Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  January 4, 2012

It’s been a while since I put together some fast break thoughts, so now that the league is in full swing here we go…

  • There’s an old saying that “there’s only one basketball” and lately we’ve been arguing over who should have it the most. But while us fans are worried about Kobe vs. Bynum vs. Pau, it’s again time to give Mitch Kupchak credit. Whatever you think of the Odom trade, that move has allowed Bynum the minutes and touches he needs to grow. The domino of that trade is that LA needed back up bigs and Mitch signed two guys in McRoberts and Murphy that are both low usage players that move the ball to the open man more often than not. So, in the end, LA has a deeper team with guys that compliment the core group. Things aren’t perfect by any means, but considering LA’s resources and the types of players they needed to fit this team, they’ve done well for themselves with these acquisitions.
  • Speaking of Odom, his stint in Dallas has been awful so far. As one of my favorite players in the league, I hope he finds his stride soon. In the games that I’ve seen, he seems completely out of sorts and often just stands in the corner on offense. If I was Dallas, I may try to use him more as an offensive initiator when on the floor with Terry and/or Roddy B as those guys are scorers that could use a set up man. Then again, running an O means knowing an O and with the short time Odom has been in Dallas, he may not be up to speed yet.
  • The injuries are starting to strike. We saw this ourselves last night when Courtney Lee fell down grabbing his leg as if his achilles blew out. Luckily for him it’s only a calf strain, but that was scary stuff. In bigger news though, Zach Randolph is out two months with a torn MCL while Manu Ginobili is out 6-8 weeks with a broken bone in his shooting hand. Both the Spurs and Grizz were playoff teams last year and in a shortened season where depth is so important, both teams have to be sweating a bit that top players will be out for so long.
  • This is a couple weeks old, but go watch Kobe pump and freeze fake guys to death.
  • Andrew Bynum being at the top of the PER food chain was nice while it lasted. He’s now behind LeBron and Manu, and his numbers will likely normalize soon and drop below the mythical 30 level. However, one place where he is still on top is in total rebound rate where his 29.3 is a full 5.5 points higher than 2nd place Dwight Howard. Don’t get me wrong, I love PER as an all encompassing stat but if big Drew can be the best rate rebounder in the league, I’ll happily take it and not think twice about where his PER is.
  • The Lakers don’t play the Heat for a while but file this away for when they do: Zone defenses have given them trouble so far this year. It sure would be nice if LA had a zone to pull out from their sleeve. Wait, what’s that you say?
  • I don’t know about you, but watching this in slow motion gave me a greater appreciation for Bynum’s athleticisim. This was not an easy shot:

Darius Soriano

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43 responses to Fast Break Thoughts

  1. Thinking through the zone idea, I don’t think it would work with Bynum and Pau on the floor, because in a 1-2-2 zone (can’t play a 2-3 because of the defensive 3 second rule), Bynum and Pau would have to be able to cover 3 point shooters in the corner. Good ball movement would destroy that zone.

    Would a 3-2 zone work? Too much thinking …

  2. “because Bryant took better shots”

    lol, or mostly the same shots. sometimes they just won’t go in. because basketball is a game of averages, i’d rather the stinker games happened early in the year. since Kobe will likely end the season with the same shooting average as every year, more misses now=more makes later. if not, then there’s no hope anyway and people might as well stop whining.

    the players and staff are no more stupid than the people who post here, myself included. some are smarter, some are more stupid, but overall, it’s not that different, as far as intelligence goes. what IS different is the experience of actaully being involved behind the scenes. the team knows what to do, and if they don’t crying about it won’t improve the situation.

    fans! it’s time to go back to doing your job, which is cheering. media, just tell us what they said and who wins and loses. maybe if everyone does their proper job, the team can do the same. all of the rest of us are getting what we get anyway.

    oh, and Kobe, keep shooting. that’s what a shooting guard does, especially if he can score 40 points with a torn ligament in his wrist.

  3. Reason why Odom as the initiator in Dallas doesn’t work is they have a competent point guard in Jason Kidd. Odom, who has been accustomed to the initiator role seems lost as a result.

