Archives For February 2009

NBA: JAN 26 Timberwolves at Bucks
Records: Lakers 45-10 (1st in the West) T-Wolves 18-36 (11th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.3 (1st in league) T-Wolves 106.4 (20th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.5 (8th in league) T-Wolves 110.4 (25th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
T-Wolves Randy Foye, Sebasian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Mike Miller, Kevin Love

The Lakers and The Oscars: No, Lamar Odom isn’t going (an odd rumor running around the Internet a couple weeks ago, until somebody bothered to check the Lakers schedule).

But who is the Best Laker in a leading role? Best Foreign Language Laker? Well, the Oscar goes to… Or, it goes to… (Great minds….)

By the way, I’ll be flipping between the Lakers and Oscars, so feel free to comment on both. I just wish the Lakers were as big a lock tonight as Heath Ledger.

Phil Jackson thoughts: There was some talk about Phil and his strategies in the last thread, but I thought Zephid did a great job summing up the argument about Phil just having talented teams (which his coaching job in this second stint with the Lakers should clear up):

Any great coach has to have great players to succeed. Would Jerry Sloan have been around for 20 years if not for Stockton and Malone being there for so many of them? Would Red Auerbach have won any championships if he hadn’t had 7 Hall-of-Famers on his squad? Would Gregg Popovich have won any without TD? Same goes for Riley and Showtime.

A great coach with a bad team will be marginally successful (Larry Brown’s 76ers come to mind), and a great team with a bad coach will underachieve (George Karl and the 90’s Sonics come to mind), but a great coach with a great team will get the most out of them. It doesn’t matter how good Michael Jordan was, he didn’t win anything until Phil Jackson became his coach.

His methods may be unorthodox, but 9 championships speak for themselves. Those Jordan-Bull teams did not win because of the greatness of Michael Jordan, they won because Phil Jackson (and Tex Winter) developed a system that got the most out of ALL their players.

The T-Wolves Coming In: As a team they have been struggling, losing 8 of their last 10 and four in a row. The key reason is are struggling is that they are without Al Jefferson 9torn ACL four games back), and he was the focal point of the offense. Without him this is a team that does not play great defense and can go on long stretches without offense. That’s a bad combination. Also out is Craig Smith, one of the starting forwards.

Then at the trade deadline the Wolves gave up Rashard McCants, he of the nice game and the sulking attitude, to bring in Sheldon Williams, he of the questionable skills but considerable effort. If you don’t think the more skill guy is going to figure it out, give me the guy with the effort every time.

Keys To The Game: If Jefferson was healthy, this could be a challenging game. But without him, and without Smith, the Wolves are very thin up front. So the Lakers should be able to control the paint — the Wolves have nobody who can stop Gasol or keep Odom off the boards. The Lakers need to go inside out on the offense tonight.

Honestly, I have no idea what the Wolves are doing on offense now, but if you look at their game tracks they just go cold for stretches. The Lakers need to be consistent on offense, if they do that they can get some big runs in this game and just pull away.

The focal point of the T-Wolves offense now is Randy Foye, who the Lakers need to focus on (Ariza and Kobe?).

Also, this is a team the Lakers can run on. The second unit could get out and run and be a key to the Lakers pulling away.

Where you can watch: 4 pm starts out West on KCAL 9, and the usual spots around the Web.

NBA: FEB 18 Magic at Hornets

Records: Lakers 44-10 (1st in the West) Hornets 32-20 (5th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.4 (1st in league) Hornets 109.3 (8th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.5 (9th in league) Hornets 106.2 (10th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Hornets Chris Paul, Rasual Butler, Peja Stojakovic, David West, Hilton Armstrong

Lakers notes: I have to say that the best thing about the trading deadline is that none of the Lakers key opponents for the title got noticeably stronger. Out West, the Spurs stood still, as did Denver and Utah. And the Hornets when it was all said and done.

But Boston and Cleveland also decided to go with what they had. With KG’s injury (hope he is back soon for the good of the sport) I just keep thinking Cleveland is getting the home court advantage out East. That side of the bracket is going to be interesting — come in second and you will have to play a good Orlando team in the second round before you get the top seed. That can wear you down, so Cleveland getting the top seed could be huge. By the way, that noise you hear is the sound of the cash register in David Stern’s head as he thinks about a Kobe/LeBron finals.

On a different topic, about Kobe’s clutchness: He has made 13 go-ahead field goals in the fourth quarter this season. That is tied for third in the Association (with Danny Granger) behind two Spurs — Duncan and Parker.

