The Lakers return to action tonight after not playing since Monday. That fatigue filled night saw a loss to the Suns and post game questions about D’Antoni’s insistence on only playing the same 7 guys on back to back nights only to watch them plod around the floor like 5 Herman Munsters. The days off, then, should serve several purposes — this team should be well rested AND they should be as close to full strength as they’re likely to be all year with Kobe (ankle) and Pau (foot) likely to rejoin the team.
Having a rested and relatively healthy team will be a new thing for this group of Lakers in a season that’s been Murphy’s Law realized. The fact that they’ve been finding their stride recently (Suns game notwithstanding) only provides more hope that things are finally starting to turn in a positive direction. However, as with most anything that looks positive on its face, there are potential drawbacks that need to be accounted for. Integrating Pau back into a lineup where everyone had defined roles during his absence could be a bit tricky. Some players will likely see their minutes cut and others will see their roles shifted. Pau too will be returning to a role that was not the one he left, starting next to Howard rather than relieving him as the team’s top reserve.
That said, the more things change, the more they stay the same and with Kobe and Pau back there should be a sense of normalcy in finally having a semblance of the team that was put together last July. The stretch run is here and these guys sound ready to leave it all on the floor in one final push to achieve their lofty goals. Now, around the web we go…
- Kobe and Pau practiced yesterday, but how did they look? Mike Trudell tweeted out Steve Nash’s impressions:
Nash on Bryant today: "Kobe looked good. He got into a rhythm and played well. It didn’t look like (his ankle) was bothering him."
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) March 22, 2013
Nash on Gasol: "He looked good. He was moving well. He looked like he had a lot of energy. Hopefully, he can feel good tomorrow and play."
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) March 22, 2013
- Trudell also brings us some interesting numbers from the Lakers’ other big star — Dwight Howard — that show how important his production is to the Lakers’ success.
- At Land O’ Lakers, Brian Kamenetzky has 4 things to watch with Pau Gasol returning.
- Eric Pincus has a preview of tonight’s match up with the Washington Wizards.
- Yesterday we brought you Antawn Jamison’s quotes describing what it’s like to play with Kobe Bryant. At Ball Don’t Lie, Kelly Dwyer riffed on those comments and offered praise for Kobe’s efficient season while also appreciating the fact that Kobe is, in fact, passing more.
- At Silver Screen & Roll, Ben Rosales looks at the Lakers’ depth issues through the prism of their recent drafts while also wondering what happens when the current crop of veteran reserves are no longer coming off the Lakers’ pine.
- The major story in the NBA right now is the Miami Heat win streak. They go for (and will likely get) their 25th consecutive win tonight when they play the Pistons. This relates to the Lakers because the 1972 group led by West, Wilt, and Goodrich hold the all time record with 33 consecutive victories. Unlike members of the 1972 Dolphins — who pop champagne the day the last undefeated NFL team keeps their perfect season in the record books — Jerry West seems perfectly okay that the Heat may catch and pass the record his team set.
- The Logo also says that if the Lakers make the playoffs, they’ll be a dangerous foe that no one will want to play.
- Lastly, and this isn’t necessarily Lakers related, over at Grantland Zach Lowe has two wonderfully informative pieces up on the next frontier of basketball analytics from a company called SportVU. This company has high tech motion tracking cameras installed in 15 arenas which spit out incredible amounts of data for those franchises who subscribe to their service. In Lowe’s articles, he goes behind the curtain of the Raptors’ use of this data gives us all insight into the type of information gleaned and how it can inform decision making from a coaching and front office standpoint. It’s really great stuff.
In relating this back to the Lakers, there was one excerpt from part two of Lowe’s work that stuck out to me. The lead in is that some plays that are typically seen as inefficient (like isolations) can often lead to more efficient actions due to how the defense responds to them:
The same is true of post-ups, which are low efficiency on their own, but much higher when you include shots that come via kick-out passes to open shooters and other trickle-down events — at least according to Toronto’s data. Post-ups are also more likely than other plays to lead to some end-of-possession event, and not to the resetting of the offense.
Just yesterday NBA TV was showing a replay of the Lakers/Raptors game where Kobe (and others) went crazy and led the Lakers to a thrilling comeback win in overtime. On one set in the 4th quarter, the Lakers dumped the ball into Dwight on the right block. Dwight then skipped the ball out to a spot up shooter who was on the left side of the floor, above the break in the three point line. When the defense rotated, that player passed to the shooter in the corner. When the defense closed out, that player drove the ball to the middle of the floor and then kicked the ball back out to the shooter who originally entered the ball to Dwight in the post. That player than hit a three pointer that continued the Lakers’ comeback effort.
What’s my point? Well, the play that ended with a spot up jumper actually started with a post up by Dwight Howard. It may have taken 3 passes, but eventually the ball found the open man and he beat the defense with a made shot. This isn’t to harp on D’Antoni’s approach, but this play reminded me of a quote from his opening press conference where he called the post up “one of the least efficient plays in basketball.”
On the surface, he’s right. But when you dig deeper, plays like the one described above are often lost in the shuffle when thinking about a “post up”. Dwight didn’t shoot the ball, but he sure did start the play by establishing the post, drawing a help defender and triggering the rotations that set off a series of events that ultimately led to an open jumper. Just something to think about moving forward and something that we will, hopefully, have a better understanding of as the data gets better and better.