Archives For May 2007

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  May 23, 2007

Jim Buss said in a radio interview that the Lakers couldn’t do anything until May 23, after the lottery was finished and teams know where they stood heading into the draft.

So, it seems Lakers fans expect things to happen May 23. People, exhale. When was the last time you saw a major trade before the NBA Finals ended, let alone started?

The lottery does open possibilities for Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, but as is the long-standing policy of this blog, ideas will only get discussed in a post once there is some substance to them (meaning reports of talks at least, not just a talk show host or writer taking guesses). And, before we all go nuts in the comments wildly overestimating how many teams are willing to take on Kwame Brown (expiring contracts are not as big a deal these days) please remember the commenting guidelines.

That said, let’s have some lottery and other thoughts:

• The first prediction for the 2011 NBA Finals — the Chicago Bulls vs. the Portland Trailblazers.

• He was mentioned as a possible defector, but if you ran Seattle, wouldn’t you try to keep Rashard Lewis and put him and Durant and Ray Allen on the court at the same time? (Or, if Portland goes with Durant — playing him at the three with Randolph at the four and Aldridge as the five — then Seattle gets Oden and they still want to keep Lewis and Allen.)

• The Sonics can’t go wrong either way. The fans in Oklahoma City are going to love either of those guys.

• San Antonio’s defense got to the guys who brought Utah to the Western Conference Finals — Harpring, Fisher and Okur were a combined 5 for 25 from the floor. Boozer and Williams are good, but they are not guys who can just take over the scoring load (ala Kobe/LeBron) for extended periods. Utah is going to have to get better balance to get back in this series.

• I don’t think Utah is going to get back into this series.

• I feel for Jeff and other Celtics fans. Much like Portland, that is a team that one big draft pick could have made very good in years to come.

• Who do the Lakers take at 19? (That is, assuming they keep the pick.) Here are three projections: Javaris Crittenton, the 6-5 Georgia Tech point guard (via Chad Ford at ESPN.com); Brandon Rush, the 2/3 combo player out of Kansas (via Draftexpress.com); Derrick Byars the 6-7, 2/3 combo out of Vanderbilt (via nbadraft.net).

• Balance of power? What balance of power?

Free Agent Options

Kurt —  May 21, 2007

The NBA Lottery is tomorrow night (go Celtics) but that doesn’t impact the Lakers, picking 19th. The draft isn’t the fast way to improve this team.

Instead, let’s look at the available free agents at the point guard, plus power forward and center spots. These are spots the Lakers need an upgrade

But to do it with a free agent will be a challenge for the Lakers as they only have the mid-level exception (MLE) to spend. That is going to be about $5.7 to $6 million a year next year, for up to five years (that is what the Lakers used to get Radmanovic last summer).

The bottom line, the list of players the Lakers can afford is unimpressive and has you thinking trade. Here is a non-exhaustive list and some thoughts on the available guys (not including trades):

Point Guard

Good but too expensive: Chauncy Billups (Detroit), Mo Williams (Milwaukee). I’d offer Mo the full MLE, but the Bucks can and would match that. My guess is Mo makes between $7-$8 million next year, maybe more as there aren’t a lot of good free agent point guards and a lot of teams with needs there.

Please No: Chucky Atkins (Memphis), Gary Payton (Miami), Jason Hart (Clippers), Keyon Dooling (Orlando), Charlie Bell (Memphis). Especially if the Lakers end up having to give up Farmar in a big off-season trade, then someone like Bell, Dooling or Hart could be a decent backup if you can get them for about half the MLE for a couple seasons. But that’s it.

Guys I’d like (or at least live with): Steve Blake (Denver). He can shoot the three (41.3% two years ago, I’d throw out much of this years numbers), he stepped up pretty well in the playoffs, and his opponent defense this season was pretty good in Denver (opposing PGs shot 46% and had a PER of 14.8 against him, for comparison Smush let opposing PGs have a PER of 18). I think the combo of Blake and Farmar could be good, if the Lakers get a stronger defensive/intimidating precence in the paint. The question is will the MLE be enough to lure him out of Denver?

Guys not mentioned yet: Earl Boykins (Milwaukee), Mike Bibby (Sacramento). Bibby is only a free agent if he walks away from the two years, $28 million, which he would be an idiot to do because he’ll never make that on the open market. Boykins, love the energy, but just is too small as a starting PG defensively.

Power Forward/Centers

Good but too expensive: Chris Webber (Detroit), Anderson Varejao (Cleveland). Webber would be great offenisvie fit in the triangle but his defense is questionable, and he’s going to make more than the MLE. Varejao would be a great fit but he is a restricted free agent and no way Cleveland lets him go for the MLE.

