Fast Break Thoughts (Literally)

Phillip Barnett —  April 22, 2010

For those of you who have been reading this site for a while, you’ve see the frequent post titled “Fast Break Thoughts,” a segment that Darius usually utilizes to get some random thoughts about the Lakers and other NBA related topics out for you guys to read. Today, however, I’m going to take a more literal sense out of the title, and demonstrate how the Lakers are losing points by not successfully completing fast breaks.

This is something that has bothered me all season and something that has continued into the post season. Below I have four examples of four terribly run fastbreaks with mistakes made by four different guards: Kobe, Fish, Brown and Farmar.

1. Kobe Bryant
This first fast break will begin a trend that you will see throughout all four examples. It begins with a Derek Fisher steal, who immediately advances the ball to Kobe with only Kevin Durant between Kobe/Fisher and the basket. This first picture shows how far away from the basket is when Derek Fisher makes the first pass. Ideally, you’d like to see the ball go right back to Fish to keep the single defender guessing, but as I already stated, this is the beginning of a trend that we’ll see throughout the post. Kobe is going to hold the ball too long, letting Durant only guard one instead of two.


This second picture shows the very last second you want to hold the ball in this situation, but as you can see, Kobe isn’t even in a position to make the pass. He has his eyes on Fish, so you know that he’s going to make that pass, making the recovery for Westbook easier. Kobe’s pass ends up off mark, because he waited long enough for Durant’s long arms to have an affect on his passing lane. Westbrook recovers with his speed, forcing Fish to pump fake, allowing the rest of the Thunder to get back, alter the shot and get the defensive rebound (video of this fast break immediately follows the picture).

2. Jordan Farmar
On this play, Lamar Odom comes up with a steal and makes a sloppy outlet pass to Jordan Farmar who catches the ball at the free throw line. The picture below shows Kobe ahead of him but neglects to show a Thabo Sefolosha who is already back on defense. Jordan Farmar needs to give this ball up early and fly down the wing on the opposite side and let someone else fill middle. This, of course, does not happen.


This picture shows that Sefolosha has committed to not letting Kobe get the ball, forcing Farmar to score or make a decision — pretty much a brilliant play by Sefolosha.

Here we see that Farmar has picked up his dribble at the free throw line at full speed. He needs to shoot or pass the ball at that point (this would have been a perfect time to throw a lob as Kobe has a great angle on the basket and can catch passes easier than coming from other angles). Instead, he continues his drive, gets caught in the air with Sefolosha all over him and is forced to give the ball up to Kobe (finally), but only now all of the Thunder defenders are back on defense.

Here we see Kobe with the ball, with four Thunder defenders within three feet of him and his shot ends up getting blocked (again, video following the picture).

3. Derek Fisher
This break begins with Artest knocking the ball out of Durant’s hands and making a brilliant save on the side line. Fish picks up the ball and immediately takes off on the break. I love this camera angle for this play only. We see Fish look at Kobe at the very last moment moment he should have passed it, but the picture below shows how early he should have passed. This time Westbrook hasn’t committed to any one yet, his back is turned to Kobe, so a pass here would have kept him guessing  — but continuing with our theme, Fish holds the ball too long.


Here we see Fish throwing a lob to a Kobe who had began to slow down. Kobe makes an adjustment just to go up and get the pass, but has to come down with it, giving the rest of the Thunder defender time to recover. Their length bothers him and he misses another close one (video after the picture).

4. Shannon Brown
On this final break, we see it begin by Artest poking another ball away from Durant. This time Brown picks  up the ball and streaks down the right sideline. This first picture shows that Gasol and Kobe had filled the lanes beautifully and were not even being looked at by Westbrook or Collison. Albeit difficult, a pass here to either the trailing Gasol or a pass near the rim to Kobe would have worked beautifully, but…


Brown holds the ball all the way and gets fouled. I have less of a problem with this one because he got the two points, but if you watch Brown’s eyes from the second angle, you see that he’s not even looking to make the right play. His head is forward the whole way, sometimes looking down, completely unaware of what his options are — this is what I have a problem with. Not knowing your surroundings is what creates turnovers, and we saw far too many of those in Game 2 (video following picture).

Hopefully, these guys can put together some decent enough fast breaks during Game 3 to get some easy points, which they’re definitely going to need on the road. I have some links that I want to share, and will a little later if work allows it. If not, share them amongst yourselves if you have any in the comment box.


Phillip Barnett


to Fast Break Thoughts (Literally)

  1. swedishmeatballs April 22, 2010 at 8:24 am

    *lesha (from the last thread)

    You have a point about Kobe’s injury and how that effects his aggressiveness on the break. However, I would like to emphasize that this isn’t something I’ve discovered just lately or even this season. IMO Kobe has been poor at finishing the break for quite some time. Frankly, I consider it to be one of the weaker parts of his game.

    Although I might have been out of line comparing him to Fish in that regard. Fish is in a whole other dimension. As is Ron.

    Now, let me go back and actually read the current post which seems very interesting!


  2. I have to agree with Shanon Brown Not running the fast break very well. Although he may have some huge hands, he lacks ball control to handle the rock during the break. As a finisher on the break, Brown is probably our best option to finish strong at the basket. Lamar also is great on the break but is usually out of position to be involved in the fast break, he is great when he goes coast to coast.


