Taking The Next Step

Kurt —  January 24, 2008

That is what good teams look like in the playoffs.

Not the Spurs of the first half, who floated semi-aimlessly around the court. Rather, the team that came out in the third quarter and cranked up the defensive pressure. They pressured the ball, and Fisher made some ill-advised passes (a couple long ones up the court trying to push the pace). They pressured Odom and Walton, and those two gave up the ball to Kobe and watched. Yes, Kobe (as is his way) was more than willing to take on this burden and started forcing shots. But this is not all on him — the Lakers as a team stopped moving, returning to the “let’s watch Kobe” offense of years past.

Rather than a long breakdown from me, the words of Tex Winter in the LA Times sum it up much better:

“The ball has to move, the players have to move,” he said. “And when they don’t, they start standing and watching Kobe. Kobe might get 50, but we still ain’t going to win, or we’ll have a tough time of it.

“It’s a team concept. It’s based on ball and player movement with a purpose. It’s predicated on that, and if we don’t have that, then we’re not a very good team.”

As the Lakers try to find an identity without injured center Andrew Bynum, Winter went right to the heart of a possible solution.

“Lamar [Odom] and Luke [Walton] really might be the key to this,” he said. “They’re going to have to hit the open shots. They’re going to have to hit a good percentage of their shots, which they’re not doing right now. They’ll get better and more open shots if we play a team concept and move the basketball and go through with our cuts.”

Odom took only five shots until the final three minutes of the game. He finished with 11 points on four-for-seven shooting. Walton was also quiet, scoring five points on two-for-three shooting.

Consider this a learning experience (Phil certainly did, not calling a time out and letting his starters try to work through it). It cost the team a game, but costing the team a game in January (in a road loss to the defending champs) is a good time to learn. When the Lakers see this again in the playoffs, maybe they will react better.

Kurt

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30 responses to Taking The Next Step

  1. Last night we all saw 2 different games played by 4 different teams. In the first half the Lakers team we all want to see with ball movement, teamwork and solid D. Kobe controlled the game by staying within the offense. And the Spurs looked every bit like an aging team. I don’t know what happened during the 15 min. halftime break, but both teams did a complete 180.

    Now here we are, hurt and playing .500 ball.

  2. I wish someone would invent something to erase/delete/remove Jon Barry from all broadcasts.

  3. Gotta love Tex. He tells it like it is. Kurt, you are right on too.

    If Kobe sees guys not moving, screening, or cutting he will just shoot. He is an elite scorer, and when his team is just watching, he sees that as their message to him to start chucking. Simple as that.

    The keys *are* Luke and Lamar. Luke is so much better when there is a 2nd scoring option on the court besides Kobe. He sees the court so well and knows the offense cold, so he sees every oppurtunity to either pass or shoot himself. That 2nd scorer gives Luke infinite options on any given possesion to make the right play. In short, he is struggling without our secondary scorers…in other words Bynum.

    There was one thing I noticed about Lamar last night that has been bugging me. He doesn’t seem to know how to bait his man to get what he wants. I mean, every time Lamar posts up, he allows the defender to get to a fronting position. It’s like he’s not crafty enough to get what he wants. Also everyone knows that Lamar wants to go left and he is still pretty effective at it. But lately, he has not been getting to his left hand, but it’s because he is not setting it up (believe me, I’m a lefty, I know. I watch Ginobili, and he is awesome at this). I’m not on the dump Lamar tram by any means, it’s just something that was frustrating as hell last night watching LO struggle with defenders he had 5 inches on when he couldn’t establish the post nor get to his strong hand. We all knew he would be a key against the Spurs and could cause matchup problems for Oberto, Finley, Udoka, Bonner, or whoever. But it did not happen last night and we needed it.

    Anyways, we get Dallas next and it’s time to move on. LO can do some damage against Dirk and Kobe has had some of his best games ever against these guys. So, gotta keep it moving.

  4. First half was beautiful. Second half was deja vu of the worst kind. The Lake Show don’t have much margin for error. One L can bring u down (from 3rd down to 7th place), and one W can bring u up to first. This year’s Western Conference is too competitive and dangerous for the Lakers to play like that.

