I Don’t Like Flashbacks

Kurt —  March 17, 2008

I’d like to thank the fine people at ABC for reaching into the vault and pulling out one of last season’s Lakers games for us to watch, reminding us of how frustrating it was to sit through…

Wait, that was this year’s Lakers? That’s what the injuries reduced the team to?

On a serious note, I found this morning’s LA Times Lakers report (via the hard working Mike Bresnahan) telling. In it, Lamar Odom complains that he didn’t get enough chances on the block in the Rockets game and that he could have done a lot more if he had.

He’s right — which is why he should have gotten his ass to the block rather than float around on the three-point line in the fourth quarter. He should have run the floor and set up early position before the offense and defense really set. He should have demanded the ball. Instead, we were treated to the good but passive Odom as the second option. Again. We were treated to Kobe more than willing to take on the offensive burden — good shot or not — if other guys don’t demand the rock. We got to see a lot of standing around.

It was frustrating because on the other side was a Rockets team where the role players have stepped up in the absence of a star. They are committed to defense and contest every shot. Their help defense is fantastic (hat tip to Bill Bridges in the comments). The fight for rebounds. They move on offense without the ball. They played to their strenghts and the offense looked like Adleman’s offense when it was clicking in Sacramento. The Rockets have earned that streak.

In a similar spot the Lakers seem to look to the other guy to step up. Even the vets were doing it —Rafer Alston is a good three-point shooter, so maybe Fisher should have stopped coming off him to help. Especially after the fourth three in the first quarter. That might have been a good hint he was hot (and a glance at the stats before the game would have told you he can shoot the three anyway).

What is the saving grace right now is I know that this year’s version of last year’s Lakers is going to get better as it gets healthy. This is not last year’s team, this is a team that is a contender when everybody is suited up. Bynum does fight for and get rebounds, Gasol will demand the ball, Odom will feel more comfortable with the pressure off. But yesterday’s experience was a frustrating one for fans, and the next two games could offer more of the same.

—————————————

A few other notes poached from the comments. We’ll start with Kwame a. talking about whatever that was that was supposed to be the Lakers pick-and-roll defense:

I know Farmar wasn’t playing Alston tight, but his problem was different than Fisher’s, who was unnecessarily helping, leaving his man open. Jordan was going under the screen, but there is no reason our bigs couldn’t come out and show, I think the burden is more on them. I agree with you about the momentum, but the last 3 Alston hit before the quarter ended, McGrady set a screen on Jordan, there’s no reason for Kobe not to have stepped out on the shot. I think our single biggest defensive deficiency is rotating as a team. One guy helps, the others don’t rotate, two guys trap, the defense doesn’t adjust, people let their man go back-door, there’s no help. It is truly a problem of TEAM DEFENSE, no individual can be the culprit. Houston is playing tremendous team d, everyone is on the same page, us, not so much

Trying to end on a positive note, here are some suggestions from Bill Bridges:

Things I’d like to see in the next two games:

1. Kobe on the lower left block (Pau’s usual spot). He could roll into the lane for his running hook or generally wreck havoc in the lane.

2. Pick and pop w/ Kobe/Fish/Farmar and Rad (we never run this, why?) [Kurt’s note: This is a good call I had not thought of, the Lakers had success with this the last couple years using Cook, they should try it again.]

3. Sasha at the 1 guarding the opponent’s PG. He’s our most pesky perimeter defender and the best at getting over the screen. Don’t need this for JKidd but would like to test it on Dwill.

4. Start out with Lamar on the right block and feed him 3 consecutive possessions to start the game (Like the Bulls used to do w/ Cartwright – to jump start an unagressive offensive player).

5. No double-teams on D. If Boozer or Nowitzki beat you – so be it. But don’t sag off the 3-point shooters.

6. (For the first time this season) Execute secondary rotation to help the man covering dribble penetration.

I don’t hold much hope for #6 as they try to execute this every game but mostly fail. However 1 -5 has never been tried. Why not?

Kurt

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44 responses to I Don’t Like Flashbacks

  1. 4TH quarter Kobe wasn’t looking to pass anyone the ball in the low post. You could see it in his demeanor.

    All Kobe wanted to do 4th quarter was have someone set the high screen for him so that he could maneuver his way to try and score. There was no way he was giving Lamar post up touches. Especially with Shane Battier giving him problems.

