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.

NameMPGPPGPP40 MineFG%3pt%+/- per 48

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.


• 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.

Ah, a game to watch while you think about ways to make Rod Thorn think Kwame Brown is really Andrew Bynum….

Radmanovic pretends to be a Dodger. Pitchers and catchers are reporting, aren’t they the ones supposed to be screwing up their shoulders right now?

Radman’s injury sucks for him, but is it really a bad thing for a Laker team trying to break out of a slump? When Radman is on the floor this season, Laker opponents have outscored LA by 10.3 points per 48 minutes (put more simply, Radman is -10.3 per 48). Cook is +5.4. The Lakers offense is 8.7 points per 100 possessions better when Radman sits. The Laker defense is also 2.3 points better per 100 possessions when he sits. Phil had been giving Radman a lot of time lately, and he had played better, but not nearly as well as we all hoped. That said, the Lakers are now even thinner along the front line.

Bottom line is the injury means more Brian Cook time. Which means Cook needs to snap out of his current slump — he’s shooting 38% (eFG%) in his last 10 games, 27% from beyond three point range. With the “quality” defense Cook plays, he can’t be a weak link on the offensive end of the floor, too.

Other guys who will likely see more floor time are Mo Evans (+2.5 per 48) and Sasha Vujacic (dead even in +/-).

Pippen? Roland Lazenby yesterday got into Pippen’s motivations for a comeback, which are interesting. There are a couple big questions here.

First: Do the Lakers want Pippen? Yes, he knows the offense, but remember he’s 41 and the last season he played he shot just 42.5% (eFG%) from the field and 27% from three. That’s not good. I wonder how much is left in the tank.

Second: Does Pippen want the Lakers? If he wants only to go to a contender this year, well, you’ve just got a couple of options and the Lakers are not at the top of that list right now.

Still, if I were the Lakers I’d try to bring him in for a workout. He can’t be less of a help than McKie.

Von Wafer is back. But not with the Lakers, the Clippers gave him a 10-day contract. Good luck to the kid, but they can have him.

Let’s not forget Portland. When you’ve lost five in a row you can’t look past anyone, let alone a young and improving team. A team that already beat the Lakers once this year.

Portland dominated the Lakers inside in that game, starting with 36 points by Zach Randolph, who had a true shooting percentage of 63.7% on the night, plus pulled down 10 boards. Jamaal Magloire added 11 boards and 8 points and was +12, and Jarrett Jack added 12 points.

ROY for ROY. And the Blazers were without soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy in that first meeting. Last night against Utah he had 27 points while shooting 80% (eFG) and threw in seven dimes.

Things to look for:
The Lakers need to have a big night from their bigs on defense. Zach Randolph is a beast inside but if you can get him away from the basket and into the midrange his shooting percentage drops fast (although he is pretty good along the baseline). Odom, Cook, Bynum, Turiaf (who might be the only Laker long and strong enough to give him any trouble) need to keep him away from the basket.

And those bigs need to stay out of foul trouble. What would help that is Smush staying in Jack and Juan Dixon. A guy can dream, can’t he?

This is the second game of a back-to-back for Portland, so it’s a chance to push the pace and wear them down.

The Lakers got 32 points from Kobe last time against the Trailblazers on 65.8% (eFG%) shooting. The weakest spot defensively for the Blazers is the two, so this could be another big night for Kobe. Although, he’ll probably see better defense against him than he did Sunday.

No Luke Walton tonight, which is too bad because he had 22 last meeting.

That means somebody else needs to step on offense. I don’t care if it’s Odom, Cook, Smush, Denzel Washington out of the first row, somebody besides Kobe needs to be an offensive force.

Today, Tomorrow and Jason Kidd

Kurt —  February 21, 2007

After a week of Jason Kidd to the Lakers rumors that refuse to die (and we’ve had a good discussion about the rumors and options in the comments, you’re missing a lot of this site if you don’t read them), the latest details seem to have circled back to we said weeks ago, before any specific trades were hot national topics:

Every GM that called the Lakers was going to ask for Bynum. And there was no way the Lakers were going to give him up.

