The Lakers and Trendy NBA Offense

Kurt —  November 6, 2008

Starting last season, Phil Jackson loosened the reins some on the triangle offense — not only was the team encouraged to fast break more, but within the first seven seconds of the clock they are allowed to freelance before setting up the offense. Maybe the biggest beneficiaries of this have been Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, who run down and get deep early post position and some easy baskets.

But the Lakers are not alone in this, a lot of coaches are promoting some freelancing, and a great story in the NY Times yesterday talked about the level of scouting in the NBA, which led Kevin over at TrueHoop to add on more:

Jonathan Abrams deftly explains something I’ve heard a lot in recent weeks: “…the prevalence of video, the proliferation of advance scouts roaming from city to city and the encyclopedic memories of most coaches have dramatically reduced the actual surprise of what teams see from the other side. Nearly ever wrinkle in the game is immediately seen and studied, rewound and rehearsed – from the triangle to the Princeton offense.” This is one of the primary reasons you’re seeing teams run more early offense — it prevents the defense from leveraging that expertise.

I’ll add that one of the advantages of the “read and react” triangle offense is that you do not have to call out plays.

• The Lakers missed a lot of shots last night (both teams shot an identical 43.5% eFG%) but the difference in the game is the Lakers grabbed 31.9% of their misses and got to the free throw line 30 more times (remember that the 22-0 run in the fourth started with free throws from Farmar and Kobe). Somewhere I can hear John R saying “see, the Lakers get all the calls.” But in the NBA, the team that gets the calls is the team that is the aggressor, that gets the ball inside and goes to the rim. The Lakers did that last night.

• You want more from last night, check out the Clipperblog recap. It’s very good.

• Four games in, but the Lakers are playing at the fourth fastest pace in the league, behind only the Knicks, Nuggets and Pacers. That said, the pace they are at is very close to last year.

• Phil Jackson has mentioned concern with teams beating the new Lakers defense by using the skip pass to someone for an open three. The Clippers started to do that, particularly Davis hitting Mobley for some open looks. I think this is one of the things we can expect to see a fair amount of this year. (Here’s a fear of mine, Chris Paul and David West on the strong side drawing a lot of attention and a quick skip pass over to Peja behind the three point line.)

• By all reports (including the comments here from game attendees) the crowd was a little quiet last night. Honestly, I had a little trouble getting into the flow. Maybe it was a post-election hangover, but also games where the Lakers get 22 trips to the free throw line in the fourth quarter just don’t seem to have a flow.

• I watched some of the Pistons game last night, and I’m very curious to see how Iverson blends with that squad. They are very good. I didn’t love the short-term ramifications for the Pistons of the big trade, but after watching them I think with AI they could be a real threat to the Celtics in the East. If, and that’s a big if, he can really blend in with his teammates on the court and become a little more efficient.

• Happy 29th birthday Lamar Odom.

• Kevin at True Hoop also gave me my best laugh of the day, talking about how Carmelo wanted to score 44 points last night to honor Barak Obama.

Unfortnuately, Anthony finished with only 28 points on 13-30 shooting from the field. In doing so, Anthony pays homage to the nation’s 28th President, Woodrow Wilson (D-NJ).

• Finally, a little late but here they are, your Pacific Division previews:

gsw.gif lac_medium.gif lal_medium.gif pho_medium.gifsac_medium.gif


Golden St. Warriors
Rob Mahoney: Upside and Motor

LA Clippers
ClipperSteve: Clips Nation

LA Lakers
Kurt: Forum Blue & Gold
Josh Tucker: Respect Kobe
Trevor Smith: HoopsAddict

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Stan: Bright Side of the Sun

Sacramento Kings
Tom Ziller: Sactown Royalty

Also see links to all the previews at

62 responses to The Lakers and Trendy NBA Offense

  1. I’m amused that the Pacific division consists of 4 California teams and Phoenix.

  2. I bet Sun Yue will get a nice birthday present from his girlfriend.

  3. Woodrow Wilson, the unapologetic racist, endorser of the KKK, against woman’s suffrage, verdant nationalist and imperialist. Props to jailing political dissenters. Here’s one for you homey [pouring out a forty], may your memory take us forward.

    Really a historic election. Just if we could elect a better economy.

    Happy Birthday to Odom. Happy Birthday Sun Yue. Happy Birthday Lakers fans. Every day is our big day this season.

  4. Great Article Kurt. I enjoy reading your blogs dealing with how the game is played and how it relates to the Lakers. Would love to see more of them!

