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.

47 responses to Fast Break Thoughts

  1. This LIttle Pinky March 10, 2008 at 11:26 am

    This definitely seems like a case of “slippage” as PJ likes to say, as well as some good matchups for Sacramento.

    Seems like some momentum is gaining on the “Bynum as Defensive Savior” front. Bynum doesn’t even have to play good defense per se, it’s his rebounding that helps. He swallows rebounds like a frog snaps up files. The fact that other teams don’t get second chances and tip ins makes him so valuable to the Lakers.

    I would also like to see Kobe commit to one-on-one defense a bit more. We all know he can do it, it just seems like he doesn’t give all his assignments equal respect. Too often, he’s gotten backdoored while watching the ball.

    Also what do you guys make of Kobe “moving on” the ball because the Kings were taking it out of his hands in the 4th q? Should he press the issue more, or was he doing the right thing?

  2. I was there last night and agree with what you said. Kobe spoke after the game about their offense – but it was clearly their defense that needs to pick it up. One could argue their offensive attack – or lack there of – led to turnovers which cost us the game… but in truth, I believe they only scored 8-6 on points off turnovers as opposed to use (have to look up the stat – wasn’t much though).

    Good wake up call game to the Lakers. Their upcoming schedule looks tough. They’ll need to re-focus.

  3. I don’t know, Kurt.
    I kind of have doubts as to whether one player, especially a young and unfinished product such as Bynum, can suddenly change us from being soft to tough.
    We complain way, way too much with the refs and Kobe really needs to be careful or he’s 3 techs away from getting suspended.
    Also, our bench has been a bit inconsistent of late. Maybe they are getting worn out?
    This Little Pinky – I don’t like Kobe just moving the ball unconditionally if he’s double-teamed, he’s our best player and closer, so he needs to pick the right times to force the issue. If he just stands around and gives up the ball, well that brings memory of Game 7 back to my mind.

  4. Good point about PJs coaching, Kurt. That also shows in his policy of bringing young players along slowly.

  5. 3. I think there is toughness on this team — Fisher, Kobe, Turiaf — but not in the starting front line. Bynum, even off the bench at first, will provide some of what is missing in the paint. I think. And hope.

  6. I have suggested that maybe Ronny should start at center instead of Pau. Move Pau to PF, Lamar to SF and Vladrad to the Bench. With Ronny starting, and eventually possibly Chris Mihm, Pau can get accustomed to the PF position in the Lakers offense while the true centers do their job on the defensive end. With this team being as strong as they are and having so many different options for line-ups, why not mess around with them now and see what we can do?

  7. remember when the some in the media had the lakers taking gerald green with the 10th pick? whew.

  8. One good thing about the Kings and Blazers being tough matchups for the Lakers is that they are tough matchups for other teams in the West too. They can help the Lakers out by dishing out some loses to other West playoff teams.

    As far as the Laker d, I really think our problems are on the perimeter, not the interior. Teams are gutting us because they are getting into the lane, back-cutting us and beating us up the floor in transition.

  9. 8. I think it all is meshing together. Without someone in the middle like Bynum guys can do more driving from the perimeter. The backcuts last night were just painful to watch.

  10. I would still take a chance on Gerald Green. People in this league give up on young bucks way too soon. He’s got a heap of talent, just needs someone to work with him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up in Detroit. They’ll let him sit on the bench with no pressure to perform right away and just develop him.

  11. kwame a.

    I agree that the perimeter D is a problem but our interior switching hasn’t been that great either. A lot of times the guards are getting to close to the basket before a big rotates to meet them. Pau is especially bad at that. Rony does an good job but ends up fouling too often.

    Bynum on the other hand was getting pretty good at meeting the guard and deterring the dribble penetration.

    I hope he gets back soon.

  12. Got a report due this friday so this is my first true time spent here.

    As for the game last night. Can’t blame me I watched the game this time. I am glad they lost, relatively speaking. They need to wake up and smell the humus. They have been playing to the level of the competition. You have to put these teams away early and let number 11 play the 4th. Turning on and off switch isn’t an option with this team. When you haven’t done it you can’t do it. If this was the team from early this decade then yes I wouldn’t be surprised with the veterans and playoff experience but not with this team. Besides Fish, Kobe and Luke is there anyone else on the Lakers team that has won a series? I can’t think of anyone(maybe Radman?). Kobe did do a dissapearing act in my mind. He didn’t seem too happy about the play so change you are the best player in the game(easy for me to tell him what to do).

