Archives For January 2010

Kobe Bryant’s Finger and Geometry

Kurt —  January 11, 2010

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Bill Bridges put this in the comments, but it is too good not to make its own post.

The accuracy required for a player to hit a mid-range jump shot, let alone 3 pointers is astounding. Consider this. The inside rim of the hoop is 18″ in diameter. The Ball is 9.54″ in diameter. If the ball lands exactly in the middle of the hoop, the distance between the skin of the ball and the hoop is 4.2″. Let’s assume that if the ball is more than 4.2″ away from dead center that the shot is more likely to miss than go in. 4.2″ is not a lot of room for error. Players cannot be so accurate by measuring their shots. Rather, the accuracy comes from over 10,000 hours of repetition during which the shot is generated not by intent, but by muscle memory.

Kobe’ problem is that while his muscles are making the same movements from memory (honed, in his case by well in excess of 10,000 hours), the splint/wrap is introducing volatility in the angle of the ball. Simply put, movement is perfect, yet he misses. To compensate, Kobe must adjust the shot. This adjustment completely negates the reliance on muscle memory. The shot is now aimed and adjusted and invariably misses.

To be as successful as he was shortly after the injury, he must have adjusted his grip rather than the motion. The grip + constant dimension and tension of the splint allowed Kobe to maintain the same motion with good results. But something has changed in the last few games and the shot is more volatile than before. The wrap is different. Or the splint is stiffer. Or the pain is such that Kobe cannot maintain an adjusted grip. Whatever the reason, the volatility of the shot has increased. This must mean that more of his shots are off- center. The more off-centered the shot is, the more likely it is to miss.

To refresh you of elementary trigonometry, let’s assume that that a direct line from the shooter to the middle of the basket is the adjacent side of a right triangle, the actual line from the shooter to the hoop is the hypotenuse and the distance between the middle of the hoop and the actual point of contact is the opposite length (or the “error”). (with me so far?). Then we can calculate the error resulting from an incremental drift in the angle of the shot from dead center when the shot reaches the hoop. If this error is in excess of the aforementioned 4.2″, the shot is likely to miss.

From 10 feet away (an ideal post-up turn around distance), a shot 1 degree off dead-center results in an error of 2.1″ – a make. A 20 footer, results in an error of 4.2″ – a 50/50 proposition. A three pointer of 24 feet results in a 5″ error – most likely a miss.

Now let’s assume Kobe’s shot is off center of 2 degrees. A 10 footer is off by 4.2″. 20 footer is off by 8.4″ – barely grazing the rim. A 3 pointer is an air-ball.

An error of 3 degrees turns even the 10 footer into a miss. Something has resulted in more of Kobe’s shots being 2 – 3 degrees off center.

I’ve even ignored the increased velocity that long-distance shots require. This serves to magnify the errors by increasing the kinetic energy of the bouncing ball. The same error factor is more likely to result in a miss for a long shot than a short shot.

If the volatility introduced by the splint is going to linger and be persistent, he has to change his approach.

– He needs to go back into the post and try to get more 10 footers than continue shooting from the perimeter

– On the perimeter, he needs to shoot more bank shots, ala Duncan. A bank shot serves to reduce the velocity and the net effect is akin to reducing the distance of the shot. (Newtonians note, this is due to friction, a frictionless system would have bank shots at the same level of accuracy as a non-bank shot).

He could also take a week or so off and, god forbid, let his finger heal a bit.

After the game last night, a reporter asked Kobe if it was crazy to think he would take time off. “Probably” was the response.

On another topic, Darius had these thoughts about Bynum getting touches and being more active, and if that should continue when Gasol returns.

Bynum is still a player that focuses (mostly) on how he can get his. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (I love that he *can* get his and has developed into a pretty reliable post threat). But that (gunner-ish mentality) creates a trickle down effect for how efficient our offense can be – because even if Bynum plays at an efficient level (he does) what makes this offense elite is creating easier opportunities for others based off your own efficiency (i.e. drawing extra defenders and getting your ‘mates open shots).

