Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  September 10, 2010

Jun. 03, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - epa02186398 Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol of Spain goes to the basket for two points as Boston Celtics' Glen Davis defends during the second half of game one of the NBA Finals at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA 03 June 2010. This is the 12th time that the 17 time champion Boston Celtics and the 15 time champion Los Angeles Lakers have met in the 64 year history of the NBA Finals with Boston taking nine of those series.

A variety of topics to cover today, so let’s get to it.

*Everyone should already know that Matt Barnes was arrested this week on suspicion of domestic violence.  I’ve been largely silent on the Matt Barnes arrest for a couple of reasons.  First is because I typically try to focus on issues that play out on the basketball court and not those surrounding appearances in a court of law.  And with Barnes being a new member of the team and having not yet played a single minute for the Lakers, there’s little to discuss in terms of how this affects the team in a basketball sense.  Sure we’ve had thoughts on what role Barnes would play and how many minutes he might see, but that’s all speculation until he actually suits up.  The second reason is that I don’t have all the facts of what occurred at Barnes’ home on that day and I try not to form opinions on issues until I know more details.  Even with statements from both Barnes and his fiance now coming out speaking to these accusations being false, we still don’t know what happened that day and we may never know.   In the end, I think Kurt at Pro Basketball Talk said it very well when summarizing the entire situation:

We have no idea what happened in the Barnes household. Maybe nothing. However this points to a bigger societal issue — it is common for the female in a domestic violence situation to protect the man. It makes convictions on the charges challenging. It makes the pattern of violence harder to stop.

What exactly happened in the Barnes house remains a mystery. But you can be sure of one thing through all of this — the Lakers front office isn’t happy.

*Changing gears to news that is more about the actual game of basketball…Earlier this week we were discussing the correlation between offensive execution and good defense.  How, for the Lakers specifically, executing the Triangle well leads to better defense; that by operating with strong spacing and good floor balance the Lakers promote defensive success because it enables the players to transition well from offense to defense and thus forces the opposition to face a team that is set up and prepared.  This conversation was prompted by a series of posts that ran at True Hoopabout how strong defense actually has more impact in winning championships than playing strong offense.  When thinking about this more over the past couple of days, another thought came to me:  We’ve all heard commentators (Jeff Van Gundy being one) say that “great offense beats great defense every time”.  And I agree with that.  However, how many great offensive players are there in the league?  I mean truly great ones.  5?  10?  When trying to name them a list might include Kobe, Lebron, Wade, Durant, Carmelo, Chris Paul, Dirk, Steve Nash and others that I’ve surely left out.  We’re talking less than 3% of the entire league.  Now, think about very good defensive players and, even more, think about defensive schemes and the teams that execute well on that side of the ball.  My point is, you’ll likely find way more defenders that are considered very good to great than you will offensive players.  And even when you have a great offensive player (like Kobe), that guy will have bad nights.  Basically, you’re damned right I believe that defense is going to lead to more championships than offense does if only because you can’t rely on offense as much; the number of players that can truly hurt you consistently is minuscule in comparison the the population of the entire league and even those guys have off nights.  And when trying to beat the other team, what do you think is going to be the more effective tactic – scoring in a manner that few players and teams can actually do consistently or stopping the other team from doing something that is actually already quite difficult to do efficiently?  I’ll take the latter.

*Looking around the league, the big rumor of the past couple of days is the potential trade of Carmelo and his (suposed) preference of either going to the Bulls or the Knicks.  One floated deal had the Bulls giving up Deng and Noah for Carmelo.  When I thought about that deal from the Bulls’ end, I thought they’d be crazy to give up Noah in a trade for Anthony.  Noah’s a versatile big that rebounds and defends at near elite levels and is the type of player that championship teams always have.  And while I greatly respect ‘Melo, he’s a scoring wing that rebounds and defends at below a league average level for his position.  When looking at it this way, I thought the decision would be easy.  Which got me thinking, is Carmelo an elite player?  Yes he’s got name value and he’s one of the purest scoring forwards in the league but is he elite?  Let me know what you think in the comments because I’m really not sure and am leaning towards no.

*Speaking of elite players, its seemingly the time of the year where folks want to bring back the bar stool debates about players rankings and who the best players of specific franchises are.  The Lakers have a storied history and have had some of the best of the best this game has ever seen suit up for them.  Over at Hoops Manifesto, they’ve listed their top 10 Lakers of all time.  Personally, I think Elgin and Mikan are too low, but that’s just me.  Tell me what you think in the comments.