    I do like the point about PJ putting players in position do what they are best at. There are players who are said to be system players and Phils system is pretty good. I would be surprised if in the next 5 games when, we go up against some tough opponents that, that the team doesn’t come out more focused and energized. The time changed couldn’t have affected them that much? Could it have?

  13. Brian/Kurt-I think both of you have a good point about the lack of an interior intimidator/shot alterer. Bottom line, that type of defense is not a recipe for playoff success. Ariza and Bynum would help, but until then, we need to figuere out a strategy that works better than trying to outscore the opposition. 71 POINTS IN A HALF.

  14. Perimeter guys help interior guys by keeping opponents in front of them and not past them.
    Interior guys in turn help the perimeter guys by providing that 2nd line of defense and an airbag of sorts.
    Lakers are having trouble doing these things in 2 of the last 3 games and we’re gonna have to play amazing basketball just to have a .500 record on that upcoming road trip.
    Everyone’s saying Kobe has been a great defensive player this year, but I don’t see much difference from the years past. He plays shut-down defense only when he has to (like against Martin in 4th quarter on Tuesday). Other times, he get lost watching the ball too much and he takes bad gambles in trying to steal. I’ve seen countless plays this year when the Laker D has to switch b/c Kobe plays a bad overplay on the ball and the next guy has to cover Kobe’s man and so on so forth.
    I don’t want to be pick on Kobe, but in the absence of Bynum, he is the player that should raise our overall defense. Set an example Kobe by playing it safe and steady.

  15. Well the curse of Gerald Green should start any day now for the Rockets…

  16. The CSUN Matadors are ranked #1 in the Big West and will be playing friday night in Anahiem. semi-finals. winner of the tourney gets wild-card to ncaa tourney… I will be there friday night, and maybe saturday. This is quite exciting!!

  17. on an unrelated note, Happy Birthday Kwame Brown! May someone throw a cake at your face in honor of this auspicious occasion

  18. Wow… the Heat are shutting down Wade. Reggie Miller called it on the Lakers-Heat TNT broadcast….saying “i wonder when the Heat will have Wade shut it down for the season?” That sucks for the season ticket holders. The team isnt making the Playoffs, so their best player gets to sit out the rest of the season to supposedly get treatment?? He’s healthy enough to play, period. This shows you that the “NBA (doesnt) Cares” about the fans. During the Rudy T/Frank Hamblen season, the Lakers didnt shut Kobe down. I’m starting to look at the Heat orginization as quitters….things arent going good, just quit playing. Shaq did it, Riley is about to quit and know DWade is quitting on this season? What a joke. I’m even more disappointed in Riley. As soon as the Heat looked like they could contend, Riley STOLE that head coaching spot from Van Gundy…..STOLE IT!! Now that Shaq is gone and they are going to rebuild, Riley will be jumping ship. As a die hard Lakers fan and fan of the NBA as a whole, this really upsets me when stuff like this happens around the league.

  19. 16 – Almost but not quite the #1 spot is held by the Gauchos. CSUN is #2.
    I am hoping to be going on Saturday. Watching it Friday night after Lakers.

  20. 16. I thought UCSB was the top seed and CSUn #2. Wish I could get out there, but I’ll be following it and hope to watch the final games, hopefull that ESPN2 final….

  21. 18. If I’m a Heat fan I’m okay with shutting him down. First, he needs rest and to get healthy, and the more time off and the sooner the surgery, the better. Second. if I’m the Heat right now I want all the ping pong balls I can get. No Durant/Oden guys this year it looks like, but Beasley next to Wade could be a good one in a couple years.

  22. We found out in the 1st game that Beno Udrih likes to go left, yet Fisher/Farmar let him go left time and time again. When the Kings ran a screen on his left we should have a rule that the screener’s man jumps in front of Beno and our guard jumps in front of the screening big man. This should be a consistent rule on playing screen and roll on the left side against Beno Udrih. This is not rocket science.

