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Monday, July 10, 2006

TEX’S WISH LIST FOR LAKER IMPROVEMENT

Note to readers: Thanks for your kind comments and suggestions. Your questions led me to interview Tex Winter on the upcoming season, the signing of Vlade Radmanovic and the challenge ahead.


Many of the teams in the Western Conference have made moves to get better over the off-season. That, in turn, has put pressure on the Lakers.
“I don’t think we can be sure of making the playoffs without considerable improvement,” Laker consultant and longtime Phil Jackson assistant Tex Winter offered in a phone interview.
Specifically, Winter calls for four areas of improvement that will be key for 2006-07 success.
• Guard improvement. “We have to find some leadership in the backcourt,” he explained. This is not a dig at Kobe Bryant. Rather, Winter says the team needs a strong guard, which can take some of the pressure off Bryant and allow him to move to small forward. “That’s where he can be more effective,” Winter said. That’s because working at the 3 spot allows Bryant to operate behind the defense on the underside of the triangle. It could create more opportunities for quick-opening isolation looks like the Bulls used to get for Jordan.
With Bryant at the 3 spot, the Lakers will have an open-floor look that allows them to use more of the options from the triangle.
Bryant at the 3 also might make Phil Jackson more comfortable with the running game. “Phil’s got a lot of confidence in our flow game,” Winter explained. The “flow game” allows the team to use a limited break to “flow” into the triangle sets.
Winter has encouraged Jackson to look for more pure running opportunities, something that owner Jerry Buss has wanted for years.
The running game would take advantage of what Lamar Odom does best, which is rebound on the defensive end and power out on the break with the ball (like Magic Johnson so often did for Showtime in the Laker days of yore), Winter said.
Rookie Jordan Farmar, of course, is perhaps a key to improved guard play. He knows the game and has shown a knack early in summer league play for the offense, Winter said. “Farmar will help because he’s got some savvy. He knows how to complement Odom on the break. The break will help because it will allow Kobe to get up the floor and attack the basket before the defense sets up. If Smush Parker learns how to utilize all that speed he has, he can be a factor in the running game, too.”
The running game, of course, requires tremendous defensive effort, rebounding the ball, forcing turnovers, etc. It might also be the format which allows Odom to realize his potential.
• Boost post depth and play. “I don’t know how much we can depend on (Andrew) Bynum,” Winter said. He pointed out that the young center’s play in summer league’s first game is extremely encouraging. “He’s got great potential. If he gets fire in his belly and learns to compete, he could help us tremendously,” the coach added.
The coaching staff likes Chris Mihm as well. Winter has envisioned Mihm as having great potential at power forward, but both Mihm and Kwame Brown seem to prefer the center position.
Regardless, Bynum’s improvement will be a big factor in how the Lakers do. And that’s a lot of pressure to put on an 18-year-old with no college experience. “That’s why I think the summer league is important. Very important,” Winter said. If it can advance the play of Bynum and Farmar, the summer league will pay dividends this upcoming season. That, however, is a huge IF. Is it realistic?
Winter likes the fact that assistant Kurt Rambis wound up coaching the summer league team with help from Brian Shaw and Craig Hodges. All three have a solid understanding of the offense, not to mention great teaching ability, he said.
• Much better shooting. All of last season, Winter bemoaned the Lakers’ lack of consistent perimeter shooting. Bryant’s presence creates so many open looks for teammates in the triangle offense. The Lakers needed someone to take advantage. Their acquisition of free agent Vladimir Radmanovic, the 6-10 perimeter threat (and Clipper free agent), has him excited.
“In this offense, he’s gonna get some shots,” Winter said of Radmanovic. “He’ll get more open shots than he’s ever had in his life. That’s if we get the ball movement we need. Radmanovic can do other things besides just shoot. He has an ability to go to the hole off the dribble. Yes, he’s more of a perimeter player, but that will open the floor for Kobe and our other players to drive.”
• Improvement from Bryant. “Kobe has got to continue to lift his game, particularly from the standpoint of team play,” Winter said, repeating a refrain that he sends Bryant’s way on a constant basis. Bryant’s play on Team USA in the World Championships in Japan in late August will help tremendously, Winter said. “He won’t feel he’ll have to go out there and dominate. He’ll have so many other good players on that team, he’ll be able to relax a bit and enjoy his teammates.
“He’ll play differently on that team than he’s ever played before,” Winter predicted.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank for the the great reports. Please keep up the good work.

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to hear Tex likes Farmar and Radmonivic. Alot of local commentators have been down on both.

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

two read between the line observations.... Could it be that Tex sees a lack of "fire in the belly" in Andrew Bynum, which is an absolute must for a big man in this league. I hope we didnt use the 10th pick in the draft on the next Elden/Benoit/Candy man. Another thought, if Kobes team play is "helped" by being part of a balanced USA team this summer, what will he be like when he returns in October to far less gifted players?

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stoked you're writing. A suggestion would be to not put the titles in all caps. Looks bad in a lot of RSS readers.

Cheers.

-sharky
Drunken Audible

6:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great stuff. I find it particularly frustrating that some Lakers fans expect Bynum to have a break out season in 2006-2007. He is a long-term project, especially since he is a center. Amare and KG had quicker maturations in the NBA because they were PFs and play a different style. I would bet that Shaq wasnt showing up on the national radar as a dominant force against college-level talent when he was 19. Patience is key in the development of this latest Lakers big man.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous William Mac said...

Dear Hoopshype,

I have read your article from Tex Winter, and got a great insight into how
he feels the team needs to play, but at the same time, I've read your
rumours page for Lakers news to no avail. I feel the Lakers are not doing
enough in the off season to improve the team.

They have recently acquired Radmanovic which will definitely help their
outside shooting. But now, they have Kwame, Bynum, Radmanovic, Mihm upfront
along with Odom potentially, and Ronny Turiaf once they sign him (which I
think they need to). That is a log jam for minutes, and a stunt on Bynum
and Kwame's growth. What they need to do is use MIHM as the trading chip
(along with aaron mckie's expiry contract, and even Luke, Sasha, or Farmer
can be thrown in the mix, or 2nd round pick next year) to acquire an
athletic swingman. There is no place better than to Atlanta who needs a
true Center still, and is loaded with the likes of Smith, Childress,
Williams, Harrington (FA) that the Lakers can definitely steal away. The
Lakers need to make a move to improve their lineup and bench. An athletic
swingman who can knock down the outside shot at maybe 36+% to complement the
team, who can average 15 points on any given night to take the load off of
Bryant, who will also get Bryant some assists when the passes are made. The
point guard is a terribly weak spot, but that can be played by committee.
Spend the second exception on a european point guard somewhere or take a 2
year small change on Jay Williams. He can knock down the outside shot, and
run the team even if slower, since the Triangle does not require too much
speed.

Hopefully this gets posted, because I have no idea what on Earth Kupchak is
doing over there, no offense, but he's not making Bold enough moves. You
can't hold onto middle of the pack type players and expect to improve, you
have to trade for potential alone.

Thanks,
William Mac

5:49 AM  

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