Archives For January 2008

Tech problem…

Kurt —  January 21, 2008

I suddenly seem to be without all my posts from 2008.

Trying to figure out what just happened and repost my Nuggets preview to start.

UPDATE: Everything is back and up again.

Thoughts From Vegas

Kurt —  January 20, 2008

First off, thanks to Rob L. and Gatinho for filling in while I was gone. Apparently I should take more vacations because the quality of posts here seems to go up when I leave.

UPDATE:
Trevor Ariza broke a bone in his foot during practice today, apparently getting tangled up with Lamar Odom. That, combined with Bynum, certainly will not help the Lakers defense or depth. Walton is going to have to step up, particularly on defense. However, read the first bullet below before freaking out.

Last week was an interesting week to be out of the media loop for the most part, watching just parts of games and following the reactions from a distance. That space can help provide a different perspective. So here are a few thoughts.

• The world is not ending. It’s amazing how fast doom and gloom envelopes Lakers fans from one injury. First, Bynum will be back for the part of the season that matters — the playoffs. The team needs to be rolling going in, and with Andrew back and a favorable schedule late, they should be. Seeding is seeding, but you will have to beat the good teams some time anyway.

In the short term, certainly the Lakers will miss Bynum, and there are going to be some adjustments, but this team is still better than last year’s team without Andrew — Farmar and Fisher replace Smush out top, there is more depth and the team is playing better defense. This is better than a .500 team without Andrew.

But only if they snap out of their mental funk the injury put the team in. The Lakers have had one bad offensive game (Phoenix) and one bad defensive game (Seattle) in the wake of Bynum going down. The team needs to find its rhythm, its rotation and get back to exploiting match-ups if they are going to win.

• The Kwame conundrum. With Bynum anchoring down one corner of the triangle, the offense looked a lot more like what Tex Winter envisioned this season compared to the last couple of years. The Lakers got used to that. And in the Phoenix game they kept throwing the ball into Kwame and expecting Bynum-like things to happen. They didn’t, and they will not for seven weeks or so.

Kwame Brown is what he is, a big body who can play man post defense well. I like the Kurt Rambis line about Kwame that Matt “Money” Smith repeats: “For the best players the game moves in slow motion, for Kwame it’s always in fast forward.” To me, this is not a question of Kwame’s hands, contract or work ethic — those are what they have been since before he came to the Lakers. (Which is why I never understood the $9 mil contract offer.) It’s really a question of expectations. People still expect Kwame to play like a former number one overall, to play like a guy with a $9 million contract, to play like a guy with that physique. He never has. He never will. He’d make a decent backup center at $3 mil a year, expecting anything else is courting disappointment.

That starts with the Lakers players and coaches. You can’t throw the ball to Kwame on the block and expect an automatic score. When Kobe or Fish drive the lane they can’t expect to dish inside to Kwame and know the dunk is coming. You can’t count on quick defensive rotations. He is what he is, the Lakers need to play to his strengths and not expect him to be Bynum.

And, Kwame should have plenty of motivation to step up — this is a contract year.

• Thank god Phil Jackson put an end to the Chris Webber rumor. (Hat tip to Muddywood.) The Lakers improvement has been based on defense this season, and Webber hasn’t played it in years.

• If you’re in Vegas and want to see a show, I recommend “Love” at the Mirage. It’s the Cirque du Soleil show done to Beatles music, and it is spectacular. If you’re in Vegas and want to gamble, I recommend craps (it was the only game that treated me well, I was somehow repelling good cards, whether playing blackjack or poker).

• Save the Sonics! I think I get the business game David Stern is playing, trying to pressure some state and local governments to pick up much of the tab on a new arena, that’s a good precedent from the owners perspective. But really, you want to move a team out of burgeoning Seattle to go to Oklahoma City? Really? To me Vegas makes more sense if you’re going to move a team, and the Hornets seem like a team that has to move, not the Sonics. But all that doesn’t make the current owners the most money in the short term — and Stern, the one guy supposed to be looking out for the long-term health of the league, backs the greed.

Suns Preview

Gatinho —  January 17, 2008

W-L: 26-12
PF: 109.8
PA: 104.9
Home: 13-4
Road: 13-8
Streak: Lost 1
Last 10: 7-3

The injury to Bynum has thrown the Laker’s fan base into a frenzy. What this proves is how far Bynum has come in his importance to the team. Kobe’s “We’re a championship caliber team with Andrew” comment bares out the feelings of his teammates, as well.

We’ve discussed what the Forum Blue and Gold lining of this situation can be (Kwame finds a groove and plays himself back into shape, Turiaf continues to grow) but the reality is we know that there are struggles ahead. Will staying at .500 be a realistic expectation while Drew is out?

