Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  October 3, 2008

Thoughts while wishing I was cruising an Island Packet through the Caribbean.

• UPDATE: Friend of this site KD was entirely too kind, but this ranking is very flattering (and really reflective of the community here more than anything).

• I had a conversation with someone who has been at all the Lakers practice and camp days so far, and he used one word to describe the feeling: Relaxed. Players are more comfortable, coaches are relaxed, and while everyone is trying to drum up story lines — What do we do with Odom? — the mood of the team is totally different than last year.

If the players and coaches are relaxed, that is a good sign.

• Commenter Gerrit pulled together some very interesting stats from last season: The Lakers numbers with Bynum and Gasol as the starting centers:

with Andrew Bynum
Offensive Efficiency = 113.5
Defensive Efficiency = 106.6
Differential = +6.9

with Pau Gasol
Offensive Efficiency = 119.8
Defensive Efficiency = 101.7
Differential = +18.1

It shows that the Lakers were much more effective offensively with Pau Gasol as the starting center, which I expected. Surprisingly it also says that the Lakers were better defensively with Pau Gasol at Center. Perhaps this is due to strength of schedule. Looking at the schedule they mostly played weaker teams (Kings and Clippers, Spurs without Manu) against whom the Lakers piled up the stats.

Not sure this has a huge bearing on this season (knocking on wood to avoid injury curse) but interesting none the less.

• Shaun Livingston to Miami, which I think is a good fit (open style, team where he can get minutes to prove himself). I hope he does well.

• Why can’t basketball statheads and scouts just get along? (It’s a great read, which you expect if heavyweights like Ziller and Shoals are involved.)

• I’d laugh at Manchester United, having to play with bailed-out AIG blazoned across their chest, but as a Newcastle fan there is nothing funny about the Premiere League to me right now. Not even the new managers press conference.

• I was curious to watch the VP debate, but not if it meant missing the Dodgers in the playoffs. The Dodgers are bringing me a lot more joy than whoever will be VPOTUS could.

Kurt

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31 responses to Fast Break Thoughts

  1. You clearly haven’t thought about the things Sarah Palin could do to you…

  2. we better revisit rule #1 (over there > on the right) about politics, or else this could quickly turn into a Sarah palin forum. (SP&Mc) …this whole Palin thing has me feeling like we are living in a Cohen Brothers film.
    but enuf ’bout that maddness.
    yeah, the Dodgers are fun, got kind of tense in the bottom of the 9th don’tcha know. I grew up a Cubs fan, but after the Pads beat them (when was it? ’89?) that was it, couldn’t take it anymore, now it’s Go Blue!
    at least until the Lakers start, even training camp, or pre-season, that’s what I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT!

    someone brought up an interesting possibility for a line up, put LO at point, with Kobe at the 2, and starting Trevor at SF… interesting, I thought. we’ll probably see that in some rotations, but not as a starting unit.
    so many options, eh?

  3. For defensive efficiency, is lower better? Otherwise weren’t they better with bynum? Also, I think its important to note that on any team I always hear defense is one of the latter things to come together, so that also might have an effect. The fact that team defense just improved some. I still feel like we were better at keeping people out of the lane with bynum…

  4. Chris h. Yes the cohen brothers. Thats my feeling too. She reminds me of Fargo. Enough on that.

    The Data with Bynum Vs Pau at center is kind of interesting. It doesn’t seem like the Lakers D was that good. It was Ok but that D-rating was pretty low. It will be interesting to see Bynum and Pau clogging up the paint. If they can do it without fouling alot the Lakers D should be pretty good. I trust Phil and his to come up with a defensive scheme that best utilizes them.

