Archives For July 2009

Relive The Finals

Kurt —  July 11, 2009

World Champion Los Angeles Lakers.

I am nowhere near close to being tired of typing that, and I am nowhere near close to being done reliving last season. What follows is a video clip from the official Los Angeles Lakers Championship DVD, which gets released Tuesday.

lakers-dvd1

You can pick up the DVD just about anywhere starting Tuesday (and know that the video is much higher quality than what I had to reduce it to for it to fit here, and I’m trying to fix the size and automatic launch).

If you want you copy of the DVD signed by a Laker, you have a couple of chances Tuesday:

Jordan Farmar and Luke Walton, Wal-Mart, 7250 Carson Blvd. Long Beach, CA 90808 (Signing will take place from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm)

Derek Fisher, Best Buy, 740 S. Sepulveda Blvd El Segundo, CA 90245 (Signing will take place from 6:00-7:30 PM)

Breaking down #37

Bill Bridges —  July 9, 2009

Can there be yet another post about Ron Artest? Answer: There can never be enough posts about #37! This post will try to find evidence to support some popular hypotheses – some posed by yours truly.

Let’s start on defense.

Hypothesis #1. Ron is an excellent on-ball defender.

Seems silly to doubt this point as Ron has been a Defensive Player of the Year. But let’s see if the numbers back this up.  Of course defensive stats are notoriously hard to quantify.  One stat is opponent’s PER.

We see from 82games.com that Cleveland has the best PER against small forwards at 12.6 and Houston was second at 13.5. So far so good. Looking into the Cavs and Rockets in more detail shows that Lebron’s defensive PER was a good 13.5. Of course the Rockets also have Battier who was at 12.3. However Artest was even better at 12.2. By the PER-against metric, it is safe to say that Ron is an elite on-ball defender. (Bowen was 16.3 and Ariza 23.0). Versus Ariza, a significant upgrade.

Hypothesis #2. Ron’s true value will be evident against the top teams in the league.

How does Ron play against Lebron, Melo, and Pierce. The three best players on the best teams in the NBA not called the Lakers?

We see that all three performed below their career averages. Pierce came closest to matching his career numbers. Lebron especially has had problems with Artest (No wonder he recruited Artest so hard). James’ 5.1 turnovers per game really stand out. Impressively, Artest’s team has a win/loss advantage against all three players. 7-3 against Lebron is no joke. These records include results when Artest was with losing teams in Chicago and Sacramento. By the way, Lebron’s record against Bruce Bowen with over 50% shooting and at 29 ppg.

Contrast these results with Artest’s record against Kobe.
Kobe has being torching Artest ever since Artest came into the league. 48% shooting, 41% from 3 and a 15-5 record. Are you kidding. No wonder Ron wanted to join the Lakers.

Back to the study. The results seem to support hypothesis #2. Ron seems to be as an effective defender against the big three as there is in the league. check.

What about on offense?

Can Artest fit into the triangle and assume Ariza’s role and possibly even extend it?

Let’s first look at Ariza’s shot chart over the past year. First of all, Trevor has no mid-range or low post game. Almost all of his shots came from the 3 point line or at the hoop via penetration.

Before seeing this chart, I’d thought that most of his threes came from the wing – especially the left. In fact, (by a small amount) Trevor took more corner threes than wing threes. I guess our memories want to retain successful events as his corner 3 percentage was horrible. He shot 31.9% from three point range. But crucially was at 40% from the wing. In the playoffs, it seemed as if Phil tweaked the angle of the triangle to get Trevor wing three pointers rather than corners.

Fortunately Artest has almost exactly the same profile as Ariza from the three point line – but better. Simply great from either wing and straight ahead. The left corner let him down but overall a .399 result is one of the league’s best. He shot alot of wing 3′s and should get wide open shots off of passes from Pau and Kobe – especially on the left wing where he shot 126 3′s and made 44%. Can you picture it? Kobe posts down on the right low block. Double comes. Kick out to Artest for the wing 3…. nothing but net.

That is the good news.

Unfortunately, at least during the last year, Ron was awful shooting from virtually every other location. Most troubling is Ron’s inability to finish at the hoop. A .451 at the hoop is almost Fishesque. Compare this to Ariza’s .619 (Kobe was a stud at .622). Except in Ron’s case, he doggedly takes it to the rim – and misses.  Others have written about these strange numbers. Tom Martin’s hypothesis is that Ron’s ankle injury early in the season eroded explosiveness. This seems to have some validity as previous to 08/09, Artest’s success rate at the rim has been about 55%.