Last meetings: This is the fourth meeting this season, the Lakers have won two of the first three (all three were won by the road team). The first two games in the Big Easy were pretty comfortable Laker wins, with the team jumping out early and not having to worry about anything but a late run. The Lakers got balanced scoring in the first meeting, the second time it was the Kobe and Pau show.

The last meeting, in LA, was the David West show. He had 40, CP3 added 32 and 15 dimes.

The Hornets Coming In: What is the feeling in Louisiana after the rescinded trade for Tyson Chandler? This comment over at Hornets24/7 pretty much sums it up, I think.

The Hornets emerge from the madness with nothing much to show for themselves but a credibility hit. Tyson Chandler won’t have an easy time redevoting himself to a franchise that was so willing to part with him. Chris Paul and David West are obviously glad to have TC back, but they must be questioning the direction of the team when management seemed more concerned with saving money these past few days than keeping a great core intact.

It was not the sprained ankle that has Chandler out tonight that nixed the trade. It was his big toe, which was operated on a year ago. Ironically, the doctor that did the surgery is the one who did the physical for the Thunder, and he told them that while the toe was fine now it could go in a big way at any time, and they’d be taking on a big risk with this trade. So the Thunder backed out.

One other topic worth noting (and I’m cribbing here from an APBR thread that becomes about adjusted +/-) — Chris Paul is the defensive lynchpin of the Hornets.

He himself is playing better defense this season: opposing PGs are shooting 46.7% (eFG%) against him this season, down from 51.8% last season. When he is on the floor, the Hornets give up 106.1 points per 100 possessions (better than last season’s 107.6 when he was playing).

But, when he is off the floor, the Hornets give up 113.5 per 100 possessions. To give you an idea, if they played like that all the time, they would be 29th in the league in defense (only Sactown would be worse). What is shocking is that last season they improved when Paul sat — 101.4. I’m not close enough to the situation to know why things changed, but they did.

Keys To The Game: Based on that last paragraph above — the Lakers bench needs to make big runs in the few minutes CP3 is sitting. Take advantage of his absence.

The last meeting between these two was the game when Odom hyperextended his knee in the second quarter. It is no coincidence that the David West went off in that game — Odom frustrates West, but he is really the only Lakers that does. He Odom back tonight and him holding West in check as he tends to do will be key.

The Lakers are not going to stop Chris Paul, they never do. Nobody does — CP3 has scored or assisted on 48% of his team’s baskets this season (the highest figure in the NBA). (Kobe, by the way, is fifth in the league at 36.7%.) But the Lakers cannot let Paul rack up 15 assists like he did last game — they need to give him the “Steve Nash Treatment.” Make him a shooter, not a distributor. He’s a great shooter and scorer, but the Hornets by far are a more dangerous team when he is getting everyone involved and not just shooting himself.

Lots of pick-and-roll tonight — in the past the Lakers length has bothered the Hornets on their bread-and-butter play, but that means active bigs. The Lakers need to use their size to slow the probing of the defense by Paul as well as not let West get a bunch of open looks. West (and Posey) are not going to pass, you have to take the shot away from them.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start at Staples Center, and this is an ESPN Game. If you want to watch online, there’s a good feed at ESPN360.

The Economy and the Lakers

Kurt —  February 19, 2009


This winter, with the national economy tanking and sports team owners taking hits on stock and real estate, the market for baseball players shriveled up. Bobby Abreu goes to the Angels for just $5 million. Consistent 40 home run guy Adam Dunn to the Nationals for just $10 million. Manny Ramirez still doesn’t’ have a deal.

Except in the Bronx. There, the Yankees spent money like it was 2005, throwing out by far the three largest deals of the off-season.

How did they do that in this economy? CNBC’s Darren Rovell explains:

Think about all the other owners who have gotten pounded this year in the sector of the economy that they might still have their money in.

Think about the New York Mets, whose owners not only lost money from the Madoff mess, but also are in the real estate investment business. So too is Theodore Lerner, the owner of the Washington Nationals, who were hoping to land Teixeira. The Chicago Cubs are being sold by an entity that is bankrupt.

Go down the list and you can see that there’s a lot of people that lost money this year in other businesses. I have no idea where the Yankees are investing their personal money, but the bottom line is that their business is only the New York Yankees.

