Saturday Special: Fast Break Thoughts & The Final Four

Darius Soriano —  April 3, 2010

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Some random thoughts on this Saturday of college hoops…

*Last night’s win against the Jazz was more than just a single win.  Why?  Because the Spurs showed some of their classic resolve and beat the Magic (Manu torched Orlando for 43 and Duncan added another 23 to take down Orlando – wow).  That means that the chase for the second best record in the league and the claim to home court down the road – should there be a rematch of last years’ Finals – just got pushed one more step in the Lakers’ direction.  The one game cushion over the Magic going into last night is now two games with only 6 games left to play.  The Magic have an easier schedule down the stretch than the Lakers, but I’d rather be the team ahead with so few games left in the season and that’s where the Lakers are.

*Speaking of last night’s game, sure Odom was tremendous and Pau did his all-around thing, but what really caught my eye was Sasha’s beard.  Classic.  I joked on twitter that instead of saying sorry, Sasha grew a beard and that his beard would look like Deshawn Stevenson’s before he actually saw some game action.  It turns out that I was wrong as Sasha got some burn late in the game when the contest was already decided.  Why’d he finally get into the game?  John Ireland’s twitter feed says it all. Apparently the fans aren’t the only folks that want tacos.

*Enough about the Lakers and the pro game, though.  Tonight is where we get one step closer to crowning a college champion as Duke faces off against West Virginia and Michigan State plays Butler.  I have no idea who is going to win but I’ll take Duke and Butler to advance just for the slew of stories on the mid-major program vs classic juggernaut Final on Monday.  Which probably means that it will be WVU and Michigan St. in the Final.  But, who do you guys got?  However it plays out, these should be some good games and I’m anxious to watch tonight.

*And speaking of the tournament, the Final Four about to be played also means that we’re going to crown a winner in the FB&G tourney pool very soon.  It looks like the letshannondunk bracket will end up on top with How Do I Pick UC Riverside? bracket coming in 2nd place.  After everyone’s bracket got busted by the all the upsets (especially the Kansas loss) it figures that the brackets that had Duke and WVU going a long way would be at the top.  So, get ready for your T-shirt.  I’ll drop an email to the winner sometime after the final game.

Lastly, since I’ve still got a smile on my face after last night’s win, here are the highlights from the game versus the Jazz.  Enjoy:

Darius Soriano

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48 responses to Saturday Special: Fast Break Thoughts & The Final Four

  1. Why is Sasha penalized for reacting? NO ONE likes people yelling at their ears, especially pointing fingers to their face. What’s wrong with that –Brian Shaw started this, not Sasha. On the court, sure they’d gotten double technicals, but Shaw was the initiator. Also, a lot of times Sasha just gets picked on by teammates and coaches for no reason (Farmar had an interview back in ’08 or ’09 about how Sasha is the one everyone picks on, and Kobe called him “She-she”). Point is, Shaw would never had done that to Kobe, or Pau, or Odom. And yes, i know Sasha is not at their level, but everyone deserves some respect. The point is, I think Shaw was equally as responsible. What’d u do if your teacher pointed his/her finger to your face?

  2. I’d probably listen to what the teacher was teaching me. Or drop out of school because I didn’t want to be taught.

  3. Sascha+beard+old hair cut = Russel Brand.

    We’ve seen all the pieces, not at the same time, but just think about it….

  4. Sasha’s an employee getting paid millions. He’s also an adult. Professionals don’t wilt when someone points a finger in their face, especially not their boss. It’s not like Shaw is Mussolini and Sasha is a partisan trying to free Italy. Dude needs to grow up.

  5. What do you think Kobe would do if Shaw pointed a finger at his face? Would people still tell him to grow up?

  6. Many players from other countries have different ways to reacting to stress and verbal attacks. Sasha spent most of his early years in Serbia and was born in another part of the old Yugaslovia Slaovenia. Have you ever watched one of their soccer games?

    Being married to a Serb(friends of our old Serbian center) and being surrounded by them on holidays I have learned you don’t get in their face or point your finger and challenge them.