  5. I’m not really surprised this happened. Once the Lakers allowed the Spurs back in, it was over. They’re too disciplined to give up the lead even when they are playing bad.

  6. I think it is extremely obsered during this time of the season channels braodcasting gmaes , which ESPN did last night, say if the playoffs started today. Well the Lakers aren’t even half way through the season yet so why bring it up. But it did show how nuts this conference is. Lakers were 1 game better than the spurs and they were the 3rd while the Spurs were the 6th. That is insane. The top four teams in the West are sepereated by 1.5 games.

    When the team doesn’t move it lets the defense rest and that is the last thing you want any team to do and you have to get their stars in foul trouble. Does LO get many charges? When he takes it to the whole his longness eludes people. Darius I agree that LO doesn’t bait his defenders and I feel Luke tries to do that too much.

    During last nights game I could picture Rick Barry calling Bill Walton and talking smack.

  7. I really have to apologize to everyone. I had to stay late and didn’t catch the first half. When I got home, I started watching and we fell apart. I take the blame on this one.

    Anyways, that 3rd quarter was brutal and the spurs got a huge number of blocks/steals that most other teams would have fouled on (they weren’t even missed calls if you watch them on slow motion, the spurs just had really active, accurate hands). But we played well for stretches and should take solace in that. And Duncan killed us, which isn’t surprising with our primary big man injured.

    Kwame needs to regain his 1 on 1 defense soon or else he really is next to useless to us. Check out his +/- against Turiaf last night. I don’t know what that means exactly (TD sat out when Kwame did?), but it’s notable.

  8. Darius,
    You are right – Lamar is the key to the Lakers. He has been since he was traded here.

    He is a human mismatch, he is a superb athlete, he is a really fine human being. He is a completely complimentary player because he is not a take charge guy and he does not think strategically within the game of basketball. By trying to make him the 2nd in command and the 2nd scorer, we work to all Lamar’s weaknesses.

    We ask him to control the offense through his passing and he does not see/feel the entire court and so makes incorrect passes to the wrong people. He is also not a point guard for this very reason.

    We want him to shoot and aggressively move against an opponent when his first impulse is to pass and he has never continuously developed his moves. Does Lamar even work on his game in the summer? I do not know the answer to this.

    I think Lamar and Kwame are in the same boat in learning the triangle. They do not have the strategic mind to deal with the continual changes the opponent causes. This is an assumption based on seeing him work in this system over the last 3+ yrs. I think this is why he is continually standing on the perimeter when he needs to move to create a passing lane or cut to the basket.

    Both Lamar and Kwame have the same problem and they both just stop when confused about the play being run. This is the basis for my belief that they should not be on the court at the same time. Both have their uses, but both should not be functioning together.

    On defense Lamar has started to copy Kobe’s habit of help defense, but he doesn’t seem to have any feel for how his defensive assignment is doing in the game. Hence, he is often guilty of leaving a 3pt shooter open on the perimeter. It doesn’t help that he is the 2nd best shot blocker on the team (Kobe being the best) when he is in there with Kwame. With SA he was always matched up with a shooter last night and he really hurt us – but he did get all those rebounds. His offensive statistics often cover up these deficiencies when outsiders look at the game after the fact.

  9. What I paid particular attention to last night was to see how Lamar followed up on his statement that he needs to get himself into positions to score, and not only work to be in position for other guys to score. And, he never really did it.

    Sure he tried to get the ball with Finley on him in the post, but when fronted by him, Odom never took his thought process to the next level to still get the ball, and score. I am not saying he has to all of a sudden be that legit #2 option, but he has to be a threat, and while being one, he can still set other guys up as well.

    A lot of this is with the ball in his hands as well. There were quite a few times when he was either bringing it up the court, or had a great opportunity to take his man off the dribble, but instead froze, shot a jumper, or gave it up. Whether or not he scores after getting into the paint is not really the primary issue. He just needs to do it, and force the defense to play him since he is a threat to them. Even if there is no one around him for 15 feet, there is no reason he should not be making a move to the hoop with his skill set.

