One Step Up And Two Steps Back

Kurt —  March 28, 2007

Honestly, I’m of two minds on last night’s ugly loss to Memphis.

If this were December I’d tend to write it off as just a bad shooting night. Every team throws up a couple dud games over the course of a season, this could be just one of those. Just forget it and move on.

But it was the way they lost it, and when they lost it, which makes it hard to do so in this case. They actually played decent defense against everyone not named Kinsey on Memphis and held the Griz to 45.8% (eFG%) shooting and 20% from three as a team.

What grated me was best summed up by the Daily News’ beat guy Ross “not the one from Heroes” Siler in his blog:

It takes a discipline to break a zone that the Lakers don’t have. They missed Brown’s interior passing, as Jackson cited after the game. They also missed having Vladimir Radmanovic to rain 3-pointers and force the Grizzlies out of that zone.

At one point this season the Lakers were disciplined on offense and had George Karl and others calling them the best passing team in the NBA. Guys moved without the ball and made the extra pass for the easy basket. The injuries tripped up that momentum, and the Lakers appear nowhere close to getting it back — there was so little movement off the ball last night it didn’t look like the triangle.

Maybe Kobe’s streak blinded me and other fans a little — I thought he was dragging this team back into the light. As the streak went on the defense improved a little and other guys started to step up on offense. Then Memphis goes into a zone, Kobe goes cold and rather than step up everyone else went into hibernation. You beat the zone by attacking its soft underbelly, and Bynum is the best offensive big the Lakers have, yet he was a non-factor. And Odom, ugh. Really I could go into a long list of players, or break down the patheticness of specific possessions, but I couldn’t stomach rewinding the TiVo to do it. I just wanted to push “erase.”

I hate to put a lot of stock in any one regular season game, but I think the Houston contest Friday night will be a very good measuring stick for this team. I’m not near saying this team can’t find its stride heading into the playoffs, but Friday night we’re going to see what the Lakers look like against a team playing at a playoff caliber right now, with its pieces healthy and starting to make a push. After that we’ll have a pretty good idea of what lies ahead in April and May.

Kurt

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10 responses to One Step Up And Two Steps Back

  1. chris henderson March 28, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    I’m with ya Kurt, fuggly game.
    but I couldn’t help wonder how we might have felt if Smush’s 3 went it at the buzzer? it was a nicely drawn up play.
    I know, it should never have gotten to that, where we need a buzzer beater, when we had a 15 pt lead against the worst team in the league who also had 3 starters injured.
    back when we played Phx in Phx, (I was at that game) I started writing that our offense consisted of perimeter passing, then give it to kobe and hope he makes it. last might reminded me of that again, no cutters, no one moving away from the ball, stagnent, as you so well said, patheticness…(I don’t think I’ve ever seen that one before).
    let’s see how they come out Friday, again you’re right, if they come out with playoff intensity and fight for this W, (it won’t come easy) then we can see if they have the beginnings of the heart of a champion.
    if they get blown out, we should start thinking about off season moves.

  2. Hey Kobe, “Going back to the playground and having fun just won’t get it done.”

    Now why isn’t Phil saying that-or bringing in Ben Howland to talk about defense-defense-defense.

    We need to remember that basketball is a team sport. Kobe is just 1/5 of a team–and he didn’t even play at the start of the season. Much of the early Laker excitement came through the leadership of Jordan Farmar and the enthusiasm of Ronny Turiaf. Many of us expected both Jordan and Ronny to play major roles this season. Adding in Radman, Evans, and Bynum actually made a second team.

    Early in the season, these so called “role players” won without Kobe, playing great team offense and rotating defense. Kobe succeeding in becoming a “value add.” So did Kwame. The team really took off! The “second team” often saved the game and the score for the Lakers.

    Right now, Radman and Evans are injured, Bynum plays most of the time with the “old farts,” Turiaf comes off the bench in emergencies, and Farmar sits on the bench (even though he is an NBA freshman all star).

    We’re back to last year’s team–except some of the key guys are banged up this year. The “new” has disappeared–and with it the contagious spirit of excitement during the first half of the season.

    Farmar must serve as understudy to an underpaid playground legend. It is likely that this legend, the Smusher, would have gotten kicked off a Ben Howland UCLA squad. The patience that Phil and the staff show the Smusher is truly remarkable.

    Their unwilingness to require, enforce, and reward lock down defense is incomprehensible. For the fan, it was bad enough to see the Smusher get punked by Laker throwaway Chucky Atkins last time. This time he got punked by the understudy!

    As Gordon Lightfoot said:

    “I don’t know where we went wrong , but the feeling’s gone–and I just can’t get it back.”

  3. Same here Kurt. I just erased that game and will take the same approach Kobe does when you lose. But I would think that intensity would be magnified for a Phil Jackson team leading up to the playoffs. It seems like all the elite teams are now doing this. There are no excuses really for that loss. They are the last place team with starters injured. It just makes you think that in reality that they don’t care, lost their passion, badly coached, or Phil knowing the 15 pt lead should have been held when the bench was put in with Kobe getting a breather. But Kobe ends up playing 44 min anyway. I think Kobe really was to blame in that game. 7-26 doesn’t show me that he can back off and get others involved. He just tried to shoot his way out of it. That will not get it done and is way to easy to defend against when you’re a one dimensional team. But as astute a player as Kobe is for his game I hope he can bring up everyone elses once the playoffs arrive. But they are being scouted I’m sure very heavily by the Spurs since they are rollin like no other. I think this year we’ve got just too many holes in the bucket and we don’t have enough plugs to stop the leaking.

