Archives For November 2008

Preview and Chat: Toronto Raptors

Gatinho —  November 30, 2008
Toronto Raptors v Los Angeles Lakers

The Raptors coming in… The Raps are off to a mediocre 8-7 start, 4-4 at home and 4-3 on the road. The are averaging 97.9 points per game while allowing 98.9 points against.

The MVP chant… Love it or hate it: As the Staples faithful shower Kobe with the oft used serenade, early season speculation has Chris Bosh as a dark-horse candidate to take the hardware away from Lebron James. Bosh is averaging almost 28 points and over 10 rebounds. His agility on offense has been giving other bigs fits. Look for the Lakers to swarm Bosh and make Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker shooters. But MVP candidates rarely come from teams that don’t win 50 games. Can the Raptors eclipse that mark?

Match-up of the night: Kobe vs. Anthony Parker: Parker has been a defensive stalwart for the Raptors and will draw the assignment. This is the one on one match-up, but the more important one will be the battle of the benches. This is where the separation of the two teams begins and ends, depth.

The Raptors in LA on a Sunday evening: Can’t help but think of this.

Derek Fisher’s shot: Even though the Lakers have a gaudy 13-1 record, one of the concerns has been some puzzling decisions on offense by Fish. Jeff Van Gundy commented on it a couple of times in the ESPN broadcast. His take was that Fisher was taking too many contested shots. I would agree there, but he also seems to have lost any sort of conscience. It’s good for him to be aggressive on offense, but I’d like to see some better decisions. Through 14 games his TS% is .487 and eFG% is .454. Both numbers down nearly 5+ points from last year.

14 feet of front court… Another nice test for young Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol facing a versatile front court. Jermaine O’Neal is coming off a two game absence (I know shocking) with a sprained ankle. Bynum should be able to use his quickness against O’Neal who is a saavy defender but seems to be slowing down after a lot of NBA mileage.

For the Raptors to make it interesting… Jose Calderon will need to break down the Laker defense, and they were susceptible to that against Dallas, and Andrea Bargnani will have to be hitting from deep to stretch the Laker defense.

D-League update from Marc Stein: “Coby Karl going back to his Boise State roots with the Idaho Stampede after being released by the Lakers in October. How another Lakers castoff, Smush Parker, adjusts to life in Hidalgo, Texas, with the Rio Grande Vipers after lasting until the 12th pick of a 16-pick first round in the D-League draft.”

Where and when to watch: 6:30 on FSPT

Preview & Chat: The Dallas Mavericks

Kurt —  November 28, 2008

Basketball: Laenderspiel 2004, USA-GER
Records: Lakers 12-1 Mavericks 7-7
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.4 (3rd in league) Mavericks 104.7 (18th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 96.5 (1st in league) Mavericks 103.0 (8th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Mavericks Jason Kidd, Antoine Wright, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzski, Erick Dampier

Andrew Bynum’s foot: Swelling and inflammation in your foot are not your friends if you are a professional basketball player.

But really, beyond that, we don’t know jack. Details should be forthcoming tonight (check the comments, maybe an update in this space). And without a few details, we are just throwing darts at carnival balloons trying to figure out how bad it is. It really depends on the size of the spur and where it is located.

And before anyone freaks out, here is the worst case scenario: The Lakers have to go with the starting lineup that got them to the NBA Finals last year for a month or so. Not exactly the end of the world. This is why it is good to be a deep team.

Lakers notes: One more note on just how hot the Lakers have been so far this season:

Basketball-reference.com
(my personal favorite stats site) has developed something called the “Simple Rating System” to figure out how good teams are. (And, this system over time has proved the axiom that simple is better.) Basically, you figure out how much teams are winning their games by (point differential) and adjust that for strength of schedule.

So far, the Lakers SRS score is 14. Second place in the NBA right now is Cleveland at 9.64. It gets better:

Just for comparison’s sake, last year’s Celtics, who steamrolled the league en route to 66 wins and an NBA title, had an SRS of “only” 9.31. In fact, the best full-season SRS mark ever belongs to the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks, who also rolled up 66 wins and an NBA crown, thanks to the efforts of Oscar Robertson and league MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Their SRS score that year? 11.91, more than two points per game worse than L.A.’s current clip.

