Fast Break Thoughts After Two Games

Kurt —  October 31, 2008


Seriously, if you are a Lakers fan, it’s pretty hard not to be sky high right now. Two blowout wins to start the season on national television. The team is playing defense. Bynum locked up for four years. Kenny Smith from TNT last night saying, about Nate McMillan’s comment that the Lakers are the present and the Blazers are the future, “No, the Lakers are the present and the Lakers are the future.”

Let’s try to bring ourselves down to earth a little bit. This is just two games, against borderline playoff teams with key injuries. We’re just 2.4% of the way into a very long season. DJ Mbenga has yet to play. The imported beers at Staples are just so expensive. Okay, I’m really reaching now.

So, who are you going to be for Halloween tonight? Why not go as your favorite Laker?

Let’s go through a few hoops-related things in more detail.

• I love the strong-side zone the Lakers stole from the Celtics broke out this season. At some point a team with good ball movement will test this, but that has not come yet. The Lakers are really communicating on defense, which is new. The bottom line is they have made a commitment to defense; they have the “want to.”

Eric Mussleman liked what he saw as well.

They did a great job of keeping the lane compact and limiting the dribble-penetration…. The weakside corner (3 balls) was the only area of the floor the Lakers didn’t have covered at times as they did a great job scrambling and rotating to open men.

That’s not to say all the questions are answered about defense, as Hassan pointed out in the comments:

The past two games we’ve played, the other team’s main offensive threats have been from the perimeter (Blazers- Roy, Fernandez, to some degree Outlaw, and Aldridge is not a traditional PF; Clippers- The beard, Ricky Davis, Mobley). Both teams have had their main big injured, which has made things pretty easy for Gasol and Bynum. Since toughness was said to be a big issue last year, I want to see the Lakers defend some of the tougher post players.

Kwame a. added to that.

They asked Phil yesterday about the whole “soft” label, and how physical Boston is. Phil said the team is neither soft, nor scared of physicality, it’s just a little light in the pants. This is why our speed and length will be so important. What we lack in girth (not physicality) will be made up in speed and length, allowing us to choke off angles and get into passing lanes. Each games a test. I’m not cherry-picking games in October, I just wanna see the team develop good habits.

• The Lakers aren’t the only team playing more zone. I saw it from the Suns last night, from a lot more teams this season in the games I’ve caught. It seems to be a popular way to stop penetration. It will be interesting to see how teams adjust as the season goes on.

• Derek Fisher has fallen in love with the PUJIT.

For those unfamiliar, that is the “pull up jumper in transition.” He’s missing the shot often and the Lakers aren’t getting anything out of all those speedsters running the floor when he does it. Good things happen when he attacks the rim or makes a pass. Or, pull it out and start the offensive set. But stop with the PUJIT. It’s killing the transition game.

• I think we’ll see a lot of games like the Clippers contest the Lakers bench pulls away from a tight first quarter, and doing so with defense and impressive fast breaks.

• Want to improve your vertical leap (so you can really impress the players at Venice Beach)? You can win a Hoop Skills vertical leap trainer, thanks to Ryan and the boys at Hoops Addict (who have to be happy about their Raptors so far). All you have to do is leave your favorite YouTube or Google Video dunk link. Check it out.

• The Lakers were down by a point with 9:05 remaining in the second quarter to the Clippers, and went on an 85-46 run for the rest of the game.

• Watch out for the Rockets. If you can tell anything two games into a season, and you can’t really but its hard not to start drawing lines, they could be the team the Lakers face the stiffest challenge from in the West. That is, if Yao and McGrady are healthy and Artest stays focused and in line.

But they looked good and deep taking apart Dallas last night.

• The new Knickerblogger stat page is up — and look who has the best defensive rating in the league!

Kurt

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44 responses to Fast Break Thoughts After Two Games

  1. “Good things happen when he attacks the rim or makes a pass”

    Not so sure about the attacking the rim part of that. He needs to remember that he is probably the last choice offensively of the top 9 in the rotation.

