Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  September 2, 2011

  • EuroBasket is in full swing and, with that, competitive basektball is back in our lives – if only briefly. There are plenty of NBA players in action but one of particular interest to us all is Pau Gasol. He’s played well thus far, showing his full arsenal against Poland and again bringing his ‘A’ game against Portugal and Great Britain. This tourney has brought out Pau’s peak efficiency as he’s scoring 23.3 points per game in only 23.7 minutes of action and shooting a pretty ridiculous true shooting percentage of 78.5.
  • It’s easy to wonder if these games mean anything, long term, for Pau as the real test of any recovery from his lackluster playoffs will come when the NBA season resumes. However, I’m of the mindset that any strong performance should be praised in the same way that any poor performance would be harped on and put under the microscope. Yes, the competition isn’t the strongest with some of the better frontline players in the tourney suiting up as his teammates (his brother Marc and Serge Ibaka both play for Spain), but strong play against any competition is a good sign. I mean, I don’t consider Aaron Gray, David Andersen, or Carl Landry as the best defenders around but they seemed to do a good job against Pau in the playoffs. So, when viewed in that light, I’m happy with what Gasol is giving thus far.
  • In case you haven’t heard, Kevin Garnett has said that he was close to being a Laker in the summer of 2007 but stated didn’t like the atmosphere surrounding the team and thus decided that he didn’t want to play here. A few notes here: 1). I recall badly wanting KG as he was one of the premier big men in the game at that time and thought he’d really help the team. However, I also recall that in order to make such a trade it would have been very likely that the Lakers would need to give up Odom, Bynum, and Kwame in order to make salaries match while still making a fair deal talent wise. In my opinion, that would have left the Lakers front court depleted and their cupboard bare if/when they tried to make another deal to restock their roster. 2). KG mentioned that Kobe and Phil were “going at it” but that actually wasn’t the case the situation was actually a bit more complex than that. From what I recall, Phil was trying to play peacemaker between Kobe and the front office and getting him to understand that they, together, could pressure management to make a deal to improve the team. However, getting Kobe on board wasn’t the easiest of goals as his discontent with the organization was at an all time high. 3). In the end, I’m quite happy with the way that things worked out as Bynum blossomed, Odom found his stride as a 3rd cog, and the Lakers got Gasol for Kwame. Not to mention that since that summer the Lakers have 2 rings to the C’s single one so I’d say things worked out well for both sides.
  • If there’s one thing to love about this lockout it’s the fact that Summer hoops leagues have hit the mainstream and we’ve all been able to enjoy some of the best players in the world battling it out for regional supremacy. I for one can’t wait for the Drew League/Goodman League rematch with the hope that Kobe suits up for the LA based Drew team (regardless of what Brandon Jennings says).
  • An off-shoot of these games getting the national spotlight is the fact that they’ve produced some great writing on the history of the various leagues and characters in them, fantasitc highlight clips, and some great first person accounts of the games. More of these please.
  • Speaking of Summer hoops highlights, check out LeBron and Durant going back and forth in this clip. My one thought about this match up: It’s been a while since two of the top 5 (or so) players in the league have played the same position like James and Durant do. The fact that both players are in (or entering) their prime means many more battles between the two. As fans of the game, we should all be very excited about that.
  • Did I mention that just because there’s a lockout that the writing hasn’t suffered? There is some great work worth reading being produced daily.
  • Back to the Lakers, Zach Lowe of SI asks if the Lakers should go big by starting Lamar Odom instead of Ron Artest. He brings up some good points on both sides of the argument that’s worth your time so click that link. In a reply I sent Zach on Twitter, I mentioned that if Odom were to start, I’d rather him start in front of Fisher (or Blake) rather than Artest. For all the moaning about Artest’s struggles on offense, it’s easy to forget how valuable he is on defense, often taking the other team’s best perimeter player – even if that means defending the point guard. If we’re taking into account all contributions on both sides of the floor and choice is between Fisher/Blake or Artest, I’m taking Ron. Granted there’s risk in starting Odom as this weakens the Lakers bench, unbalances the reserves (both Fisher and Blake then become back ups), and leaves the Lakers without a true PG on the floor. But conceptually, as the line between positions become blurrier and Odom gives a versatility nearly unmatched by any other Laker, this is an idea worth exploring. If not as a starting group, than as one that should see some experimental minutes to gauge how productive it could be.