  3. Losing ‘gimme’ points on the fast break is even worse than the 2 (or 3) points not achieved; successful fast break points are often momentum enhancers.
    It’s surprising, and sad, to see how few teams/players really understand how to run the fast break properly, both from not spacing the running lanes properly, and then not understanding when to make the first (or second) pass at the most opportune time. Probably a consequence of the 3-point shot becoming so prevalent. Nowadays the fast break is often run with the ball-handler driving hard into the lane then kicking it out to a trailing teammate standing on the 3-pt line.
    Since the Lakers don’t have very many reliable 3-pt shooters even this fast break option isn’t something the Lakers can take advantage of very well; meaning it’s even more important that they execute the ‘traditional’ break more effectively.
    Good post, Phillip


  4. Shannon probably should have passed the ball, but I do give him credit for being aggressive – something the other three plays lacked.


  5. I know, isn’t this weird? I mean, this is the LAKERS, known for the Showtime era (amongst other’s) but we were the definition of FAST BREAK during that era.
    the Lakers have always been the Gazelles of the league, the finesse team, the team that could score in bunches, and fast! ie; fast break.
    it was just plain weird to hear Stu say in the last game, “the lakers just don’t run the fast break very well”
    just plain weird.


  6. Ray 2 for 10 is not mid-thirties. That’s 20%. I can live with mid thirties in a playoff game.

    I would much rather have Kobe shooting then Fisher who is 27% for two games and Ron who is shooting 26% for two games.

    Between those two they have taken 43 shot which is more then Gasol and Bynam.

    I was on the net with the OKC radio guys last game and after Fish’s 2nd blown fastbreak they said “I’ve seen better fast breaks in our local high school girls team, and to think Fisher is suppose to be a vet”. Enough said there.

    Simple math says if the Lakers want to shoot better put boxing gloves on Ron and Fish so they can’t shoot and let Kobe, Pau and Drew take their 43 shots and we win easy.

    Since I know Phil won’t do that do his man love for Fish then we are left with tonight game.

    OKC by 9 tonight.
    Lakers come back to win game 4 by 1


  7. i believe Shannon only made 1 of 2 FTs off that fast break – considering that Durant had the chance to win it with a 3, that could have been a big deal.


  8. There’s no secret why we are a terrible fast break team – it’s probably the weakest part of both Kobe’s and Fisher’s respective games. And as a basketball purist, it’s incredibly frustrating to watch this team continually not take advantage of the easiest scoring opportunities.

    I think it starts with Fisher – he is probably the worst transition PG in the league, and pretty much has been since he joined the league. He simply has no instinct for it. He never makes the right pass at the right time, so he can never properly run a 2-on-1 or 3-on-2. So this means that his first instinct is just to give up the ball right away, too early. You never see Kidd or Nash or any other elite transition point give up the ball as early as Fisher does. And worse, he can’t finish either, so whoever he passes the ball to is going to be loathe to give it back to him. I think that’s why he loves the PUJIT so much, because that’s the only thing he can do moderately well in transition.

    And Kobe’s not much better. I’m trying to think if I have *ever* seen him fill the lane in a successfully completed 2-on-1 fast break, and I honestly can’t remember him ever doing so. (Not saying it has never happened, just that it happens so infrequently that I can’t think of any off the top of my head). Now, certainly, part of it must have to do with the fact that the vast majority of his career has been played with Fish as his primary backcourt running mate, so he was never going to get the pass anyway, but otherwise it has me stumped. Kobe is a fine one-man break (or was until the latter half of this year), but get him in a 2-man situation and he generally makes the wrong decision. He takes the wrong angle to the basket (straight on, instead of coming at it from the side) and holds the ball too long.

    One would think Farmar would be better, since he actually does have innate PG instincts, and he is, slightly. But as that video shows, something about backing up Fish for 2 years has apparently robbed him of some of those instincts, as he takes too shallow of an angle and doesn’t achieve proper spacing between he and the lane-filler so that when the defender has to commit, he leaves one or the other wide open.

    And as for Shan-Wow – maybe one of the best transition finishers in the league, but you don’t want him in charge of running the break either, as his lack of handles and PG instincts generally have him make poor transition decisions too.

    I really think that our poor transition game is the one major flaw of the triangle not employing a traditional point guard, as it seems to rob our guards of the skill set and practice they need to properly run it. And even players who showed in college that they could properly execute a 2-on-1 are unable to do so after a couple of years in the system.

    It’s sad, but I think the two best players we have at running the break are our power forwards – Pau and Lamar have shown the ability to make the right decision nearly every time in those limited instances where they find themselves with the ball in their hands and teammates filling the lane.


  9. ken,

    yah, sorry about the math. i dont know what happened there.

    but your idea that ron and fish just not shoot makes the other team just play 5 v 3 when the lakers have the ball. So I don’t know how we’ll win easily if that happens.


  10. WOW, Phil. FANTASTIC post. Huge applause…that’s something that’s been bugging the heck out of me, and you broke it all down beautifully. I just have a few follow up comments about each guard:

    1) I don’t put as much of the onus on Kobe as I do on Fish in example 1. When Kobe runs the break with Shannon, Farmar, Odom, or Pau, he always does it well. Have him run it with a slow guy who can’t finish (or even get to the right spot), and you get the disaster you see in example one.

    You have to take into account the guys out there. Kobe has been playing with Fish forever…he knows his limitations. Giving the ball up to Fish early would mean Fish would try to take it himself all the way and get swatted. Kobe tried to mitigate this by passing it to him when he was closer to the rim. Didn’t work.

    2) This is one of Farmar’s many weaknesses as a point guard: he’s not a good passer. He doesn’t have passer instincts, really, at all. When Farmar gets out on the break, unless there’s a guy way in front of him, he’s taking it himself.

