Archives For July 2008

Live Chat, and Other Thoughts

Kurt —  July 22, 2008

Because they are masochists (but in a good way), J.E. Skeets and Kelly Dwyer and going to be doing a marathon live chat all day long on Wednesday over at Ball Don’t Lie — going eight hours (9-5 Eastern, 6-2 Pacific time). This is a great way to kill your productivity at work. Because I hate to see friends suffer, I’m going to be part of the chat for an hour or so (2-3 EST, 11-12 Pacific), where we will cover the Lakers, the NBA, and I’d be willing to bet one or two Artest questions (at least KD has my back on that one). Should be fun — by that point in the day Skeets will be punchy. Plus, the end of my time overlaps with Jeff from CelticsBlog, so I’m going to let him have it. With lines like, um….. well, have you seen the photos from our dance team tryouts?

Some other thoughts:

• Team USA practice is underway, and as we move toward the Olympics we’ll be talking a lot about the games in future posts. I think we will learn a little about the USA squad in a pre-tournament “friendly” against Russia, but the real first glimpse will be the late first-round matchups with Spain and Greece.

• That said, remember even the round robin games in the Olympic pool play don’t matter that much — there are six teams in each group, four of those move on to the single-elimination medal tournament. The USA will advance out of that with little trouble (doing well should help get an easier quarter-final game, however). All that really matters (for the USA or any other medal contender such as Spain or Argentina) is winning the quarterfinal, semi-final and final. Three big, NCAA-tournament style single elimination games.

• By the way, in case you didn’t see the Olympic pairings:

GROUP A: Argentina, Australia, Croatia, Iran, Lithuania, Russia
GROUP B: Angola, China, Germany, Greece, Spain, USA

• And, while it gets a lot of ink, the USA’s lack of big men doesn’t bother me that much. For international ball I like a smaller, faster team that can play on the wing. Two teams may be able to exploit that — Greece and Argentina — but I’m not sure either really can do it well enough to beat this USA team.

• I think Kobe Bryant’s sentiments on Turiaf leaving echoed those of most Lakers fans — we get it on a business level, but it still sucks on a fan level.

• Matt Barnes lands in Phoenix. This seems like a good get if they are going to keep the tempo up in the Valley of the Sun, but is new coach Terry Porter going to do that? Can he with Shaq starting 82 games (or however many his body will allow)? And can they keep shopping Barbosa around if DJ Strawberry is the backup point?

• The Spurs signing Kurt Thomas doesn’t bother me much as a Lakers fan because they could have tried to go younger and more athletic and chose not to.

• Any good book suggestions. I just finished a historical fiction book Princes of Ireland, and my one word review: “meh.” But very little historical fiction grabs me. So I’m looking for suggestions, likely non-hoops related and I lean toward non-fiction.

Summer League Stats, Thoughts

Kurt —  July 20, 2008

When you look at the Lakers roster heading into next season, it is very possible that two guys from this Summer League team could end up on the Lakers this fall (depending on free agent moves, of course, but bringing back Sasha, Karl and one free agent big puts the roster at 13, leaving room for one more we saw this summer).

So how did guys do on the score sheet this summer? As is tradition here, I give you some of the advanced stats for the key Lakers guys this summer.

Name eFG% 3pt % TS% Reb. Rate Ast. 40 Pts. P40 PPG
Karl 43.6% 37.9% 53.2% 5.5 % 2.2 18.8 13.8
Crawford 49.1% 45.5% 52.5% 6.2% 2.3 20 11.3
Caner-Medley 45.3% 25% 54.5% 15.2% 1.8 20.2 8.8
Ford 47.1% NA 50% 11.5% 0.8 16.6 8.4
Mata-Real 52.9% NA 48.5% 18.3% 1.1 10.1 4.8

Here’s a little guide to those stats for those that are new here:

eFG%: Shooting percentage combining two and three pointers
3pt.%: Shooting percentage from beyond the arc
TS%: True Shooting Percentage, think of this as points per shot attempt, it covers twos, three, free throws all adjusted to be a percentage.
Reb Rate: Percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while on the floor.
Ast. P40: Assists dished per 40 minutes of playing time.
Pts. P40: Points scored per 40 minutes of playing time.
PPG: Points per game

You can only take away so much of what you learn from summer league games, it exists in a weird world about halfway between top college ball and the NBA. It’s a place you can sort players out and gain insights, not much more. Because a guy looks good in summer league doesn’t mean he will look that good the half-step up to the NBA level, but it means he has a chance. If a guy bombs out here…..

