Filling the Needs

Kurt —  October 5, 2007

As has been discussed here — and will continue to be discussed here, I’m guessing — the Lakers need improved play on defense this year, and in particular better play at the point and at center. Well, just so happens, early in camp Phil is working on putting in a new defensive philosophy, and the one and five have been some of the more interesting battles in camp so far, according to reports.

On defense the Lakers are getting away from all the switching they were doing on pick-and-rolls, and the idea of letting the big hang back to prevent penetration (according to Broderick Turner at the Press Enterprise):

Jackson said they changed their defensive philosophy this season, going away from a switching defense and having their big men stand back on screens set on the outside.

He’ll ask his centers, Kwame Brown, Andrew Bynum and Chris Mihm, to step out and show more on defense.

Bynum, because of his 7-foot frame and long wingspan, is better at blocking shots. Brown, because of his quickness and athleticism, is better at stepping out on screens and recovering. Mihm, because of his athleticism, is good at blocking shots and stepping out.

The Lakers also apparently spent a lot of time working on proper defensive rotations. After last season, I’m not sure they can work on that enough.

At center, it has been Bynum (fresh off that off-season conditioning program) that has impressed, at least according to Mike Bresnahan at the LA Times:

Bynum has looked better on defense with his rebounding and shot-blocking so far.

It would be huge if he could step up and become more of a force on the defensive end — it’s what we’ve all hoped for. Mihm has stayed healthy and is probably playing his way into shape and learning to trust his ankle. Kwame is still sidelined and trying to get healthy.

Out at the point, the camp consensus seems to be that Fisher starts but is subbed out early (as we’ve said here, at 33 and with a long season, I’d like to see him around 20 minutes a game). It’s who is getting the minutes behind him that could be interesting.

one of the frothier battles of camp so far has been the daily head-to-heads between Crittenton, this year’s first-round pick, and Farmar, last year’s first-rounder.

Crittenton, listed at 6 feet 5 and selected 19th overall, is three inches taller than Farmar and has already made somewhat of an impression.

“We’ll see more obviously as exhibition games ensue, but at this point, he’s got the skills that we like,” Jackson said. “He’s got the speed, he’s got the verve. He takes the risks that I think are important for a guard and knows the value of the ball.”

If — and that is a mighty big if — Crittenton can continue to impress, this might be a situation where as the season wears on his minutes go up (stealing minutes from Farmar and Fish). Apparently his shooting needs work, and it takes a while to learn the triangle, but he could grow into the position.

We’ll see how all of this plays out in actual games, but it should make the exhibition season a little more entertaining than normal. And it’s always good to hear about camp battles and guys pushing each other at your weakest positions.

—————————————————-

Don’t forget about the East. You know, the games that are already in the start of the fourth quarter when we get home from work here in Los Angeles (unless they are on TNT, in which case you can count on them running long and you missing the first eight minutes of the Lakers game because TNT doesn’t cut away).

The first week of Blogger NBA Previews are in, and they are all about the East. The myriad of Celtics bloggers are excited — as they should be — and all predict between 48-50 wins. We’ll see, I think they have some very exploitable parts outside the big three, but in the East that may not matter until the playoffs (or even the second round of said playoffs). Check out the preview on the Celtics from one of my personal heroes, Jeff from Celtics Blog, as well as from LOY’s Place, Celtics 17, Red’s Army, Celtics 24/7 and Green Bandwagon.

There are also previews for the Nets from Hooplah Nation and Nets Daily, for the Knicks from Straight Bangin’ and Poasting and Toasting, for the Sixers from Passion and Pride, and for the Raptors its another of my favorite sites, HoopsAddict.

If you want them all in one place, here is the archive. Happy reading.

Kurt

Posts

31 responses to Filling the Needs

  1. I think this will be an interesting year. The two weakest positions (PG,C) now have 3 people competing for playing time. This will hopefully motivate these players and speed along their progress.