Darius Soriano

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  1. Happy Labor day guys. Ok it’s off topic but i have a question. Its Sept and i guess you could truly call this “a Season on the Brink”. I have seen all the drew league, rucker, goodman highlights all over the net. Yes it tillilates us but why arent Kobe Lebron Durant DWade Dhoward Blake Griffith, DRose, KG, Amare, Melo and all the top tier stars not at the negotiating table. Dont they make the most money? Arent they the star power, Arent they the faces of their franchises, arent they the reason we love the game. No disrespect to dfish and the rest of the player union reps and board, but damn it the stars need to show up. They need to be at the negotiations. They get the most money, they get the most endorsements and for the most part take very little responsibility as far as getting this settled. Owners may own the teams but damn it we pay to see the stars. Maybe im idealistic and a little altruistic but id like to see the marquee names not in pick up games but working on behalf of those of us who make this a revenue generating enterprise represented by those we lift highest


  2. Darius,
    There is no dought you are correct… If you were to start Odom it should not mean Artest goes to the bench. That’s a no brainer if you ask me. I would love to start that lineup if the Lakers sign David West to be a back up big for example. However, I don’t think you can do that with no quality back up big man behind Odom. I agree that Odom can’t defend SFs anymore at this point in his career… But with Artest and Kobe in the lineup you could almost always hide Lamar on defense by assigning him to the offensive weak link whether that’s on the PG, SG, or SF. Most likley that would be the SG.


  3. Although this is purely speculative and highly-biased on my part, I’m pretty sure if KG goes to LA in 07, Phil retires with another three-peat.

    We would also end up with 1) greater cap flexibility (no Pau/LO/Bynum to extend & pay) and 2) with Marc Gasol playing center for us. Pau is nice, but let’s not pretend KG-to-LA for a KB/KG duo in their primes would not have been absolutely amazing to watch.


  4. Dom, I understand your feelings but stars aren’t always the best negotiators. Derek is being very attentive to the situation and has also expressed a desire to keep things at a lower boil in the press, so to speak. I know this goes against the point you’re making – that you’d like to see a more visible star profile at the table. Kobe has gotten together with other top players recently to urge support of the ongoing process – I really don’t think we have anything to worry about from the players’ side of things. It’s the owners that cause me the most concern – they’re not all playing with the same deck or agenda.


  5. Kobe’s done what he needed to do I think, as Dave M points out in comment #4.

    All LeBron does is stick his foot in his mouth whenever he opens it so it’s hard to imagine he’d be able to contribute anything constructive. Similarly it’s hard to imagine ‘Melo contibuting much. Leaving the adults – like Fish – in charge seems to make a lot of sense.


  6. As regards the idea of Odom starting, the idea in of itself has obvious merit but I’m really concerned about the lack of depth… which has been explored in other threads here. I’ve written about possible bench additions, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but the fact is that Theo and Joe Smith are gone and Kupchak seems on the fence about bringing Caracter back. That doesn’t leave us with anyone to back up Bynum, Pau and Odom and we all know how things went down the stretch. These things will be addressed I’m sure, if and when the lockout ends. Still, it worries me. I’m one of those that thinks you can never have enough size on the roster.


  7. Hi guys,

    Thanks for keeping the flow of good basketball reads to flowing.

    I have a question about something a bit off topic:

    I have a couple of talented basketball-playing kids, and we have been talking about doing a US trip in the summer. What are the big youth camps to try and get to in the US?

    It would be a lot of fun for them to go against some of the best young US ballers.


  8. TheDane,
    I would take them to Spain instead… They seem to know how to play ball. They are the second best nation in the country in only a short amount of time. The USA just has the best athletes.


  9. The second best nation in the country seems a bit redundant 😉


  10. Darius,

    You have been writing and posting as if the team/player negotiations will be a brief interlude, followed by a return to near normal–even if a season is lost in the process.

