Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  March 10, 2008

• While we watch Phil Jackson’s lineup tinkering continue, one thing he does better than any coach in the league gets overlooked — he puts players in a position to succeed by playing to their strengths.

It’s one thing to do that with Kobe, who has a myriad of strengths. But look at what he did with Kwame Brown, who has been racking up DNPs in Memphis, and his already anemic offensive numbers are down even farther. Jackson tightly defined the role Kwame was to play for the Lakers — use your big body on defense and the boards. Don’t worry about everything else, if you do that some points will come to you. It drove Lakers fans nuts at times, but Phil got more out of Kwame than any other coach.

The same can be said of Smush Parker (just shoot the three), or many other guys through Phil’s career. It sounds like a simple thing — getting guys in position to do what they do well — but few coaches are very good at it.

• About Last Night (not Sexual Perversity in Chicago, but really last night)….

A few games after Pau Gasol became a Laker, I wrote that I was concerned about the Lakers defense. To their credit, the defense had been getting better. On the season, the Lakers have a defensive rating of 105.9 (points given up per 100 possessions), and coming into Sunday the three prior games the Lakers had held opponents below that number (100 for Dallas, 101.9 for Sacramento and 90.1 for the Clippers).

Yesterday, Sacramento was 111.8. The Lakers played Timberwolves caliber defense, and you can’t do that against a long team with some talent like the Kings. The Laker perimeter defense was weak and the Lakers really missed Bynum protecting the rim on defense.

That said, I think this was more an aberration, and Toronto may pay the price on Tuesday. The Lakers may have slipped into a “flip the switch” mode against lesser teams, and hopefully this will snap them out of it. They had better be focused for the challenging road trip starting Friday.

• The “soft” label is coming up a lot lately with the Lakers. Personally, I think Bynum in the paint on defense will change that perception (and reality, to a degree).

• Credit the Kings, they played hard and wanted that game.

• Gerald Green was released by the Rockets. That is a very athletic player, but it’s hard to stick in the league shooting 39% for the season as a guard. Plus, if Houston is willing to drop you this late for a D-League call up, what does that say about your work ethic? He didn’t get minutes of love in Minnesota or Boston, either. There must be some issue that negates the athleticism.

• In the same way I think the Lakers loss was a “one off,” I’m don’t think the Suns beating the Spurs means much long term. In a seven-game series, give me the Spurs in that matchup.