    Kobe wanted to prove he could dominate Battier when it counted the most. So Lamar going to the block 4th quarter i dont think would work. Kobe would wave him off and tell him to come set a screen.

  2. I am using my mobile phone on this one but i got the cowboy thing. Hope this one goes in.

    I’d like to post some reminders for all to ponder on.

    1. We are still the Pac Div champs with a 1.5 game lead over Phoenix. Cheer for Portland to win at home tonight to make it a full 2 games lead. We own the tiebreak.

    2. We have a 3-loss cushion over Utah and so even if we do lose 2 more games, we could be 4th at worst.

    3. 2,3,4 might not be too bad if we get a possible date with Phoenix in the 1st rd. This is one series the NBA will be hyped about.

    projected standings:

    1. Hou vs 8. GSW
    4. Utah vs 5. SA

    2. NOH vs 7. Dallas
    3. LA vs 6 Phoenix

  3. Just in reference to some of the suggestions
    2) LA does attempt to run the pick and roll here and there, but unfortunately the defense always doubles and traps Kobe hard off of any pick and after some good rotations by for-some-reason-always-better-than-ours team defense it ends up just resetting the play

    Why we’re the only team in the league that can’t run a pick and roll to death, I’ll never know

  4. I was disappointed by our bonus strategy in the 4th quarter. Once they got in the bonus, Kobe made one aggressive drive, got to the line, and then stayed on the perimeter basically from then until the game was all sewn up.

    I had a feeling when Jordan made that 3-pointer that it was fool’s gold. There was a chunk of bad shots there, all from the outside.

  5. 1) I think you can shake Kobe out of that somewhat, he will dish to Gasol in those spots. But you have to demand the ball from him, and Odom has never done that.

    On another note, here is the post on who the Lakers do and don’t want to face. Do: Suns. Don’t: Spurs. Thanks for all the input yesterday, it really helped solidify what I was thinking:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/nba_experts/post/Blogger-s-take-The-best-and-worst-case-West-pla?urn=nba,72092

  6. Umm Kurt I think u meant “strengths” and not “straights”..and the stretch that killed us yday was when Houston couldn’t score for like 6 mins in the third quarter and we didn’t step on their throats and put the game away then and there..And feeding DJ thrice during those 6 mins and having 3 TO’s as a result just totally deflated us..

  7. Goo, I think because of the nature of the triangle, we don’t run the pick & roll as often as other teams. Plus we usually have Kobe initiating it, which means other teams are already aware to stop it (after all, it’s Kobe).

    It’s the day after and I’m still feeling the effects of the loss. Things are still looking up though. I expect the Lakers to split the remaining 2 games to go 1-3, which is not all that bad. The other contenders’ schedule starts to rough up and they will start banging on each other while the first game after this road trip is Seattle (and we all know what Denver did to them).

    It will be good timing for Gasol/Bynum/Ariza/Mihm to rest up as the playoffs are around.

  8. the LO comment is spot on. he was effective in the second half, but they never went back to him on the block after a few touches.

    but how about a simple suggestion that involves no specific plays: hustle. get loose balls and prevent opponents’ offensive rebounds. get tighter on defense. make the refs aware of the effort and keep opponents off the stripe. play with desire. the rockets wanted the win more yesterday.

  9. the other Stephen March 17, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    maybe we should send a copy of that m2m defensive strategy dvd to each laker.

  10. I’m really not that worried about the injuries affect on our seeding — aside from a few impossible to control worst case scenarios. With the West so absurdly deep, yet lacking any standouts, there is no way to predict now that one particular seed would end up more advantageous than any other — aside from home court advantage (which I think it extremely overrated in the playoffs). We all have our feelings about who our matchup nightmares are (I say Spurs and NO), but it’s very possible that any of the top 6 teams in the West could take us down (or be easy matchups for us) — we just won’t know until we get into a focused 7 game series.

    My preferences for the playoffs have consistently been to see San Antonio on the opposite side of the bracket and to face the Denver/GS winner in the first round. But these are only mild preferences. There are good reasons to believe the Spurs are not any better than a handful of other teams and that GS/Denver would be as tough an out for us as Phoenix/Dallas/NO/etc. So even though the Pau injury probably makes it much less likely we get the GS/Denver first round draw, it’s really not that big of a deal to me. And it’s very possible we could have stormed to the 1 seed and been rewarded with a nightmare bracket (something like Dallas as the 8, Utah as the 4, and the Spurs as the 5). As it stands now, I think we probably land the 3 or 5 seed — meaning we have no idea who we’ll face in the 1st round. It’s probably as likely we face a preferred matchup as the 3 seed than as the 1. The West is that volatile.

