Archives For May 2011

Last week, Darius wrote a post about how the Lakers can improve next season by making internal adjustments, with individual players improving their games and bodies instead of making wholesale changes. In that post, he discussed all the things Kobe can do to improve on his health that would make for a better Bryant going into the 2011-2012 season. Today, we take a look at Andrew Bynum.

As the off season progresses, talks about the Lakers getting rid of the young center for Dwight Howard may grow louder, but if they happen to fall upon def ears, no one should be particularly upset about keeping ‘Drew in the Forum Blue and Gold as he showed more promise in becoming the league’s definite second best center than he had at any point in his career. While some of his offensive metrics are down from last year (FG%, FT%, TS% to name a few), he’s improved leaps and bounds on the defensive end of the floor and has developed a mid range jump shot that we hadn’t really seen from him in previous years. While this season wasn’t his best in terms of statistics, it was definitely one of his best in terms of overall impact and showed us that, while he isn’t a perfect center, he is moving in the right direction.

However, as Darius mentioned with Kobe, ‘Drew needs to spend this summer improving his health over everything else. Bynum missed a huge chunk of the beginning of the season recovering from the knee surgery he had during last off-season. After joining the team in December, Bynum managed to play in all but three of the remainder of the Lakers regular season games and in each of the Lakers playoff games, a huge testament to how hard he worked during his rehabilitation period. His knee is still a problem though, as witnessed by the collective reactions of Lakers coaches, players and fans every time he went down and grabbed that knee. Even if he were only down for a few seconds, most of us seemed to believe the worst first, and work back from there. Naturally, it is impossible to prevent freak accidents, but putting in work to strengthen the ligaments surrounding his knee would go a long way in building his own confidence in his knee. More than once this year, we saw Bynum go down and change the way he played his game because of the fear of losing another season due to injury.

Once Andrew Bynum gets that whole body health thing down, he’s going to be a very, very good basketball player. What I loved most from Bynum’s season was his dedication to rebounding and the defensive end of the floor following the all-star break. Land O’ Lakers Brian Kamenetzky gave a great account of his stretch of brilliant play when he wrote:

The Lakers ripped off a run of 17 wins in 18 games, during which Bynum was awesome. Particularly so in 11 March games, in which Bynum finished with fewer than 12 rebounds twice, and had eight multi-block games. As a team, the Lakers allowed only 91.3 points a game for the month, holding opponents to 42 percent shooting — their best marks of the season. Again, this was the influence of Bynum. He was changing shots to the point ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande actually invented a stat for him (S.A.B.O.A., or Shots Altered by Bynum’s Outstretched Arms). Scoring became secondary (though he still did enough of it), as for the first time in his career, Bynum truly committed to the idea of dominating defensively and on the glass, something the Lakers had implored of him for years.

Considering how great he was in protecting the rim and cleaning the glass, it’s hard to argue that he could have played any better during that stretch, however, consistency is something that can definitely be asked of from Bynum. There are very few men in the NBA bigger and more skilled than Andrew at his best. He’s always had great timing when attempting to block shots, and he’s done a much better job of using his body instead of relying on his size to rebound. Just doing those things on a regular basis will go a long way not only for his development, but for the Lakers in general.

Lastly, I think Bynum’s offensive game will be vastly improved if he spent a little time working on his patience — something that he’s already improved on. Take a look at the following play.

Bynum gets the ball, looks to the corner, then looks over his right shoulder for cutters before even taking a dribble. After a couple of dribbles, he kicks the ball out to Fisher and then re-posts deeper and gets a nice easy jump hook out of it. There have been myrad possessions where Bynum has caught the ball and attacked the rim too quickly, or caught the ball and immediately made another pass before evaluating all of his options. I’m not saying that he needs to hold on to the ball with every catch, but doing things with a purpose and with patience will help improve some of those offensive metrics that were down this year. Also, that five to 15-foot jump shot can be a great way for him to open up things for himself in the post.

Even with an early playoff exit, I do think the Lakers have the right pieces to contend for another championship, and Andrew Bynum’s size is a huge asset. Improving an already very good center could prove to be more valuable than trading core pieces away.