    Going to back to the last post, someone commented about how they would have like Rudy Fernandez to be a part of the Odom for TPE swap. I agree, but it seems the FO was really looking for maximum TPE or cap space and Rudy’s contract would have inhibited that. However, imagine how Pau would have felt having a fellow Spaniard.

    I actually cringe when I see Bynum go acrobatic because that means all 290 pounds have to come down through his knees. But I’m super impressed with him this year. He’s displaying such a killer instinct (that Pau isn’t) in the post and playing with a healthy attitude. If we keep Bynum. Good. If he is the principle asset in a Howard trade, great. Either way, we have a beast inside.

  4. As a longtime Laker fan (as opposed to a Kobe fan… not necessarily the same definition), I’d like to see the Lakers stand pat (trade-wise) this season and make D-Will their #1free-agent target six months from now. The Nets are a mess and I think it’s pretty obvious D-Will won’t be staying there.

    The Mavs appears to be the main competition for D-Will services. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if the chemistry in OKC doesn’t improve to hear the Thunder do a sign & trade with the Nets (Westbrook for D-Will). Making them super scary for the next few years. Thoughts.

  5. to totally benefit from a zone defense, the lakers need to field an athletic lineup. if the lakers don’t pose a threat in transition, then there is no penalty in crashing the boards, and an offensive rebound can easily scramble the defense and lead to easy baskets.

    i’m pretty puzzled about miami’s struggles with the zone. you’d think they’d have the athleticism to wreak havoc on the glass.

    nice moves by the grizzlies and hornets. both players are young, inexpensive, and have a lot of upside.

    there’s the prospect of drawing a low-seeded/now-at-full-strength grizzlies or spurs team in the playoffs.

  6. Glad to see Barnes playing well, but I’m a little disappointed Ebanks hasn’t seen any action the last few games.

    I’m OK with Kapono playing spot minutes behind Kobe, but in a small lineup like Brown used last night (with MWP at the 4) I’d much rather see Ebanks at the 3 than Kapono.

  7. The more Miami sees the zone, the more experience they’ll have in solving it. I wonder if some of the more experienced D coaches like Thibs in Chicago will hold back some wrinkles during the regular season and spring in the playoffs. Especially when they’ll have time to practice and implement opponent specific wrinkles.

    I feel bad for LO, loved him as a Laker. I wonder if part of the reason Mitch was so ready to move him was because LO was the emotional leader of the Lakers? If LO was struggling that hard with the trade decision, maybe Mitch felt it would really affect the whole team at a critical juncture. At a time when the team was trying to learn a new system with new players and a coach in a compressed time, they couldn’t afford to have their emotional leader be down in the dumps and set them back a while.

    Sure LO would have come around eventually. But how long? 10-15 games in? By then, they’ve lost all the training camp time and those games. As we can see, Brown has tried to maximize the time he has had to practice and also know his players.

    Having a gloomy LO casting a pall over the team and the entire team not 100% focused would have put the team even further behind in acclimating. I don’t think anyone in the organization was willing to just write off this year despite all the new pieces and obstacles. Moving LO was a calculated gamble.

  8. From the quotes in that Pincus article, it appears that Mike Brown realizes he can’t fight every battle with Kobe, so he’ll choose to criticize and fine-tune Kobe’s defensive instincts rather than offensive. It’s a reasonable approach. He’s already getting in Kobe’s ear about his centerfield approach; if he starts going ballistic and overreacting to his career offensive tendencies, the entire season could go south fast. I don’t blame Brown at this point. You have to be a realist, and if Phil struggled to rein Kobe’s shooting in, then Brown is intelligently focusing more on Kobe’s defensive instincts.

  9. @7. jodial – It’s been my observation so far this season that Kapono is Kobe’s primary backup. When MWP played the PF in that lineup, was Kobe in the game? If so, that’s one of the few times in this young season that Kapono has played SF.

  10. @Snoop

    That is a pretty smart take on the situation. Even if that isn’t Brown’s intention, it seems to be what he is accomplishing, and it makes sense as a motivational tactic. Good insight.

  11. Darius: I like your zone idea against the Heat. I shudder to think about our defensive match ups against them in M2M. I also like the fact that you even mention the Heat, in your post this early. Perhaps you are more Laker title conscious then I give you credit for. Because we all know in this year’s NBA, if you can’t take the HEAT, then get out of the kitchen.

    Bynum: “If” he can be the stud, then he and Kobe will get along just fine. Kobe has some experience being successful with a dominant big man.

  12. Calvin H: Kobe is coming towards the end of his reign. I have a dream for “20″ years. He needs players around him that will allow that. Perhaps the new Drew will be one of them.

    robinred: At this point, perhaps we play the cards we have until everyone gets desperate right before the deadline. Then we decide if we go for DH or a PG (or both). We must hope that our seeding is at least reasoanble (I would be very happy with 4 right now).

  13. With regard to the Lamar trade, it’s becoming more like the movie “Departed.”

    I think Mitch planted Lamar in Dallas to destroy that team from the inside, sort of like Trojan horse in Troy.

  14. you would have thought miami would have figured out how to deal with a zone, since dallas killed them with it in the finals last year.

  15. BigCitySid @ 4 – for some reason I’d rather the Lakers have Deron Williams than CP3. Oh, I think it’s because Williams is bigger than Paul and therfore may be more durable, for one thing.

    In any event, who knows, the Lakers may be able to persue one or the other in the off season. (Paul hasn’t signed an extension yet with the Clippers, has he?)

  16. @R, CP3 had to sign a two year deal with the Clippers, they did not want a 1 year rental with him. Heck, with the team they have, he may want to stay there.

    @Snoop, I think you are right on.

  17. sT – Sure; even as lousy an owner as D. Sterling is, he isn’t stupid. I just wasn’t sure if Chris Paul had gone beyond promising to sign an extension, and actually inked one yet. And yeah, I agree he may well want to stick around with the Clips.

  18. As long as Bynum & Gasol are getting their touches, how can we not prefer Kobe to be the one shooting the remaining shots? I’d like Andrew to see the ball enough for a 20+ppg, Pau to find his customary 18.something ppg as an outlet at the elbows and the free throw line, and like 30-35 Kobe turn around step back fade away jumpers, because that move never gets boring. oh, and a pony.

  19. @10. Dude, that was a second half run with Kapono, Kobe, Blake, Metta, and I think Pau. I don’t mean to bag on Kapono – though he plays a nihilistic brand of defense – just seemed like that would have been a good spot to get Ebanks 5-6 minutes.

  20. “Speaking of Odom, his stint in Dallas has been awful so far. As one of my favorite players in the league, I hope he finds his stride soon.”

    Odom’s weaknesses were hidden behind two great 7 footers Gasol and Bynum in LA. His weaknesses are exposed in Dallas in plain sight. You didn’t see this coming because you could only see the obvious but not the truth.

  21. An article I read about Dallas (but can’t find anymore) said that Carlisle deemed Odom so far behind on conditioning that they put him on some kind of short-term conditioning plan. Meaning he would probably play less at first and have to catch up to Carlisle’s standard.

    So it could be that he’s still in that phase while learning a new offense and new teammates’ tendencies. But I think his skill set just isn’t as valuable with the Mavericks. Kidd and to a lesser degree Terry cover most of the ball-handling, Nowitzki uses the same space for his attacks at PF that LO does, and Marion duplicates some of Odom’s contributions as a swiss army knife type of player.

    I was extremely impressed by Carlisle’s coaching last summer, but I’m not sure he can cover for now having so many duplicate skills while losing Chandler’s rim protection and Barea’s penetration, skills that nobody on their roster can really cover.

  22. Trading Odom did seem to work out for the better of the team. Thinking about the trade now, it’s most likely he was traded as to not ruin team chemistry…and maybe KC’s theory (14) is right about Mitch’s schemes to ruin the Mavs. :p

    With Bynum playing spectacularly and Murphy/McRoberts creating depth in the front court, it’s clear how Kupchak envisioned this season with a Paul-Kobe-Byno trio. Yep, give him credit on that too. If at least for trying.

  23. I too am quite amused how ineffective LO is in Dallas – but for obvious reasons, the strong PG play is definitely the answer. And how long have I been preaching: Mitch acted on a potential problem swiftly rather than have it drag on… I still admire the move as much as 95% of Lakerland think it was THAT bad.

