Iâ€™d like to thank the fine people at ABC for reaching into the vault and pulling out one of last seasonâ€™s Lakers games for us to watch, reminding us of how frustrating it was to sit throughâ€¦
Wait, that was this yearâ€™s Lakers? Thatâ€™s what the injuries reduced the team to?
On a serious note, I found this morningâ€™s LA Times Lakers report (via the hard working Mike Bresnahan) telling. In it, Lamar Odom complains that he didnâ€™t get enough chances on the block in the Rockets game and that he could have done a lot more if he had.
Heâ€™s right â€” which is why he should have gotten his ass to the block rather than float around on the three-point line in the fourth quarter. He should have run the floor and set up early position before the offense and defense really set. He should have demanded the ball. Instead, we were treated to the good but passive Odom as the second option. Again. We were treated to Kobe more than willing to take on the offensive burden â€” good shot or not â€” if other guys donâ€™t demand the rock. We got to see a lot of standing around.
It was frustrating because on the other side was a Rockets team where the role players have stepped up in the absence of a star. They are committed to defense and contest every shot. Their help defense is fantastic (hat tip to Bill Bridges in the comments). The fight for rebounds. They move on offense without the ball. They played to their strenghts and the offense looked like Adlemanâ€™s offense when it was clicking in Sacramento. The Rockets have earned that streak.
In a similar spot the Lakers seem to look to the other guy to step up. Even the vets were doing it â€”Rafer Alston is a good three-point shooter, so maybe Fisher should have stopped coming off him to help. Especially after the fourth three in the first quarter. That might have been a good hint he was hot (and a glance at the stats before the game would have told you he can shoot the three anyway).
What is the saving grace right now is I know that this yearâ€™s version of last yearâ€™s Lakers is going to get better as it gets healthy. This is not last yearâ€™s team, this is a team that is a contender when everybody is suited up. Bynum does fight for and get rebounds, Gasol will demand the ball, Odom will feel more comfortable with the pressure off. But yesterdayâ€™s experience was a frustrating one for fans, and the next two games could offer more of the same.
A few other notes poached from the comments. Weâ€™ll start with Kwame a. talking about whatever that was that was supposed to be the Lakers pick-and-roll defense:
I know Farmar wasnâ€™t playing Alston tight, but his problem was different than Fisherâ€™s, who was unnecessarily helping, leaving his man open. Jordan was going under the screen, but there is no reason our bigs couldnâ€™t come out and show, I think the burden is more on them. I agree with you about the momentum, but the last 3 Alston hit before the quarter ended, McGrady set a screen on Jordan, thereâ€™s no reason for Kobe not to have stepped out on the shot. I think our single biggest defensive deficiency is rotating as a team. One guy helps, the others donâ€™t rotate, two guys trap, the defense doesnâ€™t adjust, people let their man go back-door, thereâ€™s no help. It is truly a problem of TEAM DEFENSE, no individual can be the culprit. Houston is playing tremendous team d, everyone is on the same page, us, not so much
Trying to end on a positive note, here are some suggestions from Bill Bridges:
Things Iâ€™d like to see in the next two games:
1. Kobe on the lower left block (Pauâ€™s usual spot). He could roll into the lane for his running hook or generally wreck havoc in the lane.
2. Pick and pop w/ Kobe/Fish/Farmar and Rad (we never run this, why?) [Kurtâ€™s note: This is a good call I had not thought of, the Lakers had success with this the last couple years using Cook, they should try it again.]
3. Sasha at the 1 guarding the opponentâ€™s PG. Heâ€™s our most pesky perimeter defender and the best at getting over the screen. Donâ€™t need this for JKidd but would like to test it on Dwill.
4. Start out with Lamar on the right block and feed him 3 consecutive possessions to start the game (Like the Bulls used to do w/ Cartwright – to jump start an unagressive offensive player).
5. No double-teams on D. If Boozer or Nowitzki beat you – so be it. But donâ€™t sag off the 3-point shooters.
6. (For the first time this season) Execute secondary rotation to help the man covering dribble penetration.
I donâ€™t hold much hope for #6 as they try to execute this every game but mostly fail. However 1 -5 has never been tried. Why not?