy Devin Harris, with 14 points on 83.3% (eFG%) shooting,

The Mavs took the lead early and that game, but late in the third and into the start of the fourth – when the Lakers subs got minutes – they tied the game up. Then Dallas put its starters back in and, well, that was that.

About this game: I’m not worried about the Lakers scoring, they were the last team to break 100 on the Mavs and the Laker offense has not been the problem.

But this needs to be the team’s best defensive game of the year for them to have a chance. Cook and Radman have to play well on Dirk (this is a game we really miss Lamar), Bynum needs to intimidate Terry, Harris and Howard in the paint and still keep Dampier off the boards. Smush/Farmar/Sasha have to step up on the Dallas points. It will have to be a team effort.

About Last Night. Well, I really liked the first quarter. It helped that apparently the Kings’ defense strategy involved doubling Kobe and Bynum and ignoring Brian Cook. Kobe, when he started scoring on the night, got to the line a lot and was very efficient overall (70.5% true shooting percentage, which is like points per shot attempt, and he did it while using a healthy 28% of the Laker possessions). Good nights shooting for Cook, Walton (team high +18) and Bynum (although Sir Charles is right that he needs to be more aggressive in the post with a smaller guy on him).

As the game wore on the Lakers got away from what they did early and didn’t make adjustments – when the Kings started fronting Bynum in the post the Lakers didn’t burn it with lobs. Oh, and then the Kings broke out that fancy new offensive play — the pick and roll — which clearly Smush and Bynum had never seen before.

All that frustration aside, with Kwame and Odom out, playing a hot team on the road, gutting out a win like that is just fine by me. Every win right now is a thing of beauty,

Dealing with AI. Since Iverson was traded to Denver (lately known as the “coldest place on earth”) there have been a lot of scouting reports on the Web, from smart people such as David Thorpe at ESPN.com, and their notes gave me some stuff to look for when I watched them recently. So, with me cribbing them, here are some thoughts:

First, the Nuggets play at the fastest pace in the league (98.5 possessions per game, three more a game than Phoenix) and that is really best for Iverson, who is better suited to playing in the open court than the slow-it-down system coaches seemed to try to force on him. Honestly, there is no good way to defend him in space. Make your shots, try to get back and just limit the fast break opportunities as much as you can.

In the half court, AI will be running the pick-and-roll all night, and the book on Iverson is to go under those (that should make Smush happy). The goal is to make Iverson a jump shooter, he has shot just 38% [eFG%] on jumpers this season. (To be fair, he has been hot since coming West, shooting 73% on jumpers, but that won’t last.) The other thing is the Nuggets tend to do the pick-and-roll with Marcus Camby, which is good because your big can come out to slow AI — Camby won’t hurt you until he’s within two feet of the basket.

What about when Melo gets back? Great thoughts from ESPN’s Thorpe:

When Anthony returns, it is fair to assume that A.I.-Melo two-man games are going to be a common part of Denver’s half-court set. If Anthony’s man hedges hard to control Iverson’s drive, A.I. will simply pass to Melo in open space — a scary thought to any defense.

Paging DrRayEye. If want to see a playground starting lineup, how about this for the Nuggets next year: AI, Melo, K-Mart, Smith and Camby.

Things to look for:
Second game of a back-to-back, with the first game going into overtime, against a team that wants to run. That is a bad set up for the Lakers.

Bynum (and Turiaf and Cook) MUST come out and hedge or show on Iverson coming off the pick in the pick-and-roll. If they lay back, as has been the Laker tendency of late, it is going to be a long night.

Bottom line, Kobe and AI will be the leading scorers and grab the headlines tonight, but the team that has the other players step up will win the game.

Ask the Expert. You want to know about the Kings, you ask one of the very best team bloggers out there, Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty. So, I did that and he was kind enough to answer (or was so drunk he didn’t realize it was me).

Q: We read about the friction between Ron Artest and Mike Bibby, does that exist and if so how does it show on the court? A: I’m sure the tension exists, though it seems to be off the front burner for now. (Winning: the magical elixir.) It’s not a locker room control issue – Corliss Williamson is probably the locker room leader, Bibby has never been that, and Artest is far more take-charge on the court than off it. The bad blood here stems from some comments Artest made about the team’s defense, specifically saying it looked like he had to guard the opposing PG, too. Bibby didn’t like that, or the unconscionable play at the end of a game in Utah in early December (one minute left, Kings down by 1, Artest with the ball and about 15 secs on shot clock, Bibby calls for it near midcourt, Artest ignores him, drives left into traffic, kicks it to Shareef in the left corner at the last minute, Shareef hits it). Both want to have the ball in their hands in crunchtime, and sadly, there’s only one ball. But if the Kings are winning, this is a nonissue. If they aren’t, it looks like Geoff Petrie will try to move one of them. (See: Iverson, Allen, and Maggette, Corey.)

