Slow Down

Kurt —  October 22, 2007

Kobe can’t be the facilitator, he turns the ball over too much. Farmar should start, and so should Bynum. This Lakers team defense isn’t any better than last year’s. Mihm isn’t ready.

You know what five preseason games equal? A pile of male bovine animal manure. While we are learning some things, the context in which we are learning them makes it very difficult to extrapolate these results into anything meaningful.

Let’s use Kobe in the facilitator role as an example. After watching the two games from this weekend, it is pretty clear he is not fully comfortable in that role with this lineup (remember he played this role a lot in the Shaq era). But to say he can’t do it and this plan should be abandoned ignores a lot of factors: 1) Lamar Odom is the only other starter who can create his own shot and Odom is wearing some pricy street clothes to the games, so the defenses are totally focused and collapsing on Kobe; 2) The lineups Kobe is playing with are experimental; 3) Just like Phil, he’s testing things out to see what works and what doesn’t, who he can trust and who he can’t. For example, I’m not sure we’ll be seeing a lot more lobs to Kwame. That list can go on, the point is not to make huge leaps yet — Kobe is struggling some, but that is what preseason is for.

Another example, there is no doubt that both Farmar and Bynum have looked good and have shown growth, both physically and in the diversity in their games. But that does not mean they should start. First off, as we said before, the lineups they are playing with and against are still too fluid to say they perform better with the starters or the bench guys. Also, look at it this way — both Farmar and Bynum have shown a broadened offensive game from last year, would that be better coming off the bench? With Kobe and Odom in the starting five, that unit will score, regardless of who is playing center. Maybe it’s better to have the more defensive-minded Kwame/Turiaf combo at the four and five to start, and bring the scoring punch of Bynum and Farmar off the bench (with Walton and Radmanovic).

All I’m trying to say here people is, deep breaths. This is the preseason.

On to other notes:

• I’d love to have Al Thorton coming off our bench, I like his game. Be warned, you may get some more Clippers comments later in the week as I have tickets to the Clippers/Kings preseason game at Staples Wednesday.

• This is why I don’t think the Suns get out of the second round again this year.

• Call them Gretzky’s or whatever, but I like the idea of counting a second assist in some cases. If Kobe drives the lane and kicks out to an open Fisher who makes a quick pass around the arc to Radmanovic for a wide open three, shouldn’t Kobe (or whomever) get some credit for starting that play? That said, it’s a judgment call thing to me, there are second assists that are meaningless (both in hockey and basketball).

• Is the LA Times borrowing ideas from bloggers?

23 responses to Slow Down

  1. I should add, the level of seriousness and quality of player rotations may change a little this week for the Lakers, with just three preseason games left. This is the time to make some decisions and play rotations that will be together more during the season. Although, Phil tends to play with all that farther into the season then most coaches.

  2. Some of the overreactions to preseason action are kinda funny. That goes doubly for last night’s game where there were 68 free throws and 54 foul calls. Absolutely no rhythm to the game last night, which makes a preseason game worth even less as a true gauge.

    Overall, I like the things I’m seeing. My main concern is what I’m not seeing: Lamar Odom. I’m hoping he’ll be able to get some time on the floor during a couple preseason games. The beginning part of the schedule is going to be tough. It will be that much tougher with Lamar working out the kinks and rust.

  3. Seeing the Lakers play in person is such a big difference. Kobe only played in the first quarter and then I got to watch plenty of Farmar and Radmanovic. Those two together with Vujacic are by far the most improved Lakers. Vujacic and Farmar going to bring some sunshine to our day!

  4. I agree that Bynum has improved and deserves more minutes this season. I’m not sure if he should start or not, but I’d like to see some internal competition for the starting role. ie; Kwame still looks to me like he needs to be motivated. (that, and his hands seem to have gotten worse since last year, if that’s even possible!)
    and Farmar, he’s impressed me too, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him getting more minutes than Mr. Fish, (best to save Fish’s legs anyway…he’s not a spring chicken any longer).
    nice to Rad Man feeling comfortable, and confident, hope he keeps it up,. or even improves over the season.

