Around The World (Wide Web): Defense, Wild Animals

Phillip Barnett —  February 26, 2010

The Lakers had Thursday off after back-to-back road games to help their bodies rest for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers which means that there isn’t really much Lakers’ news for this morning. However, Los Angeles Times Mark Medina had an early morning post about how the Lakers’ defense has suffered since the return of Kobe.

The Lakers immediately enjoyed some of the positive aspects Bryant typically brings. He netted his sixth game game-winner Tuesday against Memphis and he kept the Lakers in contention throughout the fourth quarter. Though Bryant had an overall sluggish shooting night Wednesday against Dallas possibly because of fatigue, the majority of the failed shots were rooted more in attempts falling short than him selfishly hogging the shooting pie. But there has been one negative consequence upon Bryant’s return, and that’s the team’s defense.

Consider the numbers: the Lakers (43-15) held opponents during Bryant’s five-game absence to 86.6 points, a mark that ranked second-best in the league and was a near 10-point improvement from their regular season average in yielding 96.2 points per game. In the Lakers’ two games since Bryant’s return, the Lakers allowed an average of 99.5 points per game.

This problem doesn’t point to Bryant, but more the team’s reaction to his return. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and guard Derek Fisher had frequently mentioned one of the key factors that ensured a collective effort during Bryant’s absence entailed sharpening up on defense. The theory was that if most of the team felt involved offensively, that energy would carry over on the defensive end and create synergy. The defensive philosophy also extended to the fact that without Bryant’s scoring punch, there may be a chance points would be hard to come by, making it necessary to limit the opponent’s production whenever possible.

Brian Kamenetzky of Land O’ Lakers had a similar post on the reasons for the Lakers dip in defensive efficiency in their previous two games.

It wasn’t a sustainable pace- through Wednesday L.A.’s season long mark of 99.3 is second in the NBA behind Boston’s 99.1- but obviously this week has seen a regression. One explanation beyond the natural ebb and flow of a season suggests the Lakers relaxed little with Kobe back on the floor, losing the do-or-die mentality they had on seemingly every stand in his absence. Another, though, is far more practical:

Turnovers.

Apparently, having Kobe back makes it open season to treat the ball with the same respect teenagers tend to afford their parents. 17 giveaways against Memphis, 17 more against Dallas. This for a squad with the league’s second best turnover rate, against two teams not exactly noted for their ball-hawking (Memphis is 20th in opponents TOR, Dallas 16th). There is no defense for those.

Mike Bresnahan has a story about how Ron Artest has changed his diet and is down more than 15 pounds from what he was to start the season. Artest has been moving much better as of late, which also may be due to him finally getting his foot problem under control, but whatever it is, Lakers fans should be excited that Ron is determined to get back to the defender he was back in 2004.

Early this morning, NBC Sports reported that surgery to repair the pinched nerve in his back may be in play for Luke Walton. He’s going to try and hold off on surgery, but if his back doesn’t improve soon, his season is likely to be ended.

Over at Pro Basketball Talk, Rob Mahoney has a sarcastic post about Andrew Bynum’s post game comments where he criticized the referees:

And don’t even give me that “the refs aren’t perfect, they’ll miss calls on both sides” nonsense. This is an institutional conspiracy. David Stern loves LeBron James and obviously wants the Lakers to lose every game. That’s why the Mavs only committed 16 turnovers while the Lakers committed 17. And that’s why the Lakers were called for 20 fouls while the Mavs were called for 20 fouls. Every referee in the NBA was given the explicit order to make tons of calls against the Lakers, and last night’s game was only the latest piece of evidence to prove it.

Kurt Helin also has a post up about outrageous Lakers’ ticket prices.

DIME Magazine has a post up about how it’s possible that Lebron, ‘Melo and Kevin Durant have all passed up Kobe because the small forward position is what teams should start building their teams around

And finally, Mark Medina has a post up where he asked members of the Los Angeles Zoo to compare Kobe to different wild animals:

Tiger: Tigers have to be self sufficient. They have their own territory and they hunt for themselves. They have to be dependent on themselves. They’re camouflaged. No two Tigers striped patterns are alike.

How Bryant is like a tiger: You don’t find a lot of Tigers and you don’t find a lot of Kobes. For the solitary animals that Tigers are, Kobe, while popular and widely recognizable, he’s not really all that social. You don’t see him on the social scene. He’s not the most social person there is. He is sort of predatory. He’s slow and calculating and then he jumps at it.

