Comfort With The Familiar

Kurt —  April 19, 2007

Before the season started I had picked the Suns to end up NBA champions (beating the Cavs). That’s not the choice I’d make today, but it is still a long shot that the Lakers are the team to end the Suns playoff run.

Still they have a chance in part because this is the squad the Lakers may be most familiar with — after last year’s playoff series and through the games this season, the Suns are a team the Lakers know how to play against. The Laker players know what roles they have to play. This is better Suns team than the one the Lakers led 3-1 and took to seven games last year — primarily because of a guy named Amare. But the basic game plan remains the same from that series. Familiarity with an opponent is helpful come a seven game series.

I’ll post a first breakdown in the coming days, and we’ll get into all the details before Sunday (feel free to start in the comments here). But we all know them, and the Lakers do too — on offense and particularly on defense. We’ve discussed it a lot in the last year.

The question is execution.

Kurt

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36 responses to Comfort With The Familiar

  1. Here is a comment from M.T. on another blog concerning playing Steve Nash. I think it is informative and I have tried to edit it to make it shorter…

    The series is going to be broken down to containing Steve Nash. There is only one way of going about this and that’s to make Steve Nash the scorer. The Lakers have to deny the passing lane to Nash. The only way this is done is by not collapsing on Nash when he drives to the basket. The only way that’s going to happen is to get the Suns to play a half court game…

    The problem is that the Suns are actually a pretty good half court team as well. Especially when the game gets tight. That’s when they start going to their bread and butter. The pic and roll.

    The pic and roll comes down to Kwame Brown and whoever the guard is…

    The high screen and roll should be defended this way. Kwame needs to turn the guard around. That means this: When the Lakers’ guards sees the pic, Kwame needs to come out quickly but not as tight as he’s been doing lately. When he comes out too tight the refs are calling a foul on him. Anyway he needs to turn the Suns’ guard around. This is suicide if the Lakers’ guards try to go over or under the screener because while Kwame is putting himself out there and the Lakers guard is trying to fight through the screen, it’s then that the screener will roll with an open lane.. When Kwame comes out to turn the Suns guard around the Lakers guard must freeze on the screener’s hip to freeze the play. Once Kwame turns the Suns guard around he then has time to drop back to the screener, which is his man. Of course Kwame is turning the Suns guard right back in the direction of the Lakers guard.

    This will lead to Steve Nash doing some freelancing. Why? It’s because if Kwame and the Lakers guard execute this part of the game properly it will throw the Suns out of their set offense. But more than that it will eat up the shot clock and the Suns will be forced to finish their offensive set in a more chaotic way. This is where Nash is dangerous. This is where Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, and Luke Walton… blow all the work that Kwame and the Lakers guard just put in. How is that? By collapsing on Steve Nash when he’s about to try to make something happen because the shot clock is running down…

    … we know that Steve Nash will find a crease and drive to the lane. But he won’t stop at the lane. He’ll actually dribble the ball past the backboard… This is when they {again} collapse leaving Marion, Bell, and James wide open for a 3-point shot. Or Amare will be wide open for a pass in the lane….

    The remedy is simple. Once the Lakers frustrate the pic and roll, the Lakers have to rely on their guard to stay in front of Nash and force him into a shot. He might make it because Steve Nash is good. But if we deny him the passing lane he’ll have to beat us by himself. Over a series…I’d like to see that.

  2. Has anyone seen Lazenby’s April 1 piece on Smush?

  3. There is an outstanding article on Joey Crawford, Tim Duncan, and the best refs in NBA history at…

    http://thestartingfive.wordpress.com/2007/04/19/another-view-of-the-tim-duncan-joe-crawford-incident/#comment-2288

    While this article is long; it really gives you a feel about changes in the NBA and why we can’t really appreciate Joey’s position. It also goes into some of Tim Duncan’s history that most of us have never heard from the ‘talking heads’.

  4. I AM BUMMED!

    The LA Times is reporting today that the Lakers are not going to be part of the Long Beach Summer Pro League this year, instead they will join the crowd in Vegas. I loved going to Summer League but I’m not going to be able to go to Vegas in July for it this year.

  5. Paul, I did read that (and linked to it at the time). But Mitch K. was on the radio this morning and, without using these words, basically said Smush was not going to be brought back next year.

    And with Smush’s history with Nash, I’m not sure we’ll see a ton of him this series either. Farmar and Sasha have better track records against Nash.

  6. That was the most overbloated piece of writing I’ve read in awhile.

    I think I got out of that that Crawford doesn’t like disrespect, Duncan was disrespecting him, and thus Joey being old-school decided enough is enough and ejected him.