The data indicates that Artest is not a good low post player. Nor does he post up often. This could possibly be due to the systems he played in. In Indiana, O’Neal dominated the post. Sacramento didn’t emphasize it. In Houston, obviously Yao was down low. One thing we can agree on is that if Ron stays on the wing and shoots wide open catch n shoot 3′s we will be happy.

Putting it all together. Artest is a significant upgrade as an on-ball defender versus Ariza. He might not be as effective as a weakside help defender. While data to prove or disprove this point does not exist, his high on/off court differential of +5.9. (Ariza is a -5.3) indicates that Artest is a very good team defender. And as we saw, he is as much of a King-stopper as there is in the league.

On offense he plugs in as the wing shooter. And while we have all seen him bully his way past Walton or Lamar from the low block, the data simply doesn’t indicate that he is effective consistently from there. The key question is whether he can run the pinch post drop pass sequence with Pau and finish at the rim as successfuly as Trevor did.

Finally, will he be a black hole on offense?  Maybe. First why he might actually move the ball; he played the triangle for 3 seasons under Tim Floyd. Second, with Kobe and Pau he isn’t likely to be the initiator. If he remains as the finisher and safety valve the Laker’s highly efficient offense should remain so. With the counter; why might he still dribble for 12 seconds before forcing a contested jumper? He is Ron Artest. #37

Oh and here’s is Kobe’s sick shooting chart.  The man can finish at the rim.

—Bill Bridges

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  July 8, 2009

2009 BET Awards - Arrivals
So many things to get to today, we go to the bullet points….

• The real numbers that should concern us about Ron Artest: 56, 70, 57, 69. Commenter Stephen pointed out that is how many games Artest has played in each of the last four seasons. Meaning in his best year he missed 12 games, and he has missed as many as 26 in that span (and the last time he played nearly a full season was his second year in the league). It seems weird to think of Artest as injury prone, but the numbers don’t lie (can you imagine the calls of “soft” if Gasol or Dirk had those stats?). As long as he is healthy come playoff time this is not the end of the world, but we should expect him to miss some games this season. We really will need Odom as well.

• Artest said all the right things at his press conference. That the conference took place on a basketball court is about all the impact that has on the court, but at least he said it. My favorite line, when asked how he is different after the Brawl: “”I don’t lay on tables no more.”

• I know the pace of the Odom signing has frustrated some Lakers fans — Hey, they got Shannon Brown done! — but I’m not one of them. I think Brian hit the nail on the head. Odom’s people have patiently waited out the market so they could get some offers on Odom and try to drive up the price (a good idea but a strategy that has not worked as well as they planned). Soon, the Lakers and Odom’s people will hammer out a fair deal, my guess is in the $7 mil range. He wants to be here, he was texting with Artest already, the Lakers should be fair, I think this gets done fairly soon.

• I love how professional the Odom negotiations have been, especially from Odom’s agents — no whining in the media about what he deserved or a perceved respect. Just working hard quietly to get the best deal they can for their client, and trying to land him in a place that makes him happy.

• Yes, Artest will be wearing #37 in honor of how long Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” sat on top of the charts. One thing we can say about next season — the Lakers are going to be more entertaining with Artest around. The ogranization is pretty button down. Kobe is pretty corporate. Artest is not.

• If you fancy yourself a baller, the Lakers are sponsoring a 3-on-3 tournament at LA Live the weekend of Aug. 14. If you want to show how you could have dunked on LeBron (and had Nike confiscate the tapes) you can register here.

• I think Sheed in Boston is a little like Shaq in Cleveland — anyone who thinks these are the guys from their prime will be sorely disapointed. That said, they still have some game and will be an upgrade over the minutes they are taking from scrubs. Basically, I think both teams got better, but enough better?

Kelly Dwyer has my click as the first hoops blogger I read every mornong,

• I just bought this (via BDL).

Kareem Talks To FB&G

Kurt —  July 6, 2009


We are exceedingly fortunate to have the a new relationship here at Forum Blue and Gold with the greatest center to ever play the game — the six time NBA champion, six time MVP, leading scorer in the history of the game Kareem Abdul Jabbar. A great player, more importantly a great person who has lived (and is living) a rich and full life, a man who brings thoughtfulness to whatever he does. No enough of those kind of people in the world. Plus he’s a huge jazz fan, always a plus in my book.

You need to visit his Web site, where he talks everything from basketball to Michael Jackson. Most athlete web sites are little more than PR vehicles, rarely to you get genuine thoughts and an understanding of the man. This is real.

We will be asking the living legend a couple questions regularly around here, and this is the first installment:

How has the role of center changed in the NBA from when you played to now? How has that manifested working with Andrew Bynum?

