My Message To Lakers Fans

Kurt —  December 22, 2008

The Lakers are having a rough patch, have lost two games in a row while the Celtics are playing great basketball right now. So clearly, the NBA championship has been decided. The only hope the Lakers have is a major trade.

When things go wrong for the Lakers, and any team really, the first reaction of most fans is to pull up the ESPN trade machine and solve the problem as an armchair GM. Because, if the Lakers had a different point guard, who we could get by trading one of our three bigs who play significant minutes away, we could suddenly solve all our problems. Because there are all these lock-down point guards out there.

Do the last two paragraphs sound rational?

The problems with the Lakers right now are best solved internally, not externally. To put it simply, this is a championship roster, a deep roster loaded with talent at every position. The problem is not the makeup of the team. The problem with this team is mental — they are not playing hard every night, not playing smart for four quarters. It’s frustrating to watch because our coach likes to let his teams face adversity like this, likes to let them figure it out for themselves, to see that the roles he defined for them work if they just play them. That learning process can lead to painful lessons, but as you probably know from your own life those are the lessons that stick.

Two losses in a row and a stretch of mediocre play mean jack come May and June. People see the Celtics now and are amazed, and we should be because they are focused and playing great ball. They are also playing their old starters more minutes per game than they did last year. Will that come back to haunt them (remember those two impressive first rounds of the playoffs last year)? Who knows, But I don’t care how the Lakers match up with the Celtics in December, I care about June.

And right now, we know nothing about June. We don’t know how this team will weather the storm and come out on the other end. But if Phil Jackson’s history is any indication, maybe we should wait until he’s done cooking before we decide the meal is a failure.

Kurt

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62 responses to My Message To Lakers Fans

  1. I thin one internal move that should be made is putting Vlad back in the starting lineup. I feel our problems have only escalated once he was removed from the starting lineup.

  2. Copied from last post

    @ Kurt’s recent posts & 106 – Kurt don’t get frustrated. Some of the recent posts are because of the the last 2 games, but others are because we aren’t playing well enough to win. Forget the record, we haven’t been for few weeks. IMHO, more losses are coming. People keep saying they won’t be worried until April. Well, this is how that happens, there’s no magic. If they’re going to fix the issues, they’re probably going to take some losses now.

    Concerning the new defense – I think it’s a gimmick and I don’t like it. After last year (and I mean the WHOLE season), we needed to play better, harder on D, not create a fake new scheme. Last year we gave up loads of open Js, but mostly locked down the paint for stretches. This season, it’s a party, basically any shot you want, because guys are uncomfortable, lazy, and noncommittal on D.

    And on O, who can deny that they haven’t really been effective running triangle this year? They were effective running and I was worried what would happen when teams took that away. Now I know.

  3. Great post Kurt. This is a great roster and the fun is to see if they can figure things out this year. I appreciate your level thinking when so many are in panic mode.

  4. hey kwame, I agree. I think vlad showed us his ability to focus and play some D in the Magic game. while I do like Lukes ability to get some nice passes and the O going, he is not not hitting the open J and opponents know this, so they sag off him.
    also, I’d really like to see Powell start coming in earlier for Drew, work him in as a back up 5, the way we used Ronnie, that seemed to be effective last year, and I think powell has a lot to offer. at least he’s got a nose for rebounds, and a nice mid range game.

  5. I wonder how Lamar would look with Pau and Bynum to start the game. If PJ is mixing it up to see what works, that may be something to look forward to. I mean, that’s what we were all hoping to see last season when we first heard Pau was coming over. I think the time to experiment with that lineup may be coming soon. I’d love to see that.

  6. Kurt but lets be real, while this Laker team is probably the most talented team in the league, I really dont think this squad can beat Boston. There are way too many wholes. Lamar Odom beng one of them, he has always been an overrated player and hasnt played well the whole year IMO. Derick Fisher is up there in age and cant defend like he used to and of course Farmar cant defend either. Maybe not a shut them down point guard defender we need, but we need one better than the ones we got. And even with Gasol and Bynum in the middle, they are soft defenders and dont guard the paint well. Basically we need great defense to win the championship. If you look at all the teams that won the champinship lately…Spurs, Boston, Pistons…they were all great defensive teams. While the Lakers can play better, I dont think they have enough defense and motivation to win a championship. I know it being negative, but I really just dont see it…but hopefully I am wrong. I dont really believe in this, well ackson is just letting his team play bad, so they can figure it out. no I think Jackson needs to take more action. It is important they have all the home court advantage they can have in the playoffs.