  5. David St. Hubbins October 3, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    I wouldn’t read too much into the Bynum vs. Gasol statistic which seems purely anecdotal to me. To me this seems like a classic case of cause/effect confusion. The Lakers as a whole were a much better team at the end of the year than at the beginning of the year. Basketball is a team sport and Offensive and Defensive efficiency are team statistics. Gasol was only one factor in the Lakers improvement. At the beginning of the year, the Lakers were unsure of who they were as a team (the Kobe trade demand, etc.), they were still working through possible player personnel combos, they were continuing to work on their offensive and defensive execution, they were working out their player rotations, etc., etc. Also, the stats for Bynum’s first month and second month of the season were totally different as he got better and better (as a side note, have we ever seen any player seem to literally grow by leaps and bounds in front of our eyes on a game by game basis like we saw with Bynum last year? That was truly astounding). By the end the year, the Lakers knew they were a championship caliber team and were supremely confident, the coaches had determined the best combos and match ups, and they had settled into their rotations and roles and responsibilities and consequently they were executing at a very high level. I think you could look at almost any first half vs. second half statistic to come to the similar but perhaps misleading conclusion. For example (and this just made up to try to make a point), in the beginning of the year Luke Walton was starting and at the end of the year Radmo was. The Lakers stats for offensive and defensive efficiency for when one starts over the other would be similar (based on the fact that they had improved as a team), but you wouldn’t conclude that the Lakers became a championship caliber team because Radmo was starting rather than Walton. The statistics are interesting, but sometimes they can be as misleading as they are informative.

    Also, thanks Darius for your informative response about LO moving to the point…I appreciated

  6. Awesome, Kurt. Well deserved. Our little site is growing up.

  7. One thing of note about those offensive and defensive statistics is Phil’s basketball philosphy. Phil has always preached that an efficient offense leads to efficient defense. The argument says that if you are consistently scoring and playing at the pace that you want, you then influence the other team’s ability to attack you in the transition from offense to defense. This approach was one of the main reasons that we were able to take Phoenix to 7 games in that first playoff series a few years ago. Phil slowed the tempo, played a deliberate and efficient offensive style that allowed the Lakers to always be in good recovery positions that enabled us to consistently set our defense. So, last season, it makes sense that as our offensive efficiency got better (with the addition of Gasol), our defense got better as well. We were scoring more, AND doing it in a manner where we were able have people in a position to play the type of defense we wanted. Phil’s Bulls teams and his 3pt Lakers teams operated under this same philosophy. So, it’s no suprise that last year we started to see the same trend develop.

  8. Congrats Kurt!

  9. Congrats on the ranking Kurt! And also Kurt was right, some kudos also goes to the fantastic commentors on this site for turning a simple blog into an insightful community.

    I didn’t see these posted anywhere, so I thought I’d share. Interesting take on Odom by Roland Lazenby on hoopshype:
    http://blogs.hoopshype.com/blogs/lazenby/2008/10/03/the-lakers-and-lamar-a-basketball-lament/

    Also 2 main articles on yahoo and ESPN, I won’t waste space linking because anyone can find them.

    Adande’s article was OK, but what really caught my attention was the pic on ESPN’s front page. Wow. Yeah, Kobe’s standing a bit in the background, but Bynum looks massive. I actually think he’ll be quicker and now seems strong enough to take the punishment guys like Perkins dish out.

  10. Congrats on the rating Kurt. I’m not familiar with the #3 blog on their but the rest is legit. I am a little disappointed though because KD deleted a comment I made on his page that the fix had to be in on the Lakers because they listed Joe Crawford on their roster. Oh well.

    Going to back to the last thread, I agree with your skepticism about PHX, especially with a new coach trying to jostle them in an unfamiliar direction, but wonder if Denver is in a position to step up and maintain their position. Maybe if Melo was inspired in the Olympics, but they seem like a classic disintegration waiting to happen. Especially with Camby gone…

  11. Odom at point is not gonna stick, but I’m sure Phil will run a couple of plays every game where L.O. runs the offense just to surprise the D for easier points. I like that the entire team is saying all the right things, concentrating on individual roles to make the team play at its most efficient level. Hopefully that’s not just words.

  12. Kurt – You well deserve the top ranking for best blog. HANDS DOWN… I am sure I will have plenty links to send your way as the season progresses. All the best and go Lakers!!