It’s a long season, but we need to recognize just what a historically good start the Lakers are off to.

Last Meeting It was one of the games from this season where the Lakers played 30 minutes of basketball and still won.

In the first quarter of that game the Mavs shot 61.9% (eFG%). But in the third quarter the Lakers defense picked up, starting with Gasol who overplayed Dirk’s left side and took him out of the game. For the third quarter, the Lakers held the Mavs to 35% shooting. In the fourth quarter, Dallas shot 30% and 25% from three.

It was also another big night for the bench — Trevor Ariza led the charge and the team for the night as a +16, with Odom and Sasha close behind at +13. And don’t forge the key play late, Ariza blocking a Stackhouse three-point shot.

The Mavericks Coming In: Now that we’ve covered that last game, throw all that knowledge out the window. This Dallas team is playing much better than that team and is on a five-game winning streak.

The reason is in part that key Mavs players are stepping up. During the streak Nowitzki has been shooting 46% (up from 40% the previous five), 50% from three point range and is scoring 28 points per game. Laker killer Jason Terry has thrived in the Lamar Odom sixth man role. He is shooting 53.6% and is scoring 23 points per game in the last five games

One other change, Dallas will have Josh Howard in the starting lineup, he didn’t play in the first meeting.

Finally, Jason Kidd has had a bounce-back year so far. He has a True Shooting Percentage of 58.7% (up from 49.9% last year), he’s creating more steals and his PER is up to 18 from 16.7 last year.

Keys To The Game: I just have a gut feeling Bynum will not suit up tonight. Basically, this is a November game and if you can rest a guy you do that now, there are still 69 games until the playoffs even start.

Pau Gasol did a good job covering Nowitzki in the second half of the Lakers win earlier this month, but if Bynum is out Gasol will have to slide over to the center spot to cover Erick Dampier (well, as much as one really has to cover him). Gasol just needs to keep Dampier off the boards — Dallas had 20 offensive boards last meeting. Lamar Odom likely would get the Nowitzki assignment, and he’s held Dirk down fairly well in the past (nobody really stops Dirk, the goal is making him less efficient).

If Bynum is not patrolling the paint, the rest of the Lakers need to be sharper with their rotations and in traps and zones. On the wings, it would be nice to keep Kidd from picking up another triple-double (he has just one this season and it was against LA).

On defense, the Mavs throw a lot of different looks at you, including a lot more 2-3 zone lately. Gasol should be able get hurt the soft middle of the zone, while Radman and Sasha shoot over the top of it. Fisher is allowed to take a shot only on a catch-and-shoot or at the rim, no jumpers off the dribble (half court or transition).

Where you can watch: Fox Sports locally, nationally it is ESPN with Mike , Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy in the booth.

Being Thankful

Kurt —  November 27, 2008

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers
There are a lot of things I’m thankful for:

A wife who is smart, fun, a basketball fan and puts up with me doing this blog.

That I got to go to John Wooden’s basketball camp as a child.

Pau Gasol’s 15-foot jumper.

That I got to watch Michael Jordan and LeBron James play basketball in my lifetime.

Miles Davis.

That anyone would trade Trevor Ariza for Brian Cook.

Bacon.

Joe Jost’s.

That Ronny Turiaf is playing professional basketball.

Getting to watch Kobe Bryant night in and night out.

Manny Ramirez in Los Angeles (even if he’s not back).

The growth of Andrew Bynum.

This blog, and most importantly the great group of commenters and readers that have sprung up around it, making this a funny and thoughtful place to spend my time.

More than anything, my daughters, who light up my days in a way nothing else could.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Daddy’s Got A New Pair Of Shoes

Kurt —  November 26, 2008

Welcome to the new look of Forum Blue & Gold.

A few things are different, but most things are the same. We’ve added a Lakers schedule widget just to the right — it comes up as a map but if you click the schedule button at the bottom of the widget you get a more traditional schedule.

