9/10/2005 11:04:00 PM|||Kurt|||
This site has moved to forumblueandgold.com. Just follow that link and come discuss the Lakers and the NBA with some smart and fun fans.
Things are slow in Lakerland, add to that I’ve been busy working on some site upgrades (that should go live before the start of training camp, ideally) and some other surprises and that has meant new posts have been getting the short end of the stick. For example, I started to put together a “what is the triangle” post but decided to save that for closer to the start of camp (or just after the start) when talk of Xs and Os will be a little more fresh and relevant. That’s not to mention Laker and other previews and comments. I’ve got a couple of ideas for the next couple of weeks, but if you have any thoughts or suggestions on good topics for discussion, put them in the comments or send me an email. Or if you just have site suggestions in general, send them along, That said, a couple of notes and thoughts: • Remember Sunday night at 11 p.m. on TNT is the NBA fundraiser game for victims of hurricane Katrina, so tune in for an offensive show (and All-Star game quality defense). Kobe had some good thoughts on the game and the tragedy. Also, if you have not donated yet and can do so, the victims do need your money and anything else you can spare. • Hoopsanalyst has a nice look back on the career of Hall of Fame inductee Hubie Brown. • A little fun with stats. Kobe averaged 27.1 points per 40 minutes last season. But what if you broke that down and did a per-40 average when another specific player was on the floor — or, more simply, what returning player led Kobe to score more per 40 with him on the floor? Surprisingly, it’s Sasha. Kobe averaged 31.8 per 40 when he was on the floor. Second was Jumaine Jones with 31.5. What if you did the same thing with Lamar Odom? Lamar averaged 16.9 per 40 last season, but that jumped to 17.8 when Luke Walton was on the floor. Again Jumaine Jones was second with 17.6. One thing Sasha and Luke have in common is they are good passers, so that may account for some of the increase. They also are both questionable shooters, leading the guys who can shoot to take more on themselves, that may be a reason for the jumps as well. Don’t read too much into this data (unless you are Phil Jackson, in which case go over to this data on 82games and think about who should be playing more together — and why Jumaine Jones seemed to make people better). • The Damon Jones signing was a great pick up for Cleveland, he’ll be a good fit with LeBron and Hughes, and he will likely lead the league in three pointers. • How about my Notre Dame Fighting Irish now?|||112641877360833182|||Fast Break9/07/2005 11:00:00 AM|||Kurt|||It’s less than a month until training camp opens, but time is dragging now and there is little NBA news anywhere. The good news is it looks like this Sunday, when not watching the first week of my NFL office pool go down in flames, I can get a basketball fix — including some Kobe:
All-Stars LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Amare Stoudemire and Dwyane Wade will play in an NBA Players Hurricane Relief Game organized by TNT analyst Kenny Smith. The game is Sunday at 6 p.m. EDT at the Toyota Center and will be televised by TNT at 11 p.m. Participating players will donate funds and supplies valued at more than $1 million for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
For those of you who want a little fix before Sunday, Eric Pincus has rounded up all the latest rumors — including dreams of what to do with that 2007 cap space — and if you want to daydream like it was still the warm days of summer (not that its really cooled down any), it’s a good read. But be careful not to get to sucked into the what-ifs and think they will become reality. One rumor that has picked up steam and is mentioned not only by Pincus but also other publications and their “league sources” is a sign-and-trade for former UCLA Bruin Jason Kapono. Jason is not a great defender (an unimpressive defensive rating of 111 last year, 5 points above the league average, and he guarded mostly threes and they shot 52.9% when he was on the floor) and doesn’t create his own shot well. But, he was still a +5.3 per 48 minutes last year (meaning the Bobcats were that much better with him on the floor than off it) and the boy can shoot the three — 42.4% since he entered the league. I guess my only question is what are you giving up to get a three-point specialist to back up Kobe? An early rumor was Devean George, which is way to steep a price, you can get more for George (who is solid and a last year contract). If it were someone less, this would fit in with the “I don’t love it but what the heck” bench the Lakers have assembled. One other note, Kareem met with the media yesterday after his first workout with Andrew Bynum, and the reports are good.