Can Kobe show that he trusts in teammates not named Fisher or Bynum? Look for him to facilitate more tonight. Hope that he looks to facilitate more tonight and doesn’t go for the “Kobe versus the world offense” until the latter stages of the game necessitate it.

The man who is really going to have to shine over this stretch and find his way out of the proverbial woods is… Lamar Odom. His aggressiveness on offense is key. He needs to find his confidence and use this Bynum-less stretch return to the ball he played in the playoffs last year.

But we all know that it’s all about the defensive end of the floor (and rebounds). An effort similar to the Seattle game will not cut it in this contest.

The Lakers hold a 2-0 season edge because of their stingy defense, holding the Suns to under 45% from the floor.

Phoenix coming in: Phoenix has semi-struggled of late. Grant Hill will not play after having his appendix taken out. His calming force has been missed as the Suns have been a .500 team in his absence.

In their previous five games they are 3-2, but coming off a loss to the Clippers in which they scored 90 points and a loss to Utah earlier in the week in which they scored 86. So once again the theme for the day is tempo.

Update: if you haven’t seen it yet, True Hoop has a great Q &A w/ Kurt Rambis and his 80’s mustache. He addresses Bynum, the Triangle, and Kevin McHale’s infamous clothesline.

Blessed to be a Witness

Gatinho —  January 16, 2008

I met his car in the parking lot. His driver opened the door, and I helped him out of the car and into a wheel chair. I introduced myself and let him know that I would be here all day long to help him with anything he needed.

“Coach Wooden, I’ll be your host today.”

We took him to a room that held the other legends who had graciously given their time for this worthy cause… Bill Sharman, Tex Winter, Jamal Wilkes, AC Green, Keith Erickson, Chick’s wife Marge Hearn, and Ann Myers-Drysdale.

As soon as Coach Wooden was wheeled into the back room, these basketball luminaries were reduced to fans. They all stopped what they were doing to greet The Coach. He may not have ever been their Coach, but you couldn’t tell who he knew intimately from those he knew in passing. Only Ann Myers-Drysdale openly betrayed her devotion to the man by referring to him as “Papa”.

We were unsure of who would exactly show up. Kareem was unavailable as he was called back east to preside over a function for the American Library Association, for which he is the national spokesman. Bill Walton was called away by ESPN, but in his stead, he enlisted his son to wrangle a couple of Lakers, and Tex Winter was asked to do his best to encourage their attendance by getting them out of practice early.

At about 1:00 Luke Walton arrived, followed shortly thereafter by Jordan Farmar, and shortly thereafter by Derek Fisher. They followed the same ritual of reverentially greeting Coach Wooden.

The rest of the legends and players made their way out to the newly built Toberman Neighborhood Center gymnasium to mingle with the those who had paid for the opportunity to hobnob with people that they probably had previously only known as guys running around on their TV screens in shorts trying to put a ball in a hoop.

This was a day where I was allowed to be privy to the kind of fly on the wall stuff one could only dream about.

I listened as Bill Sharman explained to Luke Walton that his real name was William Walton Sharman, so he was the first “Bill Walton”. And as Coach Wooden told Luke that it took his dad three months to agree to recite the part of The Wooden Pledge that stated, “No whining, no complaining, no making excuses.” Coach Wooden let Luke know that his dad lobbied for some “wiggle room” on that part of his pledge.

As the meet and greet portion of the event ended, the guests were sat in chairs as the Legends and Lakers made their way down the red carpet. It became very obvious that a majority of the folks were there to see and hear from one person. They rose to their feet as Coach Wooden walked down the red carpet. I was honored to hold his arm and escort him. At 97, the toll that that long a life takes on the body is obvious, but with Coach Wooden, the toll is solely physical.

The question and answer session afterwards had several highlights…

Tex Winter was asked if Phil Jackson’s reluctance to call timeouts ever frustrated him. He explained that Phil thought the value of working through situations was worth more to the team, even if it cost them a loss here or there. He also responded in his own sarcastic fashion that he used to sit by Phil and elbow him, “Coach, get a timeout. And as most of you now know, I’ve been demoted, and now I sit behind him.”

Tex also was asked how come more teams don’t run the Triangle after all the success he’s had throughout his coaching career and he responded, “Coaches should coach styles that they have a thorough understanding of.” He hinted that it was too complex for some to coach and remarked that he was glad that they didn’t utilize it.