  5. Regarding Kurt’s comments about Odom the facilitator, he had lots of turnovers in this role too. This isn’t an easy job. LO and Kobe have not looked great at times in this role. Then again, the Lakers counted on them to have this role since they had no PG leadership the last 2 years.

    The only player who had a good assist/turnover ratio as a facilitator was Luke. Now Luke is accompanied by Farmar, Bynum, Evans, and Vlad off the bench. I doubt his numbers will go down with this line-up of excellent scorers and passers! This team will have their rebounding difficulties though.

    With Phil’s new uptempo system, he will increase his trust in Fish and Farm to push the ball up the floor.

    We’ll just have to wait and see who PJ selects as his starting 5. If the 5 are Fish, Bryant, LO, Turiaf, and Brown, there are going to be some problems on fluidity and the offense. Only Brown can move well without the ball and remain undefended. But we all know about his hands.

    With LO, playing the 3 full-time, Phil can get him more involved than sitting behind the 3 point line. Some post plays would be nice with Brown dropping a screen and a cutter knifing to the basket. Odom’s got size and a quick first step. He can put the defender at a huge disadvantage and get that All-Star nod this year.

  6. I don’t know how often you guys visit, but there have been some very good behind the scenes videos from training camp. They had a camp report every day in Hawaii and usually have a practice report video every day, as well as pregame Phil and postgame locker room interviews. Many of the quotes that appear in the LA Times come from the interviews in these videos so it is nice to see the player actually say it rather than just read it in the paper and possibly misinterprete the meaning.

  7. I’ve always said D’Antoni is not championship material.

  8. 6. I noticed that too, they have really improved the content on the web site this year.

  9. The reason I would advocate starting Farmar is because it frees Kobe and Lamar from primary ball handling duties. Also, with Walton most likely being the primary ball handler for the second unit, Fisher would be better suited with that group.

  10. Second Assist? No. Unless you are Luc Robitaille playing for the Kings or George Best playing for the Aztecs, then I dont want a stat where you could literally claim 10-15 of them a game. Basketball is not the beautiful game.

  11. Something I noticed a few times this preaseason:

    Kobe beating his man baseline, then:
    1) finding a big (hopefully Bynum, hopeNOTfully Kwame) right in front of the rim, open because his man had to help on Kobe. This was THE checkmate play of the ShaKobe Era.

    2) Kobe finishing with an acrobatic reverse — no one does this better in the game right now. Hands down.

    3) DFish open in the weakside corner. Fish always had a knack for dropping to the level of the ball, into an open space. Serves as an outlet for Kobe if he gets caught in no man’s land. Especially effective if Fish is in the left corner because of his high arching, lefthanded shot.

    I go into this in a little more detail in today’s post on my blog.

  12. Kurt,
    I would expect Kobe to have a bunch of turnovers as he-and his teammates-adjust to his “new” role. What I didn’t epect is Kobe’s almost total disregard for perimeter shooters. Numerous times in 1Q Walton was open in corner and Kobe kept forcing hi-risk passes to his centers.
    The non-pass to Karl is particularly glaring. I don’t mean to harp on the one play,but…how could Kobe not pass it to the kid? The best reason I can come up w/is he just didn’t see him,which does not speak well for Kobe’s court awareness.
    And I know the team is playing w/out the player who is supposed to be the facilitator,and two of the bigs are hobbled. I would suggest Mitch start burning up some cell minutes and get someone into camp who can take over for Odom.

  13. Jeremy wins comment of the day just for mentioning George Best. Man, I miss Besties….

  14. 12. There is a reason Karl was not getting passes from Kobe… he missed too many shots and made too few. I was at the game on Sunday and realized that Karl is a shorter but slightly smarter version of Brian Cook. You know who i’m talking about, that big useless guy who only knows how to shoot and doesn’t realize that he’s allowed to be within 10 feet of the basket. You know, i’ve always imagined that Phil Jax of all people would teach him the skill of playing big under the basket.

