Archives For Fast Break Thoughts

The Lakers played and lost their second preseason game on Wednesday night. The Blazers, like the Warriors, pulled away in the second half and ended up winning the contest 93-75. While I’m still on the “losses in the preseason don’t matter” train, it doesn’t mean what’s occurring in the game lacks meaning. So, with that, here are five takeaways from the game…

  1. Robert Sacre continues to show he belongs on the team. It’s not his stat line — an okay 8 point, 3 board, 1 block/steal/assist night — that has me convinced. It’s more the fact that he continues to show he understands how to play the game at this level. He’s in the right position more often than not. He knows how to use his size to his advantage. He doesn’t make too many mistakes and continues to play to his strengths. When all of those qualities come in a 7’0″, 260 pound frame I’m more than willing to give him a roster spot as the Lakers’ 5th big. Forget Jordan Hill’s injury or the fact that Dwight Howard isn’t yet cleared to play in games. Strictly from a roster construction standpoint, the Lakers need another big man on the roster and preferably someone that can play center. Sacre is that player, I’m convinced.
  2. Ron-Ron is in fantastic shape and that level of fitness is translating to an effectiveness on the floor that is as plain to see as the sun in the sky. He’s moving around the floor as well as at any point during his Lakers’ tenure and is making things happen when he gets to his spots. His defense looks sharp, he’s flashing fantastic variety on offense — running the lane, posting up, hitting jumpers, creating off the dribble — that the Lakers sorely need, and his work on the backboards has been strong. To say I’m happy with where he’s at right now would be a gross understatement. Fact is, if Ron can keep up this level of play during the season (and I don’t just mean stats-wise, I mean from a sheer eye-ball test way) the Lakers become that much more difficult to deal with.
  3. I’m starting to hedge on what Antawn Jamison’s best position with the team will be. After his acquisition I was fully of the mind that Jamison should be a PF that spaced the floor on offense and piggy-backed on the effectiveness of his big man partner on defense. However, that role came with concerns about how he’d manage being on the back line of the defense and against the Blazers I saw validation in those concerns. Jamison was good on the glass (6 defensive rebounds in 28 minutes) but his rotations on the back end were hesitant and he offered no paint protection when he was covering for the center who rotated out of the lane. On offense, he mostly shot long jumpers that missed but looked much better when on the move going towards the basket. We’ll see how things sort out when Howard is in the lineup and how the Lakers’ offense evolves as they get more comfortable within the Princeton O and add to what they already have installed. But as of now, the PF is mostly acting as a floor spacer/ball reverser at the top of the key and Jamison is still best served moving around more on offense by cutting and slashing. I’m by no means grading him at this early stage, but this is something I’ll be watching closely as the preseason advances. Continue Reading…

There may not be any games being played, but the Lakers’ season is finally here.

Today, countless scribes — including our own dynamic duo of Phillip and Rey — will descend upon the Lakers’ facilities for media day. There will be variations of the same questions asked and answered, pictures snapped, and video recorded. Players and coaches will be there to talk about everything that’s new (of which there’s plenty), things that aren’t (cue up Mike Brown, Kobe, Pau, etc), and how they think it will all mesh together.

It will be fun, insightful, and, in reality, just the beginning.

The journey may begin today but the road ahead will be long. There will be hundreds of practices, film sessions, and games to play. There will be many more sessions just like today (well, maybe not just like today) where the media masses will look for answers from the players and coaches about what’s going right and wrong; what’s working and what’s not.

During it all, we’ll be right here to discuss it with all of you. All the ups and downs, wins and losses, praise and second guesses. We’ll be here to talk X’s and O’s, strategy, what we expect, and what actually happened. We’ll be here to celebrate…and to complain.

Most of all, today is a day of excitement. Like an eight year old on the night before school, I had trouble sleeping last night. The NBA, for all intents and purposes, is back. The Lakers are back. They’re restocked with better players than they’ve had in some time and have a renewed sense of urgency and purpose as the ballast behind the pursuit of their goals.

So, as a new season begins, I thank all of you again for being here to enjoy it with us. We hope to continue to provide our best to you just as we hope to get the best from the team we root for. The ride ahead promises to be one to remember. Buckle up because like the Lakers and the NBA season, we’re just getting started. More to come later today.