    Then there is the screen-and-roll defense in general. I remember one play where Lamar jumped out in front of the guard, who then reversed direction and Lamar’s man dropped to the rim for a dunk. Either the Laker guard has to get between the big man and the basket or Lamar has to be prepared to follow his man down immediately and be prepared to disrupt an over-the-top lob. As I have said before, Lamar’s strength is not complex reactions to floor situations, but this is really a basic staple of basketball.

  23. Kurt-great post about Phil’s coaching strength. I think you’re absolutely right. I think a lot of people, as you say, are annoyed at his patience….but I’m sure that only gives Phil some glee at some level. And I’ve always thought that this was one of his greatest strengths. Don’t know anything about Gerald Green, but someone mentioned Detroit might pick him up. It’s sort of like the Patriots. Guys come aboard a stable ship and they can feel part of a good thing and succeed. Happy birthday Kwame! I hope the man gets to play some in Memphis. I’ve been tracking his box scores. Hopefully their coach there will stick with him. And once more, yeah, I was at the game last night (first home game in 14 years) and got a sluggish performance like that. As many have said, it might be a net positive the Lakers lost. I was counseling my sister the same thing. I said, you give up 71 and play every third possession on defense, you should lose. I’m not typically a vocal complainer watching sports but boy, the air was blue between complaints about the Lakers’ shortcomings and some of the refereeing. I think this team is mentally tough enough to bear through this lull. I don’t think the Lakers are soft at all. I think they’re just SO well-rounded that they make it look easy. I know Kurt wasn’t saying they are soft, but simply that folks have said it, still an’ all. I don’t even believe that for a second anyway. That was a bad game. Still an’ all, if they really think they are an elite team, they better turn their play around YESTERDAY if they’re to compete and perform at an elite level.

  24. 18 – I don’t get what the big deal about Wade sitting out is. There’s no reason to have him play.

    When Kobe played in the Rudy T season, there were some young/new guys to develop and play along with and they weren’t nearly as out of the playoffs as the Heat were. They also had a 24-19 record when Rudy T went down (quit?). Kobe actually missed a bunch of time that year.

    I don’t understand the desire to find a pattern of quitting in the Heat organization.

  25. A quick observation on the Kings game and a comment about the earlier spurs game.

    Yes our d was bad. But the Kings had one of those shooting nights from the outside. When Mikki Moore drains consecutive 18 footers you know you’re in for a long night. The clips had the same open looks – theirs didn’t fall.

    Basically, in the two games that we’ve lost, the opposition was unconscious from the outside. Statistically the Lakers are 5th in D @ 105.8 points per 100 possessions. So not too shabby. So just one of those nights where the Lakers were a step too slow to rotate and defend the paint and the opposition shot lights out. And we were one Sasha flop and one missing Pau and-one away from winning or tying the game. (or one Kobe pump fake on Mikki Moore to draw the free throw away from winning)

    The Suns – Spurs game was very instructive.

    First, I thought that the way the Spurs doubled Nash at the end of the game was very effective. For 2 or 3 possessions in a row Nash was forced to throw a lob cross court to beat the double. Our point plus Ariza or Lamar could execute this.

    Next, Grant Hill’s defense against Parker was surprisingly good. He laid off Parker and cut his angles to the basket and with his length bothered Parker on his pull ups. Again, Ariza is the guy who could play this role.

    The Sun’s decision not to double Duncan and his failure to score against the single eliminated one of the main weapons the Spurs have which is the wide open 3 initiated by pass out by Duncan.

    Of course, the game basically came down to missed forced shots by Manu on one end and blatant moving screens in the lane by Nash freeing up Stoudemire on the other.

  26. B. Bridges: The funny thing about this is that I was sitting behind the Kings bench last night and saw Reggie pull Mikki Moore early for shooting an open 18 footer (that he made). So even his coach was not happy with those shots (at least initially). Can’t be mad about that.

    Now letting Udrih and Hawes constantly drive down the middle and finish at the rim is another story.