  5. Agree with you on a lot of points Kurt. Rebounds seem like the Lakers’ bread and butter – and while the Laker defense has been great, it is vulnerable.

    Another point I wanted to add was that I am a bit concerned about their lack of assists. Playing at such a high pace, I would have expected more assists, but they are only averaging 19 assists (around league average), and allowing their opponents to average 23. Which supports the fact that their strong side zone defense is still opening passing lanes for their opponents.

  6. 6. I think one of the reasons you’re seeing more assists against the Lakers is teams are figuring out they can’t get good shots with a traditional isolation. Smart players (Iverson, Davis) see that and make the pass. Some other guys down the line are going to learn that lesson the hard way.

  7. In a 1923 letter to Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas, [Woodrow] Wilson noted of the reborn Klan, “…no more obnoxious or harmful organization has ever shown itself in our affairs.”

    – The above is taken from Wikipedia’s article on Wilson. Kurt, Kareem seems to have gone political and if his comment is to survive then please at least allow this distant light through to provide guidance in the dark ignorance Kareem enjoys spreading.

  8. I’m all for an eclectic debate on this site, so I’m not going to crush any discussion of Woodrow Wilson and his legacy. What, with him being the only single president and all. That said, I’ll add its a relatively short leash.

    Unless we want to discuss if Wilson could take Lincoln or Obama in a game of HORSE. I tend to think not, although I bet he could crush John Adams.

  9. Regarding the assists, I see a Lakers team still fighting for consistency. It is difficult to become consistent when you are using so many players and so many combinations of players. It seems the system now plays for more switches then it used to and I’m getting the sense that PJ is still experimenting with combinations like he did early in the 3-Peat seasons. I love seeing Kobe sit down in the lap of the players he defends and then when he goes to the bench Ariza take his “seat”. If the full-court press isn’t on then the lead defender takes his man just after he crosses mid-court. If the ball-handler heads baseline I see traps set with two very long players establishing position, blocking the view and active hands. When the system is more embedded and their discipline more fully established, I see this Lakers’ D rounding into a more talented version of GS’ D as it ran late in the 06′-07′ and into the playoffs. Very long, very active, lots of switching and highly disruptive. They will give up assists but they’ll also create more turnovers. Ultimately, it will take a very good passing team and hot shooting streaks that last over a week to beat the Lakers consistently and that combination will beat any team. Meanwhile the disruptions caused by the D is likely to create more problems for opponents then benefits.

  10. Kurt, didn’t the One-on-One Presidential question get answered on FD? I’m all for a Horse tourney. GW would win with his patented off the wooden dentures Federal Bank shot.

  11. Actually, P. Ami, Kareem is right: Wilson was unapologetically racist. He segregated the government, discouraged African-Americans from even applying to Princeton while he was its president, and the same Wikipedia article goes on to say “Although it is unclear whether Wilson’s harsh critique of the Reconstruction was colored by his personal beliefs, it is clear that his critique provided much of the intellectual/historical justification for the racist policies/reactions of the 20th century American South.” Howard Zinn in “A People’s History of the United States” (a must read classic) also provides insight to Wilson and his prejudice.

  12. Aaron Burr was only 5’6″, but I here he has a good shot…

  13. Incidentially, John McCain is tied for shortest man to ever finish as a runner-up in the Presidential election. Given that American average height has increased over time, it could be argued that in a relative sense McCain is therefore the shortest man among the Presidential runner-ups.

    Winfield Scott, at 6’5″, was the tallest. Thomas Jefferson was likely the tallest president relative to average American height, at 6’2.5″ in the beginning of the 19th century (average heights were about 5’9″). Americans grew greatly in the early 1800s, and had actually reached an average height of about 5’10” by the 1850s and Lincoln’s time. They have more-or-less remained approximately that height since).

  14. Hmm… I realize the two statements in there are moderately contradictory. Let me explain.

    In the 1950s, Americans actually shrunk slightly. They then began growing again, but slowly. The runner-ups for President, other than McCain, were Burr(1800), Martin van Buren(1840), Benjamin Harrison(1892), and James Cox(1920). Though the latter trio were likely living in times with similar average heights to modern-day, the minute increases of our era likely mean they are still relatively taller than McCain.

    Additionally, given the more modern emphasis on heightism in politics (especially considering that the last 80 years of elections have seen the taller candidate win 80% of the time), I find it likely that both Obama and McCain exaggerated their respective heights when possible (McCain in particular, given his shorter stature). So I find their height figures more likely to be suspect than those of politicians from previous eras.