    As for this Houston game and with Kwame hurt and Bynum just not aggressive and unsure on defense I think we are going to get blown out. Kobe’s will is so strong he will try to put on his superman cape and be the hero and we’ll be looking at a 2 game losing streak. Or we can come out and play great team ball. Be attacking on offense, playing great team defense and Kobe and Lamar both have triple doubles. We have yet to see that all year so maybe that is a stretch of the imagination. But it does require others to step up their games. I just feel bitter that we are even fighting for the 6th spot in our division and Shaq’s Miami team is in the 6th spot as well looking at playing Toronto. How uneven is that. Spurs vs Raptors. Not to mention the Clippers whom are in the 8th playoff spot with a below .500 record. It’s like back in the early 90s again until the blockbuster trades for Shaq & Kobe in 96. Do we need another blockbuster trade this summer? I think it is time. It is Mitch who now has to step up his game in my book. The players are showing what they are made of and it is not championship material. You could add yet to that statement but if you were in Mitch’s shoes would you bank on this team to lead you to the promise of another championship? They need a triple threat to move to the elite level. Kobe, Lamar, & ….. Bynum? Brown? Radmanovich? Walton? Smush?Farmar? None of them stepped up this year to join Kobe as an all star. Shaq was injured most of the season and still plays all star caliber minutes. What’s Smushes excuse why he’s not the 3rd option? paycheck maybe? Sorry guys just frustrated. I do hope that they win Friday.

  4. Those guys did well at the beginning of the season because the team had chemistry. Injuries can go a long way to disrupt chemsitry. That being said, Jackson, by experimenting too much with rotations and going a little too far with the needling, may have shooken the fragile confidence of some of the younger players.

  5. The thing I noticed most about Tues during the 3Q collapse were the turnovers, caused by bad movement. I don’t know how many times we passed the ball to someone’s knee, or passed it behind a cutter. The disjointedness of our offense prolonged the agony, and made it feel like the griz were creaping up on the Lshow… because the Griz were definately not hot in that quarter.

    It just seemed lacksidasical, and careless, and combined with Kobe going ice cold, we just let it slip away. sadly, it is the same “loss of focus” that we endured for years under Phil (even during the championship runs)… only this team doesn’t have the experience and confidence (or Defensive presence) to force that switch back the other way.

    It’s sad, because we could be really dangerous.

  6. I think we may be seeing the value that Mo Evans has had with his recent absence, at least on the defensive side.

    I don’t usually look ahead in the sched, but I’m with you Kurt on this HOU game being a good barometer of where we’re at, at least between the ears.

    I think there is a need for this team to have a big regular season win before the playoffs to restore some belief in their abilities and bring them together.

    That being said, our chances are diminished in the playofss against SA without a healthy(ier) Kwame.

    Big ups to the DR for the Gordon Lightfoot reference.

  7. The leadership of Jordan Farmar early in the season? I forget not being from California that FB&G have commenters who are blinded by Bruin Love.

    I like Jordan, but he was just a role player in our early success. I would hesitate to call Farmar a leader at age19. He has proven to be a serviceable PG with a great future (he’s a bright kid), but there is a reason he is not performing when it really counts. Leaders know the difference between early season and April basketball. This team goes as far as Kobe, Lamar, Luke, Smush, & the bigs will take em. Anything from Farmar is just a big plus in my book.

    The ‘old farts’ comment is perplexing on many levels. Our starters consist of an ‘ancient’ Kobe Bryant, Lamar, Smush, and Luke Walton. What is “old fart” about that?

    You’ve got a poetic way with the English language, Dr Ray Eye (i always enjoy your comments), but if Jordan Farmar was ever to be a savior (or leader) of this season, we’d have been in trouble in November.

  8. As a McGrady and Rockets fan I’d like to see the “bad Lakers”. As a basketball fan I’d like to see a great game.
    Unfortunately for the Rockets fan in me,Kobe always plays great ball against T-Mac-and I do mean great. The best all-around game I’ve seen Kobe play was a couple of yrs ago where he only had 25,but just dominated the game w/his passing and shooting when needed.( BTW I live in LA and watch a ton of Lakers game on TV.)

  9. Kobe’s Lakers and Lebron’s Cavs have the same problem.

  10. 7 Cary,

    You say, “Our starters consist of an ‘ancient’ Kobe Bryant, Lamar, Smush, and Luke Walton. What is “old fart” about that?”

    To me Laker starters are young and/or in their prime. But that is probably not how Andrew Bynum sees it at age 19.

    I share the consensus Forum B&G view that Farmar must be a backup for this year who gets ample playing time in preparation for a bigger role next year–but a backup role that provides him big time opportunities still this year.

    In the preseason Jordan Farmar was permitted, even encouraged, to be a point guard/leader within the triangle concept. At least part of that opportunity may have come about because Phil was recovering from ball joint surgery. Who knows?

    The season started with two Laker teams: the veterans and the young guys (even though all Lakers are young). It became glaringly clear in those early games that Jordan represented all of the team values whereas Smush was all playground–and Jordan’s leadership of the team concept was exciting to watch.

    It has become clear that Jordan is not Jordan if he has to fill the playground shoes of the Smusher–but the Lakers are no longer the team concept Lakers either.

    Odom and Walton are Team all the way. Kwame is defense with a capital “D.” Kobe is split. The Smusher draws out Kobe’s playground tendencies–and the team goes flat. The Bigs don’t get their touches, internal passing disappears, and the game turns on threes, steals, and turnovers until Kobe puts on his savior cape to provide consistent entertainment and inconsistent victories in the fourth quarter.

    The Smusher’s playground tactics in the last 3 minutes of a game often have doomed the Lakers–even as they have sometimes thrilled the fans. An “ugly” UCLA style lockdown in the last three minutes is not part of the Smusher pedigree.