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  August 31, 2012

There may not be a lot going on at this time of the basketball year but that doesn’t mean there aren’t topics of interest to discuss. So, let’s go around the league (and beyond it) with some fast break thoughts…

  • We’re at an interesting point in the Lakers-as-super team news cycle. We have, essentially, completed the inevitable circle of coverage that occurs when moves like this happen. The stories went from ” Wow, I can’t believe the Lakers got Nash and Howard, they’re going to be amazing” to “Look at everything they can do on offense/Here’s how the Lakers will be amazing” to “Here are some things that may hold the Lakers back from being amazing” to “Let’s not crown the Lakers yet, the Thunder and the Heat are still the best teams until proven otherwise”.
  • For what it’s worth, I’m still of the mind that we need to see some games before we know anything beyond what their potential is. That said, based off talent alone the Lakers have catapulted themselves into the conversation of having the best team in the league. And, since talent matters so much, this is pretty important. So, at this point, my analysis stops at “the Lakers are one of the 3 to 4 teams that have a legitimate shot to win it all”. And, frankly, that’s enough for me.
  • I don’t know about you, but I’m still getting used to the fact that when I see a link to a Dwight Howard story it is, essentially, now a Lakers’ story. It hit me again the other day when I clicked on a link about Dwight playing pop-a-shot in China and there he was in his home Lakers #12 jersey. It’s still sort of surreal.
  • Speaking of Dwight, Eddy Rivera (and his crew of fine writers at Magic Basketball) have been producing fantastic content as part of their Dwight Week series. You should visit and learn everything you’d ever want to know about the newest Laker big man.
  • There’s a general sense that the Spurs are boring. It’s been talked about for years and has come to be what they’re known for. Well, I know of at least one Spur that isn’t: Greg Popovich.
  • One thing I love most about the off-season is that it gives me a chance to watch film, dive into the numbers, and give me a bit more insight into the league at large heading into the next season. In that regard, I’m always looking for more places to help me learn more. So, you can only guess at how happy I was when Tom Haberstroh (of ESPN and the Heat Index) dropped a link to VORPed. There’s so much time lost surfing around that place. Be careful.
  • Thing I can’t stop smiling over: Steve Nash’s shot chart from this past season. In case you were wondering, green and yellow are the colors you want. Good luck double teaming off that guy.

  • Lastly, a while back several of us at FB&G did a roundtable review of Jack McCallum’s Dream Team book. One of the themes touched on in that book was that regardless of what other guys had accomplished at that point of their careers, the trio of Michael Jordan, Magic, and Larry Bird were always held at a higher level of esteem. They were the exclusive club that no one else could penetrate. I’d imagine that today, the same is likely true. Those names ring out like few others in basketball history. Last week I was reminded of this by a great video. Check it out for yourself:

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  August 14, 2012

With the Olympics over and training camps still more than a month away, it will be a while before there’s meaningful basketball to discuss. To be honest, getting a break is nice but I still find myself wanting for more hoops. I guess that’s what happens when Nash and Howard become Lakers in the span of six weeks. Right now, they’re the big boxes under the Christmas tree screaming “open me!” only to realize we just ate our Thanksgiving turkey. Lots of waiting in front of us. Sit tight, you guys. It will be here before you know it. In the meantime, some thoughts on what’s happening with the Lakers and around the league…