  2. As I try (somewhat unsuccessfully) to avoid any unseemly giddiness, here are my three early observations about this Lakers team:

    1) Our starting five have as much collective skill and talent as any in the known universe.

    2) The second unit has thus far looked absolutely dominant against their counterparts.

    3) As I believe some earlier poster astutely noted, we may have the greatest garbage time lineup in the history of the NBA.

    This is great news, unless you have any Lakers on your fantasy team, as I predict we’re in for a lot of fourth quarters where Kobe is cracking up Sasha on the bench.

    Earliest pleasant surprises of the season (tie): the defensive acumen displayed by Radmanovic, especially when he’s covering the opposition’s 5 on a switch, and the sweet-looking jumpshot of one Trevor Ariza.

  3. Fans in Orlando think they may have made a mistake with the Ariza forr Cook trade:

    http://www.thirdquartercollapse.com/2008/10/31/650975/trading-trevor-ariza-will

  4. The Lakers are going to be good offensively. They just have too many weapons and if all else fails they this guy named Kobe. So if the Lakers can be in the top 3-5 defensively they will be extremely hard to beat. The only other team I think that has the potential to be in the top 3 on both sides of the court is New Orleans.

  5. 2. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Thats funny, I was just happy to see Cook leave.

  6. exhelodrvr , maybe I should have said “better things happen” when he attacks the rim. But the PUJITs are killers. Fish does do a good job of finding space among the trees inside.

  7. 6 – kurt, couldn’t agree more. That was one of the warning signs I’ve seen so far – the PUJITs from fisher need to stop. That, and the sloppy turnovers – it feels like we’re turning the ball over a lot more than we really are, but we need to get to less than 12 a game. The defensive rotation is good, but not great, and I think the lakers perimiter folk (especially kobe) need to put even more pressure on the ball and trust in the big men’s last line of defense.

    I’m particularly happy about the confident switching and helping on defense, though – if there’s any hesitation on the switches, it really opens up the offensive player and the lakers are doing a great job of switching with confidence, and then bringing the help as necessary. As everyone’s rightly pointed out we need to see them against stronger offensive teams that can take more advantage of that, but so far it’s great.

  8. Last season started with the Lakers leading the league with TOs and that was shored up as the team’s rotations and basic rhythm in the offense was established. The team is closing out on 3PTs better then I recall from most of last year and again, this is something that will improve in the manner that classic PJ and Pop, for that matter, teams do as the end of the season makes the final turn to playoffs. I think we’ve seen a steady improvement in defensive recognition and control of the ball over the course of the preseason and these first two games are a natural progression of the coaching and training getting the desired effect.

    There is allot of premising going on, as in the “if we stay healthy” or “it’s only two games into the season” sort of premise. I understand the maturity of that position. Every contending team in the league will premise their aspirations in that way. There is no other team in the league with the sort of upside this team has nor does any team have the margin for error this team has been built to sustain. Injuries, mental setbacks, long road trips, back to back games, all these issues can be overcome because of the team’s depth. There is no other fan base in the league who can honestly say, “We may be watching one of the all-time great NBA teams rounding itself into form”. I might trade Kobe for LBJ, CP3 or Wade (maybe) but I wouldn’t trade any other team in the league for ours and it’s exciting to be able to know that the Lakers team is now set to the quality of then the Kobe brand.

    Long live the Lakers.

  9. Kurt,

    C’mon man. Can’t I get a quote in too?? I’ve been commenting on Fish lack of fastbreak skills. Hook me up. haha….

  10. Fisher’s love affair with the PUJITs started last season and appears to have intensified over the summer. Also, it seems like just when you’re about to scream at the TV one of them goes in.

  11. So you’re saying that “CLANK” is the PUJIT Sound?

    Something to consider: BEST case scenario puts the Lakers 92 games away from the first game of the finals.

