The Lakers Struggles Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Road

Kurt —  January 25, 2010

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Championship teams are not born fully formed, like Venus rising from the sea. They start with just the seed of potential — the talent to be a contender when the season starts. But it takes more to fulfill that potential.

Like the lead character in a novel or movie, there has to be adversity, there have to be struggles in the path. What makes the hero able to achieve their goals in the end is what they had to learn in overcoming those struggles. If an NBA team goes through a season without struggles, they will not be tested and ready for the playoffs (the 72-win Bulls team was the exception to the rule, they were a veteran team that had learned what they had needed to in previous years).

The Lakers are struggling right now, but to me fretting over losses to a decent Toronto team (or other wins and losses) on the road ignores the big picture point. To me, the team needs this. The question is simply: Can they grow and overcome the things making them lose, can they evolve into the team they need to be to win another title? And I don’t know the answer to that. I hope so. I think they have the talent to. I know they have the coach who can get them there. But all that is not enough. Right now the main character of the story (if you’re a Lakers fan) is being challenged and struggling with it. It’s hard, but it has to be hard or what is the point, where would the fun be?

The question is, can this character grow into the hero role?


For a snapshot of the Lakers problems, let’s break down the last 3:20 of the Raptors game. At that point, the Lakers are up 103-100 after Jordan Farmar just hit a little running floater in the lane (a shot I wish he’d use a little more on penetration).

3:20: Bosh gets the ball at the elbow and throws a high lob pass to the guy cutting baseline — except there are no Raptors cutting baseline, just Shannon Brown, so he gets the steal.

Brown sees nothing on the break so he pulls up and gives to Kobe, who wisely runs time off the clock until 11 seconds are left on the 24. That is when Gasol comes out to set the high screen for Kobe but then he slips it and both Raptors stick to Kobe, so he feeds Gasol a perfect bounce pass at the free throw line. Gasol catches it and drives into the lane and the three remaining Raptors defenders collapsed on him, so Gasol kicked out to Shannon Brown for a wide open corner three. Missed it.

Hedo is the playmaker late in Canada and he comes off a Andrea Bargnani high screen, finds no driving lane takes a step back long two, maybe the worst shot in basketball. Missed it, but Bosh tips it out to Bargnani, who takes a three that he misses. Lakers board.

So now the Lakers are up three with 2:20 left and the ball, and Phil takes a timeout. The Lakers late in games just rely on isolations and the pick-and-roll too much — the traditional triangle sets just go out the window — and in this case Bynum comes out to set the high pick for Kobe. Bargnani plays the pick-and-roll well, taking away Kobe’s driving lane, but Kobe passes out to an open Jordan Farmar, who has Jack running at him. Farmar drives around Jack and gets to a baseline 10-footer, but rather than go straight up with his jump shot he fades left for no particular reason. The result is a miss, but the Lakers use up a lot clock.

Jack brings the ball up for Toronto and pretty quickly decides to drive from the right wing on Farmar. Jordan can’t stay in front of him and Jack gets almost under the rim. The Lakers bigs can’t help because Bosh and Bargnani are spreading the floor and Bynum/Gasol have to defend them in space. Anyway, Jack gets fouled and hits one of two free throws.

1:50 left, Lakers up two. The Lakers counter with some retro offense from the early 1990s — pure isolation. Kobe with the ball and nobody joints him on the at side of the court. It works, he gets to the left elbow and hits that little fade away he loves.

1:40 left, Lakers up four. The Raptors work the ball around the perimeter but never inside, and the result is a Jack three with Farmar contesting, and he misses. An unimpressive possession by the Raptors (and solid defense by the Lakers). Kobe rebounds.

The Lakers push the ball and run the break, Kobe handling the ball in the middle with Brown and Gasol on the wings. Just like we were all taught in junior high, at the free thrown line Kobe makes his decision and passes to Brown, who dribbles behind his back then goes up but is contested so he tries to change his mind in mid air and throws a pass to nobody out of bounds. The Lakers get no points and run little time off the clock, the worst of possible outcomes. It was a bad decision not to slow it down, and that started with Kobe.

Bargnani gets the ball out on the left wing and puts the ball on the floor going baseline. Gasol pushes him that way but nobody helps, so Bargnani gets the and-1 on the foul from Gasol.