  27. Thought that Suns-Spurs game was real interesting. General consensus say the Suns made that trade to be more competitive in the playoffs, when play slows down. Hollinger wrote how that’s nonsense, and I half-agree.
    The Suns won in the past in the playoffs, but then consistently lost to teams that play a half-court style. I think pounding it inside is the best way to beat those Suns teams, but more importantly the Spurs and 06 Mavs were simply better teams-efficient on both Offense and Defense.
    The Suns were better than all but 1 or 2 teams each year out West. This trade brought them down several notches in my opinion. More than prepare them for the playoffs, it just prepared them for the Spurs and the Lakers. Problem is, Shaq can’t move anymore. Duncan blew a few easy shots in that game when Shaq had 5 fouls and backed off Duncan. They still wouldn’t beat the Spurs in a series, and they opened so many holes in their defense by replacing Marion for Shaq, you have to like the chances of Utah and NO flat out-scoring the Suns in the playoffs. Honestly, at this point I’d be stunned if the Suns don’t get bounced in the 1st round regardless of who they play.

  28. Also, I think it was 81 Witness who said it earlier, I’d like the Lakers to run a little bit of that 1-2-2 zone we flashed for a few possessions on the long roadie. I know Phil likes to hold stuff for the playoffs, but I think practicing it against real opponents can only make it more effective in the long run. Watching San Antonio play Denver right now and Denver is running some effective zone against the Spurs, made me think of it.

  29. The supposed knock on Green is he isn’t exactly the brightest guy around. While he can jump out of the gym,he has virtually no other game. His 3pt shot is accurate,but slooow. The Rockets staff said he’s a willing student and is a hard worker. He’s a player who needed a couple of yrs at a college that had a teaching coach.
    I think he could carve out a nice career as a 6th man who could spot start and not hurt you too bad. But it would have to be on a team that can carry him and has good teaching coaches willing to put in the time. In Boston he wasn’t going to replace Pierce and Doc tried to turn him into a PG. In Minn he was behind 3 players the GM drafted. Because of the insane Francis signing the Rockets carry 4(FOUR!) PGs and a combo gd. After trading Bonzi and Snyder there was no back-up for Battier and only 6’3″ Head as a back-up for McGrady. The Rockets needed someone who could play right away,so they signed Harris who had had a good Preseason camp w/them and Green became a numbers casualty.

    Sometimes a loss is what a team needs to regain its focus and to remind it to stop tuning out the coaches.

  30. Kind of early,but a couple of observations about the Hornets. Chris Paul really does remind me of Zeke.If he wants to score he will. There is nobody on the Hornets who can defend Kobe. If Kobe wants to-and his outside shot is on-he can have a huge game.
    Chandler will get 6-8 baskets off Paul lobs leading to Laker fans moaning about Gasol’s D. Watch closely and Chandler won’t get any points otherwise. He scores because Paul is so darn good.

  31. CSUN is #2 seed behind UCSB in the tourney (due to last weeks loss to them, which i was at, and let me tell you, it was an ugly game)… but i saw somewhere that CSUN is tied for the #1 ranking, but for seeding purposes the loss last week forces CSUN to be bumped down. Anahiem, NCAA, here we come!!!

  32. Something was just foul with the game last night. I’ve thought about it was apparent that the Kings just outworked the Lakers. The Lakers coasted into that game thinking it would be handed to them on a silver plate. But instead they got a kick in the mouth. Kobe wasn’t involved in the fourth qtr, and the Lakers looked terrible on defense.

    For Kobe to get this team to the Finals it’s going to take him busting his butt and getting everyone on board to play 48 minutes of solid defense. Now that’s Phil’s job to get the best defensive unit out on the court, like getting Turiaf on the court or having Farmar stick to a quick guard. It really appears that it’s just two units. Starters and 2nd unit, which starts the 4th. This is good for chemistry but the defense is really struggling, something needs to be done to ignite more effort on defense and it starts w/ Kobe.

    What I hope is that he’s just resting and realizing that the playoffs are a ways off. So hopefully they find there defensive chemistry right before the playoffs with the least amount of effort necessary. Sounds like me trying to study the least amount possible to get an A in a class. Shame on you Kobe…hehe. Let’s see where this Lakers team heads towards.

  33. 25)Assuming Ariza comes back w/his quickness still there,I would not be suprised to see him assigned to Nash if Lakers met Suns in a Playoff Series. Last season JVG put McGrady on Nash late in season and Nash was very ineffective. I’ve since noticed some teams this yr have put a quick SG/SF on Nash this yr and it really bothers Nash. Kobe would guard Hill and Fish shouldn’t have too many problems staying on Bell.

