Around the World (Wide Web): Lakers/Wolves Game Day

Phillip Barnett —  November 9, 2010

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(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

From Henry Abbott, Truehoop“Journey to the Ring” is essentially a coffee table book, starring some fantastic black-and-white photography, which Andrew Bernstein discusses on ESPNLosAngeles. But it also has some thoughtful remembrances and commentary from Laker coach Jackson, which even has some hoops insight. For instance:

  • Jackson says that he often likes to get the ball into a big man in the paint on the game’s first possession. That’s not so rare. But less known may be the reason he gives: To expose an opponent’s game plan. Will they front in the post? Double? “We want to get adjusted to those strategies,” he writes, “right out of the blocks.” Here’s an idea: If you’re coaching against the Lakers, do something quirky guarding the post early, ’cause it’s a good bet the coaching staff will be watching closely and making decisions.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Kobe Bryant has come up with a neat little triangle of his own to determine what three qualities make up a great team: intensity, toughness and unselfishness. “We have all three,” Bryant said. Victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves being a certainty Tuesday night, the Lakers will be 8-0 – a better start than any previous Phil Jackson-coached Lakers team, and there have been a few good ones. (In fact, the only Lakers team to start faster is the 1997-98 team that went 11-0 in Year 2 of Shaq & Kobe. But it won only four of its next nine.) Pau Gasol has been the NBA MVP, Lamar Odom an All-Star and Ron Artest the Defensive Player of the Year. New addition Steve Blake played savior with his hero shot on ring night. And no one has used the words “Andrew Bynum,” “knee” and “setback” in the same sentence.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: There the Lakers sat on the bench laughing as frequently and quickly as a sitcom soundtrack. With ice bags wrapped around his right knee, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant huddled between Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown. With Bryant’s arms wrapped around each of them, they all bore wide smiles across their face. A few seats down, Lakers forward Ron Artest cusped his hand over his mouth and whispered to Pau Gasol. In return, Gasol let out the kind of boisterous laugh you’d see out of an uncle amused by the antics of his young nephew. What they said during the final minutes of the Lakers’ 121-96 victory Sunday over the Portland Trail Blazers wasn’t so much important. But their body language revealed a lot about the Lakers’ current state of being.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: While the Lakers aren’t in top form defensively yet, a look inside the numbers (love you, HoopData!) shows things haven’t been all that bad. With one glaring exception, that is. Perhaps the most repeated criticism of the Lakers’ defense is the 101.4 points per game they’ve allowed. Toss out the 83 points surrendered to Golden State and the best the Lakers have done is Sunday’s 96. The other numbers: 110, 106, 105, 100, 103. Points allowed, though, isn’t really the best figure to measure team defense, particularly this early in the season when the schedule can skew things rather dramatically. Six of L.A.’s seven opponents (all but Portland) are in the top half in the NBA in pace (average number of possessions over 48 minutes). Five of seven (Phoenix, Houston, Sacramento, Portland, Golden State) are in the top half for offensive efficiency (number of points scored per 100 possessions). In a nutshell, the Lakers have seen a lot of high speed and high efficiency offenses over the first seven games, sometimes in the same night.

From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: Seven games (and seven wins) into the 2010-2011 season, the Los Angeles Lakers have had a nice little run of success. They are atop the league with a 7-0 record (New Orleans is also undefeated but with one fewer game to their credit), and they have the highest point differential in the league, winning games by an average of 13.7 points. Their offense has been all the rage, and deservedly so. After another virtuoso performance last night, the Lakers are miles in front of the rest of the league in offensive efficiency, scoring 118.3 points per 100 possessions. The second-ranked team, the Atlanta Hawks, clock in with a 114.9 Offensive Rating, and third-place Phoenix is another large dropoff away at 111.5. Credit a team-first mentality across the entire roster (as evidenced in part by both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol earning a triple-double in the past week) and a massive uptick in three-point shooting that may or may not be a mirage. The ball movement alone is such a jaw-dropping improvement over last year’s squad that I firmly believe, despite the small sample size, that the Lakers’ offense has taken permanent residence among the league’s elite.