"He's not a raw kind of talent. He's got some sophistication to his basketball game, and I think he will progress quickly."
Don’t expect Bynum to play much this season, but if he can progress next year maybe he starts to see some time off the bench. Also, keep reading down in that LA Times piece to see Tex Winter will be back as a consultant to teach the triangle. Good to hear. Finally, the Lakers signed rookie Devin Green, who played well in the Summer Pro League, to a training camp contract. This is a guy who will not make the team, but more bodies are needed in camp.|||112611613219954101|||Need A Hoops Fix?9/05/2005 11:43:00 PM|||Kurt|||
They call him “Dr. J.” The ABA’s leading scorer in 1972-73, Julius creates the flow of the game. He has a great imagination of the court and is an artist with the basketball.
Those words are on the back of Julius Erving’s 73-74 basketball card, and that was my introduction to one of the games greats. I was too young to really know anything about rival leagues and fights for players, I just remember it was over at a friends house where his dad was watching basketball that I first saw that league with the funny-colored ball. That memory and more came back to me the other day when, in unpacking from my recent move, I came across my binder of my best sports cards. There are baseball, football, a few hockey and, of course, basketball. The Dr. J in his third season ABA card — complete with a photo inset of him that can’t contain his ‘fro — is just one of them. And they bring back a flood of memories. That’s because my cards were not purchased with future value in mind. My first cards came when I would go with my dad to the local liquor store/food mart to pick up milk or eggs or whatever it was we needed — my dad would throw a pack of cards I picked out in with it. I’d open the cards in the car and show him what I got, and even try to chew the cardboard-quality gum inside. Later I’d get together with my two friends on the street, Chuck and Jeff, and we’d trade. (I hesitate to think about how many Walter Payton rookie cards I traded away, I still have two but remember thinking I seemed to get one in every pack and who was this new guy anyway?) Later, when we were old enough, the three friends would ride our bikes to the clown liquor store in North Hollywood (I wonder if it is still there, the one with the huge clown as the sign) and buy our own cards. I’ve got a few Dr, J cards from his ABA days with the Nets. There’s also cards such as John Havlicek (“John was drafted by the Cleveland Browns” is the tidbit on him), Bill Walton, Adrian Dantley, Pete Maravich and more great players that I saw little of but got to learn about, and see the stats of, thanks to those cards. Then there were the players I did get to see. I have the 73-74 and 74-75 Jerry West cards (West also has a photo inset headshot, but his hair fits within the circle). There’s the card celebrating the 71-72 championship Lakers, compete with Wilt pulling down a rebound. There are some cards that mean more to me now than they did then — Pat Riley, wearing the number 17 that now belongs to Andrew Bynum. There’s Phil Jackson with the Knicks circa 74-75, where you can learn he was the dominant player at North Dakota University when he played there. I also have Phil in the oversized Tops cards from 76-77, where he looks almost graceful shooting a hook shot over Wes Unseld (I think). Other cards just have players that I rarely think of any more but smile when I do — Artis Gilmore, Alvan Adams, David Thompson, Dave DeBusschere, Connie Hawkins, Jo Jo White and Cazzie Russell. Just to name a few. It all transports me back to a time when basketball was more innocent and pure to me because I was those things. It’s good for me, before training camp starts and when I’m fretting over the Lakers lack of a bench, to remember that as much as I love the team I also love the game. The purity of it. And that sometimes I should just sit back and enjoy how much fun it is to watch Phoenix run the break or LeBron James make his teammates better. That’s what’s really important. I’m glad I pulled out that binder.|||112598909029459564|||A Time Of Innocence9/04/2005 11:17:00 PM|||Kurt|||Shouldn’t you be out at a barbeque right now? Enjoying the last days of summer rather than being in front of a computer? Well, for those who stopped by, thanks for coming, but there is little Laker news to report. Here are a couple things: • The Lakers have hired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a “special assistant coach,” which is a fancy way of saying a mentor and tutor for Andrew Bynum. It’s a good choice — Kareem’s fundamentals were always solid, a sign of good coaching. Hopefully he can pass that along. • Interesting comment over at Hoopsanalyst about the Aaron McKie pick up:
On the one hand, McKie’s career is basically at that same point that Ron Harper’s was when Jackson embraced playing him in place of an actual point guard back in 1995-96. But McKie has always been a bit more lumbering as a guard than Harper was and it’s possible that he won’t have the same cache with Jackson (remember Jackson buried Mitch Richmond on the bench in 2001-02). I don’t know how this will turn out, but I’m suggesting it’s more possible than you might initially think that McKie could find himself buried on the bench.