  15. I don’t know. Gotta watch out for LBJ. He’s sneaky. He could lead the league in steals. Plus he had that big body, he could definitely stop some penetration and probably had a mean post up game.

  16. I only like quoting Hollinger when he agrees with me, and today’s no exception:

    Page where he introduces yet another stat, the AGS (Adjusted Game Score). No surprise that the best performance here is Kobe’s 81pt game, which roughly coincides with the time I first saw this blog (I don’t know what you all did, but I was scouring the net for every reaction – I had to verify what I saw wasn’t a typo).

    What surprises me is that Manu’s game is ranked that high (then again, maybe not) and what saddens me is that Abdur Rahim has the 5th best performance… I really liked him since he was admitted to Cal the same year I was.

    As for our defense, we’ll see how we adjust – looks like the Clips have adjusted (at least for the first three quarters) quite successfully, and it’s now our turn to counter.

  17. TIVO Alert!
    NBA-TV is airing the Kobe 81 point game at 6:00PM. tonite(THurs).
    Harold I just noticed your fererence to the game,serendipity strikes again.

  18. From Kevin Arnovitz:

    Lincoln: 6’5…6’10 with the top hat.

  19. 18- good looking out!

    Squad on the floor right now:

    Brian Cook
    Smush Parker
    Devean George
    Chris Mihm

    How many minutes are any of those guys getting now?

  20. I’m not enough of a Wilson student to claim I know what was in Wilson’s heart. I was responding to Kareem’s point that Wilson was a KKK sympathizer. The quote I pulled speaks to that and pretty clearly shows something other than sympathy. It is pretty clear that Kareem also means to call Wilson an Imperialist as some sort of pejorative. Even if he made that claim without negative intent, my reading of Wilson also leads me to think he was not Imperialist. He was Isolationist in many regards and was one reason he took so long to enter the Great War. I’m personally sick of people focusing on the negative aspects of our history. I’m am currently very predisposed against Zinn. Having read his People’s History a number of times, knowing quite well the thesis, I find his facts overblown for the sake of his conclusions. That’s just me.

    US Grant would take all comers in a game of Whiskey.

  21. Anyone got a stream to Kobe’s 81 point game?

  22. its on youtube coolrunnings.

    Yeah, Jane Fonda. Thats what I said. LOL.

  23. Our President-elect seems to get most of the credit around these parts for being a baller, but his vanquished opponent Sarah Palin undoubtedly had the better basketball career: as the starting point guard she led her varsity team (the Wasilla High Warriors!) to the State Championship in ’82.

  24. 24- Didn’t Obama also lead his Punahou team to Hawaiian championship? Or did he lose ?

  25. 25 — A quick Google search confirms that you are correct, harold! Mr. Obama is also technically a State Champion. However, the article I read states that as a little-used reserve he was “overshadowed by better players and seldom scored.” I’m still giving the edge to Governor in this one, very specific, very limited (and, let’s be honest) not particularly consequential matter.

  26. 26 – an even less consequential, and serendipitous matter is that he wore #23 in high school. funny how he ended up in Chicago, too.

  27. Off topic but ho’lee shnikees.

    The Portland / Houston game just had one of the most amazing endings I’ve ever seen.

    Hopefully Houston is still demoralized come Sunday

  28. 28. I was watching that too. Yao hits a big shot, then Roy with the 30-foot turnaround jumper with 0.8 seconds. Fun game.

  29. 21. P. Ami. Thanks for the explanation. Don’t know a whole lot of Wison either just thought Kareem’s take wasn’t far from what I had read of him.

    20. Came home and my brother’s watching Kobe’s 81 on NBATV. Smush is dribbling while Kwame battles for position down low. “Ah, Smush and Kwame… the memories” I say with a sigh. Smush lobs the ball to Kwame, it goes through Kwame’s hands and careens out of bounce behind the backboard. Laughter all around. “Right on cue!” says my brother. More laughter. Moral of the story: It’s good to be Laker fan right now.

  30. The first tough part of the schedule is coming up.

    Vs Houston
    Back to back road games Vs Dal, NOH
    Vs. Det.

    The real first test for the Lakers, hopefully they can maintain their intensity on the defensive end and start to hit some shots. But if their defense can keep it close, they still have the best closer in the game. I’ll guess 3-1.

  31. Would Nixon have been the Bruce Bowen of presidential basketball?

  32. the other Stephen November 7, 2008 at 8:19 am

    sarah palin can play basketball? no way…

  33. they also played game 4 vs the suns (kobes game winner) on leauge pass last night. man, what was with kwame playing so much over his head in that series?