Marge Hearn broke up the room with a hilarious story about Chick coming home from a road win in Phoenix with a hang dog look on his face. She inquired why he was sad, knowing that the team had won and Chick replied, “I think I lost my job.” He then relayed to her that when he signed off from the game he said, “We’ll see you next time. This is Chick Hearn signing off from The Sunshine Sh*tty…”

Part of the fun was the relaxed atmosphere that allowed these people to get on the microphone and riff during the auction. As Luke auctioned off a Bill Walton gift package he commented that,

“This looks like what I get for Christmas every year.”

Jordan Farmar and Luke Walton traded friendly barbs over the microphone during the auction. Farmar poking fun at Luke’s fundamental game, hinting that it was devoid of any flash.

“Every see someone post up on a fast break? That’s him right there,” pointing at Walton.

Walton retorted while auctioning off an opportunity to be Laker ball boy,

“You have to be between the ages of 13 and 17. Jordan, you’re seventeen, right? Wouldn’t you like something like this?”

But Wooden’s time with the crowd made us all feel blessed to be in his presence. The gym fell silent as we all bent an ear to grasp at the pearls of wisdom he was dispensing.

He was asked about a pivotal moment in his life, and he immediately began to talk about his “wonderful father”.

It was his father that gave him a small card at age 12 that contained the basic philosophy that has now become The Wooden Pledge and The Pyramid of Success. One point on the card was “Be true to yourself.” My thoughts immediately turned to Polonius’ quote from Hamlet, and before I knew it, he was reciting the passage…

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

He was asked how he bridged the gap between his so-called star players and his role players. His answer spoke to his greatest asset as a man, his profound decency.

“I loved them as people, not just as basketball players.”

Returning him to his wheel chair, he pumped his arm to the UCLA fight song as we passed the pep band. Once he was safely back inside the car that would take him away, I leaned in and thanked him. He replied with a thank you of his own, a smile, and a handshake.

“Thanks for all your help today.”

No, Coach. Thank you.

-Scott A. Thompson aka Gatinho

44 Shots

Rob L. —  January 15, 2008

44. That’s how many shots Kobe took to score 48 points in the circus ring known as Key Arena Monday night.

Was it too many? Is the sky falling? Has my agent called me back?

Here are the Lakers individual offensive stats from the contest:

EFG% factors in 3-pointers, TS% factors in free throws, ORTG is points per 100 possessions, POS% is the percentage of team possessions a player uses

PLAYER	        EFG%	TS%	ORTG	POS%
D. Fisher	60.00%	60.00%	117.57	7.15%
K. Bryant	50.00%	50.98%	100.74	35.98%
L. Odom	        20.00%	20.00%	67.5	15.66%
L. Walton	16.67%	29.07%	108.8	7.44%
K. Brown	75.00%	75.30%	118.19	7.49%
R. Turiaf	60.00%	78.13%	132.73	9.46%
T. Ariza	58.33%	65.41%	121.67	6.65%
J. Farmar	100.00%	100.00%	199.27	4.84%
J. Crittenton	50.00%	58.14%	122.37	5.33%

Here is Kobe’s season average going into Seattle:

PLAYER	        EFG%	TS%	ORTG	POS%
K. Bryant  	48.57%	56.08%	110.48	24.48%

Just for a fun comparison, here is the season average for another run-of-the-mill NBA player:

PLAYER	        EFG%	TS%	ORTG	POS%
L. James  	50.94%	55.98%	113.18	23.94%

First, notice that Kobe wasn’t taking all those shots because his teammates were letting him down. Far from it. Only Lamar Odom had an off night offensively. (The whole team had an off night defensively.) Even Luke, who had a terrible shooting night, had a respectable ORtg due to his 7 assists.

Kobe also stayed pretty efficient. His ORtg was down roughly 10 points, but that was accompanied by a roughly 10% increase in possession usage. Your average player does not come close to trading a point of efficiency for a percentage point of usage at that end of the scale. Most players slide into oblivion if they try to go above their optimal norm. Lamar would be a great example. His season average is an ORtg of 104.77 with a POS% of 11.60%. Check his line above against that.

Kobe only had 7 FTA and made 4. That is plain ridiculous. Usually when Kobe puts up 48 or so, a good chunk of that will come at the line. Tonight, only a paltry 4 points.

So when I look at these numbers, I can conclude that Kobe rocks the casbah. He may have taken a lot of shots, but they were for the most part good ones/he was having one of those nights. He just couldn’t have kept up his efficiency levels if he was taking a lot of ill-advised shots. (Though to be fair, for most players every other shot Kobe takes would be ill-advised.) His teammates stayed involved and ran the offense well. Furthermore, while watching the game I never felt that Kobe was trying to do too much. It all seemed to flow fairly naturally, though I wouldn’t argue too hard over the final two minutes and OT. But that’s why the man gets paid.

Oh, that and having the Lakers on top of the Western Conference.

-Rob L.