So, in the end, while letting Bynum do his thing may get this team a more engaged and active player, what is the tradeoff? Less touches for a just as efficient (and even more helpful to his teammates) player in Gasol? Less easy opportunities for our guards and wings because they’re creating shots for themselves (like Farmar/WOW shooting pull up jumpers in the half court) rather than our bigs creating shots for them? I mean, this is what I’m seeing and while I’m not mad about it, I’m not ecstatic about the results either.

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Kobe is in a shooting slump — 31.8% over the last three games from the field. He knows it, Phil knows it, you and I know it, other team’s scouts know it, there are probably nomads in Mongolia that know it.

Kobe talked about it after the game, and you can get some of the details of what he said in this story over at NBCLosAngeles. (They provide my press passes so they get the quotes and good stuff first.) Kobe and Phil both blamed the issue on him trying to find a comfortable way to deal with the avulsion fracture on the index finger of his shooting hand. Phil calls it his “prosthetic.”

The last three games, Kobe has played without a splint on the finger, just tape. He said it gave him a much better range of motion and feel, but that the finger was not strong enough so his shots keep coming up short. Heading into the Texas Two-Step this week of San Antonio and Dallas the splint is going back on, Kobe said. That should improve his shooting. Should.

Darius made a good point in the comments about Kobe:

Kobe is wired a certain way and there will be nights where, despite evidence saying that he shouldn’t, he’s going to continue to shoot the ball because he thinks the next shot is going to go in. Kobe knows that one or two shots can turn his night around and he’ll seek out shots to prove himself correct. This may be faulty logic and I think we’d all like to see Kobe make different decisions if it truly isn’t his night, but this is the guy we have and I’m willing to live with nights like this every once and a while. The reason I say this is because Kobe has shot himself out of nights that started poorly and he has been able to turn what started out a bad night into a pretty good one.

Last night, the rest of the team picked up the slack. (Well, mostly on defense, where the Bucks shot like a team of Kobe’s. That was not a basketball game to store in the vault for future generations to cherish.) But without Gasol — who Kobe trusts — he is more willing to go into the “shoot out of the slump” mode than normal. Pau’s return should help (maybe this week, saw him walking at Staples last night and there was no limp or hesitation, not that you can tell much from that).

What does all this mean? Really, it means that the Lakers need to be healthy when the playoffs start. That remains the top factor in a repeat.

One other little not — something Wondahbap said in an email — that was not only the most aggressive but also the physically best Bynum has looked to me this season. He ran the floor more fluidly, and his leaping and timing for rebounds just seemed better. He was getting off the floor, well off the floor. Maybe that was motivated by the rumors around, although Bynum said he had never heard them and when told it was basically him for Bosh responded with a laughing “That’s crazy!” He then added he has heard so many rumors and things about himself over the years that he doesn’t really worry about such things anymore. I’d like to believe him. Maybe he had his best game because he’s 22 and got his touches early and was just up for tonight. Predicting him is nearly impossible. But the issue remains we need to see this Bynum when Gasol is in the lineup, not the one going through the motions.

Preview & Chat: The Milwaukee Bucks

Kurt —  January 10, 2010

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Records: Lakers 28-8 (1st in West) Bucks 15-18(8th in East)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 108.4 (11th in league), Bucks 102.7 (25th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 101.5 (3rd in league) Bucks 103.2 (5th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum
Blazers: Brandon Jennings, Michael Redd, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova, Andrew Bogut

Lakers Tonight: A couple teams have now banned gambling card games from their team plans and facilities. Don’t look for the Lakers to be one of them.

“I think it’s just a PR thing, personally,” Jackson said before the Lakers faced the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night. “I mean, what are these guys going to do when they get back to the hotel, back to their homes? They’re going to gamble.

“Maybe the plane would be a better spot for them to do it because they’re monitored and they’re in the company of the guys. It hasn’t been a problem. We have about four or five guys on our team who play and they seem to have a wonderful time.

“It’s really a great release for them, a pastime.”

