Archives For November 2009

Six straight comfortable wins. The Lakers have given away so many coupons for free greasy tacos lately that cardiac surgeons in the area are readying themselves for the extra business coming their way. We could talk about Jordan Farmar’s great play of late, or the real reason Kobe hasn’t resigned with the Lakers yet (a great read from Larry Coon) or the good defense or how much all these big wins will help us in the ever-important Hollinger Rankings.

But these are the times as fans we should savor and enjoy. Our good team is beating bad teams handily, as they should. We all know this has not always been the case. Sit back and soak it in.

And enjoy a little of the Lakers version of the Victory Cigar — a Shannon Brown dunk or 20 (courtesy the video master LD2K).

Preview & Chat: The New Jersey Nets

Kurt —  November 29, 2009

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Due to some technical issues, this is the first ever preview from the phone in FB&G history. It also will be in bullet points for that reason. I am sorry about that.

* I think the biggest long-term thing out of the Lakers destruction of the Warriors is that Phil has tightned the rotation to 8: Odom, Farmar and Brown are the men, at least until garbage time.

* After the loss to Houston, that is 5 straight double-digit wins for the Lakers.

* Bill Bridges and I are on the same page: Ron Artest’s three-point and one in the Third quarter was what sparked the Lakers run to pull away. He is finding his place and role on this team more and more.

* Lawrence Frank was fired today, although put out of his misery may be the better phrase.

* Part of me is sad to see Frank get fired. Not that it isn’t warranted, at 0-16 somthing needs to be done. But Frank is not another former player given a chance to start as an assistant in a good place because a former coach liked him. Frank started basically shagging balls at coaches clinics. He woked hard and absorbed what he heard. There was no old boys network to help him out, he earned his way up the ladder, all the way to the NBA. Before the Nets stripped their roster for 2010, he had them in the playoffs four straight years. The NBA needs more guys like him.

* I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that Long Beach State was pretty good this year.

* Things are better off long-term in New Jersey than say with the Knicks from where I sit. Look at it as if you were a future first-ballot Hall of Famer looking for a place to spend your prime years. A new stadium in Brooklyn is on the way. There soon will be a new owner with very deep pockets who will not be scared off by some Luxury Tax. And the roster has some talent in need of a star: Devin Harris is a borderline All Star at PG; Brook Lopez can score as a center and is solid; I like Chrs Douglas-Roberts; and guys like Dooling/Alston/Najera can be solid role players. There is a future there.

* Harris is the kind of PG that gives the Lakers trouble, they need to pressure him and have good defensive rotations from the bigs (a bit of a challenge because Lopez can hit from 15 so he can pull a big away from the basket). However, Harris is not fully healthy and it shows in his shot, which is off. He was 6 of 22 against Sacramento.

* Game at 6:30 on Fox Sports and ESPN 710 radio.

Preview and Chat: LAL vs GSW

Gatinho —  November 28, 2009

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Lakers: 11-3, W4
Offense: 101.8
Defense: 96.5

Golden State Warriors: 5-9, L1
Offense: 109.3
Defense: 111.5
Pace Factor: 101.3 (1st of 30)

Starters:
LAL: Bryant, Fisher, Artest, Gasol, Bynum
GSW: Curry, Ellis, Morrow, Moore, Radmanovic

Lakers Coming In:
The biggest worry for fans these days has been the shaky bench play. There may be more developments along that line tonight. The quickness of the Warriors should see Phil giving Farmar and Brown extended minutes against their speedy back court. Gasol and Bynum should have their way often and early in the paint against the diminutive Warriors’ front line. Look to see a bevvy of players posting up their smaller defender.

The primary worry for the Lakers is getting into a track meet with the gritty young Dubs. The secondary worry is defending the pick and roll/pop. Phil has some choices for what kind of lineups he wants throw out. He can stay big, but if the pace is not to his liking he can go small. I predict the mad scientist will show up tonight, throwing out some head scratching lineups.

The Lakers need to control the tempo, stay out of foul trouble, and use their superior inside size.

Warriors Coming In: The Warriors front office continues to be its biggest weakness. The Captain Jack debacle (gaudy unnecessary contract extension followed by a trade demand) now behind them, Monta Ellis and Steph Curry are the future.