    I somewhat disagree that the Clippers had their main big out of the lineup, since they did still have Kaman, who is a more capable inside scorer than Camby as much as I can tell. But Baron has had a finger injury, and that may have caused his effect to wane as the game went on. So we definitely shouldn’t expect to finish the season with a +29 margin per game.

    But as I’ve said before, it’s the team wide, game long effort (with a few lapses that can also be attributed to over-excitement) that excites me. The Rockets will be tough (and I didn’t realize they had brent barry until last night, which only makes them tougher), but I’m guessing their fans don’t relish playing the Lakers either.

  12. *If we can keep up our defensive rating (or at least stay in the top 5 or 6) we’ll be so tough the entire year that, literally, anything is possible as far as our record and how far we can go as a team.

    *Fisher is a gunner at heart. He can pass well (like that cross court bouncer to Gasol!) and he has pretty good feel for all aspects of the game, but really, he’s a scorer. And now that he’s a grizzled vet and one of Phil’s “guys” I’m pretty sure he thinks he’s got the green light all the time. I’d like to see him be a little more selective, but overall I like that every single one of our guys is aggressive now. 2 years ago, when everyone was in “stand and watch Kobe” mode, I’d have loved to have a guy like Fish who wanted to shoot and was capable of making the shot.

    *My body type won’t allow me to be Coop for Halloween…Boris Diaw maybe, but not Coop.

    *In regards to the Ariza trade, is Orlando just figuring this out now?

  13. When do the Lakers play the Celtics?

  14. The PUJIT represents a big risk too: Our team races down the court to join in the fast break. However, if PUJIT clangs off the rim and the defense gets a long rebound, I turn it over to Chick Hearn who would say something to the effect of “It’s now a 4-point switch.”

    As Darius noted, Phil has given his guys the green light to avoid the “Watch 24″ offense. I agree with others: Avoid the PUJIT on the fast break and and do not shoot deep jumpers until the triangle has been established. The advantage is 2-fold: It allows our back court to recover on defense and puts players in position to grab a long rebound.

    If this is our team’s most glaring weakness, we really don’t have a lot to worry about.

  15. Small defense for Fish: He does not create space well for himself in the halfcourt, so the jumpers in transition (aside from kick-outs from the post or off penetration) are the only time he is going to get an unconteseted look. What people need to understand is that FIsh had a career year shooting the ball in the regular season, and this year his percentage will go back down a little, no matter where or when he is shooting.

  16. I believe the Laker starters and their bench are are a great one-two punch combination, capable of delivering knock-out blows to most teams.

    IMHO, however, the Celtics still have the superior bench. What makes them better? They’re able to maintain Boston’s trademark defensive intensity and adhere to Thibodeaux’s defensive philosophy.

    If the Lakers can be a consistently good defensive team, I like our chances against the Bostons and the Houstons.

  17. I understand that Fisher is trying to contribute and he is the point guard. His shooting percentage isn’t even the real problem. Even if Fisher hit 60% of the PUJITs he takes, the misses (40%) take a toll on the team.

    Defense, defense, defense. If there is a missed pull up jumper, the rebound generally comes far off of the rim and is quickly corralled. PUJITs mostly occur when the offense is outnumbered by the defense, and the defense has slacked off the shooter. It’s quite difficult to get an offensive rebound on the PUJIT.

    These rebounds lead to fast break opportunities for the opponent. These opportunities occur while the Lakers are hustling down court to setup on offense. So they have to stop, change direction, and sprint the other way.

    We can get many good shots, and we always have the fall back (give the ball to Kobe and clear out). If Fisher takes it to the rack, it’s one thing. But we need smart offense to setup our defense…

  18. Can we nominate PUJIT to the basketball abbreviation HOF?

  19. Or better yet, someone second my nomination

  20. Ronny Turiaf update: Ronny played most of the second half against Toronto and currently has 5 blocks.

  21. I’m watching that game now and Ronny provided pretty much what you’d expect: nonstop hustle, a few spectacular blocks, and 6 fouls. Overall a pretty productive 20 minutes.

