Archives For October 2007

Bynum’s Turn?

Kurt —  October 15, 2007

It’s no bit news that one of the keys to the Lakers improving this year is better play out of the center spot. And most Laker fans would wish for Andrew Bynum to be the guy takes a big step forward, improves his game and takes charge of the position.

But what we’ve seen through the first two preseason games from a more fit looking Bynum is some of the inconsistency that we’ve seen in years past — for example he looked great in the first half against Golden State last Thursday, then like the worst player on the floor for a stretch in the second half.

Drew realizes this is a year he should step forward, and said that in an interesting interview with the LA Times last week. He also understands that Phil is leaning another direction right now (although Bynum may not fully understand why).

“This year’s the year,” he said. “I kind of think we go as far as our young guys take us, me and Javaris [Crittenton] being the young guys, going out there and getting some things done on our second unit. I’m still trying to go out there and be a starter, but as of right now, I think Phil [Jackson] is favoring Chris Mihm — veteran status and all that.”

Note to Drew: Coaches are big on consistency. Real big.

Tom Ziller read that article and posted some interesting thoughts over at Fanhouse, talking about how he is impressed with Bynum’s maturity.

Bresnahan brings up comparisons to Jermaine O’Neal’s long maturation process with the Blazers. There’s a big difference, though: Bynum’s been given a real chance. Drew logged almost 1,800 minutes last year; J.O. didn’t get near that level until his age-22 season (his first in Indiana). And Bynum had a good year — his offensive numbers were solid, his defense was no worse than any other Lakers big.

All this Kobe ‘win now’ business has flipped our conventional wisdom on Bynum — sure, he’s not ready to dominate right now. But he’s on the path to being a very good player within a few years. He’s certainly a mile ahead of where J.O. was at this age.

It’s tough to gauge how much faster JO’s game would have matured if he had been given minutes early in his career. But even if you think Bynum can someday be a JO level player (and I’m not sold on that), the question of time is a real one for the Lakers.

There are no easy answers to this one.

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If you want to see some thoughts on the Lakers season as a whole, a Lakers preview I did for Dennis Velasco at about.com is up. The themes in that preview — better defense, need for better play at the five — will look familar to regular readers here. To cut to the bottom line, I have the Lakers at 46 wins this season if the roster remains as is (sorry, Dr. Buss, but you need a lot of breaks to reach 50 wins and I don’t think they’ll all fall your way). I’ll have a more detailed Laker preview on this site closer to the end of the month. In the mean time, check out the about.com one, as well as the previews of the rest of the Pacific and the NBA from other team bloggers.

Also, over at Clipsnation, the 51st Carnival of the NBA is up, with thoughts (and lots of video) from NBA bloggers around the spectrum.

Game two and other thoughts.

Kurt —  October 12, 2007

I tried to watch all of the Warriors/Lakers game two, but I fell asleep about the end of the third quarter. I don’t think this can be emphasized enough — don’t read much into these games. Kevin at Clipperblog said it well, “The lineups throughout the course of the game are like those David statue fridge magnet that you can dress with atrociously assembled outfits.” The Lakers ran a late first half roster out there that had Kobe running the point, Coby Karl at the two and Larry Turner at the five. Fairly sure we won’t see that when the games matter.

That said, here are some notes from the game:

• On the bright side, Ronny Turiaf looked a lot better on the offensive end — great post spin move on the block early in the first quarter; next trip down nice pass in the paint that led to a foul and free throws; two possessions later Ronny gives a little up-fake to get his defender in the air, drove the lane then when the defense rotated he made the kick-out pass to Fisher in the corner for the three.

• But the bigger problem was that “Ronny the foul machine” was back with two personal fouls in the first 5 minutes, three within 7:30. Keep that up and he will play his way out of the starting lineup.

• Without Barron Davis in the lineup the Warriors actually played faster — 10 more possessions than two nights ago — but the offense looked and felt far more disjointed. Davis is their glue.

• That said, they still shot 51% (eFG%) for the game (second game in a row where they were over 50%). I still thought the Lakers defensive rotations looked a little better early on, then they broke down as the lineups became an experiment.

• I thought Bynum looked better — he showed some strength inside, both on the boards and with a couple strong dunks on passes inside. Still there are little things to be worked on (like getting a foul for a moving pick, then a leg foul when he showed on a pick and roll). I thought he looked better on pick-and-roll defense than Mihm.

• Farmar’s decision making and shooting may not be ideal, but he looks more confident this year.

Now some non-game thoughts and links.

• Smush Parker was held out of Miami Heat practice one day last week for failing to meet team conditioning standards. Just a bit of schadenfreude.

• I have incredibly high hopes for this — Basketball Prospectus. The focus is on primarily college, but if Ken Pomeroy is on board I’m reading about the NCAA. On the NBA end, Kevin Pelton is one of the writers. I’m looking forward to this.

• NBA.com has its own new group blog, with plenty of talent on display. Should be interesting to follow as well.

• Festivus on the Southwest.

• Friend of the site Carter Blanchard looks back at a pivotal moment in Kobe’s career.