Like many things, it’s a matter of maturity. It’s possible to have fun card games — even at stakes you and I would consider enormous — and have it be about fun and camaraderie. But if people are immature, get in for money they can’t or won’t pay, or are just generally irresponsible, then it can be a problem. And it’s a whole different level to bring guns into the picture. Somehow, with strong team leaders like the Lakers (or Celtics or other teams have) you would never see this.

Blogs and Links: Check out Bucksketball.

Also, if you need a laugh today, this is the video to watch.

Keys to game: Remember when the Lakers played the Bucks in Wisconsin it took a few missed free throws from the Bucks, a questionable call and a Kobe game-tying buzzer beater to send the thing to overtime. While that was there and the Lakers were on the second night of a back-to-back, this is not a team that rolls over.

They play good defense, and that starts with creating turnovers — 17.4% of opponent possessions end in a turnover, fourth best rate in the league. Those turnovers fuel easy fast break points, so rule one: Take care of the ball.

The Lakers got killed last time with Redd set up in a wing screen and roll because the Bucks bigs can pop for the midrange or roll to the hoop. Thanks to the Lakers Web site, here is what it looks like:

Also, Bynum needs to be back to his old self and outplay Bynum tonight for the Lakers to stand a chance.

Where you can watch: 6:30 p.m. start on Fox Sports here in Los Angeles, and of course ESPN 710 radio. I’m in Staples so expect a lot of updates.

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Let’s get the details out of the way: Peter Vescey reports that a source told him the Lakers would like to move Andrew Bynum for Chris Bosh.

My source believes the Lakers will offer Andrew Bynum for Bosh (if they haven’t done so already) well before the deadline expires. In itself, the one-for-one swap is impossible to make. Bynum’s “base year” essentially allows L.A. to take back but half of his salary this year ($12.5M). Of course, that restriction is lifted when next year’s salary ($13.7M) activates come July 1, at which time a sign-and-trade transaction would be feasible.

The possibility of such a deal makes sense to me. First of all, Bynum is a legit starting center for the defending champions. He also has three years left on his contract after this one.

As for the Raptors, despite the severe offseason roster renovation, they’re not giving any indication of being more than just a one-and-done playoff group this season and in the foreseeable future.

The first of the year always brings with it a flood of trade rumors and as we get closer to the deadline they get more crazy. Know this about Vescey — he throws a lot of rumors out there. A lot. To be fair, some pan out, but many do not. His Lakers sources have been spoty at best. Also, notice his phrasing in that first paragraph: His source “believes” the Lakers will make this offer. Does it sound like he got this directly from a decision maker?

Also, know this about unsourced rumors: Nobody tells a reporter something because they like them. There is a motive. Every time you see a rumor, think: “Who benefits by this being out there?” Did a team plant a rumor to increase trade value or gain leverage in another negotiation? Did an agent plant a rumor to help his client? I don’t know who Vecsey’s contact is, but they are feeding him this big rumor for a reason.

This rumor makes little sense to me in the short term because Bynum is base year player (as mentioned in the piece). To get Bosh at the trade deadline the Lakers would need to send Bynum, Morrison and Farmar — that is a lot of talent to suddenly be missing mid season. Then you have to teach Bosh the triangle offense and see if he can play with Kobe and Gasol — Bosh is a budding superstar, do you think he wants to be option number three?.

And then there is the money issue — the Lakers are already at the top end of what Buss wants to pay. Bosh is a free agent this summer and will get a max (or at least near max) deal. Do you think the Lakers can really add that on to Kobe (who will get extended or opt out and re-up this summer), the new Gasol deal, Odom, Artest, Walton and so on? And you want to get a point guard on top of that?

The rumors are out there. More are to come. I would suggest looking at them with a critical eye. While the fan base may want a big statement move, that is not very likely. These are the defending NBA champions and they have the best record in basketball — do you really blow that up midseason?

