Archives For March 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.

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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.

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.

UPDATE:
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 ESPN.com’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).