    Even though I’d smile from ear to ear if Lamar put up 25 points a game, he doesn’t need to. He just needs to force the other team to adjust to him with an attitude of “Hey, in this position, I am a threat, and if you don’t account for it, the threat will become a world of hurt.”

  10. I think one of the keys to the Lakers is their lack of a small forward. Luke is a role player off the bench, and Ariza, although injured today, would make a much better starter. Luke just doesn’t seem to have the intensity and firepower to make it happen as a starter. It almost feels like a four man team to start the game. Perhaps, for the time being at least, the Lakers would be better off starting with Fisher, Vujacic (only because he is a big 6’7″), Kobe, Lamar, and Kwame. Think about it.

  11. I use to be big on LUUUUUUUKEEEE but ever since his injury he hasnt produced the way he used to(last year). I know hes coming off an injury but if you know you cant be as productive then limit the minuts and let someone capable get more.

    When Luke didnt start i remember his comments about not liking what happened but going with it. I can see him be more useful on the often-stagnant(in terms of ball movement) 2nd unit.

  12. Who would start in place of Luke – Sasha? We are rather short handed and if Luke goes into the tank because he is on the 2nd unit then we are in an even bigger pickle. I know I am sounding funny because I said not to start Kwame and LO at the same time, but think about our combinations. Turiaf and MBenga are our only backups at the 4/5, Kobe and Sasha??? are our backups at the 3, Sasha and Crit are our backups at the 2, and Farmar and Coby are our backups at 1.

    We don’t have a lot of choices until Rad gets back.

  13. Great post, often times people complain about Kobe “not playing within the offense” and they forget to say that his teammates have stopped moving and cutting, hence they actually are the ones “not playing within the offense” first.

  14. I just wanted to say I love Phil Jackson. I just caught him on PTI for 5 good minutes and this guy just makes me believe. He had some great lines about Kwame and trust that makes me realize his motivational ploys are genius…I could listen to this guy talk for hours.

  15. 13-That’s why he gets paid $10 mil a year. He looked great in that blue long sleeve, white short sleeve, and black vest. We should be lucky to have a great ball club =D

  16. Phil and Shaq have gotten the benefit of every doubt in the LA media. No tough questions and always excuses for any potential mistakes – or else the problems have all been blamed on Kobe Bryant.

    I am in no way saying kudos should not be paid to these two. I am saying that nobody is perfect and everyone should be asked the hard questions from time to time. Kobe is ALWAYS asked the tough questions and then his answers are always doubted. These two are never asked tough questions and their statements are always accepted at face value. I would call that poor journalism or cronyism – whatever.

  17. Laker Conspiracy Theory version 1.0
    ===================
    by: Warren Lim

    Knowing that an easy January was up ahead, the Lakers could very well end up with the West’s #1 seed. They did for a couple of days but not for long. Just 2 days and a loss later, we were 5th. And all of the media went frenzy. That the Lakers will do a 180 and experience deja vu like last year’s 26-13 start.

    Wait till you hear Phil not wanting to coach the West team. Sure he likes the coach of the year, but he’d like it better if it happened in the homestretch. Then Kobe is not getting his numbers. Phil would want him to get MVP “the right way” but we all know scoring 50 seems about right some nights.

    These 2 ploys of course would not work with Drew playing so well. With an extension looming at 60-75m, Phil, in cooperation with trainer Gary Vitti “planned” Bynum’s injury. 2 games later, Trevor Ariza goes down with an injury that he came with ever since the trade from Orlando.

    Surprisingly enough, Kwame Brown, during Drew’s breakout moments, took notoriously long to heal his leg. Right before Drew comes down with his, Phil’s baby Kwame will be in for longer minutes to audition his own contract for next year.

    What, in effect do these coincidences and happenstances do?

    1. The Lakers will not be 1st before the break – Phil likes to rest his “hip” in the All-Stars. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jeannie leaving for Montana a couple of days ahead.