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Just a couple thoughts from the comments, starting with Zephid:

• Didn’t like the fact that Kobe was fighting for position in the post, Farmar watched Kobe fight for a good 5 seconds (after picking up his dribble too), only to pass it on the release to Brown on the other side (which he should’ve done immediately when Kobe wasn’t open), only to receive the pass back from Brown, and try to force it into Kobe again. When Kobe finally got the ball, he charged into the lane with 3 Blazers converging, forced up a shot hoping to get fouled, then did the whole fist throw jump in the air deal when he didn’t get the call. I don’t like that sequence. At all.

• Here’s a fun game.
Player A: 6-13, 13 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 fouls, 1 TO.
Player B: 4-8, 8 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 foul, 1 TO.
The game is called: Guess Which Player is Juwan Howard, and Which Player is Andrew Bynum.

• One thing I hate, however, is when a shot goes up and no one is in a position to rebound. If Kobe wants to jab and pump and jab step his way to 40 pts, I honestly don’t mind, so long as guys are in position to rebound after he launches. We saw it in the last 6 mins of the game where Lamar and Bynum both got good position to rebound Kobe misses and had some putbacks to cut the lead. Completely the opposite of late in the 3rd and early in the 4th where Kobe just jabbed his way into a contested jumper, only to have 5 Blazers surrounding the net and not a Laker in sight to grab boards.

Stanley added what I thought was a great point:

Along with the obvious defensive lapses, the Lakers are having problems recognizing what to do when the primary option is deterred (i.e. post fronting / hard doubles). Having Kobe play 40+ minutes each game and taking questionable jump shots outside the offense with a bum finger also doesn’t help the learning process and Bynum’s growth as a passer from the quick/hard double.

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Records: Lakers 28-7 (1st in West) Blazers 22-15 (6th in West)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 108.2 (12th in league), Blazers 109.7 (8th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 100.8 (2nd in league) Blazers 106 (14th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum
Blazers: Andre Miller or ??, Brandon Roy, Martell Webster, LaMarcus Aldridge, Juwan Howard

Lakers Tonight: Pau Gasol had a pain free practice, but he is still not suiting up tonight. Luke Walton also is not playing tonight. I’d complain about the injuries, but that is bad Karma with everything the Blazers have been through this year.

But those are two of the best passers the Lakers have, and missing them was part of the ugly, pick-and-roll loving offense the Lakers played against the Clippers (particularly in the second half). The Lakers when they get a little tired (like in the second game of a back-to-back) and a little lazy they stop running the offense. It becomes the ball in the post or pick and rolls — all things that are in the triangle offense, but the Lakers don’t run them within that context. They revert to 1990s basketball. Kobe reverts to the “my teammates aren’t doing it so I must do more” mode that isn’t a good fit with this roster.

Phil likes to let his teams learn lessons. If it’s the hard way, so be it. We will see going forward, through a tough rest of the month with a lot of road games, if the Lakers learned a lesson about running the offense. Or if they need to be taught again.

The Blazers Coming In: I’m afraid I’m going to blow out my wrist just writing about this team. Not suiting up for the Blazers tonight are Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla, basically their entire front line size, as well as Steve Blake, Nicolas Batum, Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez. On top of all that, guard Andre Miller is a game-time decision (hence the guess on starting lineups at the top).

Despite that, the Blazers are 6-4 in their last 10. And that is largely due to Brandon Roy, as Darius details.

It would be tough to find many players playing better than Brandon Roy right now. Whether it’s the removal of Oden from the low block or him finally finding his comfort zone playing next to Miller, Roy has been tremendous lately. He’s scoring well, doing it efficiently, and he’s getting his teammates involved. In the past, I’ve noted that SG is one of the weaker positions in the league and that often allows Kobe to play his roaming/free safety style of defense. Tonight is not one of those nights. He’ll need to be dialed in tonight. The good thing is that Artest is also familiar with Roy (see the Houston/Portland series from the playoffs last season) so he should be able to provide Kobe a bit of a reprieve on D in certain spots tonight.

