The Big Dance (oh, and a couple Laker notes)

Kurt —  March 13, 2007

Why waste time — who do you have in your Final Four? I’ve got Florida, Kansas, Georgetown and Texas A&M, with Kansas beating A&M in the finals.

There is no shortage of information on college teams out on the Web, but if you want some of the stats I use here to help with your picks check out Ken Pomory’s site, which has more quality info than just about anywhere. And, if all you care about is the NBA and you’re watching the NCAA games just as draft scouting, be sure to check out the NBA Fanhouse series College Eye For The NBA Guy where they break down potential draft picks to watch.

As for a few thoughts on the local teams…

If you don’t know much about Long Beach State, check out my primer over at LAist. They bring the Phoenix Suns “small ball” — but with a more gambling defense — to the college game. They start three guards and the tallest player is 6’6”. They average 68 possessions a game, the 19th fastest pace in the nation (out of 366 teams), with an offensive rating of 109.6 (points per 100 possessions). The guy to watch is Aaron Nixon, he has just about unlimited range, well beyond the NBA three, and he is fearless about shot selection (in both the good and bad way). Plus with five seniors starting and seven in key roles, Long Beach can be dangerous.

Except that they get a bad match up (but a fun one for fans), Tennessee plays almost exactly the same style but do it better. They are 15th in the nation in pace (73 possessions a game) with an offensive rating of 115.1. For fans this will be a fun game to watch, up and down pace and a lot of scoring and steals. Bet the over and enjoy.

For USC, I want to see them match up with Texas in the second round. Nick Young and Kevin Durant could put on quite a show, and that would be a lot of quality athletes on the floor at the same time. Texas will win, but that will be fun.

As for the Bruins, I really like them — I just like Kansas better, hence I have UCLA losing in the elite eight. But they play great defense (Laker fans, that’s what a defensive rotation looks like, in case you were wondering) and any team that does that has a chance. Plus, Collison at the point is a great floor general who gets the ball to the hot hand and to guys in good positions. I’ll be pulling for them to screw up my pool.


Just a few Laker things while we’re at it:

• Kobe’s wayward elbows have gotten him in more legal trouble. Really, we all should have seen this one coming.

• Very interesting post (aren’t they all) by Roland Lazenby wondering what Phil Jackson is up to:

Where Phil’s relationship with Michael and Shaq worked because of a strong supporting cast, Phil’s relationship with Kobe is now perhaps suffocating a superstar.

Once he forms a relationship, Phil tends to cut off communication between the rest of the coaching staff and the superstar. It’s Phil and the star, with little outside interference tolerated.

This season for the Lakers is mostly kaput. IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

So Phil needs to lighten up a bit with Kobe. Let him loose to enjoy whatever they can find in this year’s circumstances.

But Laker fans also have to lighten up. Phil’s basic premise, his MO of forming a strong bond with his superstar, is a proven thing.

The Lakers must start again next season, once again bringing along the supporting cast as Kobe matures into the star and leader he can be. When they were healthy and growing dynamically as a team, they earned the fans’ patience and forbearance.

In this case, “wait until next season” is not a platitude. It’s a legitimate strategy.

to The Big Dance (oh, and a couple Laker notes)

  1. Kurt,

    Lazenby’s analysis of Phil may be correct, but it may be premature, and it misses the real unexplained problem: the rather startling change in team attitude since the beginning of the season.

    And it’s not about Kobe.

    The season began with the type of injuries encountered recently–but the Lakers won–without Kobe. They won because they played like a team–and Kobe adjusted to the flow.

    Mo Evans, Ronny Turiaff, Andrew Bynum, and Jordan Farmar all made major contributions whereas veterans Cook, Radmanovich, Vuyucich, and Parker were inconsistent at best. Odom seemed to have his best games and moments when he wasn’t playing with Kobe. It was Kwame, not Kobe, who was most beneficial for the “team” with his D. Walton alone seemed to have the spirit of the new Lakers in a more veteran form.

    These dynamics often led to games in which the “new guys” rescued the starters. Phil found himself playing all but his “vets.”

    The season progressed with contradictory use of this new spirit in the Lakers. Andrew Bynum found himself used as a starter and treated as if he were a veteran too soon. Mo Evans found himself used sparingly–then pushed into a starters role–and back?. Ronny Turiaf first found himself unused on the bench, then forced to play out of position, finally given some minutes in his proper position. Jordan Farmar found his second unit constantly changing, his minutes unpredictable, even as he won a place in the NBA–a member of the all NBA rookie team.

    Meanwhile, the rotations of players during the game tightened in seeming disregard for performance. Defensive play got little PT reward, and scoring of almost any kind drew praise. Defensive teamwork disappeared. Being a Laker began to seem less “fun,” and substitutions seemed to make less sense.

