Archives For March 2007

The Kevin Garnett Blogger Derby

Kurt —  March 12, 2007

What would, or should, the Lakers offer to get KG?

It’s a question the Lakers could face this summer, because it’s not hard to see Garnett finally going to management and asking out. I still doubt he does it, but it could happen.

So, what would you give up? I’m asking because this blog has joined a little contest — along with Jeff from Celtics Blog and Matt from Blog-a-Bull — to come up with the best offer we can then compare it to offers from the most mentioned contenders in the hypothetical bidding war. We have to have answer by Thursday then Henry Abbot from True Hoop (and his commenters) will weigh in with a decision on Friday.

(Yes, I know what this blog is about is less speculation and more analysis, but two things swayed me: 1) breaking down the beat up Lakers of the last few weeks is not much fun [even if the Lakers are getting Odom and Walton back Thursday]; 2) this sounded like fun.)

So, I’m looking for a little help with what the Lakers should offer up (and they have to be legitimate offers that clear the trade checker). There’s no doubt that Lamar Odom would be at the heart of the deal, it’s hard to let him go but for KG it’s part of the price.

The real question is: What about Bynum? The same question from the trade deadline. Even Kevin McHale is going to ask for him, maybe make him a requirement. Throw him in and the chances of the deal happening go up exponentially. But remember to think long term — without Bynum the Lakers are built for the next four years only, the window is open and we should be serious title contenders (if the right role players can be found to fit around the big two). But after that it will be like the Bulls just after the Jordan era — four or five years of the lottery, a complete and total rebuild.

Could we make a deal work with Odom, a sign-and-trade for Walton and someone else (Cook, maybe Sasha). Do you need Walton to make KG and Kobe work together? What about other ideas?

Here is my proposal, as a starting point:

Lamar Odom
Kwame Brown (and his expiring $9 million contract to help with the rebuild)
Brian Cook

Is that the best we can do? Put up suggestions and tomorrow (Tuesday) I’ll put some of the options into the polling area to the right, and everyone can vote. I’ll post the official offer up on Thursday.

Let’s have some fun, we deserve it right now.

The poll is up on the right, with DrRayEye’s suggestion just added. So vote and vote often, just like this was a Chicago Alderman election.

Lakers are back home. Since the team on the court has been hard to watch of late, maybe we should just focus on the top 10 Laker fans in the crowd.

It was the best of times.
Back in January, the Lakers played maybe their best game of the season, going on a late 10-4 run to beat the Mavs and end their 13 game winning streak, despite Lamar Odom being out. Kobe had 14 in the fourth quarter, but it was a team effort as Walton chipped in 21, Sasha 16 and Turiaf had maybe his best game of the season. It was back then that you could see the future of the Lakers clearly.

It was the worst of times. A depleted roster, role players being asked to do too much and what you get the last few weeks is the Lakers looking like a team that should be in the Oden/Durant sweepstakes. And frustrated fans.

Meanwhile, the Mavs come in erasing much doubt they are the best team in the NBA. They come in with a 16 game winning streak. They come in with the second most efficient offence and fifth most efficient defense in the league, a hard-to-beat combo. They come in with the guy who is going to win the MVP. They come in with the deepest, best supporting cast in the game.

Kwame starts? If you’re going to start Kwame, today is a good day because Eric Dampier is the kind of wide body the young Bynum struggles with right now. Not that Dampier is an offensive force, but Kwame can cover him and help off on Dirk or driving guards who get past our guards.

As for Smush and Shammond. Looks like no change is coming to the starting lineup. But both of them are free agents at the end of the season, and looking ahead of the Lakers bring in a veteran PG in the off season, I think Shammond’s recent play, and his reasonable price, would make a good third guard off the bench.

What to watch for tonight: Just how good the Mavs are playing right now, they are fun to watch as a basketball fan. Of course, if they were going to have a let down….