  7. One way I think the team can get Bynum more involved is to simplify his responsibilities. On offense, I’d like to see him just do what Kwame Brown was told, get as deep post position as you can and try to score around the hoop. I feel Drew, far too often, is 10-15 feet from the hoop. He needs to be close to the basket to be effective.

  8. Kurt,

    I couldn’t agree more. So much so, that I have nothing to add. I’ve already posted enough comments with similar sentiments. I think I may be running out of things to say.

    One thing I am surprised to see is Bynum’s recent struggles. It seemed like he was starting to catch his groove, but he’s regressed the last few games. He has to learn to stay out of foul trouble. I didn’t get to see Saturday’s game, so I don’t know how they came, but he becomes a non-factor when he gets into foul trouble, because he gets lost in the flow and can’t establish himself later in the game. That’s another thing he needs to work on. If he doesn’t get the ball early, he gets frustrated. He’s awesome when he’s confident, so he must keep his head up.

    It’s true that the Celtic game only means so much (if anything, really), but without overlooking our next two games, I think if Bynum has a good game against Boston, it could work wonders for his confidence the rest of the season.

    On the other hand, if he has a bad game, added to his recent struggles, will he let them affect him more? He’s young and everyone will want to think his presence will be the deciding factor. So, how will he handle the pressure of that?

  9. It is too early to panick indeed, but it sure is painful how after each week and lousy play we cut back on our expectations and try to find bright spots in the future.

    A month ago, none of us here would have even muttered that it would be fine for Lakers to lose on X-mas, let alone the fact that none of us would have conceded the loss

  10. The point of my concern is that we are falling back to old habits. Kobe having to play his butt off to keep us or win a game, Odom disappearing while we arer struggling, not playing the triangle when the going gets tough and looking like lost on D. Some things should be done instinctivly wether we are winning or not.If we develop the wrong instincts we will always fall back on them in tough times , and tough times will come.

  11. 10-I am a LO enthusiast, but after nine years, one thing that I find to be true is that LO is not that useful in close games. His lack of a go-to move and lack of consistent jump shot really are glaring in those situations. Another thing I’d like to see that staff continue to do is find a stable, 4th qtr lineup, preferably without LO for the last 6 mins of a close game.

  12. Sure things are going to sh** right now, but Kurt’s point was that Phil does not intervene and this is for a purpose. He has instituted a system that will work with this team and – rather than force it down their throat – he will let then sink until they come around to implementing what he wants.

    When players are frustrated and despondent he will be able to say, “Let’s get back to the basics we started with in training camp. We made them work for the first few weeks of the season. What’s different now?” At this point the players will have done all their bitching to the press and will have gotten frustrated with their minutes and their performance in those minutes. They will be able to listen to him and follow him through a wall. He wants everyone to buy into his system – not just when they feel like it.

  13. There is no need to panic in Lakerland. I mean, seriously, guys… the team is STILL 21-5. Do you know how many teams want to be 21-5 right about now? Probably about 27 other teams.

    I did question putting in Luke Walton in the starting line-up. It was mentioned that it was to get the offense working… when I think the bigger question mark is defense. I love Luke’s offensive game but why put him in the starting line-up when he’s worse than Radmanovic on defense?

    Anyway, if we see the team’s defense intensify in the playoffs like it did early in the season, the Lakers will be just fine. No need for additional trades. Unless it’s a Gasol-like heist.

  14. 11-(Copy from last post) Odom is a waste of space..Everybody keeps talkinng about his talent and versatility but i fail to see it. He has no post moves whatsoever ,cant hit the 3 has no jumpshot,has only one arm,goes only on one direction and when he drives to the lane 9 out of 10 times he commits an O foul. These are the facts on Phandom and are irrefutable so i say give him away.He does more bad than good on our team. (I posted that as ”anonymous” yesterday after the game) Has a bit of frustration in it but i believe it to be true.