  22. 22. – Do you live in Warriros country (i.e. Northern Cal0 or you watching on League Pass?

  23. Regarding the Ariza trade. Anytime a team is willing to give up 2 rotation players for a barely used 22 year old on his 3rd team, that should raise an eyebrow or two. Orlando is a team who spent $50 million more than they should have for Rashard Lewis, so it’s not surprising they couldn’t see what they had.

    Also, the Lakers talent evaluation impresses me even more then you think about Ariza and Farmar. These are two guys who played high school and college ball in L.A. Farmar was drafted by the Lakers, and it seems to me that the Lakers may have had their eye on Ariza this whole time if they gave up 2 guys to get him. My point is they knew what these guys had early and it’s paying off now.

    I’m glad Ben Howland has UCLA back to a top notch program, because the Lakers get the best look at all of the blue chippers he brings in.

  24. 25. – Good observation. I thought Trevor Ariza was going to be good when he was still with the Knicks. He was mostly only a dunker but now has developed a decent outside shot which I heard he worked on during the summer. Watching him hit threes from the corner during the past two games makes me think he was doing a Bruce Bowen impression.

    Orlando was desperate to find a big man to play behind Dwight Howard plus they lost Tony Battie for the season. That is the reason they made the trade. They were willing to trade Ariza because he was stuck on the bench and making $3 million. They just didn’t know that Brian Cook was not as good as they might have thought.

    The Lakers need to re-sign Ariza as long as it is not more than $7 million per year.

  25. Ronny Turiaf: 4 points, 5 rebounds, 5 blocks, 6 fouls, 33 minutes

  26. Melvin,

    I live in Jamaica and I watched it on LeaguePass.

  27. J.D.,
    Rockets fans don’t fear the Lakers. Mostly because as a general group there’s the “If we’re healthy we beat anyone” attitude. But it’s the Jazz and Mavs who the fans hate/despise/etc. Losing in the Playoffs will do that.(Did anyone in LA really care about the Suns until the Lakers lost to them?)
    In the assorted discussions on the new season there seemed to be the feeling Battier and Artest will shut down Kobe,Lamar’s a choker,Bynum is over-rated,Fisher’s old,etc. As it happens I strongly disagree and have had some “vigorous” exchanges about Bynum in particular. But mostly it’s NO,SA and Dallas in their Div and losses to the Jazz the past two yrs that gets what little Rockets fan’s attention on anything other than the Rockets.
    And again,the Rox fans are more worried about getting thru the season healthy,and fixing percieved problems w/the team than about what another team is doing. It’s the difference between standing on the hilltop surveying potential challengers and just trying to figure out how to get up the hill in the first place.

  28. Seriously though, after two games of watching The New Lake Show, i think we really need a cool nickname for our bench/ the Farmar-Ariza-Odom combo. Off the top of my head, I got A-FLO. Hopefully, someone can do better? Maybe try to fit the MAchine in there somewhere….

  29. They might think Artest would shut down Kobe, but when does he or did he? I don’t recall it. Shane does a better job, but he doesn’t shut down Kobe either. Rocket fans should be hoping for TEAM defense like the Celtics played, because individually our advantages would outweigh theirs.

  30. Quick question about trade LO rumors, do you think these rumors would be more intense if Turiaf was still in town?

  31. Mamula,

    No. As much as I like Ronny, he can’t do what Lamar can in any way, so his status on the team would have no bearing on Lamar’s status. In the same sense, having Josh Powell doesn’t affect Lamar at all, and Josh Powell is Ronny’s replacement.

  32. 31. Wondahbap is right. The reason the lack of Odom trade intensity is that he is fitting in and the team is winning. In that situation why is there motivation to move him?

  33. I feel the resigning of Odom hinges on the Lakers winning the chanmpionship: if they win, he gets resigned; if they lose, they don’t.