What does that mean? It means that as long as the Steinbrenners believe that the business of the Yankees will be good, they are not as affected as the others are. Will people still go to games? If not, will they watch the YES Network. It’s a pretty simple equation.

That brings us to Jerry Buss and his family, the majority owners of the Los Angeles Lakers. Buss made his money on real estate deals, but today he is in the Lakers business and very little else.

And right now the Lakers are a very good business, recession or no. The building still sells out at the highest ticket prices in the Association. The Lakers television ratings are up (unlike the Steinbrenners, the Buss family does not own the cable network showing games, but they do get a healthy payment). While Lakers officials said they have felt some pinch from sponsors, go to a game and it does not appear to be significant.

Just how healthy are the Lakers financially, as the second highest valued franchise in the NBA? This is what Forbes says (thanks to Darius for finding this info):

Based on the team valuations made by Forbes for all the 30 teams, the Lakers were pegged at US$ 534 million. Here’s the breakdown:

1. $123 million or 23% comes from the earnings from the league’s shared profits
2. $240 million or 41% comes from the value of the city’s market size
3. $140 million or 24% comes from the stadium earnings (ticket sales, merchandise, food, etc.)
4. $81 million or 14% is attributed to the team’s brand

Last season the Lakers were second in the league in operating profit at $47.9.

All of this ties into the big question for we Lakers fans — just how much is Jerry Buss willing to spend to keep this team together?

This summer, Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza will be free agents. The Lakers if they pick up Sun’s option (his deal is two years) will have nine players on the books for next year with a payroll of about $74 million. This season, the luxury tax is at just higher than $71 million, but that number is expected to drop the next two seasons. (To really get a feel for what this means, read the excellent post from the always-amazing Tom Ziller over at Fanhouse. That guy should be bronzed. In a good way, not the Hans Solo way.)

Right now, in Jerry Buss’ head, there is a number of how high he will go. We can speculate all we want about it, but the fact is we have no real idea what that number is. We know he will spend more to win, but we also know he made some cost-cutting roster moves during the three-peat years to keep payroll under control.

Not only do we not know the number, we don’t know if it is possible to fit both Odom and Ariza under that number. Remember, if the Lakers sign both of them, they are still going to have to sign at least three more minimum level players (this year’s late first rounder, maybe Shannon Brown and another pick or free agent). The likelihood that the Lakers would keep Odom and Ariza and use the Mid-Level exception on a free agent seems almost nil.

If Kobe opts out and resigns a max deal extension, he will make about $1 million less (but will extend five years out). That is not a huge savings, but every little bit helps.

No doubt this Lakers roster, as is, can win — the Lakers have the best record in the NBA and are serious title contenders. The question is can the Buss family keep the band together.

One other factor in all of this is AEG, the company that owns 30% of the Lakers and the majority of Staples Center. AEG just spent insane amounts of money to build LA Live, the restaurant and entertainment complex across the street from Staples Center. This is a tough time to open a venture like that, and you need foot traffic to make it work. The kind of foot traffic that a sold-out Staples Center 41 times a season plus playoffs provides.

AEG cannot afford to have the Lakers slip. The question again is how much AEF is willing to pay to make sure they do not.

This is a hard topic, because reading into the Buss family and its finances is about as easy as bringing peace to the Middle East. There is no way to get 100% knowledge or certainty.

But it looks like they should be in position to keep the band together. Unless the market goes crazy this summer and a couple of band members get huge offers. Then, well, who knows?

Trade Deadline Thread

Kurt —  February 19, 2009

Rumors are flying around the NBA at a Lindsay Lohan pace. As things become reality I’ll post updates and a few thoughts here, and keep the comments going.

First, thoughts on Tyson Chandler going back to the Hornets. I would say if Chandler is healthy, that makes the Hornets a potential threat again, except that apparently he is not healthy, at least in a way that is going to impact how he pays for the rest of this season (and maybe beyond). The Lakers have really had the Hornets number, they just don’t match up all that well with LA, and the only way to change that was for them to take on more salary. That is not going to happen. I just get the feeling the Hornets are stuck a step behind the Lakers for a little while, which may frustrate Chris Paul to no end.

Golden State Warriors vs Los Angeles Lakers

BREAKING NEWS: The Lakers have traded Chris Mihm to the Memphis Grizzlies for a second round pick. The move saves money for the Lakers — the rest of this year’s salary (he is making $2.5 million for the season) plus the full $2.5 against the luxury tax, which is calculated at the end of the regular season.