From Arash Markazi, ESPNLA: Lakers forward Ron Artest doesn’t believe the NBA labor situation will result in an NFL-style lockout and expects to play an 82-game regular season beginning in October. “I don’t think there’s going to be a long lockout,” Artest said Sunday night. “I don’t think we’re going to miss any games. I think there’s going to be some negotiations but I see us playing in October. I think [NBA commissioner] Mr. [David] Stern and [NBA Players Association director] Mr. [Billy] Hunter will resolve it. I think they’re going to learn from the NFL lockout. America isn’t America without sports. You wouldn’t want to be the guy who messed up sports.”

From Danny Savitzky, Hardwood Paroxysm: There’s no quick fix to major issues of social tolerance, and that is why it was no surprise to watch Joakim Noah utter the same disparaging slur Sunday night for which Kobe Bryant was shouted down just a few short weeks ago. Movement is not going to come quickly, and it’s not going to come without a lot of work. I won’t rehash everything I wrote about Kobe after his incident, but in short, he was wrong, and he should be held accountable. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t mean to imply hateful feelings, and it doesn’t matter that a fan provoked him. He needed to be more mature and contain his emotions. That’s what professional athletes are expected to do. What’s more interesting this time around, though, is the marked difference between the penalties handed down to Bryant and Noah. Kobe was fined $100,000, while Noah was docked just half that number. Same word, same situation, same penalty, right? Apparently not. The NBA’s explanation for the variation in the totals of the fines was this: Kobe’s outburst involved verbal abuse of a game official, while Noah’s did not. I just don’t see how that reasoning could be any more bogus.

From Brian Champlin, Lakers Nation: Sometimes the blame game is the only game in town. When the season is over, when your team has exited the court amid disappointment and embarrassment, feelings of bitterness are bound to take hold. ?Over the past few weeks Lakers fans have made their frustrations abundantly clear. There have been many soft targets to go after. Bynum’s disgraceful foul on Barea, the bench’s lack of production, Lamar’s distracting foray into reality television. But head and shoulders above all all others was the performance of Lakers big man Pau Gasol. For his part, Gasol asserted that his porous play had less to do with any truth to the rumors swirling around his personal life than it did to with what many of us suspected about his physical condition after virtually three straight years of playing basketball, “It wasn’t about self-esteem. It wasn’t about confidence. I collapsed. I was exhausted a little bit too. It hasn’t been a lack of confidence,” Gasol told the Spanish website Marca in a recent interview.

From Royce Young, Daily Thunder: “That was bad.” That’s what I heard a fan saying as he walked out in front of me. Simple, succinct and entirely correct. That was bad. Very, very bad. I’d also accept horrible, awful, tragic, disgusting, pathetic, sickening, terrible and cruel. Yeah, cruel. I like that one. I’m going with cruel. I honestly don’t even know what to point to. I don’t know who to blame. When you blow a 15-point lead with five minutes left in a must-win playoff game, it’s everybody’s fault. Right down to the ballboys and security guards. I want to grab Tony Brothers and shake him for calling such a touch foul in such a big moment, but it’s not even worth it. It should’ve never, ever come to that. Scoring two points in the final five minutes is nobody’s fault but your own.

From Eddie Maisonet, Ed The Sports Fan: Last night after the Dallas Mavericks came back in miraculous fashion versus my beleaguered Oklahoma City Thunder in game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, I changed the channel with the hopes of escaping the reality that I witnessed just minutes ago. HBO boxing was on, and the replay of the WBO light heavyweight championship between Bernard Hopkins vs. Jean Pascal came on the set. Being a boxing connoisseur and having no desire to sleep, I watched the entire fight in what would be a microcosm of what I just witnessed earlier that evening. Bernard Hopkins, at age 46, became the oldest sports champion of our generation by putting the beats to the younger, stronger, faster, Jean Pascal in a way only an old man could. He used every ounce of his skill, he was as crafty in the ring as an old player talking to a woman, and he cheated like his life depended on it. Thumbed him in the eye, elbowed him in the mouth, did push-ups in front of him between rounds, holding behind the refs back, everything he could to get an edge over a fighter 18 years his junior. Jean Pascal never had a chance. In reality, the Oklahoma City Thunder never had a chance either.

From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: If you have a better moniker than “Iron Man” for the player that has taken the court in the most consecutive professional games, let us know, but it’s worked pretty well from a self-explanatory sense over the years. In the NBA, it’s L.A.’s Derek Fisher. By completing his sixth-straight 82-game season, the Lakers point guard has his games played streak all the way up to 495, currently the longest in basketball, dating back to April 15, 2005 (point of reference: the Sonics still had three more seasons to play in Seattle). Fisher moved into pole position this past December when Portland’s Andre Miller missed a game due to an NBA suspension, stopping his run at 632 contests. Historically, former Laker A.C. Green dominates with a remarkable mark of 1,192 (11/19/86 – 4/18/01). And how do the NBA streaks compare with those in other professional leagues?

