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.


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.


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.


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.

to Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

  1. Thanks for the love, Kurt. If I’m the Lakers, I take either Rodney Stuckey or Pruitt. Pruitt is a better shooter, so he might be the better fit. But Stuckey right now is probably the better player with a higher ceiling.


  2. I’m curious about him but haven’t seen Stuckey play. Has anyone?


  3. I honestly think the best for the Lakers is to trade up in the draft depending on who gets what position. Though the front office has seemingly committed to a trade this summer, I don’t think that talentwise or salarywise the Lakers can work out worthwhile trades to bring in the talent Kobe need.

    They would probably be better off eliminating exess salary (Kwame, Cook, Vujacic) while getting consistent role-players and then making a big push in the big opt-out summer next year.


  4. that sucks about JA… by far the best writter on the Times.


  5. As much as I would love for the Lakers to move up in the draft, I think it’s much more possible that they trade their pick for a veteran, or at least as part of a deal for a veteran. Im not sure that any of the Lakers immediate needs can be solved with a 19-20-21 year old.


  6. I’m of the same opinion as Sanchez. We don’t need anymore youngsters on this team. The Lakers are full of “potential” and “talent”.

    The best move for this organization would be to pckage that pick in a trade for at least a two or three year veteran.

    I’ll let Warren assume what that trade may be.


  7. Look guys, I know you want to win now, but sometimes (especially in a draft like this) you can find great players at where we are picking. Draft picks are valuable, and too many teams take them for granted. Think about this: How did most of the winning teams get their most successful players? Through the draft, of course. The primary way to build a championship contender is by adding and developing players through the draft and then adding a few other peices through free agency or trades.

    Right now, the Pistons are the exception, as they were built almost exclusively through trades and signings. But look at PHX, Chicago, and San Antonio. Marion, Amare, and Barbosa were picked up in the draft. Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili were picked up in the draft. Hinrich, Gordon, Deng, Thomas, and Sefalosha were all picked up through the draft. Josh Howard, Dirk, and Devin Harris were Dallas draft picks. With the salary restrictions that we have in place today, you almost have to build most our team through the draft. We’re up against the 8ball right now because our front office didn’t do a good job of doing that throughout the championship years up to today. Yes we need to improve by trying to trading for and/or signing veteran players. But I think too many teams throw away first round picks. Unless that first rounder goes toward picking up a KG type player, I’m totally against trading this pick. We’ve had one top 20 pick on this team in this decade, and he’s turned into our most valuable trade chip (outside of Kobe). Throwing away the pick for an average player could end up being a mistake. I’m much more apt to trading second round picks for average veterans. I mean the Lakers traded Anthony Pealer away for second round picks back in 1997 and they got Mo Evans for second round picks last summer. Either way the Lakers have tough choices to make, as their mistakes in drafts past (mainly Cook, Rush, and Vujacic)are finally starting to catch up with them.

    Laker draft errors:
    02 Selected Kareem Rush
    Could have picked Tayshaun Prince, Nenad Kristic, Dan Gadzuric, or Carlos Boozer

    03 Selected Brian Cook
    Could have selected Barbosa (which Ron Harper told them to do) or Josh Howard…03 wasn’t that bad because of how low they were picking. But they still missed out on two gems. As well, they were in desperate need of a big man to play next to Shaq, so I can understand their thinking. But as we all know Mr. Cookie is a soft as three ply, so I don’t get how they thought he was going to evolve into anything beyond a Matt Bullard

    04 Selected Sasha Vujacic
    Could have picked Chris Duhon, Anderson Varajao, or Trevor Ariza. I’m not going to dog messing up on this one so much because again they picked very low, so they were going for broke with Sasha. He was one of theose picks where he was either going to be great or be a bust. And so far hes a bust. But there weren’t that many viable options for them.

    This year, they’re picking at 19 in a DEEP draft, so they should get a very good player.

    I’ll also give them credit for getting Farmar so late last year, and Bynum (probably the third best pic in his draft class) with the 10th pick.


  8. DR,

    “The Lakers are full of “potential” and “talent”.

    Not sure I agree. I think the Lakers lack overall talent AND potential. They have a bunch of guys who are suited to be career role players, one borderline All-Star in LO, and Kobe.

    I wouldn’t be so quick to trade away our first round pick. I would in fact try to package it (and other picks) to move up. There are quality players in this draft, many that could come in and be an instant upgrade over Smush, Walton, Cook, Kwame, and Evans, all players who logged starters minutes on this team last year.

    This squad isn’t “one player away” as some have insisted, and whatever they do this offseason, their limited assets will make it nearly impossible to get on the level of Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas, and Utah.

    This is going to be a 2-3 process to get to that level, so we can’t give away draft choices just yet.