Also, some of our standing columns — like about the new stats here or “what’s the deal with the name of this site?” — now have standing links across the top.

Aside that, things should work pretty much as they did before, just with a new look. The comments will follow below and be sort of straight line (not in threads, that was a hard call). We’ll be using more photos and graphs, but the focus here will always be on trying to provide some quality content and staring some interesting conversations.

Poke around a little and if you find any problems (bad links, what have you) put it in the comments or send me an email. There are always bugs, but we think we’ve caught as many as we could.

Many thanks to Vivien at eWebscapes for the design. I think it makes our little home on the web just a little more comfortable.

Preview & Chat: The New Jersey Nets

Kurt —  November 25, 2008


Records: Lakers 11-1 (1st in West) Nets 6-6 (8th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 110.3 (3rd in League) Nets 109.2 (5th in League)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 96.5 (1st in League) Nets 112.7 (30th in League)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Nets : Devon Harris, Vince Carter, Bobby Simmons, Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez

Horry in the Hall: Does Robert Horry, he of the clutch shots and seven rings, belong in the Hall of Fame? This conversation sprung up in the comments on yesterdays post, which was fortunate timing as I was involved last week in an email conversation with the bloggers at 48 minutes of Hell and Dream Shake talking about this issue.

Now the entire conversation is online and worth reading. For the record, I love Horry, but in no way is he a Hall of Famer.

Lakers notes: When you hear players from top college teams talk — such as from UCLA basketball’s squad last season or USC’s football squads the last few years — they often say that practices are tougher than most games. The depth of talent and driven players looking to catch the coach’s eye leads to spirited practices.

Now, it looks like the Lakers are doing that as well.

What stood out to me about on Monday, especially after speaking to Chris Mihm, was that sometimes L.A.’s practices are tougher than games. Mihm alluded in particular to how deep and talented the team is, meaning that even the third unit’s going to offer some serious competition.

“From my aspect, I’m going up Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, plus D.J. Mbenga who’s a very strong, physical player,” he said. “There aren’t better bigs that we go up against in games, so it’s a fantastic opportunity for everybody to really work on their game, especially guys like me who aren’t really getting minutes on the floor in games with now.”

I also asked Mihm about the physicality of these practices, because obviously, L.A.’s assistant coaches aren’t calling many fouls. As such, any time a big gets the ball in the paint, he’s going to get hacked by at least his defender, if not double-teamed and hit from two angles. So for Mihm, concentration is key, because if he knows they’re going to foul him and he won’t get bailed out with free throws, he’d better find a way to make the bucket anyway.

The Nets Coming In: There is more to this New Jersey team than how they are falling behind in the “LeBron in 2010” sweepstakes. There is a red-hot Vince Carter and Brook Lopez’s big feet, just to name a couple things.

The Nets have one of the best starting backcourts in the NBA. Harris is a speedster who gets to the line, scores (60% True Shooting Percentage), and can dish the ball (31% of his possessions this season have ended in an assist). Harris has a team-best PER of 26.9 and looks like an All-Star (not that Dallas could use that, they have Kidd).

Vince Carter has always been able to get to the rack, but in the last 10 games he has shot 41.7% from three, which makes him far more difficult to defend. He also may be one of the best post-up guards in the game, and expect to see a lot of that. His true shooting percentage on the season is 58.7%.

As a team, the Nets are not great shooters (49.2% eFG%, 16th in the league), but they get offensive rebounds, get to the free throw line and their backcourt doesn’t turn the ball over much. They hustle and work hard for coach Lawrence Frank, and that makes them a dangerous team to play. Look past them and you will get the loss.

While the Nets play with passion on offense, that does not translate to the other end. Teams shoot 51.6% (eFG%) against the, third highest percentage in the league, and the Nets foul a lot, second most in the league. While some of their guys gamble at making steals, as a team they are not good at it and they can be made to pay for their aggressive moves.

Keys To The Game: In some ways this looks a lot like the Sacramento game — a team that is very good on offense but terrible on defense comes into Staples.