    I think that momentum and health are much more important than final seeding. Having Pau around now and getting Bynum earlier would have increased our odds at gelling at the right time, but I still believe we have enough time to be playing our best basketball in the playoffs.

  11. There were so many things from the Rockets game that deserve their own essay that it’s tough for me to even narrow my comments…

    *But, right now our PG play is really lacking. Fisher has seemingly hit a wall. He is not in synch at all and it’s been going on for (what seems like) weeks. He is not hitting the open jumper consistently, he is forcing some shots, and his defense (we all know his struggles against the really quick guards) has been average, at best. I mean, when was the last time we saw Fish draw one of his classic charges? And Farmar, for all his upside is still struggling with the little things, the nuances of the game if you will. I talked about his poor play recognition against Dallas where we gave up the game tying 3. And now yesterday, he consistently goes under the screen on a guy that is on fire from the outside. I know he could have had more help from the “show” man on the P&R, but he still needs to go over the screen on pretty much every Western PG, save Parker and Kidd. Also, Farmar needs to push the ball more and try to attack the basket more. He is settling for the 3 (he can join the club though, there. The entire team is doing the same), and just kinda hanging around the arc. Where is the movement?

    *Not having Gasol in a game where Kobe has to face a defender that really bothers him hurt a lot. I have not seen any player (since young Kobe was getting harrassed by Bowen and Christie) bother Kobe more than Battier. Kobe finally figured out Bowen and Christie, but he has not found out a way to punish Battier yet. Battier just does an excellent job of guiding Kobe to areas of the court, not going for any fakes, and just challenging the shot. Everytime. Now, Kobe will have games where he would hit any jumper blindfolded. And in those games no defense is good enough. But on an average Kobe day (which is still high level/greatness for any player) Battier does as good a job as any player in the league. So, when our #1 guy has to face one of the guys that bothers him the most, it would be nice to have an offensive counter to that. Lamar can say that he should have gotten the looks (which is probably true), but Gasol is a player that has the mentality of a #1 option. When Gasol gets the ball, he is looking to attack and score pretty much everytime he doesn’t make a quick pass. We missed that agression yesterday. Besides the scoring, we just missed that 2nd guy that would make the defense pay attention…that would force the defense to react and rotate so other players could get some better looks. I don’t know if anyone else caught this interview (and I can’t remember where I saw it or read it) but, the Rockets bassically said that Battier takes the opposition’s best wing player and everyone else can really key in on their own guy. Now we did see plenty of sagging into the alleys where Kobe likes to penetrate, but the Rockets did a great job of recovering to their own guys and limiting the looks of our seconday players. Without some open looks, those guys are not the same.

    *Lastly, we are a depleted team right now. No big man depth at all. We had no real offense from an inside player (save Odom) all day, and watching Mbenga catch the ball and attempt to finish was Kwame-esque (I know…at least he caught the ball). We are seeing why DJ was cut by the Warriors. He reminds of Adonal Foyle, and not in a good way. I actually wish we would have gone super small with Sasha, Kobe, Luke, Radman, and Odom. I know that we would have had some trouble keeping Hayes and Scola off the glass, but that was happening anyway. Sasha, as pointed out by Bill Bridges, is a good on ball defender of PG’s and he has some length. I think Sasha fighting over screens and contesting jumpers could have saved us from Alston (who is on fire right now…really. And1 my ass. He’s a pro.) Anyways, I could go on forever, and actually I did. So I’m done. I’m with Kurt though too, when we get healthy, we will be loads better, but we are an injury plagued team. 4 straight years now of key injuries that have really hurt us. Will it ever stop?….man o man.

  12. Scoring priorities when the Lakers are healthy:
    1) Bryant
    2) Gasol
    3) Bynum
    4) Fisher
    5) Odom

    It really isn’t hard to see why we are having problems. I put Lamar at the end because he doesn’t react to pressure, not because he doesn’t have the talent.

    Combine this with the fact that this team gets its defense from success on its offense (not the way it should be, but the way it is) and days like Sunday in Houston happen.

