- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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The Los Angeles Lakers play the Phoenix Suns on Sunday for the second time in three days after scorching them 111-99 on Friday, scoring a season-high in points in the process. Blame the Suns' loss on L.A.'s home record, Kobe Bryant's penchant for scoring big points as payback for those consecutive playoff losses to Phoenix in 2006-07 or on Mike Brown's clockwork rotation that seems to have "stabilized," according to Bryant. Just don't blame it the loss on a lack of preparation by Phoenix's basketball operations department, however.
ESPNLA.com has acquired the Suns' scouting report drafted before Friday's game. The 52-page document provides a fascinating look at how an opponent perceives, and prepares to play, the Lakers.
The following is a breakdown of what the scouting report included, giving readers a look at what structure the information was organized in as well as providing quotes from the handout that describe how the Suns' staff views the Lakers.
The cover page for the scouting report is basic, easy-to-consume information and statistics including the Lakers' rotation (beginning with the starters and continuing from Steve Blake through Luke Walton based on playing time) as well as what the Lakers' averages are in major offensive and defensive categories and where those averages rank in the league at large (e.g. In one table it says the Lakers' 92.5 points per game scoring average ranks 22nd in the league while in a table next to it you see that the Lakers' 90.4 points per game allowed ranks fourth in the league). There are three more specific statistical categories listed -- "3-point threats" (led by Andrew Goudelock's 43.2 percent), "who to foul" (topped by Troy Murphy's 50.0 percent) and "offensive rebounders" (with Andrew Bynum's 3.5 boards and Pau Gasol's 3.2 boards leading the list). The cover page also includes "suggested match-ups" (Steve Nash on Derek Fisher, Grant Hill on Bryant, etc.) and the results of their previous meetings this season (the Lakers beat the Suns 99-83 on Jan. 10).
The cover page is followed by six pages of narrative breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the Lakers' offense and defense in one- or two-sentence long observations that can be scanned through quickly (there are four pages on the Lakers' offense, one on the Lakers' defense and one recapping their first meeting in January). Some are statements. Some cite statistics. Some offer questions. Some remind the Suns players what happened against the Lakers in the past. They are all typed in capital letters, while some are underlined or put in bold for extra emphasis.
Here is a sampling of the offensive cues:
"THIS IS A HIGH VOLUME THREE POINT SHOOTING TEAM, THAT IS STRUGGLING FROM THREE RIGHT NOW!"
"THE LAKERS ARE SHOOTING 29% FROM DOWNTOWN, WORST IN THE NBA."
"THE LAKERS ARE PRIMARILY WORKING OUT OF THEIR EARLY OFFENSE, "STRONG" AND "WEAK" SETS, JUST AS THE SPURS DO."
"BRYANT IS GOING TO GET HIS 30 POINTS, ALMOST NO MATTER WHAT. THE KEY, IS TO HAVE HIM GET 30 POINTS ON 30 SHOTS."
(Editor's Note: Bryant scored 36 points on Friday on 14-for-25 shooting. It was a minor victory for the Suns as Bryant scored 48 against them in their January meeting ... which will be noted shortly.)
"IN HIS 54 CAREER GAMES AGAINST US, BRYANT IS AVERAGING 26.4 POINTS PER GAME."
"BRYANT IS FACILITATING FOR THE FIRST THREE QUARTERS, THEN WILL LOOK TO TAKE OVER ON OFFENSE IN THE 4TH QUARTER."
"HE HAS A LOT OF FREEDOM IN THE OFFENSE, MAKING READS AND WILL BREAK OFF AND GO ON HIS OWN WAY."
"WE CANNOT GO FOR BRYANT'S PUMP FAKES, WHERE HE WILL GET THE DEFENDER IN THE AIR, THEN DRAWS A FOUL."
"THE MORE WE ARE ABLE TO RED GASOL AND LIMIT HIS TOUCHES, THE MORE SUCCESS WE WILL HAVE."
(Editor's Note: The assumption here that "red" is the term the Suns use for fronting the post, or denying the entry pass to occur. While Bryant got his, Gasol had just 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting on Friday.)
"OUR '23' ZONE CAN BE AN OPTION AGAINST THIS TEAM, AS WE HAD SUCCESS AGAINST THE LAKERS IN THE PLAYOFFS WITH IT."
"HOUSTON HAD SUCCESS ZONING THE LAKERS EARLIER THIS SEASON."
"TORONTO'S ZONE DEFENSE WAS EFFECTIVE AGAINST THE LAKERS IN THEIR LAST GAME, AND KEPT THE RAPTORS HANGING AROUND UNTILL (sic) THE VERY END."
(Editor's Note: Yes, there were a lot of typos in the document.)
"WE MUST BE PREPARED FOR THE LAKERS TO RUN THE SAM (sic) PLAY UNTIL WE STOP IT."
Here is a sampling of the defensive cues:
"WE NEED TO RUN THIS TEAM, LOOKING FOR EARLY DRAGS AND QUICK HITTERS."
"LAKERS WILL GAMBLE IN TRANSITION, BRYANT LOOKING TO INTERCEPT PASSES. BYNUM, AND GASOL CAN ALL BE RUN ON HERE."
"WE MUST ATTACK [Jason] KAPONO WHEN HE IS IN THE GAME. DENVER DID A GREAT JOB OF HAVING HIM TRAIL, AND FIGHT THROUGH SCREENS."
The scouting report continues with a one-page recap of a recent Lakers game, their 94-92 win in Toronto. It's followed by a very detailed report of what sets the Lakers used against the Raptors in any given situation. For example, there is a list of observations under the title "TRANSITION/EARLY OFFENSE" that includes a note that says, "BYNUM LOOKING TO RIM RUN! HE WANTS DEEP SEALS, AND EARLY POST POSITION."
(Editor's Note: "Rim run" has been one of Brown's favorite terms to use so far this season along with "search mode" and "knock on wood." He'd be proud to read that opponents are picking up on Bynum heeding his call to run the floor.)
Under the title "MIDDLE P/R" (standing for a pick-and-roll run from the top of the key) it identifies a play when the Lakers run a high pick-and-roll with Bryant handling by name, it's called "Rub 25 Lift." There are lists of information about what the Lakers run in just about every formation including post-ups, isolations, sideline pick-and-roll, transition, press and at the start of the game.
A similar detailed game plan of what the Lakers did on defense in specific situations against Toronto is next in the packet. For example, when defending against post-up situations it notes that the Lakers "PLAY STRAIGHT UP FROM BEHIND, WITH LENGTH AND SIZE" and "LOOK TO MAKE TEAMS SHOOT OVER THE TOP OF THEM." In EOQ or "end of quarter" situations, the report says the Lakers will switch on screen and in EOG (end of game) situations it notes, "BRYANT WILL HOLD, GRAB THE MAN HE IS GUARDING."
The next section of the scouting report is a long list of the name of every play the Lakers run, followed by a brief description. For example, "1 Down" is a pindown play for Bryant and "Shake," which is signaled by the play caller shaking his hand as if he's about to roll some dice, is a sideline pick-and-roll. After the list of plays and their descriptions, the next 18 pages of the scouting report are X's and O's diagrams of how those plays look on a halfcourt with arrows signifying passes and cuts and numbers signifying players' positions (1 = point guard, 2 = shooting guard, etc.).
After a quick one-page insert of the Lakers' roster and all their individual stats for the season, the scouting report is finalized with one-page individualized scouting reports of each of the Lakers' 14 players as well as box scores from the Suns' game against the Lakers on Jan. 10 and the box scores from the Lakers' last three games against Atlanta, Toronto and New York.
Here is a sampling of notes describing the roster player by player:
Fisher: "FLOPPER! DON'T LET HIM SUCKER YOU IN ... BE AWARE OF FLOPPING. HE IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST IN THE NBA. LOOKS TO GET CHARGES ... KNOW WHERE HE IS ON END OF GAMES, WILL TAKE AND MAKE BIG SHOTS!"
Bryant: "WILL GET FRUSTRATED! ... LOVES TO DRIVE IT HARD LEFT FROM RIGHT WING. WILL THROW YOU IF YOU STAND UP = DRAW FOULS, STAY LOW! ... FORCE HIM INTO CIRCUS JUMPERS FROM THE BLOCK ... LOOKS FOR STEALS & HANGS TEAMMATES OUT TO DRY ON SUDDEN SWITCHES ... SHORT CUTS A LOT ON DEFENSE = MAKE HIM WORK, FIND YOU AT ARC."
Metta World Peace: "HE IS LOOKING TO SCORE EVERYTIME HE TOUCHES THE BALL ... ONCE HE CATCHES HE PUTS HIS SHOULDER DOWN AND WILLS THE BALL IN! ... HE HAS VERY LONG ARMS AND IS EXCEPTIONAL PLAYING THE PASSING LANES FOR STEALS. ONE OF THE BEST IN THE LEAGUE."
Gasol: "WILLING TO MIX IT UP, BUT NOT VERY STRONG ... GETS CALLED FOR CHEAP FOULS, MAKES POOR PASSES WITH PRESSURE AND WILL LOSE IT INSIDE WHEN HE PUTS IT DOWN IN TRAFFIC ... LOVES LEFT BLOCK. GREAT PASSING TO CUTTING WINGS."
Bynum: "VERY NICE MOVES IF NOT FOUGHT. IS VERY PATIENT, BUT CAN GET BLOCKS ON HIM FROM BEHIND ... MAKE HIM MOVE HIS FEET ON DEFENSE, HE IS POOR LATERALLY ... FOUL PRONE ... WILL PICK UP QUICK FOULS EARLY IN THE GAME. DRIVE THE BALL INTO HIS BODY = WILL FOUL = CAN'T USE HIS LENGTH."
Steve Blake: "SMART PLAYER ... HE LEADS TEAM WITH POISE AND ENERGY ... DOES NOT SPRINT BACK IN TRANSITION & WILL REACH."
Goudelock: "VERY DANGEROUS SHOOTER WHEN HE GETS HOT WILL PULL FROM ANYWHERE! ... HE'S RIGHT HANDED, BALL HANDLING IS SHAKY ... NOT MUCH OF A PENETRATOR, HE'S SLOW AND LACKS FOOTSPEED."
(Editor's Note: For all of the starters as well as Blake, there was also a "TENDENCIES" category followed by the note, "Ask Shannon," as in Shannon Brown, the former Laker. For Goudelock it just said "ROOKIE" in the tendencies space.)
Matt Barnes: "LEAKING OUT IN TRANSITION. BEST IN TRANSITION SITUATIONS ... HE IS TAKING A SHOT ANY CHANCE HE GETS ...WILL TURN IT OVER!! GETS OUT OF CONTROL ON BUSTOUTS! ... BE ALERT TO HIS LONG TOUCHDOWN PASSES AS AN INBOUNDER."
Josh McRoberts: "SHOOTS WELL WITH BOTH HANDS ... LIKES TO CUT BACK DOOR FOR LOBS, ATHLETIC! ... SOFT INSIDE GAME, LIMITED POST GAME."
Murphy: "LEFTY! ... IS GREAT SHOOTER FROM THE PERIMETER. 3PT SHOOTER = RESPECT! ... BE AGGRESSIVE ON OFFENSE. COMMITS A LOT OF FOULS."
Kapono: "FIRE POWER OFF THE BENCH! ... CAN NEVER BE CLOSE ENOUGH ... GO RIGHT AT HIM, HE IS NOT A GOOD DEFENDER ... BLOW BY HIM! POOR CLOSING OUT."
Devin Ebanks: "NOT CONSISTENT. MAKE HIM PROVE IT! ... QUICK HOPS AND LONG WINGSPAN ENABLES HIM TO GET A LOT OF OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS AND PUT BACKS, MUST BOX OUT!"
Walton: "HE IS AN EXCEPTIONAL PASSER & ALWAYS TRIES TO MAKE THE DIFFICULT PASS ... WILL SURPRISE YOU IN THE POST ... NOT REAL QUICK DEFENDING, MAKE HIM WORK. WILL LEAVE HIS FEET ON DEFENSE."
Darius Morris: "USES A VARIETY OF CROSSOVERS, SPIN MOVES AND HESITATION MOVES TO GET TO THE BASKET ... 3 POINT RANGE STILL NEEDS WORK ... SLOW LATERALLY DEFENSIVELY AND DIES ON SCREENS, WEAK DEFENDER! WORK HIM!"
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
14hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
15hESPN Stats & Information
2dJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info
2dMatt Walks, ESPN.com