Vacation And Other Thoughts

Kurt —  August 18, 2008

I just got back from a vacation that included Chicago and the Detroit suburbs, and first things first, thanks to Reed for the breakdowns, Darius for his game thoughts, Gatinho for his history and game thoughts, and Nomuskles for filling that live-blog Jones we all had. This site never misses a beat with them around.

So, here are my pent-up thoughts on a whole range of issues.

• Chicago is an amazing and fun place, and hats off to a city willing to invest so much in fantastic public art like at Millennium Park. Those are the kind of things that really make a city. Of course, ask my kids what the best part was and they say pizza.

• We should get into the Lakers news. A couple weeks ago we were talking about “Tractor” Traylor and others as the possible back up big at the end of the bench next season, but it appears Josh Powell will get that role.

It’s a nice pick-up, one that fits with the team Mitch Kupchak has built in that he is a player whose skills fit what the Lakers do and need. Powell has good energy and is scrappy, and that shows mostly on the boards (he grabbed 15.6% of available rebounds last year with the Clippers, that’s the same percentage as Odom). He scores mostly at the basket but has a nice midrange jumper, although was a little slow to use it last year, and he sets a very good pick away from the basket. If he can do those things with the Lakers he will get some decent minutes.

Why take my word for it, look at what the brilliant Kevin at Clipper Blog said about Powell last season:

Josh Powell continues to show that he’s a serviceable frontcourt bench guy who can give you a quality screen up high.

I’d like to offer another endorsement of Josh Powell as a bona fide useful NBA piece. Back at NC State, he was an extremely active frontcourt player on both ends with more quickness than your average power forward. “Energy player” is a often a euphemism for a guy who is neither a small nor a power forward and I was initially skeptical that Powell could find a place on the floor except in those rare instances when a Boris Diaw-type is playing the 4, but his post defense has been solid. In addition, he’s improving in help situations with each passing week. Offensively, his mid-range game is what I remember from his ACC days – instinctive and with a better touch than you’d think.

• In Chicago we came across a few good jazz street musicians. I just love that in an urban setting. I wish LA had more of them.

• I only caught one Team USA Game while on vacation — USA vs. Spain, But that told me plenty. I’m not going to add on to the superlatives already seen at this site and summed up so well by KD. The USA put on a great performance.

But I will say that the USA still can be beat. And with the one and done games coming up (starting with Australia, it appears, who gave the USA fits in a tune up playing without Bogut) the USA cannot lose its focus. For the USA to lose, a few things have to happen:

1) The opposing team cannot turn the ball over. I think one of the most misused stats in basketball is “points off turnovers” (it bugs me how much Joel Meyers loves it) but in the case of team USA it is telling. You cannot give them easy baskets. They are unstoppable in the open court.
2) The opposing team has to shoot a high percentage, making the USA take the ball out not rebound and run. Bottom line with this and the first note, the opponent will have to slow the game pace down, and they have to get back on defense.
3) The USA has to be cold from three in the halfcourt. If they are hitting like they did against Spain, there is just no way to stop the scoring machine.
4) Score on the USA with back cuts and ball movement.

It may be hard to do all that in the face of the USA’s ball-pressure defense, and the USA is going to have to help the cause with an off night, but it’s not impossible. When they play again for the gold I think Spain will be able to deal better with the USA’s pressure, with turnovers down. But I doubt that will be enough.

• I watched that game on the Canadian Broadcasting Company feed (you get that in the Detroit area) and it was a pleasure to hear a game broadcast without all the hyping of stars that happens on ESPN and ABC.

• Ricky Rubio is just 17? He was Spain’s best PG by a mile, and dealt better with the USA’s pressure than Calderon. He’s got some flash but just kept making the right plays.

• China loves them some Kobe-a! Jones on the NBA breaks it down.

• It’s a ways away, but we’re starting to gear up for the season, and one way to do some review and look ahead is to check out an interview I did with Empty The Bench that covers a lot of ground.

• If you haven’t seen this yet, the account of how one woman became a Lakers fan is a fun read.

• If you go to Chicago, it’s not all that cheap ($30), but the boat architectural tour up the river is a must. Thanks to Matt from Blog-A-Bull for that suggestion.

to Vacation And Other Thoughts

  1. Welcome back Kurt. Glad to hear the Chi was a good trip, for you and the fam.

    *Gotta agree whole heartedly on Rubio. He is poised and capable with the ball in his hands….what impressed me was how he drew fouls against the US pressure where other guards force passes that lead to turn overs. Excellent use of the handle to back dribble, recognizing pressure, and use of his speed to make the defense reactionary.