  9. Some Guy in San Diego May 18, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    I said this on another forum (pun intended), draft Gabe Pruitt. He is exactly the right type of pg to play next to Kobe. He has great athleticism, a beautiful stroke, and plays excellent D. He’s not the pure playmaker, but doesn’t need to be in this offense. Please, please, please, Draft Gabe Pruitt. ( I acknowledge he may be taken before the Lakers pick, I hope they consider packaging both 2nds this year if it makes Drafting Gabe Pruitt possible. Thank You.)


  10. Interesting article by Jones. I think Duncan is actually a better defender than Garnett, by a noticeable but not huge margin. Some might say that that SA system makes him look good; I say TD allows that defense to function at the level it does. I agree that KG is been the better athlete, and I also agree that TD is (and consistently has been) the better player.


  11. Up tempo ball has yet to prove its effectiveness.

    No excuses PHX.


  12. JA Adande won’t be missed. He’s a Shaq nutrider and hated Kobe/Lakers since the trade. Adande would spin the matters to shed negative light on Kobe every chance he got.

    Rambis or Shaw will be missed if they leave. They have done much for the Lakers.


  13. I’m not sure why everyone seems to be so high on Pruitt. He’s only 170, an average defender, and a streaky jump shooter at best. I guess I wouldn’t be crushed if the Lakers pick him like I would be if we end up with McRoberts, but I’d hardly be thrilled. I’d think this was just my anti-SC bias coming through, but if we ended up with Nick Young I’d be begrudgingly excited about his potential (although as you pointed out, he seems to be rising quickly).

    I also agree with Jones that most people seem to be underestimating the potential value of a 19th pick. Quick glance at players drafted 19-30 recently.
    03: Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, Josh Howard
    04: Jameer Nelson, Delonte West, Tony Allen, Kevin Martin, Andersen Varejao
    05: Hakim Warrick, Nate Robinson, Jarrett Jack, Luther Head, David Lee

    My generalizations from this sample: in a typical draft these days, at 19 you have a fairly good shot at getting someone who by their sophomore year can play starter minutes and average double figures. Some disclaimers: yes, most of these guys took a year to come into their own; yes, about half the time these picks turn out busts; yes, with a few exceptions not too many superstars available. Still, these are the types of players that franchises are built with. Gimme the next Jarrett Jack.


  14. Also forgot to mention that from what I’ve heard, the Pruitt signing had more to do with academic problems than anything.


  15. chris henderson May 19, 2007 at 10:50 am

    well I am not sad to see Phx exit the playoffs, and one reason is that I really don’t like Raja Bell, the guy whines all the time, and the way he flops drives me nuts.
    I really hope the league looks at “flopping” this off season, and seriously considers making flopping a foul.
    I’d love seeing this- Kobe fakes a cut, raja goes for it, they barely make contact, Raja flops on his arse, the ref blows the whistle, play stops…everybody looks at the ref who comes up pointing at Raja, personal foul for “flopping”.
    seriously, they should consider this, I really hate to see those replys where the guy got away with that phantom contact and got the call. it causes people to add that to their game skills, and that is not part of the game.
    if the league did enact this kind of rule, it should reduce the amount of times players try this silly thing.
    just play the game, leave acting to hollywood.


  16. flopping should just be a technical..end of story
    the only problem is flopping has become the only counter to all of the ridiculous touch fouls that they call now..i really wish they had asked me before getting rid of any ability to play physical d (unless your name is Bruce Bowen)


  17. Great post Kurt, and JONESONTHENBA. I’ve often said, and this dovetails a bit like some of the stuff that Charles Barkley says on TNT, that sometimes stars have to be stars. I simply mean that sometimes I think KG is too unselfish. He is the consummate team player, but when you’re that talented, and your teammates are so-so, you need to DEMAND the ball late in games, say to he*l with y’all, I’m gonna carry us the rest of the way. Charles has talked a bit about LeBron doing that-he did it prominently at the end of one game in the first round at the end of the game where they went into a timeout and he demanded the ball, Dirk did that at the end of one game that Dallas won, game four I think, and of course Kobe knows when to take a team on his back. But that’s very true about KG’s shot selection too. The FG % of guys like Tony Parker and Barbosa also, obviously even though they’re not similar players, but they attack the basket a lot and their FG% reflects that.

    I think that if B Shaw was taking over the team he might have some of the problems that Kurt had in ’98-’99 in that he hasn’t been a head coach before except during the summer league and it’s a bit more difficult getting guys to listen to you. Kurt’s obviously established more credibility by being the loyal aide for several years now, not that B Shaw hasn’t. I think both will make good coaches at some point though, and I could be wrong, maybe B Shaw will be a great coach tomorrow in the league.

    Oh man, that’s rough about J.A. He’s by far the best hoops writer (I don’t even honor Plaschke with that title) on the Times. Oh well, I read lots of columnists in other cities anyway thanks to the joys of the Intertubes so it’s not like he won’t still be accessible. It would be a bad loss though for the shell-of-itself LA fishwrap.


  18. 15 – Don’t give me the next Jarrett Jack, give me THE Jarrett Jack. He could be attained in a trade. There were rumors flying at the end of the season that he could be had in a trade since Roy is going to be their PG of the future.