So, a few final thoughts on these guys.

Coby Karl shot lights out last summer league, but this time around he was the focus of the offense and that always means a shooting percentage drop. The shooting levels may be pedestrian, but the higher true shooting percentage shows he was getting to the line, which is a nice new wrinkle from his game. Also, he played good defense, something we had not seen a lot out of him. His game has progressed a lot in the last year, and it makes you wonder how far it can continue to grow. I think he’s proving he can play in the NBA as a solid bench guy with a little more development.

Joe Crawford played better and better as the Summer League went on. He shot about two from beyond the arc a game, and hit those at a nice rate. He can get into the lane. His decision making and defense need work, but the Lakers might keep him on the roster to see how he develops. Simply put, in two years the Lakers have some decisions to make at PG — if, as we hope, Farmar can step up and grab the starting job the Lakers will be looking for a solid (and affordable) backup to him. Crawford may be able to develop into that guy, and keeping him around and on the D-Fenders may give you a chance to make that happen.

Nik Caner-Medley was the guy fans fell in love with because he just wanted it, out worked the other guys on the floor and showed a few skills. His offensive game needs polish, but he put up 19 against Minnesota. Another guy I’d like to see how he develops in a year of playing professionally (here or maybe overseas, although his outside shooting appears to need work to play effectively in Europe). If the Lakers could get him on the D-Fenders for a year he might be a guy who can be an effective bench player in a couple years.

Sharrod Ford and Lorenzo Mata-Real round out the list. They are examples of guys who are going to get paid to play and likely will have nice careers in Europe (Ford is already doing that), but are just not quite NBA guys. There is no shame in that — getting paid to play basketball in Spain or Italy sounds pretty damn good to some of us.

Guys like Ford and Mata-Real are what make up most of the Sumer League rosters, and frankly what makes the league so much fun every year. These are good players looking for a chance. All the attention goes to the stars — Kevin Love answered some questions about his athleticism and if he can play pro ball; Mayo showed the tantalizing talent of major stardom in flashes but has a lot to learn; Jarryd Bayless may be very good, as if Portland needed more young talent — but that is just a few. It’s the “average” guy trying to prove himself that makes the Summer League. I guess for us basketball junkies, its back to the world of speculation and free agency. Well, at least for a couple weeks until the Olympics start.

UPDATE: It’s official, Ronny Turiaf is now a member of the Golden State Warriors. Good on him. He is going to get paid and he is going to be somewhere he will get court time and a chance to really prove he deserves those minutes. I hope he does that. I think I speak for a lot of Laker fans in saying that wherever Ronny goes, he will remain one of my favorites.

On AM 570 today Matt “Money” Smith (who has some contacts as the Lakers broadcaster) said something interesting — part of the delay with making a decision on Turiaf is that the Lakers brass started having more in depth and serious talks with Sasha Vujacic’s agent. The reason was they could only sign one at these prices, they wanted Sasha but they wanted to make sure his demands were not unreasonable. That line of thinking makes a lot of sense. We’ll see if that comes to fruition in the next few days.

Also, the Turiaf move begs the question: Do the Lakers need one more big on the bench? If so, who can you get at a cheap price?

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• Coby Karl continues to be the best player the Lakers have in the Summer League. We tend to think of him as a spot-up shooter but in this league he has shown he can put the ball on the floor, get in the lane and draw the foul. And he’s big and strong enough to still get the shot off while fouled. Also, against Philly, he played some pretty good defense on Thadeus Young.

