Exposed Weaknesses

Kurt —  February 6, 2006

I’m back, and for the record Maui doesn’t suck. We had to suffer though what the Hawaii local TV weathermen called a “cold front” — the high temperature dropped from 85 down to a bone chilling 81. But we survived. (As much as I’ve mocked LA weathermen in the past — see Steve Martin in LA Story for good satire — in Hawaii it’s even funnier. They’re really surf reporters.)

Thanks again to Gatinho, who put together great posts and previews in my absence (and KD, this is my last vacation for a while, unless I get to buy a ranch in Texas with brush to clear). Gatinho did much, much better than the Lakers while I was gone.

I didn’t see the games (our rented condo didn’t even have ESPN), but looking at the stats from the last three games it looks like the Lakers long-known weaknesses — no consistent scoring outside Kobe and a weak bench — have come back to bite them. Those that saw the games, does that sound about right?

In the last three games, Kobe has used 28% of the Laker shots and has a true shooting percentage of 59.4% (remember the league average is about 53%). The rest of the Lakers are at 42.1%. Nobody seems to have the skill to step up consistently, and other teams (based on newspaper reports and your comments on this site) seem to be trying extra hard to take the ball out of Kobe’s hands and dare everyone else to beat them. Eric Pincus (among others) points out that with Odom out it is easier to double Kobe because Kobe is now the initiator, the de facto point guard.

It’s logical, and, as Devean George said today in the LA Times, this is a copycat league. Once one team has success with something, you’re going to see it every game until you prove you can beat it.

Combine that strategy with the Lakers next two best players going down to injury — Lamar Odom and Chris Mihm are the only other two Lakers with a PER above the league average of 15 — and the lack of Laker depth is exposed.

By the way, I saw Phil Jackson lamenting in the Times about Jumaine Jones while using “interesting” grammer:

“He was a player that we had no idea how good a player he was.”

Really, because you had him all through training camp and it was you, Phil, not playing him that pushed him to be traded for less than fair value. A couple of your assistants, Frank Hamblin and Kurt Rambis, got a first-hand look at how good he was last year. I’m not Jumaine’s biggest fan, his game has flaws, but he would be much better coming off the bench than the players you kept (who got off to a faster start because they knew the triangle offense). Jumaine is the kind of guy you could use now, with injuries abounding.

In the short term the problem is the Lakers next two games are tough places to get well. Dallas is very good. Houston has won three in a row and presents some issues for the Lakers (if Mihm isn’t back the Lakers will need big games from Kwame on Yao and a host of people on McGrady). Sadly, at this point I’d take a 2-5 road trip.

In the long term, the questions are health and how the team and coaching staff adapt to their weaknesses being exposed.