Q: How do Kings fans feel about Artest now? A: If you saw Artest’s game against the Knicks Tuesday, you’d understand this is a trick question. (He scored 39 on 22 shots, and added 5 steals. If you asked me before the game how many shots Artest would need to score 39 pts, I would’ve answered 52. I’m pretty serious.) A couple weeks ago, when the team was going under, I think about half of the fans wanted to see him jettisoned ASAP, to prevent further trade value degradation. At this point, he might be the only chance the Kings have at getting to the playoffs. Once there, it’s doubtful the Kings go do any damage against the Big Three, so a lot of fans would rather rebuild by getting something for Artest and Bibby, and maybe Miller. But again, he is the motor of this team and the only chance they’ve got in 2007.

Q: I was one of those guys who thought Eric Mussleman was going to be a star his second time around as an NBA coach. As is often the case, I appear to be wrong. What is he doing or not doing that is hurting the team, as best you can tell? A: Give him time. I don’t think he’s hurting the team – you think Rick Adelman would be five games over .500 with Bibby shooting 37 percent? Actually, all things considered (Miller missed a month, Bibby was horrible for 25 games, Artest has missed seven games, nothing but new and young players in the backcourt/wing positions besides Bibby and Martin), he’s done pretty well to be sitting one game under .500. People forget this team started off 8-5 against a rather tough schedule and no one realizes this team has reeled off four of five. The Kings have had the second toughest schedule in the league thus far. Musselman is doing fine, and this time next year, your prediction will look a lot better.

Q: Just what does Kevin Martin bring to the table? Can he walk on water yet? A: I haven’t seen him walk on water yet, but he did walk all over Channing Frye on a Kobe-esque reverse baseline dunk Tuesday night. Martin is, first and foremost, an incredible shooter from any spot on the floor. He’s averaging 20+ ppg while shooting 50% from the floor, 43% from three, and 91% from the line. The only player in the 20 on 50/40/90 club is Larry Bird (who did it twice). He draws fouls on a level below Dwyane Wade but at a pace better than any King in memory. He’s incredibly quick in the open court, especially when you consider his size, and he’s turning into a nice passer and ballhandler. John Salmons is the superior defender at that position, so Martin is losing some minutes there. But he has good instincts for the ball and will definitely improve his on-ball capabilities. So yeah, we’re pretty excited about him.

Injured All-Star team. An interesting thought from Marc Stein of ESPN.com the other day on the team you could put together in the Western Conference from the injured list: Chris Paul (ankle) and Peja Stojakovic (back) at guard, Lamar Odom (knee) and Rashard Lewis (hand) at forward and Yao Ming (knee) at center … with Kenyon Martin (knee), David West (elbow) and Darius Miles (knee) also in the mix

Life without Kwame, part deux. As part of the “Kurt’s not doing any work today” preview, there are some great comments from James yesterday that I thought deserved notice:

Looking through the stats, individually Bynum seems better than Brown in many ways. His PER is higher, Opponent PER lower (by a lot), field goal percentages better on both sides, blocks are better, rebounding is a better ratio. These are the individual stats, center v center, and by these measures, replacing Brown with Bynum would be an upgrade.

Team-wise, however, that’s less true. As you noted, the Lakers are significantly better on offense with Brown, despite the fact that he is a weaker offensive player than Bynum, because:

1) they get 6.1% more offensive rebounds with Brown out there;
2) all 4 regulars get fewer free throw attempts with Bynum out there, by a large margin with Kobe especially (11.0 to 5.3) and by a lot with Odom as well (6.6 to 4.2). Overall, the Lakers are +6 in net fouls with Brown out there, and dead even with Bynum out there.

I suspect those two facts are related, and that because Bynum has more offensive skills, the Lakers go to him more than Brown, which means the rest of the team is driving to the basket less, resulting both in fewer fouls as well as fewer people near the basket to get an offensive rebound…. One other huge factor is turnovers. When Bynum’s on the floor, the Lakers get four fewer turnovers than when Brown’s on the floor.

Adding to the fun tonight. Steve Kerr is on vacation (what the heck is the summer for, Mr. Working-One-Day-A-Week?) so the TNT announcing tandem is Marv and Sir Charles. Seriously.

Things to look for: The Lakers are going to need a team effort to slow Artest. In the past he would have been Odom’s responsibility, but Cook can’t handle him on the block. Radmanovic may get a shot. But what the Lakers are going to have to do is make smart doubles and rotations, and not let Artest take over.

Can Andrew Bynum stay out of foul trouble? I expect he’ll be motivated but the man averages 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes. He’s got to stay on the court (tonight and for the next could of weeks). Also, he’ll be on Miller, who is happy away from the basket, he’ll need to balance that with rotations inside.

Bibby may not be Bibby this season, but against Smush…. We need some good D from the Laker PG. Also, defense against points has been the Kings weakness, so Smush should have a good offensive game.

Look for Mo Evans to get some key time on Kevin Martin. Kobe has been a step slow on defense (blame the knee) so look for Kobe and Mo to get some Martin time.