NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 5:
Los Angeles Lakers (1-3) @ Utah Jazz (1-3)
Jazz Jam Session
Drew (@BallReasons) is super awesome and clearly more organized than I am. Waaay back hours ago he had uploaded the Q and A we did on the SB Nation Lakers blog Silver Screen and Roll (I love their theme there, btw). You can read my answers to his questions here. Now it's payback time!
1. I don't hate Mike Brown. What I read online tells me that I should. I have a crazy idea though -- during the playoffs when each possession means more, no team in the West will be able to combat a Steve Nash pick and roll or pick and pop with either Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol. The bench isn't that great, but if everyone is healthy -- and the vets are rested, they'll play when it counts. Kobe and Nash are two of the most clutch performers ever. The offense will work itself out. The main problem, especially with an aging Nash, would be on working on defensive schemes to combat the Russell Westbrook / Chris Paul / Tony Parker / James Harden / Mike Conley types. Isn't a defense first head coach the right guy to help you guys get over the one weakness you have?
You would really think that would be the case, but last year there was never a level of confidence with the Lakers defense that screamed "this is why we hired Mike Brown". That isn't entirely on the head coach though, as Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol over time proved to be downright awful on defense at times. Isolated in the post they defended well, but having to cover space, rotate, and recover in pick and roll situations? No dice there. This year everything has changed with the addition of Dwight Howard. Mike Brown has been handed one of the most impactful defensive players to play in the league over the last decade. This should be a match made in heaven. However, with Dwight still struggling to get his legs under him and still shaking the rust off, we have yet to see the monstrous defensive player that represented the largest upgrade in Dwight Howard over the afro-rocking Andrew Bynum. I'd agree that, in theory, a defensive minded coach would be perfect to focus on the largest weakness on the roster, but that's what Mike Brown has left us with. Theories. Over time, say 20-30 games, the Lakers' identity will be clearer. If the defense isn't performing? That may be the straw that breaks the camel's back. A supposed defensive minded coach that can't perform with a prizefighter in Dwight Howard.
2. Kobe. Man, 59.7 fg%, 52.9 3pt%, 94.7 ft%, 1.60 PPS, 71.0 TS% . . . I could go on and on but he is the most measured and efficient as I've ever seen him. He's playing with a fluidity and ease like he's playing in an exhibition game so far. (Of course, I haven't watched every second of every Lakers game, but still...) Kobe is amazing. How is he doing it?
Cuts. Cuts cuts cuts. Kobe Bryant is attacking the rim something fierce. It isn't as if he's attacking the rim with blazing speed and just stuffing it down like he has a renewed youth. It's precise cuts, the ball being put in the right spot, and him being able to finish his layups. It's seriously a thing of beauty, and something I was pulling for when Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, and the Princeton offense all became Los Angeles Lakers. The other thing is he has dramatically decreased the amount of three point attempts and contested mid range jumpers he's throwing up. Considering how ineffecient he was last season this has been a welcome development even in such a small sample size. Obviously with just a four game sample to pull numbers from it's unlikely these insane percentages maintain, but if Kobe continues on this path he's going to put together the type of efficient season so many have been waiting to see from Kobe Bryant. This has been a great stretch of basketball from Kobe Bryant and it's unfortunately being buried beneath all of the "Fire Mike Brown, dump the Princeton" chatter. Clearly Kobe has found a great rhythm, and considering the similarities in principle it has to a certain Triangle offense, it comes as no surprise. To put it into perspective, last season Kobe averaged 9.9 field goals on 23 attempts per game. So far this season? 10 field goals on 16.8 attempts.
3. Somehow this season the Lakers are 3rd best in the entire NBA in FG% (50.3%), and also 5th best in the NBA in offensive rebounds (13.3 per game). How are you making almost the most shots in the NBA, and also getting the most misses. Or is it that an offensive put-back heavy offense is actually the most efficient one around?
