Back to the Triangle

Briefly briefly: Season got underway last night, and the Clips and the Lakers square off tonight. Fantasy basketball scoring starts next week, but plenty to find already on the season.

Kevin at Clipperblog posted a great thought on why the Lakers in their current incarnation are so difficult to defend:
The principle brilliance of the Triangle Offense lies in the number of potential options it produces for it practitioners. Every momentary stand by the defense triggers several different offensive counters, which is why it’s so difficult to defend. It’s like Whack-a-Mole as basketball. And it’s particularly tough now that the Lakers are fielding a guy at each position who can execute each of those options. Every notable player on the Lakers’ roster can pass the ball, put it on the floor, shoot it from some reasonable distance – Bynum notwithstanding -- and every guy has the wherewithal to know where he’s most useful on the floor at any given moment. Sure, Vladimir Radmanovic has the occasional outage – and his moments are always brilliantly spectacular in their visual absurdity – but he generally understands space. Everyone else is fluent.
That reminded me of a couple of pieces I put up from last summer while watching the European Championships. In one, I wrote:
There was something similar that came up during the Lakers/Jazz playoff series: Kobe Bryant noted (from Forum Blue and Gold) that a significant number of the Lakers had grown up playing soccer early on; and I feel like I came across mention of the fluid nature of the triangle offense, and how much it depends on movement without the ball. Something similar to soccer, I suspect.
In the other, still watching Euro '08 and playing I lot of chess, I added:
Basketball, because of the smaller court size and the increased control than hands offer, seems to be more amenable to playing from the middle of the court to the wings. In addition, the halfcourt line dramatically limits opportunities for the ball's movement back once it passes halfcourt, encouraging play that keeps it away from either corner. Thinking a bit more specifically about the Lakers and the triangle offense that they run, it seems that Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom both played a kind of knight role, something that might come about in the fixed center explained above. In other words, one or the other moves to the high post (say, White's d5) from which point several attacking options open themselves up. You might also be able to think about wing players as bishop figures, at their best when they have lanes through which they can slash, attack, or otherwise get to the cup. The analogy breaks down, of course, when you start talking about picks as pawns, but I think the analogy holds so long as you talk about understanding what the defense is giving you and playing in such a way as to maximize your strengths.
Nothing final or fixed in all of this, but there's something really resonant in that phrase: players fluent in space.


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