Archives For October 2007

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.

Camp and Other Thoughts

Kurt —  October 3, 2007

• Not much news out of day one of camp — the big story in Hawaii papers is how excited the high school kids at the gym where the Lakers practiced were. In actual news, Odom got some run but no contact, and Phil Jackson said he wants to make a decision on his contract extension before the season starts.

• John Hollinger’s preview for the Lakers (and the entire West) is out on ESPN.com. Since it’s on Insider I’m not going to give away much info, but here is the bottom line — he predicts 43-39.

He (and most of us agree) that right now the weaknesses are in the paint and at point guard. Where he and I differ is on the bigger problem spot. Hollinger thinks the Lakers have enough depth in the front court to cover their weaknesses (a quantity if not quality argument), where I fret over the lack of quality. He thinks the problem is worse at PG, where the Lakers will ask a lot of Fisher. I think the Farmar/Fisher tandem is going to be a significant improvement at the point from years past.

• As was discussed in the comments, Hollinger picks Houston to win it all. The consensus in the comments was, well, you’re not impressed. My two cents — on paper they are a tiger, and I think the new coach makes them better by the end of the year (the offense should open up), but they have to prove to me they are a San Antonio and not a Utah. I’m not sold, but I wouldn’t be shocked.

• For those of us who cannot swing Lakers season tickets, individual seats go on sale Saturday (Oct. 6). Act quickly or those tickets for the one Hawks game will be snapped up.

• The Isiah Thomas/MSG verdict brings up the contradictions we as sports fans face — to use the sausage analogy, we like the end product but may not want to see how it was made (or who was making it). Mike at Knickerblogger does a great job talking about his personal conflicts on the issue.

I think Darren Rovel at CNBC hit the nail on the head — all the screaming outside Madison Square Garden will be irrelevant if the Knicks can have fans screaming with joy inside the arena. It is all about wins and losses. Win and the fans forgive you. But if the losses mount for New York, the issues from the trial will be an additional weight. (Hat tip to True Hoop.)

• In the baseball playoffs, I’m pulling for Boston. The reason is pretty simple — my wife used to live in Boston, is a Red Sox fan, and as anyone married (or in a serious relationship) knows, if she’s happy my life is easier.

But I have some people I want to see do well. When they played at Long Beach State, I got to see a lot of Troy Tulowitzki and Jered Weaver, and Troy was a personal favorite — he was a throwback, a true Dirtbag, a guy who played hard and with passion. It’s great to see him thrive at the next level. (By the way, also still around from Long Beach State are Cub Steve Trachsel and Yankee Jason Giambi.)