    Daniel
    http://www.LABallTalk.com

  13. Kurt, congratulations on the rating by KD, you seem to attract bloggers that know what they are talking about at this forum. Yea, how about them Dodgers.

  14. (6) Kurt,

    I’ve used these awards to find new (to me) sites in other cities. They clearly choose quality.

    How could they not choose you?

  15. Hey Kurt, congrats on the ranking, you most definitely deserve it here. This place has the most in-depth analysis of Lakers issues and the best atmosphere for discussion. I know I often find myself waiting around for a Forum article to pop up to see what’s newest on the Lakes. All we need now are some T-Shirts :D

    As for Lamar, I still can’t decide what role he would really fit into. I’m gonna list what I think are his biggest strengths and weaknesses and the such, and lets see if anyone can make use of my list.

    I think his main weaknesses are:
    1) The range on his Jumper. With Kobe and the Towers likely to be seeing lots of double coverage, a dead-on 3 baller is very handy on the floor.
    2) Quickness and core strength on defense. He would have a hard time guarding the better wing players.

    On offense he can:
    1) Play point and start the offense, getting the ball in to the post or to Kobe, who will be operating off the ball
    2) Slash to the bucket when Kobe has the ball or when it’s in the post
    3) Huge advantage is posting up other SFs/PGs. With his length advantage he can put his back to the basket and get some easy bucket, or can definitely his passing skill to find cutters and shooters.
    4) He can be the focal point of a second unit offense.

    The main advantage of having Odom is obviously his versatility. My idea on how to use him is to not give him a regular amount of minutes in every game. Depending on the team that we play, Odom will have different roles. Let me illustrate:
    1) Playing a team with a weaker post defense (think Nuggets, Wizards). Odom would have a more limited role. You could start Bynum, Gasol, Kobe, Vujacic and DFish. The Bynum-Gasol high low would be v important, with kobe handling the ball mostly and sasha and Dfish spotting up. odom would come off the bench here to run the second team.
    2) When Kobe is a little hampered on offense. This happens sometimes when teams are really overplaying him or when he plays a good wing defender (Artest, Bruce Bowen, etc). In these situations Odom can start the offense playing PG. This would allow Kobe to work off of the ball, around picks, etc. and keep the defense honest. Odom has sufficient ballhandling skills and court vision to play this position well.
    3) When the Lakers are trying to get a running game going, they could shift Gasol up to C and play Odom PF with the likes of Ariza, Kobe and Farmar.

    What I’m trying to say, is that we shouldn’t just stick Odom into the game and say use your versatility (that leaves him scratching his head and unsure of himself). PJ could instead teach him 3 to 4 very specific roles. He can then tell him which role to play in a certain game depending on circumstances. This would give Odom a much clearer understanding of what he should be doing. Also when he’s playing fewer minutes, he will be a lot more aggressive and fired up when he is in the game (still has to prove himself in a contract year), and maybe get some of that lost Turiaf energy?

    Well sorry for the long post, but I’ve been kicking this around in my head and was wondering what other people think. Hope you guys understood some of it hehe.

    Go LAKERS, peace out
    Hassan

  16. Oh yeah I thought I should mention. With my idea, this would have Odom starting some games and coming off of the bench in other games. There wouldn’t be a set starting lineup, but somewhat of a rotation with Odom, Sasha, and Ariza playing 2/3. Kobe would start some games at 2 and some at 3. Also Odom might start some games as PG.

  17. You’re a newcastle united fan? Jeez you can’t laugh at anything this entire season in the premier league then, which is going to be a very very long one for you. They’re going to have the season from hell.

  18. “It shows that the Lakers were much more effective offensively with Pau Gasol as the starting center, which I expected. Surprisingly it also says that the Lakers were better defensively with Pau Gasol at Center”

    The Lakers were better last year with Gasol than they were with Bynum – it was pretty clear. Gasol last year was a better player than Bynum (and may still be for another year or two), but the biggest impact was that Odom’s game meshed so well with Gasol.