From Mark Travis, But The Game is On: Over the past two years, no player has been criticized more often than Derek Fisher. As the starting point guard on the best team in the NBA, Fisher has been the weak link for a team that sported Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest in their starting line-up and the rapid evolution of the point guard position made the always-wanting-more Lakers’ fanbase beg for a change at the point guard position. Fisher’s play during the regular season certainly didn’t help the matter. Besides being a complete liability on the defensive end that could’t stay in front of the plethora of quick point guards in the league today, Fisher also saw his field goal percentage drop below 40% and was hitting three pointers at a poor rate (35%). So, as a point guard that couldn’t defend or shoot well in an offense that didn’t need a facilitating point man, Fisher’s only positive contributions during the first 82 games of the season was his veteran leadership, and that wasn’t enough to to a constant flow of criticism towards him.

From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: With L.A.’s 7-0 start, predictably, comes a bunch of superlative statistics when compared to the rest of the NBA’s teams. Here’s a breakdown of pertinent categories, with the disclaimer that it’s only seven games into the 82-game season, and the Lakers have played a relatively easy schedule: Scoring: No. 1 The Lakers are averaging a healthy 114 points per game to lead the NBA. With Pau Gasol (24.1) and Kobe Bryant (22.9) leading the way, L.A. is also getting a healthy 15.9 poings from Lamar Odom, while four other players are averaging at least 9.1 points: Derek Fisher; Shannon Brown; Ron Artest; and Matt Barnes.

From John Schuhmann, Yahoo! SportsThe lesson that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers taught us last year—that great teams can pace themselves in the regular season and flip the switch once the playoffs begin—has apparently been forgotten by the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. With the exception of Boston’s post-opener hangover in Cleveland, the two conference champs have been perfect through the first two weeks of the season. While other contenders are still trying to find their rhythm or losing focus from night to night, the Lakers and Celtics have hit the ground running, despite injuries to key players.

Phillip Barnett

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17 responses to Around the World (Wide Web): Lakers/Wolves Game Day

  1. I know the TImes article was on Chuck Person, but not one mention of Craig Hodges?

  2. No win in the NBA is virtually guaranteed. Looking for the Lakers to come out with determination and intensity tonight.

  3. off-topic, but only Kobe can make noobtubing look awesome.

  4. My post today at D-League Digest is Lakers-centric, talking Caracter, Ebanks and the possibility/probability that they’ll see time in the D-League this season:

    http://dleaguedigest.com/2010/11/09/phil-jackson-expects-lakers-rookies-to-see-time-in-d-league/

  5. Well at least we know there is no jinx on the Lakers. Hollinger debuted his initial power rankings with Miami at number one. It reminded me of how Cleveland basically lived in his top spot all last season. At least John is consistent.

    For tonight’s game the Lakers have to remember the Raptors game. Yes, they should erase Minny tonight. But if they come out thinking they have it in the bag they will again find themselves in a competitive fourth quarter. Hopefully, there will be no letdowns tonight.

    Blow them out after three and let the reserves get some good burn in the fourth.

  6. I hope you’re joking about Hollinger. He has nothing to do with what teams are where. Its all about numbers. And in the past his ranking have been the best barometer for a teams future success than any other ranking system. So to devalue his rankings based primarily on point differential and SOS is misguided. The Lakers haven’t played a good team yet and have been mostly at home. The Heat have almost the same point differential as us and have been on the road playing such teams as the Celtics, Magic, and the Hornets.

  7. regarding Hollinger’s bias(?): it should be assumed that JH know his formulae inside and out. It is entirely possible that he could have built some bias into this paradigm.
    :@ :D

  8. this, purportedly, is Hollinger’s explanation, for those of you curious but not Insider curious:

    “So how do the Heat outrank the unbeaten Lakers? Well, as I mentioned, the two factors are scoring margin and strength of schedule. Although the scoring margins are nearly identical — L.A, in fact, has a 0.4-point edge — Miami has played the more difficult schedule.