    Oh and Duncan ain’t too much of a saint.

    Not really the biggest news and really not that insightful.

  7. Very sad to see the Lakers leave SPL. That will probably be the end of SPL in Long Beach, and I have enjoyed going there for years. It was a place you could really feel close to the action, I would regularly see current players, former players, gms, and coaches sitting amongst the crowd, often willing to give autographs or say hello. The writing was on the wall for this when several teams began to leave, and with the Lakers making the move I will have to look elsewhere for a good 3 weeks of bball

  8. In response to the Craford/Duncan issue

    Tim Duncan was acting like a little school girl on the bench…pissed off that he had just been assessed a T for arguing a call. He knew exactly what he was doing by laughing at the official, Joey Crawford. And in Joey’s eyes, Tim Duncan was still arguing the T…by belittling Joey’s next call. That is what Tim Duncan did here. Joey did exactly what he should have done.

    The rest of the argument is pointless. Ref’s have a tough job and even tougher since the Palace Brawl. They have to do there best to maintain control of the players and their interactions with other players.

    Do you think that Dallas player that was hammered in the lane that Joey called the foul in favor of thought that it was funny? Could that player not have taken that as a taunt from Tim Duncan? In the heat of the moment? Just think for a split second you drive the lane….get knocked to the crowd by the defender and you look over and Tim Duncan is laughing in hysterics at you. You dont put together that He is pissed off at Crawford still for the T. You think he is laughing at you. And you probalby would….I would. I think that if not the T for undermining his authority….a T for taunting was in order.

  9. Gotta agree with CTDDeLude. That piece was so overdramatized I had to stop reading it.

    I think this scandal is getting too much attention, so I’m not gonna say anymore about it. People have been punished. Let’s move on.

  10. Mitch’s intimation that Smush will not be brought back fits with his loss of a starting job. Until Lakers’ brass decided his fate for next year they almost had to keep starting him. There was no way he would have taken the loss of the starting job well like Jordan or Andrew did.

    Sad to see the Lakers leave Long Beach. But the writing was on the wall. The better action seems to be in Vegas and the move there will help player development.

  11. @burningjoe

    I don’t think you could have mischaracterized the situation any more than that even if you tried. The next call they were laughing at was a ticky-tack blocking foul on one of the Spurs who was standing in the lane with his hands straight up in the air. There was very little contact, all of which was initiated by the offensive player. No one was hammered. You think that Duncan’s laughing (along with Horry’s laughing and Bowen’s vocal disapproval, neither of which drew a reaction from the refs) was calculated and that he was given the 2nd technical due to the idea that the fouled player might believe Duncan was taunting him rather than the ref and Crawford was trying to prevent it from escalating? That is some serious mind-reading spin right there. The fact is, Crawford said that Duncan was given the technical for what he considered mocking him.

  12. @ Exick

    Horry, Bowen and who ever else that was “involved” were only following Duncan’s lead….hence why Joey gave the T to Duncan and did not hand more out. Watching the clip again, Horry reacts to Duncan’s histrionics not to the call on the floor.

    I re read my post and I suppose I was trying to make it seem that my “scenario” of the player being hammered was what actually happened…but I know that was not the case. But my theory still stands, and that scenario could have easily been. And Duncan’s blatant tantrum (that is what it was he was doing…just acting out in a different way) should not go unpunished. Your playing a game with men…act like one.

    Joey may be a terrible Ref…I dont know…I think they all have room for improvement…but in no way should he have been penalized this badly for this. I think what hurt him the most is the “you want to fight” stuff….that Duncan knowingly took out of context and made it the buzz…made that the focus and not his cry baby attitude.

    its just unfortunate. Especailly it being such a high profile game with Play Off positioning on the line of the out come.

  13. No Lakers in Long Beach? Aww, man. I was planning on coming out for a game this summer. What a bummer. Seems like the NBA is doing everything possible to get Vegas in on the action with the top draws of the league. Might as well just put a team there and be done with it.

    Sad, because the weather in Vegas in July is horribly hot. Long Beach seems a little more peaceful weather-wise. Probably good for the economy around the area too.

  14. warren (philippines) April 19, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    Steve Nash. In my opinion ine of the top PGs to ever grace the game. However, his accomplishments would mean little only if a ring is not in sight. The time for him is now. It’s a miracle enough see Amare perform decently, but the Superstar All-star he is, thats sick. So sad that the Lakers are in the way… So sad for Nash that they are actually going down in the 1st round. I mean, we’re not that good a team. But matched uo with the 4 other biiggies in the West, the Suns are the best proposition. We’ll just have to win 4 games this time.