  13. #2 and #4 really ought to be executed. Additionally, when playing a smaller lineup like we are essentially forced to now, running Kobe off of low screens and curls, and other players making cuts and/or screens from there, would really help keep the ball moving. Basically, I’d like to see him work more without the ball than with it. Even though Bryant isolating isn’t a horrible option for producing points, it does nothing to maintain fluidity between players.

    Also, all of those plays to DJ down low really should have been run with Lamar, but I guess this goes back to him getting to that position, not Mbenga or Turiaf.

  14. I agree with Reed, at this point, I don’t think that fighting hard (and risk burnout or injury further) to get the #1 seed is worth all that…not in the west.
    and as far as home court advantage, if the visiting team gets a split in the first 2 games, they then take back that home court advantage, so again, in the playoffs, not that big a deal.
    just make the playoffs, healthy…period.
    if we are 8th and have to play #1 on the road, if we split, take back home court, and ultimately beat the #1, we then get to take their road to the next round. (ie; the more favorable bracket).
    the key to our success is having a team at FULL STRENGTH, (and I’m not counting on trevor for this season), get ‘Drew, and Pau back, healthy and familiar with playing together, let LO get some time at the 3, work on the rotations towards the end drive…who is best at guiding that? I think we got him in PJ.

  15. 15-I agree that health is the most important factor to our success, but we cannot act like the Lakers can go into the playoffs playing how they are, and just turn it on when everyone’s back. Again, Phil Jackson teams that win titles play defense, this is not limited to Pau, Drew and Ariza, this is top-down, teamwide. We must improve defensivley as soon as possible, I don’t see anyway around it.

  16. #3. The Lakers must be the only team in the league whose point guard NEVER initiates the high pick n roll. Phil recently said that the high pick n roll is almost impossible to defend with the new defensive 3 second rules which prevent a defense from collapsing too early. It would seem that with such observation, a smart coach might try to initiate that pnr with Farmar or Fish.

    On another note, alot of Laker fans wanted Alston over the summer. He was available for next to nothing (Udrih was available for nothing) after they just got Mike James with Aaron Brooks as the heir apparent.

  17. 11)Darius: PG play – Unfortunately, I think what we are seeing is the real Derek Fisher. The first half of the season he was playing what was arguably the best b-ball of his career. Pretty unusual for a mediocre player to make a significant improvement at that stage of their career. Farmar is still very inexperienced – he still has a lot to learn and a lot of room for improvement. The other teams have figured out his strengths and weaknesses, and have adjusted to him. He needs to make counter-adjustments, and (probably) doesn’t have the repertoire yet for that. He doesn’t have a lot of athleticism (relatively speaking) to fall back on, like some players do.

  18. 17-One move we all know Farmar has from his UCLA days is the floater. He has a nice mid-range step-back too. He defintley has gotten 3 happy and if he isn’t taking a 3, he’s goin to the hole (without any love from the refs). He and Sasha and Fish are struggling. That has to do with less doubles, but also shot selection

  19. exhelodrvr,
    I agree with you about Fisher. He has paid for his salary in the stability he has brought this year, but he is not a great defensive player and has always been a bit streaky on offense. Players who draw a lot of charges are frequently smart, but not always good basic defensive players and players who get a lot of steals are usually athletic, but often don’t have the basic defensive fundamentals. Fundamentally sound defensive players generally don’t take the extra chances to steal, because the attempt often pulls them out of their basic defensive stance.

    I don’t agree with your view of Famar’s athleticism, however. We often relate athleticism with gymnastic abilities. While Farmar is not very gymnastic, he is quite athletic. He is also surprisingly quick and fast – that’s how he gets into the lane. I think his problem is his size and ability to stand in with players having much more experience.

  20. In regards to Farmar’s athleticism, we ran that lob play that we usually run for Kobe out of timeouts for Farmar agasint the Rockets and he finished the lob at the rim with a nice little 2 hand lay-in. So, I don’t think he’s lacking too much in the athleticism dept. I do think though that he could apply his athleticism better by getting into the lane more with his quickness. Overall, I just think Farmar needs to up his awareness levels on defense. He is very capable of barking orders on Offense and telling people where to go, but he needs a little more of that court gerneralship (is that a word?) on defense. He needs to recognize sets and know what teams are trying to do and then disrupt it. I know that’s not easy (not too many GP’s or to a much lesser extent Rondo even), but defense starts on the ball and with the PG and Farmar could be a major asset on the defensive end if he sharpened his skills on that side of the ball.