• TNT analyst and former Rocket Kenny Smith is trying to organize an NBA all-star game with the proceeds benefiting victims of hurricane Katrina. He said big NBA names are interested, I hope he can pull it off. • Though next Thursday I’ll be subbing in for Henry over at True Hoops, posting some NBA news and opinions.|||112590105446321620|||Why Are You Reading This?9/02/2005 10:13:00 AM|||Kurt|||Basketball has seemed very trivial these last few days. One of the things little discussed on this site is that I’m a big believer in volunteering — that living in a well-off nation as I do and in the manner I do is of great fortune, and I should give back. For the past few years I have done that by giving what free time I can (and money I can) to the Red Cross. I already know several people sent from Southern California to parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, and many more will follow them. If I could, I would. But what we can all do is try to help people in need on this end. You can donate to the Red Cross, or you can donate through a host of other reputable organizations that will ensure your money will go to the right place. Help with what you can — to me helping out those in need is a basic quality of humanity. A few Laker/NBA notes: • The latest Carnival of the NBA is up at the new and good Sacramento Kings blog. Not only is the Carnival worth reading, check back to this site during the season because Tom's blog may be new but he is doing good work. • In case you didn’t see it, the Laker assistant coaches this season will be Brian Shaw, Kurt Rambis and Frank Hamblin. Why do I think Shaw is the coach in waiting when Phil steps down? • Yao signed a max deal to stay in Houston. This should not be a surprise. Don’t expect Amare or LeBron to leave their situations either (not impossible but not likely). Having cap space available in a few years is a good thing, but in today’s NBA climate it seems better suited for filling in pieces than getting a core player. • I don’t really get the rumor of Earl Watson going to Denver. Oh, I get why he'd do it — they are offering him the most money. I’m curious how he will fit in Denver, however. Would Andre Miller start at the point but spend time at the two when Boykins and Watson come off the bench? • Tomorrow night at 5 p.m. (Pacific) you can find me with a beer in my hand, sitting with friends in an Irish pub watching Notre Dame football kick off the season. Hoops is still my favorite sport, but there are few things I look forward to as much as watching football with friends.|||112568175655079648|||Fast Break8/31/2005 11:05:00 AM|||Kurt|||It’ll be next summer at the World Championships before we really know (or maybe the 2008 Olympics), but the early indications are that USA Basketball may have learned some valuable lessons from the 2004 debacle in Athens. Case in point: The rape trial kept Kobe out of the last Olympics, but it appears the new efforts to build a team better designed to play international ball for 2008 will include Kobe, according to team architect Jerry Colangelo.
"I've gotten word that (Bryant) is waiting for a call," Colangelo said. "I think this would be a great opportunity for him." The olive branch extended to Bryant means there is no chance of Shaquille O'Neal playing for Team USA, although he's not the type of player Colangelo is looking for, anyway.
