Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  March 11, 2010

Some random thoughts while I watch Orlando demolish Chicago on TNT…

*Late last night I finished watching the Magic/Bird HBO documentary “Courtship of Rivals”.  I must say that this was one of the finest sports documentaries I’ve ever watched.  There was so much to like that I really didn’t have a favorite moment or clip, but a couple that stood out were the pieces of footage they had of the two players on Team USA from the 1978 in the World Invitational Tournament and the clip where Magic is talking about his HIV announcement and the phone call that he got from Bird to check in on him.  I couldn’t stop smiling during the old-school highlights of those two trading no look passes as college kids and had to wipe my eyes a couple of times when Magic is talking about “knowing who your friends are”.  If you haven’t seen it already, find a way.  It’s worth the 90 minutes.

*I’m a bit late on commenting on this, but bye, bye Mike Dunleavy.  In some ways, I feel bad for Dunleavy as he had to work for Donald Sterling and was tasked with building a winner with the Clippers.  Kind of oxymoronic.  However, Dunleavy had his shot and multiple chances with this team and just continued to make mistakes.   And he really should shoulder a lot of the blame since he was in complete control for these last couple of years.  I think the injuries hurt him this season (who knows how a healthy Blake Griffin changes the Clips’ fortunes), but in the end you have to make due with what you got and find a way to make it work.  I mean, when you give away Camby – a guy that said he wanted to play for you – and don’t get much in return, that really doesn’t inspire your team to try for you.

*I really want the playoffs to start already.  I know the Lakers aren’t playing their best ball and that you’d like to be peaking as the second season begins, but I long for the dedicated game plans and the adjustments that the coaches make to dissect a specific opponent.  Championships are won based off those adjustments and we have one of the best in business (Phil Jackson) at finding the wrinkles that can be exploited against the opposing team.

*With all the talk of the Lakers faltering offense, I miss Tex Winter.  That was one man that would give it to the players exactly how he saw it.

*I know that some disagree with Hollinger’s power rankings and the formula used to determine them, but I find them useful.  I remember when the Lakers were atop those rankings early in 2008 when no one thought that the Lakers were really a contender.  We ended up in the Finals (there was also the season that San Antonio was atop the rankings for a long period the year that Dallas won 60+ games – the same year that Dallas lost to the Dubs in the playoffs as the number one seed).  I mention the rankings because in the midst of Dallas’ win streak I was searching to see how high Dallas had climbed.  I mean, when Utah went on their run a few weeks ago (a hot streak that is still going on, mind you) they climbed all the way to #1.  So, Dallas must be high now too, right?  They’ve won 13 games in a row!  Nope, they’re 13th.  Dallas has been winning, but their scoring margin is low and they’ve won a lot of close games in this streak.  Just something to be aware of and chew on.

*As I type this, the Warriors are playing the Blazers.  However, two days ago the Dubs faced the Hornets.  In that game, the following players did not suit up due to injury:  Monta Ellis, Raja Bell, Kelena Azubuike, Andris Biedrins, Rony Turiaf, Anthony Randolph, Brandon Wright, and Vlad Radmonovich.  That’s an entire 8 man rotation with real talent that could compete in this league.  A team with that rotation could probably earn a playoff seed in the East.  I knock Nellie a lot, but he’s missing some pretty good players right now.

Darius Soriano

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  1. I just saw the Magic/Bird special also… it was great. In other news… all this Laker talk is all meaningless. As always championships are won in the front office. The Lakers will win it all this year as long as Kobe, Bynum, Gasol, Artest, and Odom are all somewhat healthy. The Lakers GM and Owner have put the most talent on the floor of any team. And so they will win. It isn’t rocket science.


  2. Great article by Forum Blue and Golder Brian Tung, as linked by TrueHoop:

    Demonstrates some great thought and ideas for understanding the context of mid-game and clutch performance.

    Essentially the idea is that player performance can be assessed by the expected value that a player adds or subtracts to the successful outcome of a play, given the position/situation in which they receive the ball.

    In a clutch situation, the outcome of the performance becomes magnified because the success or failure of a play is now linked completely to a Win or Loss. Higher praise should be given for turning a slim chance of victory into a win than the blame and shame that should be given for missing.

    The Chris Paul-David West example makes it clear that it’s no wonder that Laker fans still have such frustration and disdain for Kwame “Mr -1.5? Brown.


  3. Aaron – You are forgetting the truly integral cog in the Lakers machine, the key to their championship aspirations.

    You know who I’m talking about …

    Yes, Derek Fisher.


  4. That post by Brian is simply fantastic. Very thought-provoking. I wonder if some advanced teams (say, Houston) already use some similar metrics that they keep under wraps.

    One thing I wonder – is it possible for a metric to take off-ball movement into account? For example, under this system, Williams passing the ball to Carter decreases the scoring potential because he’s taken 8 seconds off the clock. What if Carter has moved beautifully without the ball so that when he catches the ball he’s in scoring position? Williams might make the same ‘lazy’ pass but get the increase in potential because of Carter’s work off the ball. So wouldn’t even a metric like this be heavily influenced by a player’s teammates and system? I’m probably not thinking it through carefully enough.


  5. R (ay),
    You are right… Derek must be healthy. He needs his larynx lubricated and warmed up for those oh so important motivational speeches.


  6. Aaron,

    If Fisher stays healthy, you need to find a reliable supplier for the crow you must eat every time Fish adds to his own “behind the scenes” legend with a shot, a steal, a flop against a 3 on 1, a strategic foul, or a pair of clutch free throws.

    Then, as you correctly suggest, there’s his ability to say “no” to Kobe sometimes, and his motivational confidence building for teammates and fans that love him.


  7. Darius, if you’re going to defend (even with faint praise) Hollinger’s rankings, you ought to at least mention that Orlando is currently on top.. and Orlando may be the next team to pass L.A. in the overall standings, being a game ahead of Dallas.


  8. The Mavs are actually +8 over their win streak. Their ranking is hurt by their poor play before the trade (+2 PD), and specifically by a couple of bad losses right before the ASB.

    Of course, they still give minutes to Barea, Stevenson, and Najera.


  9. I think if the Lakers play a good game tonight the score will be 115-100. It is damn hard to keep Phoenix under triple digits unless they are just having a off shooting night. Every time I’ve seen the Lakers handle the Suns in Lakers-fashion they get up early by creating turnovers, force tough shots and hit open shots on the other end. If they can do this tonight I think it would change the tune of many Laker fans because Phoenix is always a tough matchup for the Lakeshow.


  10. >It isn’t rocket science.

    no, but it does require that the gears all mesh – something that they haven’t done too well lately.


  11. I, too, think that Hollinger’s daily rankings are useful, and at the very least more indicative than something like W-L record.

    Also, I will never again panic too much through a sluggish season after 2001, when they struggled through the season, got hot at the very end, then rolled through the playoffs. I’m not saying that it will happen this season, just that a PJ-Kobe-Fish team can certainly get itself right for the playoffs.

    The only bone of contention I’d have with the post, though, is that I thought Dunleavy was a pretty good GM, but a terrible coach while with the Clippers. To give an idea, Hollinger gave the Blazers a grade of B for that trade, but gave the Clips a B+. I don’t remember the reasoning, exactly, but it was the non-sexy savvy kind of move that got them into the position they are now – lots of talent and lots of cap space.


  12. any links to the game?