The Lakers are going to have to do a much better job of stopping dribble penetration against the Nets — Harris and Carter are miles better than Udrih and Salmons. This is not just a Fisher/Kobe issue, the bigs have to show out on pick and rolls, they have to be ready to help. Yi can shoot from the outside, but Brook Lopez has not shown a lot of offensive chops yet at this level (although that part of his game should develop).

Because of how quick Harris is, transition defense matters. The Lakers were terrible at it against Sacramento, they need to not make turnovers and get back to the other end of the court quickly tonight.

The Nets will try to play some 2-3 zone, the Lakers need to recognize it and break it down. The Nets zone is not that intimidating.

Where you can watch:Fox Sports here in LA, nationally you’ll need League Pass or one of the several Web streams for the game.

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  November 24, 2008


First things first. We’ve checked, and what Radmanovic was wearing during last night’s game were not snowboarding goggles. So, we can all relax about that. And while the orange protective eyewear may not have been pretty, it could have been worse. (Thanks to Henry at TrueHoop for that link.)

As for last night… Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, and the Lakers apparently took that literally on the defensive end. Third game in four nights and all, they lacked focus. But I think there were three factors that played into the off defensive night.

One, Sacramento played three bigs — Brad Miller, Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson — who can shoot from the outside. Because of that, Lakers bigs had to go out to the perimeter with them, and that took them out of good help positions. Stu Lantz talked about this during the broadcast, and he’s right. If the Suns want to send Shaq outside or the Celtics want to send Perkins to the three-point line, Bynum can let them go and stay in to help protect the paint. But with Hawes and Miller, you have to go with him. Now, this does not excuse the wretched pick-and-roll defense the Lakers played, but it is part of the reason nobody was in the paint to stop the penetration.

Second, as Darius pointed out in the comments, the Lakers played poor transition defense, and with all the turnovers there were a lot of transition opportunities for the Kings.

Third, people underrate the Kings. They have some nice young talent, and we sometimes forget that.

None of these things strike me as unfixable long-term problems. I’m going to let the one bad game go (in part because it was a win) and just watch to see if any of this becomes a long-term issue.

• Do you have memories of watching Jerry West play? Have a personal story or anecdote involving the Logo? Well, highly-respected Lakers author Roland Lazenby wants to talk to you, he’s working on a book about West. If you want to reach him, follow this link and email him.

• Two great posts to check out at Basketball Prospectus:

First, does the new and improved Cleveland Cavalier team (best offensive rating in the league so far) have what it takes to win a title? Coach Anthony Macri (of IMG) thinks they just might. I think there are three teams that could come out of the East right now, but Boston is still the team to beat. Cleveland, however, took them to seven last season before Mo Williams came on board.

Second, the first coaching change of the year took place in Oklahoma City. Kevin Pelton has a great look at the new coach there.

• Not far behind Carlisimo was Eddie Jordan in Washington, who is out after a woeful start for the Wizards.

My question in both cases — was it really the coach that was the problem, or the fact they had pretty questionable rosters to work with? (Yes, the Wiz have some talent, but it’s injured.)

• Is there an NBA Live curse?

• Happy 70th birthday Oscar Robertson!

Preview & Chat: The Sacramento Kings

Kurt —  November 23, 2008


Records: Lakers 10-1 Kings 5-9
Offensive ratings: Lakers 109.7 (3rd in league) Kings 107.2 (11th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 95.6 (1st in NBA) Kings 113.4 (29th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andew Bynum
Kings Beno Udrih, John Salmons, Jason Thompson, Donte Green, Brad Miller

Lakers notes: No live blog here tonight, but this gives me the chance to point you to one of my favorite things this season — Mike Trudell’s in-game live blogs at Lakers.com. Trudell joined Ty and the gang over there this season and has been a fantastic addition. Great sense of humor, good game insights, just a generally good read, something all Lakers fans should be checking out.

After the last couple of games, what else can you really say but that the Lakers need to keep playing the way they have been. Keep focused on defense, keep getting good play from the two bigs coming into games they can dominate.

Most Entertaining Game I’ve Seen This Season: Went to the home opener of Long Beach State last night, playing Weber State. Bit of background, Long Beach was honoring former coach Jerry Tarkanian (Tex Winter, Lute Olsen, and Seth Greenberg all coached at Long Beach as well). Now Dan Monson (one of the architects of Gonzaga) is trying to resurrect the program.