  19. Hassan,
    One of PJ’s guiding principles is to reach a set lineup by the end of the season. His reasoning – as I see it – is that people need to know exactly what their responsibilities are and practice them over and over. He does not direct players much during the game, as he expects them to work through their own problems – teaching quick thinking and self reliance in emergencies. Therefore, he doesn’t want the players to be constantly thinking, “..Now that I am playing the XXX position, where are I supposed to be playing when y happens?” Players must react immediately and instinctively to what the defense attempts to do. That is the hard part of the triangle, not any supposed difficulty in the sets and moves.

    Lamar has had two disadvantages over the years here. 1) He has been moved around to different positions (making it harder to learn one position instinctively) and 2) He is not a strategic basketball thinker and reacts only to what is immediately around him. He has more natural talent than any other member of the team (yes, including Kobe), but he doesn’t have the incisive and dominant mindset to max out his basketball talent. This doesn’t make him bad, but it does limit him in a system where the players must read and react instinctively.

  20. Congratulations on the well-deserved accolades Kurt. Even though you try to defuse credit, you are the one that provides the support structure for the community.

  21. congrats! also, nothing more pleasing to me than to see the dodgers too, since CHP is there (although in very limited form).

  22. Congrats Kurt, I love this forum, and try to access it as often as I can and read everyone’s contributions.

    I agree that LO is a serious issue, but he is definitely NOT A PROBLEM! Lakers do not really have problems, other than deciding who is going to be utilized and how… Most teams would sell big chunk of their tickets for free to have the players of Lakers qualities.

    LO is an issue because he represents a decision that needs to be addressed and made soon. His contract expires and Lakers must decide if it is strategically correct to keep him. Notice I used word strategically, as Lakers will be facing severe financial limitations and burdens with Bynum and Kobe (max territory), Pau (almost Max) and Farmar and Ariza (their value is yet to be determined) potentially carrying a big chunk of the payroll and limiting Lakers chances to pursue free agents and avoid luxury bills.

    LO is not a problem because, the Lakers are definitely better by having him. Many people have pointed to Lamar’s skills/weaknesses and I think that when a player like Lamar is the biggest concern for your team (as compared to lack of frontcourt/backcourt depth, lack of shooting, and other problems), things must be really going for you. There are 3 things Lakers can do with LO:

    1) Let Lamar play out the season and let him walk for free after it: This option is justifiable and makes sense only from financial considerations. In terms of talent, Lamar is certainly too skilled to be lost for nothing. In that sense (financial vs. talent considerations) Lakers have the luxury of half a season to make a decision, which brings me to

    2) Trade Lamar at the mid-season transfer window in a package with a bad contract (Luke? RadMan?) in exchange for any combination of defensive 3-point specialist small forward ( a la Bowen), future draft picks, young talent and expiring contracts and/or hard rebounding energy power forward with good defensive instincts and basketball IQ. In this case, the decision is between financial considerations (more tax burdens from incoming contracts) vs. personnel issues (integrating new pieces into the system during half season and also giving away Lamar to a potential opponent, this issue has been raised already). This scenario has a life-span of 6 months and is pretty much a Yes/No question. Considering Lamar’s personality, relationship with the team, depth of the team and positive balance of his cost-benefit analysis, LO should be given at least a full year of trial period to be extended (or not) in the summer’09, which logically leads to

    3) Adjust Lamar to the power game of Andrew, finesse game of Pau and everything of Kobe and use this season as a preparation for settling LO in a comfortable role where he can feel good and be as productive as he can be. Then, next summer, re-sign Lamar and have the most unguardable league in the league with potentially 4 All-star caliber (caliber being the key word) players.