Jack is a scorer and he feels like he can take his man 1-on-1 at any time in the game,” Stephen Curry said, referring to departed teammate Jackson. “That’s his style and the kind of play that he’s good at. Things slow down naturally through that, but everyone else on this team plays differently.”

Of late, the Warriors have been looking to move the ball. When they make the extra pass, they have the shooters. Morrow is 3rd in the NBA shooting 54% from beyond the arc. Newly acquired and infamous space cadet, VladRad hasn’t quite settled in, but that won’t last. He has also been a more physical player fighting for rebounds and guarding opposing bigs.

The offense looks to get up shots before the defense is set, but if forced into a half court game, they rely on the speed on of Ellis and Curry or the strength of Corey Magette to drive and dish or get shots close to the basket. Magette’s shot selection is historically suspect, but his ability to get to the free throw line keeps him on the floor. Ellis and Curry will be involved in a lot of pick and pops with Morrow, Randolph, and Radmanovic.

Whoa Nellie: Coach Nelson will miss 3 more games with pneumonia, but Warrior fans feel like his real sickness is apathy. Nelson has been criticized for waning interest and connection to his young team. His big paycheck means he won’t be going anywhere unless asked to do so by the management. Keith Smart, who is coaching in his stead, waits in the wings. Reports are that he already runs practices. Nelson has been giving more and more responsibility to assistants, asking them to actively coach during games. His recent spats with Ellis have been widley reported. Jackson’s trade seems to have galvanized the team, but has it also galvanized them against their coach?

The Walking Wounded: The Warrior have been decimated by injury. They have played with 7 or 8 players over the past few weeks. Astonishingly, they pulled put wins against Portland and Dallas, the Mavs win coming with only 6 players suited up. Monta Ellis went the distance in both of those games and has been scoring points in bunches.

Turiaf will add some needed depth in his return and come off the bench in this one.

Hello Old Friend: Turiaf, Radmanovic, and even Devean George will be wearing the orange and blue tonight.

Blogs and Links: Warrior’s World and Golden State of Mind

I’ll be in attendance, so if anything noteworthy pops up, I’ll look to update.