  34. Melvin Mason Jr. March 10, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    I remember seeing Gerald Green play for Boston in his last year there and he showed he could hit the outside shot. In fact, if I remember right, he shot his threes at or near 50% for the first half of last season. If he harnessed his pure athleticism and merged it with a good work ethic during practice and the off-season, he could really be something special. He’s still young, so who knows.

    Right now, for me, it would be really tempting to pick him up for the stretch run until Ariza comes back or sign him during the off-season, but it does not look good for him since he did not get any PT in Minnesota and then was cut by the Rockets to make room for a D-Leaguer.

    I guess there goes all that talk about Green being the next T-Mac. At least for now.

  35. saw something cool on earlier:

    24 posts in 24 hours all about kobe (and nothing negative!)

  36. Travis,

    I hate to say it but Farmar’s man defense is, Barkely says, “turrible”. The likes of Barrea simply blow by him. I don’t know whether it is a lack of quickness or anticipation. But Fisher actually stays in front of his man better than Farmar. Our best defensive line-up (w/o bynum and ariza) is Kobe, Sasha, Lamar, Luke, and Turiaf.

    A 1-2-2 zone would hide alot of Farmar/Rad/Gasol’s faults. Brought this out just once against the Bobcats and it was extremely effective and of course, never to be seen again.

  37. Bill,

    I agree that Farmar does get blown by, but the best defensive lineup Kobe, Sasha, Lamar, Luke, and Turiaf? I like that except for Luke. His footspeed is not that good and his experience alone isn’t enough. I’d go with Gasol, then Vlad instead of Luke.

  38. i agree BB. Farmar played much better in a zone defense at UCLA. He was touted in college as being a great outside defender. Lo and behold, throw him into a new system and he struggles.

    He doesn’t show a lot of effort on the defensive end either. He doesn’t play the pick n roll and body up on the boards. He actually looks kinda lost.

  39. Bill Bridges,

    I’m with you on Farmar’s defense. Reading about his work ethic, I don’t think it’s a lack of effort, but he needs to put in the time this off-season, just like he did for his three-point shooting last summer.

    He consistently trails on screens, no matter the opposing player, which exposes problems with our rotations down low. It’s understandable when he has to fight through multiple screens, but it happens a lot when there’s only one screen. In iso plays, it’s like you said about the lack of anticipation or quickness — he reacts a split-second too slowly, and doesn’t use his speed well enough to catch up (or is out of position already).

    I’ve noticed that he also has a tendency to stop and watch once the ball goes up (on both sides of the floor). When he remembers not to do that, his vertical leap allows him to get some rebounds, and he could at least put a body on someone.

    He’s made great strides offensively since his rookie season, and if he can make similar strides defensively, he’ll be a solid third-year player next season.

  40. Yeah Travis, maybe my evaluation of that line-up’s defensive prowess is a bit… optimistic. Maybe replace Fisher for Walton for quick line-ups. I still think Walton is better than Rad at the end of games as he just seems to have the knack at helping and gambling at crunch time (remember the 06 suns series?). Whereas Rad’s propensity for stupid fouls increases with pressure.

    So the conclusion is that we just don’t have the personnel and discipline to play lock-down man defense ala SAS and Boston without Bynum and Ariza.

  41. Happy Kobe Bryant Blog Day!

    Lest we forget:

  42. I dont understand why fans go out of there way to not look at Lamar Odom as tough when he played with a torn labrum last season and is also the Lakers best rebounder.

    How can Turiaf be tougher when Lamar when he’s a horrible rebounder. Turiaf brings great energy,but is very weak on the boards. It requires toughness to be a great rebounder.

  43. My Kobe Bryant Blog day post is up. Raptors preview later this afternoon.

  44. 42. Saying Odom is tough and asking if he provides a tough and intimidating paint presence on the court are two different things.

  45. Kurt, which Kobe Blog Day post is yours? I see nine, and they’re all posted by Dave.

  46. matt,
    go to hardwood paroxysm. it’s all there…enjoy.

  47. 38-To my recollection, UCLA almost never played a zone defense while Farmar was there. Coach Howland does not like to play zone. I think Jordan’s problem is more that: 1) he’s still very young and adjusting to the speed of NBA point guards, and; 2) he doesn’t have great lateral quickness.