1:10 left, Lakers up one. Kobe brings it up and gets the high pick from Bynum, first goes left off the pick then swings back right. Hedo is on him but Kobe doesn’t seem to care and the result is Kobe taking a contested fade-away 21 footer that misses over Hedo. Not a pretty possession at all.

What follows was the Lakers best defensive possession of the game. Great switches, Brown fought through the high pick and got help on penetration. Toronto couldn’t find a shot it liked. The result was Hedo taking a desperation long three that missed.

Kobe brings the ball up with 30 seconds and a one-point lead, then eats clock. Eventually Gasol comes out for the high pick, and similar to before (although Gasol set the pick this time but slid out quickly) when Gasol rolled he got a bounce pass from Kobe. Gasol tries to kick out to the right corner and Farmar, but it is knocked out of bounds. So Phil takes a timeout to draw up a play with three seconds left. That play turns out to be Kobe taking a desperation three from the wing, which was not a pretty option or outcome.

We all know the last play, the Hedo drive on the last play where he got a foul call (there may have been a foul on that play, but after letting the teams bang a little for most of the game that was a light call for that late). Complain about the call if you must, but as I always say (as my coaches taught me young) if you leave the game in the hands of the referee late you deserve what you get. This should never come down to the last play, to me that is what matters.

The fact is the Lakers missed shots, turned the ball over early in the shot clock, and generally made bad choices on offense. Starting with not running the offense. They executed poorly. They didn’t help on defense.

All part of the struggles, all fixable things, the question is will they? Can they overcome these struggles?

to The Lakers Struggles Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Road

  1. San Clemente Steve January 25, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Simply put, where is the heart in this team? The fire to put lesser teams away? This game should never have been left in the hands of the officials and I am concerned that this team is spending more time looking for individual goals than another ring?


  2. The concern is there, but its not overtly different from last year in terms of not putting teams away. Remember last year vs. Philly up double digits only to succumb to an Iguodala 3 at the buzzer? That was later on in the season also. Not to suggest that the team can just turn it on and off, but I think something that can’t be understated is the fact that defending a championship is arguably harder than winning one. Kobe and Fish are the only 2 guys on the roster who know what its like. Its all new for everyone else. It’s not to give an excuse, but I think there’s some validity to the fact that this team is getting the best shot from everyone else because they are the champs. Did you see the way Toronto celebrated like they won the Finals? This is what its like in every arena for these guys. I hope its just growing pains. I was gladly releaved when that was the case last year. I guess we’ll know a lot more by the end of the month, not only with the road stand, but also with the other tough games.


  3. What puzzles me is the decision to use isolation plays when you have an offense that has been working for the entire game. Yes, it is hard to score inside when the clock is expiring, but you can pound the ball inside to force double teams, make the defense collapse and then kick the ball out for the open jumpshot…


  4. I don’t want to pick on anyone (especially not Steve in comment #1) because this topic came up a lot in the last thread as well, but when we question the Lakers heart or their ability to put the other team away I always question that line of thinking. The Lakers are professional team (a fantastic one, I think) but they play another professional team every night. That team has good players too. That team has coaches too. They get paid to play this game and have pedigrees and have ability. So, why is a suprise that they could win?

    I don’t want to make excuses for the Lakers. None of us – not one fan – would say that the Lakers are playing anywhere near their potential right now. As Kurt mentioned, there are things to improve upon and mistakes to be cleaned up. Not to mention the path to repeating is always difficult. (On a sidenote to this point, there’s a reason that most teams don’t repeat. Mikan’s Lakers, Russel’s Celtics, Hondo’s Celtics, Magic’s Lakers, Zeke’s Pistons, Hakeem’s Rockets, MJ’s Bulls, and Shaq/Kobe Lakers are the only teams to repeat. Ever. That may seem like a lot of teams to some, but it’s not to me. It’s hard. Ask Tim Duncan. Ask Larry Bird. Ask that Celtics group from ’08.)

    My point is this: have faith, don’t have faith – the option is yours (obviously). But understand that the season is not yet over. Understand that there is time to improve. Understand that this is the journey that we (as fans of this team) are on and that it will be rocky and that other teams are out to get us and that even when we play well it may not good enough and that on nights we won’t even play well. It’s sports.