The latest rumors (from multiple sources now) are that the Lakers are offering some version of Kwame, Mihm, Farmar, McKie and late first round draft picks for Kidd. Nets GM Rod Thorn says the Lakers can keep Kwame, he wants Bynum or no deal. Frankly, if I were Thorn I’d ask for the same thing. As skigi said in the comments yesterday, Laker fans were unhappy when they traded Caron Butler for Kwame, can you imagine trading Kidd for him?

But the debate about this trade with Bynum as the sticking point says a lot about the crossroads the Lakers are at — and about Laker fans.

Fueled in part by three weeks of lackluster play, and the belief that the Lakers have a three- or four-year window with Kobe at his peak, there is a feeling among many that the Lakers need to build for right now. The future be damned, put Bynum in the deal because by the time he’s reaching his potential Kobe will be past his and the Lakers’ window will close without a title. We must win NOW! And Kidd is the means to that end.

I get the frustration, but I don’t see it that way. For a few reasons.

First, while Kobe’s skills may start to fade some, the maturity of his game will allow him to be a very effective player for more than just a few years. Already, since the knee surgery, you see him taking more jumpers this season when last year he would have gone to the hole and tried to draw the foul. He’s passing more when the defenses collapse. He knows the offense inside-out. While he may lose half a step in the next five years, he will still be a great player whose savvy will make him a leader.

More importantly, Bynum is growing up faster than anyone expected. Part of that is that this season he has been forced to play a lot of minutes due to the injuries to Mihm and Kwame, gaining experience he otherwise never would have. But I saw him two summers ago, in his first games at the Summer Pro League when he was taking hook shots off the wrong foot and was so weak he was pushed around by 6-5 guys in the paint. By last summer he looked like a different player, flawed and in need of conditioning but much improved. Then this season, tested on the big stage, his game has improved by light years. I’ve seen how much his body has matured, a sign of a lot time in the weight room. Phil pokes a little at Bynum’s work ethic, and at times he seems a little lackluster and uninspired, but you don’t make the dramatic improvements he has just sitting around playing video games. He and Kobe’s peak may very well overlap, and whatever Bynum’s peak, it will be higher than Kwame’s.

And here’s the thing, in five or seven years, when Kobe does hang up the sneakers, the Lakers will have a huge step towards rebuilding already in place. Seven footers with 7-6 wingspans, soft hands and a knack for blocking shots don’t grow on trees.

Kidd, on the other hand, is 34 and with a trick back. He’s played great this year, but to be honest he’s got two, three years tops. And you can expect his game to deteriorate in that time.

How has San Antonio stayed on top for the last decade? Selling out to win one year, or looking at the big picture and the long-range plans? To me you can build for winning in the next few years and be in a good position in 2014 as well, if you are smart. And trading Bynum for Kidd is not smart.


A could other Kidd notes:

The gut reaction of every Laker fan was that Kidd would look good at the top of the triangle. But Roland Lazenby quotes Tex Winter questioning that basic premise:

That’s part of the hesitation over Nets guard Jason Kidd. He rebelled mightily against the triangle when Jim Cleamons tried to run it as coach of the Dallas Mavericks in the 1990s.

“Kidd does like to have the ball in his hands an awful lot,” triangle guru Tex Winter observed.

Would Jason Kidd be the second coming of Gary Payton?

I will say this, those problems in Dallas were a decade ago, and we can hope that Kidd has matured. That he wants to win and sees Phil, Kobe and the triangle offense as a way to do that. Also, unlike the version of The Glove that came to LA, Kidd can still play defense (much better than Smush). I don’t think he’ll be another Gary Payton, but it’s a concern.

Also, if some version of this deal does happen and the Lakers land Kidd, I’m still not sold the Lakers are contenders this year. They will improve, but it’s going to take some time for Kidd to become comfortable initiating the offense, learning to pick his spots and working with new teammates. Meanwhile, Dallas is deeper and very comfortable in their system, and Phoenix is very comfortable in theirs. This season, those two are the teams to beat. Now, next season could be a different story.

A legend who had his fingertips and fingerprints involved in the launching of two of the NBA’s proudest traditions.

A Trojan, a Dodger, a Celtic, and a Laker.

A man who can say he coached in the philosophy of Auerbach, under the ownership of Steinbrenner, and as the mentor to Riley.

