Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  March 21, 2007

Lots of new readers here today (via True Hoops move), make yourself and home, put your feet up on the coffee table and feel free to poke around a little. Check out the defacto “mission statement” to see where I’m coming from. And be sure to read the comments here because I really just start the talk, there are lots of smart basketball and Laker fans who pick it up from there.

Now, on to clearing out my overflowing inbox.

• This whole “which Kobe is better for the Lakers” debate in the mainstream media is, well, fertilizer. Kobe’s game plan has been pretty consistent all season — try to make this a team game and get everyone involved, but if that isn’t working take on more of the scoring load himself. Lately he’s had to take on more scoring to get the wins.

There also is no doubt that this team is better when Kobe sets up his teammates more — remember in the book Seven Seconds or Less (about last season’s Phoenix Suns), where they tell the story of finding the Laker game plan left in a hotel room. The strategy (as we all know now) was to get other players involved and pound the ball inside. And what was the reaction of Suns’ coaches — the Lakers are more dangerous when Kobe is the passer. That hasn’t changed.

• As always, the latest from Roland Lazenby is a must read.

• Thanks to reader Josh for pointing me to an interview with Summer Pro League favorite JR Pinnock, who is back in the United States and back in the D-League. Great stuff here about the risks of playing in Europe:

…. this team that I played with — usually I wouldn’t even speak about it, but since they went ahead and spoke bad about me I’m going to return the favor now — it was the worst organization I’ve ever been a part of. No training staff. No facilities. We worked out at like a public high school. The general manager was fired during the middle of the season. The head coach quit because he wasn’t get paid. Players weren’t getting paid. They offered me a big contract that they couldn’t even pay, so they started taking money from other guys to pay me. I didn’t want any part of that.

• The question of “do good teams win close games” still is up for debate, at least in my mind, but the latest from the always brilliant Kevin Pelton makes some good points:

Good teams win close games more frequently than bad teams, but the difference is not as dramatic as it is for games decided by at least six points. This makes sense conceptually. Think of the difference between the one-and-done NCAA Tournament and the best-of-seven NBA postseason in terms of upsets. The better team comes up empty far more frequently in the NCAA (occasionally, like Wisconsin or Texas, ruining your bracket in the process) because the series is shorter. Anything can happen in a single-elimination tournament, and the same is true of the last five minutes of a close game.

Or look at it this way (an analogy I stole from Pelton): If the very bad Rudy T. year Lakers of two seasons ago faced the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, but the games were decided by one possession, the Lakers would win a fair amount. Anything can happen in one possession, and most close games come down to one or two possessions. However, if those Lakers and Bulls squads play a full 48 minutes, I’d take the Bulls and give up the 12 points. The Bulls would win 95 out of 100 meetings, and the other five would only be because the entire Bulls team came down with food poisoning. Good teams don’t put themselves in position to lose close games.

• I’ve got a post up at LAist (with a headline stolen from the NBA Fanhouse — the sincerest form of flattery) talking about the big college players in town and what the NBA thinks about them.

• I’m hearing all sorts of things about the coaching search at Long Beach State, all off the record. Let me say two things I’m pretty sure about: 1) This was the right move for the health of the program long term; 2) The AD and university president have a guy in their back pocket and this hire is going to happen fast.