• However, in the game against Philly (and apparently against Minnesota, which I have not seen) Joe Crawford has started to improve. He just looks more comfortable, picking his spots on when to attack and pass, looking more relaxed when he shoots. He also can get in the lane and score or draw a foul. I still think he needs a year in the D-League, but the fact he is finding a comfort level says something about his hoops IQ and willingness to learn.

• David Thorpe of ESPN.com in his chat this week, re: Coby Karl: “Literally, he’s become one of my favorite players. Yes, he can play in the NBA.”

• Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with Coby, but in a couple of years he could be a good guy off the bench in the NBA, a guy who can shoot the three and play reasonable defense. He’s not yet what Sasha is for the Lakers, but you can see that potential.

• If I were a team with a few open roster spots I needed to fill cheaply (hello Clippers?) and wanted a guy who was going to bring energy off the bench and in practice, I’d take a long look at Nik Caner-Medley. He’s not going to get a lot of NBA minutes, but he’s the kind of guy you might want on the end of the bench (maybe spending some time in the D-League).

• I’ve watched some other, non-Laker games as well and at some point will put up some general thoughts. But you have to be careful, I watched only the first half of the first Knicks game, and Gallinari looked terrible. He wasn’t adjusted to the style of play or the athleticism, wasn’t setting his feet under his shots and just looked a mess. But, aparently, he had a very good second half of that same game.

• Personally I would not have given James Posey that fourth year, but I get why the Hornets did it. I think Darius summed it up well in the comments:

I’m sorry to say this, but the Hornets are stacked. They have scorers at almost every position, they have interior and perimeter defenders, they have post offense, and they have Chris Paul and that deadly high P&R. Can you imagine a crunch time line up of Paul, Posey, Peja, West, and Chandler? Who do you leave to stop penetration? I understand that Peja and Paul aren’t the best defenders (understatement, I know) but West is decent and Posey/Chandler are pretty strong for their positions. I’m not shaking in my boots or anything, but those guys are (mostly) young, hungry players that just got a ton of experience in a brutal conference and have a lot of confidence based off of last season.

• This is a nice breakdown of FG% vs. eFG% vs. TS%. Bottom line, I tend to use eFG% a lot around here, because it’s easy to calculate quickly, but I really should use TS% more.

This post is by regular here Bill Bridges.

This piece talks about why there might be a reason to match the Warrior’s outsized (we think) offer for Ronny. I’ve covered in an another post why from a purely economic theory point of view that the Lakers might not be impacted financially from signing Ronny.

The signing of Ronny also serves as a signaling mechanism to all other teams. In Texas Holdem, if you bet pre-flop but check after the flop, you’ve signaled that your hand is weak to the others (you can of course bluff, but let’s not focus on that for the moment). To signal to the others that your hand is enhanced by the flop (and induce them to fold), you have to bet or increase the bet. Consistent play establishes you as a player not to mess with. When you raise, you want to them to fold. Animals do this with colors and other displays to demonstrate to others “don’t mess with me and waste your time”.

Translated to game theory, you want to utilize a strategy that signals to your rivals to optimize your results whilst expending the least resources. Taking strong action to a rival’s actions forces the rivals to temper their actions in the future.

If other teams judge that you are unlikely to match offers made to restricted or unrestricted free agents, they are more likely to come after your players. This is the state that the Clippers live in. Sterling is judged as a cheap skate. He has previously signaled to his rivals that he is sensitive to price. Hence, rivals are likely to come after his players. Other cheap teams like the Suns suffer as their free agents (Joe Johnson, James Jones etc) are taken from them. Offers to the Clippers and Suns players are unlikely to be matched therefore the GM’s efforts are rewarded and not a waste of time and resources.

On the other hand, a strong signal to the rivals that all offers will be matched will make them less likely to come after your players. After all, if the Lakers match GS’s offer, Golden state will have wasted a week during which other free agents might be getting signed. This strong signal will ultimately result in teams feeling shy about signing Sasha, Farmar, and later, Bynum. Less competition for their own free agents will ultimately result in an overall lower cost of human resources for the Lakers in the long term.