  5. The Raptors are a good team they’ve beaten the Mavericks, Lakers & Spurs & Magic all in the last few weeks. They started slow with 9 new players. They are starting to gel & they can compete with the elite teams in the league any day of the week. Give them credit CB4 & Hedo struggled but they were still able to pull out the win. The Raptors might be barely above .500 but there schedule has been crazy & is just starting to get easier and they’ve had 1 of top 5 winning % in the league for over a month and are playing great basketball.


  6. I’m not too caught up in the loss either. There are things that bother me, but rather than see the glass empty, I’ll look at it as half full. It’s better to have “problems” now. We know they’ll get worked out.

    One thing I disagree with…. I think it’s up to Pau to deny that Bargnani shot that cut it to a 1 pt lead. There is no reason, whether he thought he had help or not, to let Bargnani walk in from the 3 pt. line a get a reverse lay-up. With barely any contact made on his way there. Pau HAS to prevent that. Especially in that situation. It’s things like that, that help give him the soft tag. Other teams feed off of that and will continue to test Pau and the rest of the front court.

    That “soft” tag will help though. The anger that comes out from these labels needs to come back, so that we can eventually get to the full 48 minutes that Ron Artest say the team has yet to play. We’re healthy now the time to really ratchet things up is approaching (after all-star break).


  7. I’ve not been happy with the Lakers’ play lately, but fan fatalism is something that happens for all teams.

    I was flipping back and forth to the Laker game during commercials while watching the NFC Championship game with my brother.

    He’s a Spurs fan, and I was complaining about the Lakers insisting on abandoning the offense late in the 4th quarter in what seems like every game these days.

    His response, “You guys could always play like us and look like a world-beater one game and then lose to a chump the next.”

    Which sure seemed like what I saw us doing anyway. The point: the grass is always greener. Your team, in your own mind, is always better or worse than the reality.

    I have faith that this road trip will help this team regain its focus and we’ll see a return to the triangle and less iso play.

    My biggest concern about that though is Kobe. Since breaking his finger he seems to be on a mission to prove that he can still be the best player in the league without his index finger on his shooting hand.

    This is one of those times when I think Kobe’s personal mission of proving himself isn’t helping, and is rather silly.

    Everyone has already acknowledged that Kobe is one of the all-time greats, and even Bill Simmons has said that he may be the most durable player of all time. We have 2 all-star caliber players in the starting lineup without Kobe, and LO can play to that level on occasion as well.

    I know I keep harping on this, but I really think Kobe needs to sit and heal. Short of that, stop trying to prove he can do it alone with a broken finger and give himself back over to the offense.


  8. I agree, Darius. The Raptors might not have the best record, but any team in the league is dangerous in their own building, and they’re no exception. Coming into last night, they had already beaten the Spurs, Mavs, Magic, Rockets, and Hornets there…I think what we saw last night was a team with a ton of potential living up to it, for one night at least, while we played…err…not bad. Not bad–for us–will work on a lot of nights, but not this one. We could get all worried and talk about how “not bad” won’t win a championship, but we all know they’re going to turn it up in the playoffs. I’m not stressing this loss.


  9. “All part of the struggles, all fixable things, the question is will they? Can they overcome these struggles?”

    It’s up to Kobe. He sets the tone for the team with his level of willingness to play within the offense and defense.


  10. In terms of what Kurt said about responding to the rigors of the road, do you guys think the Lakers pushing the offense more is a result of that? Earlier in the season we played hard defense, while our offense was souring, so we still won. Now, it seems like they realized their defense isn’t enough so they put the pedal back on the offensive gas. Maybe this is a shallow way of looking at it, but the last two games we’ve moved better offensively than for most of the season with moving the ball, making cuts, etc. This is also just two games following Cleveland so I guess we’ll have to wait and see.


  11. You know, I’ve been thinking about the way us Laker fans react. And, it seems like we all forget history, both of this team and of the game in general.

    For example, the best record in the league means nothing. If not, ask Cleveland last year.

    Being swept by a team during the season is not the best indicator of who will win if they meet in the Finals. 2 years ago, it was a preview, as the Celtics beat the Lakers. But last year, it meant nothing, as the Lakers beat the Magic. So why does it indicate anything this year?

    The start of a season does not indicate how a team will finish. Lakers 02-03 are a good example.

    These are just a few things. So, sure the Lakers need to improve many areas. But, don’t use this halfseason
    played so far to say how it will end.


