Archives For Fast Break Thoughts

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  November 6, 2014

The Lakers are at the beginning of a nice — and needed — break. They opened the season playing five games in seven nights (including four in the season’s first five nights) and have gone winless in the process. They do not play again until Sunday and can use this time off to rest their bodies and their minds, get a bit healthy, and fine tune what they are doing on both ends of the floor to try and get better results on the floor.

Though the team still hasn’t won, they are getting closer. The most recent game against the Suns was fairly close throughout and if not for some missed FT’s (fixable) and some defensive lapses (not as much) the team could have stolen that game. It’s these little mistakes that need correcting, especially for a team with absolutely no margin for error. They simply cannot afford to miss a dozen FT’s or be careless with the ball or not box out or any other number of small things and win game.

So, it’s simply on this group to start to get these little things right more often. Now, on to other thoughts…

*Though the Lakers are winless (and maybe because they are), Kobe truly is playing quite hard. In the Suns game he jumped over the first row of fans sitting courtside while logging 44 minutes on the night. Baxter Holmes of ESPN LA discussed this relentlessness.

*Sticking with this topic, an interesting twist to these media-generated Kobe talking points is how they can be interpreted by his teammates. This is a variable some might not often think of when playing with Kobe.

*Kobe says he heard the rumblings that he/the team should explore trade options. He pretty much squashed that idea in this column by Marc Spears.

*Detailing the Lakers mismatched roster. This is a topic I also explored some when I previewed this season.

*If the Lakers do not win their next game on Sunday, their difficult schedule could see them go without a win through Thanksgiving. Welp.

*Just because I like watching it:

*While the finish got all the pub, the set up got me just as excited. This is a move that Kobe has made so often and one that is one of his trademarked attacks that I will remember for ever. When he makes the catch, he turns and faces and then sets up the triple threat. With his back foot anchored, he swings the ball through to his right hand and then simultaneously puts his down his dribble while stepping through with his pivot foot. This allows him to avoid the traveling call and get even — and the by — his defender. Once he has that step, it’s curtains. There’s an old saying in basketball that “baseline is death”, but Kobe has made a career out of navigating that sliver of real estate and making his defender pay time after time. And he’s still doing it in year 19.

*When a team is bad, it is natural to look ahead to the future for hope of improvement rather than focusing on the present and getting more depressed. In saying that, expect there to be a lot of articles/columns/blog posts about what the Lakers may do next summer to improve the team. For example, an article saying they may go hard after Rajon Rondo. Expect more just like this one over the course of this year.

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  October 10, 2014

After winning their preseason opener on Tuesday against the Nuggets, the Lakers served as a speed bump to a long range sniping Warriors’ team on Thursday. The Lakers fell behind early and never really recovered to make the score any more than cosmetically better. These are the types of games that will happen this season for this team as some nights they simply won’t have enough to appropriately respond to another team’s arsenal. They will play hard, but just won’t always play well.

After the game Byron Scott spoke about the need to play harder and, to be honest, there was some of that on display. But, for the most part, what Scott was saying was mostly coach speak with the reality being the Lakers faced a team better than them at most positions while also having the exact type of wing players who will challenge them consistently all year. Scott can try to manage that in a variety of ways, but facts are facts: when the Lakers face a team with dynamic wing scorers who can create from the arc to the rim they will struggle defensively as a team.

In any event, we’re now two games into the exhibition season and what we’ve seen has offered a few hints at what this team is working towards becoming and the trends that will drive that development. With that, here are some general thoughts about the Warriors game and what we can are seeing to this point in the preseason:

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This has seemed like the longest summer ever. While we got some FIBA World Cup basketball to somewhat satiate our thirst of some roundball, it was mostly anti-climactic as the Spanish team failed to advance to the finals and give team USA a proper challenge for the gold. The result was an american romp and me sitting here longing for actual basketball to fill the void.

Which brings me back to the Lakers. Camp is almost here and the team has been coming together recently for workouts and scrimmages. The team is not yet fully formed — there will be more additions, even if only camp bodies — with much work to do on both sides of ball, learning schemes and getting comfortable in how to play together. They will battle the reality that they are simply not as talented as most of the teams in the league while simultaneously trying to prove critics (like me) wrong.

The simple theatre of how this team comes together will be enough for me to watch, but it won’t be the only reason. With that, here are the 5 things I am most looking forward to this season:

1. Kobe’s return. I could pretend to write with some authority about what Kobe will be this season, but it would all be a front. Before his achilles injury, Kobe’s career track was on the same path of guys like Kareem, Karl Malone, and John Stockton. Those players proved to be high caliber contributors well past their prime years, posting PER’s above the league average while contributing to winning teams and padding their career totals. Now, though, Kobe is all question marks. He admits he’ll be a different player, but does so with a defiance that has marked his entire career. The message seems clear: doubt me at your own peril — have you not learned that yet? Watching what he does, how he does it, and how effective it makes him will be the number one storyline all season. Combine that with the reality that he is a legend who is playing in his final games and it will be must watch TV. I, for one, cannot wait.

2. Julius Randle. The last Laker draft pick who came in as highly touted and with as much hope surrounding him was James Worthy. For Randle, though, I’d settle for a guy who performed as well as Eddie Jones did in his rookie campaign. Jones averaged 14 points that season and was named 1st Team All-Rookie. He dazzled fans with his bouncy legs and highlight finishes. He also competed hard on both ends of the floor and showed a professionalism that reminded of past Laker greats. Randle has the talent, work ethic, and opportunity to do the same. Yes, he has some veterans in front of him and a coach that will make him earn his time on the floor, but nothing worthwhile is ever just given. Randle will need to prove he was worth the pick that was used on him. Considering he feels he should have gone higher, he should have the proper motivation to do just that. I can’t wait to watch the rook do his thing.

3. Jordan Clarkson. There is really no good reason for me to like Clarkson as much as I do. As I’ve said before, it really is not rational. While he clearly has some talent, he’s also a second round pick with two veteran point guards in front of him who his head coach will cater to. He has a steep learning curve to be an NBA level point guard and will likely struggle to find the time on the floor he needs to develop. His jumper is not as good as it needs to be at this level and you have to seriously question if his athleticism is good enough to overcome that fact at this stage of his career. To all that I can simply say I do not care. I mean, watch:

I love the way he moves on the floor. I love his body control around the rim. I love that he finds a way to get to the spots he wants to and has the ability to do something with the ball once he gets there. Whether he ever becomes a rotation player will depend on so many factors I can’t even begin to name them all. But I will be rooting hard for this young man.

4. Nick Young doing Nick Young things. I never thought rooting for this guy would be fun. But here I am, watching him do stuff like this and he’s just grown on me:

When he came to the Lakers I bought in to the worst conceptions of him as a player — the ball stopping, the lack of passing, the little to no effort at anything that didn’t involve him trying to get his own shot. After watching him for a year, those things definitely exist as part of his game. But watching him night in and night out also revealed a player who deeply loves the game, cares for his teammates, wants to win, and will actually try at other parts of the game when coached to do so. That didn’t always make him effective at those things, but watching him work at it and watching him have fun while trying was a joy in an otherwise awful season. I look forward to an encore campaign even though I admit I have no clue if he can actually pull it off.

5. Big men doing the dirty work. The Lakers’ history is littered with hall of fame big men. Jordan Hill and Ed Davis will not be mistaken for any of them. What they will do, however, is work their tails off to get that extra possession and make that extra rotation to try and challenge a shot at the rim. What they will do is roll hard to the rim and try to finish with authority. What they will do is bring the effort every night and play as hard as they can with as much skill as they can muster to try and impact the game positively. It will not always go smoothly and there will be times (lots of times) where I will miss the deft passing and smooth post play of the Spaniard, but I will love watching Hill and Davis (and Randle and, hopefully Boozer) go at it hard each night.

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  July 10, 2014

Some links and thoughts to hold you over while we wait for the free agency dominoes to fall…

  • Julius Randle remains unsigned, though is on his way to Las Vegas as part of the Lakers’ summer league team. Randle isn’t likely to suit up until he puts his name to a contract and at this point we will wait — a day, more? — for that to occur. All signs point to Randle remaining unsigned so the Lakers can preserve the extra bit of cap space that will be tacked on to his contract. Rookies generally sign for 120% of their slotted salary and every little extra bit helps. As an aside, with Randle unsigned the Lakers could still, technically, trade his rights to a different team whereas if he was signed there would be a waiting period before they could do so. I don’t believe that will happen, but it is something to keep in mind.
  • Speaking of summer league, Ben Rosales of Silver Screen & Roll has a nice breakdown of the players who will suit up for the Lakers. Get to know these guys, they should be fun to watch.
  •  While summer league will be a nice distraction, all eyes do remain on the free agent ticker. Several Lakers from last year’s team have already inked deals with other teams, for good money too. If you’re keeping score at home, Jodie Meeks got $6 million a year for 3 years from the Pistons, Chris Kaman got $10 million over 2 years from the Blazers, Jordan Farmar got $4 million over two years from the Clippers, and Steve Blake just got similar money as Farmar from the Blazers. I wish all these guys nothing but the best on their new teams. Last season they all showed they could be rotation players in the league and they will get their chances on their new rosters.
  • Of course, some would have liked the Lakers to bring back one or more of those guys. Personally, I could go either way. While all are serviceable players, none truly stood out to me last season. The closest were probably Meeks and Farmar. Meeks had an excellent season and showed growth in several areas, but when his career is over, last season’s numbers may stand as his best season. Farmar, while showing he is now a very good shooter, was also injured for half the season and didn’t quite show as much next level passing as you’d like from a starting caliber guard. Again, I like both players fine and would have welcomed them back, but losing them to another team isn’t the end of the world. Best of luck to them.
  • This is nearly two weeks old, but if you missed it, give Zach Lowe’s piece on Jason Kidd departing the Nets for the Bucks a read. The Kidd stuff is very good and worth your time on its own. But the bullet points also have a couple of Lakers’ related nuggets that speak to the team’s financial health.
  • On that note, Brian Kamenetzky wrote a very good piece on why the Lakers should be patient this off-season.
  • Lastly, Kobe Bryant is holding his annual basketball camp in Santa Barbara right now and did a press conference to open things up. He spoke on a variety of topic, but in this clip he speaks on his health noting that he feels “great…strong and crisp” and notes that he doesn’t think about his knee or his achilles when he’s training. He also talks about the way he “pitches” the Lakers as a free agent destination.