Summer League and Other Thoughts

Kurt —  July 14, 2008

I’ve now watched both Lakers Summer League games (which makes me miss being there in person, back when this took place in Long Beach, a lot). So I’ve started off this post with thoughts there, and thrown in a few more along the way.

• Coby Karl has simply been the best Laker on the floor, both games. We knew he could shoot (although he was off from the outside against Memphis), but he showed a more rounded game and growth from last year. He has shown some determination and aggression trying to get to the rim, some good play in transition and some good hoops IQ. Early in the Grizzlies game Laker Bryant Dunston got a block then ran the floor, and Karl worked to reward his big with the ball in the paint. Karl’s passing has been good, he showed some ability to see the floor and get the ball to the player in the best spot (including some nice passes to cutters).

One thing Karl clearly has been working on is his defense, and he had some good moments matched up on OJ Mayo. Karl is a pretty long, big body who can get a hand up and bother shooters, which he did at times to Mayo, even blocking a Mayo jumper at one point. He even did a decent job on Crittenton, which is a bad matchup for him. Karl did a nice job getting back in transition to take away easy buckets on several occasions and getting a steal. He drew a charge on a big at one point on a down screen. Where he got in trouble was indecisiveness. At one point in the Grizzlies game Crittenton came off the high pick and roll and split the defense, and went to the rim. The rotations were poor, but welcome to summer league ball. What Karl did was start to leave Mayo in the corner to help, do it half-heartedly and allow Crittenton to kick-out to an open Mayo for three. A version of that happened a few times. He also needs to work on fighting through picks. That said, his defense is much better and he did a solid job on the very athletic Mayo.

• Recent draft pick Joe Crawford has been a mixed bag. A good example is two consecutive Laker possessions in the first quarter of the second game. On the first one he comes off a down screen, gets the feed at the top of the key and quickly spins and buries the shot, a nice bit of recognition and shooting. Next time down on the wing, he makes a poor post entry pass that gets picked off. Another point in that game he makes a nice crossover dribble on the wing and gets into the lane, then just runs over a big who rotates over and gives the charge. He’s sort of been like that through two games, a mix of nice plays and errors.

• I thought OJ Mayo looked professional. In the scattershot style of play in Summer League that is saying something. He handled pressure well when he had the ball, showed range with his shot, the ability to shoot with a hand in his face and some good athleticism (the dunk opening night, a pretty up and under against the three Laker defenders at the rim). He looked like a guy more than ready for the league. Three summer games is far from enough time to tell how good he is going to be, but I liked what I saw. Paired with Rudy Gay, that is going to be some athletic wings (and an entertaining team) in Memphis.

• Mike Conley has a very nice hesitation dribble.

• Memphis went with some three guard lineups — Conley, Crittenton and Mayo — and they should do that come the season. It was a fast, energetic group (which they will need without any post presence to speak of).

• Lakers Nik Caner-Medley and Sharrod Ford play hard on both ends of the floor. That is not going to be enough to get them a spot the Lakers or likely any NBA roster, but I see why they gets paid to play overseas. They probably are on their way to getting a camp invite.

• Two thoughts on the continuing Artest saga, a couple of these reiterations of things said in the comments:

1) Last year the Lakers made two trades, getting Ariza out of Orlando and Gasol out of Memphis. In both cases, there was no pre-trade leaks and discussion. However, last summer there was plenty of leaks and discussion about Jermaine O’Neal for Bynum and other trades that did not happen. Which category does this fall into?

2) To me and just about anyone else, adding Kenny Thomas would be a deal breaker. No way we are taking on $7.5 million this year and more than $8 mil next year, the same year we will have to pay Bynum, Ariza (and in this scenario re-sign Artest). Plus, if you haven’t noticed, Thomas has nothing left in the tank, he had a PER of 2.6 last year. For comparison, the Laker with the worst PER last year was Chris Mihm at 7.6.

Concerns from Spurs fans that I think are pretty valid. That said, they are still title contenders.

• There are some good teams in the final qualifying tournament to get into the Olympics. That includes Sasha Vujacic’s Slovenia team. Here is a breakdown.