*One player that didn’t make that list is Pau Gasol.  Get him a championship or two more and he just might make a future one, though.  However, just so that we can all remember how great Gasol actually has been for the Lakers, here’s a video to refresh our memories.

*Lastly, did you realize the Lakers first pre-season game in on October 4th (in London, btw)?  That’s 24 days away.  The countdown is officially here as we’re within a month of actual Lakers’ basketball being back.

*One last lastly – this may or may not interest any of you, but a little while back I answered some questions about basketball in general and some other “getting to know you” types of questions over at the Click this link if you want to know (amongst other things) my fondest sports memory growing up (here’s a hint, it involves the Lakers downing the Celtics).

Darius Soriano

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  1. Bad trade for Chicago, fantastic for Denver. If you accept that they are going to lose Melo no matter what, compare Deng/Noah to what Cleveland and Toronto got in return for their superstars. Noah is a heart-of-the-team kinda guy. Chicago suffers for losing him. And who does that leave to defend the paint in the 312? John Wall could have a career night against Boozer, Melo, and Kurt Thomas.

    LeBron and Melo are good friends. Could you imagine the conversation? “Hey, Bron, I’m meeting Carlos for dinner tonight, you want to join us?” “Don’t be surprised if he stands you up, man.”


  2. The Top Ten Lakers of All-time post is interesting. I also strongly agree that George Mikan was a better Laker than James Worthy. Mikan revolutionized the game while Worthy was never the star of his team. Elgin Baylor definitely goes before Shaq also, it’s awful how forgetful people are of Elgin Baylor’s dominance over the league. Shaq dominated also, but not a Laker long enough to be above Baylor.


  3. My two favorite plays in the Pau highlights are are early at the 30 and 40 second mark. They showcase his all around abilities so well.

    The 30 second mark, pump fake because the D has to respect his mid range game. This opens up the lane for a hard dribble drive with his off hand into the paint and finishes strong with a dunk and not a flip shot.

    The 40 second mark, he’s leading the break like a guard with a between the legs dribble then the look away pass to fool the D.

    There’s no big man today that can execute all those skills at a high level. Shows power, grace, coordination and all around basketball skills from ball handling to mid range shot to finishing with either hand.


  4. If you’re only considering accomplishments as a Laker, Wilt should be lower than he is.


  5. Whether Melo is an “elite” player- please consider the manner of Pau Gasol’s game was discussed before he went to the Lakers. Never won a playoff game, was Ga-soft, Euros will never be Champs, etc.

    Now, Pau is on a class team for a class organization, our perceptions of him have changed.

    Denver is a mess that was salvaged by bringing in Chauncey to stabilize the distribution of the ball. Now that Denver has changed owners and front office, will Melo change for the worse?

    I don’t think Melo is an “elite” player but four seasons ago no one that Pau was an “elite” player.


  6. Melo isn’t an elite player overall, but he is an elite scorer (albeit not a very efficient one, but who can stop him?) I feel like in the right situation with the right coach he can elevate the rest of his game. The right situation isn’t NY or CHI though.

    Greatest Lakers – 1) Magic 2) Jerry 3) Kobe. KAJ can’t be our third best simply because he didn’t spend his entire career with us. Plus he has zero personality. If you’re representing a franchise, you need to have an oustanding personality and character (see: Johnson, Earvin)


  7. The Bulls are brilliant. They have spent the last couple years tricking the NBA into thinking Noah is actually a very good starting player. He has no offensive skills (that is half the game) and he is a Center with a PF’s body. While he is a nice hustle guy that can come in backing up Nene and give you solid defense and rebounding in the end he is a Anderson Varejo. A nice supporting player… but nobody you build your team around. And not even someone you bring in to help the guy who you built your team around. He is a 5th player on a championship team. That isn’t a knock on him… but its a far cry compared to how the league looks at him it appears.


  8. #7. This is why I do not trust your opinion when it comes to personnel evaluation. If you don’t see the value of Noah (who is worlds ahead of Varejao in feel for the game, basketball instincts, rebounding, ball handling, leadership, etc, etc) then I don’t know what to tell you.


  9. this a bit off topic, but i just wanted to let the FB&G community know that derek fisher is gonna have an autograph signing at the kia auto center in cerritos (my hometown!).

    ill try snapping some pictures


  10. Melo is good enough to be elite to me. Other than LeBron, not sure who really stands way ahead of Melo. Pierce, Durant depending on where you put Durant, Kobe if Kobe plays SF, but that’s about it, isn’t it?