  2. Sorry for the double post but one more thought on Bynum. I think Bynum will be a good defensive player (maybe not this year but in the future). I think he just needs to work on conditioning (which apparently he has), where to be on defense (rotations) and the speed of the NBA game. But I think he has the skill set to be a good defensive player.

  3. As you guys may or may not know by now, I am a huge fan of Crittenton. Ever since the Lakers pick was pretty much determined last year and the mocks all had Critt going 15-20, I started paying more attention to this guy and have been very impressed with what I’ve seen and read. I really think he has the potential to be something special and at 6’5″, I love him for the triangle. His skill-set looks like something that could mesh really nicely with KB and LO. If he develops a consistent jumper and shows a good handle of the triangle, he’s gonna be a steal where they got him in the draft. I thought the Clippers were gonna snag him but I’m happy he fell a bit.

    That said, I am fairly confident that he can adapt to the triangle because of his basketball IQ and skill-set. I believe he played in the triangle in HS as well so that should help. I don’t really like Farmar for the triangle and think he’s better suited for a faster paced offense. I also don’t know if I like him on defense that much given his size and apparent lack of strength. He’s also more suited to be a back-up in my opinion whereas I see Javaris as a starter. It’s tough to really know with both right now given the limited sample size, especially with Crittenton, but that’s just my thoughts right now. If Critt comes out and shows he’s capable, I hope Phil gives him the shot this year as long as he’s ready.

  4. Thank goodness Coach Jackson is emphasizing defense and making efforts to minimize penetration.

    Mike Bresnahan also mentioned that Phil wants Kobe to become more of a facilitator again and is positioning him at the top of the lane.

    I like this, Kobe the facilitator through the first 3 quarters getting his teammates easy baskets and confidence up. Then comes the fourth quarter he can act the role of a closer. Being a facilitator will also take away the energy he dedicated to offense and can be used on the defensive end.

    This should work no?

  5. With Kobe moving closer to the top of the circle for the 1st 3qtrs, perhaps LO sees more time effectively at the 3 spot on the perimeter. It would be great to protect LO for the 1st 3qtrs, let him get used to diving to the basket – as well as shooting outside – and then let him bang in the 4th qtr. He would be fresher and less likely to get injured.

  6. Mike in the Mountain West October 5, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    The more I hear about camp the more I think we are well positioned for the future. The way the team is structured gives us more options than I think I’ve seen any team have in a long time. The amount of tradable assets we have is quite astounding. I’d break them down like this

    Trade centerpieces
    Bynum
    Odom

    Expiring Contracts
    Kwame
    Vujacic

    Secondary assets
    Farmar
    Crittenton
    Turiaf

    Filler
    Cook
    Radmanovic

    All of those assets can be combined in all sorts of ways to create enticing packages at a varying range of total salary. Plus, almost no trade will require all of our assets leaving us the possibility of making multiple or keeping the players for the future/bench.

    The key, however, is for management to choose a direction and go with it. The team has lots of possibilities but no definite direction yet. That’s exciting for now but at some point potential needs to be actualized (kind of like quantum physics eh?).

  7. Hi everyone, this is my first time posting but I’ve been a fan of the blog for a while now.

    3. Chise, you’re right that Critt ran the triangle in HS; there’s a brief interview with him here where he talks about it:

    http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=5452

    He acknowledges that it’s been a while since he ran it, but says he understands it. From what I’ve gathered of the triangle, that intuitive understanding is the hardest part to come by, so hopefully it’s just a matter of him getting back into the swing of things. If he can improve his jumper and actually run the triangle effectively, he could be a huge get for the team. With his size and athleticism, he and Kobe could be an extremely dangerous backcourt.

  8. I like the idea of Fish starting then Farmar taking over. Eventually, I foresee Farmar gaining enough confidence to play the point for himself, Fisher becomes the insurance.