    2. Drew’s contract will be reduced by significant millions since Phil will technically slow him down after the injury to prevent him from re-injuring himself. He will therefore be haggled to a decent 55m extension.

    3. Trevor Ariza will not be opting out for a more lucrative deal – not until 2009 when his contract is up. I’m pretty sure he is enjoying being a Laker so that would mean he isn’t opting out, but Mitch wanted to make sure he didn’t leave so…

    4. Kwame Brown will have the sentiments to stay a Laker for 3m a year. The sort of contract that Brian Cook got… 3.5 + 3.5 for the next two and another 3.5 as team or player option. He will appreciate the Laker family that “we stood by him” in his darkest hours.

    5. The Lakers will hover around the 5th seed, wherein the 4th seed is the division winner from the NorthWest. If Denver continues its good play, we might just be able to catch them in the 1st round with homecourt advantage. Its like a bye for the 1st round since we clearly overmatch this team.

    6. Kobe gets his MVP. Two of his starters go down and Kobe will get credit for “holding the fort” by doing it “the right way”. Kobe makes his teammates better by averaging 7-9 dimes a game and it could be more if “Gretzky Assists” were credited as well. Kobe will also have an excuse to go trigger-happy in some games. (I think it will be on Cleveland and New York).

    7. The 9-game road trip. Guys, its so overrated. If you look at the teams involved, you’d fear this current 4-game Western Stand as a more deadly proposition. Yet, if Phil’d young team does not come out of it with flying colors, we will have a pretty good excuse of staying afloat until we get back our players in March.

    Of course, we all saw how Drew went down. But I thought it was a simple sprain. And I was kidding that they planned it :)

  18. This is all about hats and paella.

    Before Lamar had his first workout with the Lakers, he noticed that Phil had posted a children’s song on the bulletin board:

    “my hat, it has three corners
    three corners has my hat
    and had it not three corners
    it would not be my hat.”

    After the workout, Phil asked Lamar if he knew the words to the song on the bulletin board. Lamar told Phil that he remembered it was about hats, and there was something about a three.

    Phil told Lamar to think about it–to make it his Karma.

    After some thought, Lamar decided that Phil wanted him to take at least three 3 point shot attempts per game.

    Lamar became a little frustrated when Phil still kept asking him that “hat” question, year after year, but he did his best to get along even if he sometimes couldn’t take at least three 3 point attempts.

    He wanted that Karma–whatever it was.

    Lamar grew up surrounded by jazz and rap, where you made things up as you went along. Maybe the song meant that he should flow between his three skills–passing, dribbling, and shooting–and three places to be on the court–back court (where he could shoot three’s), right corner (where he could dribble with his left hand toward the basket and pass), and posting up (where he could catch the ball near the basket and pass to a teammate for a three). If he really had to, he could even shoot!–but, no matter what, he would shoot three 3′s. He wanted to get along.

    Lamar was sure that he completely “got it.”

    Over the summer, Kobe bumped into Pau Gasol at a paella place in Spain. Kobe told Pau about this children’s song that Phil asked him to study when he first came to the Lakers.

    Pau said that he knew one in Spanish about three hats:

    O meu chapéu tem três bicos
    Tem três bicos o meu chapéu
    Se não tivesse três bicos
    Não seria o meu chapéu

    Pau wished that his coach and teammates knew the same song, but they kept asking him to listen to rap and jazz.

    Kobe laughed. He’d lived in Europe. He knew about paella, and he saw that Pau instinctively understood Phil’s song.

    That’s why the Lakers should trade Lamar for Pau Gasol!

  19. I don’t like Barry either. Go Lakers!

    bball
    http://www.dailysportstrivia.com

  20. Lamar Odom is back! January 25, 2008 at 11:49 am

    #18-That’s not spanish.

    I can’t believe Kurt lets these comments stay but deletes my award-winning, underground hoops reporting. Shame on you, Kurt.

  21. Can’t panic, the Lakers had one bad quarter and PJ sat on his high chair and refused to call timeout. This is not the MJ team with Pippen, Kukoc, Rodman, Harper, etc., they need to stop and get their heads clear with a little insightful coaching at times.

