Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Kurt —  March 4, 2007

Who gets the playing time with Odom out? Odom is out for at least this four game road trip, so who gets the minutes? It will depend on the matchups, but with Cook the only healthy four (and he plays more like a three) I would expect Phil to try to go small more, maybe start Smush, Kobe, Mo Evans (who is back), Cook and Bynum, with more time for Shammond, McKie and Sasha (and Farmar) off the bench. One other option against bigger teams is to pair Turiaf with Bynum/Kwame along the front line.

Get out and run. Despite what Coach Norman Dale told us, some interesting work at 82 games suggests that teams that play at a faster pace tend to be more efficient on offense. Rob (from this site) broke it down earlier this season with the Lakers, they tended to be more efficient and win more when the pace was up.

If the Lakers play defense against the Suns like they did against Sacramento on Friday, how many points can the Suns score?

It Takes Five. While certain players bear the brunt of our frustrations with the defense, the loss to the Kings was a total team effort of crappyness on that end of the floor. Kobe is often considered the Lakers best defender and maybe his lack of focus was the catalyst for the entire team’s let down. To illustrate the total team “effort” let’s go over those first 10 Kings points:

• After winning the tip, the Kings work it around a little then get the ball to Artest high out on the wing, who dumps it in the post to Kenny Thomas, being covered by Brian Cook. Thomas spins to the middle and gets into the key, so Kobe decides to sag off Kevin Martin (the best and hottest shooter on the Kings) to double the 5 PPG Thomas. Thomas wisely kicks the ball out to Martin at the three point line straight away, Kobe is forced to run at him to prevent the three, Martin makes a ball fake and then steps right past Kobe, moves to his left and hits the clean 13-foot look. 2-0.

• With 13 to go on the shot clock, Martin has the ball right wing just beyond the three point line, where Ron “I love this city — just look at my haircut” Artest sets a pick on Kobe. Odom (on Artest) hedges to prevent Martin getting another good midrange look, while Kobe does a good job fighting through the pick and recovering. Artest, being ignored, takes a step to his right and sets up beyond the arc, Martin gets him the ball, and Odom is far too slow to recover, giving Artest a clean look at a three. 5-0.
• Bibby grabs the rebound on an Odom miss and pushes the ball up the court, but there is nothing there. He hesitates out top for a second and Thomas comes out to set a pick. But Bibby goes to the crossover away from the pick and Smush is caught flat-footed. Bibby drills the 21 footer. 7-0.

• After a Cook miss the Kings again push the ball up and while nothing develops several Lakers are forced to cover the closest King (not their man) to prevent a fast-break basket. The Kings kick the ball back out top to Bibby, who gets an uncalled moving screen from Brad Miller and drives the lane at Bynum. Meanwhile, some of the Lakers switch back to their assigned men but some don’t — namely Kobe, who rather than track down Martin plays a one-man zone. So Martin slides to the open spot, gets the kick-out from Bibby and has time to set his feet, line up his shot and cook a four-course meal before shooting the three. 10-0.

Missing Odom.
Of all the teams to not have Odom in the lineup for, Phoenix is a tough one. He is one of the few Lakers with the length and athleticism to slow the Suns’ deep front line. Plus, last time these two met he threw in 34 on 50% shooting. He will be missed.

Things to look for: Defense. Any sign of it.

Also, remember last season the Lakers lost the first three regular season games to the Suns when Kobe was option one, two and three in the offense and he scored 40+. They won games in the playoffs pounding the ball inside and with other guys stepping up. Granted, it’s harder to pound it inside this year with Amare swatting balls into the fourth row, but they need to start that way.

to Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

  1. When Kobe was options 1,2&3… who is the second option right now? Evans? Phil still doesnt trust Bynum. Phil pulls Smush out if he takes too many jump shots. Seriously, who’s the second option?


  2. It’s a problem. Against the Suns, I’d still get the ball inside to Bynum (he is a better offensive player than Kwame already) and the Lakers had some success posting Smush up with Nash on him.


  3. Kurt – are you available to play this afternoon? we have a glaring roster spot open for you. oh, it’s against the Suns. i hope your conditioning is up-to-speed. see you in 30 minutes, then. Try rockin the ol’ magic johnson Converse shoes.


  4. Oh, I’m just what the Lakers need, another 6-0 PG who is a little bit old (not Scotty Pippen old, but old enough) and a little bit slow on the defensive end. Solid midrange game, only problem is I can’t create my own shot anymore against high school kids, let alone against NBA guys.

    Oh, and I was always a Reebok guy.


  5. I don’t know who’s going to win..but here’s hoping Raja Bell gets ‘accidentally’ punched in the face


  6. Especially against the Suns, I’d play Evans and Turiaf as much as possible and Cook and Smush as little as possible. I wouldn’t hesitate to play Sasha.

    If Cook and Smush start (and they probably will), I hope you went to church already today and prayed extra hard!


  7. Lakers lose again. My o my is fourth quarter D killin us. Lakers played well throughout the game, especially Brian Cook but they just can’t finish strong can they. Kobe should definitely start taking over.


  8. Only saw the second half. It could have been much much worse! Some comments:

    Turiaf got some decent playing time; Cook got too much.

    What Kurt pointed out some time ago is still true:
    Kwame makes a huge difference!

    Shammond virtually shut down Nash for awhile.

    At 8 minutes in the Fourth, Smush replaced Shammond.

    Nash went on a scoring binge.

    At 7 minutes in the fourth, Smush was benched–never to reappear.

    Shammond finished out the game.


