Triangles and Zones

I don’t know why this is such a point of confusion for people. It’s really, really simple:

The Triangle offense, which Phil Jackson cannot coach without – in fact he doesn’t coach ANY team with ANY other offense, is all about movement and creating spacing. Its success depends on picks, screens, and all sorts of motion.

The Triangle offense can’t function against a zone. There’s no “motion” to be gained when defenders never leave an area. There’s no picks or screens because every “gap” ends up with two defenders nearby. Passes to the post end up with at least three and most times four defenders in the offense’s face. Dribble drives end in charges more often because the defender doesn’t have to move “far” in order to take a charge – just a step or two – and many times the offense is dribbling into two defenders, making it that much harder to avoid the charge.

Do a Google search on video of the Triangle and you can see the spacing involved. Then imagine a 1-2-2 or a 2-3 zone sitting there and you now are forcing the offense to spread out and take perimeter jump shots.

That’s not what the Lakers are calibrated for – they are not the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA. In fact, they were 23rd this season at .341, tied with MINNESOTA and barely above Oklahoma City (.340). The Suns, on the other hand, were the best in the NBA (.412). That translates to roughly about 9 extra points a game.

Yes, the Lakers were the best this season at defending the 3 pointer, however the Suns were no slouches either (17th) – but the 17th best defender of the 3 pointer on the 23rd best shooting team yields less points than the best defenders on the best shooters. The Suns will win this battle over the course of a series.

So the bottom line is, Phil Jackson is going to have problems with the zone for the remainder of the series because 1) he doesn’t know how to coach any other kind of offense but the Triangle and 2) even if the Lakers get hot from 3-point range, they have proven they can’t sustain it over 4 quarters, let alone a-best-of-3 series. And Game 4 proved that Kobe, as good as he is, can’t carry his team anymore for an entire game – his injuries and age have taken some of the gas out of the tank.


I just finished watching the Denver / Phoenix game and I can honestly say that, while I know that FIBA officiating is easily the worst in the world, that NBA game was by far the worst officiated game I’ve seen in 2009, starting from the 3rd quarter on.

The refs, all three of them, swallowed their whistles whenever Phoenix had the ball, but touch a Denver player’s hair and it’s a 2-shot foul. Steve Nash is fouled on the way to the hoop with 6 seconds left in the game and there’s no call. Even the NBA TV broadcasters were like “WTF?” No wonder Alvin Gentry was livid.

I do not believe David Stern for a second that the officials are impartial. That’s a load of crap. And I’m really starting to believe that when the former players/refs are hung out to dry by their peers for making incriminating statements about the others in their group, there’s truth to it. Yeah Donaghy was a crooked ref, but you know what? Everyone thought Canseco was loony when he came forward about the BS going on in baseball – I’m starting to think that Donaghy might also have some bits of truth out there as well that will come to light eventually.

As for now, well, the Suns were homered in Denver, and it wasn’t because the Nuggets played good basketball, it was because the Suns had to play an 8-on-5.

When will we see some transparency with the officials, David Stern? I can’t wait to see what the stat crunchers find with the foul calls in this game. The media will be all over this one in the morning. It comes down to this – a two-time MVP drives the lane, is shoved, and there’s no call, but a former drug addict that is not one year removed from a 2-year suspension gets to run over and through Suns players and gets the benefit of a call EVERY SINGLE TIME.

That, my friends, is bullshit.

Suns’ 13th man

The preseason rumors are starting to heat up for the Phoenix Suns as to whom the 13th man should be – whether it’s someone like 2nd round pick Taylor Griffin who would come cheap or a veteran who might be waived before the season starts.

My idea is actually both of those – sign Taylor Griffin for the minimum and he can be inactive for as much or as little as necessary, and then trade Alando Tucker for a veteran rebounder. Tucker has done absolutely nada during his tenure with the Suns – he’s a tweener and has demonstrated that he’s only good in the NBDL. His jump shot and driving focus deserts him when he’s on the big stage against better players. We saw a lot of him during blowouts near the end of last season, and he would routinely go 1-14, 2-10, 1-11, etc. Not only can he not finish, he can’t even seem to pass – he’s a black hole when you pass him the ball. Nope, better to trade him for a veteran banger who’ll average 4 points and 8 boards a game and play good defense.

Steve Kerr, I hope you’re reading!

Another Grab Bag

Random musings from a multitude of topics:

Lamont “Momo” Jones officially committed to the Arizona basketball team on Wednesday. This brings a recruiting class of Jones (SG/PG), Solomon Hill (SF), Kevin Parrom (SF/PF) and Kyryl Natyazhko (C) to the table before Sean Miller ever steps onto Lute and Bobbi Olson Court for an official practice. This also means that Arizona now has done the impossible and reloaded instead of rebuilding, as many thought would happen. The Pac-10 race is now three teams – UCLA, California, and Arizona.

Shaq traded to Cavs – straight salary dump, which is what I said should happen in this same blog last week, but only if it was for salary reasons. Now, with the 14th pick in the draft, and an extra $500k from the Cavs, the Suns should be looking for a couple of missing pieces to the puzzle. One, a veteran center who can play defense and rebound. Two, a backup SF. Ironically, the Suns might get the first in a trade for center Marcus Camby by sending Ben Wallace (whom they acquired in the Shaq trade) to the Clippers. Wallace makes $14.5m this year, and Camby makes only $10m, so a trade would also have to include a third player from the Clips, probably small forward Al Thornton ($1.78m). This gives the Suns the SF cushion they need in case Grant Hill does not return, and also gives them a center in Camby who will hustle, rebound, defend the pick-and-roll and finish at the rim.

I went to the Diamondbacks game last night and watched in horror as Eric Brynes absolutely killed Every Single Rally the D-backs had with two excuse-me swings back to the pitcher and two more groundouts to 2B. The Rangers aren’t a really talented or offensively-gifted team, but when you’ve got a rally-killer in Byrnes at the plate with 2 outs and men on board, all you need to do is score 2 runs against the D-backs and you can pencil yourself in a win. AJ Hinch should have started Ryan Roberts in left. Roberts hits .233 against right handers, unlike Byrnes (.215). Byrnes hits .185 with runners in scoring position and 2 outs, .218 with runners on and less than 2 outs. Roberts, even though he hits .167 with RISP and 2 outs – which is a function of not having that many bats in that situation (a grand total of 6) – has very good numbers with runners on base, hitting .314! And any manager will tell you that even if your AB gets you a hit, if you move the runner into scoring position, you’ve extended the inning just a bit more and put more pressure on that opposing pitcher.

The Mountain West conference had proposed an eight-team playoff to the BCS-people. It was rejected, of course, but really what that amounts to was a playoff that would be another dangling carrot to those non-BCS conferences – finishing in the top 8 would get a seed in the playoff, but would that REALLY happen every year in the next four years? Drawing on the past years, it’s possible, but really unlikely. One year, maybe two at best, but not all four. And what happens in the year it doesn’t happen – does the MWC complain again and threaten more antitrust stuff? Realistically, all the conferences signed on for this, and that’s the rules all teams play by. You want in, win on the field. Utah did last year, and it landed them a nice BCS bowl.

US defeats Spain 2-0 in soccer. I saw this headline in between innings at the D-backs game and did a complete double-take. Holy shmoly! One more victory away from the Confederations Cup? Now I have to find out when this final is playing on TV. You see, the US has NEVER done well in world play – well, the men haven’t at least. So, this is a big thing for the US Men’s team. It would be nice to walk away with a victory in the final and make it a stepping stone toward the next World Cup.

NBA Draft in less than 30 minutes – who will the Suns take at #14? My guess is probably be James Johnson from Wake Forest, though several sites have the Suns selecting Earl Clark from Louisville.

Finally, I’m almost done with the preseason AZ HS rankings. There will be some surprises, I’m sure.

Is that score right??

Phoenix 140, LA Clippers 100.

Yes, it’s right. I watched most of this game (had to listen to the third quarter in the car on the way to the store) and was absolutely-fricking-astounded by the response of the Suns to return to the 7 Seconds or Less run-and-gun offense. All Phoenix starters played less than 28 minutes each, and super-sub Louis Amundson scored 13 points in 20 minutes and chipped in 8 boards. Heck, even Goran Dragic played 23 minutes and scored in double figures, hitting a 3-pointer AND scoring on a dunk in the 4th quarter.

And it came at the hands of the hapless Clippers – no Marcus Camby (inner ear infection), no Brian Skinner (sore right achilles), and near the end of the first quarter, no Zach Randolph (ejected for throwing a punch).

And to think, the same two teams go at it again TONIGHT at 8:30pm MST in LA.

Now, I doubt that Camby will be available to play, maybe Skinner will be playing, but we know that Randolph will not be playing, and may be unavailable for a good couple of games – an ejection is an automatic one-game suspension, but his actions will probably merit at least a 5-gamer.

I see another blowout in the future. Probably not by 40, but at least by 15-20. I mean, think about it – who does the Clippers have that can guard Shaq AND Amare Stoudemire? (answer: no one) Heck, what’s the over/under on the halftime score of tonight’s game?

The poor people of Clipper Nation are pretty much hamstrung by their roster (Zach Randolph – 3 years remaining on his contract at $14.7mil/yr; Chris Kaman – 4 years, $9.5mil/yr; and Baron Davis – 5 years, $11.25mil/yr). Their only saving grace is that Ricky Davis comes off the books at the end of the season (he of the lowly plus/minus of -45 last night… that means that his team lost a net 45 points while he was on the court).

And irony of ironies, the coach last night (Alvin Gentry) was a former Clipper coach who was let go by said team in 2003 and hooked on to the Suns at that point. How beautifully delicious that he got to absolutely manhandle his former team. So good that the Suns rewarded Gentry with NBA history – the 40-point win is the largest margin of victory ever for a coach following a coaching change.

Poor, poor Clippers…

Shaq is predicting a 22-9 run for the remainder of the season. They got win #1 last night and now just need to deliver another 21 more. But will 51 wins be enough to make it in? I think so – in fact, I’d say that 48 wins will get the #6 spot, so 51 wins should be a #1-4 seed.

(insert “Randy McCall and Pac-10 referees suck” obligatory statement here)