    *I hope Powell works out for us. I’ve said the entire time that we need an insurance big and a guy that *can* play in case Mihm does not pan out the way that we hope. Plus, I’m always looking for that cheap contributor that can grow a litte in our system and become a player worth keeping. Based off this signing, who do you think makes the Team of Karl, Crawford, Sun, and Mitchell? I happen to think Karl is a lock and that Sun has a major upper hand against these other guys, but maybe that’s just me.


  2. Chicago was my first trip I took on my own.
    Have a lot of good memories about it and I’m
    glad you’ll have the same from your trip.

    Good ol’ Water Tower.

    Jones and Holly– nice linx.
    U hit the nail, Jonesy.
    8 billion people can’t be wrong, eh?

    No disrespect to Lebron, but it is interesting
    ( and gratifying ) to see Kobe get such attention
    from people who don’t view the players with the filters
    of hype that we have, though Lord knows they have
    their own filters to deals with in other ways.

    To a certain extent, the praise heaped upon Michael
    Phelps by NBC is the type of hype that is approaching
    annoyance level because it is so obvious and so packaged.
    It is to Phelps’ credit that he ( and his mom )
    are as grounded as they are and seem to keep it real
    in their interviews.

    The people know what’s good,
    they don’t have to be told ( and retold )
    and the athlete need not be ‘anointed’
    by the sporting punditry.

    – 5 –


  3. Welcome back Kurt we had a discussion on Lamar playing the point a while back and I just wanted to hear your opinion. Does he defend the other teams point in that situation? Can they do it for long stretches over only a quick fix every now and then? Will Lamar shoot well enough at point or just dive to the basket alot?


  4. Darius, we also went out to the Notre Dame campus and walked around. I am now so pumped for college football season, and when the Irish start winning big again this season I am going to be unbearable to be around.

    As for the roster, I agree I think Karl is in. There is one more spot for Sun or probably Crawford (he showed me more than Mitchel in the summer league). I have to watch the video of USA China to get a better feel for Sun. But who performs in camp will get the spot. The spot on the D-Feenders, I mean, because we are talking the end of the bench guy.


  5. 3. It’s kind of a matchup thing. Odom can’t defend many PGs, so this may not work against the Hornets, but on offense if he can run the point with Fisher (land some Sasha) at the two and Kobe at the three for a stretch, it can work. The great thing about this Lakers lineup, both for the long season and the playoffs, if just how much versatility there is and how they can match up with so many styles (and force other teams to adjust to them).


  6. Caught this on sports business daily, but it’s by subscription only, so I’ll post it here:

    The NBA is “poised to become the first major U.S. sports league to stream live games in local markets, an aggressive offering that will set up a showdown between cable operators” and RSNs, according to Lombardo & Ourand of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The league has authorized teams to launch video streaming, interactive TV and VOD services “by the start of the 2008-09 season.” NBAE Exec VP/Business Affairs & General Counsel Bill Koenig: “We hope to have a model in place this season.” Lombardo & Ourand note the service that is “certain to create the most waves is the streaming, which is one of the reasons why the league is negotiating on behalf of its 30 teams to cut live local deals.” The plan “would allow viewers to watch live games online within their local market for the first time.” The NBA will use “geo-blocking technology to ensure that people outside of a team’s territory will not be able to access its games online to comply with the league’s local marketing rules.” The league’s decision to “open its broadband rights creates a minefield of issues between local sports networks and their cable and satellite carriers.” One RSN exec said, “I can tell you that we’re going to push back. (Cable and satellite operators) will hate this concept.” But FSN “hopes to be able to convince cable and satellite operators that streamed games will not hurt their core linear TV business.” NBA execs indicated that they “don’t know whether the games will be free or not, though the NBA will leave that decision to teams.” NBA officials also are “uncertain whether the games will be hosted on the local team site, the RSN site, or both.” Details of advertising “within the feeds and who sells that are also still to be worked out” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/18 issue).

    This is great news for those of us that are in front of our computer, way more than we are in front of our TV.


  7. This is interesting news, JONES. I think it’s a great move by the league. I know it because there were plenty of times that I, through the broadband service of NBA Leaguepass, could not watch the local broadcast of the Warriors (since I live in Oakland) because local broadcasts are blacked out by League Pass. This would be great for so many who can’t get to a tv but still want to follow their team (from work or their laptop while traveling or at the cafe procastinating from doing their work-be it professional or school.)


  8. 6. That is very interesting news. I think it is amazing how the NBA has really embraced the age of the internet and video in a way that the NFL has not. It certainly isn’t hurting the NFL right now, but what about in a decade from now (if they keep the same policy). NBC has done a great job with video at the Olympics and I think that is the model for what people will come to expect.