KAJ ANSWERS: The role of the center has not changed at all but people feel that it has because there are so few centers playing the game effectively but the requirements have remained the same. I try to give Andrew a clear understanding of what he can do to help his team win basketball games.

You have had a friendship with Red Auerbach, were coached by John Wooden and have watched Phil Jackson up close — maybe the three greatest coaches the game has ever seen. Can you compare and contrast them, and say what similar traits they shared?

KAJ: Its impossible to contrast them because they have all played in different eras of the game. Coach Auerbach coached when the NBA had only had 8 teams. Coach Wooden coached at the University level and Coach Jackson coached in the modern NBA which has 30 teams, so each area required different management skills. I don’t think they had much in common because the needs of their jobs were different in each case.

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I hate to add a little free agent note to the bottom of the post, but this the season. Good signing by the Lakers to bring back Shannon Brown and his potential — two years at $4.2 million, with a player option for the second year. I don’t know if he is the long term answer at PG, but after last season he deserves a chance to see.

Most importantly, this is a guy who does what we fans seem to always call for — he took less money to play here. One thing in today’s age of free agency we rarely see is person who is puts wanting to play for a specific team ahead of money. I am comfortable with the deal, it is a little less than market value and if he has a great year and opts out to get a payday, well, he will have earned it. Not going to begrudge a man his money.

LAKERS VS ROCKETS
A fan’s relationship with a sports team is something like his or her relationship with their family — there are times it is strained, times of anger, times of frustration, but ultimately you almost always come back to them because, well, they are your family. The bond there is strong, built up over years and decades, one too strong to be broken for anything but the worst of offenses.

The signing of Ron Artest has had me thinking about all that this past weekend. Any regular visitor to this blog in the last couple years will tell you I have been ardently opposed to the Lakers getting Ron Artest. I am rarely someone who thinks in terms of absolutes — that something is all good or all bad. But on this blog, Artest was about as absolute as I got, I didn’t want him here. In the past few days I have had to step back, look at myself and that stance, compromise in my mind and move forward.

There are things that are very different than when I ranted against Artest in the past. First, the talk at the time was trading Odom for Artest, something I would still oppose. But that is not what has happened here — this essentially turned out to be a swap of Artest for Trevor Ariza. And Artest is coming in here at what only can be described as a fantastic price for the talent. It’s hard to be unhappy at a good deal.

Still the loss of Ariza saddens me. It has been amazing to see on this and other boards people dismissing Ariza — those people must have a foggy memory of the playoffs and finals. The Lakers would not be champions without Ariza, who hit timely threes and did things on defense like frustrate Hedo Turkoglu that nobody else had done to Orlando before. And he was a player that had really grown on the court in the past year, we (or at least I) have a very fond spot for players we watch mature and develop in our team’s uniforms. While I intellectually understand what happened, there is a bit of a mourning process.

But we have to move on as fans.

Ultimately, it will come down to me accepting Artest, someone I had preached against the Lakers getting. While I don’t like to be wrong, this is one of those moments for he as a fan when my heart must overrule my head. I have to root for Artest now, and that is an adjustment mentally.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand on paper just what a great fit Artest is in the triangle — he adds another very versatile weapon to a team and system predicated on versatility. He can drain the three and should get more open looks to do so. He can post up almost any three in the league (and you can’t move your four over to cover him unless you want Pau Gasol in a mismatch). He is the kind of physical defender the Lakers need so Kobe Bryant isn’t spending all game playing ball-denial defense on LeBron or trying to keep Carmelo out of the post.

But I don’t think you can follow his history and just dismiss it as the meaningless past. I don’t see how you can watch how he played in Houston (yelling at PGs to get him the ball regardless of the hot hand, shooting them out of games against us) or Sacramento or Indiana or Chicago and say with certainty be different this time. Change happens but it is almost always a tumultuous process. Like all of us, Artest is the sum of his past experiences, and at this point I think Artest largely is who he is. I’m curious to see how a guy who posts cell phone conversations with his agent on Youtube fits in with the rather button-down management of the Lakers.

I cannot just ignore or dismiss my concerns. That he has been an offensive black hole coming to a team that is about ball and player movement. That he could struggle to deal with being offensive option three or four on the court at any given time.

But sometimes, whether it be as a fan or a family member, we need to move on from what is done and embrace the future. Embrace the possibilities. Embrace the hope. I’m a Lakers fan. I want the team to win. And that means as of today I am an Artest fan. I have his back. I can see the positive possibilities and I will cheer for them. I hope he gets a ring as a member of the Lakers.

I have hope that it can be so. For once I don’t want to be right.