• Next time LeBron James blows a layup in the NBA Finals, we’ll know why.

NBA Blogger Previews: The Southwest

Kurt —  October 12, 2007

NBA Previews are rolling in, and this week it is the insanely deep Southwest that gets the bloggers attention. Check them out.

San Antonio Spurs

Spur of the Moment
Pounding the Rock

New Orleans

Hornets 24/7
The New Orleans Hornets Fan

Memphis

Shades of Blue

Houston

HoopsBlogging

Dallas

Showboating

Archives

CelticsBlog NBA Page

It’s blown up all over — Jerry Buss sat down with reporters in Hawaii and said he’d consider trading Kobe. He doesn’t want to, but he’ll consider it.

There are plenty of people saying this “dumped gasoline on the almost extinguished fire,” but if Buss had come out and said “we will never trade Kobe” that is what would have set #24 off again.

If you read both stories (LA Times and OC Register) I think this is just Buss being honest about what happened this summer. First, Kobe goes Vesuvius. Eventually Kobe sat down with both Mitch and Buss and, as Buss said, they made their pitches and Kobe said he is still frustrated and would like out. Then I think they both told him “if that’s what you want, we’ll keep an open mind, but we’re not going to trade you for Luther Head and an expiring contract or two.” Buss said he’s kept Kobe apprised of the lowball offers that rolled in, so Kobe would understand.

If Buss had played to the fans and taken a hard line in the interview — directly contradicting what he told Kobe to his face — that is what would have destroyed what is left of his relationship with Kobe, it would have hardened Kobe’s heart toward opting out regardless of what the Lakers did. So Buss professed his love of Kobe, said he wants to make moves that would keep him here (“”I wish he felt differently. And if we win, I think he will feel differently. So we’ll just wait and see if we can win.”) and at the same time put other GMs on notice that they will not be taking lowball offers — come for real or don’t come at all.

And I’m not sure any of this is really a big shocker. Kobe knows that his frustrated outburst hurt his chances of being traded (or getting a trade that would help him out) so he will continue to say all the “good soldier” stuff. If Buss had taken any other tack in that interview, things might have been different.

Buss traditionally does one of these camp interviews, and he usually looks big picture. He’s got short-term issues (Kobe, not to mention Phil’s contract) but panicking on these issues is how teams end up with the Knicks roster from last season.

So, we wait and tonight watch game two of the Lakers and Warriors. As was said after the last game, the Warriors are a team that makes many a defense look disjointed. What we want to see is improvement — from players and the team — as the preseason wears on. So that is what I’m looking for.

Preseason Game One Notes

Kurt —  October 10, 2007

It looked like a first preseason game, with plenty of sloppy to go around. Not going to take anything too seriously, but here are some notes.

• The starting five was Fisher, Kobe, Radmanovic, Turiaf and Mihm. Note that Mihm got the start in front of Bynum.

• Mihm showed good hustle on the boards, worked hard to run the floor, showed a couple moves inside but generally looked rusty (but not bad, I thought). Both he and Drew looked a ways away from being quality starters. Mihm also picked up an early foul going over the back for an offensive rebound — he picked up those fouls a couple years ago, leading to him being in a lot of foul trouble, and he needs to cut those down.

• Apparently the Lakers are still getting used to the new defensive philosophy the Lakers have put in. Some confusion on bigs sliding back after showing out on a pick-and-roll, and some poor rotations in general. The Warriors, who move the ball very well, really exploited the slow rotations (this was a tough test for the Lakers).

It showed for the game as the Warriors shot 50% (eFG%) and it was much higher in the first half and when both team’s starters were on the floor. I have been at the head of the “play better defense” camp, but this was just one preseason game, no time to worry. I just want to see improvement through the preseason.

• Note to Don Nelson: Nobody in Hawaii wears a sport coat over their Hawaiian shirt. Lose the jacket.

• The Lakers clearly are trying to push the tempo, but the synch between the guards and the big running the floor still needs some work. That will come with time (you would think).

• Kobe is back as the facilitator and wasn’t looking for his shot at all early, just making passes until about halfway through the third quarter. Nobody he was passing to shot well — the Lakers shot just 36% (eFG%) for the first half.

• Maybe the only shooting bright spot early was Crittenton, who was 3 of 5 and 1 of 2 from beyond the arc (he had a couple nice passes as well) in the first half. He was also the bright spot late as he looked to take over the game at the end, showing a nice hesitation move, a fade away and a very aggressive mentality.

• Radmanovic has his shooting touch back, and he understands spacing the floor in a running game, he shot 5 of 7 from three (and 2 of 3 in closer). The only thing that could hold back his playing time is his defense (which was spotty, at best).

• Belinelli can shoot the ball, and isn’t afraid to do so. He’s a good fit in Golden State’s system and may be playing a lot by the end of the season.

• Cook had a rough game.

• Turaif has a nice midrange shot, he should get a chance to use it. He is still feeling his way at the four in the starting lineup.

• I’m not a guy who should be making hair comments, but I like the shaggy look on Sasha (which apparently came with a new, aggressive attitude), but the buzz cut on Farmar is not really working for me.