    As for Crittenton, the signs are there. If the motivation is right, this kid could be big for the Lakers (even though he was merely a middle-pick). Waiting for things to pan out on the PG spot, I think Critt has the props to be the backup SG to Kobe. With a Billups type of body and stroke with more athleticism, Crittenton is one NBA project I’d like to put money on.

    As for Bynum, I think the focus should be on becoming more like Dwight Howard rather than Shaq. Shaq’s standard might be too high for a young center to grasp, it could backfire. Whereas, Bynum could use Howard’s model of play. Grab those rebounds, play defense. Dunk the ball at all times! See where D12 is at now… then perhaps AB will get his 50M extension next summer…

    As for trades, my favorite part. I agree w/ Mike Mountain. Kwame can be an enticing package for rebuilding teams wanting to shed off salary. There’s Seattle, Minnesota, Indiana to some extent, Sacramento, LA Clippers. Lets not name names, but we should look for a PF who can play decent if not excellent D. Let them take Cook and Sasha along the way…

  9. just read in the Times that phil is going to start Ronnie…interesting idea…
    that moves lamar to the small forward, so we are looking at a tall front line.
    and that brings luke off the bench, hmmmm
    I’m surprised not to find about 20 comments about this, (maybe it’s because I’m in europe and the Times hasn’t come out yet over there)
    thoughts fellas?
    I like it, ronnie’s hustle on the starting 5 could become contaigous, add fish as well…

  10. Gosh I hope Monta Ellis is okay.

  11. I think this is the first Lakers preview of the year:

    http://slamonline.com/online/2007/10/los-angeles-lakers-season-preview/

    Great post, Kurt, you touched on a vital issue for this team. Last season, the Lakers were kind of passive defensing the pick and roll because Bynum and Kwame, despite their athleticism, are both foul prone and Phil did not have the necessary frontcourt depth to teach a more aggressive approach. Now with Mihm back, Bynum a year older and Kwame…uh, nevermind, it is probably less risky to try cutting off the penetration of opposing guards. Last season this was not the case and it was a big reason why the Lakers perimeter defense was so porous, especially in the playoffs against the Suns.
    That said, our guards need to help themselves. Counting on the big man to stop the penetration AND the passes to cutting forwards and centers when playing against point guards like Nash and Kidd is not going to cut it. Critt’s size, Fisher’s experience and Farmar’s hustle means that we are unlikely to see a repeat of Smush Parker’s abysmal effort in this area, but none of them is a proven defensive stopper.
    Finally, defensive rotations need to be sharper: with one of our big men chasing guards on the three-point line, the other must make sure that the cutting big man does not have the space or the time to receive a pass and finish in one motion. At the same time, a perimeter player must fill the void this movement creates. Both Kobe and Walton have the size and savvy to do this. In short, it will take a lot of hustle, movement and coordination to be more aggressive against the pick and roll, but I am sure this is the right approach of the Lakers are to accomplish anything significant this season.

  12. chris (9) – I read the article too. This is one move that has been suggested of more than once already. It effectively puts Odom at the 3, Turiaf at 4 and Mihm or Bynum at 5.

    Perhaps this move also emanates from Walton having a minor injury in camp… Hope he’s fine. He’ll make a run at NBA’s 6th man award if he does it well. We will now have a facilitator off the bench, with Farmar running the point. I also hope Javaris gets a crack at the SG mid year…

  13. 9. In the last couple of comment threads a kwame a. and others have suggested starting Turiaf at the four, but I think Warren is right, this may be just because Walton strained a hammy (and the injuries just keep coming). Here is the link on that:

    http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071006/SPORTS/710060367/1189

    That said, if the lineup of Fish/Kobe/Odom/Turiaf/Bynum impresses, maybe Phil gives it consideration for more minutes when the games matter.

  14. What’s the deal with Phil’s latest one liners? Is he planning to be a standup comic after basketball? Toliet paper players. More like a ball player than a snowboarder. Eat more bananas.