    We here didn’t have bombs dropping on our heads for 76 days so I feel Shaw is the one who needs to say sorry.

    You can not treat every player or person the same until you know their history and what they have been through in their life. I took me years and many fights to figure that out at home.

    By the way Yugo’s never forget and I promise you Sasha has not.

  7. apples and oranges kenny.

    sasha is a scrub so shaw can do that to him but not starters. now phil jackson can do that to kobe and to an extent he has, he cursed out every single starter this season as we saw fisher get some last night.

    i understand sasha’s reaction and it is fine initially, but after the game both he and shaw should have resolved the issue.

  8. TJ,
    it’s not really apples and oranges. Just cuz someone isn’t as talented doesn’t mean you have the right to walk over him like a doormat. everyone deserves some respect. I can understand yelling at him (like Phil did to Fisher), but pointing a finger 1 inch away from his nose? That’s a different story. Would you appreciate that?

  9. sorry for double-posting, but another analogy is in a classroom. The teacher respects the kids who get As in classes, but yells and points fingers at kids who gets Cs and Ds. If that happened, I’m sure everyone would say it’s the teachers’ faults.

  10. Kobe’s new extension is 3 yrs/$84m
    Drew meeting with doc on Monday, hoping to get cleared for practice. Target game for return is Thurs 4/8 against Denver.

    http://tinyurl.com/ygwggz4

  11. You are correct Kenny. Where would you draw the line TJ. Ok for scrub(your words) Sasha so what about Powell or Farmer or is Brown playing like a scrub. Is it based in your mind on minutes, points, salary?

    You see the problem this causes? You either repect all of your player or none of them. How would you like your employer to stick his finger in your face in front of friends or in this case in front of someone’s girlfriend or wife.

    Respect TJ respect.

  12. RE Sasha: My problem with Sasha in this case is that he decided that rather than just listening to what Shaw had to say and taking the criticism or advice (regardless of the delivery method) he decided that he was going to get confrontational and yell back at his coach. *Then* Shaw pointed his finger in Shasha’s face with Sasha then returning the favor. Now, the pointing (from both parties) was wrong, but Sasha can’t let his frustrations boil over to the point that he’s yelling back at his coach. There are few circumstances where that’s ever okay and normally if it is ever okay it is dependent on the status of the player. Now you can question if that’s right or wrong but all players understand that. There is a hierarchy on every team and if you’re Sasha, you sit there and listen to what your coach says. After the coach is finished you can then try to give your perspective, but you do it calmly and without yelling back. That’s just my take on this, though.

  13. Re: LAL v. ORL (i.e., the artist formerly known as ‘the last thing at stake’): Darius, if I am not mistaken, looking at tiebreaker rules, should the lakers and orl finish with identical records, we would win the tiebreaker due to tiebreaker basis #3, division won/loss record (we are 12-2 in the pacific, orlando is 9-6 in the southeast). this means we are effectively *3* games up with six to play, which means it’s pretty much over. (I welcome others to confirm/correct my reading of the rules.)

    wouldn’t mind seeing some players start to get some rest…

  14. Chownoir (was J) April 3, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Darius,

    I understand what you’re saying and to a large degree I agree BUT, i also understand how frustrated Sasha must feel. Also how it all finally boiled over for him.

    Seems like he’s been playing under a control a lot more about midway through the season but he still can’t get any playing time. He gets yanked for every small infraction meanwhile he sees Jordan and Shannon running around, especially Shannon taking a ton of bad shots and making horrible decisions and Shannon gets a ton of time. Where’s the discipline for him?

    There’s got to be some consistency in the coaching approach too. Obviously if it’s Kobe, then the rest of the players understand he won’t get sanctioned as much. But Shannon and Sasha are both fighting for the same minutes in the same SG spot.

    Seems like Sasha’s been a good soldier for the most part and didn’t complain publicly about his lack of minutes despite playing well in limited duty. But it probably all boiled over finally especially in this past losing stretch and seeing Shannon play really badly but still getting minutes.

    To his credit, Sasha seems to have apologized and made amends with bringing tacos. I don’t pretend to be smarter than Phil, but I have to wonder why Brown gets such a long leash but Sasha doesn’t. Yes, I get that Sasha was shooting horribly all last year. But it still seems weird to me to see the dynamic this year.

  15. lil’ pau, that may not apply since they are not in the same division (or conference!); but I don’t know for sure either.

  16. here’s a link to the tie-break criteria, but it’s still a bit ambiguous in part. it may come down to Hollinger’s favorite: point differential!

    http://espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/matchups

  17. I totally agree with Chownoir (was J) .

    Sasha has made decisions that are Luke-Like (I cant believe I just made a compliment to Luke), starting from the middle of the season. He has taken perhaps 0-2 shots a game, and doing well dumping the ball into the post. In the last few games he saw minutes, he expanded his game, diving into the post for a few easy layups and such. Although Shannon is a better athlete, Sasha has been doing great.

    Does anyone know why Shannon gets free pass for pretending he’s Kobe? He is by far the worst decision maker on the roster (those of you who complain about Fisher’s PUJITs, just look at Shannon). Whenever he’s on the floor without Kobe, he hawks the ball like no other and shoots contested long 2 jumpers. Even Iverson was smart to shoot contested mid-ranged jumpers, instead of ones that are bascially a foot on the 3-point line. Why is it that Brown gets such treatment despite sucking so much? this is simply not fair, and although I know Phil may have his reasons, judging from the outcome, it has not paid dividends AT ALL, and Brown has been HORRIBLE this year. On defense he lost his determination, and on offense he decided that he’s too good to play within the system.

    Even Fisher got an earfull after a quick time-out for making a PUJIT, (a mistake he actually has stopped doing for a while), and Shannon does that 5 times a game without anyone caring. Why is that?

  18. #14. I see that perspective as well. I don’t blame Sasha for being frustrated. I’ve lobbied for him to get more minutes and for his leash to not be as short as it is. That said, his situation is what it is. And if you’re a player that isn’t allowed certain transgressions I think you need to adjust to that. And that means playing your role in the way that you’re asked to and then taking what comes with it. It’s tough, though, for him, I’m sure.

    Also, there is the perspective of how long Sasha’s been with the team and been coached by these coaches. He’s (supposedly) been told what he needs to do, and with him being a veteran, the coaches expect him to do it. This same perspective could be taken with Shannon, but he’s no where near as experienced in this system and it looks like the coaches have given him more rope to make mistakes. I think it’s also clear that, in Shannon’s case, the coaches think his upside is enough that they’re willing to live with some mistakes because the potential for greater results is there. Granted, I’ve been down on Shannon lately, but there was a sequence of plays yesterday where Shannon did his hold-the-ball-then-shoot thing on offense but on the subsequent defensive possession he hustled back on got a blocked shot. I think it’s sequences just like that one where the coaches feel like overall they’re getting more from Shannon than they can get from Sasha. I’m not sure if they’re right or wrong on that, but at this point it’s obvious that they think Shannon is the better player.

  19. Hey Darius,
    Just a question (un-basketball related). Why is it sometimes when I post, the comment is there, and sometimes it says “awaiting moderation”?
    Btw, does your response in #18 apply to my questions in #17 as well?

  20. this is quite odd. division record (as a tiebreaking criterion) is NOT only applicable to teams in the same division as presented here:

    http://www.nba.com/standings/team_record_comparison/conferenceNew_Std_Cnf.html

    in other words, there seems to be a major distinction between the rules as presented on espn.com versus nba.com., the former specifying that division record applies only to teams in the same division, the latter not.

    darius?

  21. Kenny,
    RE Moderation: That is something that the filter for the site does on its own and an aspect of the site that I don’t control. Sometimes it’s based off key words or it can be related to IP addresses…I really don’t know all of the triggers. It’s one of the reasons that I do try to check the site fairly frequently, though. Just to ensure that comments that are being held that need approval can be put through.

    RE Shannon’s long-ish leash: My answer wasn’t speaking to your comment specifically, but I think it does apply. Also, I think we all need to understand that Phil doesn’t have many options with only Shannon or Sasha to choose from. Now, I could be wrong about this, but I think that if Luke were healthy right now and Shannon/Sasha were both playing the way that they currently are that we may have started to see line ups where Ron played some SG with Luke playing SF. I could easily see a line up of Fisher (or Farmar) with Ron, Luke, LO, and Pau (or Bynum). In this line up Luke and LO would be offensive initiators, Ron would be in the “Kobe” role on offense while defensively Luke would be on the weakest offensive wing player and Ron would guard the bigger offensive threat. The fact is, though, that we don’t have those options right now and Phil goes with Shannon over Sasha/Ammo. Even though the coaches seem to like Shannon, I still think that there is a bit of a “lesser of two evils” going on with our rotations right now.

  22. I’d like people to realize that we don’t get to see practices and interact with the coaches daily. Shannon is a more versatile defender than Sasha is, and Sasha is and always has been prone to the 40 foot from the basket foul then complaining.

    His shooting… he is probably the best natural shooter on the team, but that hasn’t translated into the game since his contract year.

    Remember, he was always lauded for making his practice 3s, but in the game it didn’t hit, until his contract year.

  23. OT-Looks like Dennis Johnson finally got elected to the HOF. It’s a travesty he didn’t get elected while he was still alive. The title of the most deserving player not yet elected to the Hall now goes to Jamaal Wilkes and Artis Gilmore (tie), although the argument can be made that it was a three-way tie before DJ got elected.

  24. #20. lil pau,
    Based off this at NBA.com: I interpret rule #2 in the “two teams tied” section to mean that division record is used “only for teams that are in the same division”, so that tie breaker would not apply to a Lakers/Magic series if the teams were to play in the playoffs while finishing with the same record. So, I think we would move on the rule #3 – record versus conference opponents. And, based off this chart, both the Lakers and the Magic have 13 losses against conference opponents. At this point, I think the obvious point is that the Lakers need to win games. If they continue to win, they’ll not only stay in front of Orlando (which renders this point moot), but they’ll also continue to rack up wins against conference opponents which will be the criteria used for tie breaker purposes.

  25. Chownoir (was J) April 3, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Ray,

    I agree about not seeing practices. That’s why I stated I don’t pretend to be smarter than Phil. I’m just puzzled at the situation. But I can’t believe that Shannon isn’t doing the same thing in practices. I actually like Shannon’s game when he sticks with just spot up shooting. I’d love to find stats somewhere contrasting his catch and shoot vs off the dribble. Anecdotally, it seems like his percentage is a lot higher on a catch and shoot especially from the arc.

    Darius,
    Agree about Sasha’s time in the system. I see all that, and I think he has adjusted and was keeping his mouth shut. But I’m sure the losing stretch had everyone on edge. I’m just surprised that Shannon doesn’t at least get the yank and sit down treatment occasionally. Even if it’s quick sub to tell him then put him back in. I’ve been sorely disappointed at Shannon’s development this year. I was rooting for him to be that dependable athletic wing off the bench. I can even live with the inconsistent shooting if he just played more intelligently at times. He really is the epitome of a young player who is in a rush and doesn’t slow down.

    Reminds me of Sasha’s first couple of years actually. Often, Shannon’s mistakes are because he’s going full tilt and not slowing it down by even that half step and understanding the situation.

    As for the lineup with Luke healthy, you’re probably right. I vaguely recall a couple of games where Ron did slide into the SG spot and Luke was in. But I can’t recall when in the season so if it was early and Phil experimenting or later when injuries mounted and it was makeshift.

  26. >we would move on the rule #3 – record versus conference opponents.

    but that doesn’t seem to make sense either, comparing our record in the West to Orlando’s record in the East – that’s what I meant by ‘ambiguous’, after the explicit “(if teams are in the same division)” in the previous rule.

  27. upon further reflection, I guess what I’m saying is that it would make more sense to compare our record against the East to Orlando’s record against the West. sort of. maybe.

  28. Since we’re talking about Orlando, I’ll just repost my comment from a couple of posts ago.

    Right now, all I’m worried about is staying ahead of Orlando in the HCA standings. After winning last night, they’re only 1 game behind us, and their schedule is a cakewalk. They have games against the Wizards, Knicks, Pacers, and Sixers, mixed in with a couple of possible losses @San Antonio and vs. Memphis and a monolithic playoff-preview battle @Cleveland. Comparatively, we have Utah, SAN, Denver, MIN, Portland, SAC, and the Clippers.

    Assuming Orlando beats all their cupcakes, loses to one of SAN and Memphis, and loses to Cleveland, they’ll finish at 58-24, with a conference record of 38-14. We’re currently at 54-21 with a conference record of 32-13. If we tie Orlando in the loss column (meaning three losses), we’ll move on to tie-breakers. However, we split the season series with Orlando 1-1, and three losses to West teams implies our conference record will be worse than Orlando’s, giving the Magic HCA in any potential Finals match-up. Thus, we can afford at most 2 losses in the remainder of the schedule.

  29. Does anybody else hate the bleacher guy? Seems he really doesn’t like the Lakers but somebody forces him to write about them for money.I can’t stand his posts and they’re all over the place.

  30. I’m pretty sure that the next tiebreaker after head-to-head for teams in opposite conferences is YOUR record against the teams in THEIR conference. This is the most logical choice for the next tiebreaker, and the Lakers have this tiebreaker vs Orlando.

  31. Like it or not, the stars get treated nicer than the scrubs. It’s always been that way. Sasha was out-of-line, and it paying the price.

  32. my goodness, the clippers doing a number on the nuggets.

  33. oh man nets raped the hornets!

  34. yes, some interesting results around the L tonight; e.g. the Nets blowing out the Hornets, who, you’ll recall, recently blew out the Lakers. go figure.

  35. anyone else just read the post about bynum not being able to run/jump yet? I’m concerned…

  36. this team can win the west without Andrew. They can’t win the title without him.

    My concern is that he is breakable. He has had more injuries in 3 years then Kobe in his career,

    Don’t rush him back or he might get re-injured. I see a long career of would of could of should of from this guy.

  37. Lebowskiesque Dude: I agree that that would be the most logical…

    …But at the same time, I’m pretty sure that’s not what the rules dictate. It looks like Darius is right and the next tiebreaker (the one that matters) is the absolutely bizarre record vs. teams in one’s OWN conference. fwiw, i completely agree with the posts who argue this is arbitrary.

  38. My take on Phil’s rotation decisions for Brown and Vujacic.

    1. Phil doesn’t care much for Sasha, attitude, personality, basketball IQ, whatever, he’s done with the guy as a regular contributor.

    2. Phil felt early on that Farmar and Brown had good chemistry (and said so at one point). Vujacic and Farmar do not seem to work well together (I am not sure I have ever seen Farmar pass to Vujacic).

    3. Phil committed to Brown this season in hopes he would turn around his career like Ariza did and become a steady contributor.

    4. Rotation-wise, Vujacic plays better with Kobe rather than as his back up. I think Phil sees/hopes Brown could do more to back up Kobe.

    I think on points two and three, time has exposed those as miscalculations on Phil’s part, but he is already committed for this season. He is going to ride Farmar and Brown and see what he’s got.

    As to why Brown is allowed to take so many shots, I have no clue.

  39. ken,

    i’ll agree with you on everything but the contention that they won’t win the championship without him. It will be MORE DIFFICULT to win without Bynum, but I think it is do-able.