I really wish things had worked out better here for Mihm. In the first year after the Shaq trade, Mihm was maybe the second best Laker, not in terms of talent but in terms of nightly effort. He cared and tried. Unfortunately, injuries robbed him of his legs and after missing two seasons with injuries he has been able to do little this year, and has had trouble getting off the bench on a deep team.

We wish him well, and hope he gets some run and his game back in Memphis.

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Warriors
(19-35)
Pace: 97.6 (1st)
Off. Rating: 108.7 (12th)
Def. Rating: 112.3 (28th)
Lineup: Crawford,Ellis,Azubuike,Jackson,Biedrins

Lakers
(42-10)
Pace: 94.5 (4th)
Off Rating: 114.3 (1st)
Def Rating: 105.5 (8th)
Lineup: Fisher, Bryant, Walton, Odom, Gasol


Warriors Coming In:
This is not the same team the Lakers played in January. That was a team that was starting Marco Bellinelli and Brandon Jacobs while waiting for Monta Ellis to return from a moped injury. (Hey, at least Jeff Kent was riding a motorcycle).

Monta is back, and coming along quickly are his springs and his speed. (I’d take him over Devin Harris in that end-to-end race.)

Despite Tim Kawakami‘s assertion on local radio that Monta would never wear a Warriors uniform again after the acrimony created coming out of the situation, Monta’s rounding into playing shape and has these “6-Seconds-or-Less” Warriors on a 3 game winning streak.

They have won 7 of 9 over the last month and are 6-5 since the Mississippi Bullet’s return. Things started to click for the Warriors after beating a certain green team on December 26th. And the Dubs would be looking at a .500 record since then and a 12 game home winning streak were it not for a series of buzzer beaters (Kings, Thunder, Cavs) and blown leads (up by 12 with 8 minutes to play against the Spurs).

But the credit for their improvement also goes to a healthy Stephen Jackson, who has been getting Monta the ball in comfortable places while knocking down his own jumpers. If Captain Jack is hot, this team is trouble. The rest of the Warrior-lings feed off of his confidence.

As should be expected, Warrior fans have taken to Ronny Turiaf and his infectious demeanor. Turiaf comes off the bench for the Dubs (he started the last 3 in Biedrin’s absence) and has been a factor on their recent upswing (11 points, 7 boards over the last 5 games). Turiaf’s rebounding bump has been caused by the Warriors perimeter D. The D has tightened up as guys become healthier and this has allowed Turiaf to box out rather than hurrying to block weak side shots, which puts him out of position to rebound.

The Warriors are returning to full strength with the return of Bellinelli and more importantly Biedrins. The fans are pining for another big, but can they get that big without sacrificing Ellis? Unless something shocking happens at the deadline, the Warriors will live with Biedrins and Turiaf. In fact, Nelson likes the contrast in the two players games. The back to the basket, solid rebounding game of Biedrins replaced by the face up game and shot blocking hustle of Turiaf creates a change of pace that keeps opposing bigs off balance.

The Lakers will have to keep Turiaf off the offensive glass, his 7 offensive rebounds were a big piece of the Portland win.

The Lakers Coming In: Winning the second game of a back to back has become a measurement of the professionalism and grit that this team lacked last year (or so I’ve been told). The newest human victory cigars were out last night (Crazy block, Shannon), and the ice was on the knees early, so fatigue should not be an issue.

The Lakers will want to control the pace by pounding it inside to Pau in hopes of some early foul trouble for Biedrins. Run the offense and the size advantage will do its magic.

Defensively they need to keep the water strider out of the middle and close out on Jackson on the perimeter. Make Magette a jump shooter and keep him off the line. He gets there almost as often as Kobe.

LO Does Windows: 74 rebounds in 4 games.

Not in Phoenix, but what about the HOF?: The Warriors were one of the few teams that had zero representation during the All-Star festivities, but they do have 3 candidates on the HOF ballot. Don Nelson, Chris Mullin (as a player not a GM), and coach of the ’75 Championship team, Al Attles.

Warriors-Lakers History: Chick calling Game 4 of a 1987 series between Lakers and Warriors. Sleepy Floyd: 29 points in the quarter, 39 in the half, 12 consecutive field goals in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 51 points. What’s more impressive is that he was being guarded by the NBA’s Defensive POY.

Where to watch: 7:30 start. Nationally this game will be on ESPN, and those who watch online can check out the ESPN 360 Live Stream.