What the Stats Show Us

Bill Bridges —  November 26, 2009

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Since the days of Show Time (and even from the West/Baylor/Chamberlain era), the Lakers have been known as an offensive team. Despite the mantras of “Defensive wins championships” and “No rebounds, no rings”, most fans and all of the press basically ignored these aphorisms as it applies to the Lakers. No, the Laker s are about scoring, and scoring in spectacular ways.
Well if the 2009/2010 Lakers continue at current pace, they are about to shatter  this perception. With basically the same personnel*, they have transformed from an outstanding offensive team that played very good defense to a mediocre offensive team that plays outstanding defense.
In 08/09, LAL was ranked 3rd at offensive efficiency at 112.8 and 6th at defensive efficiency at 104.7. The league average was 108.3. This year the Lakers are 19th on offensive at 105.5 and 3rd on defense at 100. The league average is 106.0. Had the bench been able to maintain large 4th quarter leads, undoubtedly both the offensive and defensive ratings would be better. However, this marginal increase might have pushed the Lakers to 15 – 17th on offense whereas on defense the Lakers would be 1st.
Even with the spotty bench play, the Lakers would be #1 on defense if they had a higher Defensive Rebounding Rate because of their excellent defensive EFG% and . Although recently improved, the Lakers’ Defensive rebounding rate is  .712 which is 24th in the league. Offensive rebounds create shots at the rim or shots while the defense is in scramble mode (remember Tim Thomas’s back breaking 3 in game 6 when the Lakers couldn’t handle the defensive rebound?) and increases the defensive team’s Ortg.
So the questions that come to mind are:
1. Why is the defense so good
2. Why are they so poor at defensive rebounding
3. Why has the offense slowed (and why is the Ortg so much lower)
The answers to all three points are related.  It is no secret that the Lakers have thrived in the paint this year.  Using the NBA hotspots designations, last year the 42% of the Lakers’ FGA was at the rim (for a FG% of 58%). This year whilst shooting a slightly lower FG% of 55%(no doubt due to Kobe’s dominance and Pau’s absence), 44% of their shots are at the rim. No doubt this increases with Pau’s return.
Shots in the paint slows and disrupts the opponent’s offense. Short shots do not create long rebounds. Long rebounds fuels fast breaks. Made baskets is the best catalyst of good defense as the offense begins by taking the ball out of the rim. This is where EFG% is misleading. I’d much rather have a team shoot 60% from 2 exclusively than 40% from 3 even though the EFG% is the same because there are 20% less missed shots that could possibly create transition offense for the opposition.
So shots in the paint improves the Lakers’ ability to get back and get their defense set. Bynum, especially has been hustling back. In addition, the team seems to have a coherent scheme on defending the screenroll. They do not stick to one scheme. Sometimes the defender goes under the screen, other times he fights over. When he fights over, the big consistently shows aggressively and gets back to his man. The Lakers have been very good this year at reducing penetration. Reducing penetration and the resulting kick out for a wide-open 3, results in a defensive 3FG% of .297, best in the league. Their overall FG% defensive isn’t too shabby either at .421, second in the league. Fisher’s perimeter defense has been outstanding – not coincidentally aided by Bynum’s improvement on the show and recovery phases of screenroll defense. Farmar has been surprisingly good also, especially at fighting over screens – a skill I thought he would never ever get.
So nearly 71% of the opponent’s 3 point shots result in misses. Missed 3 point shots create long rebounds.  Long rebounds’ trajectories are more volatile than short shots.  Remember your high school physics? E = ½ mv^2. A long shot by definition has higher kinetic energy and the bounce is both longer and more erratic. Long erratic bounces create more opportunities for the offensive team to rebound the ball. Also, when teammates expect a miss they crash the boards more. Whereas when every shot is going in teammates begin to jog back on defense. Of course, here Bynum’s eagerness the run down on offense to establish the “seal” on offense does not help him in working harder for a tough rebound.  He has improved markedly in this arena though in the last few games and this has helped as has the guards’ aggressiveness in rebounding long misses (in the Knicks game,  Fisher collected 5 defensive rebounds which must be a season high). So as long as the Laker’s deter post offense, reduce dribble penetration, and rotate out to shooter, opponent’s 3FG% will be low. Pau’s return, better guard rebounding, and more focus from Bynum will help, but the Lakers will not lead the league in Defensive Rebounding Rate.
What about on offense. Surprisingly this year’s Lakers have a higher pace than last year’s,  96 versus 94.3 for 6th fastest in the league.  So why is the Lakers’ offensive so much worse this year than last.:
1. Pau’s absense. An obvious factor as he is such an excellent facilitator.
2. Abysmal shooting by the bench
3. LO has not been posting up. He is very effective posting up on the right block but can’t remember more than a few instances when the Lakers used him in this way. It is as if he expected the spate of 3 point shooting in the finals to carry over. It hasn’t LO has reverted back to the mean. And it hurts.
Now that he is in the second unit, LO should be the go to guy in the post. This will increase his FG% give better  floor balance, and create open perimeter looks. LO will pass out of double teams whereas Bynum has trouble doing so. I look for PJ to set up LO down low more often with the second unit. This will dramatically improve the  offense rather than having him floating around on the perimeter taking  jump shots.  Improved offense,  especially low post offense, means better defense. This will help to improve point #2.
I could write an entire post detailing how good Artest has been on defense but anyone who watched him shut down Joe Johnson and Kevin Durant can’t wonder whether the Artest/Ariza trade was an upgrade or not – at least on defense. He is finishing 50% at the rim which is a worry but not surprising.

Since the days of Show Time (and even from the West/Baylor/Chamberlain era), the Lakers have been known as an offensive team. Despite the mantras of “Defensive wins championships” and “No rebounds, no rings”, most fans and all of the press basically ignored these aphorisms as it applies to the Lakers. No, the Laker s are about scoring, and scoring in spectacular ways.

Well if the 2009/2010 Lakers continue at current pace, they are about to shatter  this perception. With basically the same personnel*, they have transformed from an outstanding offensive team that played very good defense to a mediocre offensive team that plays outstanding defense.