Another player to watch is Jerryd Bayless. He is the exact type of player that gives the Lakers problems and he’s getting more burn this year as the Blazers have cleared out some of the players that created a clogged backcourt while also recognizing that this kid can play. Plus, as Bayless himself mentioned a couple of weeks ago, he really is a good compliment to Roy as he’s more of a SG in a PG’s body just like Roy is a ball dominating SG that loves to set up his teammates. Bayless compared himself to Mo Williams with Roy playing the Lebron role and that isn’t too far from being the truth (though Bayless is not yet at Williams overall level). It will be interesting if Phil goes with a Farmar/Bayless matchup or if he thinks that Brown’s bigger body can keep Jerryd out of the lane better while using size to contest his jumper.

It will be interesting to see if there are any after effects from the Andre Miller/Nate McMillan argument at practice yesterday, or if the two old vets can let it go.

Blazers blogs, and a note: Dave and the guys at Blazers Edge have one of the best team blogs out on the Web. It is a must read. Also, there is the new Portland Roundball Society, which has some great writers on board and is a blog to watch.

In news that made me sad, the Cavaliers waived Coby Karl.

Keys to game: There are no such things as easy wins at the Rose Garden. I have never been to the building, but I picture a place where the toilets flush red with blood, there are swarms of flies about and if you walk in wearing a Lakers jersey a demonic voice screams “Get Out!”

The Blazers that are healthy will give the Lakers fits. They are going to run a lot of high screen-and-roll with Roy handling the ball and Aldridge as the screen – this is hard to defend because Roy is patient and can drive or shoot with accuracy, and because Aldridge has to be respected for his midrange game (41% from 16 to 23 feet). He loves the jump shot — if they set him up in the post he often uses a turnaround jumper to score. Odom needs to do a good job putting a body on him, using his length to disrupt shots and showing out on the pick-and-roll but recovering quickly and not losing his man or his focus.

The Lakers guards need to stay with Bayless, he loves the midrange game as well (and can shoot the three), which makes him hard to stop on the drive. Stopping penetration will take good play from Bynum as well, he has to protect the rim and not just surrender layups.

Darius taps into one Lakers advantage:

One area where we should do very well is on the glass – both offensive and defensive. With both Oden and Pryzbilla out, Portland’s only reliable size is LaMarcus and he’s not the best rebounding PF around. I think this can be a night where we control the defensive glass and run out to get early offense.

The Blazers play at the slowest pace in the league, this is not a running team (despite the athletes who could run). The Lakers need to crash the boards then get out and run, picking up some easy buckets in transition. Now, back to Darius.

I also think it’s a night where, if we’re actually trying to execute our offense and not going into too many isolations and P&R’s, that we’ll also be able to feast on the offensive glass with LO, Bynum, and Artest. I think Ron may actually get more than a couple of put backs as Webster (an underrated defender, mind you) will start out on him but with Outlaw missing, he’ll likely also see some Roy on him at SF when the Blazers go to a smaller lineup. This is where Ron’s strength can serve the dual purpose of working the offensive glass but also wearing down the Blazer’s best player

Where you can watch: 7 p.m. start on KCAL 9 here in Los Angeles, and of course ESPN 710 radio.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Kurt —  January 7, 2010

If you want to see the Lakers win at the Rose Garden, you have to go back to 2005, but with all the great Kobe buzzer beaters this season, we dipped into the 2004 vault. Hopefully it is an omen of things to come.

Feh. Flush it. Next.

Kurt —  January 7, 2010

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The game was tied at 83-83 with 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Then the Lakers looked like a tired team on the second night of a back-to-back. They got lazy on defense. They turned the ball over then didn’t get back in transition and gave up easy buckets. They shot just two more shots at the rim (one a Bynum putback on an offensive rebound that he missed) but settled for five three pointers.

The Clippers, behind the good Baron Davis (which makes them a dangerous team) beat the Lakers. If you are looking for analysis of this game, I think Bill Bridges summed it up in the comments.

Flush it.

Next is Portland at the Rose Garden. That’s one we’d all like to win.