Thoughts On Kobe, Christmas and Defense

Kurt —  July 26, 2007

Not a lot of news to write about, but there are a couple things of note.

The first thing is over at Hoopshype.com (a site I visit regularly) myself, Brian Kamenetzky of the LA Times Lakers Blog, Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register (smart man, writes for the OC but lives in the South Bay) and Paul Hershenson of In The Refrigerator (great blog name) took part in their new “Bloggers corner,” basically doing a Q&A about Kobe and the Lakers. Here is one of my answers just as a tease:

4. What has been Mitch Kupchak’s biggest mistake during his tenure as the Lakers GM?

The easy answer here would be to say the Shaq trade, but I don’t think that falls on Mitch. It is clear Jerry Buss made the decision to make the trade, then Mitch got stuck having to do it fast to make sure Kobe didn’t jump to another team that free agency period. So he got what he could get.

I think his biggest mistake has been one of philosophy — the Lakers have simultaneously tried to build both to win now and for the long term. With Kobe at his prime, with Phil Jackson as the coach, the effort for the last few years should have been to build a contender fast and around Bryant, but some moves (such as an apparent desire not to trade Andrew Bynum) appear to be made with the longer term in mind. The front office (and the decision makers with the Lakers go beyond just Mitch — Jim and Jerry Buss both are involved, although its hard to tell how much) needs to chose one philosophy and go after it.

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One little bit of news is that the tired Kobe/Shaq showdown, er, Miami/Lakers Christmas Day game appears to be off the NBA schedule. Instead, it’s Heat/Cavaliers, creating the Wade/LeBron rivalry for your holiday viewing pleasure.

My thought — the second game that day needs to be Spurs/Suns or Suns/Mavericks. Because, if your goal with the Christmas Day game is go showcase the best, most exciting product the NBA has to offer, those are your three best teams. (We can get into the debate about Dallas and the playoffs if you want, but I think the Golden State loss was a matchup issue for the Mavs in a deep Western Conference. They are still a very good team.)

Do I really want to turn away from NFL football to watch the 86-82 shooting disaster that will be the Heat/Cavs game? Now, Phoenix and the Mavs, that would be entertaining. (Heck, how about Suns/Warriors?)

Bottom line, at least I can spend time with my family that day not trying to catch a Lakers game (and then watching it in detail on Tivo once everyone is asleep).

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If you haven’t seen the latest attempt at a comprehensive new attempt at a statistical measure for defense at 82games.com, do check it out. I think it’s a pretty good first draft of a measure, and it passes the laugh test. To use the Lakers as an example, it ranks Kwame Brown as the best Laker defender, and when you consider +/- is part of the equation that’s not a surprise because Kwame was the Lakers best interior defender last year. It also shows Farmar as a much better defender than Smush, which passes the eyeball test as well. Where if fails is having Mo Evans as one of the team’s worst, I think that had more to do with him playing with backups much of the time, but how to sort that out statistically is a challenge.

Still, well worth the read.


Kurt

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