It’s time for another installment of the FB&G mailbag. If you’d like to submit a question, click here and fire away. Thanks again to everyone that has sent in questions. Here we go…
When Phil Jackson retires, does that mean the end of the Lakers’ championship window? After all, the all-powerful team has been struck down a notch and the HEAT has garnered a year of experience for themselves. As a Laker fan, it is the season after this that has me most worried.
I think losing Phil Jackson will be a blow to the Lakers. However, I would not say that the Lakers championship window would “close” based solely off the fact that Phil would no longer be the coach. Because, while extremely important, there are many other factors that go into winning a championship besides coaching.
At the top of that list is talent and, even without Phil as the head man, the Lakers will still have one of the best rosters in the league when Phil departs. Just when looking at the Lakers top 5 players – Kobe, Pau, Bynum, Odom, and Artest – you have the makings of a championship roster, even if we’re talking 3 years from now. And this only references talent that is in house and on the court. When you look at Mitch Kupchak’s recent ability to build a championship team by drafting well and winning trades, it’s easy to forecast the Lakers continuing to build a strong roster even as the team ages – especially when considering the market advantages the Lakers possess by being based in Los Angeles and the brand advantage they have of being one of the most storied organizations in all of sports.
And while I agree that there are fast rising teams around the league (Miami, OKC) and traditional powers from the past few seasons (Orlando, Boston, Spurs) it’s still unknown how those teams will develop and grow over the next few years. Will the new collective bargaining agreement be an impediment to building upon their already impressive rosters? Will the Heat and Thunder respond to heightened expectations and beat back the pressure in a manner that leads to them dominating the league? I don’t pretend to know the answers to the these questions nor do I want to cast doubt on either of these teams. But in the end, I believe the Lakers will be right there battling for the title for seasons to come. And as a fan, that’s really all I can ask for.
Do you think that with the recent additions of Matt Barnes and Steve Blake that the Lakers get into the top 10 in 3 point shooting? I know these past few years the Lakers have not been a great perimeter shooting team (for example, when facing the zone defense vs. Phoenix in WCF).
Considering the Lakers tied for 23rd in the NBA in 3 point FG% last season, if next year’s Lakers were to jump into the top 10 would seem like a miracle. However, it’s actually not that far fetched. Consider the following: last season the Lakers shot 34.1% from behind the arc, making 532 of their 1,562 attempts. As I mentioned, that ranked them 23rd in the NBA in 3 pt. FG% (tied with Minnesota). Denver was the 10th ranked team in the NBA, shooting 35.9% on their long ball attempts. Using this past year as a template, the Lakers would have only needed to hit 33 more three pointers on the same number of attempts to raise their percentage to 36.2% – a percentage which would have ranked them 9th in the NBA right above the Hawks.
Now also consider that this past season both Kobe and Derek Fisher shot below their career averages by shooting 32.9% and 34.8% respectively (compared to 34% and 37.3%) and were well below their averages from the season before (35.1% and 39.7% respectively). So, if Kobe and Fisher revert anywhere close to their career averages, the Lakers should be a better three point shooting team next season overall considering that combined, Kobe and Fish took about one-third of the Lakers attempts from deep. Then, when you replace Farmar with Steve Blake and consider the possibility that Ron Artest will be more consistent from three point land next season and you have the ingredients for a major jump in three point shooting accuracy.
This isn’t to say that I’d call this particular Lakers’ team a great shooting team. Nor am I guaranteeing that all the things I mentioned earlier are sure to happen or are even likely (I could see Kobe struggling from deep again and/or Fisher continuing his regression as a shooter), but the potential for a big jump in three point accuracy is there for this team. And in the end, I do believe that the Lakers will shoot better to the point that if they aren’t in the top 10, they’ll be right on the cusp.
I understand that Shannon and Sasha have different weaknesses and strengths. But why did Sasha fall out of favor with Phil and the coaching staff and not get any burn last year while Shannon got a lot despite a regression in his game? Is it a personality issue? Is it because Sasha got almost the entire 09 regular season to show what he had and Phil finally lost patience?
If that was the case, was last year’s regular season the same principle applied to Shannon? He had a great 09 playoff run so coaches gave him the entire 10 season to work through his game like they did with Sasha in 09.
Will Shannon be on a tighter rope this year and the coaches looking at him and Sasha equally? Or does Sasha’s personality bother the staff so much that he’ll be glued to the bench unless there’s a huge separation between him and Shannon.
Not being in the locker room or in the practices, I can’t speak to any potential personality issues that exist between Sasha and the coaches. And while Sasha did have that spat with Brian Shaw that earned him an extended stay in Phil’s doghouse, Sasha’s minutes were sporadic at best to that point in the season. So, I believe that Sasha’s shorter leash has been based off his experience in the league and specifically his tenure on the Lakers and in the Triangle offense. Essentially, Sasha should been better tuned into how the coaches wanted him to play and acted accordingly. The fact that he still made the same mistakes that he’s been making for several seasons all while not bringing the consistency as a shooter that earned him time in 2008 led to a diminished role and a lower tolerance of his mistakes.
