Frustration and Stagnation

Kurt —  April 5, 2007

Since the final buzzer of the Clippers game, I’ve felt very frustrated. I try not to write posts just to vent, so I’ve lived with that frustration for a while. But it’s not going away and there is good reason — the frustration stems from growing realization that these up and down Lakers are likely the ones going to the playoffs, and that means a very quick exit.

Slowly I think we Laker fans are coming to a lot of realizations about this year’s team. Like the fact that without Kwame Brown at about 100% our interior defense is horrible, and Kwame needs off-season ankle surgery and will not be 100% until next October or so.

(To be fair, credit to the Clippers for doing exactly what they should have done with Kwame out — exploit the mismatches. They got the ball to Kaman early, and after he and Brand softened up the Laker defense inside — which really isn’t all that difficult, apparently — there was plenty of room for the Clipper perimeter players to operate. Turiaf tried and brought his usual energy, but he can only do so much, and the Lakers needed more than he could give last night. If you want to see a painful but great recap of the fourth quarter last night, Kevin at Clipperblog has it.)

Another realization is that it’s not the injuries, it’s the lingering remnants of the injuries — inconsistent lineups and rotations that have both exposed the limits of the Lakers depth (ala Turiaf trying to cover Kaman) and also taken what chemistry had been building and destroyed it. Here’s an interesting note from Nate Jones in the comments:

The Lakers have only played 28 games where Kwame, Lamar, Kobe and Luke have been on the floor together (according to ESPN)…29 if you count Kwame’s half game on Tuesday and are 20-9 in those game. I’m a big believer in the theory that injuries have killed this team.

Gatinho followed up on that:

My rationalizations about this season stemming from the last two games are that the biggest toll the injuries took on the Lakers was never really letting them find any sort of identity or work through the more intricate aspects of playing team defense and building confidence in the Triangle.

The fact that we still have no semblance of a set rotation is a huge indicator of that toll, as well

Kobe being either Sir shoots-a-lot or Sir passes-a-lot and never the twain shall meet was something that I thought would be remedied as the season went along and this obviously still an issue.

Odom seems to have also regressed with his aggressiveness and his willingness to find his moments offensively. His perceived (somewhat understandable) lack of respect from the refs has been detrimental to his on court demeanor and ability to be a leader as a calming and centering force for the younger guys.

I won’t yet call this season a step back, but stagnation when most expected greater strides is the irksome part of this journey.

I think that’s how a lot of us feel — we’re not giving up but objectively there are few signs recently to give us hope for a turnaround in the next seven games. Injuries can take some of the blame for the stagnation, but the players and coaches deserve plenty too, for doing things like playing 24 minutes of basketball against the Clippers. Management can take some for not addressing the clear perimeter defense issues last offseason.

All that and the resulting stagnation leaves me frustrated. I’m not yet ready to say, “wait until next year,” but I don’t feel good either.