There are good signs out of this quote, and it has nothing to do with whether or not Kobe dons a USA jersey in 2006 or 2008 (although I think he should). Rather, that quote starts to show that Colangelo and USA Basketball gets what it needs to do. Bringing in Kobe means the team is looking players who can shoot from the perimeter — particularly the three. If there was one clear deficiency in Athens it was that Team USA, to use a Chickism, couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean. It sounds as if Colangelo is looking to build a team suited to play the international style of basketball — and he’s right, Shaq doesn’t fit that. He really never did, although a younger (fitter) Shaq still would have caused so many problems and was such a physical force he would have been unstoppable on any court or in any style. This needs to be a more perimeter based and versatile team, with bigs who can play inside and out and not just a plethora of slasher guards. Kobe can fit right in that on the perimeter. That Colangelo is thinking along those lines is a good sign. By the way, I don’t buy into the “the USA team lacked fundamentals” argument. Yes, jump shooting is a fundamental, but the core of that argument is that USA players couldn’t or wouldn’t pass (Team USA led the Olympics in assists, and it wasn’t close), had no idea how to play team ball (despite only being thrown together for that tournament) or that they didn’t care. I think it was pretty clear they did if you watched the games, but the deck was stacked against them. In putting together a team that could sell jerseys but was not built for the international game (where the three-point line is more like college and the base of the lane is wider) Team USA was expected to win on pure talent. They needed shooters but Michael Redd never got an invite. To add to the problems they brought in a great coach (Larry Brown) but again whose teams do not play a style that fits well internationally. Plus, Brown didn’t want to play his kids so LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Amare Stoudemire were glorified spectators, despite their game being better suited to the Olympics than some that played a lot. What you were left with is a team that scored 105 points per 100 possessions and gave up 103 (the tournament average was 103). For comparison, the original dream team averaged 116 and gave up 105 (tournament average 108). Dean Oliver has these and other numbers in a great piece he did on problems with the Olympic team last year. Team USA needs to get its act together because it is clear the rest of the world is catching up on pure talent. Check out this work by Dan Rosenbaum, showing just how much of the young talent in the NBA is imported. I think bringing in Colangelo was a good first step, although more needs to be done. USA Basketball needs to tell the NBA what players it wants, not the other way around. Shooters, versatile big men, a couple of shut down defenders. Basically, a team, not a collection of stars. Also, they need a full time coach. It was pretty clear Larry Brown and staff did little or no scouting — when opponents big men wandered away from the basket out to the three-point line USA players watched them go, a bad move in international ball where bigs can shoot the three. That happened way too often and in key situations. A full time USA coach could scout these things. Plus, it would bring a consistent system and style to Team USA, as opposed to an All-Star game every four years. We’ll see what happens — remember one of the big problems last time was so many NBA stars turning the team down. The days the USA can just roll the ball out and win on talent alone are gone, this needs to be a team now. It sounds like they are moving in the right direction.|||112551157255056212|||Good Steps For Team USA8/29/2005 10:23:00 AM|||Kurt|||I swear, if the equipment doesn’t show up today to hook up my cable modem in the new house, I may kill someone. Dial-up is making me Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” crazy and angry. Sorry for those of you out there using dial-up, but high speed, once you have it you just can’t go back — sort of like cell phones. There may be other popular analogies, but I have no first-hand experience with those. Anyway, a few Laker thoughts for a Monday: • Eric Pincus at Hoopsworld talked to Mitch Kupchak this week and, basically, the Laker roster you see now appears to be what you’ll see on opening night in Denver.
"I think as far as the nucleus of the team, I think we’re done. I don’t anticipate that we look to sign another free agent.
Pincus is suggesting there may be a trade for a backup center, but don’t expect big changes (despite the pining for Eddie Curry or Earl Watson). • What that leaves the Lakers is a starting five that is pretty strong and the kind of flexible lineup that should work well in the triangle — McKie, Kobe, Odom, Kwame, Mihm. But if the Lakers are really going to do much those guys are going to have to play starting minutes like last season’s Phoenix Suns — the drop off to the bench talent is steep. Luke Walton can play some minutes at the two or three, as can Jumaine Jones and Devean George. But right now your backup points guards are Sasha and Smush, and the backups at the 4/5 are Cook, Slava and maybe Vlade. Possibly there can be a rotation that has Mihm sit first and Kwame go to the five, with Cook playing some 4, but that is a potential defensive disaster inside. (In that scenario, Mihm would come in for Kwame, then Kwame eventually re-enters for Cook, but I really don’t like the combos outside of Kwame/Mihm.) • Who watched the MTV Video Music Awards last night? Neither did I. But I may try to catch the “red carpet” portion of the show during the unending reruns just to see Snoop Dogg roll up in a low-rider decked out in Laker colors, and wearing a hat signed by Laker greats. • One quick note on the Aaron McKie signing — his entire career McKie has worn the number 8, but that’s not happening in Los Angeles. McKie will wear 2 instead.|||112533623442149776|||Fast Break: