Archives For February 2007

Eyeing May

Kurt —  February 28, 2007

Moves that a coach starts making after the All-Star break should have an eye toward his team in the playoffs — and Phil Jackson has long been a master of that. His teams always seem to peak at the right time.

That says a lot about the fact Shammond Williams and Aaron McKie are getting more minutes now while Farmar’s and Sahsa’s are dwindling. There was a great discussion of what the Lakers and the triangle offense needs and expects from its guards in the comments after the Jazz game, so I thought I’d throw some pertinent stats from the last three games played for key guys into that conversation.

Name MPG PPG PP40 Min eFG% 3pt% +/- per 48
Smush 26 13.7 21 69% 50% +13.5
Farmar 10.3 2.3 9.1 31.8% 16.7% -23.4
Sasha 10.4 3.7 14.2 75% 75% -18.5
Williams 17 4.3 10.2 65% 25% +24.5
McKie 8.5 2 9.5 100% NA +32.1
Evans 33.5 15.7 18.7 44.3% 42.9% +10.5

What I see here confirms what I saw in the Boston game — off the bench Shammond is not taking a lot of shots but he’s making those few shots count. He’s playing smart and within himself, and the same can be said of McKie. Sasha is trying to fit in that roll but the bottom line is he’s not doing it well — other teams are outscoring the Lakers when he is on the floor. Farmar is going to be a solid NBA point guard, but we knew coming in his shooting was inconsistent and was an area in need of focus (my guess is next year his shot will be better, in part because he’ll be in better physical condition for the grind of the NBA season, right now he looks leg-weary to me at times, just a bit slower than he did at the start of the season).

Smush is, well, Smush. His defense is at best suspect — and you know how much that troubles me — but his scoring at least somewhat offsets it. To me he remains the best option the Lakers have right now at the point for heavy minutes.

I threw Evans in here because he’s played so well of late. This is a small sample size but to me he is in the + not because he shoots well but because he brings defensive intensity. Right now, even when Walton returns, I think Evans starts because of his defense. Who finishes the game, well, depends on the matchup (if the other team doesn’t get much scoring from the three then Walton is the clear choice, but if we need more of a stopper than go with Evans, it’s win-win really).

The bottom line, with the vets the team is 3-0 and out of its slump. Let’s see what happens against the Kings and especially the Suns this weekend, but you go with what works late in the season and into the playoffs.

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• I really feel for Shaun Livingston, a kid with great talent that we’ve never seen than in more than flashes. I can do nothing but wish him the best and hope he fully recovers, I can’t imagine being 21 and having your carrer threatened in that way. There’s also a bigger picture for the Clipper franchise, which Kevin at Clipper blog put very well:

Shaun has been carrying around the hopes of the (Clipper) Naçion since he was drafted in 2004. On Saturday, he put together what might be the most professional game of his career — a 14 point, 14 assist effort against Golden State. Following the game, Mike Dunleavy said, “Until I tell him to pull back, I want him to push the ball every time and I want him to explore. I want him to use his abilities. That’s what could take us to another level.” And that’s exactly what Shaun is doing in the first quarter when he picks up a steal at the other end and initiates the break with Raymond Felton in pursuit. Four seconds later, Shaun is on the hardwood.

• Kevin also best echoed my sentiments (which I chose not to express directly for the umpteenth time because I feel like I’m preaching to the choir) on Sam Smith’s comments that the venerable columnist in Chicago doesn’t read blogs. Well worth the read. Although, for the record, I differ with Kevin in that I wear boxers.

Preview and Chat: The Utah Jazz

Kurt —  February 26, 2007

Please talk amongst yourselves on this one, due to a minor family emergency I haven’t gotten a post together. Sorry. I hope to have something up later on Tuesday.

And I take back all my Shammond jokes from earlier in the season.

What I’m rooting for today. Flags of Our Fathers to win the Oscar for best sound mixing (my brother-in-law is nominated).

The Tao of Shammond. There wasn’t just a Shammond sighting against the Celtics, he was the first guard off the bench. Followed by McKie. I see a couple of things here.

First is a message to the team — specifically to the other guards — that playing time is up for grabs and has to be earned. The defense has been bad, particularly on the perimeter, the offense has fallen off and it looks to me like Phil put everyone on notice he willing to look at just about anything to shake this team up right now (he said Saturday he would have done the same things with the bigs if he had the manpower). For one night at least, it worked.

Second, Shammond played pretty well, he certainly earned some more playing time. Unlike his stints early in the year, he looked far more comfortable in he point guard role, both running the offense and on defense. He was 3-3 inside the arc but 0-2 beyond it and finished the game +7. A few people on this site were all but ready to give him the starting job — relax folks. It was one game, against the worst team in the league. He earned minutes for another game or two, nothing more. Play like that consistently and against better competition and we’ll talk.

No Smush? Shammond may also get more time because Smush injured his ankle in practice yesterday. It was not supposed to be serious, then again I’m not sure how much I trust the Lakers’ staff’s ability to judge the severity of an ankle sprain of late (see: Walton, Kwame). Smush is supposed to be a game time decision.

Farmar theory. I went to the game Friday night with a friend who just moved back a few months ago from the Bay Area and has been an avid Laker fan for years. He had an interesting theory on Farmar’s development that I’m passing along for conversation.

At the start of the season Farmar was playing good defense and getting a few points but his shooting was streaky, while Smush continued to shoot well and score plenty but his defense was weak. Phil decided to go with Smush, essentially saying he was willing to go with the 10 more points a night that 3 or 4 more stops a night, Farmar took from this the message that scoring was more important and tried to change his game, but the result has been him being thrown out of synch at both ends. He just needs to get back to what he was doing at the start of the season, focusing on defense and letting the offense come to him, and he’ll start to look like the Farmar of old again.

Other things from the game. A couple things were probably pretty clear to you guys at home, too. First, Odom was more aggressive than he has been since he returned. The other thing, when Kobe wants to take over a game, man it is a thing of beauty to watch (Pierce was on him at first and he laid back because Kobe is to quick for him, the result was three threes in a row).

Phil has seen this before? Regarding “okay, I was snowboarding” Radmanovic: Remember that in the 96-97 game Luc Longly missed more than a month after separating his shoulder while body surfing. I expect Radman’s punishment by the team will be a slap on the wrist, but we’ll see.

About the Warriors.
Due to an Internet connection issue I haven’t been able to do any research. I suggest checking out the very good Golden State of Mind.

Also, Golden State will be wearing very cool “The City” throwback jerseys.

As for the Lakers, they need to play like they did against Boston. This is the perfect game, a step up but from the Celtics but not an elite team. Let’s see how the defense looks.

Preview and Chat: The Boston Celtics

Kurt —  February 23, 2007

I think I’m the only person in the world pumped for this game. The slumping Lakers and the season-long-slumping Celtics get together for a game so uninspiring Red Auerbach wouldn’t watch it.

But I will — from really amazing seats just a couple rows off the court. It’s a birthday gift from my thoughtful wife. I go to a handful of games a season, but always up in the 300s (up above the luxury boxes, where the real fans sit as we like to say). This should be an interesting treat. (As the face value of these tickets are at more than $200 a piece, and these seats are always in demand at Staples, I’m on a don’t ask/don’t tell policy with my wife on how she got a hold of them.)

Wearing a back armband.
The passing of former Celtic Dennis Johnson, who was coaching in the D-League, saddens me. For those that don’t know, he played his high school ball in Compton and went to college at Pepperdine. RIP, DJ.

Hip-Hop Kobe. Great read over at Straight Bangin’ regarding Kobe and his place in the hip-hop world (via True Hoop):

Kobe’s preeminent ability taken in concert with the success of the Lakers, the direction in which they appear to be headed, and the improvement of his teammates has begun to recast KB824 as something different, something better. No longer unapproachable and selfish, he’s become a gallant figure whose scoring is generally placed within the context of Bryant’s desire to win through any possible means. Particularly notable outbursts of scoring are testaments to his talent, not manifestations of his narcissism. And people are even writing about the improved rapport he’s fostered on a young team. His skills are no longer assailed as the traits of a stubborn individual, and his image has been slowly repaired, most symbolically by his placement adjacent to LeBron at the center of Nike’s basketball future.

But to truly understand the altered perception of Kobe, one must turn on the radio in order to receive ultimate judgment: He’s among the featured players promoted on Hot 97’s all-star weekend giveaway. That’s a credibility he was not supposed to enjoy.

All-Star note. Friend of the site Broken Cowboy has some ideas to save the All-Star game.

Last meeting. One of those games were I’m not sure a lot came be taken from the Last meeting into this one. First, that game had no Paul Piece, he’ll be ready to go tonight. Second, Kobe was ticked after being suspended for the Knicks game the night before and dropped 40 on the Celtics in a 111-98 win.

About PP. In his five games back he is averaging 24 a contest, shooting 55.2% (eFG%) overall and a crazy 54.2% from three. So, you better start covering him out by midcourt. What makes Pierce hard to defend is, like Kobe, he can shoot from anywhere, can drive or shoot the jumper.

He’s going to test the Laker D. (Gulp)

Other Celtics who hurt us. Ryan Gomes had 23 and shot the ball great from the outside, and Gerald Green had 22. Both looked pretty good, and we know Green can dunk if we give him the lane.

The good thing the Lakers did last game was hold Al Jefferson to 10 points on 3-11 from the floor. He still had 14 points but he didn’t kill the Lakers inside (meanwhile Bynum was 5-7 shooting).

Don’t forget to check out the Celtic Blogs. Jeff and Celtics Blog remains one of, if not the best, fan blog on the Web, with smart commenters and a passionate. Also worth noting are Celtics 17, Celtics Pride 24/7, Loy’s Place, I Heart Celtics, Can Danny,
Perk is a beast
and Red’s Army.

Dealing with our frustration. There are no things to look for tonight, because there is only one thing that matters — the Lakers playing some defense. Smush staying with DeLonte, Bynum making quicker recognition and better rotations down low, Kobe/Odom/whoever sticking with Pierce. Bottom line, just play some damn defense.

I don’t remember Laker fans being this frustrated with the team in a long time. The Rudy T. year was hard to watch, but there was a sense of futility about it. We Laker fans are frustrated now because you can see potential in this squad — they’ve showed it for stretches — so it’s hard to watch. Injuries can account for some of it, but not the drop-off in effort, particularly on the defensive end. That is unforgivable.

Tonight is the perfect chance to start turning things around.

(I’ll try to post some comments during the game from the Crackberry, if I see anything interesting.)

Notes On A Defensive Collapse

Kurt —  February 22, 2007

It doesn’t look like any trades are coming today (if that changes there will be updates), but when the Lakers sit down in the off-season too address changes, personnel moves need to be made with defense in mind. Last season perimeter defense was a problem so we brought in Radmanovic. It can’t be that way this summer.

I sloughed off the defensive problems a little bit last week, noting that the problem is the offense isn’t bailing the defense out any more. And that is true. But good teams — teams that can get past the first round of the playoffs or even challenge for a title — don’t need the offense to bail the defense out on a nightly basis. Usually it’s the other way around.

Last night’s Laker defensive effort really made me angry. And it starts with effort — in the NBA the guys have the athleticism to be decent defenders, but these Lakers couldn’t seem to care less about that end of the floor.

Smush equates steals with good defense. He had three last night, of course his guy went 9 of 12 from the floor, got into the lane at will and had 30. Rotations, what are rotations? And if the Laker bigs have to cover a guy who can step away from the basket and hit a jump shot, well, he’s going to get open looks because apparently the Laker front line is tethered to the basket support in some fashion and can’t step out to far.

It’s that last problem that was the catalyst for a Portland run last night. Let’s look at the Blazer possessions during a 2:09 stretch of the fourth quarter where Portland pulled away from the Lakers.

7:05, 90-89 Portland. Roy and Aldridge run a pick-and-pop from near the top of the key. Roy goes to his right but Sasha does a pretty good job sticking with him. However, Bynum lays back on Aldridge. Roy makes a jump pass back to Aldridge, who is setting up 20 feet out and has plenty of time to set and shoot, draining it.

6:39, 92-89 Portland. This time it’s Dickau and Randolph running the pick and pop, but the results are the same. This time it is Odom staying well off Randolph, who sets and scores from the top of the key. (I should note that Randoph is not a great jump shooter, but as he clearly was hot last night the Lakers should have adjusted the game plan.)

5:57, 94-89 Portland. Odom is forced to take a desperation three as the clock runs out, which leads to a fast break for the Blazers. Roy has the ball and nobody picks him up out high so he gets into the middle of the lane before two LAker defenders go to him. Roy passes to a cutting Udoka who makes a nice touch pass to Aldridge, who lays it in.

5:34, 96-89 Portland. Dickau misses an open three, but Aldridge outworks the Lakers and tips the rebound out to Randolph, who gets it at 17 feet with nobody around him. This time he drives into the lane and hits a 5-foot left handed running hook shot.

4:54 98-89 Portland. Back to the pick and pop with Roy and Aldridge, although this time Kobe is on Roy. He gets held up on the Aldridge pick, but Bynum still is hanging back so Roy drives to his left and hits a 15-foot jumper before Bynum can close out.

100-89, and while the Lakers make it closer the game is never really in doubt.