Winning With The Other Things

Kurt —  December 19, 2007

Dean Oliver’s seminal basketball statistics book, Basketball On Paper, breaks down the game into the “Four Factors” for winning games — shooting efficiency, getting to the free throw line, offensive rebounding and turnovers. You can win games by doing those things so well on offense you’re opponent can’t match it (what Golden State tries to do), or by playing good defense so the other team can’t do those things (think Detroit circa 2004) or some combination (the Spurs, this year’s Celtics). (For a good primer on all this, start here.)

But the most important category is shooting — the team with the higher shooting percentage wins the vast majority of games. Sounds basic, but then if the stats suggested otherwise we’d really question their validity.

All that leads to why the Lakers win against the Bulls was interesting — the Bulls shot better. The Bulls shot 50% (eFG%) for the game, well above their 44% on the season that is dead last in the league. The Lakers on the other hand shot just 46.5% (well off their usual pace of 51.5%, sixth in the Association).

But the Lakers dominated all the other categories that matter, and that’s why they won. To use the common basketball phrase: The Lakers did the little things.

First, they got to the free throw line — the Lakers attempted 28 free throws, the Bulls just 17. The Lakers had 11 more points from the stripe. That shows they were getting the ball inside, both by passes to their bigs and driving the lane, while the Bulls were more content on the perimeter.

Second, the Lakers dominated the glass — they had 17 offensive rebounds while the Bulls had 7. Bynum had four, while both Odom and Farmar had three. That speaks to hustle and to desire to control the paint.

Finally, the Lakers took care of the ball — they had 11 turnovers, the Bulls 18. Before the game we said you can’t give the athletic Bulls team easy turnovers and transition baskets, and the Lakers didn’t.

What has Lakers fans everywhere feeling good is that this team is doing the little things right night after night. They get good shots within the offense and get them close to the basket (which leads to fouls and free throws). With Bynum leading the way the Lakers are a force on the offensive glass. Fisher and Farmar take care of the ball. Mix all that around the unique skills Kobe brings to the floor and you have a team that is both fun and a real threat to beat anyone.

All of it has given the Lakers with the fourth best record in the West and fans dreaming of playoff success. (If the playoffs started today the Lakers would technically be the fifth seed but have home court against fourth-seed Denver, the Nuggets have to be fourth because they lead their division.)

But, a word of caution during the bubble of optimism: it’s December. Nobody wins a title in December, despite the Celtics best efforts this year. A lot of things can happen between now and April — Denver and Houston are two very talented teams that could put it together, unforeseen injuries or trades can radically reshape the West. There is a long, long way to go this season before the playoffs even start.

Still, all this optimism is as good a Christmas present as Lakers fans could hope for.

Kurt

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51 responses to Winning With The Other Things

  1. The Lakers have exceeded all expectations in my opinion, but I dont see how we are better then the Spurs, Suns, or Mavericks in a seven game series. The gap is closing however.

  2. Getting offensive rebounds and forcing turnovers on defense give a team “extra shots” relative to the opponent, which can offset a lower shooting percentage, so those four categories definitely make sense. (Assuming that free throw percentage is considered.)

  3. 1) “but I dont see how we are better then the Spurs, Suns, or Mavericks in a seven game series”

    Not yet; but they could give them a run for their money by the end of the season (potentially), and more likely by next year, if the players whose play has been “making the difference” lately continue to improve at a reasonable rate.

  4. Random question, but where did Sasha’s nickname come from all of a sudden? I just noticed the commentators referring to him as The Machine a couple nights ago, and now I see it’s all over the message board. Don’t get me wrong, I like it; it’s amusing and oddly appropriate. I just don’t get it.

  5. Mike in the Mountain West December 19, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    For me the question mark still hanging over this team is consistency and mental toughness. They have played like a top four seed so far but what happens when someone gets injured, or they get a run of bad luck and lose a few games? How do they respond?