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  June 11, 2014

Some quick hitting thoughts to get you through your humpday…

  • A very good summary of where the Lakers are at with their coaching search from the always excellent Dave McMenamin can be read here. One section from that piece that caught my eye:

Whether the Lakers really believe they are better off with a more experienced coach or they were merely saving face to avoid it looking like their former player spurned them for the same guy they had spurned in November 2012 (in Jackson) can be debated.

It is certainly better for the Lakers to make a blanket statement and say they aren’t interested in current college coaches or candidates with no head coaching experience in the league than to have the narrative be that a bunch of the guys they had initially targeted — Fisher, Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie, Kentucky’s John Calipari, Southern Methodist’s Larry Brown, former Atlanta Hawks assistant coach Quin Snyder — all chose to be somewhere other than with the Lakers moving forward.

  • Whether it really is spin or not, no one can know for sure. But the longer the Lakers go without a head coach — which is something that doesn’t much concern me, but clearly does others — the longer they will look as though they do not have a plan.
  • On the flip-side of that, however, is the report from Sam Amick that the Lakers’ slow search is related to their hope that they can lure LeBron James in free agency with part of the lure being input on the next coach.
  • Do I find it interesting that a report says the Lakers would, potentially, give a free agent target input on a coaching hire while adamantly saying publicly that they would not give Kobe Bryant input (or, at least that they would not “consult” him)? Yes, yes I do.
  • Whatever the reasons, though, the Lakers haven’t hired a coach yet. Maybe that will come before the draft. Or maybe by the time free agency is in full swing. Who knows, really? They are taking their time and that’s their choice.
  • They are interviewing Byron Scott for a second time, though. If you were wondering, my thoughts on Scott have not really changed. If you like Scott because he’s a former Laker and is buddies with Kobe, that’s totally fine. To me, those just aren’t very good reasons to hire a coach. The things I am looking for in a head coach are a combination of motivational ability and strategic savvy. These traits are what that produce wins. And wins are what gain support (both internal and external) and produce an environment where people seem genuinely happy to play.
  • Want excellent insight on the prospects who worked out for the Lakers last week? ESPN’s Kevin Pelton sat down with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com and has plenty for you.
  • Speaking of the draft, the latest mock drafts from Chad Ford and Draft Express both have the Lakers drafting Julius Randle. The major difference, however, is that in Ford’s mock he has Marcus Smart on the board when the Lakers select Randle. If both Randle and Smart are on the board at the same time, that choice will be quite difficult for the Lakers. Especially since, based off the long-view of free agency targets in the coming off-seasons, the targets would likely be players who can play a lot of PF (specifically Love, but even LeBron and Durant play a lot of PF in “small” lineups and if they ever shake free in free agency the Lakers will target them hard).
  • This is from before the Finals, but it is a guide to who Lakers’ fans should root for in the Finals considering the history of the Spurs’ rivalry and the fact that LeBron is often seen as a chief competitor to Kobe Bryant.
  • Speaking of the Finals, it is definitely basketball played at the highest level and with plenty of stars showing why they are some of the best in the game. But, as with most series, it is the role players who often turn the tide of a single game or even the entire series. In game 3 it was Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green who were huge for the Spurs. And, over the  course of the series, Boris Diaw has been a major factor who is consistently making good things happen for San Antonio. Diaw has been so good, in fact, that it led me to make this comparison on twitter:
  • Anyone who knows me knows how big of a compliment that is.
  • Lastly, good luck to Derek Fisher in New York as the new head coach. I will always have a soft spot for Fisher — he was a fantastic competitor and a key leader for the Lakers over his two tenures with the team. I could go on and on about the big shots he hit and how much his contributions meant to the teams he competed on, but instead I’ll just say that Fisher is a guy who you want in your foxhole with you when it’s time to go out there and get a needed win. The man has character, resolve, and competitive spirit in spades.