Watch Kobe, remember he put up 62 on them last year, and he may have to have another game like that for the Lakers to have a chance. With the depleted Laker roster, I’m curious how the Mavs choose to defend him tonight. Right now, teams are trying to deny Kobe the ball, doubling him and daring any other Laker to beat them.

What I may end up watching is The Amazing Race at 8 because I fear this game will be all but over.

Short Term Fixes

Kurt —  March 10, 2007

The Lakers need a rainout. But since even Crash Davis can’t get the Lakers one, the team is looking at a couple other ideas, according to’s Chris Sherridan (insider). Let’s take a quick look at them.

One, starting Kwame over Bynum.

“Andrew didn’t get anything accomplished out there tonight,” Jackson said. “Andrew needs to just get off the front line and get out of that enemy fire for a while.”

I’m good with this change, Bynum is still young and shows up for some games and not for others, like Philly. Some time on the bench may do him good, and his scoring would fit well with what’s left of the second unit.

But what about Smush vs. Shammond. I’m still good with Smush starting, he tends to start games fast, but what about Shammond as the closer? Smush fades, Shammond’s defense would be a help late. Plus, if Shammond hits threes like he did in Philly (4 of 6 from beyond the arc) you don’t lose that much offense. By the way, Shammond was a team best +6 against the Sixers.

The other topic Sherridan discussed was bringing in Pippen. Pippen and Jackson have talked and things seem to be moving forward. Again, I’m fine with this although I’m not sure what kind of shape he’s in, what kind of rust is there. I really wonder how much he can contribute, he couldn’t help much is last couple NBA seasons, and that was a couple years ago. But with each loss I’m more willing to give it a shot.

The question is, how do you create roster room?

…in order to get an additional roster spot, the Lakers need to have four injured players sidelined at the same time for 14 consecutive days. Chris Mihm and Vladimir Radmanovic account for two of those spots, but Lamar Odom won’t reach 14 days until a week from Sunday, and Luke Walton is expected back before then.

Another option would be to waive Chris Mihm, who is out for the season after undergoing ankle surgery, and whose contract expires in June.

There is no chance of the league cutting the Lakers some slack, that’s not how they work. That said, I don’t want to cut Mihm, I’m concerned the move could make him harder to resign on the cheap this summer. Bringing him back provides many more options next year (for example, trading Kwame’s $9 mil expiring deal).

But that may be a small price to pay if Pippen can help right the ship this year and give the team some veteran leadership for one more year.

The Kobe question. With the roster around him depleted and inconsistent, how long does he continue to show the trust in his teammates as he has all season? How long before he reverts to last season’s Kobe just to win games? I don’t really have an answer for that, but Phil Jackson has said Kobe is frustrated right now and I feel soon things could boil over into him just dominating the ball and the game. At least for a little while.

Kobe and Obama. I didn’t know what to say about Kobe suspension and the general population and media reaction to it, but one of my favorite bloggers, Bethlehem Shoals, did and made some very interesting observations. Shoals brings a different and intelligent perspective to seemingly everything he touches.

Kobe is back tonight. And I would think he’ll be motivated, what with the suspension and the boos he always hears in Philly. And last meeting between these two (Dec. 31) Kobe dropped 35 and shot 75% (eFG%). So it could be a big night for him.

Future Lakers? If you didn’t catch Jonesonthenba’s comment on the draft (and the reaction to it) in the comments of the last post, please do. He’s higher on the UNC kid than I am, but it’s some great stuff.

Oden? We don’t need no stinkin’ Oden. When Allan Iverson was shipped out to the thin air, I imagine a lot of Sixers fans were thinking they were prime for the Oden/Durant sweepstakes. But a funny thing happened on the way to lottery — the Sixers started playing well.

Philly has won 6 of their last 10, five in a row. Right now they would have the sixth pick overall, and they are losing more ping-pong balls every day.