    We need to be smart this offseason. Creativity will get us the pieces we need.

    When I say we have too much “potential” and “talent”, I’m talking about guys like Bynum, Kwame, Farmar, Walton, and EVEN Odom. Guys who have yet to live out their playing potential. The first three on that list may never pan out, and I just don’t want to wait for another rookie to develop.

    We must make some moves this offseason and it should involve trading that first pick.


  19. as long as you have Kupchak , Lakers will be 1st round losers or not make playoffs…

    c’mon he could’ve got Deron Williams but instead.. he had head up his ass.

    he could’ve got Milsap…but instead we have these no name untalented guards.

    c’mon Kobe you want another Championship, re-structure your contract, get more commercials. and get a decent reliable 3rd shooting guard and a center who doesn’t get hurt.

    Garnett is not the answer..he is not a low post player….why get another perimeter player. he bring no better defense than Rony Turiaf.
    thin it out people…or is mgmt too busy hob-nobbing .

    dam !! Basketball is not rocket science..look at the teams that have won..what did they have…
    Lakers only won championships when they had a low post dominant presence… Kareem and Shaq.. …


  20. By the way… anyone think the Suns are in a bind during this offseason? Do you think a breakup is on the horizon?

    Watch Colangelo work his magic this offseason. They will have a great team on the floor again next season.

    No, they didn’t win this year. But they were a hell of a lot better than the Lakers.

    The ball is in your court now Kupchak.


  21. DR., Colangelo is in Toronto now and the Suns are in a bind. I think they will trade Marion in the next year, I think they keep Amare. They slso have to find someone to take over for Nash (Barbosa is part of the answer). That guys back has a season or two left before the pounding really takes its toll.

    19. Bill, let me help you with a few things:

    1) Kobe cannot renegotiate his deal, even if he wanted to it is not allowed under the current deal between the players union and the league. No player can. This is not the NFL.

    2) How much power do you think Kupchak really has? Do you think he makes any major player move without the Buss family weighing in?

    3) I’m not a big fan of the “we could have had….” argument. But as Deron Williams was drafted third and the Lakers had the 10th pick, they could not have had him. And, even if they made a move to get him, they would have given up Andrew bynum, and you said the Lakers need a dominant big man to win. And Bynum is the only good trade piece the Lakers have.


  22. Grant Hill to the Lakers: Could it be true? Read this ..

    , with the primary objective is improving the post play and the point guard position. If they can grab Hill at a minimum price, it would be an upgrade from Luke Walton, would allow someone else to create plays other than Kobe Bryant and would give Hill another legitimate shot at making a deep playoff run, which a class act like himself clearly deserves.


  23. I like Grant Hill and I also like P.J. Brown. Not 100% sure Brown is a FA, but i think he is. In a perfect world, Hill and Brown would split the mid-level at 2.5 each


  24. If we sign Hill and Brown, then trade Kwame, Bynum and Cook to the Nets for J.Kidd, we would have:
    1- Kidd
    2- Kobe
    3- Grant Hill
    4- Lamar
    5- P.J Brown

    What do you guys think?


  25. 21 – Kurt, the Suns still have Jerry Colangelo as chairman for the next 5 years… the guy that taught his son Bryan Colangelo everything he knows. He has Mike D’Antoni and David Griffin at the reigns for player personnel. (Which is a great idea, by the way. Phil would be a great GM in my opinion.)

    – To your other point… if Kupchak has no decision making power, then why is he there? We need a GM that makes decisions, and a businessman that can make the moves the Lakers need as an organization. Not a glorified scout with no balls.

    Don’t want to sound harsh. I just don’t want to cringe again when I see the Lakers make no progress in the offseason.


  26. Good point about the elder Colangelo, he is a very good owner. That matters a lot.

    It’s not that I think Kupchak i powerless, I just think it may be more of a team effort in the front office. I think it’s hard to just blame or credit Mitch because, for example, reports are he was not the guy pushing for Bynum. I bet it was he that found Smush on a shoestring, and that would have been a good pickup if the Lakers didn’t ask so much of a player not capable of all of it.

    I’m curious who pushed for Radmanovic. Phil? Jim Buss? Kupchak? Those are the kind of questions I just simply am not sure we can answer from the outside.


  27. I think it’s kind of funny how they always use Kobe to call up a player and lure him to the team. I think I remember them asking Kobe to call Radman.

    With a guy like Jerry West, who demands respect and has a great business sense, he is the GM and he makes the calls.

    Jimmy Buss, on the other hand, bothers me. The fact that he is next in line to take over for Jerry is scary. This organization needs someone else badly.

    Magic Johnson could be a great GM, and he could be a great owner of this franchise. He has my vote. Who is more deserving?


  28. He’s only 170, an average defender, and a streaky jump shooter at best. I guess I wouldn’t be ……
    When did you get back in town. You must have been away for along time.
    You gotta be kidding!!