Don’t blame Princeton. If Lakers turn it around it’s all about turnovers.

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Don’t blame Princeton.

National pundits and Lakers fans are hammering Lakers coach Mike Brown and the Princeton offense — Charles Barkley said he wants his accountants from Princeton, not his offense. It’s to the point Brown’s job could be threatened if the Lakers don’t have a strong home stand. All this even though it was Kobe Bryant who urged Brown to consider the Princeton offense

But the thing is the Princeton offense has really worked when they run it right. Don’t believe me? There’s proof (in the admittedly small sample sizes).

So far this season, Kobe has taken 50 percent of his shots inside the restricted area, right at the rim — that is double last season’s percentage (a great post at Forum Blue & Gold breaks down Kobe’s scoring this season). As should be obvious, even Kobe scores more shooting at the rim than he does 20 feet away. Rather than setting up in isolation plays where he gets the ball 22 feet from the basket and the defense sets for him, he is cutting and working off the ball and the result is better shots. The result is Kobe is shooting 56 percent this season, up from 43 percent last season.

Then there is Dwight Howard. Still bothered by a back not fully recovered from off-season surgery, he is averaging 22.4 points a game on 67.8 percent shooting. He is getting good looks. And so it goes down the line — the Lakers are getting good shots and actually scoring plenty.

The Lakers are averaging 104.6 points per 100 possessions, sixth best in the NBA according to NBA.com’s official stats.

That despite turning the ball over like a junior high team.

Just watching them the Lakers clearly not comfortable yet with their new offense and the resulting miscommunications have led to the Lakers turning the ball over on a league-leading 20 percent of their possessions — one in five trips down the floor they cough it up.

The result — opposing teams are getting 14.1 percent of their offense against the Lakers in transition and they are shooting 65.5 percent in that mode (according to Synergy Sports). Transition is the second most common offensive attack against the Lakers and when teams do that and score at a high rate you are in trouble.

The Lakers are currently 23rd in the NBA in defense, giving up 103.1 points per 100 possessions.

Let’s be honest, it’s not just transition defense — the Lakers handling of the pick-and-roll has been ugly as well. Pick-and-roll ball handlers and roll men account for 20.4 percent of the shots against the Lakers and teams are shooting 48.4 percent against the Lakers on that play.

This was something Dwight Howard was supposed to help solve — when healthy he is the best pick-and-roll defending big man in the NBA. But he is not moving like that guy right now, Steve Nash can’t help much even when he gets on the court and the Lakers rotations have been nonexistent.

And yes, the Lakers bench has been a non-factor.

But it still comes back to the turnovers — cut those out and you both increase your offensive output and you take away some of that ugly transition defense the Lakers are playing. Los Angeles is older and they are not going to be a running team. They are going to slow it down most of the season (even with Nash back — did you see him push the pace the first couple games only to look up and see nobody ran with him?). When they turn the ball over it plays right into their greatest weakness.

Take care of the ball and Mike Brown’s job is safe.

Well, at least until next summer if they don’t win it all.

Pelican’s Green says Zion ‘dominated the scrimmage pretty much’

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The Zion hype train keeps right on rolling. First were the reports he was in the best shape of his life, then he walked into media day and it looked like he is.

Now Zion has his own hype man in Pelicans coach Willie Green, who said he dominated the first day of team scrimmages. Via Andre Lopez of ESPN.

“Z looked amazing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said on Wednesday afternoon. “His strength, his speed. He dominated the scrimmage pretty much.”

“What stood out was his force more than anything,” Green said. “He got down the floor quickly. When he caught the ball, he made quick decisions. Whether it was scoring, finding a teammate. It was really impressive to see.”

Reach for the salt shaker to take all this with — it’s training camp scrimmages. Maybe Zion is playing that well right now — he’s fully capable, he was almost an All-NBA player in 2020-21 (eighth in forward voting) before his foot injury — but we need to see it against other teams. In games that matter. Then we’ll need to see it over a stretch of time.

If Zion can stay healthy this season, if his conditioning is where everyone says it is, he could be in for a monster season. Combine that with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and a strong supporting cast in New Orleans, and the Pelicans could surprise a lot of people — and be fun to watch.

 

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Celtics, Suns? Should NBA end one-and-done?

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NBA training camps just opened and teams have yet to play a preseason game, but already two contenders are dealing with problems.

The Celtics have the suspension of coach Ime Udoka as a distraction, plus defensive anchor center Robert Williams will miss at least the start of the season following another knee surgery.

The Suns have the distraction of a suspended owner who is selling the team, plus Jae Crowder is out and demanding a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not seem happy.

Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself go through all the training camp news, including the wilder ones with the Lakers and Nets, breaking down what to take away from all that — plus how good Zion Williamson and James Harden look physically.

Then the pair discusses the potential of the NBA doing away with the one-and-done role and letting 18-year-olds back in the game — is that good for the NBA?

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Report: Price tag on Phoenix Suns could be more than $3 billion

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Six
Harry How/Getty Images
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In 2004, Robert Sarver bought the Phoenix Suns for a then-record $401 million.

When Sarver sells the team now — pushed to do so following the backlash prompted by an NBA report that found an 18-year pattern of bigotry, misogyny, and a toxic workplace — he is going to make a massive profit.

The value of the Suns now is at $3 billion or higher, reports Ramona Shelburne and Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

There will be no shortage of bidders for the team, with league sources predicting a franchise valuation of more than $3 billion now that revenue has rebounded following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a new television rights deal and CBA on the horizon. Sarver purchased the team for just over $400 million in 2004.

Saver currently owns 35% of the Suns (the largest share), but reports say his role as managing partner allows him to sell the entire team (the minority owners have to comply, although they would make a healthy profit, too). Sarver also decides who to sell the team to, not the NBA or other owners.

Early rumors of buyers have included Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), Bob Iger (former Disney CEO), Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, she has a 20% share of the Washington Wizards), and others. There have been no reports of talks yet, and Sarver does not need to be on a rushed timeline.

Meanwhile, a contending Suns team tries to focus on the season despite the owner selling the team, Jae Crowder not being in training camp and pushing for a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not sound happy to be back with the Suns.

Steve Nash on his relationship with Kevin Durant: ‘We’re good’

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In an effort to gain leverage for a trade this offseason, Kevin Durant threw down a “either the coach and GM are gone or I am” ultimatum.

Now coach Steve Nash (and GM Sean Marks) are back in Brooklyn, on the same team and trying to build a contender together. Awkward? Not if you ask Nash, which is what Nick Friedell of ESPN did.

“We’re fine,” Nash said after the Nets’ first official practice of the season on Tuesday. “We’re good. Ever since we talked, it’s been like nothing’s changed. I have a long history with Kevin. I love the guy. Families have issues. We had a moment and it’s behind us. That’s what happens. It’s a common situation in the league.

“We all were hurting, seething, to go through what we went through last year, not being able to overcome all that adversity. Sometimes you lose perspective because you expect to win, but the reality is we were able to talk and discuss what we can improve on from last year. And also keep perspective. We went through a ton of stuff.”

First off, what else was Nash going to say? He knows the power dynamic in the NBA, and Durant has far more leverage than he does — not enough to get Nash fired this summer, but still more than the coach.

Second, Nash could be telling the truth from his perspective. NBA players and coaches understand better than anyone this is a business and things are rarely personal. Grudges are not held like fans think they are (most of the time). Nash saw Durant’s move for what it was — an effort to create pressure — and can intellectually shrug it off, reach out to KD and talk about the future.

What this brings into question was one of the Nets’ biggest issues last season — mental toughness and togetherness. Do the Nets have the will to fight through adversity and win as a team? Individually Durant, Kyrie Irving, Nash and others have shown that toughness in the past, but as a team it was not that hard to break the will of the Nets last season. Are their relationships strong enough, is their will strong enough this season?

It feels like we will find out early. If the wheels come off the Nets’ season, it feels like it will happen early and by Christmas things could be a full-on dumpster fire. Or maybe Nash is right and they are stronger than we think.