Bill Sharman’s career began at the University of Southern California where he was, “…extremely pleased and somewhat surprised” to find himself starting as a freshman. (His number 11 was recently retired.) At USC he would also encounter legendary baseball coach Rod Dedeaux, and Sharman would go on to be a part of the Brooklyn Dodgers farm system for five years before focusing exclusively on playing basketball.

He could be considered solely an icon of Southern California sports were it not for his four rings garnered in the nascent stages of the legendary Celtic run that would culminate in 11 titles in 13 years.

Whether being the first guard to shoot over 40% for a season (.436 in 1953) or leading the ’72 Lakers to a seemingly untouchable pro sports record by winning 33 straight games, he instead is known as the man who charmed both franchises with his hard work, commitment to conditioning, and innovative ways.

A sharp shooting, defensive hawk, Sharman was as physical as the game of the times called for him to be. As a 6’1” guard, his finesse game had to be buoyed by his physicality. Sharman’s legendary free throw shooting and efficient floor game have sometimes been overshadowed by his reputation for intimidation. Most of theses stories are directly from the man that bore the brunt of the Celtics domination of the Lakers throughout the ’60’s and the ‘70’s, Jerry West.

“Bill was tough. I’ll tell you this; you did not drive by him. He got into more fights than Mike Tyson. You respected him as a player.”

When I recently corresponded with Mr. Sharman I asked for his reaction to the Logo’s assessment.

“The statements about me fighting were greatly exaggerated… although, there were times I had to ‘hold my own’ against players who were overly aggressive and physical by holding and pushing, etc. In those days you had to establish your rights to defend yourself.”

As his Hall of Fame playing career wound down, he set his eyes on coaching and would embark on the second path that would again lead him to be enshrined and placed in the rarified air of John Wooden and Lenny Wilkens as the only double inductees.

His many coaching jobs would leave him well traveled and well decorated. From the Steinbrenner-owned Cleveland Pipers to the San Francisco Warriors to the Los Angeles Stars and finally to the Lakers, Sharman would end being the only coach to win titles in three separate leagues: the ABL, ABA, and NBA. For all intents and purposes he carried that Lucky Celtic shamrock with him wherever he went. He even carried it into Jack Kent Cooke’s newly built Fabulous Forum.

He would feel the same “great pride and great relief” that he felt when winning Boston’s first title as a player when he guided the Lakers to their first title after numerous defeats at the hands of those very Celtics. But Laker fans that were baptized in the ‘80’s at the altar of the Bird-Magic rivalries might be mortified to know that Sharman finally cracked the Lakers into the level of the elite by getting Wilt Chamberlain to do his best Bill Russell imitation by rebounding and outletting the rebound to ignite the developing fast break. Essentially he was using the blueprint provided by Auerbach.

Sharman says about that championship team, “ It (the Lakers style) was similar as I patterned much of my coaching from what we used during such a successful time for the Celtics when I was a player there.”

Getting a man who once scored 100 points in a game to think about rebounding and defense and getting the Dipper to get out of bed before noon on game days were two of the miracles that Sharman performed as Laker coach. It was Sharman who began the league wide practice of the morning shootaround. He would do this during his own playing days as a way to control his nerves and get his mind focused on the evening’s contest. He made a mental note to himself that if he ever were a coach he would institute this for the whole team.

Sharman would continue to exert his expertise as he moved into the Laker’s front office as General Manager (1976-1982) and later president (1982-1990). Sharman is still a special consultant for the Lakers and likes the direction of the team and its young talent. “At 19 years of age, I feel that (Andrew) Bynum has a great future ahead of him, and Kobe’s all-around game has never been better.” Surprisingly, he likes the new rules that limit contact on the perimeter, stating, “…The new rules definitely help the game as it adds more speed and finesse.”

But anyone that looks into Sharman’s past successes as key to a future of winning basketball will notice the common thread. Whether playing with the Celtics of Cousy, and Russell or coaching the Lakers of West and Chamberlain, the unifying factor was always players sacrificing for the greater goals of the team.

-Scott A. Thompson aka Gatinho

Some information comes from Roland Lazenby’s book, The Show

Bill and his wife Joyce support Toberman Settlement House.