  9. Full analysis about who might be better, Kobe or LeBron at NBA Gauntlet.


  10. I think NBC has done a great job with their online video too.

    I like listening to Breen and Collins.

    But it’s nice to watch the game online free of commentary. I like that you can pick up the sounds on the court too. Team USA is really doing a fantastic job of communicating defensively.

    I hope the NBA has the same option with their online video.


  11. NBC’s inexplicable west coast delay kills any good will they gave with streaming.


  12. TCO, you can tell NBC’s website that you are from the east coast (zipcode 10001) and it will stream to you more live than if you were on the west coast.

    welcome back kurt! as I’ve said before, I haven’t been too impressed by Sun Yue. Except in the germany game against frankly weaker players. He had a few nice blocks and you could see the potential for a very positive contribution from him in the NBA on defense. On offense, his game needs a lot of work. He doesn’t seem to play with that ease of confidence yet.


  13. Hi Kurt,

    Here’s from ESPN trade machine:

    Joe Crawford — —
    Coby Karl $711,517 1
    DJ Mbenga — —
    Dwayne Mitchell (TR) $442,114 1
    Josh Powell (TR) $854,957 2
    Sun Yue 0

    My interpretation is that Powell (two years) and Mitchell (one year) have confirmed contracts, that Coby Karl has a contract that will be confirmed by the end of preseason training, that Sun Yue does not yet have a confirmed contract (but he presumably will). The only hope for Crawford or Mbenga would be to beat out Coby Karl.

    What’s your interpretation?


  14. 13. Interesting. Neither Hoopshype or DraftExpress have that number in their salary listings. If that really is a no-cut deal than I think you are right, the team is pretty much set (unless someone beats out Karl, which is unlikely). But I just can’t imagine the team gave Mitchell a no-cut deal. He was good in summer league, but not THAT good, But maybe Mitch saw something.


  15. Kurt and Drrayeye,
    What would make sense to me, is that Mitchell and (maybe even) Powell’s contracts are similar to Coby Karl’s in that they are only partially guaranteed. Because the Lakers (per team policy) don’t disclose the terms of the contracts I’m not sure if we can go off only what the Trade Machine says. I know that those salary figures (in the trade machine) are probably very accurate, but the separate terms of the contracts are not listed there like they would be at HoopsHype or DraftExpress (where they’ll give you info on whether or not a contract is fully guaranteed, or if they have option years, etc.) The problem is, like Kurt mentioned, these other sites don’t have any updated info yet on these signings, so we’re left in the dark as to any additional terms of these deals. Ultimately, I think the prudent thing to do would be to wait and see what, if any, additional details come out about these contracts that were offered/signed by Mitchell and Powell.


  16. They may not have the numbers yet, but I would bet that Powell is guaranteed. This is a legit NBA bench guy. He may not make that much, but it’s got to be guaranteed. Powell is doing a chat at the LA Times Lakers Blog at 2 p.m. today (Tuesday), by the way.


  17. What is considered “local” when it comes to streaming the games? More specifically, is San Diego considered “local” for Lakers games?


  18. Hi Darius (15),

    If you go to ESPN Trade Machine, you will see that Powell and Mitchell are treated the same as all recentkly signed “no-cut” contracts (they can’t be traded for several months), whereas Coby Karl does not have that qualification.

    We already know that Coby was not guaranteed a contract, so that makes sense. We now know that Powell has a two year and Mitchell a one year–and for how much money.

    As I mentioned before, the only possible reason I could think of for signing Mitchell is defense against penetrating point guards. He’s extremely athletic. He’s 25 years old–too old to be a project–and not an impressive outside or free throw shooter.


  19. Ummm…Kurt? Josh Powell will not be at the blog to answer questions, though the K bros will certainly do the best to answer questions ABOUT him. 🙂


  20. 19. You’re right, my bad. This is why I should not do meth in the middle of the day.


