Better Angels of Our Nature

 —  December 2, 2004

An ugly loss, like the one the Lakers suffered last night in Chicago, is the kind of game that can make you mad, notice only the flaws, the inconsistencies, the problems with your team. And no doubt, with this season’s Lakers there are flaws, certainly more than we are used to.

But we need to rise above that on some levels, we need to accept that this team is still finding itself and focus on the big picture. That big picture is about finding a core of players and a system that fit well together and that gives this team a base to build on — a team that gets better as the year wears on.

Patterns are certainly emerging — if inconsistency can be considered a pattern — but I promised myself I would wait at least 20 games before posting any kind of team overview/player report card. I’m sticking to that. We are clearly not the only people without answers — it appears as if Rudy T. is still trying to figure out exactly what he has.

So, while what follows are observations from last night’s game, I’m going to try to put them in a more positive light (as much as possible). These are things to be improved upon, not attacks.

* While I have stressed the Lakers have been taking too many threes (29 against Chicago), there are good three point shots and bad three point shots (and it’s not just whether you make it or not).

Good: Kobe drives the lane, draws defenders and kicks the ball out to Brian Cook, who makes a quick pass to a wide-open Chucky Atkins for a three.
Bad: The Lakers bring the ball up slowly, have trouble getting into their offense because Kobe is double-teamed and denied the ball, then, with less than 10 seconds on the shot clock, Kobe rocks back and forth a few times then puts up a fade-away three.

What did you see more of in Chicago? Kobe took seven threes in the fourth quarter, making only two. Penetration (not just from Kobe, from everyone) went out the window.

* Caron Butler and Lamar Odom combined for zero fourth-quarter points.

* Chucky Atkins — five assists, six turnovers. That ratio from a point guard needs to be much, much better.

* Bulls coach Scott Skiles went big against the Lakers — and it worked, with 16 offensive boards for Chicago. The night before, the Lakers won but were hurt in Milwaukee by poor defense on the pick-and-roll. As other teams in the league start to write the book on how to play this Laker team, we will see more and more of those things until they learn to defend them.

* Against a big line up, Chris Mihm didn’t play one minute in the fourth quarter last night (and he had only one foul, for a change). Maybe somebody is in Rudy T.’s doghouse. Still, this is a game where I don’t understand sitting him for long periods. As I said above, I count Rudy T. among the people trying to understand this team and how to fit the pieces together.

All that said it’s still early. Too early to lose much sleep over one loss. I’m letting the better angels of my nature prevail.