It’s still AI’s team. It is just now that is Andre Iguodala. He is averaging 20 points and 7 rebounds a game the last 10. The good news is he’s not doing it very efficiently, shooting just 43.75% (eFG%) and 27% from three. The book on Iguodala is pretty simple — he’s a beast at the basket but force him to shoot jump shots and he struggles.

The other Sixers to watch. One of the reasons for the spurt of good play from the Sixers is Andre Miller, who is has always been a good floor general but has been shooting better of late. In the last 10 games he is shooting 53.8%, which is about 6% higher than he was for the first 26 games in Philly. To defend him, push him left.

Then there is Kyle Korver, who the Lakers oddly left wide open too much in the last meeting so he scored 29. Korver can drain the three (45% on the season, 49% in the last 10 games) and the Lakers just can’t help off him (and then not rotate fast).

First Draft Thought

Kurt —  March 8, 2007

Since last night’s game is not worth discussing on any level, and others already are doing a great job finding the video evidence to question the Kobe suspension, I figured this was a good time to look ahead a little and see who the people who follow this stuff have the Lakers taking in the draft.

As of right now, the Lakers are picking 20th overall, which means one thing — take the best available player, regardless of position. There are no franchise guys to be found where the Lakers are picking, so you get the best guy you can.

The recently redone but always brilliant Draft Express has the Lakers taking 7-1 center Aaron Gray out of Pittsburgh. I haven’t seen him play, but Draft Express describes him as big, strong guy with soft hands — “He is a bear for opposing defenders to defend if they are trying to front or three quarter front him.” He also is a great rebounder. Downsides: He struggles even in college against guys who can face up or take him outside the block on defense.

Don’t like that? Well, has the Lakers taking the athletic shooting guard Nick Young out of USC. He is exciting to watch, can shoot (47% on threes this season) and can finish at the rim. Also, in watching him, he looks like he has the rare good mid-range game, something that would fit well in the triangle. The downside: As my Trojan fans friends will back up, he is inconsistent, not seeming focused every night. Particularly on defense. I personally have an aversion to guys who don’t bring it every game in college, some become great pros while others become way too comfortable with the NBA money and lifestyle. Young would be fun, however.

The Lakers should not draft a PG just because it’s a weakness — Smush may well be gone and Farmar will develop. I’d rather bring in a veteran with Farmar as the primary back up, developing into a starter. Another center makes some sense, Kwame is in his last year and is trade bait with the expiring deal, Bynum is clearly the man of the future but who can you get to back him up cheaply?

But at this point, you take the best player and fit him in, regardless of position. There are countless workouts and video sessions ahead as the list becomes refined, but those are two guys who may be around when the Lakers draft you may want to watch during thee NCAA Tournament. A few others: Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina), Dominic James (PG Marquette), Alando Tucker (SF Wisconsin).

Any other suggestions?

Tonight could get ugly — Kobe has been suspended for tonight’s game by the league for the play on Jaric. While we could well argue that the league should just allow people to hit Jaric (Clipper fans will back that up), there was little doubt this was going to come down today. This play was almost identical to what happened against Ginobli, so the league had no choice but to be consistent.

Tough way to come in to take on the Bucks: No Odom or Kobe, plus last night Cook played 49 minutes, Evans 44, Smush 42, and the list goes on. Add to the tired legs the hard loss last night and we’ll see how much fortitude this Laker team has tonight.

That fortitude has to start with finding a way to cover Michael Redd — last meeting he dropped 45 on the Lakers while shooting 61.6%, leading the Bucks to the win. He is one of the best shooters in the game, although he is weaker from the midrange on the right side of the court. But you can’t give him good looks from anywhere, my guess that will fall to Evans and Sasha.

Overall the Lakers have to play better defense than the first meeting when the Bucks shot 54.7% (eFG%) and 43.8% from three.