    There have been some encouraging signs both individually and as a team. Bynum’s bounce back in the second half last night is a perfect example. He had a rough first half and Phil asked him to play more minutes than he has all season. He could have easily gotten frustrated and fizzled but he fought back and had a good game. The team has also responded well over the last two games to Kobe’s groin injury. Stepping up when they need to.

    Anther very encouraging sign is that they have improved as the season has progressed. They are recongizing their weaknesses and working to fix them. Remember how turnovers plagued them in early going? Well, over the last 7 games they are averaging 13.4 a game, a huge improvement. Also, hearken back to all those open three pointers they gave up. Now they are one of the better perimeter defenders when measured by 3pt FG%.

    Unlike the beginning of last year, this year’s early success feels like they have really taken a permanent step forward.

  6. 4) The first time I heard it was when Stu mentioned it in the game against the Clippers. Apparently, that’s what his teammates call him in practice.

  7. MITW,
    “someone gets injured, or they get a run of bad luck and lose a few games?”

    You mean like Kwame, Turiaf, and Mihm all being injured?

  8. That christmas present would go nicely along with another beating on the suns.

    BTW — caution heeded; look what happened last year after a great start.

  9. 8. Though it is early and caution is needed, this years start is better than last years. Last year the Lakers had a very easy schedule at the beginning of the year, this year it has not been that way. Besides that they are playing better than they did last year, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. The Lakers are 4th in the league in opp FG%, holding opponents to just under 44%. Plus AB is showing huge strides in his particularly in the defensive department as the season goes on. He still makes mistakes, but he is getting much much better.

  10. The guy formerly known as Lamar Odom December 19, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    1 and 3-I think you are underestimating the Lakers. The Lakers can beat the Mavs in a 7 game series, and they can also beat the Suns. When it comes to the playoffs what it comes down to is the coaching and the way the team responds to the opposition. In a 7 game series you have a lot of time to adjust your play. That’s what the Lakers did against the Suns two years ago and almost beat them. I don’t think the Suns are as good this season as they have been the previous two, and the Mavs are not playing at last season’s level, not to mention that Avery can’t coach in the playoffs, at least he hasn’t learned to yet. Phil is a hall of famer, and this year the team looks more mature. I think the Lakers can go all the way to the Western Finals. They’ll definitely get passed the first round this time, barring any significant injury. I think they can also get passed the second round, especially if they play Dallas or Phoenix. In a Western Finals showdown between the Lakers and the Spurs I think the Spurs have the advantage, but it would be really fun to watch. I really think the Lakers can make it interesting against them in a 7 game series. The finals wouldn’t really be Kobe vs. Ducan, Ginobili, or Parker, it would be Phil vs. The Popo. That matchup is gonna be great. I really think it’s gonna happen. Mark my words, peeps, the Lakers will play the Spurs for the Western Finals.
    If the Spurs make the finals against the Celtics (assuming the Celts can beat the Pistons, who have been playing very well) I think the Spurs will win it, because of their experience and especially their coach. Doc Rivers didn’t even make the playoffs last season. I don’t think he can compete against Popo. I’m not sure if the Lakers would have enough to beat the Celtics in a finals series, but they would certainly have the coaching to make it interesting.

  11. Despite the improvements they have made in a lot of areas, last year taught me not to get my hopes up this early in the season. Still, I am more than pleased with the way they’ve played thus far.

  12. They call Sasha “the machine” because he hits so many shots in practice that it’s automatic. That’s always been the line on him: “great practice player who can’t step it up consistantly in games”. However, the man has world class mechanics on his jump shot and he is finally learning how to get himself open enough to take advantage of it. Adding the threat of a drive to his game has made all the difference, because now guys can’t simply crowd him on the perimiter. Ideally, he should be able to take the Kerr role in the triangle and get a lot of open threes (which he can nail when he’s on). We’ll just have to wait and see if this sudden burst of production is a fluke, or if he has learned how to bring his practice game to the big show.