    Perhaps the low point came recently when Phil finally recognized a need to revise substitution patterns. Poor team performance and the losses seemed to be blamed on the rookie mistakes of Jordan Farmar–who seldom played during those games. Shammond Williams was suddenly summoned off the bench instead of Jordan Farmer with the second unit. Smush’s minutes were little changed-the Lakers defense disappeared altogether.

    Even though Smush was thrown out of the previous game for two technical fouls, Phil plans to start Smush as his point guard Thursday because he is “adequate,” and nobody can beat him out in practice.

    I wonder how Shammond and Jordan feel?

    It’s not about Kobe–but it might be about Phil.


  2. You speak about the bond between Phil and the superstar. But, what about his relationship with the other players? Is some of the discord on the team have do with Phil’s good intentioned needling breaking the confidence of some of the younger players?


  3. It’s all about the fundamentals:
    Make the easy pass to the open man.

    Obviously Phil is not having these guys work on these things. Triangle Shmi-angle. If you don’t WORK on the fundamentals, you don’t win very many games.


  4. If anyone wants an upset for their bracket take Arizona over Flordia in the 2nd round, Arizona has 5 nba caliber players starting, they may be dangerous in the tourney.


  5. I made the following comment last weekend to my friends, and it sounded crazy, but I’m wondering if I wasn’t speaking the truth.

    Forget Phil’s mindgames and the damn triangle. Fire him, go up-tempo suns style, and run and gun. If our bigs can’t keep up and play a that pace, then let’s draft some springy guy from Memphis or Pitt or Lvlle that can jump through the roof.

    We are trying to build a team based on the 99-02 formula, but the rules have changed, and they don’t favour that style. not to mention, our D somehow gets more active when we run and gun, as opposed to the championship years where the pace of the game slowed it to the point that we could clamp down with old legs.

    And I know that the run-n-gun won’t work quite as well in the playoffs…. um at this point, the playoffs are looking like more than we deserve. We’ve gone from being the terrifying 5 seed to the patsy 6-8 seed faster than we can give up a pick and roll basket.

    We’ve proven we can’t beat them (injuries or no, we still don’t play D) so we should look at the way to join them.


  6. Uh people are kind of overreacting here. The Lakers are in trouble this season because they have Smush starting at PG and because their 4 of their top 5 players have missed at least 20 games this season. It’s really that simple. It doesn’t matter what style or what coach was in here, they would struggle under those circumstances no matter what. IF they get healthy, Phil will have this team ready come playoff time. His teams always seem to find a way to go into the playoffs on a roll. Hopefully that will again be the case this year.

    Give me a break about small ball and uptempo basketball already. Since 1999, a Shaq or Tim Duncan led team has been in every single NBA Final. During that same time, a Shaq or Tim Duncan led team has also won seven of the possible eight NBA championships. Small ball revolution or not, in the end those two still rule the NBA.

    Kwame A… I agree with you on Arizona’s talent, but the problem with those guys is that they all have their sights set on the NBA and not on the task at hand. Maybe they’ll change come tourney time, but I highly doubt it. Despite having a team full of NBA prospects, Florida is a tight knit group that has shown they haven’t lost focus. Arizona’s guys don’t play hard and don’t really even seem to like each other. But the tournament does magical things to people, so we’ll see.


  7. 3. If people would be surprised about one thing, it is how little NBA teams practice, and fundamentals in particular. If a guy improves his fundamentals, for example Bynum in the last few years, it’s because they work on them outside the team’s practices (with Kareem, in Bynum’s case).

    As for what Roland Lazenby is saying, it is simply that what Phil does was working but was derailed by injuries. Roland suggests a change only in the short term (not to put words in his mouth). Could Phil have used players differently to fill in for those injured guys? Sure. But would it have made a big difference in the record? I don’t think so. This team lost too much scoring and other big threats besides Kobe on offense. There was no good adjustment.

    Smush isn’t going anywhere this season, but he’s greased the skids out of town this summer/


  8. Lets keep it together guys. I know that we as Laker fans are not used to having losing streaks, or losing months, I should say… but lets not panic. I know that the “injury” excuse is probably getting played out by now, but its the main reason for our tailslide. As DrRayEye put it, we got off early in the season because we were very deep. We had our starters doing their thing, and then Ronny, Farmar and those guys were really contributing. Now we have no 1st string, at the moment, so our main backups are being relied upon as starters and thats why we are struggling. All I can say is that there is still light at the end of this tunnel.

    I’m sure everybody remembers how great Luke and Lamar were playing with each other early in the season. The emergence of those two as consistent threats was one of our biggest strengths. Then Lamar went down and Luke struggled without Lamar. Then when Lamar came back, Luke went out and Lamar struggled. Now they are both FINALLY gonna play together again. I know that they are both rusty but we still have 5 weeks to get ready for playoffs.