  15. 6) Joe,
    “Basically we need great defense to win the championship.”

    You don’t need “great” defense to win. “Good” defense and a “great” offense will get it accomplished, too. If you look at the Finals last season, and the games this season where the Lakers haven’t played well, you will see that overall, poor offense was a bigger reason than the defense. Getting the existing roster to use the offense better is more likely to succeed than bringing in someone else mid-season and trying to work them into the system.

  16. 11 – You’re an “LO enthusiast” and that’s the most positive statement you can make about him?! That’s extremely telling and sad.

    The only 2 options I see for Odom is to either put him back in the starting line up with Gasol & move Bynum to the bench or trade him.

  17. I gave up on them after the Lakers blew the chance to go 82-0. Losers.

  18. 6. I don’t know if this squad can beat Boston, probably not next week but again that doesn’t matter (even though I am dreading the freak out that comes with this game already).

    If you think you can replace what LO does with Josh Powell, you are kidding yourself. While you can pick at the negative all you want, Odom is better for this system than anyone you can get in a trade for him. And if you think there are a bunch of better available point guards out there, look today at the list of schlubs Phoenix has brought in to give them more traditional depth. None of them is better than what we got. And if you think GMs are willing to do a fair deal to help out a young and title-contending Lakers team right now….

    This team, as constructed, can win a title, I believe. Will they, that’s another question all together. But just shaking things up out of December frustration is how you end up with a crappy roster. Seriously.

  19. One thing this team absolutely needs is to get their confidence back. Guys like Odom, Bynum, Ariza and Vujacic are in special confidence funk at the moment

  20. 13, The Lakers had one of the best overall offense last year and lost. They have the best offense this year in terms of point scored, and arent anywhere close to be as good as the Celtics. Most of the games lost this year was because of a lack of defense. In almost all their loses, except the Miami game, they gave up more than a 100 points. Loses to bad teams like Sacramento and Indiana were because of horrible defense. Miami was the only loss this year because of a lack of offense, and I give a lot of credit to the Miami defense for that. Defense is the problem on this team. I dont know if a “good” defense will be enough. If you look at all the teams that have won championships in the past as I posted…..Spurs, Pistons, Boston, and even the Bulls in the 90′s as well as our lakers from 2000-2003, these teams were all in the top 5 defensive teams in the league. Great defensive teams win championships. Lakers have to be able to shut down teams on offense. Do they need to be as good defensively as Boston? No I am not saying that, but I think they need to become much better defensively.

  21. Kurt,

    This is that time of year–where teams finalize their lineup with trades and veteran minimum players. Even the record setting Celtics have a list of candidates. So, this is a good time to think the Laker team roster through again, even though trade options may not appear promising.

    Every year, the Lakers have started the season emphasizing defense–sort of like a New Year’s resolution to go on a diet. I am not convinced that they can keep those defensive resolutions without changes in the roster. Right now, with virtually the same roster, the Lakers are almost exactly like they were last year–with almost no injuries this year (until Jordan?) to make the record apparently better.

    It’s not difficult to see where the Laker structural problem lies: Gasol and Ariza have reduced or potentially eliminated the minutes of VladRad, Luke, and Lamar–who collectively cost the Lakers roughly $24 million–and an additional $10 million in “over the cap” penalties.

    Oh, and by the way, Trevor’s contract expires this year.

    All those things together should make somebody think.

  22. Again, why is everyone talking about Boston.I think that is a major mistake that(also) our young players have made. Is it guaranteed that we WILL go to the finals this year and we WILL face Boston again?

  23. [The Celtics] are also playing their old starters more minutes per game than they did last year.

    This is a bit misleading.

    Ray Allen in 2007-08 played 35.9 minutes per game. In 2009, it’s 35.8.

    KG in 2007-08 played 32.8 minutes per game. In 2009, it’s 33.0.

    Paul Pierce in 2007-08 played 35.9 minutes per game. In 2009, it’s 36.7.

    So, that’s -0.1, +0.2, and +0.8. Your statement is only marginally true for PP and KG, and isn’t true at all for RA.

  24. Focusing on the Celtics strenghts/weaknesses will not make us better or even ”find”a hole that we may take advantage of.I know that it can be a point of reference sometimes but we really need to focus on our deficiencies and how to eliminate them.The only thing we need to constantly focus on is the next game.Memphis in this case.Anything beyond that is a waste of time and energy.We will worry about the Celtics on Christmas day.

  25. who are some of the relatively good Free Agents at this point that would be interested in contenders? I do not think PJ Brown is coming back and Mutombo might be done too. Can you guys (who know these things well) tell us about 5-6 free guys that are in such a conversation?

  26. Feeling you on the issue, Kurt.

    I usually go off sports radio
    on these occasions,
    but now I’m more annoyed than usual
    at the radio side when I found that
    KSPN ( argh-hh! ) rather than KLAC
    will be the flagship station
    for Laker broadcasts if only
    because it potentially means
    no Matt Smith on the pre and post show.

    When Laker fans get the way they get
    like they are now ( and, as you forsee
    mayhap after the Christmas Day game )
    Matt skillfully calms the waters
    and tempers the manic-depressive vibe.

    I am not impressed with any
    of the 710 am crew in their ability
    to work the callers.

    I’m concerned they’ll want to out-Hartmann
    KLAC to prove they’re not homers.

    - 5 -

  27. 23. RA is playing almost identical minutes to last year, but let’s say they all are. Did they get younger this offseason? Did they intensity of their play in the regular season almost catch up with them come the first two rounds of the playoffs, until the slow pace of the playoffs (in terms of games every three days or so) allowed them to get their legs back under them? Do you really think they are deeper without Posey?

  28. You know, we talk about the Celtics more here, than they do on WEEI, THE #1 sports talk radio station in the Boston area, and most listened to sports talk radio station in the US. I find that funny.

  29. Touchy. I was pointing out something you said that I found misleading. I didn’t argue whether or not the C’s are stronger or weaker than last year.

    That said, RA is definitely healthier this year, which is a form of getting younger. People forget that he was coming off of double ankle surgery last season. And so far, his numbers this year are much better than last year.

    The bench is weaker without Posey (and their bench has been a problem), but the starting five are stronger with the continued development of Rondo and Perk. KG and PP haven’t played as well as they did last season, but we’re hoping (hoping!) that’s statistical variance, as opposed to old age. If it is old age, then any C’s fan will acknowledge that as a problem. For now, it’s only a third of the season.

  30. 20. Joe, in the finals last year the offense was the problem. The Celtics scored over 100 twice in six games, but the Lakers offense came unglued. Right now, the offense is not executing, just scoring based on talent, which would be a problem again if it continues.

    That’s not to say defense isn’t a problem as well, but right now the Lakers are not doing as well as they should at either end of the floor.

  31. “It’s frustrating to watch because our coach likes to let his teams face adversity like this, likes to let them figure it out for themselves, to see that the roles he defined for them work if they just play them.”

    I like that point. I’m currently reading Blood on the Horns, and I’m amazed at how much strife and conflict the Bulls went through during their championship runs, that no one remembers because they won. This has always been Phil’s M.O. He’s not famous for being an X’s and O’s guy, he’s known for being able to fit all sorts of players into a cohesive system. That takes time.

  32. Deepest and most talented team in the league. What is left to accomplish with trades or signings?

    improving defensively won’t come through getting a “lock-down PG” but through 5 guys on the court, buying into the defensive game plan and working hard at it.

  33. Kurt, but don’t you think that the Lakers’ offense was because of the Celtics’ defense? Let’s not take anything away from Boston’s defense. Sure, the Lakers’ offense isn’t executing but Boston also had a hand in that with their physical D.