  34. P. Ami,
    Since W. Wilson died at the end of his term in 1920 it would be hard for him to have a quote dated 1923, I suspect there was either a typo or you are misquoting. Wilson did many honorable things; however, his treatment of ‘coloreds’ was not one of them.

  35. P. ami,

    From H.W. Brands biography of Wilson:
    “The last years of the Wilson administration also witnessed an outbreak of racial violence. Wilson hadn’t helped matters by acquiescing in the adoption of segregationist policies by his subordinates, including Postmaster General Burleson. And when African-American leaders protested, he dismissed their complaints as overblown. On matters of race, Wilson was a true son of the South; his favorite movie was D.W. Griffith’s elegy to the Ku Klux Klan, The Birth of a Nation, which Wilson reportedly called “history written with lightening.” Not surprisingly, when race riots broke out in East St. Louis, Missouri, in 1917, killing dozens, Wilson left the matters to locals to deal with. The violence spread, culminating in a two-week race war in Chicago in the summer of 1919 that killed thirty-eight, injured hundreds, and left thousands homeless.”

    If you want a decent article on Wikipedia,

    This year, Wikipedia has been cited over 300 times in court cases across America. It’s distressing that people trust a source of information that yields to authoritative information defined as normal information. The more normal and broad appeal that information has, the more likely that it becomes ‘authoritative’ in terms of Wiki’s editing corps.

    Wilson very clearly supported national sovereignty, that the Poles should have their own country, that Serbs should have their own country, that every ‘nation’ of people should have their own state. He very plainly supported a nationalist conception of the world. Too bad Wilson’s world did not include nations of Africans, Asians, or South/Central Americans.

    As for an ‘imperialist’, he wasn’t so much for extending an American empire, but he did realize that access to markets would be absolutely central to America’s dominance. Wilson was so isolated that he had no problem selling weapons to the British and French in the early years of WWI. We entered war out of economic necessity, the allies were deep in their bills, and without a victory, you could bet we weren’t going to see a penny in payment.

    And P. ami, as much as I love Ol’ Woody, he did imprison an anti-war politician Eugene Debs for several years. In case you were wondering, Debs was a presidential candidate who won 6% of the popular vote just years earlier, and received nearly 1 million votes from prison. I’m not trying to make Wilson out to be an autocrat, but he was sort of an autocrat.

    As for FD’s presidential battle, I think the basis of ‘ballerness’ is ‘how much do we (as FD writers) value this president as a friend to black people.” It’s a silly judgment, but LBJ and Lincoln? Couldn’t be more symbolic.

    Anyways, history’s sorta my thing; I got a degree and all. I hope I didn’t pay for nothing (but pedantic arguments about the past).

  36. Slightly irrelevant, but just wondering if anyone knew why we have 1 game in 8 days. Was there a reason (Staples being used, etc.) or is that just the way the schedule worked out? Basically, I’m dying for some Lake Show over here.

  37. How did Wilson sign the Federal Reserve Act in 1923 if he died in 1920? Wiki says he died in 1924…some people (conspiracy theorists) think he was purposly killed by the Bankers becasue he began speaking out against the Fed Reserve Act…because the act put the Bankers in control of US currency…he realized he was duped into siging it…and belived that Central Banking was wrong and corrupt…and one of the main reasons why we fought for our Independence against England and the Central banks there (which are the same people we eneded up with in 1923).

    I dont know anything about Wilsons personal beleifes abotu racism or any other policies…but he was hands down the worst president ever in the History of the US until of course W.

    sorry…tangent rant.


  38. Sorry, neither Wilson nor Bush are the worst President ever, that honor still belongs to Warren G. Harding.

  39. I’d also accept arguments for James Buchanan as worst ever.

    Sorry, back to the Lakers now.

  40. Ulysses S Grant was fairly corrupt and pretty inept as well.

  41. On a personal level, Grant was as far from corrupt as you could get. The problem was that a lot of the people he chose for significant positions were.

  42. If you want corrupt, it’s really hard to beat Taft. Fat and corrupt, the perfect politician.

  43. Obama would school all other presidents past and present in basketball. He’s tall, cool under pressure, and I bet he has mad hops. However, I see him more as a Magic Johnson type of player. He doesn’t mind delegating and dishing out political assists. Organizing a team is his specialty just like the Magic man.