    As long as Kwame steps up and lets Andrew have a break for a little while like Phil said, and Luke and Lamar get into a groove by playoffs, and our little injuries like VladRad, Cook, and Mo Evans knee heal up. We can still be as deadly as ever. As long as we hit our stride late in the season like Phils teams always do, then these losses right now will mean nothing


  9. For the record, I strongly dislike TJ Simers. I think he acts like a villain because it sells, but whatever. I usually don’t read his columns in the LA Times because they are usually bashing someone, but he had a piece in the paper today about Lamar. I suggest you guys read it… very inspiring. Maybe seeing Lamar tough it out and come back to help his team will be the spark that we need right now.,1,6823797.column?page=1&coll=la-headlines-sports


  10. As for the NCAAs, I’m amazed how many pundits have them winning a game or two. I’d love to see it — I’m probably going back into my pool and having them knock off Tenn. My fear is this: Remember the Loyola Marymount run, where they beat teams because the opponents had no idea how to deal with their style and got caught up in it. Then they ran into UNLV, a team that wanted to run and had the athletes to do it better, and that was the end. I fear the same thing for Long Beach, if they faced teams that didn’t want to run they’d overwhelm them, but the Vols play their style. Whatever happens, that’s going to be a fun game to watch.

    Arizona is the kind of team that makes the NCAA’s impossible to pick. On paper they should be much better than they are, but they never played consistently all season. In a seven game series they lose, but in one game….


  11. 5. The triangle offense is a very flexible one, something that would allow plenty of running if we had the players to do it. Right now Phil is building his preferred type of triangle team, which also will work. What doesn’t work is changing styles of play ever couple of years — pick a style and build to it. The Lakers are doing that.


  12. skigi , no matter what he writes, I still don’t want to give that scumbag Simers any viewing hit.


  13. Question for anyone who cares to respond? Who do we start when we get Walton and Lamar back, Kwame or Drew Bynum?


  14. The real question is:

    How annoying is D-Wade that he actually managed to get his PER to go up while not playing thanks to the league average = 15 rule?


  15. 13. Phil told the LA Times that Kwame starts Thursday against Denver. He was scheduled to start against Dallas but didn’t set his clock for daylight savings time, showed up late and was punished by Phil by not starting. And I think it’s the right move, start Kwame, bring in Bynum then go with the hot hand down the stretch.

    Also, now we can call him Kwame “daylight savings time” brown. Not to forget UPS or The Pastry Assassin. This guy is really racking up the nicknames.


  16. (15) DST-Brown


  17. Don’t forget about “Cakes” and the infamous obscenities both Phil and MJ have kindly labeled Kwame with, man he’s had it rough, the least you think he could do is not come late after the nite of your b-day, it reeks of “i was tired from drinking the nite before”.


  18. Teams may not get to work on fundamentals very much during the season, I’ll concede that. But, it doesn’t look to me like they are emphasize them very much either. And by that I mean that if a coach has told a player that he must focus and improve on a certain aspect of his game to help the team, and then said player doesn’t do that, then the coach should yank that player out of the game. That’s coaching.
    For far too long, Phil has had the luxury of coaching very talented teams. Now he doesn’t have that luxury. I guess NOW we’ll see what kind of coach he REALLY is.


  19. For the record, it’s Daylight SAVING Time.




    Imaginary conversation somewhere in Denver,

    “Why is AI smiling from ear to ear and going to bed early?”

    “The Lakers are coming to town!”

    Overheard in a Denver Hotel,

    “Phil, AI scored 31 points, had 6 rebounds, and 10 assists for the Nuggets last night. How can we slow him down?”

    “Smush is adequate. He’ll score more points and get some steals. He’s the best point guard we’ve got!”


  21. You can just shoot
    Or you can just drive
    Your points will follow suit
    I’m telling you why
    Smush Parker is coming to town
    He’ll lunge for a steal
    Or get caught in a screen
    Watching him play defense
    Makes me lunge for morphine
    Smush Parker is coming to town
    He watches when you’re shooting
    Though he’s 15 feet away
    He hacks at every shot you take
    So just try a few pump fakes!
    O! Just wait till he pouts
    Then you can just blow by
    Tell your mom to watch the game
    Cause you’ll score a career high
    Smush Parker is coming to town!


  22. When thinking about the last stretch, keep in mind, our starting front court were Evans and Cook. Good players, but hard to win if that’s your starting front court, even with the best player in the game in your back court. That being said, we competed with the Suns with that lineup.


  23. (21)The finest art is born of suffering.


  24. Goo –
    Great poem. Funny as hell.


  25. Top of the key–watch Camby pause
    Here comes dear old Smushaclaus
    Down to the basket with lots of joy
    AI rewards Karl’s playoff ploy

    Ho ho ho
    Who wouldn’t go?
    Ho ho ho
    Who wouldn’t go?
    With the Smusher at point guard set that pick
    then score score score
    you can do it quick


  26. Love this blog,

    I found this cool story on March Madness
    check it out: