Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  March 14, 2013

Last night’s game with the Hawks actually provided two losses — one from the game itself and one in the form of the Lakers’ superstar shooting guard to injury. Kobe’s ankle looks like it’s about nine months pregnant and the team says he’s out indefinitely with a severe ankle sprain. So, with plenty to discuss in Laker-land, here’s some fast break thoughts on the injury bug, the playoffs, and other general musings…

  • Was the play dirty? That’s the question of the day and that gets complicated rather quickly. On twitter I used that term, but would amend it to say, instead, that it was simply an unsafe play by Jones. There are plenty of ways to contest a fadeaway jump shot, but walking into and underneath an airborne player is one of the more dangerous ways to do so. Here’s a screen shot of Jones contesting Kobe’s shot:

Kobe Ankle

  • The reason why I’d say “unsafe” rather than “dirty” is because the latter implies intent. I’ve no clue what Jones’ intent was and prefer not to get into that at all. This in’t the real world where we get to go into a court room, hear testimony, and make a determination. There’s no “you can’t handle the truth” moment coming here. So, I see no need to get into that. Instead, let’s focus on the act and that act was Jones walking underneath a player in the air. That’s an unsafe play no matter how you slice it. I’m not out to disparage Jones or judge his actions through the prism of what I thought he meant to do. What he meant to do isn’t as important as what he actually did. And, in this case, the pictures and video show what he did.
  • What’s done is done, though. Arguing over it is less important than what happens next. The Lakers, simply based off their press release, imply Kobe will miss time. And, while there’s a train of thought that Kobe won’t miss any time (he is Kobe after all), I think he’ll miss at least a game and maybe more.
  • If that ends up being the case, the Lakers’ lack of depth on the wing will be a big challenge to overcome. Forget for a second that it’s Kobe missing time and simply focus on the fact that he’s currently the team’s starting shooting guard and its backup small forward. Coach Mike D’Antoni’s first substitutions are typically for Jamison to come in for Clark and for Meeks to replace Ron. That latter substitution slides Kobe up to SF where he’s a fixture of a small ball lineup. If Kobe can’t play any SF, who will?
  • Meeks and Blake are undersized for SG, much less SF. Ron has actually been playing PF more than SF if you look at who he defends on a nightly basis. Does this mean more minutes for Clark? He’s seen a decline in his minutes and production over the last month and isn’t exactly 100% healthy either (he’s had ankle, knee, and finger issues lately). Ebanks is glued to the bench and has played exactly 11 minutes since the turn of the calendar year. I don’t see this going well if Kobe is out for a prolonged period.
  • That said, knowing what we do of Kobe, he’ll get treatment on his ankle 24/7 until he can get back on the floor, though. He’s really not human in that regard.
  • In better injury news, Pau Gasol says he hopes to be back next week and it’s being reported he’ll return to the lineup as a starter. This is good news on both fronts. Yes, on both fronts. Before Pau got hurt, we were already starting to see a trend where Clark’s value as a starter was slipping from a team performance standpoint. The starting lineup that included Clark was essentially playing even basketball, their plus/minus numbers flat and their efficiency differentials hovering near zero. Meanwhile, when Clark was replaced by Pau, those numbers were beginning to trend up in a way that reinforced all the preseason belief that these players actually could perform well together as complementary pieces. Yes the sample was small and there were issues to work out defensively, but the numbers and the eye test support the “Big four plus Ron” lineup was starting to make headway as a cohesive unit.
  • Even though Pau will return as a starter, his biggest value should still come as an anchor for the 2nd unit. The bench has really struggled to create consistent offense outside of some good chemistry between Steve Blake and Jamison in the P&R. With Pau back, he can be the man in the middle whose passing and ability to score from all over the floor serve as a ballast for the bench.
  • Furthermore, his defense should also be quite useful. The Lakers’ defense is actually 3.4 points per 100 possessions better when Pau is on the floor versus when he sits, per the NBA’s stats database. It’s often easy to forget that even though Pau isn’t the best option to cover perimeter oriented bigs, he still can protect the rim with his length and do so without fouling. Don’t get me wrong, teams will still attack the paint when Dwight sits, but I’d much rather have Pau back at the basket than a combination of Jamison and Clark.
  • How the rotation shakes out when Pau is back will remain to be seen (and we’ll cover this in detail when he does return), but I would not be surprised to see Clark become more of a SF backing up Ron with Jamison taking the majority of the PF minutes when Pau is out of the game or playing C. Simply based off recent trends and how this coaching staff has deployed lineups in the past, I could see a bench lineup of Blake, Meeks, Clark, Jamison, and Pau starting the 2nd quarter, for example. But, I could also see Clark on the bench with a Dwight, Jamison, Ron trio next to Kobe (or Meeks) and Nash (or Blake) getting big minutes with Clark the odd man out due to Jamison’s greater ability to stretch the floor.
  • Getting away from Laker stuff for a second, show of hands (or, in the comments below) of who would want to do a FB&G March Madness bracket challenge. We didn’t do one last year but I’m considering doing one again this year, but only if the demand is high. We’d figure out a prize for the winner.
  • Also, I’m interested in reviving the FB&G mailbag, but only if there’s interest in it. If you have questions, you can email me by clicking that envelope on the right side of the banner at the top of the site. Just put “mailbag question” in the subject line and ask away.
  • Lastly, friend of FB&G and video maker extraordinaire LD2K has produced another gem that is worth your time. Here you go:

 

Darius Soriano

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32 responses to Fast Break Thoughts

  1. yes to March Madness…also love the stuff you guys put out.

  2. darius: count me in: FB&G March Madness bracket challenge

    Go Lakers

  3. Even if Kobe wants to go, I would force him to sit Friday against the Pacers. This is a game that the Lakers have almost no chance of winning, even with Kobe at 100%. Better to rest the ankle. Personnally, that injury would take me about 2 months to recover from. But since he is not human, I am hoping for him to return against the Kings.

  4. When Kobe was “Jalen Rosed”, he came back the next game which was three days later (this time he only has 2 days if he were to not miss time). It should be noted that Game 4 of the NBA finals in 2000 was one of the best games of Kobe’s career.

    Neil: Your comments about KB are off base in that you are almost directly stating that we would have a better record if he was not on the roster.

    Jeff T: I like your idea of sitting him for a game at least. I am going to think others will weigh in with regard to your “no chance of winning” (even with KB at 100%) against Indy comment, as there was a debate over that subject (can we beat good teams?) a couple of threads back.

  5. Just when you thought the season couldnt get any crazier, Henry Abbot comes to Kobe’s defense. I have officially seen it all.

    http://m.espn.go.com/general/blogs/blogpost?blogname=truehoop&id=55806&src=desktop

  6. Ron has averaged more shot attempts than Dwight and Nash each month this year even though he’s shooting 18% less than Dwight and 11% less than Nash. Dwight 57% Nash 50% Ron 39%.

    Ron has played 23 more games than Nash and only made 99 more shots (294-195) and it’s taken 350 more attempts (739-389). Nash is much more efficient yet we continue to see Ron as a 2nd option. This should be a fireable offense.

  7. That’s a fantastik article neil. It’s completely obvious that kobe makes his team rebound less and makes his team shoot worse on 3’s when he is out on the court. It couldn’t be that 4 game stretch is a small sample size.

    In fact, i wouldn’t trust the fact that the Lakers havewon a higher percentage of games over the past 5 seasons with Kobe playing… Then without him.

  8. Such an interesting time in the NBA. Players are returning to injuries so much faster than they used to. Older players with more mileage seem to have sudden lift in their legs after missing it for multiple seasons. When we say Kobe Bryant is not human, because of his ability to play through pain, I don’t doubt that he has an unusually high pain tolerance. But let’s also agree that many of these players are superhuman because of the addition of PED’s. I am not saying who, but we all know it is the elephant in the room, especially in the NBA where they don’t use an outside agency to monitor drug testing.

    Remember what D Rose said “in speaking with ESPN The Magazine and asked to rate PED use in the NBA on a scale of 1 to 10, he responded, “Seven. It’s huge and I think we need a level playing field, where nobody has that advantage over the next person.”

  9. Rusty Shackleford March 14, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Record without him or not I’d take the Kobester with one bad wheel, concussed, wearing an eye patch with food poisoning if he’s available.

  10. There is a terrible recording from Hawk coach to this punk who took out Kobe.

    He is heard saying “take his legs out, sweep his legs. Are you ok with that” Response from punk is OK. The coach should be suspended for the year and also the player. This is the same thing that The Saints coaching staff did and they severely punished.

    They should forgfit this game for the coaches actions and it’s all on
    tape!

  11. That was sarcasm. I was saying a small sample size with stats that show players playing above their true level does not show the lakers are better without kobe. That is what neil’s link shows.

    Rather, the lakers winning 53ish% without Kobe and 62ish% with Kobe over the past 5 seasons is a much better example of kobe’s impact (that was in Henry Abbots article)

    I’d be interested to see if neal admits he is wrong.

  12. Is that a fake ken or real ken?

    I’ll believe it when i see the link (referring to the recording of the hawks coach telling his player to injure kobe)

  13. It’s real me. It was on ESPN radio on Kellerman show at 4:30. Caller played the recording. Unless the guy was a audio genius and created the whole thing. John Irland was making call on radio as the voice of coach was in the background.

    We will find out tomorrow as now the Lakers and the media all for sure heard it. If it was real someone is going down.

  14. Robert: Lets not feed the trolls. Obviously they are minions of Henry Abbots out there.

    Saying this team is better without Kobe, is just plain stupid. Even Homer Simpson wouldn’t even make that dumb of statement.

  15. Jayz agree. Without Kobe the remaining 5 get guarded! Can’t imagine Peace, Meeks, Clark, Blake even Nash(4 for 14) having to create their own shot without any Kobe doubles.

    This is a under .500 lottery team without him. Think of Metta dribbling around, bricking shots and shooting 25 times a game?

    Scary.

  16. The audio was a joke. It was a clip from Karate Kid.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kr24G8jQpM

  17. Really? Fooled the heck out of me and Max killerman. sorry about that I got punked.

  18. http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/55806/in-the-nba-dirty-play-wins

    Abbott calls out Jones for the play on Kobe–give credit when it is du

  19. That should of course be “due.”

  20. JayZ already posted Abbott thing, I see. Still, I have been rough on Abbott, so I should acknowledge what he said on this issue.

  21. Neil if the X-rays were positive it’d be a broken ankle, not a sprained one. Then we’re talking about months, not days or weeks.

    So yes it very well might be as bad (or even worse) as Kobe said. Get off the haterade. We’re a much better team with our best player.

  22. Neil,you are not a Laker supporter,your Kobe hate is entertaining.Spew it in Yahoo or Espn blogs.

  23. Lakers fans should shudder to think of this season sans Kobe, but it may be a blessing in disguise. Now’s the time for all of the players on this team to carry their weight and earn their monthly check, or the Lakers will be out of the playoffs.

    Maybe now Ebanks will get some playing time and a chance to prove that he is worthy of staying in this league.

    Last night in the first half Kobe labored offensively, as usual so did the rest of the Lakers. Kobe had to manufacture a bit of righteous indignation to generate enough adrenaline to get the Lakers back in the game. On far too many occasions the Lakers passed the ball to Kobe early in the shot clock and watched him, or late in the shot clock and watched him. The only player with confidence to shoot the ball make or miss is MWP 9-19. So, it’ll be interesting to see which player steps up with determination and sheer will to lead the Lakers to wins when they have played atrocious enough to lose. My money is on Pau when he returns.

    Me thinks that Stern made the call to Jones, to walk under Kobe. Jones should be suspended for his questionable defense against Kobe on more than one circumstance. Everyone understands fouling a player hard on a drive to the basket, nevertheless there is no place in basketball for intentional fouls that result in a player getting injured.

  24. Lakers should convince (if needed) Kobe to sit out the game, not even travel vs the Pacers in Indy. Even if Kobe was 100% this would be a very tough one. And if he’s ready, play the next game Sunday in L.A. vs the Kings.

  25. A March Madness Bracket Challenge would be awesome. Count me in!

  26. Warren Wee Lim March 15, 2013 at 7:10 am

    Any news on whether Kobe is playing?

  27. darius: way too early to tell whether kobe is playing tonight or even in the near future. can be a blessing in disguise in that both dwight and nash can develop a rhythm in real game time conditions starting tonight vs the pacers.

    although most expect this game to be notched in the loss column with or without the mamba, the opportunity for team play is paramount to the final outcome of tonight’s game. will be both frustrating and educational at the same time for the players, the coaches, the front office and laker fans because it will shed light and provide a glimpse into the future of laker life without the mamba.

    wonder what movie kobe’s watching right now? my guess: What we do in life echoes in eternity (Gladiator).

    Go Lakers

  28. david h: Love the Gladiator reference. With regard to the future: If I lined up Kobe, Nash, and MWP, and then asked the question, who will play with the Lakers the longest, it would be Kobe. In fact, I would bet Kobe over anyone on the roster other than D12, and that is only because I feel we will sign D12, otherwise I would say KB has the longest projected Laker longevity of anyone on the roster. Sounds odd – but I don’t think a Vegas odds maker would say differently : )

  29. Meek and Ron Ron about to go combo off tonight! (Magic reference)

  30. robert: wholeheartedly agree and am also hopeful dwight will sign on with the lakers for the remainder of his nba career. looking to the future, and that’s the fun part about life, my guess is the front office will be looking to fill the eventual void of several short term and long term positions starting with chop liver, steve nash and the entire bench.

    now back to my stack of movie favorites: king kong, kill bill 1 and 2 and LA Story – bored beyond belief.

    Go Lakers