  12. “The Lakers late in games just rely on isolations and the pick-and-roll too much — the traditional triangle sets just go out the window”.

    This cannot be said strongly enough. The offense is not nearly as effective in this mode for more than just a couple consecutive possessions. It’s the Lakers version of the prevent defense.


  13. Wow, are we spoiled! I think the problem is that instead of competing against the rest of the league, this Lakers team is competing against history. We want them to be historically great. We want them to challenge 72 wins. We want them to blow teams out every night (aside from games where Kobe wins it at the buzzer).

    If you would watch every minute of every game of any other team, just like we watch the Lakers, you would find a number of flaws in every one (even the Lebrons, and even the 72 win Bulls). We want perfection, and when that’s what you’re looking for you’re just going to be disappointed.

    The Lakers have basically the leagues best record, the highest point differencial, and one of the leagues best defenses. All this, despite injuries to our best players, and having a huge target on our backs being the defending champs. The last 7 champions have avereraged 59 wins during the regular season. Last I checked, the Lakers are on pace for more. This may not be the historically great team we were all anticipating, but today they are pretty good, and that’s all that matters to me.


  14. Quick notes.

    1. The NBA is a tough league with players who take it up a notch against the elite teams. This isn’t college football. If the best team in the league plays to its potential every game, then by definition it will go undefeated. Between injuries, fatigue, complacency, etc. it just doesn’t happen. If the best team only blows 15 games a year, you’ve got a season for the ages.

    2. People always say that it’s dangerous for a team to think it can just turn it on. But some teams CAN just turn it on. For instance, Year 2 of the Shaq-Kobe threepeat.

    3. Kobe is still trying to figure out what he can do with the bum finger at NBA speeds. This is hurting the team. It’s not just the excessive shooting. He can’t control the ball finely in traffic or at the rim. Worse yet, when he’s forced right on the pick and roll (see late in Raptor game), he can’t easily swing a pass to Pau when he slips the screen.

    4. Upshot is, we see the main themes that need resolving for the Lakers to win it all, but we can’t tell now how they will turn out. The team is going to take all year to gel. It was hard enough working out Gasol-Bynum chemistry, new Artest, Farmar and Brown increasing role, Kobe being Kobe. Now most of the principals have a current or recent injury, so there hasn’t been time to work out those issues. It’s okay. It’s the midpoint.


  15. #12. On season sweeps. I think the nature of the sweep can give strong hints. In 08, the Celtics just crushed the Lakers in the regular season and their physical bullying neutralized Kobe and an otherwise hot Bynum. That was a bad sign. In 09, the Magic won close games with some inspired play from Jameer. If Jameer had not been injured, it would have been a closer series, but not surprising that it could go either way.

    This year, the Cavs have indeed been bullying the Lakers and really thrown Pau off his game. But the results have been mixed. Xmas Day was a clear demolition of the Lakers, their worst game in memory. The second game was a tossup and could easily have gone either way – if Pau hits free throws, we’re looking at a tie game with seconds to go.

    So in my opinion, the Cavs are the class of the league so far, but a Finals matchup with them (knock on wood) would come down to relative health.


  16. DTM if you think having the best record in the league isn’t important you dont watch basketball. Having home court advantage in the playoffs and in the Finals is one of the biggest advantages a team can have. Think back to the Finals matchup with Boston, do you think if the Celtics didn’t have homecourt they would have won so convincingly? It probably would have been a dogfight the whole series going to a 7th game. Homecourt is huge whether you want to admit it or not and anyone will tell you that, it is the same for most sports.


  17. I want to hear more speculation about why the lakers seem to abandon the triangle in the 4th Q. obviously, it’s phil sanctioned as it happens every game. the exception in my mind was ORL at staples, where the lakers got away from the triangle in the 3rd, then returned to it late with great cutting and off-ball movement and looked once agani like the great team we all know they can be. It really boggles my mind that, in close games, we become orl c 1994 with kobe as TMac. I can see not trusting Bynum, but Pau?

    Gasol with the ball on the high block with great cutting is unstoppable. If Kobe’s going to shoot, I would greatly prefer he get the ball through the offense than bringing it up the court and holding it for the entire possession…


  18. Eric, I guess the point I am trying to make is that it guarantees nothing. Sure it raises the odds, but, just like you point to the Celtics, look at the Cavs last year.

