Archives For March 2007

Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Kurt —  March 4, 2007

Who gets the playing time with Odom out? Odom is out for at least this four game road trip, so who gets the minutes? It will depend on the matchups, but with Cook the only healthy four (and he plays more like a three) I would expect Phil to try to go small more, maybe start Smush, Kobe, Mo Evans (who is back), Cook and Bynum, with more time for Shammond, McKie and Sasha (and Farmar) off the bench. One other option against bigger teams is to pair Turiaf with Bynum/Kwame along the front line.

Get out and run. Despite what Coach Norman Dale told us, some interesting work at 82 games suggests that teams that play at a faster pace tend to be more efficient on offense. Rob (from this site) broke it down earlier this season with the Lakers, they tended to be more efficient and win more when the pace was up.

150?
If the Lakers play defense against the Suns like they did against Sacramento on Friday, how many points can the Suns score?

It Takes Five. While certain players bear the brunt of our frustrations with the defense, the loss to the Kings was a total team effort of crappyness on that end of the floor. Kobe is often considered the Lakers best defender and maybe his lack of focus was the catalyst for the entire team’s let down. To illustrate the total team “effort” let’s go over those first 10 Kings points:

• After winning the tip, the Kings work it around a little then get the ball to Artest high out on the wing, who dumps it in the post to Kenny Thomas, being covered by Brian Cook. Thomas spins to the middle and gets into the key, so Kobe decides to sag off Kevin Martin (the best and hottest shooter on the Kings) to double the 5 PPG Thomas. Thomas wisely kicks the ball out to Martin at the three point line straight away, Kobe is forced to run at him to prevent the three, Martin makes a ball fake and then steps right past Kobe, moves to his left and hits the clean 13-foot look. 2-0.

• With 13 to go on the shot clock, Martin has the ball right wing just beyond the three point line, where Ron “I love this city — just look at my haircut” Artest sets a pick on Kobe. Odom (on Artest) hedges to prevent Martin getting another good midrange look, while Kobe does a good job fighting through the pick and recovering. Artest, being ignored, takes a step to his right and sets up beyond the arc, Martin gets him the ball, and Odom is far too slow to recover, giving Artest a clean look at a three. 5-0.
http://scores.espn.go.com/nba/photos?photoId=1453818&gameId=270302013
• Bibby grabs the rebound on an Odom miss and pushes the ball up the court, but there is nothing there. He hesitates out top for a second and Thomas comes out to set a pick. But Bibby goes to the crossover away from the pick and Smush is caught flat-footed. Bibby drills the 21 footer. 7-0.

• After a Cook miss the Kings again push the ball up and while nothing develops several Lakers are forced to cover the closest King (not their man) to prevent a fast-break basket. The Kings kick the ball back out top to Bibby, who gets an uncalled moving screen from Brad Miller and drives the lane at Bynum. Meanwhile, some of the Lakers switch back to their assigned men but some don’t — namely Kobe, who rather than track down Martin plays a one-man zone. So Martin slides to the open spot, gets the kick-out from Bibby and has time to set his feet, line up his shot and cook a four-course meal before shooting the three. 10-0.

Missing Odom.
Of all the teams to not have Odom in the lineup for, Phoenix is a tough one. He is one of the few Lakers with the length and athleticism to slow the Suns’ deep front line. Plus, last time these two met he threw in 34 on 50% shooting. He will be missed.

Things to look for: Defense. Any sign of it.

Also, remember last season the Lakers lost the first three regular season games to the Suns when Kobe was option one, two and three in the offense and he scored 40+. They won games in the playoffs pounding the ball inside and with other guys stepping up. Granted, it’s harder to pound it inside this year with Amare swatting balls into the fourth row, but they need to start that way.

Add Odom To The List

Kurt —  March 3, 2007

After finally having two games in a row where he started to look comfortable, Lamar Odom is going to be out for a while, he has torn the labrum in his left shoulder. This is the same shoulder he had surgery on in 2005 and missed the last couple months of the season.

How long he will be out depends on just how bad the tear is, and as I’m not Will Carroll I won’t hazard a guess. But he is not playing Sunday for sure and it may well be season ending. My quick reading on this suggests that it is tough to tell at first glance just how bad the injury is, Odom is off to a specialist on Monday.

But this is bad. And sad. After last summer than the knee injury, it has been tough going for Odom.

Pat Riley circa 1988. Gatinho found a great You Tube clip of Chick Hearn interviewing Pat Riley at halftime of a Lakers game (against the Spurs, the Lakers are up by 5). Topics include that “crazy” contract David Robinson just got ($26 million over 10 years), Bill Sharmen, the emergence of one AC Green and the unforgettable Mike Smrek.