  34. Trade or sign, this team definitely needs another PG. 1 and 5 are most crucial positions to cover in terms of personnel. Now that we have only one true point guard “deepness” of the team at 2,3 and 4 positions does not matter that mcuh

  35. 33. Certainly that was part of it. The Celtics deserve all the credit in the world. But, there is a counter to everything in the triangle offense, the Lakers just usually get away from that and throw the ball to Kobe. As they mature, so should the offense. Should being the key word there.

  36. #5 I agree that PJ should start Lamar. Our coveted bench is only #9 in the league in scoring.

  37. ”But, there is a counter to everything in the triangle offense, the Lakers just usually get away from that and throw the ball to Kobe.”
    Thats exactly what i was refering to earlier when i was talking about ”bad habits” returning.

  38. I think the real issue lies in phils clean shaven face, bring that beard back :)

  39. I for one am in favor of starting Jordan Farmar and having a leader like Fish come off the bench. I think it’s time for Farmar to grab the reigns of the sled and help the starters. Look at what one year did to Rondo. Now he’s putting up Star numbers. Farmar doesn’t HAVE to be a major scorer, but he’s a good ball controller and has great vision. Not to mention he’s very athletic.

    Not saying that Fisher is NOT a good player, but I think he would do us good coming off the bench.

  40. putting Farmar and Lamar in the starting line-up complicates distribution of shots even more. Lamar is capable off the ball, but Farmar needs the rock too much to be effective. The quality to be a PG and operate off the ball is one of excellent assets of D-Fish that I think is hugely underestimated

  41. “Put vlad back in the starting lineup”, is the chant that I’m starting to see. Kurt outlined that the primary issue with the Lakers isn’t the makeup of the roster but rather mental issues. Switching out Luke and putting Vlad, is not going to make the mental issues go away. Trading LO/Sasha is not going to reduce the mental anguish. Time and development will… give it time. Relax. Stop watching the games for a few weeks if it gets you to stop moaning and groaning.

  42. Tough being a Lakers fan this year, it would be more enjoyable if they were underdogs, wouldn’t it? Weren’t they somewhat of the underdogs for the 2nd and 3rd championships throughout the regular season? I haven’t ever experienced this “championship or bust” so early in the season. So stressful. With that said, we’ll see how this season plays out. We’re still young and learning, and we still have a future. I think this is Boston’s final hurrah and in my eyes, Cleveland’s success is a fugazi. We’ll be alright.

  43. 2nd and 3rd of the threepeat run, I meant.

  44. Maybe it would help if all of us realized that the Laker organization, from ownership to the players, is developed for long term success. Week-to-week panic is what many other franchises do and they rarely win the prize. Phil could only succeed in an organization with long term goals because of his development techniques. We fans are just going to have to live with our anguish, because no one in the Laker front office is going to address our needs. Sorry!!!

  45. 41-I spoke about this before the season even began. The first losing streak and there would be some nervous Laker fans. Well, it didn’t even take a losing streak as the nevousness came as we were winning handily. At first I didn’t believe Kurt, but his point about Laker fans experincing trauma in Game 6 of the ’08 Finals seems to be a big part of it. Unfortunatley, it seems to not only be affecting the fans.

    Craig-I really get what you’ve been preaching about Phil, and his long-term plans, however, my counter is that this is a young team, and the teams that Phil’s approach worked with were vets, most of whom had already won a title. I don’t think that approach is as useful for a team that WANTS guidance and direction.

  46. Kurt,

    Any chat’s the next two games?

  47. Chobe B,

    Tough? Only if you let it be. Cleveland is a good team. Think of what they have done the last two years. How can what they’re doing now be “fugazi?” It’s a natural progression to me.

  48. Does anybody have any insight about the actual game tonight? I figure Kurt is pissed off and won’t do a preview today, so lets try to get some comment on the Memphis game.

    While they don’t have an outright superstar like D-Wade, they can be competitive like the Heat. I think they have a better roster, on paper at least, than Miami too. Any thoughts?

  49. Wondahbop, I’m still not a believer. I give them credit for beating up on the teams they’re supposed to be beating. However, Mike Brown doesn’t scream “championship” coach. They’ll get exposed soon enough. However, seems like the rest of teams in the NBA are trying to figure themselves out too, it’s a strange year. Once Cleveland’s shooters go cold, it’s over for them.