From Jeff Miller, OC Register: We met Phil Jackson for the first time in the old Forum, in a dimly lit room with wall-to-wall shag. The carpet was purple. He wore a flannel shirt that, much like the Forum itself, made Jackson appear as if he had been dressed in the 1970s and not changed — or perhaps even showered, frankly — since. But this was 1999, and Jackson was about to open his first training camp here. He talked about installing the triangle offense, about “establishing a learning curve” and about how his new players would be “squeezed inside a box they haven’t been in before.” At the time, there was talk that Dennis Rodman would be rejoining his old coach. None of the talk, however, had come from that old coach. “We need guys who can facilitate an offense,” Jackson explained that day. “Dennis can debilitate an offense.”

From Janis Carr, OC Register: James Worthy urged the 100 or so fans who showed up to Saturday’s “Go Green” event in Pico Rivera to recycle. But that’s not what he wants to see the Lakers do with their head coaching position. While the Lakers TV analyst and former player said he hopes assistant Brian Shaw will get the Lakers job over former coaches such as Rick Adelman, Mike Dunleavy and Mike Brown. Shaw worked six years as an assistant under Phil Jackson, who retired at the end of the season. “It’s never a quick process with the Lakers. I’m sure Mitch (Kupchak, Lakers general manager) and Dr. (Jerry) Buss and the family are studying who they want. Brian Shaw – that’s who I like to see get it, but it’s a process of elimination and I’m sure they will look at a few.”

From Mark Medina, LA Times: The Lakers had strongly encouraged Shaw to get into coaching, allowing him to join meetings during his time with the Lakers from 1999-2003 where he’d learn how the coaching staff put its scouting reports together. But instead of immediately joining the coaching ranks after retiring in 2003, Shaw told The Times in January that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson told him to spend a year scouting the team’s coastal opponents. Jackson required that out of Shaw because of his concern that he remained too closely connected with the players on the current roster and they may not give him the respect he deserves. After a year of scouting, Shaw joined the Lakers’ coaching staff in 2005 as an assistant for five seasons. Part of his responsibilities in the 2010-2011 season entailed putting together game preparations for contests against the Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls where he compiled a 14-6 record.

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Lastly, NBA.com’s Art Garcia has put together a fantastic post on all of the issues surrounding the NBA labor talks. Give this the once over (I’ll probably have to read it 10-12 times). This is a great start for anyone who isn’t familiar with what’s going on. Great supplemental reading for those who do. You can check that out here.

This past season, the Lakers were one of the best offensive teams in the league. They may have finished the season ranked 6th in offensive efficiency (which is still excellent), but for most of the year they were in the top 5 and spent a good portion of the campaign in the top 2 or 3. If the Lakers had a weakness, it wasn’t on offense.

That said, when the Lakers flamed out of the playoffs they were clearly struggling to score the ball consistently. Of their 10 playoff games, the Lakers scored 100 points or more only 3 times and in the Dallas series they never topped 94 (with 2 of the 4 defeats producing 86 points or less).

There were many reasons the Lakers didn’t score the ball well – lack of outside shooting, the horrid slump of Pau Gasol, etc - but the fact remains that the Lakers became predicatble on offense and couldn’t execute well enough to overcome that fact. This led many to ask what the Lakers should be doing differently on offense with many saying that they should have mirrored what their opponents were doing by repeatedly going to the pick and roll to get those needed baskets.

I mean, if Chris Paul could run the P&R with the poor big men he had at his disposal and the Mavs could run the P&R with JJ Barrea killing the Lakers D by navigating screens and either getting his own shot or setting up a teammate, the Lakers should be able to do the same thing.  Logic says put ball in the hands of Kobe and then incorportate one of the Lakers’ supremely talented big men, and they’d be able to generate some needed points. After all, with the Lakers possessing a fantastic guard and a slew of excellent bigs, they must be a good pick and roll team, right? Right?

Wrong.