  15. Actually, Luke is not that much better of a ball handler than Odom statistically speaking. Kobe was much better than both last year. I still believe the Lakers best odds are to have Farmar or Fish push the ball up the court.

  16. “We’re still experimenting,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours after a loss to the Clippers dropped them to 2-3 in exhibition games.

    “A lot of teams are playing guys they know are going to play. They’re running their rotations and experimenting with one or two players. We’re not at that level yet. There’s time. There’s a week ahead. We still have three games.”

    The Lakers face the Utah Jazz tonight at Honda Center and again Thursday in San Diego. They play the Sacramento Kings on Friday in Las Vegas, and then it’s almost show time. Opening night is Oct. 30 against the Houston Rockets.

  17. Daniel,
    Shooters get in a rhythm. The play before Karl knocked down a three. It was the perfect opportunity for Kobe to hit the open Karl and give him some confidence.
    Beyond that play,you might be missing the larger picture. If Kobe is to be a playmaker/creator/facilitator he has to pass to open teammates. That’s what the role calls for. Showing faith in a teammate who is struggling one night usually pays off down the road. It’s the coaches job to pull struggling players-not Kobe’s.
    Which leads to my larger point that Kobe is too passionate about winning to accept having to give the ball to leeser talents-even when they’re struggling. I’m not saying that passion is a bad thing-quite the contrary,I can think of several players who would be much better w/some of Kobe’s fire. It just makes him unsuited to run an offense,IMHO.

  18. 17. Yeah, that’s a key quality for a facilitator to have. Faith in his teammates.

    I don’t like Kobe going back to the facilitator role. But I have wanted him to pass more. Putting him back there is a damn fine way to make him distribute the ball more, get the other players in a good rhythm so their shots fall more often.

    Much like Jordan, it’s the last step he has to make in his development.

    Fastbreaking or not, I hope eventually he goes back to the wing eventually, with his new mindset and awareness. And L.O. does the reverse, becomes the quarterback again, after adopting more of a scorer’s mentality within.

  19. A-Hole Carolla- I hadn’t thought of it like that, but you may be right. I too think Kobe should pass more, and maybe being facilitator will force that.

  20. Stephen, thanks for the valid response. However, let me ask you a question that you apparently have not asked yourself. Pretend for a moment that you actually are capable of playing basketball, and not only can you play, but you can play at the level of Kobe Bryant (the best player in the world). If your two choices are to either drive and attempt to make a Kobe-esque type shot or pass it out to your #1 option on the perimeter being Coby Karl, a young kid with “0” – ZERO game time in the NBA…. which would you do?? ANSWER HONESTLY… the point is that yes, we need to give Karl and the other guys struggling to make the team a chance to make it, but, and there is a very big BUT, these players will only make it if they show everyone that they are capable of adding to the team. Just about anyone can make a wide open three, even Shaq has done it before during a game, but to create a play and make something happen that will get the crowd on their feet is the type of stuff that will get Karl on this team. If you’d like to look into this even more, watch what Jordan Farmar has managed to do in only his second year by getting the crowd going and the team pumped up in general.

  21. Daniel,
    My home Internet access has been spotty past week,sorry it took so long to answer your question.
    Honest answer…in a meaningless exhibition game I pass to the kid. Throughout most of the season in the first 3 quarters of games,yes,it’s the right play to pass. In crunch time,if I’m Kobe I force the drive-it might not be the “right way”,but as Kobe I know I’m the player the team, counts on in the clutch.
    Last minute of close Game 7-as today’s Kobe I take the shot. If the player I’ve been passing to all season has been knocking down 3s all season and I have developed the proper trust in my team and the officials are not giving me calls,I pass.

  22. Daniel,
    Altho to be totally honest,if I could be Kobe for one game-I’m not passin’ the ball to nobody. I’d want to see just how much I could score!

  23. (made ya look!)