  • Yesterday the Jodie Meeks signing became official. We went over what he brings to the table already but it’s nice to review: Meeks offers a viable back up to Kobe while also giving the team a shooter they’ve been seeking. For what he’ll be paid, he’s a great signing solely for those two reasons. The fact that his defensive numbers are better than you’d expect and this signing looks fantastic.
  • Devin Ebanks also signed his offer sheet yesterday. We’ve yet to fully see what Ebanks is capable of but the hope is that he can bring some of what Matt Barnes did over the past two seasons. Devin has good size, is a decent athlete, and seems to have nose for the ball with an understanding of space. If he can be a slasher off the ball and a guy that fills the lane when the Lakers run, he can be a nice addition on offense. If he can start to hit his jumper (even if it’s only an 18-20 footer) his value goes up immensely for a Laker team that will need all the spacing it can get. It remains to be seen if he’ll rebound as well as Barnes (which, at this point, is asking a lot) but he should be able to contribute there as well. Ultimately, it’s good to have him officially back in the fold.
  • With Meeks and Ebanks in the mix, the Lakers have a very nice 10 man rotation of Nash, Kobe, Ron, Pau, Howard, Blake, Meeks, Ebanks, Jamison, and Hill. A group like that allows the Lakers to play countless lineups and get all their main cogs the proper rest in the process. There’s not a lot of positional versatility there (I see Blake, Jamison, Meeks, and Ebanks as only being able to play one position effectively) but the versatility of Kobe, Pau, Ron, and Hill still gives Mike Brown a lot of options to mix and match personnel to find effective groupings. Training camp will be key to start to sort some of that out.
  • What may interest only me is what happens with the bottom of the Lakers’ roster. Outside of the aforementioned 10 players, the Lakers also have Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, Chris Duhon, and Earl Clark under contract for next year. They also hold the draft rights to Robert Sacre and Darius Johnson-Odom. If you’re counting at home, that’s 16 players and the Lakers can only carry 15 in the regular season. At least one of those players won’t make the roster and maybe more.
  • The Lakers rarely carry a full roster, however. They typically carry 14 players, allowing them roster flexibility should they make a trade where they take back more players than they send out or if there’s a player on the market via a buy out that they’d like to add. It will be interesting if they take that approach this year and if they do, who is on their way out. Remember, Goudelock’s contract is not guaranteed so he could end up being a bubble player even though he has an NBA ready skill (his shooting). Also note that even though Earl Clark is listed as a PF, he’s not a “big” in the classic sense. This leads me to believe that Sacre may have a shot at making the team solely for his size and as insurance against injury/to be a practice body even though I expect Clark to stick due to his contract being guaranteed.
  • Moving away from hoops for a second, with the summer winding down are there any good books you’d recommend? The last book I read was Jack Macallum’s Dream Team and that was excellent. your recommendation doesn’t have to be sports related but, if it’s not, I’d prefer to read fiction.
  • Finally went and saw the new Dark Knight Rises movie last week. It was well worth my $12 (for a matinee!). If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d recommend it. Though, since it’s the 3rd part of a trilogy, seeing the other two first would be advised.
  • Some site news: I’m considering a slight redesign of the site. Anything specific you’d like to see? New banner graphics? Something else? Let me know in the comments.
  • Finally, in the weeks leading up to the season, I want to do some more mailbags. Send me a question by clicking on the contact me button in ┬áthe right sidebar. I’ll also start soliciting questions via twitter so follow me on there @forumbluegold and you’ll get some details on submitting questions via that platform too.

Soon, we’ll have camps, pre-season games, and other matters surrounding the team to discuss. And, even sooner than that, we’re going to be doing offensive and defensive breakdowns on what Dwight Howard with looks at potential sets the Lakers can run to maximize their personnel. Just because basketball has stopped doesn’t mean we will.

With Summer League in full swing and the Lakers still looking to fill out their roster, there’s lots to discuss in Laker-land. So, lets jump right in…