  50. Clutch, just put the preview up. Short today because my day job is suddenly kicking my ass on what I thought would be a slow day where I could screw around a lot.

    And, this is what happens when I’m up for three hours in the middle of the night with a sick kid and I’m sleep deprived. I get cranky.

  51. “However, Mike Brown doesn’t scream “championship” coach.”

    You could have said the same thing about Doc Rivers a year ago…

  52. Kurt – hope you kid gets better soon.

    On another note, I wonder what would happen if we lose the next two games, but beat the Celtics, only to then lose to Golden State. I bet money folks wouldn’t be as critical with a Celtic victory under our belt – which is ironic considering one good game does not “fix” our alleged problems, right?

  53. Joel,

    You beat me to it.

    Chobe,

    re: “However, seems like the rest of teams in the NBA are trying to figure themselves out too, it’s a strange year. Once Cleveland’s shooters go cold, it’s over for them.”

    You can say the same for every team; if something goes cold or wrong……etc. My point is LBJ and Cleveland now have a history.

  54. I just happen to believe that, just like shooting, dribbling and any other ‘skills’, a mindset is something that needs to be practiced as well.

    The way we’re playing, nothing guarantees that we’ll suddenly flip a switch and play ‘serious 48 minute ball’ come May or June.

    Other than the Detroit game, no real blowout losses yet, but no real gut-wrenching, character building wins either… which is quite disconcerting since it still probably means that our players don’t believe they have to play much harder.

  55. It’s December. You don’t need to flip the switch, you could grow into something over three months and be playing great in March. That is more what I picture than some lightbulb going on.

  56. The Celtics Big-3 are playing WAY less minutes this year than they were at this point last year. Last year’s minutes per game are very misleading, as they take into account the last couple of months when Doc was giving the starters a ton of rest. Last year, up to this point, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were probably playing about 38-39 minutes a game.

  57. JR, you are spot on with your analysis of the minutes for the C’s big 3. Also not only was Ray coming off his double ankle surgery last year and looking much fresher this year, Pierce was also coming off his big injury from the season prior as well and lost roughly 10 pounds or so going into this year as well looking much fresher. To help compensate for the loss of Posey you have 5 youngsters who have improved their play Perkins, Rondo, T Allen, BBD, and Powe. Especially Rondo who has had a triple double recently and could be a borderline all star this year in his own right. Fisher will have his hands full with him.

  58. Simply, I took the minutes the Celtics big three are playing now and their season averages for last year. If that is an inaccurate picture, so be it, but that’s how I got the number, which I picked up after the LA Times lead NBA writer had it in a column.

    And, for the Celtics fan who is going to ask what happened to his comment, it’s not wise to call the site moderator a liar. You can make your point and be civil.

  59. Take a look at this for the whole playing-minutes-thingy: http://forums.celticsblog.com/index.php?topic=24314
    Have fun, friends.

  60. it’s not wise to call the site moderator a liar.

    What if he presents misleading information to bolster his argument? “Liar” is a pretty mundane word on the scale of insults. But you know what, I should have said your point was a “lie” not that you’re a “liar” because being a liar suggests a continued pattern of telling lies. That’s probably inaccurate, since you are a moderator and seem to have a pretty balanced perspective.

  61. I apologize for my mischaracterization.

  62. 17ismore – a “lie” implies intentional of false facts. A “liar” is someone who lies. To “mischaracterize” is to take a fact and interpret it mistankenly (i.e. accidentally) interpret it in a different manner. So far example, your last comment is a “lie” and therefore, you are a “liar”.

    Kurt is a pretty stand up guy. He runs a fair and balanced forum. That’s why you don’t see non-stop Celtics bashing or B.S. trade stories here. What he did before was merely offer his opinion based on some stats. You are free to agree or disagree, but arguing that he is intentionally fabricating facts is just plain wrong – or a plain “lie.”

    Also, this is a LAKER fan-site- Perhaps you should consider visiting a Celtic fan site if all you are looking for are Celtic accolades.