  9. If Lamar wasn’t hurt, we won that game, easily.


  10. It’s true…’It Takes Five’ and Kobe was about a 4.5


  11. The Lakers have to stop complaining to the refs b/c the Suns, at several key moments of the game, had a huge advantage b/c several Lakers stopped and started complaining to the ref. The Suns’ fast break is fast enough with one less guy back on D.


  12. A for effort?


  13. I watched the game and wondered “where’s Drew?” amd the box score confirms it: 19 minutes. 3-3 shooting, 3 blocks, 6 rebounds (3 TOs don’t help). Kwame… he’s just not an offensive option. Playing Bynum and Turiaf gives us solid offense and hustle. Playing Cook and Kwame doesn’t give up that much defensively, and adds a legitimate low-post scoring option.

    I just don’t get it, Phil.


  14. Luke, where are you?


  15. 13 Great analysis, Bryan. I agree with you!

    Here’s a try to explain “Phil” to both of us. The Laker “management” approach begins with the triangle. In this approach, everyone is a role player–and everyone is graded on how well they play their roles. Right now, Smush is the #1 point guard and Shammond has been promoted to #2 over Farmar (Ibecause he’s a vet?). Kobe is the #1 shooting guard with Evans #2 and perhaps MkKie #3 and Sasha $4.. With the loss of Walton and Radman, Evans and possibly McKie have moved to small forward. Bynum is currently #1 center, with Kwame #2 and Turiaf #3. With Odom out, Cook is #1 power forward with Turiaf #2. Thyat pretty much dictates substitution patterns unless the coaches get really mad or a really obvious mismatch presents itself.

    Note that the assignment is by triangle offense–not defense. If the points were graded for defense, the orders might reverse, with Farmar #1, Shammond #2, and Smush #3. Likewise, Kwame supplants Bynum and Turiaf beats Cook. Evans and Kobe stay.

    When the offenders start, how do you think it makes the defenders feel?


  16. Who do the Lakers cut for Pippen? He wants to get signed without even working out, I don’t know if we have any choice though but to sign him. Damn, I wish the NBA was like a video game where you could turn the injuries off.


  17. I hate to say it, but signing Pippen is maybe what we need. I suppose we have to cut McKey… we’re trading him for like experience?? more D and better grasp of Phill’s philosophy? another floor leader to help Kobe?

    With our 2-4th options out or back w/ training wheels, we need some force of stability, and maybe an ‘old head’ can bring that…


  18. I think yesterday showed that no matter what happens, the Lakers match up very well with the Suns. Better than the rest of the league outside of Texas.

    Great to see Kwame back – he was great against Amare.

    I think the last 4 minutes we played great with the unit we had on the floor. we clawed our way back and just couldn’t quite overcome the deficit.

    Brian Cook was very solid, btw. defense is always suspect but you can’t overlook 20 and 10.

    Did anyone else hear a usually competent Mike Breen say that “Smush is a good defender” on National TV??? I loved how right after he said it, Nash went around him for an easy lay-up.


  19. 13 – Andrew actually tweeked his ankle – i believe that is why he sat the majority of 2nd half. he was playing pretty well before he was yanked.


  20. Keep in mind guys… Pippen would help us in numerous ways. First off, he would get some decent minutes at forward right now with everybody out…. remember, even when Luke does come back hes not gonna be at full strength for a while. And the main thing we are missing from Luke is his understanding of the triangle, his spacing, and his ability to just make everything run smoothly. I think Pippen can also fill those same needs for us. Secondly, He will be a player-coach for us. He coached Lamar last training camp on how to be more like himself, and his playoff experience and poise would be extremely important for our young team in the playoffs. As far as who we cut, Mckie has played well lately but between him and Shammond, I would say we have to keep Shammond. We need more help at PG than we do at SG.

    And how about Smush blowing up in the 4th yesterday… apparently he and Phil got into it after Smush was pulled. Smush has been doing the sulky thing all year and finally got called out for it. Is he wondering why he wasn’t playing? Tell him to look at the box score… 3 points in 27 minutes with Nash going off everytime Smush was on him. Smush… be quiet and sit down until you decide to start playing some D!!!!!


  21. And I dont know if you guys were watching the Heat-Pistons game on friday… but Pippen was at the game and Jim Gray interviewed him courtside during the game. Pip basically said that he wants to play for the Heat or the Lakers.


  22. What’s the news/deal with Mihm? Are the Lakers thinking about possibly re-signing him and does he take up a roster spot?


  23. DY: The deal with Mihm is that no one really knows. There’s a slim possibility that he’s ready to play before the end of the season. The last word was that his ankle was progressing faster than expected. The likelihood that he will be of any benefit to the team this year is slim, however. I also suspect that the organization isn’t willing to give him up for nothing. Certainly if I were running things, I wouldn’t let him walk. Since the Lakers have his Bird Rights, I’d be thinking sign & trade rather than free agency.

    To answer your other question, yes he takes up a roster spot.

    The Pippen thing has me torn. The VladRad incident presented the perfect opportunity for the Lakers to open up a roster spot and cost them nothing. They aren’t the types, though. Should the Lakers desire Pippen’s services, the candidates for being cut are as follows: McKie, Williams, Mihm, Sasha, Smush. Probably in that order. If Scottie were Williams’ age or even McKie’s age, this would be a no-brainer. But 41-year-old Scottie makes me kinda nervous.

    As for the Phoenix game, I’m proud of how they played. Considering the constant barrage of setbacks, being able to hold the Suns under 100 on the road is heartening, regardless of whether it was a function of the Suns just being off or of the defensive effort put forth. The team is going to need to find a way to overcome the mental impact of losing teammates to injury more than anything else. And all this loser talk (what I like to call Celtic talk) that’s started since Lamar went down again needs to be nipped in the bud. 60 games in and it’s time to throw it all away? No thanks.