I hadn't seen that stat until you pointed it out and it's definitely an interesting one. You would think being in the top tier of field goal percentage means less offensive boards, but clearly Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill are doing a great job cleaning up misses around the rim to put the cherry on top. In awkward arbitrary stat category news, Jordan Hill is second in the league in offensive rebound % for players playing more than 10 minutes per game. Dwight Howard is 28th in that 10 minutes or more group, grabbing 13.2% of available offensive boards. Since I'm looking at the numbers, for players running the floor more than 30+ minutes a game, Paul Millsap sits at 3rd in the league at 16.4% of available offensive rebounds being gobbled up by him (Dwight is 8th in this parse). If I had to put my finger on this, it has to be with the quality of shots the Lakers are getting overall. With such a focus in the paint and at the time between Dwight Howard, Jordan Hill, Pau Gasol, and Kobe Bryant they are doing a great job of keeping away from devolving into becoming a mid-range team, which is something they struggled with last season. Since they are making such a high percentage of their shots, and have players who are active on the glass, the Lakers are able to use their extra attempts to great effect.
4. It seems like whenever the Lakers have a Canadian player on their team they win the title. This was the case for Mike Smrek from back when *I* was a Lakers fan. This was also the case with Rick Fox during your Lake Show years. Now you have both Steve Nash and Robert Sacre on your team. Does this mean that you're actual odds for winning a ring are doubled? Or is this just a crazy Canuk conspiracy? Eh?
Who am I to argue with results? And I mean, in the spectrum of great Canadian Lakers, Steve Nash should be far and away the best of the bunch. Robert Sacre as a deep bench big is good just as a bodyguard for the team when they're out and about, he's a scary looking guy. It's hard to argue that having Nash, Canadian or not, shouldn't essentially automatically double the Lakers' chance for another title though. Considering how hard Ramon Sessions flamed out after having a solid start to his time with the Lakers, having to go through a sloppy divorce with Derek Fisher, and having the likes of Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake, and Chris Duhon as point guards on the roster over the last handful of years is one great way to create a contrast to show just how great Steve Nash is. Or can be, that is. His health and age are already beginning to show their ugly side as he is now slated to miss a range that goes from 7 days and up to a month. A non-displaced fracture of his fibula has sidelined him and I have a hard time believing he will be ready to play basketball without any adverse effects any time soon. But, on the bright side... Mike Smrek and Rick Fox will be the guiding light in my hopes that this will all come to pass in the path to the title.
5. From what you've seen so far in the preseason and in your four games played -- who is going to be the guy who you can rely on to step up big, off the bench? Steve Blake? Antawn Jamison? I felt like Jordan Hill could have been that guy -- but now with Dwight on the team I don't know if he'll get the minutes he needs.
I want this answer to be Steve Blake. I want to be able to say that yeah, Blake is going to fill in for his fellow Steve, Nash, since his minutes will be so limited and he's going to provide a spark off the bench. And, for whatever it's worth, in the absence of Nash thus far Blake has played inspired on the floor. But in his time with the Lakers Steve Blake has been anything but reliable, and has downright been a disappointment. He was supposed to be -that- guy off the bench (it feels like every role player is supposed to be -that- guy with Los Angeles) and he simply hasn't been. Jordan Hill, however, has looked like a great carry over from last season. He brings great energy, effort, and size to the floor for the Lakers. A very active rebounder, Jordan Hill will be the clean up guy who does a little bit of everything for the purple and gold. As far as minutes are concerned Mike Brown hasn't been shy in playing him at both the center and power forward, so there have been stretches of a Dwight Howard-Jordan Hill front court. Hill's minutes have become a bit more extended as an effect of Brown's insistence of playing Antawn Jamison as a backup small forward, which is still a point of contention amongst the fan base. Either way, Hill's minutes shouldn't see a decrease even if Antawn plays in the front court rotation simply because his motor is fantastic for a team that lacks that oomph from time to time. Jordan Hill will be that guy, and he almost has to be considering how inconsistent and poor the rest of the bench has performed up till now.
Wow, these are great answers. Thanks again Drew -- and Jazz fans visit Silver Screen and Roll. They are good people, even if they root for a highly successful NBA franchise!