    The Lakers are still learning each other in this new system. Finding guys who are usually “there” are no longer there.

    I also admire the confidence that Steve Blake has under this system… he’s been a breath of fresh air so far, and whilst not perfect still, I would not be on board any kind of proposal with him heading out. Although, for the record, if it nets us someone like Dwight, why not.

    Speaking of such, Andrew has come out firing. I haven’t been his staunchest defender since time y memoriam but I too recognize good play, good development and good attitude towards the game. The last biggest enemy for Drew will be his ego. He isn’t Shaq yet so he has to realize the pecking order of things… its a seniority matter and its not like his senior denies him his touches or limelight if it means getting him his 6th (perhaps even 7th) ring.

    The Lakers are a work in progress, but we like what we see so far. Atleast I do. I just hope the injury bug finds another team to piss off this year and spares us. I like how Mike Brown is earning the respect of the league … but forget not that it started with the respect and confidence his team has given him. We are fortunate to have him and not a Phil Jackson silhouette.

    Too early to be calling out championships, but this is the part of the journey I like most: our team is hungry and it shows. We have been resilient and very much gritty esp on the hustle and defensive ends of the floor – and in case you forget – we own a nuke of an offensive weapon in Kobe that we can always unleash once in awhile.

    Overall, I praise the team for its ability to adjust… thats the beauty of having a hard-working coach and a hungry bunch. Our broken-ness has been alleviated a little but there’s just 1 tiny move I still wait the front office do.

    But I won’t tell you.

  24. “Speaking of Odom, his stint in Dallas has been awful so far. As one of my favorite players in the league, I hope he finds his stride soon.”

    He’ll be fine. 6-12 Wednesday with 5 boards in 23 minutes. There’s a piece on ESPN Dallas that makes plain that his head is in the right place:

    http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4683014/lamar-odom-this-is-still-ugly-for-me

    Lastly, re “truth” and “obvious”, truth and obvious are found here in the per 36 stats, which show that Lamar was just fine without both Pau and Bynum:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/o/odomla01.html

    One might otherwise try seeing the truth and the obvious in knowing that he won’t end the season shooting .195 from the field.

  25. Not a good sign that Kobe’s usage rate has steadily increased as he has gotten older. In 2008-09 (champs) usage rate was 30.2%, 2009-10 (champs), usage rate was 30.5%. In 2010-11, usage rate was 33%, and now in this young season, he is at 37%.

    To be fair, Michael Jordan, at the same age as Kobe had a high usage rate of 33% as well. However, he did not have two elite low post options in his last 3 year run and needed to score a significant amount.

    I appreciate Kobe’s attempt to defy the forces of gravity and time by hoisting ever more difficult shots against younger foes. But is it just me or does the team dig itself into a big hole by inefficiently allowing Kobe to gun in the first 3Qs, only to have Kobe try to “save” the day in the 4Q with dramatic shooting? I know this is simplistic, and it’s more than just “throw it to the bigs even though the defenses are sagging on them,” but there has to be a better way. It’s too much of a toll on this team to be in so many close games due to this disturbing pattern.

  26. Won`t make a final call on the LO trade until we seen what Mitch does with the Dallas chips. Want to have more Ebanks and less Kopono unless we see more zones.

  27. I think that’s a little ridiculous to say we’re deeper now that giving up Odom for nothing has freed up more touches for Bynum. I’m pretty sure everyone here would want Odom rather than Murphy on this team right now.

    Also, it is way too easy to start critquing Lamar Odom. I love how all of a sudden everyone’s bashing on Odom. He came in out of shape much like MWP did, and I’m sure when we play Dallas he’ll have a monster game.

  28. #28. I’m defining depth by more guys that can play and contribute. I’m not inferring anything about the talent level of the guys in comparison to Odom. I’d rather have Odom over Murphy for sure. Anyone that wouldn’t is crazy.

    That said, Bynum is benefitting from the extra minutes and that, too, is not arguable. He’s closing the games and offering elite level rebounding and defense that no other Laker big man is able to provide (not even Gasol). That’s not a knock on Pau or on the departed Odom, it’s praise for Bynum.

    Also, I too tire of fans always using this either/or mindset with the follow up of bashing one guy to build up another. Odom does not need to be disparaged to acknowledge that Bynum is playing better. Nor does he need to be disparaged because Murphy and McRoberts are playing well.

    The point of my bullet above was that regardless of what you think of the Odom trade, LA is doing okay right now. That’s no knock on Odom, but rather a good word for Mitch, Bynum’s play, and what the new reserve big men are providing.

  29. There was a Rick Carlisle interview a week or so ago, in which he said that Odom would have the toughest job on the team, bar none. I forget the specifics, I’ll dig around some and see if I can locate it somewhere in the cyber universe. The general idea was that Lamar would not have one specific job, but many. I’m not at all surprised that he’s struggled in the early stages because he’s always been a guy who has to get comfortable with a structure, and then he starts spinning off it and improvising, much like a musicican. Strange analogy I know… I’m just not sure how else to put it.

  30. DY – Nice point re Usage rate. I agree completely: Kobe should NOT be playing the minutes he is now nor should he be taking as many shots. He’s already played more games than MJ. At age 32, MJ’s WS/48 was significantly higher than Kobe’s (0.317 vs. 0.179). In fact, MJ’s average WS/48 is 0.250, while Kobe has NEVER exceeded that in any season.

    I think this goes to show that most NBA fans overvalue offense (see WOW’s article about Al Harrington: http://wagesofwins.com/2011/12/28/yes-al-harrington-is-that-bad/). Kobe’s may be one of the greatest SG’s ever but it’s time for him to reduce (or at least change) his role.

    BTW – Kobe’s been getting injections for his wrist before every game (see the Orange County Register article). How long do you think he can keep this up? I wouldn’t be surprised if he finally decides to take several weeks off to let the wrist heal.

    DS -
    I think fans need to stop saying they “like” or “don’t like” players. After all, most of us will probably never get to know any of these guys. We should be discussing whether or not players are being correctly VALUED, or over/undervalued. The only logical way to do is is to use evidence.

    For instance, I believe Kobe is significantly overvalued based on his poor WS/48. You can actually argue that he was the 4th most important Laker last year!

    Gasol: 0.232
    Bynum: 0.210
    Odom: 0.184
    Kobe: 0.179

    If you take actual playing time into account, Kobe ends up #2 in WS, behind Gasol (14.7 vs. 10.3). If Odom played as much as Kobe, I suspect he’d be responsible for a similar number of wins.

    GMs and owners can’t stop there, however. Owners have to pay their players. Like in the real world, bosses need to know if their employees are cost-effective (pulling their weight).

    If you calculate the cost per WS from 2010/2011, Kobe’s 10.3 WS cost $2.45 million each. Pau’s $/WS was $1.27 m. Odom’s was $0.88 m, while Bynum’s was $2.27 m.

    But we can’t stop there. Mike Brown uses a more traditional offense. He plans on emphasizing low-post play. If Bynum wasn’t injured and played as many minutes as Odom, his $/WS actually drops to $1.5 m. Since Brown was set on giving big minutes to Kobe, Pau, and Bynum, Odom was going to lose out. His contract would be easiest to move. His $8.9m salary would have been $17.8m due to the luxury tax, meaning his $/WS would jump to over $1.7m.

    The theoretical $/WS for this season (if we kept Odom)
    Kobe: $2.45m
    Odom: $1.7m, at least
    Bynum: $1.5m
    Pau: $1.27m

    Trading Odom for a TPE was extremely valuable for the team. If I were Mitch Kupchak, I’d actually try and find a sucker for Kobe’s contract and trade him before it’s too late. Unfortunately, Laker fans would hate me for life.

  31. Have you ever watched Kobe Bryant play? Every game, Kobe takes 5 3-second-or-less bail-out desperation shots as a result of the team’s stifled offense. Bynum, Gasol, Odom never had to take those, and I’m sure their stats look a lot better because of it.

    The three also share in another aspect of the game. They are not asked to do nearly as much as Kobe is in the offense, but statistics don’t reflect that added responsibility (usage to a degree, but usage doesn’t capture the type of play).