    As far as taking on the western powerhouses is concerned, I think the Lakers have the potential to match up well against everyone except San Antonio. They can run the Mavs down and hit big shots (Warriors style) and they have the right combination of length and athleticism to pick apart the Suns (especially if their perimiter defense continues to improve and they protect the ball). I’m not saying they will beat either of these teams in the playoffs, but it’s not out of range if they stay healthy and bring their best effort.

    The Spurs are just too big a puzzle for the Lakers to solve at this stage of their development. However, S.A. is an aging team (Horry and Bowen are in the mid-50’s, right?) and the Lakers are young enough to wait them out.

  13. we should all be relieved, elated, and enthusiastic for the following reasons:

    Kobe is still a laker and is not ball-hogging (too much)

    Bynum is blocking a lot of shots, rebounding, and scoring CONSISTENTLY

    All these “young” guys are benefiting from being around Phil and Kobe for the last few years and are all of a sudden a real, dependable supporting cast

    Odom has a cool tattoo (i won’t get into his play – which seems to be improving )

    BUT, most of all, we get to finally see a TEAM play like they WANT to WIN!! Woo-to-the-freakin’-Hoo. Go Lakers.

  14. I don’t remember what it’s like to cheer for a team that’s doing well, all the while waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    I want to get excited because there are some very definitive positives to this squad, but because of their youth and lack of sustained success I have to tell myself that “I need to see it to believe it”.

    Only when this season is all said and done will I feel comfortable saying “we’re there”.

    But it’s fun going through it right now. We continue to do the things that the “elite” teams do and our confidence and chemistry just keeps improving.

  15. I was Christmas shopping last night and missed most of the game. But since I live in the Bay Area, I got the NBA TV feed. After the game, they had the postgame show with the NBA TV crew. They had a pretty good and kinda lengthy interview with “the machine” on the video phone.

    One of the things that stuck out to me about Sasha was his journey to the pros. For instance, I did not know (or just forgot b/c he was a young fringe player) that Sasha left his home and country at the age of 15 to go to Italy and play pro ball. Sasha made the point that he has been playing against older players his entire life and that it has served him well in having confidence in his game that he has been able to play well against players more mature than him. He also said the physicality of the NBA took him time to adjust to and that in his 3rd and now his 4th year, he has finally made that adjustment and realizes what it takes to be a player in this league. He also said that his performance this year is mainly due to the confidence instilled in him by Phil and by the rest of his teammates. He said that everyone has been saying that they are waiting for his breakout year, and that hopefully he can continue to play well, with confidence and this can be the year he performs at a high level consistently. “I will continue to play my best” is how he put it. He was also asked about his nickname and if that originated in Europe or in LA. He laughed and said “Oh, definitely in LA. You know, they always want to give you a nickname” and then proceeded to explain that the nickname is in reference to the fact that is deadly from anywhere on the court when shooting/playing in practice.

    Sorry for the long post, but it was a good interview from a player that never gets any pub.

  16. The Last 3 wins for the Lakers are indicative of a TEAM A TEAM that’s responding to there coaching staff.

    Nobody should get ahead of themselves predicting the who, what, when and where of the playoffs…but? Things are looking good in lakerland as we continue to gell.

    I’ve said it before, let’s all just be patient. Something wonderful is happening… a brotherhood is building that has been absent for the P&G for awhile. Players know there roles, look comfortable running the offense and play with an almost nightly passion. It’s been a blast to watch this first 1/4 of this first 1/2 of this season.

    I guess you can say one thing is for sure, the “character” of this team is changing into something we can be proud of and believe in again. Above all else… yes, even the Win’s, our ability to rise above, wade through a horrible off season and maintain our discipline as a group has made us a team that is surely, surely on the rise. Gotta Love these Lakers, Baby!

    Bring On, Bron-Bron!

  17. The guy formerly known as Lamar Odom December 19, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    I wonder how it would have been had there been blogs around when the bulls went 72-10. That must’ve been fun for them. I guess Celtics fans are going through that right now.

  18. 10) If the playoffs started right now, Bynum would not have the conditioning to play at a high level for 35+ minutes, and would probably get himself in foul trouble against a team like Dallas, Phoenix, or San Antonio. Farmar and Fisher would have problems with handling those point guards. Ariza is still not fully integrated. Are Luke, Sasha, and Vlad all going to consistently produce? Turiaf is (apparently) still dinged up. Mihm is (apparently) not recovered from the ankle inflammation that he was suffering from. Who knows with Odom. Those are all items that need to be addressed, and a majority of them need to have a poitive (from the Lakers perspective) answer for the Lakers to be contenders. Certainly possible for it to happen this year, but is it likely?

  19. Matt from Blog A Bull has his thoughts up on last night’s game, and he makes a good point about the odd line-ups the Bulls use:

    Thomas was putting in another good game, but in his only meaningful minute of 2nd half play he was poked in the eye and had to leave with 3:39 left in the third quarter, replaced by Nocioni. Two minutes later Wallace came out for Aaron Gray. That’s right, a Gray-Nocioni frontcourt.

    I was leaving comments during the game and when I saw that Gray had stayed in to start the 4th, wrote: Skiles will coach with two hands around his own neck.

    http://www.blogabull.com/story/2007/12/19/961/34746

  20. “someone gets injured, or they get a run of bad luck and lose a few games?”

    i hope we never find out, but in a way we already have, haven’t we? I do remember a short losing stretch of 3 earlier this season and the Lakers did just fine afterwards.

    This is fun, it’s hard to like Kobe the person but the other personalities on the team are really endearing. Lamar is class regardless of his performance on court, Sasha is just fun, Bynum and Farmar are a joy to watch as they’re obviously both in awe of the surroundings while gaining some swagger, and the list goes on.

    I hope our payroll situation is such that we can keep the team next year and watch them go.

  21. 21.

    As currently constructed I believe we are more than fine for our core roster next year. Only questions marks are how much we are going to pay Turiaf and if we re-sign Kwame for less than his current 9.1 mil.

    PS I don’t know off the top of my head if Vujacic’s contract is up after this year. I think he is a restricted free agent after this which means we can match any offer.

    Barring any major mismanagement from our FO, which they seemed to have improved, we are more than fine.

  22. The guy formerly known as Lamar Odom December 19, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    19) Well, if the playoffs started today I’d want the Lakers to be one of the lower seeds so that we could play the Spurs, cuz Parker is injured and Ginobili is tired as hell. But the playoffs will start in 5 months, and I think that by then the Lakers will be playing better, Ariza will have been fully integrated, Mimh will be playing 10 solid minutes a game, Kwame will be back, and Bynum will have improved (if he doesn’t run out of gas). But against the Suns we would do well, I believe. They have no answer for our bigs. Dallas is vulnerable, as they showed last season. And the Spurs……well, I’m just hoping those old farts get tired somewhere along the way.

  23. 14 – “I don’t remember what it’s like to cheer for a team that’s doing well, all the while waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

    Agree whole-heartedly. After last year, I still feel hesitation on saying “we’ve turned the corner.” And exactly for the reasons pointed out by exhelodryr (19).

    As for injuries, I don’t think we would perform as well if we lost Bynum or (obviously) Bryant. If there’s just Ronny, Chris, and Twinkletoes in the middle, I think our spacing and efficiency (both offensively and defensively) would decrease too much to maintain consistently.

    Everyone else, I think we can sustain with them out. Though I’d hate to think of any injury, I think Farmar has proven himself enough that he can do okay if he had to fill in for FIsher (I mean, he closes close out most games it seems – and I’m not talking garbage minutes – so that means something, right?). Critt would be the worry, because while we’ve seen him here and there, we don’t have enough to declare him ready for 10-15 min every night productively.

    The only other positions left are the small-power forwards, and we’re so deep with Lamar, Luke, Trevor, and Vlad (and Kobe can play 3, Ronny and maybe Brown can play 4), that with any one of them out, I think there’s enough skill left to sustain.