Based off the statistical and video scouting service My Synergy Sports, the Lakers were actually one of the lesser P&R teams in the league. Sure, they have the ingredients to run the action but the end result of that recipe wasn’t very tasty. Some numbers for your ingestion (all via Synergy):

*On the year, the Lakers ranked 30th out of 30 teams in points per possession when the ball handler shot in P&R situations. Dead last. If you want to look at shooting percentage rather than points generated, the story is just as ugly with Laker ball handlers only knocking down 37 of their field goals and 31.5% of their three pointers in P&R situations.

*On the year, the Lakers ranked 13th out of 30 teams in points per possession when the roll man took a shot in P&R situations. That puts them in the upper half of the league, but only barely. If looking at field goal percentage, the Lakers roll men hit a respectable yet not earth shattering 49.4% of their field goals in P&R situations.

Granted, there are other ways to generate points in the P&R besides having the ball handler or the roll man shoot. Unfortunately Synergy doesn’t track these numbers, but I’d bet that the Lakers are no better in generating points out of the other types of actions that develop from running the P&R. My reasons for this are simple:

*Besides the ball handler or the roll man shooting, the most frequent type of shot that would be generated out of a P&R situation are spot up jumpers. When teams run the P&R, one major goal is to collapse the defense and then kick the ball to open shooters that position themselves around the three point arc. On the year, the Lakers were the 12th best team in points per possession in spot up situations; a ranking that isn’t much better than what they produce when the roll man in the P&R shoots.

*The Lakers aren’t a good three point shooting team, only making 37% of their three point shots on spot up situations. Hence, they knocked down a relatively low percentage of the shots that would be made available in the scenario described above.

*Furthermore, the Lakers are one of the better post up teams in the league with multiple threats on the team. Simple logic would tell us that a lot of the Lakers success on spot up shots is also related kick out passes from post ups by Gasol, Kobe, Bynum, and Odom.

For these reasons, I find it difficult to conclude that the Lakers would produce significantly better results in spot up situations off the P&R than they do in normal spot up situtions that are generated through other ways these shots are created. Not to mention that they’re only slightly above average at generating points regardless of how those spot up shots are achieved.

My most interesting findings, though, are really related to the two players that the Lakers ran this action with the most. Neither Kobe nor Gasol were very good operating in the P&R this year. As a ball handler, Kobe shot less than 40% from the field and ranked only 83rd in points per possession. He was even worse on three pointers as he only shot 29% from distance in these situations. Meanwhile, Gasol ranked 105th in points per possession as a roll man in the P&R. When reviewing the tape, he mostly settled for jumpers as he preferred to “pop” into free space rather than dive hard to the rim to try and catch then finish in the paint. The results were a low 42.6% shooting mark as a roll man.

This isn’t to say that the Lakers can’t be a good P&R team or didn’t have success with the play in certain situations. As I dug deeper into the numbers, some positive trends were discovered. First is that Andrew Bynum put up elite numbers as a finisher in the P&R. He put up 1.19 points per possession as the roll man which ranked him 19th in the entire league. As we saw all year, his length, soft hands, and ability to finish in the paint – even in traffic - is very good. Plus, Bynum’s big body is a great tool in the P&R as he’s wide enough to set good screens, setting up the action well.

Lamar Odom was excellent in the P&R as both a ball handler and a finisher. As a ball hander he ranked 17th in the league in tallying .93 points per possession. As a finisher he was even better, ranking 6th in the league with a points per possession mark of 1.31. In reality, as much as we love the rebounds and coast to coast finishes that Odom provided, it’s arguable that Odom’s versatility was most on display in the P&R as he could both initiate and finish with great efficiency. His ability to navigate screens off the dribble or set a good pick and free himself up for a good look takes a diverse skill set and Odom proved he had it. If anything, the Lakers should have been using LO more in the P&R, especially in big/big screen situations between him and Bynum.

With the Lakers set to hire a new coach at some point this summer, many have started to explore what type of offensive system the new head man will install (or keep if Brian Shaw is the chosen one). And while we still believe that defense will be just as important to the success of the next regime, we can’t ignore the fact that the system the team uses best put the ball in the basket is a topic of great interest. But, these results say that if the Lakers do move to a different system outside of the triangle, a P&R based system may not be the best choice. Sure, the Lakers have some ways to be effective in this action but the numbers say they’re better off using a system that utilizes more off ball movement where cuts and screens get players open on the move into open space rather than classic P&R sets. And unless Kobe’s ball handling issues improve or Gasol becomes less of a jumpshooter and more of a player that operates in the post and in attacking the basket, I don’t see why the Lakers’ sets should shift further in this direction.

