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.

———————————

• 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.

Kurt

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21 responses to Eyeing May

  1. Just get everyone back and in rhythm and we’ll make some noise. Smush is Smush. If we played better team defense, we wouldn’t spend so much time killin’ this kid and his play. He has been the only one healthy for us the past 2 years. He is what we thought he’d be….(god that Denny Green quote never gets old)

    In a bigger picture point, is it me, or does Lamar Odom look GREAT again? i think it’s almost safe to say that he’s back, baby. he looked terrific on Monday. his jumper was butter and i wanted the ball in his hands in crunch-time (first time i’ve felt that since December). Let’s hope that was a sign of things to come. I want mister 17,10,5 back for us at full strength.

    Poor Shaun Livingston. That video clip was plain nasty.

  2. People argued with me about Smush when I said Farmar wasn’t going to be replacing him as a starter this season. There seemed to be a vocal START FARMAR! contingent around Lakerdom this season and it just wasn’t warranted. I’m a big fan of Farmar’s, but he hasn’t done enough to earn the starting spot yet.

    What McKie and Williams have done is impressive, especially on the defensive end. It’s been comforting, after having experienced the extreme peaks and valleys of the youth of this team, to have the steadiness of veteran savvy out there.

    As for Mr. Sam Smith, I won’t begrudge a crotchety old man his crochetting. Suffice it to say that believing that blogs are written by pantsless basement dwellers shows his level of disconnect with what’s going on around him. He whines about his level of credibility versus that of a blogger (whose credibility might well be impeccable, though Sam would never know that) and yet, earlier in the same piece, he talks about why he chose not to write about Tyrus Thomas’ bad attitude until his comment about the dunk contest. So all those league contacts and inside information, all those years of credibility as a sportswriter and journalist built up amongst your readers, and you’re withholding information until such time that you deem it appropriate to divulge? A blogger with the same access would have had no such qualms.

  3. Hey, cut Sam some slack, I wasn’t really into blogs until I saw FBG, maybe we should send him in a link.

  4. I really don’t have anything against Sam. But I think his opinion represents a powerful old guard in newspapers that is slowing the medium’s transition to online. The Washington Post does the Web well, the NY Times is getting there but places like LA Times are slow to the online changes. That Laker Blog is about the only thing they do well online.

  5. Kurt,

    It might have been more interesting to make the comparisons over the 6 losing games between the Smusher and the bench vs. the 3 winners.

    There are some serious problems with the way you draw conclusions from your “self fulfilling prophecy” analysis of 3 games.

    The games were not a good sample of the season, nor do they really measure the “vets” against the rookies. First of all, in game 2 of the three you chose, it was Smush’s PT that went down in favor of the “vets,” not Farmar’s. In game 3, Farmar didn’t play at all! If we’re looking at Smush, he was, on the average, outscored by the other point guard. On the game he was 1 for 5 he played few minutes. On the game he was 9 for 13, he played a lot–and almost cost the Lakers the game. Maybe that has more to do with his PT than most anything.

    It is very hard to make comparisons between a player coming in off the bench with a starter. It is not clear that Smush is any more of a vet than Sasha. For the minutes he plays under the situations he is thrown into, Farmar is remarkable. He was selected to be among the best rookies in the league by outsiders.

    We’re not dealing with objective performance comparisons, we’re dealing with a business decision (to make Smush or some other “bargain discovery” the starting point guard) that must be rationalized on almost a daily basis

    Business decision making is especially interesting because circumstances are constantly changing. Business undergrad and MBA students are taught, over and over, to be flexible thinkers, and be prepared to change or reverse a decision. In the real world, decision makers tend to “anchor” on a decision, not change their minds, and go down with the ship. That certainly seems to be the case in basketball with the Lakers and point guards.

    The only decision I need to make is whether or not to watch games. When Smush started his first game, I was dazzled and thrilled. I didn’t really fully notice his playground tendencies, lack of team mentality, and difficulties with defense until he was exposed by Phoenix in the playoffs (and replaced with credible results by Sasha).

    This year, Farmar appeared, and the comparisons to the Smusher in terms of assists and “staying in front of your man” were devestating–especially coming from a rookie. After awhile, as a watcher, I became a Smushaphobe–nervous when he was in, praying for Farmar (or anyone) to take his place–walking away when the stress or frustration were too great.

    The Lakers (and some of you) have “anchored” on Smush (I call it being a Smushaholic) and, by implication, the “point guard on the cheap” business decision it is based on. All of the “evidence” is collected selectively to make the “Smush as point guard” decision to at least appear reasonable. He is seldom singled out for censure and often defended by coaches and management.

    That’s what an “anchor” would say!

    The evidence for Smush is murky at best. It is very hard to justify Smush’s PT in the 30’s. That’s where Shammond comes in–not to replace the rookies PT.

    It appears that the best analysis is about minutes rather than who’s starting (or the role of vets). A Smush at 20 minutes that sometimes comes off the bench might really work–as long as he’s not in the game in the closing minutes.

    Let’s see how flexible the thinking of Laker basketball decision makers will be for the next months.

  6. Again, any diatribe against Smush is a waste of bandwidth. All of those who use so much energy trying to undermine the Lakers starting pg for 2 years might be better served using that energy cheering for him to do well, or praying for world peace, either way it has no bearing on what actually is the case. Laker managment felt Smush was the best pg for this team going into the year, nothing has changed and the team is 3 games ahead of its pace from last year, all while several players have been in and out of the lineup.