  24. I hope ‘sustaining’ is not going to be our goal. The Lakers did just fine ‘sustaining’ in the previous seasons as well, making the playoffs. Now it’s time to do more than just ‘sustain’ and show progress.

    Back to the original post with 4 factors… I think there’s only one factor that determines W and L: scoring more than the other team. So obviously shooting % will be the sole factor once we take into account possessions that don’t end in a shot taken (turnovers, offensive rebounds, and in case of traditional shooting %, possessions ending in free throws). In short, although the post described 4 factors, it’s only mentioning one, and three factors that need to be taken into consideration when evaluating the sole factor.

  25. I bet no top seeded team would want to face us either…

    I agree that we would be beating the Suns and Mavs if ti comes down to it. I hope we take an easier path to the playoffs so that we could atleast reach the WCF so that our boys will have the experience and confidence to win big games.

    One scenario had me thinking, what if:
    Lakers are 4th overall, but 5th in terms of seeding.
    Denver wins the Northwest and thus is the 4th seed but we sould have homecourt.
    Suns will overtake the Spurs since TP is still out.
    Dallas remains the #3 team.

    Rd 1
    Phx(1) vs NOH(8) -> Phx 4-1
    LaL(5) vs DEN (4) -> LaL 4-2
    SaS(2) vs GS (7) -> SaS 4-1
    Dal(3) vs UTA(6) -> Dal 4-2

    Rd 2
    Phx(1) vs LaL(5) -> LaL 4-3
    SaS (2) vs Dal(3) -> Dal 4-3

    WCF
    Dal(3) vs LaL(5) -> win or lose we already win.

    For me, it would not be too conceited to “eye” the WCF at this point. Dallas has SA’s number and I hope they squeak past them. The Spurs do not win championships 2-in-a-row anyway…

    If we do face Dallas in the WCF, given the path we took to get there, it would not be too fancy if we won it in 6 or 7 games. Boston or Detroit would be waiting out East and I think we stand a fighting chance with them as well. I would not go as far as predict something we cannot grasp at the moment, but WCF in the manner I illustrated would not be too fancy.

  26. Lets not get too ahead of ourselves. Now if Lamar or Bynum start averaging 20/10…it’s a different story…

  27. Well, as this thread appears to be devoted to a subject I commented on at the tail of a blog post here about a week ago, I’m going to repost it…and in the week since I made the blog comment, Andrew has become more of a beast on the defensive end, and Sasha has morphed into THE MACHINE. Anyway, here is that long comment from last week:

    I think I may be in the minority here, but I truly believe that the Lakers have a decent chance at the NBA championship THIS season. The main caveat is that they have to be in much better health than in past years. The two teams that I see as their biggest obstacles are the Spurs and the Celtics. Anyway, let’s take a look at their competition in the West:

    Suns–this team has trouble with opponents who have height and skill down on the block. The Lakers certainly fit the profile with Bynum/Odom on the offensive end and Brown (and now Bynum) on the defensive end. The Lakers also have a new defensive stopper on the wing (Ariza) who may also be pressed into duty guarding quick point guards on occasion.

    Mavericks–Golden State/Nellie tactically exposed them last year, and the past two postseasons have traumatically affected their confidence. We have seen the way to contain Nowitzki (he’s bothered by tough and quick defenders), and the addition of Ariza should help in guarding both Dirk and Josh Howard. On the offensive end, Kobe absolutely kills the Mavs.

    Jazz–This team does scare me more than the first two. Boozer and Milsap (and even Harpring) are tough, physical players down low. The health of Kwame is important vs the Jazz. Kirilenko is also very tough, but IMO he is a bigger threat when he is more of a focal point in the offense (which was apparent in our first two games with them). With a healthy Boozer and/or Okur, Utah’s primary play is the pick-and-roll with Williams and Boozer/Okur, relegating Kirilenko to a spot-up shooter, which is his weakest link. Interestingly enough, the Lakers match up well with a Utah team at its full strength. Kwame can guard Boozer, and Odom can guard Okur, with Bynum coming off the bench against Utah’s second string to devastating effect.