We’re Back…

Darius Soriano —  May 23, 2011

If you tried to access the site earlier today you’d have found that the internet gods had struck with vengeance and fury to down FB&G like one of Jason Terry’s unforgiving jump shots in game 4. However, I’ve since paid my pennance and the site is now back up and ready to go.

We’ll have a post up later this afternoon – discussing the Lakers’ use of the pick and roll this past season – but for now feel free to continue the conversation on all things Lakers. If you’re looking for something to take your time until then, you could certainly do worse than venturing over to Land O’ Lakers for a great post on Kobe and aging or head over to Silver Screen & Roll for some good ol’ fashioned trade talk.

Check back with us in a bit, however. We’ll have some goodies for you soon enough. Thanks for your patience.

*In any season there are ups and downs, turning points and crossroads that each team must navigate to try and reach their end goal. Obviously the Lakers fell short this year. Over at ESPN Los Angeles, Dave McMenamin does a good job picking out 20 moments that shaped the Lakers season. One note particularly stood out to me was the detailing of the Lakers 7 game roadie:

L.A. had another one of its patented Sunday letdown losses on Jan. 30 at home to Boston, losing by 13 points, but quickly regrouped by starting its longest road trip of the season with consecutive wins against the Hornets, Grizzlies, Celtics and Knicks in early February. Then it finished off the trip by losing three straight — in Orlando by 14, in Charlotte by 20 and in Cleveland by five (marking a 60-point turnaround from the last time the two teams met). “I think [my team] took their All-Star break before the game,” Jackson said. “They left before this game started. I’m not happy with the way this trip ended, that’s for sure.” All the goodwill from the back-to-back wins in Boston and New York was dashed by the feeble finish.

Looking back, this trip was indicative of the Lakers entire season. They could get up for certain games but ultimately didn’t have enough in them to sustain long pushes (post all-star break push aside). This year really was one where the peaks were not as high but the lows were lower than in seasons past.

*The playoffs are in full swing and while it’s hard not having the Lakers playing, the basketball on display has been fantastic. From the duels between Dirk and Durant to the defense of the Bulls and Heat, the competition is a joy to watch. I hope that you all are catching these games (especially since the potential lockout hangs over all of these games like a combination of a dark cloud and a wet blanket). If you’re looking for one of the better scouting reports on the Western Conference Finals, you should give Ryan Gome’s take a read. Gomes has long been known as one of the players who’s most savvy in thinking the game and his report for ESPN Los Angeles is an example of that.

*While the playoffs rage on, the Lakers are still transitioning and looking for a head coach. Sources are reporting that former Cav’s head man, Mike Brown, is now being considered for the job. My initial thoughts on this are mixed. Brown can obviously teach defense and he was able to achieve strong regular season success with a team fronted by a massive star. These would be key ingredients for any Laker coach. However, his offensive sets were limited (which is being kind) and his lack of success in the post season are checkmarks in the “cons” column of evaluating his tenure as a head man. In the end, I think the Lakers are merely being thorough by looking at all of the names that have surfaced with the media, but my preferences remain one of the trio of Shaw, Adelman, and Van Gundy (should he actually ever be officially approached for an interview).

*One of the fallouts of the Lakers going out of the playoffs the way that they did is that any success they had in the regular season is now under a microscope with some quick to diminish it or scrutinize it in a way that lessens how good they actually were. This happens at the team level and at the individual player level. Over at Silver Screen & Roll, there’s an in-depth look at whether or not Kobe Bryant deserved his nods to the All-NBA 1st Team and the All-Defense First Team. Give it a read as I feel there are some very good points made.

*If you have not heard, Jerry West is joining the Warriors in a non-decision making position on their executive board. He’ll essentially be another advisor the Warriors’ ownership group and will lend some needed credibility to a franchise that’s had about as much success as the Clippers over the past 20 years. One  recent development, however, is that West’s role may also come with a small stake in ownership. Go read what Tim Kawakami (who’s been all over the West news) has to say about it.

*I really have nothing to say about this post beyond mentioning that you should go read it. Anything that has Ron Artest and Dostoyevsky’s Notes From The Underground together gets my thumbs up.

*Finally, this isn’t reading material but rather tasty treats for the eyes. If you’re on twitter and you’re not following @NBA-Photos, you’re missing out on some fantastic stuff. Like Kobe demolishing Okafor, Taj Gibson crushing Wade, and Durant’s outright assault on Brendan Haywood.