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.

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  1. kurt, how are you gonna keep dropping these hints about my alma mater and not divulge some names. you are killing me brotha.


  2. Okay kwame a., here’s a couple names. I heard that Kareem is off the list (even though he pops up on the Web and in conversations) mostly because of concerns about his temperament.

    One name that jumped out that I heard: Washington assistant (and former UCLA player) Cameron Dollar. Whoever it is will have good contacts in Southern California to speed recruiting along.


  3. i woul love that hire (cameron dollar). I see him in as the college version of avery johnson. great leader, true pg, tough nosed-defensive minded, high energy


  4. You are not the only one thinking like that, kwame a. That said, the administration clearly has someone in mind, the way they are acting. My guess, whoever they like they’ve had some behind the scenes contact with already.

    By the way, this search appears 1000 times more professional than the last one, when Wayne Morgan was fired and Reynolds was brought in. That AD had no game plan whatsoever, and I know for a fact told Jamie Dixon “we’re not interested” when Dixon tried to put his name in the hat.


  5. Hey Kurt,

    I was hoping you could say something about the arguments that have been popping up lately about adding the assists to scoring totals of players. The arguments being that when Nash gets his 10 apg, it is worth at least 20 points and as much as 30 with 3s and and-1s.

    My take is that while it is great to dish out so many assists, this stat is also a measure of the quality of your teammates and their ability to knock down shots and finish around the rim. As such I think it is a stat that should be evaluated in a very different way (not to mention the need to normalize for the Suns incredibly high pace).

    Having said that I also realize that without the spacing and assists provided by your teammates it is very hard to put up a high scoring night, but putting the ball in the hole is basically up to you.


  6. 5 – I’ll jump in on this one. Assists are obviously valuable to a basketball team. But counting two points to a player’s game totals for every assist does not make sense. We already allot those points to another player…the one who scored. By this logic Amare Stoudamire makes about zero points per game, because most come off of assists by teammates. That sound like a good system. Anyone?

    Though to be serious, most offensive player evaluating systems do assign partial credit on points scored off of assists to the assister. (Say that five times fast.) They then take away those partial points from the player that scored off of the assist. If you saw the Dean Oliver formulas from Basketball On Paper that relate to this your hair would go gray. Needless to say, those formulas do not equal anything close to what Basketbawful was saying. Nobody’s do, as far as I know.

    So, yes, Nash is great. But that argument wasn’t exactly sound, statistically speaking.


  7. 15 games left. I see us going 10-5, looking at who’s on the schedule. How do you think we’ll finish the season?

    That should be good enough to get us the 6th seed and a date with the Spurs. We can win that, but it depends on which… Spurs team shows up.

    Will it be the one the Lakers swept during the season (the loss was really a win we gave away), or the championship team they can be? As for which Lakers team will show up, Phil will stop screwing around and just put in winning line-ups come the playoffs.


  8. (7) we go 15-0, with Kobe averaging 40+, then we go 16-0 in the playoffs beating Shaq’s heat into a pulp in the finals. Kobe is declared a living god, and the trophy is permanently given to the Lakers.

    ah dreams….


  9. Ian, assists are a tricky thing, because not all are equal. The box score does not differentiate between a pass that genuinely created a scoring chance and one that was a bail out. There are guys on the Lakers the last couple years that got an assist because with three seconds on the shot clock they threw the ball to Kobe and he launched a desperation three that fell. Then there have been seemingly countless great passes right to Kwame’s hands under the basket that bounced off those hands for a turnover. Plus, while there is a standard definition in the rule book, what actually gets counted as an assist can vary pretty dramatically from NBA arena to NBA arena.

    Ian, you touched on this, and it’s simple to say, but the basketbawful argument also forgets there are two parts to the assist, the pass and the made shot. Remember how frustrated we got last year early on because Kobe would make the pass and nobody would be able to hit the shot. Then he’d just take it on himself, score 50 and everyone would say “ball hog.” But if Kobe had been passing to the Phoenix Suns or Dallas Mavericks early last year, he would have racked up far more assists.

    I get the desire to point out how many points Nash is responsible for, but to just say as an assist he should get two points is to take the guy who made the shot and the quality of the pass (or decision) out of the equation. Maybe that assist came on a shot was an easy dunk, but maybe it was a contested three. The ability to finish makes a big difference.

    It’s hard to quantify a “good” and “bad” pass without breaking down tape — I know teams do that, especially for self scouting, but to do it out of a box score is impossible. Instinctively, after watching him play, I think we can all agree that the vast majority of Nash’s passes are good ones. But two points for them in the box score? Like Rob talked about, I kind of think it should be a percentage of a basket, but exactly what ratio is certainly up for debate (I know Hollinger got into this a little back when he published the Basketball Forecast books, I’ll pull one out of the box they’re in and take a look in the next few days).

    But to just assign two points for an assist is pretty simplistic. Besides, if you do it that way Kobe scored 71 against Portland and 56 against the T-wolves.


  10. Hollinger credits 0.66 points per assist in his PER formula.

    His reasoning is that this is one third of 2 points. The passer gets credit for the pass, but the scorer gets credit for getting in a position to receive the pass AND credit for finishing the shot.


  11. to the “kobe is selfish” crowd…Lamar, Smush and Luke all flirted with a Triple Double in Kobe 50 point game against Portland. Not sure how 3 players can have almost a Trip Dub and still Kobe is selfish.

    I am glad Luke is back. Some one else making good choices with the ball is what this team needed…not a slag to the other guys but Luke is just that much smarter about BBall than the rest of the team (minus Kobe).


  12. Regarding Nash and his passes. While he makes a lot of great ones, he also leads the league in bad ones this year.