    As for Chicago giving up Noah, they’d be stupid to do so since they’re giving up defense for offense, which they will have plenty with Rose and Boozer. That’s not taking into account the intangibles, and once you go there, the trade is even worse.


  11. Trade Noah for ‘Melo?

    That’s a move worthy of the Warriors.


  12. This may or may not interest any of you, but a little while back I answered some questions about basketball in general and some other “getting to know you” types of questions over at the Click the link if you want to know my fondest sports memory growing up (here’s a hint, it involves the Lakers downing the Celtics).


  13. Aaron, when has anyone ever claimed Noah was some kind of All-Star? He is quite obviously better than Varejao though. Better rebounder, better shotblocker, better scorer, better passer, better athlete.

    More importantly, trading Noah to get Carmelo would not be remotely worth it. Carmelo is not good enough to carry a team to the limit of its potential like Kobe or LeBron. If you’re trying to build around Carmelo you want as many pieces in place as possible, so why are you trading away a double-double guy and your only defensive post presence? Players like that don’t grow on trees in today’s guard-heavy NBA.


  14. exhelodrvr,
    If you are evaluating Wilt with the Lakers you have to understand the environment he came into. Jerry and Elgin were able to provide the bulk of the scoring and the Lakers had to have someone who could defend and control the paint. Wilt sacrificed his offensive game to provide the Lakers with what they needed to be in the elite category of teams. Most people overlook this when evaluating what Wilt brought the Laker franchise. You almost have to have been there to understand just how dominant Wilt was, even when not scoring 30+ points a game.


  15. Darius,
    While Kurt makes the common observations today about domestic abuse, there is another side. This issue was largely ignored 40 years ago and our society does it’s usual thing and the pendulum has swung in almost the opposite direction – we rarely have a balanced view of our issues. It is now assumed that the woman was actually abused and our assumptions are that the men are presumed guilty – with almost no way to prove otherwise. While statistics say men do most of the abuse, they do not say men do all the abuse or that they are always guilty of abuse. The real issue is that we want instant resolution of every situation – our attention span is severely limited – when life just is not a black and white condition.

    Maybe we should hold our comments until all the facts are known, or disposed of.


  16. Darius,

    I may have been the first to promote then Grizzly Pau Gasol over KG and Jermaine as a future Laker on FB&G. I knew even then that Pau would be perfect for the Lakers. Still, this video you’ve provided makes me realize how much I’ve undervalued him.

    Pick anyone who plays power forward or center in the NBA who is not a Laker. I wouldn’t trade Pau Gasol for any of them.


  17. 14) Craig,
    I’m not undervaluing Wilt; my assumption is that this list is based on a combination of what the player did as a Laker, and how the Lakers as a team did during that players time with the Lakers. And based on that, and considering his relatively short time with the Lakers, IMO he should be lower.


  18. First, wow, we really are in the doldrums around here. I’ve been away on vacation for three weeks, and so, apparently, have a bunch of others. This seems like the kind of post that would be climbing towards triple digit comments at other times of the year.

    Anyway, I tend to think that both Melo and Noah are over-rated. I like Noah, and his game a whole lot, but really just don’t see how he is really as valuable as others seem to think. It’s true that he is good, but I think that we tend to get overly enamored of guys who “do the little things”, to the extent that we forget that there are lots of guys who do the little things, that the little things get done in different ways, and that teams go about getting them done differently.

    Noah happens to fit the prototype: big guy who rebounds, defends, hustles, but isn’t a gifted scorer. But the guys who filled that role for us over the last couple of years have been Fisher, Ariza, and Artest. Hardly the prototype. And of other recent champions, only Kendrick Perkins comes to mind as that kind of player, and you could certainly argue that in ’08 everyone on that team did the little things, much like the Spurs and Detroit when they won.

    In any case, I just don’t see how Noah is that much better than Verajao. Check out the stats here: for each of these players 3rd year in the league, it seems like it would be tough to make a case for too much differentiation. Look in particular at the 36 min and Advanced sections.

    Another point is that we tend to frame our perceptions in particular ways. If a player is one dimensional, it’s ok if that dimension is defense or rebounding because we tend to think of those skills as undervalued, but not ok if it’s scoring. Another way to look at it, though, as Darus alluded to, is that scoring may be more highly valued because it is a rarer commodity.

    Even though Melo is hugely inefficient, from watching him, we all know that he is a gifted scorer. It’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t be much a least a bit more efficient on a team with Rose and Boozer. In the end, I would lean towards feeling that Melo is more valuable because his skill is less replaceable than Noah’s. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like a great fit for Chicago, who would go right back into another era of being undersized…