  34. nice article by Pincus
    http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=10424

    so many talented players, … not only do we have to try to keep LO and Ariza, Farmar is showing a huge improvement this season, (I know, it’s still early, but…) and they still need a back up big, like Mihm…
    let’s not worry about this for this season, let’s just win it all, then the license and merchandising will help Dr Buss make the call as to whether it’s worth it or not. I think it will. Winning helps everything.

  35. Chris H,

    Right. Unless some other team gets stupid, and overpays big time. The Lakers re-sign Ariza for sure. Guy is showing major progress and as long as he doesn’t keep keep getting hurt, there’s no way they don’t re-up a 23 year old athletic defender who finishes and is improving his passing and shot. His apparent emergence will determine if the Lakers re-sign Lamar, no matter the kind of year LO has. If you think about it, if LO has a stellar year, then some team probably pays for Lamar what he wants or more I think Cleveland, Miami, and NY would all want his services). Is it likely he takes less to stay in LA, or the Buss’ give him more then they want to? I’m not so sure, but I also could see them doing it if they do win it all for the sake of not messing with a good thing. This pending LO situation really confuses me at times.

  36. Since before the 2008 NBA Finals, when I forecast correctly that the Celtics would beat the Lakers to win last year’s NBA Title, there are good reasons I’ve been saying that LA is about to win 70+ games this season and capture the 2009 NBA Championship.

    In due time, everyone else in the hoops’ blogosphere is going to find for themselves that I was right way back then … and, when that happens the smile on my face is going to be from ear to ear.

    As long as this team can remain injury-free … this is going to be an historic season for the ages in Lakerland, which their die-hard fans should relish.

    History in the making … 2 down

    Teams like this one come about only once in a generation. :-)

  37. Currently (meaning Saturday morning 11:00 AM) Knickerblogger stats show the Lakers are leading in both offensive efficiency AND defensive efficiency. That’s impressive.

  38. Wondabop,
    Last yr the Rockets were second only to the Celts in team defense.
    Like I said the general attitude is Artest and Battier could stop Kobe. Reality is Kobe can go off on anybody,but reality and fan’s opinions don’t always go hand in hand.

    Let’s acknowledge there’s a diff mindset between Laker fans and those of most of the other teams. The Lakers won the West last yr,didn’t lose any key pieces and are getting back Bynum,Ariza and Mihm. Laker fans EXPECT their team will contend for a title and are much more focused on what other team may pose a problem than issues w/their own team.
    Most of the impassioned discussions here and elsewhere are on future issues-Lamar’s salary next yr,how much should Bynum be extended,should Kobe take less,etc-that really have nothing to do w/this yr.
    For most other teams the fans’ focus is narrowed to their own team. What move can we make to get better? Who’s the weak link and needs to be removed? Is our coach doing a good job?
    Once we get into Feb/Mar and we know who the real contenders are,then those fans will start sizing up the matchups and worrying about other teams. Laker fans are simply 6 months ahead of everybody else -ya lucky b*******! :)

  39. the clips and the blazers got FOAMed! (Farmar, Ariza, Odom, Machine :) )

  40. 26 – Ronny is better than Powell (at least from what I’ve seen of Powell), but we would’ve lost him at some point anyways because of payroll (same reason we lost him over the summer). He’s a shot blocker and energy player, but that’s about it. While he’s a fan favorite, we’re just too deep and committed with other players. I’m glad he’s doing well. I remember stat watching Kwame Brown after the trade last year and it brought cringes to my face every time I looked. It’s good to see that Ronny is flourishing for GSW, I think he’s a great person/player.

  41. Sorry for double post, but there is a great Shaq interview up on the weekend dime on the four-letter:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/dailydime?page=dime-081101-02

    This guy is so great. I’m really going to miss him when he’s gone.

  42. Hmmmm…looks like Iverson has been traded to Detroit for Billups and McDyess according to Yahoo.