    Heat opponents have a .595 winning percentage when they’re not playing the Heat, compared to .524 for Lakers foes. Although it seems odd to place Miami’s 5-2 record ahead of L.A.’s 7-0, the Lakers have yet to face a night on their schedule as difficult as Miami’s visits to Boston and New Orleans (their two losses), or even the Heat’s home date against No. 3 Orlando (a 26-point Miami win). The Lakers’ highest-ranked opponent to date is No. 8 Phoenix.”

    (moderator’s note: this comment was edited down to only show the point that I think most interests Lakers fans. In the future, copying and pasting entire articles is advised against.)

  9. 7. Hollinger, is that you?

    Seriously though do you actually agree with the forumla? I can’t because it’s usually wrong to me.

    If his forumula is such a great barometer then why can’t it pick the NBA champ?

    There was a link somewhere stating that the 10th and 11th best team were in the finals last year. If that’s so, then that’s bad because teams from the top 5 should have made it instead, statistically.

    This isn’t the NCAA tournament. There are no Cinderellas. 7 games proves out statistically what team is better.

    For what it’s worth, I agree, it’s just stats, but it’s a rather absurd formula that spits out what he thinks is good.

    Someone should compare how it ranks teams that won by year end records and how they fared in playoff action overall in the past to see if that forumla has any real statistical validity.

    Bye.

  10. RE Hollinger: I feel like every year we have this same debate and every year some tilt too far in either direction.

    Consider the following:

    *Hollinger’s formula is heavily tilted on strength of schedule and point differential. The Lakers do very well in the differential category, but so far this season their SOS hasn’t been as strong as other teams. If you’re going to say that Hollinger’s system isn’t that great, I think speaking to why valuing these specific categories over others is a bad choice by him.

    *I don’t think fans should use his rankings as a way to determine who the Champion will be. Though I know that Hollinger will sometimes do just this. Which leads me to…

    *Where Hollinger sometimes falls short, imo, is that he uses the results from his calculations to come to final conclusions. The power rankings, like PER are always judged against what an average team/player would provide in terms of results. Thus his power ranking system says an average team’s score would be 100. For PER, the league average is 15. However, when going into the playoffs, most of the average teams are gone. And at that point, match ups mean much more than what a team’s performance against the rest of the league was during the season. This is where I think he’s been off base in ranking the Jazz as high as he has in the past (for example). The Jazz would have been a strong pick, but they ended up playing a team (the Lakers) that could dominate them in certain match ups and thus eliminate them handily.

    *Hollinger’s formula has predicted some things very well. For example, last year I mentioned that despite Dallas doing very well in the standings that Hollinger’s rankings had them at or below 10th. During the playoffs, this bore out as being correct. Hollinger’s rankings also showed that the 2008 Lakers were a very strong team even before many of the pundits started to say the same thing. He had them as a legit contender even before the Gasol trade and that also bore out as being correct.

    Essentially, all I’m saying is that Hollinger’s a smart guy. He’s not biased against the Lakers, he’s (at least sometimes) biased towards the answers his numbers produce. His formulas and the numbers produced by them are great tool, but that’s what they are: a tool. They’re not the final answer and should not be used as such. They should be incorporated into a larger analysis. Hollinger watches a lot of basketball and does know what he’s talking about when it comes to analyizing the league. He should not be dismissed as a crackpot with an abacus.

  11. @Aaron,

    I believe stats are very helpful when used in a limited, clearly defined context. But in basketball there are too many variables that just can’t be quantified. Player motivation, injuries, and scheduling are just three examples. Relying heavily on statistics to predict an NBA champion (as Hollinger does) is an exercise in futility.

    The Lakers limped into the playoffs last season. However, they became a very different team in the playoffs. The Celtics tanked the entire second half of the regular season only to take out the top regular season winning teams back to back in the playoffs. What statistical measures could have seen that coming?

    Even PER has major flaws. A player’s role on his team, his team mates, and offensive system all impact his individual performance dramatically. Change a couple of these and players can look very different. We are seeing the right now with Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudamire. Can Bosh’s PER from last year give us any real valuable insight about his effectiveness for Miami this year?