    Hornets–Chris Paul. Chris Paul…spot-up shooters…Laker defense that collapses to guard Paul after penetration….not a good combination. However, this tendency can be rubbed out over a seven-game series. Stay home on the shooters, force Paul to beat you with jumpers. Lakers in five.

    Nuggets–A healthy Laker team will beat a healthy Denver team in a seven-game series, although it’s possible that George Karl realizes how much better Denver is when Anthony Carter plays more minutes at the expense of JR Smith. Even so, I think the Lakers would take them in a series, even with Nene returning (I fear Klieza more than Nene).

    Rockets–There’s a reason Houston hasn’t been winning any series recently. McGrady does fade somewhat in the playoffs, and Yao’s endurance would be affected against the Lakers, who can both run well and play well in half court. In addition, Kwame’s post defense really bothers Yao, and Kobe will destroy McGrady over a seven-game series.

    Warriors–It’s well documented already that Phil won’t fall into Nellie’s small ball trap.

    Spurs–In our favor, Kwame usually does a pretty good job on Duncan. The key is slowing the penetration of Parker and Ginobli, and staying with Spur spot-up shooters. Kobe should guard Finley and not Bowen. Luke should guard Bowen, and Ariza/Kobe should guard Ginobli and/or Parker. The addition of Ariza really helps us against the Spurs. Bynum should dominate their second unit on both ends. On defense, his recognition of penetration has taken a quantum leap over the past two weeks. If the Lakers stay healthy and continue to improve, this will be an extremely competitive series.

  28. Mike in the Mountain West December 19, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    –what happens when someone gets injured, or they get a run of bad luck and lose a few games

    “You mean like Kwame, Turiaf, and Mihm all being injured?”

    “I do remember a short losing stretch of 3 earlier this season and the Lakers did just fine afterwards.”

    Point taken. And I agree that the Lakers response to both the loss of those three players and their 3 game skid bode well, however, I would argue all three of those players aren’t core players even though two of them are/were starters. Take San Antonio for example. For the 4 games TD was out they went 2-2. Their two wins came agains Utah and Dallas and one of their losses was against us when they were also missing Mr. Longoria. That shows the kind of grit and mental strength I’m not sure we have yet.

    And a 3 game skid although nothing to laugh about is fairly minor. That 9 game road trip will be a great teat, but more than what we do during the trip what the team does after the trip will tell us a lot about this team, especially if we come out of it with some tough losses.

  29. Mike, although I share your worries, but both the injuries and the skid were pretty tough for us considering it was early in the season when the rumors were still in full swing.

    Kwame went down when we weren’t sure about Bynum, Turiaf and Mihm went down leaving us with Bynum alone to protect the paint. Although they’re no major piece like Kobe, the injuries were focused on the 4 and 5, leaving a gaping hole. Add to the fact that LO has been recovering, and LW has had his share of injuries too, the injury bug has bit us hard indeed – and we managed.

    I think this is by far more impressive than the injuries of SA, where they’ve had players in different positions injured, and thus had adequate subs ready. Not that SA’s feat is unimpressive, but unless KB and AB go down at the same time, I think we’d fare just as well.

    The losing skid was to non-impressive teams, which made it quite devastating and gave us flashbacks of the previous, inconsistent season. Well, Boston is impressive, but Bucks and Nets? Then there was a two game mini losing skid to Utah and Orlando right afterwards, too. But in all other losses, we’ve managed to pull a win (or 4) around them :)

  30. Is this the team we will see in the playoffs, or are there changes on the way again?

  31. 28)
    “That shows the kind of grit and mental strength I’m not sure we have yet. ”

    The Lakers bench is solid, but I don’t know that they have the ability yet to fill in for starters for extended periods.