    I think that’s why Sasha can be such a key player for us. He is a pesky on ball defender, and even though he is slender, he has the size to disrupt opposing PG’s. Sasha’s just so hit or miss with his jumper that it’s tough to justify him consistently getting minutes over players who are steadier (ie Fish and Farmar).

    On a side note, I agree with Reed on the push for seeding. The west is so deep, I just want in the dance and we’ll get our partner once the doors close. I could care less who we face. When healthy, we have a deep enough team with diverse enough talents to match-up with anyone. And let’s face it, the path to the finals in this conference will be brutal regardless of the seeding, so why even worry. If we face the Spurs in round 2, is that too different from facing Utah or Nawlins or Houston or…my head hurts.

  21. the other Stephen March 17, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    i always rag on farmar for not being very athletic either, but at least the little dude can dunk. hooray.

  22. For the Lakers to hang with Houston for solid portions of yesterday’s game, as beat up and depleted as they are, is a positive thing. Unfortunately, sports is about winning. Houston did that. I’m afraid of the whole “wait till Bynum gets back” and now “wait till Pau and Bynum get back” because winning is a habit. I don’t like the idea of going into a tough playoff tournament as a 5-6 seed with very little time to get that winning momentum going. I only mention this because I don’t think the effort was there from the guys who are suited up (as few as there might be). They seem to be waiting, like the rest of us, to win again. They are a .500 team without the big guys, but right now they’re 0-2 and that needs to change. I, for one, am not letting them off the hook because of injuries. If this is a contender, they just have to have more pride than that.

  23. Darius, good post. But I gotta disagree with you about who’s been steadier. I’d much rather see Sasha take a shot at the end of a tight game than Farmar. Also, since the all star break, Farmar’s defense has been non-existent and his incidence of bonehead plays is back at rookie level. There is a reason Sasha gets minutes at the end of games and Farmar sits.

    On a brighter note, Ding reports that Gasol is off crutches, Ariza is out of the boot, and Bynum has no swelling

    http://lakers.freedomblogging.com/2008/03/17/progress-albeit-minimal-for-ariza-bynum-gasol/

  24. Bill Bridges,

    Yeah, I see that on Sasha. I too think that his shooting capability is higher than Farmar. I’d definitely rather see Sasha shooting than Farmar in the final moments. In terms of steadiness, I really just mean who can “run” the team, and with Sasha mainly being Kobe’s back-up, by default it’s Fish or Farmar as the option to be the PG…but I’m with you all the way. I actually think that with his height, shooting, and ball handling that Sasha could fill this role. The ball is gonna be in Kobe’s hands a bunch anyways so there really aren’t that many decisions to be made.

    On the injury front, that is good news, indeed.

  25. The thing that hurts Farmar is that he is not quick laterally. This especially hurts on defense.

  26. Darius,
    Farmar can jump, but he’s not very quick. For a point guard, jumping ability is not nearly as beneficial as quickenss.

  27. 19) Craig,
    “He is also surprisingly quick and fast”

    Not for an NBA point guard.

  28. There was talk about wishing we had a tall, athletic point guard. Maybe next year Sun Yue has matured and can step in as a nice role player for days like yesterday. He’s 6’9″ and they call him the “Chinese Magic Johnson”. Great athlete who is more offensive minded, but he’s quick and obviously tall. I think Javaris might have been even more expendable because of the development of this kid. We’ll see…

  29. OT but watching the Spurs/Celtics game right now and I have to admire how both teams play defense. No highlights in this game, just good execution, team defense, fundamental basketball.

    Also, I miss Robert Horry. Letting him go so he can play near his family was a good thing for all the things he’s done. Still wish he’s still in Lakerland though. Dude knows how to play.

    As for all the questions regarding the team’s recent weak play, the Dallas game will be a clear indicator of what this team is – win or loss. If they play hard and communicate on defense, then even if they lose the game it’s a good sign. Not just for one quarter, but for all 48 minutes. If what we see is an image of last year’s Lakers, then even if Bynum/Gasol/Ariza/Mihm return come playoffs time, they will be looking at another early exit.