    3) Derek Fisher is, literally, the WORST PLAYER IN THE NBA AT RUNNING A FAST BREAK. That’s right, WORST PLAYER. Not worst point guard, or worst guard. THE WORST PLAYER.

    4) Shannon, as we’ve all learned, is a small forward, he’s not a guard. Passing is always his last resort…but this is mitigated by the fact that he’s such an excellent finisher. Just because of that fact, he’s better on the break than Farmar or Fisher. Farmar or Fisher get swatted, Shannon gets a foul.

    BOTTOM LINE: Fisher should not be running any fast breaks. Off a steal, he should be passing it to the closest guy as soon as possible. Even if it’s DJ Mbenga.

    That’s right, even DJ Mbenga would have more success on a fast break than Fish, because at least Mbenga is taller.

    This is not opinion.

    It’s fact.


  11. By the way, what are all of you guys smoking with your “Kobe biggest weakness is the fast break” talk?


    I’ll give you this: Kobe, with a bum ankle, a bad knee, and having to run alongside Derek Fisher isn’t especially fantastic on the break, but Kidd or Nash couldn’t pull that off, either.

    Kobe is just fine on the break when he’s running with a competent guy.

    A play that gets lost during Game 4 of the Finals last year is the beautifully run fast break that Kobe ran with Gasol at the end of the game to bring the Lakers within three so Derek Fisher could knock down the three pointer to tie the game (a shot he finally made after missing his first 7 attempts…so really, just the law of averages).

    The break Kobe ran with Pau was a thing of beauty, and it was a 2 on 3. Kidd or Nash couldn’t have run it better.

    And Kobe pre-leg ailments was one of the best one-man fast breaks in the league. He always took it himself, and he ALWAYS scored.

    Kobe is perfectly fine on the break. Put down the pipe.


  12. Fantastic post, Phillip. Nothing frustrated me in Game 2 like our blown fastbreaks, but I was pinning it all on mediocre finishing ability. This post really shows that the flaws began in the decision-making.


  13. I think this all comes back to something that was bieng discussed here in middle of the season. The Lakers for what ever reason are just not a good passing team. It’s especialy weird since they were among the best in the league the 2 seasons before, with almost the same personnel. Our bigs are above average, but the guards are just really not good (outside of Kobe).

    If you notice, there will be a few instances each game where one of the perimeter players will get stuck with ball with about 10 seconds left on the clock. If he doesn’t have someone open to pass it to, he will dribble enlessly until the clock winds down and shoot a contested jump shot. It’s the inability of many of our guards to create some kind offense for the rest of the team out the triangle that pops out at me.

    You can say it’s poor spacing or cutting, but with 10 seconds left on the shot clock, there’s plenty of time to get rid of the ball and get something better out of the possesion. I just think collectively our guards are poor passers.


  14. Game 2:
    Fisher -12
    Farmar +10
    Brown +11

    hmmmmmmm????? Down 2 Fisher fouls out with 3 minutes left…. turned the game around right away when Brown replaced him at PG. Reminds me of when Fish was suspended in the Houston series.


  15. dave in hillsboro April 22, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Nice post.

    But I have to reiterate a point I made in an earlier thread. These missed opportunities can’t always be pinned on one guy. There are multiple mistakes by multiple players.

    The guards need to make better decisions–like passing to the big man who ran the floor. And the Lakers need to get at least one big to trail the break, to catch a pass for an easier dunk or at least to help with cleanup if something goes awry. Getting the bigs out in transition makes it easier for the guards to decide what to do. Granted, Kobe arguably made the wrong choice in the first example when he threw the ball to Fish for a layup instead of a trailing Gasol, and then Fish made the mistake of not hitting Gasol with a quick pass under the basket, but at least Gasol presented that option. When a big runs the floor that hard, as Gasol did in the first example, the guards simply have to reward him. And yet, in one of the other clips Gasol didn’t run at all, and in another clip Odom started running, but then just stopped. Those guys need to run the floor, and that’s as much about effort as it is about awareness that a fast break opportunity has presented itself.

    Also, one of the things the Lakers need to do better is to know when the opportunity presented by a fast break has passed, and then pull the ball out and set up the offense. Of course, that’s harder to do when you have three guys still on the other end of the floor, which is why guys need to be aware when those opportunities present themselves and do everything they can to help take advantage. I’d rather see the Lakers start a set with 20 seconds on the shot clock and with guys not all the way back on offense, than have Kobe try to go one on five under the hoop, especially against a team that led the league in shot blocking.

    At the same time, each of these examples shows the same thing–OKC plays good transition defense. Give credit where it’s due. They get everyone back on defense in a hurry.


  16. RE: 15


    This is not hard math to do.

    It’s one thing to stick with an aging superstar.

    It’s another thing to stick with an aging role player who doesn’t realize he’s a role player.


  17. Ray. I know was kinda kiding. Beside if Ron and Fish came wearing boxing gloves it would send a bad message.

    Thank you for post on Fisher being the worst. Restore my faith.

    Gee I can’t decide if I want us to be proven right about Fish or wrong. Maybe if he just plays 20 minutes we all win.


  18. Great breakdown Phillip.

    The Lakers are good fastbreaking team when they have the right personnel on the break. As has been noted Fisher is not a finisher on the break, our other guards (Farmar and Brown, with Fish included) aren’t the best decision makers in the open court, and we don’t have athletic wings that fill lanes in the way that other teams do (or like we had last season with Ariza). That means that our big men are our best options as finishers on the break and we don’t exactly have Karl Malone in in our front court. What I mean is that while Gasol, Bynum, and Odom are capable of getting up court, they’re not the guys that rebound the ball turn and run (though Odom is a player that can rebound and run the break himself).


  19. Re: Darius’ Game Recaps

    Continuing on from prior thread…

    I agree with Ken. Darius knows his basketball and does such a great job here but he will continue to get an incomplete grade from me on game recaps if he keeps ignoring the Lakers biggest weakness after every game. Especially with Brown and Farmar outplaying Fisher in yet another playoff series. It is not an excuse that “Fisher is bad almost every game so why bring it up?” That is like saying not to bring up another Kobe great game because he is Kobe and he is always great. Again… I couldn’t respect Darius anymore… but nobody is perfect.

    That is very easy for me. I would want nothing more than to have Fisher prove me wrong, get hot in the playoffs and be an average PG. Because it looks like he is going to continue to play 40 minutes a night (why is that happening?) and I want the Lakers to win. Very easy question for me. Plus I am not wrong often so it would be a nice change of pace 😉


  20. If Kareem can help Bynum on his post game, and Kobe can have a private session with Olajuwon, how about getting part owner Magic Johnson hosting a few clinics on running the break during the offseason? I think it was in When the Game Was Ours where Magic kind of sadly says that the young players don’t use his knowledge enough, so it seems Magic would be willing to help out.


  21. aaron:

    game 1: Fisher +10
    Brown -5
    Farmar +2

    But I’m sure his +10 was more about the other people on the floor with him. And his -12 was his incompetence and had nothing to do with the people around him. .


  22. I am not sure why all of our guards developed sticky fingers since winning the championship last year, but there you have it…

    The ball finds the basket easier the more you move it around.

    How do you play professional ball and manage to forget that?


  23. Ray,
    Thats the thing… Fisher is always playing with Kobe next to him at guard and Artest at Sf with a combination of Bynum/Odom/Gasol at PF and Center. When Farmar and Brown are in the game they are usually playing with each other with some Luke Walton sprinkled in at Sf. Do you think it could effect plus/minus not having Kobe on the floor? Through it all in this series Brown and Farmar still have a better plus/minus than the Lakers starting PG. Compare Fisher’s plus/minus with the four other starters…. you guessed it, he is dead last. Just like in the regular season. How about a bigger sample size? Well… put the starters with all three different Lakers PG’s? Predictably the lineup with Fisher at PG had the worst plus/minus well behind the lineup with Brown and the lineup with Farmar. But as Vin Scully likes to say “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” So those stats all might mean nothing more than a big steaming pile of…

    But then again, we can just watch the game with our own eyes and Fisher fails the eye ball test too. But he always passes the Phil Jackson test. And thats what matters.


  24. We start Derek Fisher. And we do it because the alternatives suck.

    That pretty much means we’re not going to be great at fast breaking, stretching the floor, or guarding small speedsters.

    Accepting it is for the best.


  25. Excellent post about the fast break problems. Hopefully these mistakes were pointed out during the film session and will lead to better decisions on the fast break.


  26. Definitely agree Phillip,

    That was bugging all of LA.

    You have to give credit to OKC, they are outmatched talent wise, so they make up with hustle and energy. If you look at all of those fast break fiascoes, 4 players are running full speed to contest and make a play. Just great effort and commitment, two cornerstones for great defense.

    Can we please submit videos of Showtime to the Lakers?

    If there isn’t an easy layup, how about slowing it down and setting up the offense?


  27. 20, look at what ray quoted. You see only what you want to see. And that’s why Darius never takes what you say seriously, because you are completely ignorant of diverse perspectives.


  28. Zephid,

    Thats the thing… Fisher is always playing with Kobe next to him at guard and Artest at Sf with a combination of Bynum/Odom/Gasol at PF and Center. When Farmar and Brown are in the game they are usually playing with each other with some Luke Walton sprinkled in at Sf. Do you think it could effect plus/minus not having Kobe on the floor? Through it all it is almost surprising that still in this series Brown and Farmar still have a better plus/minus than the Lakers starting PG. Compare Fisher’s plus/minus with the four other starters…. you guessed it, he is dead last. Just like in the regular season. How about a bigger sample size? Well… put the starters with all three different Lakers PG’s? Predictably the lineup with Fisher at PG had the worst plus/minus well behind the lineup with Brown and the lineup with Farmar. But as Vin Scully likes to say “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” So those stats all might mean nothing more than a big steaming pile of… So yes all the numbers that say Fisher is the Lakers worst PG. Shooting stats, defensive stats etc. And they all could be wrong. All the plus/minus stats could be wrong also. I could be wrong. But to pretend that stats don’t exist is undeniably wrong as well.

    But then again, we can just watch the game with our own eyes and Fisher fails the eye ball test too. But he always passes the Phil Jackson test. And thats what matters.


  29. Great fastbreak breakdown Post, Phillip. This is why I come here, for this type of analysis from people that know what they are talking about. I really like it when LO gets the rebound and then takes it to the hoop blowing by everybody on the floor (from both teams) for an easy 2, that is fastbreak basketball in my book. You should share this Post with the Laker staff…


  30. Zephid (28),
    Wow… someone woke up on the wrong side of Derek Fisher this morning. My perspectives for your information are completely diverse with ignorance.

    Kidding aside, I think my record on this site speaks for itself. But I think I have earned a little more respect than that. I will accept flowers or a card.


  31. I was most disappointed by the #3 example. Artest had a nice between-the-legs save that should have resulted in two points.

    In the #4 example, while I agree that Brown didn’t even consider his teammates, I thought it was the right play. Brown was clearly the fastest and he practically outran everyone else. That play was going to result in either a dunk or a foul.


  32. I don’t want this to come off as anything but respectful, but I’ll write what *I think* impacted the game. IMO, there is no Laker that is a sacred cow. But, Fisher is the easy scape goat. He’s been playing poorly, but the game often comes down to more than what Fisher does or does not do. In game 2, I wrote what I thought impacted the game and what determined the outcome. Also, I think that those that have fallen in love with only seeing the negative in Fisher will never be appeased until he’s gone, benched, no longer a Laker, etc. And then, I have a sneaky suspicion that their ire will shift to their next whipping boy. This is nothing new for this franchise or this fan base. We could have 15 Lebrons, and the one that missed FT’s or over passed would catch flack for being weak minded and a choker.


  33. Darius,
    Just to clarify… you are saying that you write what you think impacted the game. So you didn’t think Derek Fisher being off the floor impacted the game? With him off the floor the Lakers were a plus 17 and with him on the floor they were a minus 14 in reality (Fisher fouled Westbrook to the line and made two ft’s with Derek technically off the floor fouling out). I am just confused as to why you didn’t think Fisher was one of the biggest Laker impact players in the game. But I am confused often so it might just be me.


  34. A bit off topic, but a good read on ESPN today about Powell. I learned a lot about our “third-captain.”

    Didn’t his wife have a baby during a playoff game last year (or two years ago) as well? He’s gotta get his timing down better!


  35. I think this was mentioned here a while ago, but Fisher would be a great player/coach for the Lakers. He does know the game of basketball, and does do the little things that help the team out, like hard picks taking the opponent down, here and there, a show of toughness I guess you would call it. Then the Lakers would get both benefits with his salary, kind of like money saving in a way, you know, a coach and the 13th man on the squad all at the same time. Make sure is is in the game for that dagger 3 that might be needed in the last seconds.

    Anyway, I am looking forward to tonights game, lets go Lakers…


  36. Classic prototypical “FB&G analysis” post. That’s why folks like me come ’round here. Thanks.


  37. BTW, a little bit of a delay with the game preview today. It will be up soon(ish). Thanks.


  38. WRT Fisher:

    The Lakers have many strengths and four specific weaknesses:

    1. team age, quickness and mileage
    2. lack of 3pt/long range shooting
    3. lack of a bench
    4. lack of a great passer

    1 and 4 both contributed very heavily to the botched fast breaks above.

    Fisher, or, rather, Jackson’s decision to keep playing him, is partly repsonsible for all of these. I have said several times that given the Lakers’ personnel and how he fits in to the team as a whole, Fisher should still play some–maybe 12-15 minutes a game. But the fact is that if he is not knocking down jumpers and 3s at a reasonable rate–and he hasn’t been doing so all year–he is not bringing much to the table. I understand the argument about “fitting the system” but there is a line between “fitting the system” and “basic playing skills” and Fisher, even given the options behind him, is now on the wrong side of that line just enough that his minutes should have been cut.

    As to whether people “should” talk about it every day, that goes back to something I posted about a month ago: one’s angle on the team. The angle of the guys who run the site has always essentially been the coaching angle. Here, for example, we have a thread that breaks down game tape. And that angle means you focus on the guys you are using and how they can execute better. The other angle, is more or less, the GM’s angle, which focuses on personnel acquisition. The overlap between the two is deployment of personnel. Hence, the arguments. Both perspectives are needed to make the site its best.


  39. 39,
    You are right. What an amazing comment RobinRed. This site is more about X’s and 0’s and it should be. Part of X’s and O’s are about who the X’s and O’s are i.e. who is on the floor. That is part of strategy. And you are also right that talking about “it” every day gets a little annoying and boring. At the same time ignoring “it” as Darius does in game recaps I think is somewhat irresponsible journalism. There has to be a happy medium to be found.


  40. Darius,

    I respect your opinion a great deal and read your site on a regular basis but I do believe you go light of Fisher. I think the issue with Fisher he does not play within himself and does not recognize his limitations. I think he should perhaps learn from both Ron Harper and Brian Shaw when they played on the championship teams when both of them played within their limits and played to their strengths rather than weaknesses. ,

    Kelley Dwyer in his behind the box scores criticizes Fisher on a regular basis. Please find a link to yesterdays behind the boxscore which was from game 2. He has devoted three paragraphs to Fisher.,235715#remaining-content


  41. And you are also right that talking about “it” every day gets a little annoying and boring.


    Well, I talked about this a month or so ago as well. What we have here is group of hardcore fans that talk about the Lakers literally every day, multiple times a day. So, some things being repeated is inevitable. We should all try not to be too annoyed with each other, IMO. 😉

    Watching the breakdown above–which is quite good–what I saw is the limitations of our guys. No one on the roster, other than Walton and maybe Gasol, has great court vision or is an instinctive passer. Certainly, the coaching staff can work on these things and marginal improvements may occur, but for the most part our guys are who they are at this point, with the possible exception of Bynum, who could, if his body allows it, take another step forward.


  42. A little off topic.

    Not sure if this has bee discussed or not. Darius, isn’t Kobe posting up, while Pau and Drew are on the court, futile. There’s no spacing, the opponents can just pack the paint, and the opposite would be true if either Pau or Drew were the ones posting up.


  43. Btw… as one of the people that are coming across as complaining about this one thing about Darius I feel i again have to say that if this is the only thing Darius isn’t doing right he is doing one heck of a job. And he is doing one heck of a great job with this site. And I understand why Darius would start protecting Fisher a little with so many calling for his head the entire season. That is only human nature. I wanted to thank Darius one more time for putting in a lot of work here and seeing it pay such tremendous dividends. You really are a fantastic basketball mind.


  44. I just recently started reading Dwyer, and he has a lot of plusses, but he is a bit too much like Simmons, with the off-the-cuff character judgments and the faux mind-reading, for my taste.

    I don’t really have a problem, in a sense, with Fisher shooting some times. If he is out there, I assume he expects to succeed, particularly with his clutch rep. The problem is, like I said, he is not knocking enough of them down anymore. Last year, his 3P% was 39.7 and his TS% as per Basketball Reference was 54.6. This year those numbers were down to 34.8 and 49.9, both rates below Farmar’s. Fisher’s TO rate was up, from 8.7 to 11.2, as well.

    Numbers are not everything, and I think that Fisher’s understanding of what Jackson wants him to do within the system counts for something. But the Lakers need a guy in that spot who can hurt the opponent when left alone on the perimeter. Fisher has not been doing so often enough. And I don’t think he is making that up on defense.


  45. Just as an added note on the Fisher debate, let’s talk solutions:

    Everyone keeps saying “Well, Farmar and Brown aren’t any better,” but I don’t buy that.

    It all depends on who you’re on the floor with and how many minutes you play, as Aaron alluded to.

    Remember how Farmar played against Houston in Game 4?

    Look, Farmar drives me insane with his decision making and lazy defense, but that’s because he’s mentally frustrated. He knows he’s playing behind the worst point guard in the NBA (not worst starting point guard, WORST POINT GUARD), and for some bizarre reason, can’t get any extended burn.

    So Farmar comes out, plays disinterested defense, and “goes for his” to try to keep his scoring up.

    What do you think his attitude would be if Phil said to him before the game, “You’re starting, and you’ll be playing 30 to 35 minutes?”

    You don’t think he’d focus and work his tail off?

    You don’t think he’d relax and not be so worried about scoring?

    You don’t think he’d work harder on defense, with the additional responsibility that comes with playing big minutes?

    Can’t the same be said for Shannon?

    “Well, Fish is still the best option” is a myth.

    Give Shannon and/or Farmar some extended run with the starters, THEN decide if “Fish is still the best option.”


  46. @ 46

    I noted last spring, as others have, that we can question Jackson’s ability to work with young guys. And the bench is, basically, Bynum, Farmar, Brown, Walton and Vujacic–4 young guys + Walton. Yes, Bynum starts, but since Odom finishes, Bynum is IMO in truth the real sixth man.

    The counter-argument about Jackson and young players, is the team won the 2009 title, which moves the discussion to a different level, but even a guy with 10 rings has faults.

    Also, Farmar’s contract is up, so I think that adds to what you are describing. So, yes, I think the team would be better off had Fisher “pulled a Walton” and stepped back or if Jackson had made the switch. But it is not going to happen now, nor is Jackson going to change the distribution of minutes. Fisher is going to go 30 and will be on the floor at the end of the game for the Lakers’ last game, whether that game is a win or a loss.


  47. Such a great post! It resparked my childhood love for picture books.

    Example #3: That really pissed me off when Kobe and Fish didn’t convert after Ron had that Rodman like hustle play. I remember seeing a still frame of Rodman on the Piston in air, parallel to the ground saving a ball out of bounds. What a blessing both of these guys now have suited up in Laker uniforms (even for the short amount of time Rodman did).


  48. Aaron,

    I bring up your Fisher stats from game 1 to contradict your game 2 stats. Then you bring up that Fisher gets more playing time with Kobe and the other starters, but that seems to only be when Fisher has a negative +/-. Then you bring up that Fisher also has a lot more minutes with the starters. So maybe his large amount of time (overall minutes) is why he has a lower +/- than Farmar or Brown. Your reasoning that Farmar or Brown would be better with Fisher’s minutes is only an assumption.

    Also, Fisher fails the eyeball test. So does Farmar. So does Brown. They don’t do it as much because they are not on the floor as much.

    Do I think Fisher could be playing better? Yes. Do I wish that Fisher makes more of his shots? Yes. Do I think that his play is why we only won the game by 2 points? No. Do I think that him being out of the game when he fouled out was the reason we won the game? No.

    You know what our biggest weakness is this year? It isn’t Fisher. It’s an inability to run the offense and take advantage of our post guys. Is that Fisher’s fault? yes, but not solely. It’s everyone’s fault.

    Here’s a quote from the What I don’t understand is why the Lakers refuse to pound the ball down low…or to accurately run the triangle offense and punish the Thunder inside. As bad as the Thunder’s offense has been, and don’t get me wrong, it’s been absolutely abysmal thus far, the Lakers has been just a few shots better. Like you said, I don’t think there’s any way the Thunder are winning this series. They’re just not there yet but you know what, they’re a lot closer than maybe any of us thought.”

    So that’s my counter argument. There are bigger things in the game. And what bothers me about your Fisher stand is the arrogance that you would know better than Phil Jackson about what to do.


  49. There is a glaring problem with being a fan, and an armchair coach.

    That problem is that we don’t see the VAST majority of work that goes into being a professional athlete. We don’t get to see the practices, and the film studies, and the team meetings, and the workouts, and the coach’s meetings.

    The assumption that players start, get minutes, get the green light in crunch time, etc, based on game performance alone is an obviously false one.

    An NBA basketball player will get only 82 regular season games to use as opportunities. That is 3,936 minutes to show that you can do the job.

    The NBA regular season lasts 170 calendar days. For the sake of argument, let’s say that most players average six hours of work per day. Practices, film, meetings, time on the plane, shoot-arounds, etc. That’s 61,200 minutes to impress the coaches that you can do the job.

    Now, based on Fisher’s results on the floor I must assume that whatever Farmar, Brown, and Vujacic are doing in the work time in between must be fairly unspectacular, or they would get more time in the game.

    In short, yeah, maybe one of the young guns hits more shots in game (although, not a lot more, the splits for the year are not that big), but if in every practice they continue to blow coverages, or loaf, or show attitude problems, or whatever else they are doing wrong, why go away from a veteran player who HAS done the job, and done it well enough to win the championship four times?

    If you want to be the champ, you have to knock the champ out.

    In my opinion Phil Jackson is a lot of things but stupid is not one of them.


  50. @46,
    You’re making a good point. However, I suspect that the coaching staff may be thinking that Farmar should already be doing all the things you mentioned, and that’s how he’ll earn minutes. That’s been their approach consistently for years now, and the reason they speak well of Powell and Mbenga (and I suspect a contributing factor to re-signing them as quickly as they did after last year) is because they are consistently focused, working hard, and never say a word of complaint.

    I agree, I do think that if Farmar was given consistent minutes and more of them, he would start to play a lot better. However, I can’t help feeling that with his age and experience we shouldn’t have to “bribe” him.


  51. You know what our biggest weakness is this year? It isn’t Fisher. It’s an inability to run the offense and take advantage of our post guys. Is that Fisher’s fault? yes, but not solely. It’s everyone’s fault.


    And one reason for this is that no one can hit a jumper or a 3. Bryant, Odom, and Artest all need to be on the floor for many reasons even if they can’t hit from deep. Gasol and Bynum are post players. It is a big part of the “point guard’s” job description on this team to be able to spread the floor by being a threat from distance. No one on the team can really do that, but Fisher is the guy who gets the most minutes trying. Given the other flaws in his game, fewer minutes would seem to be in order.

    And yes, the Lakers need to work the ball into the blocks more, but people don’t seem to realize that the other teams are aware of this, and are aware of the Lakers’ lack of a pure shooter, so they can pack the paint. This makes it harder to make entry passes–particularly for a team that lacks a classic passer.

    It all fits together–but Fisher is the weakest link in the chain.


  52. Ray
    * My thinking Brown/Farmar would do more with Fisher’s minutes IS an assumption, you are right. Exactly like I assume I would enjoy making love to Meagan Fox

    * Fisher fails the eye ball test significantly more than Brown/Farmar. There are degrees.

    * You don’t think Fisher is the main reason we only won by two points? Plus 17 with him off the floor and -14 with him on the floor says you might want to question that thinking.

    * Our biggest weakness this year isn’t Fisher? I don’t think I even need to come up with a counter argument for that one.

    * And to hit on your last point… Phil Jackson is the best coach in NBA history. But he isn’t perfect. What if Luke Walton didn’t bench himself last year? The man is a great coach but he isn’t God.


  53. 31, your absolutist attitude is what prevents me from respecting you. If you respected others and the tentativeness of all the analysis we do around here, it would be easier for me to respect your ideas. Sadly, you have yet to understand this, so you have not earned my respect.


  54. I definitely think Fisher needs to be replaced sooner than later. But the incessant nitpicking of Fisher’s faults will not change PJ’s mind, and his opinion is the only one that matters anyway. Please do continue to talk about Fisher, but do it with broader perspective and balanced stance. If he is indeed the worst pg in the league, we should laud him for doing anything well since he sucks at everything. Im just saying that whether you like it or not he’s our starting pg for the rest of the year.

    Delving deeper into our fast breaking woes, I can’t help but notice that they lack the basic understanding of fast breaks in general. The reason for Magic’s success as the best fastbreak leading guard was due to the fact that he was such a great finisher himself. When Magic lead fast breaks, the defenders had to respect him finishing, so they would make the committment to stop him before they are near the hoop. With Fisher he has no such skill. He needs to be on the left side so he can finish strong with his left away from defender, but even then his lack of athleticism can lead to getting his layup blocked. Also, he doesn’t have that instinctive rhythm to deliver the pass at the right time so that the wingman can just go up and dunk or lay in without having to dribble he ball. Kobe, Shannon, and Farmar almost always take the worst angle or goes too fast. The lane fillers have to be running insync with the ball handler to create passing angles-meaning you can’t be too fast or too slow. Our guards tend to go too far ahead often leaving alley oop as the only option. Clearly, Brown excels at this but Kobe and Farmar haven’t been as reliable. Finally, Fisher’s greatest problem is that he’s not a great passer nor have great court vision. Brown also falls into the same category. Kobe and Farmar are better but their natural tendency or preference is scoring not passing. As others have said Pau and LO are the ones that possess he skills and qualities to be the most effective leaders in fastbreaks.

    We’re not the Showtime nor the Lake Show Lakers now. We’re below average at fastbreaks now die to the fact that we’ve lost Ariza and aged rapidly in the last couple of seasons. Our best hopes of fastbreaks are now LO led ones or Brown finishing on breakaways.


  55. That’s been their approach consistently for years now, and the reason they speak well of Powell and Mbenga (and I suspect a contributing factor to re-signing them as quickly as they did after last year) is because they are consistently focused, working hard, and never say a word of complaint.

    I agree, I do think that if Farmar was given consistent minutes and more of them, he would start to play a lot better. However, I can’t help feeling that with his age and experience we shouldn’t have to “bribe” him.

    That may be the attitude of the staff, and, if so, it would indicate that Jackson does in fact have a problem working with young players. The NBA is not an electrician’s union; seniority should not come into play. Powell and Mbenga may have great attitudes, but they still sit because the players in front of them are far more effective than they are on the “94 by 47 hunk of wood” as the great Chick Hearn used to say. The issue is whether Farmar will help the team to win more basketball games than Fisher will, given 30 minutes on the floor a game. If Jackson thinks the answer is “no”, so be it; but if he thinks it’s “Yes, but Farmar has to act a certain way first before I will play him” then I disagree with that approach. As Hollinger said “Everyone loves Fisher the man, but Fisher the player is killing them.”


  56. Jackson not being able to work with young players is a myth. People don’t give him credit for helping to develop Kobe or Fisher or Pippen or Grant (who were all within 4 years of pro experience when he started coaching them and have 18 championship rings between them) or Bynum (that credit goes to Kareem or Rambis) nor do they give Phil credit for getting the most out of guys like Smush or Kwame (who were also “young” players whose only serviceable years in the NBA were under Jackson). He doesn’t get credit for helping to develop Luke Walton or Turiaf or Ariza (all second round picks that are now serviceable role players in this league). Instead we look at Jordan Farmar or Brian Cook or Medvedenko or Sasha (who, actually, had a key role on a Finals team) and say he can’t do it. Isn’t that pretty selective on the part of the critics? “Okay, lets create a theory. Let’s not give credit for the development of players that we *think* would have developed under anyone, and then assign blame for the non development of other players.” Isn’t that what is going on here? Shouldn’t we also point out that the young players that Phil has worked with have often been late first round or second round prospects? How many coaches could get what he’s gotten out of the players that I’ve listed that aren’t the stars? Popovich? Riley? Surely not Larry Brown who is has a reputation for burying young players even more so than Phil. It’s a myth. An old wives tale to create a chink in the armor of an all timer. It’s the other side of the same criticism coin that says he can’t win without the best players. That’s a false one too.


  57. It’s the other side of the same criticism coin that says he can’t win without the best players.

    Show me a coach who can win championships without having great players on his team, and I’ll show you a flying pink unicorn…

    …is what I usually say to that. 🙂


  58. It’s a myth.


    Now who’s being absolutist? 😉

    Also, I know you have tremendous admiration for Phil Jackson, but that does not make him perfect. You make good points, but you are being selective as well.

    First, it may be, as is often the case, that his ability to connect with young players has declined as he has aged. Grant and Pippen are examples from 20 years ago. Other young guys on the Bulls–Hopson, Sellers, King–got run out of town by Jordan. Phil stuck with John Paxson for a long time after many thought he should’ve switched to BJ Armstrong (sound familiar?)

    Second, as far as Parker and Kwame Brown, what happened there was Jackson had to play them since he had no alternatives. He famously called Brown a “pusssy” and of course got rid of Parker to replace him with a vet.

    Third, Turiaf was a very mature guy with a great attitude. Walton is the son of a guy with a phenomenal basketball IQ–who stepped down on his own so Phil would play Ariza.

    And yes, Vujacic helped the 2008 team. But how is he doing now? How did he do last year? And many here have commented on issues with Phil’s handling of Bynum and Farmar.

    I really don’t know if Jackson has an issue working with young guys, but there is some evidence that indicates it might be true.


  59. #60. I know what you mean – and I shouldn’t have been so firm. However, you’re playing into the points that I was making about this argument against Phil – you gave individual credit to players like Walton and Turiaf and then don’t go into any of the detractions for players like Sellers and King (who were bad players, btw). I know that mentioned that I may have been selective in the players that I chose, but this argument is selective by nature. No one’s record is going to be perfect in any endeavor. It’s often cited that Joe Dumars is a great GM and the moves he made to build the 2004 title team are the evidence. And, I buy into that. However, if I wanted to say “Joe Dumars is a terrible GM” I could say “he passed on ‘Melo and Bosh and Wade for Darko”, he traded Chauncey, he signed Gordon and Charlie V to huge contracts. Both arguments are right.

    So, I came off as too strong and this is more nuanced than what I stated at first. But, I still think it’s a myth. People claim that he can’t do it, that he hasn’t done it, and that he struggles with it. To me, there’s too much evidence against that to make those claims. Is he the best? I don’t think so, but I’m not saying he’s the best. I’m just saying that he’s not bad at it. To me, that’s a low bar to clear, he clears it, and hence my absolutist stance.


  60. Aaron,

    I never said he was a god. But he has a damn good track record.

    And just for the record: saying that you are always right doesn’t make you a god either.


  61. It’s impressive that someone can look at this (very well done) review of four Laker fast breaks with mistakes by four different Laker players and see it as a referendum on Derek Fisher. Don’t ever let it be said trolling isn’t a skill. Of course, half of it is just pasted from the last thread (and is already pasted into the next thread), so maybe it isn’t much of a skill. (It’s also a perfect example of why this site has become so frustrating.)

    I thought this was a heart-breaking sequence to watch, since I think Kobe would have found a way to finish on the first two as recently as last year. (Farmer and Brown still would have blown off the passes. The only saving grace was Collison’s decision to make a clean play on Brown.)


  62. Aaron @ 29 – Fisher is being dragged down by the inferior personnel surrounding him, actually. Why don’t you see this??

    Also, I don’t like the sound of this quote of yours: “When Farmar and Brown are in the game they are usually playing with each other …”