Also in that game, Odom had 21 points and 13 boards, Kobe had 27 and Walton added 14 points. Those have to be made up somewhere — but even still the Lakers should be able to get some offense going. The Bucks are the second worst defensive team in the NBA, and are second worst in opponent eFG%.

Also, the Bucks are the worst defensive rebounding team in the league — Bynum, Kwame and others need to crash the boards, get a few easy ones on misses.

One thing to drool over tonight: Bucks PG Mo Williams will be a free agent this summer. The bad news is I think there is little chance the Lakers will be able to afford him.


Sometimes, I regret watching a game on TiVo after knowing the outcome because I just get frustrated. The double OT loss to Minnesota was one of those games — and there was plenty to be frustrated about. How hard is it to execute an inbounds play? When did Mark Blount learn to shoot threes? (That one is one of those where I say “good on him” for making the play, if you told me that the T-Wolves are going need Blount to hit threes to win the game I’d take that chance.) Why is the zone defense so baffling for the Lakers? Why can’t they shoot free throws? How do you not know the shot clock? Then there’s “the technical” or Phil not subbing out anyone in the overtimes when it was clear guys were dragging.

But, as you commenters noted, a lot of that comes back to the rash of injuries.

McKie should not be making inbounds passes, Luke Walton should be. He would have seen Cook standing unbelievably wide open with the chance to win the game. But, you say, Cook could not throw a pea in the ocean in that game (thanks Chick), even if he had gotten the ball he would have missed. But Phil didn’t have Radmanovic to turn to as the hotter hand that night. And he didn’t have Odom to take on Garnett, he had to go with Cook. The result was Cook having to play 49 minutes often matched against one of the league’s best players, leaving the Lakers with other bad matchups, including on Blount.

I’m not trying to make excuses — McKie is veteran who should make better decisions. Cook asked for chances and needs to take advantage of them. Guys need to step up. But there was a reason that McKie has sat much of the last two seasons, reasons Cook is not given key defensive assignments. Right now the collection of injuries is forcing Phil to make player and matchup choices he would prefer not to, just because he sees it as the best option he has. We can question some of those decisions, and should, but there are not great answers on the current roster. And that is hurting the Lakers and costing them games.

What’s up with Luke? Turns out he has tendonitis in his ankle. In a radio interview this morning (one that was a classic example of why it is hard to listen to sports talk radio in LA) he said he was relieved by the diagnosis because it could have been worse.

Don’t expect him back for another week or two.

The Wolves are slumping. The Timberwolves are 3-7 in their last 10 (same as the Lakers) and have lost six of the last seven, and three straight. That includes a loss to the Celtics, the one team the Lakers had little trouble with lately.

Don’t fret for Minnesota. Things are going to turn around there because they have the best GM in all of sports in Kevin McHale. Forbes magazine says so. (Via True Hoop.)

Last meeting. Back in December the Lakers beat the T-Wolves in what may have been my favorite game this season — LA went on a 34-5 run in the fourth quarter where all the starters sat and the lineup was Farmar, Sasha, Evans, VladRad and Bynum. As a team the Lakers shot 61.7% (eFG%) and 47.1% from three in that game.

Garnett had 22 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in the loss.

Garnett is not slumping. While he has basically nobody around him, KG is still, well, KG. Against the Celtics he had 33, 13 and 10, his third triple-double of the season — all in the last month. In the last 10 games he is shooting 50.6% on his way to 23.7 PPG and 13.5 rebounds per game.

He’s not the LA savior. I’ll believe KG will ask out of Minnesota when it happens, I wouldn’t hold your breath. But even if it does, there are several teams that can put together as good or better packages than the Lakers. Including teams like Chicago, which meets the standard superstar trade criteria of making sure he goes to the other conference.

What I’m saying is I’m not a fan of pinning your hopes on this kind of long shot in general, and this one in particular. Better to focus on what you can do, not count on KG riding in to save the Lakers.