    So those are the three options. Lakers do not have to choose just yet. They have everything going for them: Happy Kobe, emerging Bynum, flourishing Pau, ultra-reliable Fish, growing youngsters, accumulation of grit and experience, developing inside/outside game opportunities, tempting half court/transition offense, and credible belief that defense will be much better with Pau and/or Pau manning the middle. I think this is the happiest days in the Lakerland since Karl Malone and Gary Payton brought high hopes of four-peating with Shaq and Kobe. I can not say which options from the above 3 the Lakers will opt for, but I have full faith in this organization’s and its managements ability to decide what’s right for the cause of taking advantage of all the leverages available to convert Lakers into one of the dominating teams (dynasties???) for years to come.

    I agree lack of regular season shifts our attention and fantasies into “what if” and alike situations, and that is a good thing, after all that is why this is a Blog and why Kurt has gotten the appreciation that he was long due for.

    I think we are really over obsesssing with LO though. I would love to and personally request that we have articles/topics about some other players (i.e Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar and others) so that we can properly gear up for this season, which will soon be knocking on the door.

  23. Some good news on Mihm who says he has no pain in his ankles or feet and is in shape for the first time in 3 years.

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/basketball/nba/lakers/la-sp-lakers5-2008oct05,0,5214326.story?track=rss

    Lakers center Chris Mihm is back healthy
    Andrew D. Bernstein / Getty Images

    After three surgeries in three years, Lakers center Chris Mihm says he’s playing above the rym again.
    After three surgeries and countless frustrating moments because of right ankle problems, he says he’s fit and ‘playing above the rim again.’

  24. Remember that Phil rarely tips his hand when talking about players. He’ll say things to needle players and motivate them, sure, but never strategery.

    I can’t see why Bynum would not be a focal part of the offense. Who can guard him, especially when Kobe and Pau are on the floor too? No double team for Bynum means an incredible scoring opportunity. Phil always looks for mismatches, right? Bynum is now bigger than 90% of NBA centers.

  25. Busterjonez,
    Phil is prob trying to keep Bynum focused on what’s important to the team,whereas Bynum may be thinking he has to get big numbers to justify a max-type contract.
    All young Centers who want to be great want to get touches. And 20/10 is the new Gold Standard for big men. Plus he has to feel it’s not that much of a stretch as he should get 3-4 garbage baskets a game-offensive rebounds,loose balls,passes deflected he gathers in,etc. That means he only needs 5-6 baskets on a dozen or so possesions out of 75-80 in a game. He prob realizes when he,Kobe and Gasol are on the court he’s pretty far down on the pecking order. But he wants to move up when one of them is not on the court.
    Phil wants to manage his expectations-and that of his advisors,friends,agent-and to let him know that he’ll still get pd if he does everything else.
    The Lakers will try and lock him up early because they don’t want the people Bynum listens to outside the team tell him all season he has to put up big numbers to get the big contract.

  26. I’m a Newcastle fan too, and the constant turmoil is enough to make me ponder forswearing the club. It’ll be a miracle if the team doesn’t get relegated this season.

    I’m also a Michigan alum, so this sports season has already been rough, and promises to be rougher, with the Ducks’ owner maybe heading to jail over stock backdating and the Kings being typically abysmal.

    At least the Dodgers are still in it, and the Lakers are going to be entertaining, or this would be a miserable sports year.

  27. Joe Kinnear will do a job for Newcastle. He’ll fill the squad with a bit of badly needed pride and passion.

  28. 29. I believe that organizations win from the top down. Without good ownership, no franchise in any sport will win consistently. Ownership is the first thing Newcastle has to straighten out.

  29. Yes, Kurt, the ownership is a mess (although I think Ashley is better than Shepard) and will continue to cause Newcastle problems until it’s solved. Newcastle have no hopes of winning anything meaningful until changes are made. On the bright side the club is for sale so there’s a good chance of new leadership and hopefully it’s good leadership.

    Short term the more worrying situation is relegation … Right now Newcastle are every team’s favourite squad to play. Many teams feel they’re easy pickings …. and Joe Kinnear is someone who can light a fire under his troops and get some fighting spirit back into the camp, which should give them a shot of avoiding the drop. He’s a good hire.