    Statistics also don’t put fans in the seats. Fortunately, you are not our GM, because you would probably make one of the worst decisions this franchise would ever make. Trading a player who has played through tremendous injuries, sacrificing his future physical functionality for the fans and franchise, and who has brought us five championships, just doesn’t make sense. You sure Hollinger didn’t put you up to this?

  32. The sample size is too small to accurately define any trends regarding Kobe’s usage rate this season, but I think there are several factors that help explain his increased usage thus far. Anytime a key player has been out, Kobe has historically taken on more responsibility on offense. Without Lamar and Bynum, I am not surprised his usage rate has increased.

    The transition from the Triangle to a traditional offense is another factor. A traditional offense usually requires a traditional PG. Without a playmaking PG, Kobe has additional responsibilities this season as the only playmaker on the perimeter.

    And finally, Kobe’s knee and ankle are in much better shape than in the past few seasons. He is penetrating this year and getting to the free throw line.

    I would expect that the emergence of Bynum and increased minutes for Blake should help reduce Kobe’s usage rate from the current 37% rate going forward.

  33. 33. LT Let’s hope that Kobe’s usage rate goes down. Right now, it’s the same historical rate as Iverson (with NO scoring options on that team) and Dwade in 2006 (2nd option was arguably Antoine Walker or an old Shaq).

  34. I just have a question to everyone who’s on board with bringing Dwight to the Lakers: if Bynum stays the best rebounder in the league and keeps scoring nearly 20ppg with those percentages, do you still trade him for Dwight?

  35. “If you take actual playing time into account, Kobe ends up #2 in WS, behind Gasol (14.7 vs. 10.3). If Odom played as much as Kobe, I suspect he’d be responsible for a similar number of wins.”

    -This is hilarious. Your analysis suggests that if the Lakers had traded Kobe instead of Lamar, the Lakers would win the same number of games.

    “We should be discussing whether or not players are being correctly VALUED”

    - Exactly, but to focus on a single stat or metric to come to any definitive conclusions about a player’s value will only insure that the player is NOT correctly valued.

  36. 35. (Renato) Yes. Bynum is doing wonders for his trade value at this time, and if the FO does want Dwight, are smiling at the dual positivies of Bynum contributing to wins, and making a Dwight for Bynum swap not laughable anymore.

    But I do like the friendly competition between Howard and Bynum. Seems like the two are challenging each other to put up numbers. Wonder if they text each other about this every night.

  37. 35)
    The answer is yes. Simply because Howard is more durable. It shouldn’t even be a tough choice. And I do think Bynum will have better stats than Dwight this year. He has more upside. Nobody is a bigger Bynum fan than me. I think Andrew is the better player because he is longer, bigger, and can actually score one on one in the post. But DH is a robot.

    Re: Kobe’s Usage Rate

    Kobe will continue to leads the league until the Lakers bring in a starting PG. if you haven’t noticed he is both our starting PG and starting SG.

  38. 37

    “Kobe will continue to leads the league until the Lakers bring in a starting PG. if you haven’t noticed he is both our starting PG and starting SG.”

    Not to mention, the only other player who could somewhat ease that burden was traded away for a bag of Skittles and a ballpoint pen.

  39. @Renato Afonso, The big question is if the injuries to his knees will make his movement, and play degrade over the years faster than it would have otherwise. Also, Bynum just not getting any more new knee injuries is a question, but I believe they were pretty much all fluke injuries before, and it is not like he has weak leg joints that just give out for no reason. So, I am in the camp of a one for one trade with Bynum, because this may be his first season in a long time injury free.

  40. Darius point about the loss of LO having a positive effect on Bynum is spot on. There have been many discussions on this forum of how we could use all 3 of our big men most effectively, and the fact always was, due to overlapping skill sets, we couldn’t. Not that LO wouldn’t be nice to have, but his absense clears up some space for Drew, whose individual success will define whether or not this season is a success.

  41. (26) (31) Great explorations of the business realities and uncertainties that begin to surround the Lakers organization as they struggle with Kobe’s rising salary and changing status.

    All of us hope that Kobe will integrate his oncourt high BBIQ with some business realities, adjust his useage rate, increase his shooting percentage, and lead the Lakers to NBA championships the next two years, or . . . . . . .