  15. It also leads me to think that perhaps Phil already had this on his mind when Mitch tried to acquire Gerald Wallace earlier on on a 3-way with Charlotte and New Jersey that didn’t push through. Knowing the logjam of usable big men, perhaps Phil wanted a legit 3 guy to help on the defensive end – as well as score as much as Odom does (18-20ppg).

    Granting Fish gets the start, I won’t be too surprised if Farmar came in for him at the 5-minute mark. This gives Crittenton a shot as well if he proves well enough to play under Phil’s new defensive philosophy. At 6’5, Kidd and Nash-like PGs will be defended quite well.

    At SG, Kobe only rests 8-10 mpg, with Evans reported to be dedicated solely at SG this year. Crittenton can get the minutes here too.

    At SF is where the fun starts. This might mean Phil will really try to move Odom back at the 3, with Walton coming off the bench. I like the idea. While we may be a little mismatched guarding the quicker 3’s of the league, I think they’ll have more of a hard time defending us as well. Since we play the half-court, the triangle, Odom can become the ”unexpected” scorer for this team, with not that much pressure to perform down low and grab those boards.

    Ronny at 4 gives you an energy guy with a 15-ft jumper (perfect for the TRI). The rebounds are like automatic for him too, but at 6’9, he may have to save on some fouls for Tim Duncan and Dirk. This could also mean that Vlad and Cookie are back at 4 where they were designed to play in the 1st place. I believe these 2 emulated the role Rob Horry played for us in the Kobe-Shaq glory days.

    Finally, at center. Kwame’s misdemeanor and injuries could be Bynum’s crack at that fat extension next summer. At least this time of year, we have a Chris Mihm who is a very able center behind (or in front of him) in case young Drew folds once more.

    With all thats said, I believe it would be best for LA to explore the possibilities we can get from Kwame and Sasha. It doesn’t have to net us Jermaine or Pau (he would be nice), but he can give us some roster spots at PF or PG for added solidity. This is where I am hoping Mitch can be a little crazy creative for once.

  16. in spite of all the ‘ifs’ i really like the laker team (if they stay healthy) and don’t agree at all that they aren’t a contender. they were last year until everyone got hurt. this year, bynum will be better, turiaf is 100% and improving, mihm is back, and they must be the deepest team in the league. turiaf starting is interesting but doesn’t change much because luke will play a lot–and needs to (look what happened last year when he got injured).

    bynum said the kobe comments made him work harder. if radmanovic can contribute at all like he did in seattle it would be huge. kobe looked this summer like he’s better than ever and, perhaps, all the trade talk will improve odom, too, who’s already a great player–and probably the most versatile in the league, which matters a lot with this crew.

    last year the lakers were terrible on d. this didn’t really make sense unitl you look at them closely. smush, kobe, and lamar all play great flashy d–steals n’ such–but bad position d and the middle was banged up. fish is the opposite, so that’s a big upgrade. mihm fouls a lot but is a solid player and adds 6 more fouls in the middle that includes brown, bynum (who could actually be good but will certainly be decent), and turiaf. the middle was weak last year but has the potential to be very strong. if the middle and the point play solid d, this frees kobe and lamar to roam and use their athleticism to create havoc. kobe is a monster defensive force if the rest of the team is solid and don’t forget that odom lead the clippers in both steals and blocks one year (as well as scoring, rebounding, and assists).

    the bench is insane. if crittendon can play at all you’ve got farmar, who’s already an effective hardnosed player, critt, and sasha backing up the point. if rad gets back to his game, you’ve got both him and cook for instant offense. evans was solid last year and is young, so you’d think he’d improve. that’s a lot of contributing players if they’re all okay about sharing the court time, which they really should be because there is abosolutely no question as to who gets the big possesions at the end of games. it’s kobe and whomever happens to be hot that night. last year you had different guys hitting game winners–even sasha–all the time. this could be a great formula is the guys are all cool with it. with this many players somebody’s almost always having a hot night and they’re probably going to be open unless you want to roll the dice and guard kobe one on one.

    remember, this is a playoff team we’re talking about, not portland. and this is a lot of upgrading. there is no argument that they’re better than the team that stated 26-13 last year.

    then again, it’s day one of training camp and luke and fish both got banged up. but, for now, i’m still optomistic.

