Archives For February 2007

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.

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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.

All Star Chat

Kurt —  February 18, 2007

Just providing a place to talk All-Star weekend stuff.

I’ll start it off with a few thoughts:

1) I would have given the dunk contest to Howard, although Green was impressive.

2) I thought Kobe could pass?

3) I didn’t catch much of the Rookie/Sophomore game. How did Farmar look?

Did the Cavaliers take a shot outside of five feet last night? This team is, officially, the worst defensive team Phil Jackson has ever coached — and Rob has the proof:

Currently this Laker team IS the worst defensive team Phil has ever coached. Their defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) is 109.5 which ranks them 23rd in the league. The 2001 Lakers had a DRtg of 104.9 which ranked them 21st in the league. Of course the ’01 team had the 2nd best offense (108.4) in the NBA, so it didn’t really matter. This year’s Lakers are only the 7th best offense (109.7).

Smush deserves a chunk of the blame for this year’s defensive woes. But there are other factors. Kobe’s knee ain’t the same and it shows on defense. Now, I’m not saying Kobe can’t defend. I’m just saying he’s not quite in his All-Defensive Team form right now. Bynum has not yet found the right balance in his help defense. And we have three major team additions (Radmanovic, Evans, Farmar) who are trying to integrate into the offense. Two of those three have shown a fair amout of solid D. The other one, not so much.

The past couple weeks have us all in a funk, to the point that Dr. RayEye is channeling Bob Dylan.

How many times must the Smusher look back
to see that his man has flashed by?
Yes, ‘n’ after a layup or our “big” makes a foul
Can he hear all the Laker fans cry?
Yes, ‘n’ how many losses will it take till he knows
That the spirit of his teammates has died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Well, at least tonight we can watch Jordan Farmar and dream of the future.