Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  August 13, 2009

Celebrities arrive for the Lakers Game in Los Angeles, CA
Some things to catch up on after a long vacation for me:

• Really interesting post by a regular here and around the Lakers nation, over at the Lakers Usenet group Gary posted about the Lakers salary figure for this year:

(With the Odom deal) This makes the payroll $91,367,313 right now, with a potential luxury tax hit of an additional $21,447,313 if they are unable to shed any salary as the season unfolds, for a potential total payroll expense of $112,814,626.

Some of that has been recouped since the end of the season, with the $3 million coming from the Knicks for the 29 pick, the $1,660,400 salary + tax saved by selling that pick, the (estimated, I never saw a good figure but this is what Houston was giving for their 2R purchases) $1.5 for selling the 42 pick to Miami, and the $6,467,847 (escrow fund cash payment) and $363,087 (benefits payment reduction for the coming season) that they received on July 29.

Since all of this can rightly be seen as direct salary offset, that brings the real dollar payroll liability right now to…$99,823,292.

Remember when Larry (Coon) said the payroll budget for this year was $100 million? I think he was on to something, with a few table dances for Jerry to spare.

• Regarding Kwame a.’s fantastic post about the other contenders — after thinking about it, my contention is the Lakers are the contender with the largest margin for error. Last season they went into the playoffs with Bynum hobbling around on one leg and two key bench players (Vujacic and Farmar) shooting worse than I do in pickup games at the beach on a windy day. They still won the title. Going into next season they still have that cushion of not needing to have everything be perfect to win a ring.

You can’t say that for the Spurs or Celtics — if any of their key players are not 100% they are in trouble, and because of the age of those teams that is a serious concern. For Cleveland, having Shaq take up the minutes of the corpse of Ben Wallace is an upgrade. And for the record, I don’t buy the “Shaq will clog the lane theory” all that much — he won his titles with Kobe and Wade, two slashers who got to the rim. He can play with those guys (although Mike Brown’s offensive “system” is a concern for them). But what hurt Cleveland in the playoffs was a lack of consistent three point shooting and the inability to defend the pick-and-roll, and their off-season moves simply their off-season moves did not address the pick and roll issue. Basically, I still think you can attack Cleveland.

Orlando really gets two new players — Vincanity and a healthy Jameer Nelson. Last playoffs, if you could force Orlando deep into the shot clock, the result was Hedo launching a contested shot 95% of the time, but with Carter and Nelson creating their own shots that is one flaw that goes away. The team will be better for just having reached the Finals and been through that experience. They added depth along the front line. Carter kind of ends up like I see Artest — I think it should work out well, but it could go really wrong, too. Time will tell. But I kind of think Orlando is my favorite to come out of the East.

• Interesting post over at basketball statistics about the Lakers shooting trends through the shot clock.
• Maybe the highlight of my vacation was taking in a game at Fenway Park. Not the Red Sox, who were out of town, but the “Futures Games” featuring two Red Sox minor league affiliates (Pawtucket and Portland). Fenway is a fun, intimate ballpark where you really feel on top of the action. The crowd is knowledgeable and into it. Just a great setting. But for the record Fenway Franks do not compare to the grilled Dodger Dogs.