  17. I’m sorry, I was using a different computer. I wrote no. 15…

  18. I have always thought Turiaf should start at the 4, even if he doesn’t play too many minutes.
    1) He gets used to starting games and refs get used to him being there – both good things.
    2) It isn’t always Kobe that needs to kick-start the team in a game and he can save something for later.
    3) It allows LO to play the 3, where I feel he is less likely to get injured.
    4) It pushes Kobe farther out front, again resting him for later in the game/season and providing the perfect place for him to stop the offensive push of our opponents on fast breaks.

  19. I hope Phil sticks with this idea. It’ll help Odom, it’ll help the second unit, it’ll help our defense.

  20. Couple of extra “features” in starting Turaif is when he goes out the Lakers can slide Lamar over to the 4 where he should have a big edge against the other team’s backup PF.
    Second should Phil sub Kwame for Mihn,the Lakers will still have a big man who can score w/Lamar at the PF instead of a Kwame-Turaif tandem coming in. Then when Lamar finally comes out,Phil can bring back Mihn or even Bynum and still have somebody who can score at the C/PF.

    If Evans is just going to be a SG this yr,I wouldn’t be too suprised to see Kobe log some significant minutes at SF.

  21. As mentioned elsewhere, the main trouble with starting Turiaf is his excessive fouling. That is a common issue among younger post players, so I’m hoping he will get over it this season. If he does, there is absolutely no reason not to start him. Why not get his energy and commitment from the tip and let Lamar play where he is meant to? If L.O. wasn’t such a company man, he probably would have been kvetching about having to play an unnatural position since he came over from Miami. We are better off letting our guys do what they do best and hoping it’s enough to overcompensate for our weaknesses. If we were shallow at the 3 spot, I doubt anyone would suggest moving Kobe there long-term. He could do it at an all-star level, but he wouldn’t be the same player. Lamar is a guy who can do just about everything well, so asking him to specialize in the post limits his output. Yes, he’s been great on the boards, but why not ask Turiaf to make that the focus of his game and give Lamar the green light to facilitate, shoot, drive, etc.

  22. I’m not worried about Turiaf committing excessive fouls. Last year he was often playing out of position at the 5; he often was forced to switch to defend when a teammate messed up; he was asked to play the role of the “energy guy.” On other teams he has played the starters role successfully. I also believe that Rony can be a consistent scorer/rebounder.

    Rony will be OK on defense–especially if he has support from the 5–probably Mihm.

  23. Congrats to your Fighting Irish (or is it problematic for you that it came at UCLA’s expense?). Mostly just wanted to gloat to any Trojan fans hanging around. I am on cloud 9 right now.

    More bball-related note, stoked about Tuesday’s exhibition game.

  24. Drraeye- I agree. Ronny had to be the sole enforcer inside. Now we can have him next to Andrew, or next Chris, or next to Kwame. Add in Odom’s rebounding ability and we will be a better defensive team if this lineup comes to fruition. Just look around the league at ‘Turiaf-like players’ playing key minutes for their teams, such as Varejo Kurt Thomas, Jason Maxiell.

  25. He also allows for the team to set up LO to rebound in exactly the same way as Pippen did as Turiaf and the 5 blocked out the other post players leaving LO to use his huuuuuge winspan and grab boards like no tomorrow.

    Honestly guys I feel like this new dynamic to the team, ie: putting LO where he is comfortable, Drew pushing himself to the max, Luke coming off the bench for some smart passes, and Radman being useful … could make this team a strong contender to get past the first series.

    thoughts?

  26. Off-topic issue: Ben Gordon reportedly is asking for a 70M extension. Wow. Is he really worth that much? They might as well trade him to Memphis for that…

  27. Off-topic issue #2: Has anyone seen the Minny Pups play in Turkey? Ryan Gomes will be having a good year this year… I’m also happy to draft Al Jefferson for my fantasy team.