  21. Drrayeye,
    Yeah, Karl can be traded because his contract was a 2 year contract (signed last year) with limited guarantees on both seasons. So the Lakers own his rights and can trade him even though his contract is not guranteed. The Lakers can not trade Powell or Mitchell yet because they were recently signed and I believe there is a wait period on recently signed players making them unavailable to be traded until that wait period expires. Which makes sense because you don’t want some team to sign a minimum salaried player solely for the purpose of being able to trade them right away because of the way that salaries must match in trades due to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. For example, say the Lakers wanted to make a trade, but were taking in too much salary and thus couldn’t execute the trade. If that wait period rule did not exist, the Lakers could sign any player off the street, solely for salary purposes, and then include him in that trade to make the numbers work. The rule exists as a protection to the player from a Union standpoint. These are peoples lives, you know, and you can’t just use them as human currency. At least not until the wait period expires, I guess. Ultimately, my point is, we don’t know if those contracts are guaranteed yet, as they could end up being like Karl’s. They can’t be traded now due to the wait period that you and I both mentioned. But I think Kurt is right, in that Powell’s would likely be guaranteed. Mitchell, I think is more likely to have a limited guarantee on his contract.


  22. Does anyone know when the USA game is tomorrow?


  23. I bet tomorrow’s USA game will be on a 3-hr delay here on the West Coast, so most likely will be on at 8AM.


  24. Thanks for the heads up Paydawg


  25. Kurt, glad to hear you made it out here to Chicago. I agree, I’ve been on the boat tour several times with family. And please tell me you stopped by Giordano’s for the deep dish pizza.

    I’ve been on vacation all summer and haven’t read the comments for months, so sorry if this is already been discussed. This isn’t intended to be trade speculation – I’m not asking if we should trade Pau – but I was wondering if Pau really can play the 4. We’ve always talked about how he’s a natural 4 because of his physique, but I’m still not convinced. Offensively, David Thorpe had a good analysis where he said the 15-foot J is no longer a consistent weapon for Pau, who’s become more accustomed to playing close to the basket. Defensively, Pau cannot keep up with quicker 4’s like David West. We saw him get burned trying to keep KG in front of him.

    To me, it seems like Pau has the strength of a 4 but the quickness of a 5. In today’s NBA where the PFs are quicker and faster than ever, Pau might not be able to play the 4.

    Of course, we’ll never know until we try.


  26. 22. Hansolofood, the game is scheduled to take place at 5 a.m. pacific time and and usually I think those games have been live on USA (or the NBC basketball channel on DirectTV). I was out of town, but I believe the games were shown live.


  27. 25. Giordano’s was the first stop we made.

    As for the rest of it, I think your last comment is the best — the big -three lineup deserves a chance to work before we decide it can’t. I think it will work at both ends, I think Pau can regain the 15-foot jumper touch and I think LO can thrive at the three, but we don’t really know for sure. And I think having Bynum along the back line will help a lot in terms of buckets when guys get beat (Pau and otherwise). We won’t until a couple months into the season, at best, how it is all going.

    Then if a move has to be made, it will almost certainly bee Odom, who has a $14 mil expiring contract.


  28. On Dish TV, the NBA Olympic basketball channel is 99, and soccer is 98. The USA channel is 105. Both broadcast the game at 5:00AM, if that’s the time it starts. On USA you have to listen to commercials, but get commentary during halftime. Check late tonite on 99 and they may have a schedule up – they play one whenever there is no game currently playing.


  29. Looking at what the wing players are doing on team USA and I start to drool about Lamar’s rebounding from the 3spot. He will more than make up for Pau’s shortcomings, I think.


  30. #25. I think Pau can match up fine against most PF’s on defense because of his length. He may not have the quickness to defend tightly on the perimeter, but because of his superior length, he won’t have to. He can lay off players who have that quick first step and still challenge their jumpshot because of his long reach. I thought he was quite effective using this technique against KG in the Finals, actually.

    As for offense, I think Pau can still operate very well from the high post where he can always shoot the jumper but still drive and try to finish. From what I saw of him in the Spain vs. US game, he operated plenty from the high post and actually used a one dribble attack that brought him right into his post move. Realize that while Pau does like to operate closer to the basket (Thorpe is dead on with that analysis), what he really likes to do is catch the ball at the mid post, then turn and face the basket and use his great first step to try and get his shot off. Often, he’ll turn and face, and then use a one dribble move in order to establish his post position. I think this will still be effective for him next season when he operates from the weakside with Bynum opposite as he can drive the ball and use his offensive skill set to either score or pass if the help comes. One thing I think he’ll need to improve on though, is recognizing if and when the help his coming as he can be turnover prone when he turns his back and doesn’t recognize that the double team is on him. Team USA did a good job of disrupting him when he did this, but with Kobe and Bynum and a slashing Odom playing off him, I think the defense will need to play Pau more honest than Team USA did.


  31. New post up on the Olympic quarterfinals. Not to derail this conversation, which is interesting.

    I think a combo of Pau/Odom working the two-man game on the weakside of the triangle, with Kobe and Bynum (and Fisher as sharpshooter) on the strong side is going to be very tough to stop.