Long Beach is small, so they packed it in early with a 2-3 zone to try to protect the paint against a bigger squad. It didn’t work, three point shots and offensive rebounds killed Long Beach and they were down 20. But in the third quarter Long Beach switched to an aggressive man-to-man, started trapping on pick-and-rolls, and they extended the defensive pressure out to half court. On offense, they started hitting the shots over the top of the Webber State zone.

Long Beach went on a 26-1 run to take the lead, and the crowd was going nuts. There is just nothing quite like the college hoops atmosphere with the student section. Things remained close near the end. Long Beach had a three-point lead with :05 left, and Weber State was stymied with their offensive set, and were force to settle for a 30-foot fade-away three by Damian Lillard, who hits it Vince Carter style. OT. Long Beach continues the aggressive defense and hit key free throws to get the win in an OT that was back and forth.

Nobody in this game is likely to end up at the next level (at least in the NBA, a couple maybe in Europe). But Long Beach has made big strides in the last year, the talent level is not great but it’s better and some of the most impressive guys were freshmen and sophomores. This is a program headed in the right direction, keep an eye on them.

The Kings Coming In: The Kings come in to Staples without Kevin Martin and Francisco García, Martin was averaging 22 a game for the Kings before spraining his ankle, and they are 2-5 without him. Injuries has been one of two key problems for the Kings, according to arguably the best NBA blogger around, Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty (and Fanhouse and Sporting News).

There are two real reasons the Kings find themselves a stones throw behind where they’d like to be: injuries, and terrible perimeter defense by everyone but John Salmons.

Brad Miller sat the first five games; two games later, Kevin Martin went down and hasn’t been seen since. Francisco Garcia hasn’t played a single second this season, and Mikki Moore (an admittedly lower level player, even for this time) has been out three games. Whatever roles Reggie Theus attempted to define in the preseason, those have been all shaken up. Spencer Hawes started at center for five game, Jason Thompson spent three games starting at small forward and two more at the power forward. Donté Greene, a rookie deemed too raw for action the first week of the season, has started the last two games. AH!

Also, Beno Udrih either cannot close out on shooters or chooses not to. And a myriad of rotations have been blown by a Miller who can’t muster up the energy to get out at deep shooters. That’s why the Kings are among the worst in the league at opponent’s three-point percentage.

One of the bright spots for the Kings has been the play of Spencer Hawes. In his second year in the league, he has the second best PER on the team. On offense he has a true shooting percentage of 58.7% and is a seven footer hitting 44% from three. He can be a good player in this league and a is a piece the rebuilding Kings will want to keep.

Keys To The Game: The Lakers have advantages all over the place in this game.

Inside, Brad Miller can’t handle Bynum on the block. Green is a green rookie who can’t hang with Gasol (the four is position the Kings struggle most to defend, opposing fours get 24 an 10 per 48 minutes shooting 53%). That said, Ziller notes that the interior defense for the Kings has been improving.

The perimeter is another story all together. Teams are shooting 42.5% from three against the Kings, Radmanovic and Fisher should get good looks. The Lakers should be able to run on the Kings, particularly with the second unit. Salmons generally does a decent job on Kobe, but #24 is still going get into the lane and draw doubles, and that is going to open things up for others.

Bottom line, is the Lakers should score a lot of points tonight.

The Lakers need to keep playing their defense as they have the last couple of games.. Udrih is a nice PG, but he is not the player who can cause the Lakers aggressive traps problems. (Martin is the one guy who could but the Lakers don’t have to worry about him tonight.) If the Lakers trap and create turnovers (leading to transition points) that will be a big step to the win.

But if the Lakers take the night off, the Kings still have players that can hurt you. Brad Miller can still shoot the ball if you leave him. Hawes can score as well. Salmons can score. The list goes on. The Lakers need to be focused to win.

Where you can watch: Another Fox Sports and League Pass night.

Jerry West

Kurt —  November 22, 2008

Just a look back for the weekend.