  15. warren (philippines) April 19, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    Kurt, is there a character limit to your post? seems mine can’t be seen…

  16. warren (philippines) April 19, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    I do not know if its final, but KG would have to wait. McHale and his Navy said they aren’t letting go of KG this summer. Talk about a sick man. The team is one of the worse locked-down for the next 3 years. And they arent even playing decently. Mark Blount has shown brilliance this year but he needs to be more consistent. Mike James was clearly a bust. Troy Hudson is a forgettable man and Marko Jaric remains un-assessed depending on how the ping pong balls turn out.

    Maybe we should trade MItch for Kevin this summer?

    Heck. Now, I’m all out with my theory – JERMAINE ONEAL.
    Dr. Buss has all the right pieces. Indiana is pretty locked up as well. I couldnt understand what they were thinking with the Golden State deal.

    Jerm has 19.7mil in next summer. Which means, we’d need 15,768,000 to trade out to meet the salary requirements. I’m assessing what Indiana needs. For sure, a rebuilding team needs cap space and young talent. So Danny Granger is off the table.

  17. warren (philippines) April 19, 2007 at 9:35 pm

    They’d be interested in Andrew Bynum and Kwame Brown. But if Im LA, tradng Kwame would hurt. He might not be the #1 pick he was supposed to be but he is becoming our barometer in defense.
    Vlade Radman is a decent player but his 4 years to go would add to their lockdown.
    Sasha Vujacic and his expiring 1.8M might work.
    Brian Cook is more or less like Radman but younger and cheaper at 3.5M 2 years to go. He could go too.
    Maurice Evans is too valuable to part. A versatile G/F and decent enough defender. He’s my replacement to Devean George. Though if Indy Needs his 1.5M expiring contract, and the idea of him playing for them, he might have to go.

  18. warren (philippines) April 19, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    My theory adds 1 more controversy :
    WALTON or KWAME BROWN ?
    Heads up you always choose the Big Man. But Walton has shown much to discourage trading him away…
    The reason why I say this is : If we pursue a big contract guy this summer like KG, Kidd, Jermaine… Walton or Kwame if not to let go of Lamar Odom, has to go.
    Value for money wise Walton is a steal after being only the 32nd pick. Kwame’s contract is most attractive at 9M expiring and a decent defender.
    So, letting Kwame go for Jermaine? Absolutely. But Bynum is surely asked of. Will you trade Bynum AND Kwame for Jermaine? I need your help.

  19. I would trade Kwame and Bynum for Jermaine. For sure. But, the Buss family won’t let go of Bynum any time soon.

  20. warren (philippines) April 19, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    Thats not really true in my opinion… Buss is committed to a contender within the next 3 years. KG would have been it but he can still be available after he opts out next season.

    The deal wont be Bynum and Kwame alone. Cook and Sasha might be thrown in to complete it. PLus Indy will be insisting we take on Jamaal Tinsley. Ew.

  21. I don’t know what kind of trade the Lakers are willing to make. But I guarantee any trade will not include both of the team’s centers unless a time machine and Michael Jordan are involved.

  22. warren (philippines) April 19, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    Jermaine Oneal can play Center dude. That means we only need 1 more. Mihm is on his way to recovery. We’ll still have 3.

  23. Lakers brass won’t count on Mihm to be healthy/productive. Plus, he’s not signed for next year. So if Kwame and Andrew are traded, the Lakers need to sign two centers, not one. Even with JO at center.

  24. I think it says something interesting about how Lakers fans feel about the team as constructed that, with the playoffs just about to start, they are eager to talk about off-season shakeups.

  25. Guys, the first part of my Suns preview is going to be up soon. I didn’t get it done today because, well, I saw something in person I wish I had never seen and it threw my day into disarray for several reasons. It meant less time for writing.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-fire20apr20,0,2387970.story?coll=la-home-headlines

  26. In thinking about the Phoenix series, many have seen a mismatch between a team that has gotten better (Phoenix) against a team that has gotten worse (our Lakers).

    The biggest real difference involves health more than anything else. Last year, Amare was injured and the Suns were not only minus a big superstar starter, but short-handed. This year, Amare is back (and backed) and Phoenix has been relatively healthy all season.

    With the health difference evaporating somewhat, and both teams limping into the playoffs, the imagined mismatch really rests with the role players and backups (a thing to consider when one imagines trading away much of the Laker team for a superstar).