-Phillip

Phillip Barnett

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28 responses to Around The World (Wide Web): Defense, Wild Animals

  1. i think the theory that bynum could be the ones who make our offense stagnant could be true and worth exploring.

    http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2010/2/25/1326196/stray-bullets-lakers-vs-dallas-2-24

  2. any “buy outs” of interest here -
    http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=15422

    note the last player listed, ol Cookie, (not that I’m saying we want him, I’m just sayin’…)
    there are a couple of guards though.

  3. Dime Magazine has a discussion on where Kobe ranks among the all time greats right now.

    http://bit.ly/busETY

  4. 13thirtyone,

    Thanks.

    I don’t feel it’s a theory though. I think it’s fact. It was apparent last year too. He just doesn’t pass the ball well enough, nor is he a willing passer.

    But…what we can turn into defensively (when he’s willing to accept that role) is where his real importance lies. Especially against the Contenders. So, while he does need to cut out the “black hole” play, he needs to embrace his role as a defender/rebounder even more. Right now, his defense isn’t making the decline in offense worth ignoring. That needs to change soon (we’re heading towards the stretch run). It’s going to be much harder this year. Our competition is much better than last year.

    I feel like the Lakers are on the cusp. We need a game to bust it open. Hopefully, it can be the Denver game on Sunday.

  5. How did Lebron’s airball freethrow miss the “Not Top Ten” of ESPN’s Spotcenter weekly routine. If you missed it, it was sunday against the Magic. Media imagery possibly?

  6. I have to say that Bynum gets screwed on many calls during a game. It is probably a respect thing. The defenders respect him more than the refs think defenders respect him.

  7. Andrew really didn’t get many calls his favor last game, on the other hand Haywood didn’t pick up a foul for a long time into the game, and the previous night Andrew fouled out in Memphis. Not to justify blaming refs but he’s still young and I can see why he would be frustrated. I haven’t seen anything about him getting a fine for the comments, so perhaps the league office is giving him a pass this time..

    As far as Ron Ron goes, maybe the new regimen had something to do with those 2 dunks against Boston.

  8. Just a heads up, there’s going to be a delay with the game preview today. If you have some thoughts on tonight’s match up, feel free to post them now and help a guy out. :)

  9. Lakers’ Bynum fined $25K for criticizing officials posted on nba.com.
    This kind of comments will not help him gain any respect from the refs Aaron.

  10. Larry Hughes would be an excellent pickup.
    Despite his history of injury, he can still
    be very effective. His all-around guard skills
    are better than anyone on the roster not named Kobe. Of course, it’s too much to
    hope that Jackson would bring in someone
    who hasn’t played the triangle at this late
    juncture. If Walton is done for the season,
    picking up Cook makes sense. We certainly
    could use another situational 3 pt shooter.

  11. How about we just start previewing the Den game?

  12. The Sixers aren’t terribly fascinating but there is Elton Brand’s return… I wonder if anyone really cares?

    Kind of more interested in Jrue Holiday’s return to LA, since Andre left town and Iverson’s been dealing with his daughter’s life threatening illness their guard rotation could be an interesting subject

  13. I think Bynum & Pau need to step their games up on the offensive side of late. The one thing I hate seeing is their reluctance to kick the ball out when they don’t catch the ball in a good spot on the block. It’s usually the same thing – catch the ball, turn and look at the key (like Bynum is even thinking about passing to someone), let the entry passer clear out, dribble for 6 to 10 seconds and force up some crap shot if they aren’t able to beat the defender with one of their limited post moves. I wish we would see Pau face up and take that 12′ jumper he went off with last season. I’d also like to see the two of them get after it on the offensive glass. They can’t use the excuse of trying to stay out of foul trouble. I don’t think I’ve seen either of them get an over the back foul called on them all season.

    Defensively Pau is doing fine. He changes a lot of shots but isn’t the strongest guy. I think Bynum has really improved at not fouling when he helps on defense. The defensive problem is at the guard spots. To much dribble penetration as we have heard Phil comment on before.

    Moving on to the rest of the team – I love Artest’s aggressiveness and I think all three of the point guards are playing better. I give it five games until the Lakeshow gets rolling on into the playoffs.

  14. 9,
    I politely disagree. You need to make waves and not let refs get away with making bad calls. The best way to ensure fair officiating is to hold referees accountable. If the refs know they will be called out in the media they have more incentive to perform. Phil Jackson does it after seemingly every playoff loss. Andrew Bynum knew he was going to get fined but figured 25 k is worth it if it helps himself start getting some respect… and that ultimately helps the Lakers. Almost every time Bynum catches the ball down low defenders have two straight arms in his back and it is never called. He also has great footwork and repeatedly gets called for traveling when no travel occurred. The problem is his defenders know how tough he is to guard in the post and are forced to foul… but the refs are behind the times and don’t realize the great scorer Andrew has become in the block… they haven’t yet realized defenders are now forced to foul him in order to guard him effectively. This Bynum outburst will wake the refs up a little.