  • The Lakers’ summer league team is winless so far and has had some truly horrible performances in their first few contests. They got blasted by the Warriors in their opening game and were trounced by 50 a few nights later against the Heat. While this is somewhat discouraging, don’t invest too heavily in the results. The Lakers don’t have a lottery level talent on their team. Their roster is full of players who are trying to fight for spots ten through fifteen on a roster, not for a starting gig. What we learn about this “team” is not important; we’re really looking at the growth of the individual players and evaluating their individual skill level.
  • Even evaluating the players as individuals is somewhat tricky, however. The summer team doesn’t have a single player that will ever be a featured guy within an offense. This roster is filled with role players whose talents will be maximized playing off of their more talented teammates (should they make the regular season roster). When you put 5 role players on the floor together, the results (offensively) will be what the Lakers have seen so far – tight defense, little spacing, and no one able to create the types of plays that generate sustained worthwhile basketball.
  • In yesterday’s game against the Spurs, the Lakers made adjustments with their schemes and that led to better spacing and ball movement. These tweaks compensated for the limited individual talent on their roster. But those adjustments only got them so far. It allowed for more space on the wing to operate off the dribble and more space for the post players to work in isolation. It opened up better passing angles for cutters. And, their improved effort put them in better positions to take advantage. But, in the end, this group was out talented again and lost by double figures.
  • All that said, we are starting to get a better picture of what types of talents these guys are. Darius Morris is showing that he can be a threat in the open court and in attacking the rim off the dribble in the half court. His size allows him to bully smaller defenders to get to the spots on the floor where he can be successful. His finishing is still up and down, however, and his jumper needs a lot of work. But, he’s showing more confidence in each game and his attack mentality has served him well so far. He certainly likes to pound the ball when probing the D, but that’s the case for most attack guards that create off the dribble as often as he does.
  • Andrew Goudelock looks like the same guy he was last year. His lack of size is giving him some issues on both sides of the floor and his lack of burst is making it hard for him to shake free from bigger defenders. His jumper has been off but we know he’s a better shooter than he’s shown so I’m not as concerned there. However, he’s still not shown much of an ability to create for others. He’s worked a lot in the pick and roll but rarely hits the roll man (who’s been open several times) and typically only gives the ball up when he’s exhausted his opportunity to score for himself. I’ve long believed that for Goudelock to stick in this league he’ll have to show adequate ability to initiate an offense and be a lead guard. So far, we’re not seeing it. Some of that may be what the coaches are asking him to do, but his instinct is to score first (and second) and his playmaking is suffering because of it.
  • Darius Johnson-Odom has shown some good qualities – he’s an active defender, possesses good court vision, and knows how to create his own shot. He’s also shown that he can initiate an offense and has no issues taking an outlet pass and running a delayed fast break. He shows good footwork in setting up his own shot and has a very nice shot fake that’s earned him trips to the foul line. However, his jumper hasn’t been falling even when he’s been getting open looks. This could simply be a small sample and nothing to worry about. But, he’ll need to hit shots eventually if he wants to stick.
  • Christian Eyenga looks like the most pro-ready player the Lakers have but that shouldn’t surprise considering he’s their most seasoned player. His athleticism is as advertised – he’s had several above the rim finishes – and he’s mostly been under control when displaying it. He’s shown a nice little post game too, working over defenders from 10 feet and it with good strength and solid footwork. His jumper is not good, however and that limits what he can do on that end of the floor. Defensively, he’s been above average. His quickness, instincts, and desire to get into his man have all been plusses.
  • The surprise of this team, at least for me, has been Robert Sacre. He’s a bit stiff in his movement but he knows how to use his big body to his advantage. He aggressively fights for position on both ends of the floor, has shown nice touch on his mid-range jumper and his jump hook, and he plays hard. His biggest asset, though, looks to be his smarts. He knows where to be on both ends of the floor and seems to have a strong spatial awareness. He knows where to move to in the P&R game to get open and has made a few smart cuts to position himself under the rim where he’s been active on the offensive glass. In one of the games an announcer compared Sacre to Michael Doleac and that seems apt. Sacre has shown a bit more aggressiveness around the rim than Doleac used to, but all and all they have similar games. Doleac stuck in the league for a while as a back up big man and Sacre may be able to do the same.
  • Moving beyond the Summer League team, the Lakers are still in the middle of a lot of rumors. There’s been reports that Antawn Jamison will “choose” the Lakers soon. Yesterday the Lakers were present at a workout for Jermaine O’Neal who, after having the orthokine treatment that Kobe’s become the poster boy for, is looking to continue his playing career. Reports of how he looked in that workout have been mixed (I’ve read one tweet say he didn’t look mobile while others stated he looked as good as he has in the last 4-5 years), but he remains on the Lakers’ radar. Brandon Rush was also at that workout so the Lakers also got a look at the Warriors restricted free agent.
  • And then, of course, there’s still the pursuit of Dwight Howard. Reports had the Lakers meeting with reps from the Magic yesterday in what was described as a “hard push” to acquire the Magic big man. During the Lakers/Spurs game, Jim Buss commented (per team policy) that he had “no comment” about reports that there were negotiations going on. At ProBasketball Talk, Kurt Helin had a logical take, basically saying that there should be no expectation a deal gets done when neither Howard nor Bynum have (seemingly) changed their stances about re-signing with LA/Orlando should a trade happen. I tend to agree with this. It’s worth having the talks because you always try to make a move that improves your team, but expecting something to happen at this point is optimistic.
  • One thing I also wonder here is if there’s a point of no return with the Lakers and these Andrew Bynum trade talks. This is the longest he’s ever had his name floated in what seem to be legitimate trade rumors. For years his name was out there, but those reports were quickly shot down from the Lakers side (be it Jason Kidd, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, or anyone else you can think of). However, this time, these reports seem to have legs and Bynum certainly seems available in a deal for Howard. Whether this is really something to worry about isn’t something I have any inside information on. However, I wonder if there’s a stop point where the Lakers simply call off their discussions with the Magic and make nice with the all-star Center they have in house. You can only window shop so often before you either have to make a purchase or go home and keep with your same wardrobe. I wonder when the Lakers are going to make that call. Remember, Bynum is a FA after next season as well and if nothing happens with Howard, the Lakers will surely want Bynum back for the long haul. If these talks go on for too much longer, does a long term commitment from Bynum get put in jeopardy? These are questions that need to be asked.