A great find — You Tube may be the best thing ever. Well, right behind beer and basketball.

Welcome back old friends. Looks like the Lakers get Kwame Brown back tonight, although he will come off the bench (at least for the first few games). Luke Walton is a possibility, although he could be back Sunday.

Dear Ron-Ron. Ron Artest has an advice column in Dime Magazine. Because if I wanted advice on how to save a relationship….

Give the ball to Artest. This may sound strange, but it’s best for the Lakers if Ron-Ron is the guy dominating the ball. I’ll let the very wise Tom Ziller from Sactown Royalty explain:

The last four games: at New Jersey, Ron plays and dominates the ball, Kings lose in an incredibly ugly and uninteresting way; at Indiana, Ron sits, Kevin Martin dominates the ball, Kings look lovely on offense and win walking away; at Philadelphia, Ron plays and dominates the ball, Kings lose in an incredibly ugly and uninteresting way; vs Charlotte, Ron sits, Kevin Martin and Mike Bibby dominate the ball, Kings look lovely on offense and win walking away. I have no doubt Ron will play Friday against the Lakers. Hmm… wonder what’s going to happen to the Kings’ offense.

Better Artest than Bibby. When the Lakers and Kings got together back in January, Mike Bibby torched the Lakers — and Smush in particular. He had 38 points on 61.9% shooting, plus got to the line 16 times. Smush, with Bynum behind him, was -9, the only starter in the negative.

The Kings ran a lot of high pick-and-roll and the Lakers struggled with it. That would beat the top of the list of things that need to improve tonight.

One more note from Sactown Royalty. One that says a lot about young Martin and the aging Bibby:

Kevin Martin’s 3-point field goal percentage is higher than Mike Bibby’s overall percentage.

It’s all about the defense. On the season, the Charlotte Bobcats have been a better defensive team than the Lakers (by about 1 point per 100 possessions). Wednesday night the Kings shot 73% (eFG%) and 63.6% from beyond the arc against the Bobcats.

The Bobcats didn’t show up on defense and the Kings got on a roll, but considering the Lakers are fully capable of forgetting to play defense this needs to serve as a reminder.

Things to look for: I hope Mo Evans’ knees are healthy enough to play, because I want to see him covering Kevin Martin (I expect that match up). This should be fun to watch.

Last meeting the Kings started doubling Kobe early, but other Lakers like Cook and Walton stepped up and the Lakers got off to a fast start. Other guys need to step up again, as they have the last few games.

Also, the Kings had success fronting Bynum in the post last meeting; the Lakers need to make them pay with lobs if that happens again.

The Forgotten Basketball Movie

Kurt —  March 1, 2007

While watching Jesus Shuttlesworth play the Clippers last night, and thinking about his movie career, it dawned on me that one hoops movie I always enjoyed I haven’t seen in a very long time:

Blue Chips.

For those yet to catch this melodrama (it’s a preachy film) the plot is pretty simple: Nick Nolte is a college hoops coach who is loosing too many games so he starts to do what “all the other schools are doing” and paying players under the table. Those players are Shaquille O’Neal and “Penny” Hardaway, back when they were young and athletic. The list of cameos in the film is impressive: Bobby Knight, Jerry Tarkanian, Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, Marcus Johnson, Dick Vitale, Bobby Hurley, Jim Boeheim, Louis Gossett, Jr. and a bunch of others.

It got indifferent shrugs from critics but it worked on a few levels for me — not the least of those being unintentional comedy. In one scene it is Tarkanian most concerned with a recruit’s grades and ability to do well in college. Then there’s the athletes turned actors. We’ve seen Shaq “act” and Penny may actually be worse. In fact, all the athletes were just painful-in-a-funny-way to watch on screen, hitting their marks and saying their lines with all the grace of a porn actor waiting to get to the action.

But Nolte was pretty good, and I remember being surprised that Cousy (as the schools AD) was good, plus he can act and sink free throws at the same time. The basketball scenes were really good (as I recall), with Shaq coming off as the unstoppable force (this is back in 1994, when he was an unstoppable force). There just weren’t many of them.

I remember Blue Chips as a classic case of a film that was over-hyped and never lived up to expectations. I’d forgotten (until I looked at the IMDB page today) that the writer was Ron Shelton (Bull Durham and White Men Can’t Jump) and the director was William Friedkin (he Exorcist and The French Connection). There were great basketball players all over the court. It could/should have been an “A” but instead it was a “B,” and because of that felt like a “C.”

All that said this movie wasn’t bad. Nolte throws some classic frustrated-coach tantrums in the locker room. The message about money in college sports is accurate, even if this film wields it like a sledgehammer.

And for all the cheesiness I kind of miss it. I guess it goes on the NetFlix list.