    The game of basketball can’t be stuffed into an excel sheet. Numbers do help with smaller, more nuance things. However, Charles Barkley didn’t need a degree from MIT when he correctly pointed out the Heat’s lack of low post game being a problem in the future. They cover it up well. However, things will be different in the playoffs. Which leads me to my last point.

    The game changes in the playoffs. The pace slows and the number of possessions goes down. Teams are better prepared to exploit mismatches and weakness. Officials pay closer attention to player’s tendencies. These things taken together make playoff basketball different and diminishes regular season stats even more. Remember those SSOL Suns teams that always ran through the regular season only to hit a wall in the playoffs?

    @Darious,

    I don’t dismiss Hollinger. I just disagree with a lot of his conclusions.

  12. I love Hollinger!

    He is one of the greatest con men living in America. He has come up with a couple of fantastic numbers systems (PER and Team Rankings), and is making a living building it up and defending it from detractors.

    Very few understand them, they are rarely accurate, there is no actual way to prove or disprove any of it, it creates a ton of controversy, and he gets paid well to do it.

    Got to love Hollinger. The American Hoop Dream!

  13. His program is based on looking at pervious results, and which statistics correlate with the how teams did over extended periods. Obviously it can’t take some things into consideration (especially injuries), particularly over the short-term. But overall it is reasonably accurate at predicting success. Better than most fans, who let their personal likes/dislikes play too big a role.

  14. The problem with Hollinger’s formula and stats are that he himself believes in his numbers TOO much.

    He doesn’t use them as part of an answer to a question.

    I remember hearing Hollinger on 710espn with Mychal and Andrew on the air during the Lakers’ playoff run and despite them giving Hollinger repeated things to refute what his formula said, he stuck to the formula and stats he derived. Almost as if he had a blind faith towards them.

    That’s the problem. His numbers are not infallible. Yet they ARE, to him.

    I understand if he says his whole methodology is wrong, what is he worth to anyone then? So I know he won’t admit that, but there’s got to be some bend to his analysis and conclusions derived from it all.

    Bye.

  15. Darius says “If you’re going to say that Hollinger’s system isn’t that great, I think speaking to why valuing these specific categories over others is a bad choice by him.”

    It seems to me the “strength of schedule” factor may be a weak point of the Hollinger system. How does he account (or does he account) for variations in Conference quality?

    Let’s assume the Lakers, Celtics, Magic and Heat are the four strongest teams this season. (Not a bad assumption).

    Well, the Lakers will play the “top four” teams a total of six times this season while the Eastern Powers will play them eight times each. Doesn’t that give the Easterners a built in “strength of schedule” edge, assuming all else is equal? It doen’t necessarily follow that the Lakers will “adjust” to their softer schedule by being more dominant over their weaker opponents.

    It may be to the Laker’s advantage that they play the “top” teams fewer games becasue it might help them to overall HCA. On the other hand, teh Lakers may end up being less tested and hence less palyoof ready by perhaps having a less rigorous schedule.

  16. “Let’s assume the Lakers, Celtics, Magic and Heat are the four strongest teams this season. (Not a bad assumption).

    Well, the Lakers will play the “top four” teams a total of six times this season while the Eastern Powers will play them eight times each. Doesn’t that give the Easterners a built in “strength of schedule” edge, assuming all else is equal? It doen’t necessarily follow that the Lakers will “adjust” to their softer schedule by being more dominant over their weaker opponents.”

    ehh, the east is more top-heavy, but top-to-bottom the west is still the stronger conference imo. there are more ‘easy’ wins to be had in the east than the west; granted, there are also more true heavyweight slugfests in the east.

    basketball is a game too influenced by intangible qualities to be broken down strictly by the numbers, as hollinger likes to do. his statistics are meaningless and shallow, kinda like the cavs of years past and prolly the heat now – great in the regular season, when all of the best teams are going through the motions anyways, but when the competition really gets going in the playoffs, they unravel and lose all validity. like kobe said, a championship team is built around intelligence, intensity/toughness, and unselfishness – an ability to adapt, if you will – and at the end of the day, the only number that means anything is ‘one’, as in the one goal of every player (supposedly) on every team – to win a championship. ‘one ring, to rule them all!’