  32. I’m gonna borrow a line from PJ to help solve all of our worries and pessimism: “Live in the moment”. As a coach myself, I can understand what the team went through the past three seasons that I hope you all will take in consideration. Kobe was the only “winner” on the roster the past 3 seasons. He was the only one who really knew what it takes to consistently win, and winning cant just be taught, it has to be learned, and you have to experience painful losses and lessons before everyone (individually and collectively) “gets it” and it becomes a habit. What I like about this group is that they experienced the losses together, and now, they are developing that winning attitude, on and off the court, practice and now… in games. so lets appreciate what “our” team is going thru and accomplishing, and stop worrying about the future. Its like saying “I’m very happy with my life now, but what if i get sick tomorrow? have an accident later? die tonight?” its taking all the fun in life right?

    Just a thought: If the celtics and lakers each win a championship in the coming seasons, which fans, players, and organizations would appreciate it more? the “instant” contender team of the celtics, or the “built from scratch-we all grew together” lakers?

  33. Just a reminder–this is NOT the same team as last year!

    Since last year, we’ve cut 3 guards, traded two platyers.

    That is 1/3 of our last year’s team gone.

    We’ve added Derek, Javaris, Kobe, and Trevor.

    That’s almost 1/3 added–and the season is not over,.

    We really need to add Chris Mihm, who didn’t play at all last year.

    This is a much better team–and we’re starting to jell.

    We’ve had a higher proportion of healthy players available this year.

    Here’s a message Kupchack may not have expected from us:

    Mitch, keep this team just the way it is. If we need to talk trades, let’s think about it later.

  34. k_swagger8 – it doesnt’ matter whether it’s an instant contender or built from scratch as long as they both win. the latter has a better chance of winning year in and year out, as in the case of Miami vs. San Antonio, but if both were equally sustainable (getting Shaq from Orlando to get our threepeat) honestly I don’t know who would really care.

    The point is ‘winning.’ Not winning after a trade will have you wince every time you see the player you traded away post all-star numbers, while not winning after a no-trade will make you wish and speculate all the time. The absolute worst would be seeing teams win a championship thanks to the player you traded away, like us watching Shaq hold up the trophy in Miami.

    As for the Boston team, they’re probably having too much fun as is to worry about a championship, and in a way, so are we.

    Sometimes, the regular season ‘grind’ is just more enjoyable, especially with the advent of blogs that allow you to think, rethink, overthink for a full season :)

  35. ..somewhere lost while editing was a bit about things being not entirely about winning championships, and not a single team being out there that can claim to be all home-grown anyway.

    I really should write things on my wordpad and edit them, instead of editing in the comment box. Keep forgetting that I crossed out certain things.

  36. A little off topic, but did anyone watch the Boston/Detroit game? The Celtics are a lot better than I thought they would be, but I still think this team’s weaknesses can and will be exposed in a seven game series by teams with balance, like the Pistons.

  37. Kurt, I actually bet 5,000 (or $120) on Boston @ -6 vs Det. and lost. This was their 1st home loss and I was pondering last night on actually betting on Det. For some reason, I bet on Boston. Ew! Would have been a nice Xmas gift.

    I agree on the fact that they can be exploited. They are a very good team and they are balanced too but something’s not right with that team. For me, the best chance they have of winning the East it would be next year.

  38. Kurt, I watched that game, and I’m positive that Bill Simmons is going to devote a rant to that one game. His biggest fear before the season about the Celtics was how they would be outcoached in close games, the types of games where coaching mistakes are magnified. Doc inserting Tony Allen into the game with 1.7 seconds left to guard Billups after only having played for 4 minutes is the type of coaching blunder that he made with regularity last year and the year before. It hasn’t been a problem until now because the Celts have been blowing out everybody. Can’t wait for the inevitable Simmons pulling the hair out column. I just love it when Boston loses painfully.

  39. Yeah, if the Lakers are going to win the championship this is the year to do it … because it’s not an odd-numbered year (2008, I mean), and the Spurs can’t win it.

  40. #34 great post!