    I’ve been thinking that the owners have been setting themselves up for a basketball revolution that could be very good for the future of basketball–and provide many more opportunities for players to play–not to mention the upward pressure such competition would have on future salaries.

    With blocks of players already either going overseas or playing/planning exhibitions, am I the only only one thinking about a rival league springing up in North America?

    We’ve already got a number of very viable cities that have lost an NBA team–or have successfully sponsored other professional sports: Seattle, Vancouver, San Jose, Anaheim, Kansas City, St. Louis, Louisville, Tampa, Baltimore, Buffalo, etc.–and new places like Las Vegas. It might be possible to pull dissident owners into NABA from the NBA (New Jersey, Dallas?)

    I could imagine a North American Basketball Association–NABA, that would further expand basketball beyond USA botrders. From Canada, one might consider Vancouver and Montreal to join Toronto, and from Latin America, one might imagine teams from Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil.

    NABA could start up almost instantly with exhibition games–followed by league competition in 2012–2013.

    Is it only me?


  11. 10,
    I think it’s more likely one of the big leagues in Europe starts plucking NBA stars. Basketball is a wold game now. The NBA is short sighted and is only speeding up the process Of losing players to Europe. Basketball will soon be like soccer. With lots of good leagues all over the world.


  12. The Dane,

    The best place to go is Southern California, your youth group will enjoy the theme parks, our high school hoopsters who are the future NBA stars in the country. A Dane would want to visit USA, he can always visit other countries in Europe but crossing the Atlantic and see Los Angeles will always be a treat.

    Before we talk of Odom starting, perhaps we challenged the lockout participants when are they going to compromise? Are they ready to work? So many people who work at the stadium and others are jobless today because of the lockout. In this day and age, a strike, a lockout or whatever you may call it, is not in tune with the times. To owners and players, get real and be satisfied what you have. To owners, if you are losing, let someone run the business and to players who are averaging $5M, can you face the unemployed new graduate today and explain to them what is really enough?


  13. I know I shouldn’t indulge in this, but…

    About that Garnett non-story: Dwyer has a good piece on it. And I agree that depleting our depth (Odom/Bynum) for Garnett was not the best move long-term. I also hate KG with a passion, and am glad I don’t have to force myself to root for his antics. With that said, Dwyer (who mentions Kwame Brown mopping up Odom and Drew’s minutes) seems to be overlooking the fact that the Pau trade didn’t involve Odom or Bynum.

    Meaning – theoretically – that trade could have still gone through. A lineup of Pau (even not as his natural position), KG, Radman/Ariza, Kobe, Fisher is definitely intriguing. Consider that in 2008, Bynum wasn’t even a part of the run. So really, all you’re doing to the 2008 team is replacing Odom with Garnett. That team would have easily taken care of the Pistons or Cavaliers, who would have come out of the East. The Magic wouldn’t have been a great challenge in 2010 (since Boston wouldn’t come out of the East). We could be talking a potential 3-peat. But I guess you can’t overlook Garnett’s age or injury, since we’d be trading for the short term.

    Alright, study break’s over. Sorry for the pointless speculation. The lockout gives us more time to think about things that don’t really matter, I guess.


  14. I suspect that the 6 new owners who were involved with the NHL lockout are the driving force behind the owners wanting to roll back salaries and put a hard cap in place. It fascinates me that bad owners want to put into practice a means to protect themselves against their bad business decisions. In other businesses if you make decisions that negatively impact your product over a long period of time you go out of business. Why dont the owners hold each other accountable for protracted stupidity. Or at least write contracts that are weighted to maintain a certain standard of productivity. If a player like gilbert arenas’ productivity drops a certain percentage across the board reduce that amount you owe him. Conversely if a player’s productivity increases reward him contractually.


  15. @15

    You are spot on. Personally, I don’t think owners like Dr. Buss, Mark Cuban, or Mickey Arison will be manipulated by the cheapskates of the league. Teams like LA, Dallas, and Miami are the revenue generators of the league. Those owners won’t sign off on a deal the weakens their position so teams like Washington can become competitive. The NBA is not the NHL.