  28. 23. The Irish are now 1-0 this season in games I’ve attended. Therefore, they should fly me to all the other games in coming weekends so the team has a chance to win. And Carter, the loudest the stadium was all night was when the announced the USC/Stanford score — everyone, Bruin and Irish, went nuts.

    25. I think this team is a threat to get to the second round IF they play defense and stay healthy. But we are seven months and 90 games away from that point right now, and that’s a lot of time to see how those ifs play out.

    26. Only way I’d give Ben Gordon $70 million is over about 12 years. But I’m guessing that’s not what he wants. Thing is, even if he doesn’t sign an extension he’s a restricted free agent, the Bulls can and likely will match anything put out for him, so his value in testing the open market is limited.

  29. I like Turiaf starting b/c Luke is a defensive liability. This sticks with Jackson being committed to defense as well as early injuries. Let’s hope that Turiaf’s minutes with France this summer will benefit him with experience. Hopefully he doesn’t get tired with his new role and work from the summer.

  30. It is interesting the a month ago there was no mention of Turiaf and how he could fit into the Lakers. We just thought of him as another Madsen and conveniently forgot about him. We forgot that he only has one and a half years NBA experience and was forced to play the 5 because of our injuries.

    One reason I want him starting is BECAUSE of his past foul problems. If the refs see him in the game, at the 4, at the start of every game, they will probably unconsciously start to give him some space because they get used to his game. That’s how Bowen evolved. I’m not saying Turiaf will evolve to a defensive specialist, but working the refs is a process, not an event.

  31. Ok, 5 days removed and here are what we know:

    1. Kobe showed up, saying words like “soldier” and “not for me to question…” and “they did what they could”
    – GOOD

    2. Odom still not 100%, won’t be able to play the pre-season vs the Warriors.
    – BAD

    3. Walton and Fisher sustaining minor injuries.
    – NOT GOOD.

    4. Ronny Turiaf is starting for us, Odom at 3, Mihm at 5.
    – VERY GOOD, I love Ronny’s energy.

    5. Bynum having improved physique, projected better than last year.
    – NOT BAD. He should improve as expected.

    I would also like to showcase some motivational and conspiracy theories I have:

    1. Luke Walton has already signed in long term (6 yrs 30M) meaning he is not going anywhere anytime soon, regardless of his role on this team this year. Bench him now when he has settled rather than last year when he can choose to bolt in the off-season. I smell a rat here. Nice strategy Phil.

    2. Start Ronny, so that you can convince the guy to re-sign with the team next year for cheap. He will appreciate the PT and he will give the Lakers a home team discount. Other than the fact that he won’t be starting anywhere for any other team in the league right now that has the ability to contend. It works both ways, we know Ronny will still re-sign BUT there is a chance he will be offered BIG BUCKS by the Euroleague. See what I mean?

    3. Start Mihm, give him PT. Why? So he will exercise that player option for 2.5M next year, when his ankle has well recovered. If not, his services will still be worth 5M for a year, and we are getting his services for half the price already fully this year. I still think he will have a hard time finding a team that will “gamble” on his situation. An efficient big man like Mihm earning ONLY 2.5M? Bargain folks.

    4. Fisher will reportedly start, but Farmar will take most of the time doing PG chores. This will also give Fisher a chance to co-manage the team. I think he will be one of the assistants as soon as he hangs those sneakers up for good. The front office is where he will land his 1st non-player job. Mark my word…

    5. Have Kobe say all the right things on Media, secretly convince him to stay and that they are continuing to pursue players to keep him happy. When the other teams “feel” like the Lakers are no longer desperate to deal, deals might be a lot easier to do.

    Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I believe these things are legit ulterior motives. From a team’s perspective, I think Phil is planning to accept that extension anyway… Its just the Zen Master messing with your head.