  30. If I may,since Phil came to LA the Lakers have had problems w/the pick/roll. Several coaches and players have commented that Phil doesn’t pay that much attention to defense during practices. Combine that w/the Lakers never using their PGs in a pick/roll and an explanation may be in sight. If the Lakers never practice running the point pick/roll,they never get practice defending it. They prob do a walk-thru during shoot-arounds,so they may have the concept,but they never put it into practice at full speed and as a result are slow in recognizing and defending it. Until the Lakers start to implement it as part of their offense,I believe they will continue to struggle defending it.

    Which leads me to the problems I see w/the Lakers offense. W/out a dominant center,Phil prefers the “Initiator/Playmaker/Guy who runs the offense” to be a wing player. Wings tend to be taller than pgs so they can see the court better and have better passing angles. The point’s job is to bring the ball up and start the set from the proper position,then space the floor and hang at 3pt line. In the post-Shaq era,Phil hasn’t found the right guy for the job.Lamar,Luke and Kobe have all been tried and haven’t quite gotten it done. Kobe might be the best,but since defenses concentrate on him anyway,if they contain him,they completely shut down the Laker O.
    Lamar is in a particularly tough spot. Phil wants him to run the offense and the fans want him to go to the low-post and go to work. If he sets up down low someone else has to become the Initiator. While it is tough to switch roles mid-game,the core of the Laker team has been together long enough that this should be automatic. This may be where the constant injuries knocking players out for a few weeks at a time may be causing problems. The team has never been at full strength long enough to automatically switch roles,from play to play if warranted.
    Considering the roster I think it’s time for Phil to make some tweaks and start playing kinda small ball. If Kobe is going to be on the wing,which I would think is a no-brainer,I’d have Farmar as the next player over at top of key then Sasha/Fish,Lamar(small option Fish/Sasha)in corner and Turaif in low post. The key is Farmar up top as he is Laker who is not afraid to drive and dish. Having Turaif pop up to set screens for either Kobe or Farmar and Lamar cutting to Turaif’s previous spot forces motion.If Kobe is doubled his outlet pass is to Farmar who has choice of driving to hoop or passing to open 3pt shooter as defense scrambles.
    Lamar has shown he cannot be relied upon to be the primary playmaker,so I’s suggest Phil start using Farmar in the playmaker role and live w/some of his mistakes in the near future. I’d suggest more Farmar/Sasha/Kobe court time as Sasha can play some D on 2 gds and defending SFs keeps Kobe a little closer to basket where his rebounding ability is needed.

  31. This is a little late, but Charley Rosen has a column up analyzing the Lakers-Rockets game. Many of his points have been made here, but he does make a very interesting observation that Battier’s face-guarding of Kobe was illegal. I saw highlights on ESPN where they spot-highlighted Battier’s arm with his hand inches from Kobe’s face several times as he was shooting, but the anchor reading the story didn’t say anything about it. Hard to say whether the person that edited it knew it was illegal or thought it was good defense.

    Rosen’s column is here:
    http://tinyurl.com/2tf7n3

  32. Kurt, very nice blog by JE Skeets on the matchups. I for one, while being worried particularly about our current roadie, am more concerned of the matchups rather than the seeding in general.

    If my calculations are correct, the Lakers cannot fall to worse than #4. I am basing this assumption on the fact that the Lakers have an easier schedule than the Suns with the remaining games and while we are adjusting heavily with all the injuries, the Suns are adjusting with their whole offense and defensive sets.

    If we look at the remaining games POV, after this roadie, the Lakers have 10 more home games and 4 more road games left. I could go to an extreme and predict a 0-4 on this trip that would give us a record of 45-23, a game behind Phoenix assuming they win against Portland and Seattle.

    However, of the remaining 14 games, we only have 5 teams that are play-off bound to face giving us a 5/14 chance of losing. +/- wins against playoff teams and losses against non-playoff teams. Over-all, if this formula holds true, we will finish with 54-28. But that’s already very conservative.

    The Lakers, in my book, will hit 50 wins before the end of March.

    The Suns however, will have to face both Portland and Seattle on the road, both penciled as wins on my book. Assuming they get these two, they will have a 3-game stretch of Hou, @Det, @Bos which I expect them to lose atleast 2 games. Then they will continue on to face @Phi and @NJ, 2 teams vieing for the last 3 spots in the East and finish off the month with a home stand against Denver.

    So you see, the worst I can foresee the Lakers play – they get to 50 wins before March ends. However, the best the Suns could possibly come out with, gives them a 50% chance of getting to 50 also by the end of March but there’s also a good chance – 50% that they won’t get to 50 until the Minnesota game on April 4th.