    As for chicken little Barry forget that moron the sky is not falling. In additionm Tex Winter and his perfect little triangle world does not exist. Somebody might want to tell him, not that it would do any good.

    The best way to beat the Spurs is to protect the ball, get back on defense, stay on the shooters and let Duncan try to beat you. They did that in the first half but forgot to do it in the second half, expecially the third quarter. Of course having Bynum and Ariza available would make beating the Spurs much easier.

  22. 21. Phil sees it as the exact opposite — this team can’t learn and grow and become veterans unless it learns to work things out for itself. So, no timeouts, let them play through it. I know that drives fans nuts because “he’s not coaching” but I think it’s the opposite. That good coaching, trying to let the players figure it out and not try to control every little aspect on the court.

    And there’s a difference between the “perfect little triangle” and that rhombus or whatever the Lakers ran in the third quarter.

  23. 23-I guess its just a matter of personal preference. Coaches like Popovich and B. Scott will take quick timeouts to stop other teams momentum or correct offensive execuition. Phil does it the way Kurt said, and I know its cliche, but with 9 titles, guess you can’t say he isn’t justified.

  24. ha, im 23, I meant 22 (now Im 24 too, but not Kobe)

  25. in the old days, (pre PJ) I used to take a loss much harder, (maybe I’m just older now and see life a bit differently too) but these days, I try to take away something from every game, so it’s not about getting a W every game. we all know that’s just not possible, it’s more about having it in you at the end to go the distance and win playoff series.
    remember that year the Magic lead lakers went 12 and 0 in the western playoffs only to be swept by the Pistons? do we remember that the Lakers had so much time between the WCF and the finals that Riley took them to Hawaii for his version of “Boot Camp”? and that as a result, B Scott pulled up lame, which meant that Magic had to play 2 roles, and he came up lame too?
    a post mortem on all that seemed to prove that Riles pushed too hard, burnt out the players for the finals.
    I think there’s a lesson in that for this team, under PJ, he knows that the season is just the tune up for the “second season” the playoffs, and having it in the end to finish off your opponents.
    I expect that the team learned something from the loss in SA.

  26. Lamar Odom is back! January 25, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Kurt, don’t you have better things to do?

  27. 18. That’s Portugese not Spanish.

    22. “When they think know the answers, people are difficult to guide.
    When they know that they don’t know, they can find their own way.”

    -Lao Tzu

  28. (20)(27)

    I recognized some of the words, but I’m not fluent. I went by the web site, They said Spanish:

    http://lirama.net/song/36844/36551+36553

    In any case, Pau is rumored to know the song.

  29. One of the TV broadcasts Wednesday talked about a Sports Illustrated poll of players (I can’t find it on their site; maybe it’s print only or hasn’t come out yet). Anyway, the players named Phil Jackson as one of the top coaches they would like to play for (along with Mike D’Antoni). I’m sure that’s partly because he has the rings, but I think there’s more to it than that.

    Seriously, can you imagine working for a manager who treated you like Larry Brown? He tells you what to do every minute and if you make the smallest error he stops everything to yell at you (and possibly gives the task to someone else). *Shudder*

  30. Phil has always done a lot of his coaching during practice, shoot arounds, etc. He has already explained what he wants the players to do countless times, so during the game he just reinforces those ideas and expects his players to *get it* and perform. I have always liked this about him.

    Those coaches who constantly call timeouts to try and stop a run or get on their players just seem like they are….control freaks. Plus, it hasn’t been proven that it actually works. Last night when watching a great game between the Dubs and the Nets, Lawrence Frank only had 1 timeout left with 9 min left in the 4th. Why? He called a time out every time the Dubs went on a minor run. The only thing is, it didn’t work. The Dubs continued to bury shots and the Nets had no answers. The Nets did end up making a run to make it close at the end, but guess what?…that run happened after the Nets were down to that last timeout and did not stop the clock. The Nets went on that run by….just working through it and figuring it out.