In 08/09, LAL was ranked 3rd at offensive efficiency at 112.8 and 6th at defensive efficiency at 104.7. The league average was 108.3. This year the Lakers are 19th on offense at 105.5 and 3rd on defense at 100. The league average is 106.0. Had the bench been able to maintain large 4th quarter leads, undoubtedly both the offensive and defensive ratings would be better. However, this marginal increase might have pushed the Lakers to 15 – 17th on offense whereas on defense the Lakers would be 1st.

Even with the spotty bench play, the Lakers would be #1 on defense if they had a higher Defensive Rebounding Rate because of their excellent defensive EFG% . And lthough recently improved, the Lakers’ Defensive rebounding rate is  .712 which is 24th in the league. Offensive rebounds create shots at the rim or shots while the defense is in scramble mode (remember Tim Thomas’s back breaking 3 in game 6 when the Lakers couldn’t handle the defensive rebound?) and increases the defensive team’s Ortg.

So the questions that come to mind are:

  1. Why is the defense so good
  2. Why are they so poor at defensive rebounding
  3. Why is the offense so mediocre

The answers to all three points are related.  It is no secret that the Lakers have thrived in the paint this year.  Using the NBA hotspots designations, last year the 42% of the Lakers’ FGA was at the rim (for a FG% of 58%). This year whilst shooting a slightly lower FG% of 55%(no doubt due to Kobe’s dominance and Pau’s absence), 44% of their shots are at the rim. Both the rate and FG% should increases with Pau’s return.

Shots in the paint act to reduce the opponent’s offensive efficiency. Short shots do not create long rebounds. Long rebounds fuels fast breaks. Transition offense is the easiest and most efficient offense. Reducing this improves defensive efficiency. A made baskets is the best catalyst of good defense as the offense begins by taking the ball out of the rim and the defense can get set. This is where EFG% is misleading. I’d much rather have a team shoot 60% from 2 exclusively than 40% from 3 even though the EFG% is the same because there are 20% less missed shots that could possibly create transition offense for the opposition.

So shots in the paint improves the Lakers’ ability to get back and get their defense set. Bynum, especially has been hustling back – for the first time in his career. In addition, the team seems to have a strategy on defending the screenroll. They do not stick to one scheme. Sometimes the defender goes under the screen, other times he fights over. When he fights over, the big consistently shows aggressively and gets back to his man. The Lakers have been very good this year at reducing penetration. Reducing penetration and the resulting kick out for a wide-open 3, shows in their defensive 3FG% of .297, best in the league. Their overall FG% defensive isn’t too shabby either at .421, second in the league. Fisher’s perimeter defense has been outstanding – not coincidentally aided by Bynum’s improvement on the show and recovery phases of screenroll defense. Farmar has been surprisingly good also, especially at fighting over screens – a skill I thought he would never ever get.

So nearly 71% of the opponent’s 3 point shots result in misses. Missed 3 point shots create long rebounds.  Long rebounds’ trajectories are more volatile than short shots and harder to gage.  Remember your high school physics? E = ½ mv^2. A long shot by definition has higher kinetic energy and the bounce is both longer and more erratic. Long erratic bounces create more opportunities for the offensive team to rebound the ball. Also, when teammates expect a miss they crash the boards more. Whereas when every shot is going in teammates begin to jog back on defense. Of course, here Bynum’s eagerness the run down on offense to establish the “seal” on offense does not help him in working harder for a tough rebound.  He has improved markedly in this arena though in the last few games and this has helped as has the guards’ recent aggressiveness in rebounding long misses (in the Knicks game,  Fisher collected 5 defensive rebounds which must be a season high). So as long as the Laker’s deter post offense, reduce dribble penetration, and rotate out to shooter, opponent’s 3FG% will be low. Pau’s return, better guard rebounding, and more focus from Bynum will help, but the Lakers will not lead the league in Defensive Rebounding Rate.

What about on offense. Surprisingly this year’s Lakers have a higher pace than last year’s,  96 versus 94.3 for 6th fastest in the league.  So why is the Lakers’ offense so much worse this year than last. Some possible reasons:

1. Pau’s absense. An obvious factor as he is such an excellent facilitator.

2. Abysmal shooting by the bench. (As well as the selfish play, turnovers etc. etc.  let’s not go on …)

3. LO has not been posting up. He is very effective posting up on the right block but can’t remember more than a few instances when the Lakers used him in this way. It is as if he expected the spate of 3 point shooting in the finals to carry over. It hasn’t and LO has reverted back to the mean. And it hurts.