Meanwhile, this past year was Shannon’s first full year with the team. To be fair, he was still learning his role and was still feeling out the Lakers’ sets. And while Shannon made plenty of mistakes too, those could easily be explained away by his relative inexperience in the Triangle at a time when the Lakers coaches were (seemingly) imploring him to explore more facets of his game. Personally, I was frustrated at times with Shannon’s decision making, but along the same lines, players do not improve if you don’t give them room to fail and then learn from those mistakes.
All that said, I do believe this season will be the litmus test for Shannon and that there will be greater expectations on him to perform well and do so within the confines of his role. I think the coaches will be less patient with him and that he may too find himself glued to the pine if he doesn’t “play the right way” by making the correct reads and moving the ball in the manner that every player is expected to do. Remember too that Shannon saw his minutes greatly reduced in the Finals when he made several defensive mistakes against Ray Allen while struggling on offense himself. Phil then turned to Sasha as a defensive presence against Allen and the Machine performed well in his limited minutes. So next season, even though Shannon just got re-signed and Sasha is reportedly on the trading block, I believe this competition may be more open than a first glance suggests. I think that Shannon definitely has the upper hand as he’s the more athletic player, seemingly takes coaching better, and has more upside as a contributor on both ends of the floor. But, that doesn’t mean that Sasha can’t/won’t have a role if he’s on the roster and next season may prove to be the year that the Machine makes his way back into the rotation.
For the last 3 years the top of the West has been in a constant state of flux. We’ve faced 3 different teams in the WCF, and the first 2 (San Antonio and Denver) have both failed to win a playoff series the following year. That trend looks likely to continue with Phoenix losing Amar’e. With all that said, who do you see emerging as the main threat to the Lakers’ conference supremacy in 2010/11? I think Portland and Houston will be very dangerous IF their big men are healthy. What’s your take?
I think the easy choice in who will truly challenge the Lakers are the Thunder. The argument is easily made that, besides the Celtics, OKC gave the Lakers the stiffest challenge of any competitor and that with the experience they’ve gained and the continued growth of Durant and Westbrook that they’ll make a major leap next season and be a team that makes the conference finals.
However, the team that I’m probably most high on is the Houston Rockets. In a recent post at TrueHoop, I mentioned why I believe Houston has a chance to step up and challenge for the #2 spot behind the Lakers and I’m not wavering in that belief. Yes, a lot will depend on the health of Yao and Kevin Martin. And as I mention in TH piece, I’m skeptical about the individual defense of Aaron Brooks, Scola, and Brad Miller. However, when it’s all said and done I think their combination of top notch talent (I truly respect Yao Ming and think he has a tremendous impact on both ends of the floor), role players, and coaching will take them a long way this season. Plus, I really like the acquisition of Courtney Lee in the Ariza trade. While I love Trevor and think he’s getting a bit of a raw deal in the analysis of how he played last year, I think Lee is a great combo guard that will bring some of the guard skills that Ariza lacked. I also think he’s a versatile enough defender that he can play some PG against the CP3/Deron/Paker/Nash/Westbrook’s of the world that Houston doesn’t always need to close the game with Brooks or Lowry while also being able to play next to either of those guys if the line ups dictate it. Mind you, I don’t think Lee is some sort of star, but he’s another very good role player that will compliment the games of Martin and Yao very well.
(With Lamar Odom joining Team USA for the World Championships this Summer) Do you think the wear and tear will affect Odom come the season? Will he get the training camp jitters out now or will he be bringing in a new sense of discipline this year?
There’s always the concern that playing for Team USA will wear Odom down. He’s not the most durable player to begin with (though he’s been much better in recent seasons) and there’s surely a chance that he could end up suffering during the season from tired legs or just feel the affects of playing summer ball at the World Championships.
All that said, I think this is a great thing for Odom and will serve him well in preparing for the upcoming season. Based off his tenure in the league, Odom will be a leader on this team and that will require a focus and discipline that should help him when the Lakers pursue their third straight championship. I also think playing some Center in the international game is a good prep for his role on the Lakers as it will require that LO rebound and defend the paint while also moving well off the ball when teamed with explosive guards and wings. Plus, just as with the Lakers, Odom will come off the bench for Team USA so there will not be a big change in his current role in LA. Really, outside of the injury/fatigue risk, this should really help Odom in getting ready for the upcoming season and I’m really happy that he’s getting the opportunity to play. I’m a firm believer that nothing get’s you ready for a season quite like playing with other excellent players and Odom will get that chance with this group. And while the most talented guys won’t be on this particular U.S. team, this should still be a beneficial experience for LO and one that helps the Lakers.