Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Kurt —  May 18, 2007

Among the changes Lakers fans wanted to see this off season, losing one or both of Phil Jackson’s top assistants — Brian Shaw and Kurt Rambis — is not among them.

Both of them (along with Jim Clemons) have been talking to folks in places such as Seattle, Sacramento and other spots about possible head coaching jobs. At different times both have been mentioned as the possible heir apparent to Phil Jackson, although of late Rambis has been the number two man. Since Rambis was in Sacramento, Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty asked me for a few thoughts on their potential new coach.

Rambis did a pretty good job in his short stint as Lakers coach in the strike-shortened 1998-99 season. He won 65% of his regular season games with a team that had Kobe and Shaq, then won the first-round playoff series before being swept by San Antonio in the second round. He followed in a long line of guys (Del Harris among them) that just couldn’t get that team (with Glen Rice, Rick Fox, Derek Harper, Eddie Jones and others) to play any defense. They were second in the NBA in offensive efficiency that year, 24th in defense.

Phil Jackson came in the next year and Rambis, always the good company man, was bumped up to the front office. Eventually Phil brought him back to the bench and in recent years Rambis has been the #2 guy — running the Summer League team, running practices when Phil is at the dentist, talking to the media a lot.

He seems capable — what he lacked that first go-round was the ability to really reach his superstars. Now he’s sat at Phil Jackson’s feet for a number of seasons, you have to think he learned some lessons about relating to players. He came out of a 1980s Lakers team that was the epitome of teamwork; sometimes I think it’s hard for former players from those kinds of teams to recreate that feeling as a coach. He struggled the first time, but may have a better and more mature understanding of that now.

We know less about Shaw, although reports suggest he’s a little more of a player’s coach. There’s no way to know he’d fare on the bench.

But I will say this — if one of them gets a head coaching job, the Lakers need to do what it takes to keep the other one in house. The Lakers have committed to being a triangle team, and that can work with the right players (see the nine rings Phil has). If Phil decides to step upstairs in a year or two, the Lakers should not just change strategies, they would be better served to promote from within and keep working within the existing system. Meaning, Shaw or Rambis. If both were to go, maybe Jim Clemons would be discussed.

What would worry me is this scenario — Shaw and Rambis get tired of waiting and take a HC job elsewhere, then Phil decides he’s done on the bench after next season (or the one after). The Buss family then decides the “we’re going to bring in a winning coach who will bring in his more exciting system.”

That thinking is what got us the Rudy T. year.

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Great post by friend of the site Nate Jones at Fanhouse the other day (one of a series lately, he’s been on fire). He picked up on a thread from True Hoop talking about Kevin Garnett vs. Tim Duncan.

Kevin Garnett is a better rebounder, passer, and defender than Tim Duncan. He is also a better athlete with a more complete offensive game. But unlike Duncan, Garnett refuses to utilize his best offensive weapon. Kevin Garnett is just as unstoppable on the low post as Tim Duncan. Yet Garnett doesn’t utilize the low post as an offensive weapon the way Duncan does…..

If you still don’t feel what I’m trying to convey compare Duncan and KG’s shot charts from this season. Duncan took 752 shots (out of 1,131 total shots on the season) in the deep low post, making .613 of his shots, while Garnett only took 451 shots (out of 1,341 totals shots on the season) in that area, converting on .581 of his shots.

Think about that. Duncan takes 66.5% of his shots in the deep post, KG 33.6%.

If KG wants to be on a team where he makes them an instant contender — the Lakers, the Bulls, whoever — he is going to have to adjust his game. The two teams mentioned need more offensive presence in the paint, KG would have to provide that and not live out on the perimeter.

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USC’s talented point guard Gabe Pruitt is getting an agent and going pro. That suggests to me he got a first-round promise from somebody. While Nick Young was dazzling us all, Pruitt developed into a quality point guard, one who in the NCAA tournament outplayed the more heralded Augustine out of Texas. His defense is good, his shooting is pretty good (although, like seemingly every USC player, shot selection was an issue) and he had command of the team. Needs to show in workouts that he is consistent from the NBA three, but his play in the tournament suggested he can handle the speed of the NBA.

A big, 6-4 game-controlling PG. You have to think the Lakers will take a look.

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JA Adande is probably the L.A. Times columnist who knows basketball best. Make that was. Rumor is he is one off the guys taking the buyout being offered by the new Times owners to cut overhead. For all the times I was frustrated with him, he will be missed.

Kurt

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