Now that he is in the second unit, LO should be the go to guy in the post. This will increase his FG%, creat better  floor balance, and generate open perimeter looks. LO will pass out of double teams whereas Bynum has trouble doing so. I look for PJ to set up LO down low more often with the second unit. This will dramatically improve the  offense rather than having him floating around on the perimeter taking  jump shots.  Improved offense,  especially low post offense, means better defense. This will help to improve point #2.

4. The lack of free throws. The Lakers have been poor at drawing fouls and going to the line. They are 28th in the league averaging .185 FT attempts per FGA. Free throws are the best quality shots, of course. Free throws also help the defense, for reasons already mentioned. What is odd is that given that the Lakers are the most low-post oriented team and get the most points in the paint in the League, you would think that it would also draw a lot more free throws. Indeed the other teams with low FT/FGA ratios are all perimeter teams; the Knicks, Bucks, Wolves, and Bulls. This is hard to understand.  Perhaps the fact that post play is officiated as a wrestling match whereas the perimeter is a dance hall hurts the Lakers. Pau, Bynum, and Kobe can be pounded inside without a call whereas the slightest incidental contact to Chris Paul draws a whistle. Other factors include that the Lakers do not have a single player who aggressively drive to the rim and finish with the exception of Kobe. And even Kobe drives less than he did before. Contrast the Lakers with Denver. Anthony, Billups, Lawson, and even Smith will aggressively drive to the hole and look for contact. When the Lakers drive, they seem to shy away from contact (other than Kobe – and Fish but then he never gets any calls). The Lakers were poor last year too, ranking 21st in the league. However, this year’s disparity with the highest foul-drawing teams is ridiculous. The difference of the FT/FGA rate of the best team (Denver at .29) to LA was .06  (.29 -.23) in 08/09. This means that last year, for every 100 FGA, Denver shot 6 more free throws than the Lakers. A significant disparity but not overly so. This year that difference is .144 (.329 – .185). That means that for 100FGA, Denver (yes it is Denver again) shoots 14.4 more free throws than the Lakers. This difference is outrageous and I think explains more than any other of the reasons above why the offensive efficiency is so low.

*I could write an entire post detailing how good Artest has been on defense but anyone who watched him shut down Joe Johnson and Kevin Durant can’t wonder whether the Artest/Ariza trade was an upgrade or not – at least on defense. On offense he is finishing 50% at the rim which is a worry but not surprising and has not been a over-dribbling ball-hog at all this year as many feared.

Things To Be Thankful For

Kurt —  November 26, 2009

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Just a few of the things in the cornucopia that I am thankful for today:

I’m thankful that the biggest problems with my favorite team is they keep blowing part of those 30 point leads they build (29 other teams want that problem).

Kobe Bryant.

Living in a place where I am wearing shorts and flip flops on Thanksgiving day.

A wife that is my best friend. And puts up with this hobby that has grown into a really big, out of control hobby.

That Chris Wallace is General Manager in Memphis. Pretty much the same for the ownership group there.

The Kogi trucks.

Joe Jost’s.

Jerry Buss. (And the rest of the Buss family.)

The Showtime Lakers and all the fun they provided me.

John Wooden (and his youth basketball camps).

My daughters, who make me laugh and smile every day.

Derek Fisher in the clutch.

Andrew Bynum’s growth.

Good friends.

The Napa Valley and the Bordeaux region of France.

Thelonious Monk.

Magic Johnson.

Bacon.

All the great Lakers news you can find out on the Web that wasn’t available just five years ago. Like the Brothers Kamenetzky podcast with Spike Lee talking about everything (even his good movies, like Doin’ the Right Thing).

The other moderators and writers at this site (Darius, Zephid, Gatinho, Nomuskles, Bill Bridges), who provide so much great thought and discussion, for sharing all that with us.

Everybody who comes to this site and makes it a community. All of you make this a fun place to be where I learn something every day.