Below you’ll find a collection of some good reads to get you through the rest of your Wednesday afternoon. Enjoy…
- Hopefully you’ve been following, but if not Pau Gasol has been doing some very good work in the Euro Basket Tournament. Over at In The Game, Pau is ranked as the frontrunner for the MVP of the tournament (h/t to The Point Forward):
Spain is a monster with Pau, top quality but well beatable without him. He’s easily the most effective player in the tournament, leading in points per 28 minutes (pace-adjusted) ahead of Ante Tomic and Emir Preldzic. Scoring rate is phenomenal. Well on course for most efficient tournament performance in Spanish national team history since ’94, and he already occupies seven of the ten top places in that category.
- Speaking of Pau, Brian Kamentzky breaks down his game (and rematch of sorts) vs. Germany and one Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki:
First, while Gasol was sluggish early and was a non-factor scoring, Nowitzki wasn’t much better, missing seven of his nine hoists in the first half. Gasol did nice work on Dirk, aggressively getting into the German’s floor space to take away some of his options. Whether in the post or higher on the floor, Pau was far more successful getting a hand in the face of the Finals MVP than he was against Dallas in the postseason. (That Dirk wasn’t hitting jumpers like it was a video game helped, too.) Matched up against Chris Kaman at center, Gasol occasionally lost contact with him in transition, but engaged in the requisite pushing and shoving on the block and generally held his ground (though overall, our friend Dave Miller would have hated how much time Pau spent with his arms dangling by his hips at the defensive end).
After the break, any concerns about Gasol’s health (or susceptibility to mind control) quickly dissipated.
On Spain’s opening possession of the third quarter, Pau made a nice play on the left block, creating space against Dirk with a push into the lane, then reversing to finish through contact with the left hand. Two trips later, Gasol ran his percentage from downtown for the Eurobasket to 80 percent (4-of-5), drilling a jumper from the top of the arc. Later, he displayed some nice footwork against Kaman to face up just below the left elbow before elevating over the quasi-German, would finish the third with 10 points, two steals, and a dime — a sweet dish around Kaman to lil’ bro Marc.
- Over at Pro Basketball Talk, our old friend Kurt has started a series of posts on what every team needs to do once the lockout ends. He starts out with the Lakers and offers these words of advice:
When the lockout ends, the Lakers need to… get a new point guard and get behind Mike Brown.
Brown has sounded like a guy who has got the right idea — if the Lakers are going to win another title it will be because they use more Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, allowing Kobe Bryant to pick his spots. He cannot carry a team to a title now. Brown has talked about using parts of the Spurs offense from their twin-towers era of Tim Duncan and David Robinson). It’s a smart move.
But Derek Fisher and Steve Blake — the two point guards on the Lakers roster — are not going to be able to run that show. Not well enough. Which means the Lakers need a new point guard. The free agent market is not loaded with good players (unless you think T.J. Ford is a good player, and if you do we need to talk).
The Lakers may have to trade for a point guard (hard to say right now who becomes available once teams see the new labor deal).
There is not a lot of trade bait on the Lakers roster. Some Lakers fans want Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol moved, but neither of those guys is going anywhere unless a Dwight Howard-level player is coming back. Nor should they be — you win by going big, not point guards. The more likely move is something like Lamar Odom for a reasonable point guard and a backup big. But even that will not be easy to pull off for GM Mitch Kupchak.
- If you’re looking for a new basketball site to bookmark, Sheridan Hoops is my recommendation. It’s run by former ESPN and AP contributor Chris Sheridan and he’s started out strong with good posts on the lockout. A sampling from his report on why the players and owners may not be that far apart in their negotiations:
Yes, under the 10-year collective bargaining agreement the owners have proposed, the gap is indeed somewhere in the area of $7-8 billion range.
But if you look at the six-year deal the players have proposed, which includes $500 million less in annual revenue (than what they would have received under the old deal) over the six upcoming seasons, the simple math tells a different story:
Over those six years, the difference in proposed revenues that would go to the players adds up to $2.97 billion.
That is still a significant amount of money, but it is nowhere near as significant as what is being put out there publicly.
Moreover, if you look at years 1, 2 and 3 of the proposals, the sides are a total of $870 million apart. (The players are asking for $2.17 billion in salaries and benefits in 2011-12, $2.33 billion in ’12-13, and $2.42 billion in ’13-14. The owners are offering a flat $2 billion per year.)
Or to put it another way, in a business that brought in $4.2 billion in revenues last season, the sides are only $170 million apart for next season.
Does that seem like an insurmountable difference that would justify the cancellation of the season? No — especially given the fact that neither side has said it has put its “last and best” offer on the table.
- Friend of the site Dave M. continues his good work over at Searching For Slava and has penned a good piece that includes questions about what could be a rocky transition for this Lakers team:
We could be exchanging lists. You and I like exchanging lists. I stop by the front lines and they’re talking about every piece that’s gonna be the same and I’m thinking, it’s never gonna be the same. The sales force couldn’t hit their numbers last year so you fired the supervisor and the foreman and the accounting staff and the stenographers but you decided to keep all the salespeople who forgot how to close? I don’t buy it and apart from wanting to leave something special in Jim Buss’s ice tray and writing in the second person, I’ve gotta believe Mike Brown will bring some new blood into an inherited team. There won’t be any money to spend beyond minimum and some type of mid-level exception which pretty much leaves a trade and they won’t move Kobe or Drew and probably not Pau. And all this presumes a CBA settlement and I doubt they’d dropkick the president of the players association. Would they?
- Over at Hardwood Paroxysm, James Herbert tells a very personal story from his youth and how a Magic Johnson quote helped him in more ways than just improving his dribbling skills:
That last bit is important, as before I picked up a basketball there were not a lot of areas where I excelled. This is the complete list: running in circles, yelling, smiling, breaking things, and disrupting my parents’ sleep. With anything involving concentration, I lagged behind the other kids. With anything involving hand-eye coordination, I lagged way behind the other kids. Coloring inside the lines? Couldn’t do it. Playing a musical instrument? Couldn’t do it. Swimming? Couldn’t do it, and dreaded being forced to try. I was born prematurely and although most of my earliest memories revolve around the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I am aware that I spent lots of time in a variety of doctors’ offices where I was diagnosed with developmental disorders ranging from ADD to Asperger’s to Tourette’s.
For some kids on the autism spectrum in their developmental years, not much progress can be made. For others, treatment can enormously improve quality of life. If you’re really lucky, treatment can eventually eliminate any signs of being different. I was absurdly lucky that my absolute hero of a mom dedicated every second of her time to helping me. Basketball ended up being a huge part of it. She exposed me to Magic, Michael, and Larry through NBA home videos and something clicked with me. I internalized the stories of how hard they worked and wanted to be one of them. Preferably Magic. So I practiced dribbling. Over and over, every day, even though I was terrible for the first couple of years. I kept at it, exhibiting a sort of discipline I’d previously never shown in any capacity. It was the extreme focus that I would have needed to become a good swimmer or violinist or whatever, but I didn’t care about those things. I loved to dribble a basketball.