Game On

Kurt —  October 9, 2007

I’m exicted to watch some Lakers basketball. And to watch a sporting event where Frank Caliendo’s new show isn’t promod every 20 seconds.

That said, how much can we read into one preseason game? Not much. Especially one where Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, and possibly Kwame Brown will be in street clothes. If you find yourself getting excited because Elton Brown has a good game, remember the 10 Commandments of Pre-Season Basketball.

There certainly will be things to look for: How does Turiaf in the starting lineup work? How is the new Laker defensive system working? How does Andrew Bynum’s offseason conditioning translate to the court? How is Radmanovic fitting in this year? How is Jordan Farmar’s outside shot looking? Can Coby Karl hit shots in a game, too? Warriors fans have their own sets of questions.

None of those questions really will be answered in one game against the run-and-gun Warriors, but we may start to get a clue. There also are some interesting reports from those watching the Lakers practices in Hawaii, most notably John Ireland’s blog post talking about the team trying to push the tempo this season (thanks skigi). We’ll see if that translates to the court as well.

Plus, it will be fun to see Derek Fisher back in Laker colors. That may be the thing I am most looking forward to.

For those looking around for it, game tip off is at 10 p.m. Pacific on KCAL 9.

The Starting Lineup

Kurt —  October 8, 2007

Most teams go to camp with a pretty good idea of who the starting five will be, and I think most Laker fans thought they knew too — Fisher, Bryant, Walton, Odom and Bynum (or, maybe Brown).

But a new idea that fits with the team’s focus on defense and energy has come to the front — starting Ronny Turiaf at the four, moving Lamar Odom to the three and having Luke Walton come off the bench. It was talked about in the comments here in the theoretical early last week (credit to kwame a. and Carter), then Phil Jackson said he was thinking about doing it later in the week. (No, those two things are not related.)

There’s a lot to like with the idea. A front line of Odom, Turiaf, Bynum is going to be big, hit the boards hard and bring a lot more energy on defense than what we saw last year — but there are concerns and tradeoffs, too.

First, let’s look at the numbers of what this lineup would bring us on the defensive end (based on last year’s performance).

Stat 06-07 07-08?
Blocks (per 40 min.) 3.9 6.4
Rebounds(per 40 min.) 26.8 30.2
Off. Reb. (per 40) 6.8 8.2

That is a lot more blocks, and a little intimidation in the paint along with it, plus that front line would be a force on the glass. For a more all-encompassing stat, let’s look at the defensive PER across the front line (3, 4, 5):

06-07: 16.8/17.4/18.6
07-08: 13.4/16.3/18.6

In all honesty I think the results will be even better at the four and five spots — both Turiaf and Bynum will be a year more experienced and savvy. (For the record, I had last year’s starting front line as Walton, Odom and Bynum. I chose Bynum as the center for last year because he started more games than Kwame and played a higher percentage of the team’s minutes at center. I think he’ll be the starter this year because he has shown to be more in shape and ready for the workload, plus he is healthy and Kwame is not.)

The one concern on the defensive end is fouls — last year Turiaf averaged 7.4 fouls per 40 minutes, and if he is going to start he can’t do that. In part because he’ll have to be pulled five minutes into every game because he’ll have his second foul, and because he’ll push other teams toward the bonus early.

Putting Odom at the three, playing more on the wing (with Kobe facilitating the offense more) strikes me as a better fit for the triangle. It will put Odom in a position where he can shoot from the midrange or drive the lane, depending on what the defense gives him. That said, for this really to work, Odom needs to improve on his 39.6% (eFG%) on jump shots last year and his 29.7% shooting from three. He should improve those numbers as this switch should put him more in his comfort zone out on the perimeter, but if he doesn’t teams will lay off and dare him to shoot from the outside.

And then there is, no doubt, some sacrificing of offense in the starting five when you replace Walton with Tuiaf. Walton could space the floor better, shot 38.7% from three last year and is a more adept passer. Turiaf shoots well (54.9% last season) but he needs to be closer to the basket — last season he wisely didn’t even attempt a three. The Lakers will need Odom/Kobe/Fish and Bynum to pick up some of the scoring lost, something I think would happen.

What you lose in offense in the starting five you gain coming off the bench. The second five would be Farmar, Evans, Walton, Radmanovic and Kwame. (In reality, that five would not get a lot of time as a unit because Phil would play Odom or Kobe mixed in with that group to provide some offense). With Farmar and Walton on the floor you get guys who will run the offense and get teammates some easy, open looks. Radmanovic is a guy who can knock down those looks if he returns to anything near his form. Evans will be solid at both ends, as always.

But with Walton and Radmanovic on the front line, whichever center is out there with them will have to be a defensive force in the paint because those two will not be.

All that said, the idea of starting Turiaf has grown on me. Even if he is not the guy on the floor at the end of the game, he will ensure that there is energy from the opening tip off, and he will bring some defense that the Lakers sorely need to the table. It should make the Lakers a better team.

At least on paper. It will be interesting to see how things go, starting Tuesday night.

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.

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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.