  33. addendum to #32…

    The Suns have a 9/14 loss probability with the remaining games they have. My book counts 2 Denver games (home and home) as only a probability .75 while I am also counting the 2 roadies against Phi and NJ as probability .75. I am using an additional 0.5 probability index on the 2 games against Portland, .4 on the roadie and 0.1 on the home game.

  34. Via hat tip to freedarko.com, I came across this article about the GM of the Rockets investing “million” in computer servers to do detailed statistical analysis. Moneyball for the NBA

    http://www.thestar.com/Sports/NBA/article/345327

    Somehow I don’t see Kupchak , Lester, and Jim Buss as being computer or stats geeks.

  35. 31.

    i’ve checked the nba rulebook and can’t seem to find that face guarding is illegal… I used to get so angry when my boy did that on me… can’t see jack…

  36. I think Rosen’s wrong. NBA rulebook, section 12A-Section Vm

    “Eye guarding (placing a hand in front of the opponent’s eyes when guarding from the rear) a player who does not have possession of the ball is illegal and an unsportsmanlike technical shall be assessed.”

    It has to be from the rear, and the player can’t have the ball. Battier’s defense was from the front, and Kobe definitely had the ball.

    I don’t understand why face-guarding is in any way illegal in any sport… I’ve never understood why you can’t do it in the NFL. You’re trying to make it hard for them to catch the ball, right?

  37. On Fisher:
    I was worried about this as soon as we resigned him. He had good help D in Utah with AK, Okur, and Millsap. He doesn’t have those options here in LA.

    On Farmar:
    His man on man defense isn’t great at the NBA level. In college, he worked mostly zone at UCLA and i would guess his high school was not much different.

    He needs experience and guidance on defense and self-esteem on offense. He can beat players other NBA PGs off the dribble and needs to stop hanging out at the arc like some said. Against Phoenix in the playoffs, he had a couple of exceptional plays when he took Nash off the dribble. He is one of the few Lakers capable of creating his own shot (see his fade away in the lane), but needs encouragement and self-esteem.

  38. Without Bynum to cover mistakes the Lakers have too many weak man to man defenders. Kobe is probably their only competent perimeter defender with Ariza down and Odom is no better than fair up front. Turiaf works at defense, but at center he is overwhelmed.

    Fisher & Farmar are getting abused at the point either with quickness, stength or both. Radman, Luke, Gasol and Mihm (is he still on the team) are all liabilities on defense. Sasha can be a pest but he often commits too many ill advise fouls that get the Lakers into an early penalty situation.

    Why the Lakers wouldn’t sign a defensive specialist to fill their open roster spot is the real mystery. Another head scratcher is the Laker coaches refusal to play more zone with so few able defenders available.

    In summary, the Lakers look like their expecting Kobe to carry them into the playoffs, and hope their injured players make it back by then.

  39. The Dude Abides March 18, 2008 at 10:54 am

    UCLA almost never plays zone under Holland. Their trademark is tough man-to-man D…but I do agree that Jordan needs to go the hole more often.

    Fish has always been a streaky shooter. If he gets his touch back anytime between now and the playoffs, he’ll be fine…and I think he will.

  40. The Dude Abides March 18, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Oops, it’s Howland, not Holland. I was having a late 70s flashback there.

  41. 38. Tim, there are not a lot of real quality defenders just floating around out there waiting to be signed. If they are any good, there are people bidding on them.

  42. Radman wasn’t bad against T-Mac and Ariza is a good defender… No need for a new one. I like this roster (when healthy).

  43. Dallas preview finally up.

  44. 36 – I am not a rules expert, but it seems to me that the argument for unsportsmanlike conduct is that you’re not making a play on the ball and that it’s potentially dangerous (actually hitting someone in the eye and the possibility of causing collisions if you do it to a player on the run).

    I’ve had some time to look around the net, and consensus seems to be that it’s legal, along the lines of “if you don’t actually hit the shooter, do whatever you want” (especially on Houston-based blogs, not surprisingly, but elsewhere as well).

    I think Fish is a great team-defense player, but that he’s suffering a lot from the great Valley of the Leg Injury void in the middle. It doesn’t help that some (all?) of the other perimeter players are always trying to cheat off their men to help in the middle. I think there’s a danger to getting Bynum (and everybody else) back late is that this habit will be a hard one to unlearn before the play-offs.