    I ask, if a tree in the forest falls, is it Smush Parker’s fault.

  7. I actually route for Smush…He’s a great story, and from what I can tell a great kid. But that doesn’t mean he is a good fit as the Lakers starting PG. I think he would do his best as a back up combo guard playing about 20 min per night.

    Here’s my take on who the Lakers should get:

    http://nba.aolsportsblog.com/2007/02/27/the-lakers-missing-link-chris-duhon/

  8. Smush’s only problems, in my eyes, are the dribble penetration by opposing gaurds, and his tendency to force ugly shots instead of running the offense. Both very fixable problems as long as he puts his mind to it and works hard on these 2 things in practice. His spot up shooting is fine. If Smush wants to earn a decent paycheck this summer, he better start doing his homework and coming to class prepared.

  9. I am far from Smush’s biggest fan, and I would love to see another starting PG next year (maybe sign mo Williams as a free agent, maybe trade, whatever) with Farmar getting 15-20 a night behind the new guy and Shammond as an insurance policy. But right he’s our guy.

    Also, Smush is going to get paid this summer, and likely get paid more than the Lakers should offer. For instance, he’s a better PG than they have in Cleveland right now. And there will be others interested.

  10. Smush is our starting PG now and will probably remain so for the remainder of this year. He starts the game fast – which we need – and tapers off the more minutes he is played.

    The Lakers know this and have commented on it.

    I suspect Smush will continue to start, but his minutes will decline into the mid-to-high 20s. He will play longer in those matchups where we absolutely need his offense and he will play less against those teams where defense is critical with the PG.

    This summer he will probably go somewhere else, because they will pay him more – I agree with Kurt.

    Until then, let’s just support the team an assume Phil isn’t a complete boob as a coach.

  11. Smush’s greatest liability, in my opinion, is his defense. He plays a gambling, in-your-face, high-risk-high-reward kind of defense, so it looks OK on the stat sheet because he gets more than his fair share of steals. What that does, however, is to place an extra burden on your team defense. That’d be OK if we still had Shaq anchoring the middle, but we don’t.

    His second greatest liability is his passing. He makes little to no effort to fake entry passes to the post, and his pass back to the other guard at the start of the triangle is often so lazy it gets picked–and that is the WORST possible pass to get picked on, because it leads directly to a quick deuce for the opponents.

    Although the Lakers obviously don’t pay any direct attention to what anyone says on FBG, I don’t agree that it’s pointless to criticize Smush, because these are all things that he could change. We’re not talking about shot-making, which as Sasha can attest changes from moment to moment. We’re talking strategic choices, how you play your man, how you get your pass in where you want it, and paying attention to what you’re doing. These are all facets of the game that Smush could improve immediately, if he really put his mind to it. Similarly, what has bugged me most about Vlade this year is not his shooting, which has been inconsistent at best, but his passing and decision-making, which generally seems like a ball of suck.

    The whole blog/print issue seems like a non-starter to me. Smith has his inside connections, OK. He can make use of that. Bloggers, on the other hand, can make use of the fact that they have more spare time not shmoozing with insiders and can spend more hours looking at game tape and analyzing the nuts and bolts. They do entirely complementary things. I don’t see why there should be any great interference there.

  12. Incidentally, from the title to this entry, I thought this was going to be about trying to obtain Sean May. :)

  13. Sorry if some one already addressed this, but will Luke be back by Friday?

  14. Hey Kwame (6),

    You’re missing the point. As Mae West used to say, “It’s not the man in my life–it’s the life in my man.”

    Most of us in this blog are quite close to agreement on the Smusher as a twenty minute rather than heavy minute man. I even heard a “vets” interview with Phil (about 10:30 PM Wednesday) that almost echoed part of what we were saying–this is a team that has enough talent to go 13 or 14 deep–that there will be opportunities both for Shammond/McKie and the “young guys” to get minutes and that’s what we should expect.

  15. Hey Ian (13), the update on Luke is that he practiced on Tuesday and is questionable to doubtful for Friday. And if you’re curious about Kwame, he practiced also and is eying next Tuesday vs. Minnesota.

  16. 13, From the Thursday LA Times:

    Luke Walton and Kwame Brown have missed a combined 42 games because of sprained ankles, but they increased their workouts again and took part in five-on-five scrimmages Wednesday. Walton said he wanted to play Friday against Sacramento, but Brown targeted Tuesday against Minnesota for his return

  17. According to Brown, he doesn’t want to come back and have to run against the Suns. You gotta love that UPS…

  18. It seems that Jordan was right about Kwame.

  19. Probably most guys wouldn’t want their first game back from an ankle injury that took twice as long to heal as originally expected to be on the road against the Suns. I don’t blame Kwame one bit for not wanting to jump right into that. The only mistake he made was saying it out loud. That probably wasn’t the smartest move. But then, no one has ever accused the Pastry Assassin of being a MENSA member.

  20. It’s becoming hard to keep track of Kwame’s nicknames. UPS. The Pastry Assassin. I don’t know what to call him.

    I don’t really blame Kwame much here, Phil needs to build his confidence and conditioning when he comes back. and Phoenix would trash both of those. UPS can’t hang with Amare when he has two good ankles.