    Also, the game has changed in Obama’s lifetime. Pre-1900 Obama would have been an all-star as far as talent was concerned, but no one would have let him play. That’s why it’s so momentous that he won. Congrats to everyone in America for proving we are still constantly progressing.

  44. Wow, Kurt. I’ really surprised you’re letting throught political commentary. No complaints, but shouldn’t P. Ami now post as R. Lobstah ?

    P. Ami ?

    Kareem’s “dark” Ignorance huh? Spoken like a true McCain supporter.

  45. With a slow week for the Lakers I have been letting it slide, but as it starts to get personal and a little bit too partisan I’m close to putting an end to it. The next post that goes up will be the end of this thread (so to speak).

  46. Kurt, sorry about my post (that got cut). I am just scared is all of what is going on with the finicial world.

  47. I think that last comment by wondahbap was pretty personal. Ouch.

  48. wondah,
    “Spoken like a true McCain supporter”

    I resent that.

  49. I don’t believe that Wilson was president in 1923; he was first elected in 1912 and re-elected in 1916. Harding became president in 1920 (ascending to office in 1921). Harding was the president who gave Debs a pardon, releasing him from prison.

    And one additional note, many will remember that Wilson was a main proponent of forming a League of Nations. Incidentally, the League did not really fit well with any other nation’s plans. Much like the Articles of Confederation, a thing without teeth is nothing at all. Which explains why the UN has become such a stellar international governing body.

    Laker Power.

  50. So, anyone ready to talk some modern day NBA hoops? Who has a better debut tonite, Mr. Big-Shot or the Answer? Does Houston gain an advantage on us becuase they get to shoot at Staples tonite? Will the Rockets be really tired Sunday with it being the 3rd game in 4 nites early in the seaon? WIll ESPN folk keep making excuses and ignoring the fact that the Spurs start has nothing to do with disinterest, but a lack of talent?

  51. exhelodrvr,

    Sorry if you do. I shouldn’t generalize all McCain supporters. I apologize for that. I was no fan of the campaign he ran, and usually disagree with P. Ami’s political alter ego. So, it came out wrong, and I’ll take back that “supporter” comment.

  52. Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856 – February 3, 1924) as per

    And the Federal Reserve Act was signed in 1913…not 1923…my bad…I quickly glanced at it…and that makes a lot more sense to me too since it was in response to the Bank Collapse in 1908-1909.

    As far as Houston tonight agains the Clips…I think the Clips are going to play all out to get that first win…so…Houston may yet be even more demoarlized come Sunday.

  53. On exhelodrvr’s note, we’re bringing the politics to a close.

    51. If the Rockets play with the often disinterested style they did for large chunks of last nights game come Sunday night, it won’t matter if they got to shoot around or not. The Blazers crushed the Rockets on the boards. The Rockets have no motion in their offense. They are good but they have yet to really impress me.

    That said, we aren’t going to get a flat effort from any opponent this year. We are a target, a big day on the schedule.

  54. As #31 mentioned, this next week will be an early test for the Lakers (Rockets, Mavs, Hornets, Pistons). If we come out with a loss or less, I would consider it a tremendous success.

  55. I’m going to reserve judgment on the Rockets. My initial belief is that it won’t work, but with Battier being out, I can’t pay too much attention to how good or bad they might be playing. It’s too early in the season, and one of the biggest reasons they got Artest was for defense.


    I apologize to you as well.

  56. I meant Artest paired with Battier.

  57. Woodrow Wilson also signed the private Federal Reserve bank creating legislation into law; arguably the day democracy died.

  58. Good take on Oden from Bill Simmons. I don’t know if anyone posted this.

  59. wondahbap,

    Thanks for outing me on two sites now. What a clever boy you are having followed the links to the personal info page.

    Kurt, you’ll have noticed that wondahbap instigated a personal attack. I’m a big boy and can handle myself just fine but it’s your site and you’ve decided to pull the reigns on political discourse. I do ask permission to respond to his comments as it is typical of people whose names begin with “w”, end with “p” and use no uppercase letters, to make ad hominum attacks against people whose politics they disagree with.

    Bap, on FD you accused McCain of a latent racist campaign. Its no wondah considering you have now implied that my use of “dark” and “ignorance” tie into a racist knot. With that deep research you made in finding my alter ego I wonder if you might have also found evidence of any bigoted act, group, or policy I support? Since I already know the answer to that question I’ll then suggest that the only evidence of bigotry you’ll find posted on this site is in your bigoted disposition towards people with different politics then yours.

    Kareem, any response to your points I would like to make would so take this site off its theme that I just can’t justify getting into it.