  40. Ray,
    Its all about matchups. If the Lakers don’t have to play a team with a legitimate Center than they can win a title without him. Unfortunately Dallas, Cleveland, and Orlando all have true Centers. And the Lakers will run into at least one of those teams in the post season. Its not just the fact that Bynum wouldn’t be playing… its the fact LA doesn’t have a legitimate “rotation” Center (sorry DJ) on the roster besides Andrew to replace him.

  41. Aaron,

    Yes, so it will make it harder, not impossible. Ken says they definitely won’t. We won it with a hobbled Bynum last year and with Gasol d-ing up a pretty good center in the East.

    So saying it wont happen without him is not true. What is true, is that it will be more difficult.

  42. RE: sasha

    Lets not forget that sasha has a history of getting involved in scuffles. i remeber last year he and ariza got into it.

  43. That video of Bogut getting injured is nasty. Before I go more into this I’d like to say my wishes go out to him for being a talented, respectable player that betters this league.

    I remember a while back this season Pau Gasol got a feed quite like Bogut’s and instead of letting go of the rim in which falling at a 270′ degree angle to the floor, he held on to the rim leading to a technical foul. When players gain momentum (especiall big guys) they pose a very serious problem.
    A) They go for the layup and end up in the camera man tripping hazard.
    B)They go for a dunk and end up pulling a Bogut or possibly just as bad, come down on someones shoe and tear a ligamint.
    C) The latter, pull a Pau and get T’d up.

    Get rid of the rule NBA. the day that players are hanging on the rim with one hand and throwing up gang signs with the other or pointing at the opposing bench (or doing this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLpRd8V1M6c&feature=related {40 sec. in}) is the day you should penalize people holding onto the rim. Until then, the only person or group it should bother is the dunker’s team because now he needs to get back to defense while he’s hanging on a rim. It should be reevaluated as a safety issue immediately and if Andrew has a life time Altering injury from this, I’d find the NBA liable for this hazard because of that rule.

  44. I feel bad for the Bucks and Bogut. He was having a career year and they were headed to a possible first round upset of Atlanta or Boston. And it comes to an end because Amare Stoudemire cheapshots him in the back on a break away dunk.

  45. Ok Ray I won’t argue on Easter. But if I were to read my crystal ball Easter Egg it would be very hard-boiled to win aganist Cleveland without a center.

    Going up aganist 300 pound Shaq and a 7 foot 4 inch well rested Russian with Pau (please don’t hurt me) Gasol would be like a small collage in Indiana winning the ahhhhh scratch that.

    Cleveland WILL be in the finals, LaBuff and the NBA will make sure of that. So I ask you, what are Pau’s chances of going up aganist a mad Shaq and a mad Russian?

    Kind of a skinny chicken aganist the giant Easter Egg question!

    Happy purple and gold Easter Egg Day.

  46. cheap shot? it looked like he barely touched him, although i guess when you have two guys that big going that fast a little contact does a lot.

  47. On Sasha and Shannon.

    Trying to guess the NBA coaching decisions is like watching the old Kremlin. But hey I like doing it as much as everyone else, so here is my one cent.

    1. From what I’ve read, Shannon is highly coachable and Sasha is not. That alone would get a player a longer leash.

    2. You can see Shannon has been working on a couple of specific aspects of his triangle game. On arrival, he got his points on fast breaks. Then he added the spot up 3. Then he added the backdoor cuts to the basket. Now he’s been adding a midrange jumper for when teams sag off his drives. You know the one, where he drives into no mans land, hangs the air for five seconds and launches a fadeaway. But I feel confident he wouldn’t jack that shot up unless the coaches were encouraging him to stretch his game. Compare the coaches getting Ariza to launch 3s.

    3. Sasha had been been clearly working on his game. Instead of spotting up for his rushed 3 (if you averaged Sasha and Artest’s glacial release, you’d probably get the perfect shot), he was working on driving to the hoop. He had reduced his truly stupid mistakes. But there are only so many minutes for so many guards…

    4. It is also highly likely that Phil is looking for something, anything to get Sasha out of his shooting funk, so why not try a benching, to reproduce a contract year environment.