    I also agree that having a “team built from scratch” winning a championship has a virgin happiness feel to it. To me watching your home team grow and develop its players will always feel more gratifying b/c we can actually follow the evolution of each player as they go from struggle to success (Farmar, Bynum, Sasha). Contrastly, building a team via the “instant contender” route (ala Celtics) does not resonate as deeply b/c there is still an element of unfamiliarity with the players. Of course, #36 is partially right that it is all about winning…….but there is something to say about winning from scratch. IMO, it makes victory a bit sweeter. Imagine if the Karl Malone and Gary P. Lakers team had won a championship? Although that would have been great…….there is something about Karl Malone winning a championship as a Laker that would have felt weird since I will always view him as a Jazz player.

    #36, as for the Shaq analogy, I believe you can make a case that the team was semi-home grown with Fisher, D. George, Kobe all being major players who Lakers drafted that contributed to the 3-peat (ok, maybe not George!). In fact, although Shaq was great before…….it still took him 3 years as a Laker before getting a championship. In fact he came to the Lakers in 1996, after only being in the league since 1992.

  41. Did anyone see Mourning’s injury last night.

    Center Alonzo Mourning, arguably the most significant player in the franchise’s 20 seasons, was lost in the first quarter with a torn patella tendon in his right knee.

    “I went over to help him up and he just said, ‘It’s over. It’s over,’ ” power forward Udonis Haslem said.

    It is an injury that could require up to six months of post-surgical recovery, which does not bode well for a 37-year-old kidney-transplant recipient.

    “I’ve been through a whole lot worse than this,” Mourning said of beating kidney disease and returning from his transplant. “It’s disappointing to even think my career would end this way.”

    After initially being placed on a stretcher, Mourning refused to be wheeled off the court, instead limping off while supported by teammates Wade and Earl Barron.

    “That’s not the way I envisioned myself walking off the court for the last time in my career,” Mourning said of the stretcher. “If I had to crawl off that court, I would have.”

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/basketball/heat/sfl-1219heatgame,0,2690789.story

  42. We bloggers have absolutely no memory. Maybe, like a cornerback, that is a good thing.

    Now that we are doing well we are talking championship. Last summer we were talking ‘trade the whole bunch’.

    Mitch is doing ok right now. Hey people! Mitch has been doing ok since 2005 – it is just that his decisions then have not paid out until this year.

    Building a team is a process – unless you are Miami or Boston and then it is only a 1-2 year thing – and our process is beginning to show results.

    However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. If we win this year there will really be some luck involved. Next year is really our year. If we win this year it will be because our youngsters don’t know any better and don’t even feel the pressure.

  43. Reading that Blog-a-Bull link noted above, I saw one of the bloggers had this signature and thought it really good…

    “Fans never fall asleep at our games, because they’re afraid they might get hit by a pass.” -George Raveling

  44. http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=6568

    kwame needs to read this story about Zo…
    the guy had GUTS, something ol’ Kwame needs to get.

  45. #38 & #40. Yeah, it’s not only the coaching and the balance, but also certain teams being able to expose the two weakest parts of their lineup: Point Guard and Center.

    When it came down to winning time, Detroit just went to Billups on the block and bullied Rondo. The Celtics did not have an answer. Billups wasn’t scoring every time down, but he was collapsing the d and getting the rest of his team open shots.

    Boston had that game, but in the 4th, the Pistons’ experience came through.

    Great atmosphere, though in that arena.

    Has anyone else noticed that more regular season games are carrying a playoff like intensity. The games are so much more fun when both teams are really intense and want it so bad.

  46. There is one team that doesn’t seem to play with playoff intensity until the playoffs – San Antonio! I wonder why??

    A few threads ago one of our veteran bloggers put forth the idea that Kwame couldn’t mutitask and that was both his weakness and his strength. He concentrated on running the offense, not handling the ball – hence he kept all the other players moving, but couldn’t function if you threw him the ball. I thought it was a very insightful comment at the time, but no one ele seemed to pick up on it.

  47. Craig, yes that comment had the ring of truth and was an interesting take.

  48. I liked it as well.

  49. I liked it as well. I though that it was a fair assessment. But it made Kwame look kind of like a idiot. “Me kwame, me stand in post, me pass the ball”