    Re; Black Hole Bynum

    If one is thinking Drew’s selfishness is hurting the offense I think you are mistaken. He is given the ball in the post to score. He is the teams most dominant inside presence offensively and defensively. He also is the teams most efficient inside scorer. He shouldn’t be passing the ball out after securing inside position… he should be doing exactly what he has been doing… laying the ball up and in. The guy also only gets 8 shots a game, I don’t think he is smothering the offense with his shooting. Now it could be argued that offensively the team isn’t as efficient because he clogs the lane while rarely getting the ball. And if he isn’t getting touches inside he is more of a hindrance on offense as compared to floor spreader Lamar Odom.

  15. @ Kostas
    That’s what I get for getting my nba news from espn.

    Philadelphia… well Lou Williams is getting more playing time now and had quite a shooting performance vs Golden state a couple nights ago. Another short 2 guard who can light up the scoreboard, so the laker guards need to do a much better job than with Jet. Iguodola and Ron will be an interesting matchup, hopefully Ron works him on the offensive end in the post. Will Pau have soft hands and keep the ball in his hands or fumble? Will Kobe and Fish take more shots than Bynum, Gasol and Odom again?

    Really generic/cliche commentary on my part, but the lakers need to run the triangle, play inside-out, and move the ball.

  16. 14) – I agree. The funny thing is when Gasol made comments about the team not playing like a team Bynum was not the target of his comments. Kobe was. He made that clear. Gasol is on the floor, in the games, and comes to the conclusion that Kobe’s volume shooting is often the problem.

    That is not to say Pau doesn’t think Drew’s “sticky” hands aren’t an issue. We don’t know that. However, there have been no public comments from Gasol on Bynum’s shooting. But he has commented on Kobe’s shooting more than once. The fact he took a question about Kobe breaking West’s record and used as an opportunity to comment on his over-shooting is pretty telling.

    Pau is as close to the situation as one can be. I would think he has more insight to the teams “issues’ than any of us.

    Also, I agree with you on the spacing. If they are not going give Drew a decent amount of touches in the post it would be better for the offense to just get him off the floor.

  17. @15 I don’t really understand what espn has to do with what I said..

    Aaron, i wouldn’t mind at all if Phil made such comments playoffs or not ,but Drew does not have the leverage Phil has. If he is to be encouraged to put(some) blame on the refs I think it will give him more reasons to not look at the mirror and try to be effective even when the calls don’t come his way. I just hope for him and the team that those ”waves” ,as you called them, will be beneficial in the long run. There is chance though that this will backfire.
    Again, I hope you are right and I am wrong.

  18. Any chance of picking up a decent PG who can make some 3′s at this point? or hopefully Fisher miraculously finds the fountain of youth and start making shots.

  19. I would much rather see Bynum get the ball down low than Fisher throwing up shots or “driving” (more like walking) to the hole

  20. Bynum gets plenty of touches, but the majority of the time he is too far away from the basket. He needs to use his body and get deeper in the paint. The offense does not suffer when he is closer to the basket, its only when he decides to dribble to get a better position. Every player in the league knows he not going to pass, so once he starts dribbling the defense just collapse on him.

  21. 20) – Rick Fox and Robert Horry were especially good at getting Shaq the ball as he made his move to the rim. Indeed Bynum gets the ball. He gets it while he is stationary, 15 feet from the rim. That does the team little good.

    He makes moves to the rim without the ball often to no avail. The passes don’t come very often. His problem is he gets frustrated and stops moving to the rim.
    That is the wrong reaction.

    Still, it would be nice if our guards could do a better job of hitting our bigs when they move to the rim. It makes scoring a lot easier for them. Andrew and Lamar should always be hit when moving to the rim. Pau’s skillset as a passer and the diversity of his post moves allows him to still be effective when starting from a set postion with the ball. He can be effective catching on the move, or catching in a set postion in the high post.

  22. #16,

    Since Kobe has come back he has NOT been a volume shooter plain and simple. Kobe shooting roughly 20 shots per game, is definitely rational and for the teams well being.

    It is amazing how many Kobe haters we have. Believe me, and all time top 10 player is not the problem with this team or any team.

  23. i wish we had at least one of the cavs 3 point shooters

  24. @ Kostas

    The Bynum fine wasn’t reported on espn.com/nba until later.

    Is there any likelihood of a signing considering Luke’s probably out for the rest of the season, and Sasha’s out for a while?

  25. @22 Mojo

    That’s scary. It was written by a dude (dood).