Please no: Dale Davis (Detroit), Dikembe Mutombo (Houston), PJ Brown (Chicago). Motombo is 41 right now, Brown and Davis are 38. Just too old to play major minutes, and the Lakers need someone who can play minutes.

Guys I like (or could at least live with): Jamal Magloire (Portland), Mikki Moore (New Jersey). I don’t love either of these guys, but if in a trade you move Kwame and/or Bynum, you need another big body. These guys would fit the bill and likely bring more production, particularly on offense.

Guys not mentioned: Corrlis Williamson (Sacramento), Marc Jackson (New Orleans).

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.

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  May 15, 2007

Thoughts while wondering what kind of hockey enforcer Robert Horry would have made….

• Yesterday was an example of why this time of year can get on my nerves (and is leading me to break my rule of not discussing random speculation in the blog). One Sacramento newspaper writer, idly speculating about where Ron Artest could possibly traded, throws the Lakers in the mix because the Lakers are looking to make a move this off-season. But have the Lakers and Kings actually had any discussions along these lines? Not by any report (and mainstream media types complain bloggers just sit around and make stuff up). A lack of talks didn’t stop the talk shows and message boards and all things Lakers from buzzing about Artest all day.

Ron Artest is a good defender, but not at the two key positions the Lakers need. He is not a point guard. And, trading him for Kwame (as the Sactown writer suggested) weakens the Laker interior defense, which was plenty weak this year already. So this makes the Lakers better? Plus, and correct me if I’m wrong, Artest brings a little baggage with him. His dependability is exactly what this team needs right now, what with the stellar focus they showed last season.

• Watching Vince Carter at the end of game four should be a reminder just why Kobe is a great closer.

Kobe puts himself in better positions to attack — Carter on the last play made a little swing move with the ball then started to drive right but when the defender went with him he turned his back to the basket, put himself in a tough position trying to back his man down and was caught off guard by a quick double (part of that impressive slip and fall move). Kobe finds a way to face-up, his moves to the basket are far more aggressive and because of that (and the respect for his move) he creates room for the pull-up jumper that Carter never had. He also has a plan for when the double comes (although, too often, because of his confidence, he still just shoots over the double).

• In case you missed it, the Seattle Supersonics and Sacramento Kings have been given permission to talk to Kurt Rambis about their head coaching spots. Previously the Indiana Pacers interviewed Brian Shaw for their head coaching vacancy.

• Great point by my two favorite ESPN writers yesterday — Henry Abbot and David Thorpe — comparing the 1980s Lakers and the current Suns, and their mental makeups.

Which are both excellent reasons for the Suns to especially remember Magic Johnson’s Lakers now. They may not have been the bullies of the league, but they were plenty physical in their way. (Consider the career of Kurt Rambis. Also, watch old video of Michael Cooper and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — I’m sure Bruce Bowen and Tim Duncan have done just that.) And more than anything, when Magic Johnson’s Lakers encountered extremely physical teams like the Celtics of Kevin McHale, Larry Bird, and Robert Parish, they didn’t let all that fire burn up their playbook. They were able to impose their fast-breaking style nonetheless. Even in that environment, the Lakers could often be in their element, and more often than not, Los Angeles ended up not whining at all, but smiling.

• Kevin at Clipperblog does one of his fantastic breakdowns of the final minutes of game four between the Spurs and Suns. A must read.

• I’d hate to see Amare or Diaw get suspended for game five. As Rob L. said in the comments, this is the problem with zero-tolerance policies, there is no wiggle room to do what is right.

• Good luck to Lamar Odom, who goes under the knife to repair his shoulder today.

• Last night looked good for my Cavs/Suns NBA finals prediction from October. Not that I really think it’s going to happen.

• I’m rooting for the Celtics to win the lottery. Seriously. I think it’s good for the league when they are good.

Drafting 19th

Kurt —  May 14, 2007

For those of you wondering what kind of player you can get drafting 19th — where the Lakers sit this year — here is the list of 19th selections going back to 1990:

Quincy Douby, Sacramento
Hakim Warrick, Memphis
Dorell Wright, Miami
Aleksandar Pavlovic, Utah
Ryan Humphrey, Utah
Zach Randolph, Portland
Jamaal Magloire, Charlotte
Quincy Lewis, Utah
Pat Garrity, Millwaulke
Scot Pollard, Detroit
Walter McCarty, New York
Randolph Childress, Detroit
Tony Dumas, Dallas
Acie Earl, Boston
Don MacLean, Detroit
LaBradford Smith, Washington
Dee Brown, Boston

Some pretty good players on that list plus a few, well, not so goods.

A couple things of note. First, these are not players that contributed much immediately but some grew into good players after a few years. Second, the hit and miss nature of this spot in the draft means it has limited value for trades — even in a deep draft nobody really wants the 19th pick.