    With Amare back, Diaw joins Barbosa in a super backup role. The Suns have added Piatkowski and Rose to Thomas as backup players with more than 10 years of experience-a category virtually missing from the Laker lineup altogether. There are other good younger backups at nearly every position.

    The only starting player not substantially backed up is Nash–although the Suns tried by signing Marcus Banks–the guy the Lakers almost had in that old Boston trade for Payton/Fox.

    It hasn’t worked for them. They’d probably trade Banks straight up for Smush!!!

    The Lakers have 3 basically new defensive answers to Phoenix for this year: Farmar, Turiaf, and Evans. Phoenix has only recently become fully aware of Ronnie. They may not know as much about Evans as they think. Farmar as a starter may be the biggest surprise.

    If the Lakers play Smush whenever the Suns play Banks, it could be an interesting series.

  27. Hmmmm…..seems news outlets are picking up on the Suns book from last season with some nice quotes….hopefully this means bulletin board material.

  28. Yes, please….no more trade talk until playoffs are over!

    We still have Kobe Bean Bryant playing live basketball. Let’s enjoy this team while we can.

  29. I don’t know if this will work. But, if I were Jackson I would do the following things. 1) Show the Lakers video after video of games earlier in the season and show them how they were playing. 2) Everybody needs to move into the passing lanes when Kobe has the ball, that’s how you make teams pay for doubling and tripling Kobe, 3) the other players need to make aggressive moves if they see their defender sagging off for a potential double on Kobe when the inevitable pass to Mamba happens. In fact, a fake or two in Kobe’s direction will open the game way up. 4) Odom, you’re not a jump shooter. If you get the ball at the top of the key or the wing, take it to the hole, try a few moves to the right in there if you can, if the defense collapses on Odom in this case, Kobe get on the perimeter and drain that three. 5) Play some defense and trust in defense. Meaning don’t make every offensive possession do or die. Have some faith that you will get some stops. End result; you don’t have to rely on Kobe so much on offense.

    I think Kobe did a good job of leading the team and giving them some confidence early in the year. I think the team, partially due to injuries, lost some of that confidence. I don’t if this is Kobe’s fault. But, once inspired by a leader, it is necessary for the other players, at some point, to take some ownership and assert themselves on the court. Maybe, it’s not too late. Sorry Odom, Kwame, and Bynum, but the pressures on you. You are the other players on this team with serious gifts. This is your team too. Get out there and win, This is what Pippen and Rodman did.

  30. We all know the Suns go as Steve Nash goes, but how about the idea that this team will have Atlanta’s lottery pick (1-3 protected) this year? Man, the rich get richer. And didn’t they get that from fleecing the Hawks for Boris Diaw and saving $90 million on Joe Johnson? Colangelo is a bad mutha.

  31. Hi Kurt..I am a long time fan of this site..great work. I have a question that I am hoping u can address in ur next post. Is this series with the S

  32. Is this series with the Suns for Kobe like MJ`s with Detroit in the early 90`s? If Kobe gets past the Suns with a subpar/injured squad will this elevate his status as the air apparent. I guess I am asking with all his feats over the past two years…does he have to get past the Suns this year to legitimize his standing as the best player in the league and to get recognition from the masses and the media in that regard? Thanks a lot

  33. Yikes, Kurt. That’s terrible. The kind of thing we don’t think about until it’s right in front of us.

    As for the Suns, there aren’t too many unknowns. Both teams know what the other is going to do. Last year Phil’s strategy was a surprise. This year it won’t be. (Assuming Phil hasn’t come up with a new super secret probation plan.) So the series comes down to execution. Who will get the job done?

  34. (28) Nate,

    Good stuff. You may recall that toward the end of the final meeting at Phoenix (when Smush sat down), the Lakers employed something very close to the strategy you describe–and it worked–sort of. The final score was much lower and the shooting percentage for Phoenix was close to a low for the season. They still shut down every one but Nash. Problem was that the Lakers started committing too many fouls.

    In a longer series, both teams will find ways to adjust. Notice I said, “in a longer series.”

  35. Nate, good stuff. When I put the first part of my preview up in a couple hours it will be a case of great minds thinking alike.

    Ali, for some Kobe will never be the next MJ, he will always be a figure to be despised. That said, him leading the TEAM over the Suns would go a long way to opening a lot of people’s minds. If he scores 50+, well, he’ll also cement that “lone gunner” image if the Lakers win. Of course, the only way the Lakers can beat the Suns is a team effort with guys like Luke and Kwame stepping up.