The other T-Wolf to stop. Last meeting with the Lakers, Ricky Davis scored 22 on 9 of 16 shooting. In his last 10 games he’s been shooting 56.7% (eFG%) and 44.2% from three. KG is going to get his, but you can’t let Ricky Davis beat you — and close out on him on threes. He’s a pretty good midrange shooter but better from deep.

Things to look for: If the Lakers play defense like they did against Phoenix they will win handily. If they revert back to the Sacramento game defense, they could lose to Artesia High School.

Don’t turn the ball over — the T-Wolves are 27th in the league in creating turnovers and have won just 35% of their games against the 10 teams that turn the ball over the least in the league. That is not the Lakers (they are middle of the pack), but if they can curb the turnover habit for a night it will go a long way toward getting the win.

I’d love to see another big game from the bench tonight. The Lakers are depleted, but the Wolves are thin.

As I said yesterday, I’m curious about how Smush comes out after his benching at the end of last game. My guess, he comes out gunning. But I hope I’m wrong. Also, I’m curious to see how Phil deals with him in the lineup, and the front line rotations. Because of the injuries Phil seems to be experimenting again.

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  March 5, 2007

Lots of notes and random thoughts in a grab bag today:

• We learn the fate of Lamar Odom today, and there will be an update here as soon as word comes down. That said, I’m not optimistic, and neither is the Will Carroll, who made a comment here:

Unfortunately, I don’t have the same sources I do in basketball that I do in baseball. I think that Odom’s significant labrum tear is likely to end his season. He wont be able to reach up strongly for rebounds, would have significant pain if hit or worse, has his arms pulled or chopped, and I have to think it would affect his shot. It’s a bad, bad injury.

UPDATE: Odom is going to do a mini D Wade move, rehab it for a couple weeks then decide whether to come back or go under the knife.

• I don’t believe in moral victories at the professional level, but some losses sting less than others. The loss to Phoenix didn’t hurt much. If the Lakers play defense like that the rest of the way they will win plenty of games.

• I’ll add, I think it helped that the Lakers played the Suns last year in the playoffs. During the regular season there is little time for NBA teams to practice and most scouting and preparing for a team is of the video/grease board variety. But the Lakers had game experience in what to do against Phoenix, what their preferences were. It showed.

• The best part of the ABC broadcast — did you see the post-game interview with Steve Nash? He gets asked about the 2 for 11 first half and why he played better in the second half and his response is (not an exact quote), “I spent most of the pregame warm-ups in the bathroom with diarrhea… I probably shouldn’t have said that.” Honesty can be damn funny.

• Forget who starts, let’s look at the Lakers lineup for the final 5 minutes against Phoenix: Shammond, Sasha, Kobe, Cook and Kwame. The squad that Phil perceived as playing the best defense (we could argue some of those).

• What was getting Smush in trouble with Nash (at least more than the other guards) is the classic Smush problem — he would go for the steal and that opens up a lane for a good ball handler. Shammond just tried as best he could to stay in front of him, which is why he got the crunch-time minutes. I think it will be interesting to see how Smush responds to this at the start of the next game. Does he learn and change a little on the defensive end? Or does he try to go on a scoring binge, saying basically “you can’t afford to lose my offense right now?”

• For the game, Bynum was a team best +9, Kwame a team worst -15. It’s one game, so take that with a lot of salt. But I’d say right now Bynum offers a lot more offense, but even the rusty Kwame does a better job defending the pick-and-roll. In the comments on the game there started to have a good discussion about that.

• Pippen and Jackson talked. While Pippen was barbequing. Here’s the thing: I think Pippen could be a help but there is no way you sign him unless he comes for a workout. There wasn’t much in the tank two years ago when he played, and he admitted that as of last week he hadn’t played five-on-five recently.

The Lakers may be desperate with Odom out, but how much can Pippen really contribute? We can’t think of him as the 1997 Pippen, we need to evaluate the 2007 model. And there are questions that need to be answered before McKie is cut and a contract signed.