    Homecourt is huge, but it does not mean you’ll automatically win.


  19. for those expecting (or hoping) that this road trip could still finish 6-2 or 5-3, remember that Boston is followed the next night by Memphis. does anyone think that this team can put it together to beat Memphis, the way they’ve been playing, on the second of a BTB?


  20. ps– digging that this month has seen both a warren zevon and a kubrick reference.


  21. As a further point to Darius’ post…

    The Lakers have been to the finals for the last two years and are trying for a third appearance. This is really a tough grind in today’s NBA. We fans need to take this into account. Teams don’t just carry over from year-to-year; each year they need to marinate throughout the year. For most teams the wine just spoils – for us we expect a banner year each time.

    This doesn’t mean I am any happier with the way the Lakers finish games (read go away from the triangle), but I do understand each team needs to learn this lesson anew.


  22. I’m not that concerned with the Lakers record. I just want them to be playing their best by the end of the season. I actually didn’t think we played poorly against the Raptors. That has to be as good as the Raptors can play. I have to say Bargnani is a heck of a player and can be as good as Nowitzki in the future.

    The one thing that has to be questioned is whether or not we need to add a 3-point shooter into our team. If you watch the other elite teams they have guys that spread the floor well (Cleveland -Mo Williams, Boston – Ray Allen, Orlando – pick one, San Antonio – Roger Mason). I really feel that a deadly 3-point shooter is the only thing we are lacking. We don’t need another point guard. Unfortunately Farmar’s our biggest trade asset and would have to be let go in attaining a 3-point shooter to spread the floor.


  23. Anyone upset about our inability to draw up a decent out-of-bounds play? The final play calls in the Miami game and this game all resulted in tough shots for Kobe. Granted, the final play will most likely go to Kobe, but I hope the coaching staff can come up with a more creative way to set him free.


  24. Darius – thanks for the link. that’s a great metric to keep in mind: despite all our troubles, if we score 1-2 more baskets per 100 possessions, we’re a top 5 offense in the league.

    I think Kurt’s theme with this post is great…either the Lakers put it all together and repeat, or they won’t. It’s a completely binary set of outcomes, one none of us fans can affect. So what’s the point of all the negative comments complaining about how we’re soft, how we’re destined to lose a championship NO MATTER WHAT, how we never should have let Ariza go? I promise, unless we have Mitch or Phil masquerading as a commenter here, nothing we say will affect the outcome set. So why not focus on the fun parts of the season or something that requires more thought and analysis besides idle speculation?


  25. We can make excuses all day long. The problem is the Lakers aren’t like other teams. We don’t have Boston’s excuses (old age). We don’t have Cleveland’s excuses (need one more great player along side Lebron). We don’t have Orlando’s excuses (they’re, um, Ms Runner Up). We’re the defending champs and the best team “on paper” with a 10-ringed coach. There’s only one real good outcome for this team and that is the trophy. Anything else is a disappointment.

    What I fear is that this entire season and the postseason will in retrospect look like one of their bad games writ large. You know, one of those games where the Lakers show occasional flashes of good basketball, even brilliance, but curiously lacking urgency and intensity at times, not executing, not playing as a team. You know they’re capable of doing better and you keep hoping they will get it together, but in the end they can’t overcome their earlier missteps and the bad habits catch up to them.


  26. 25) wiseolgoat
    “one none of us fans can affect”

    How dare you say that!!

    Obviously, at least one Lakers fan wasn’t watching the game from the far right spot on the sofa, wearing the 2000-2001 championship cap on backwards!


  27. 27- ‘far RIGHT’?! Are you out of your mind?! No wonder we nearly lost to Houston!!!!


  28. 27 – don’t worry, I will make up for any of my shortcomings in the superstition department by putting up comments at a ridiculous pace!


  29. Great write-up, Kurtm but you skipped the possession that left me scratching my head- the very final one. Where Kobe shot an off balance 30 footer with a second left. I know that it almost went in and all sorts of things go wrong with only a second left, but why are we going for 3 when down 1? Sure you want Kobe to get the ball, as everybody on earth was aware, but if he could only succesfully receive it 30 feet away, maybe there were better options.

    I didn’t rewatch this play to see how it might have broken down, but it seems like this is the kind of thing that starts on the dry erase board.


  30. 27. Obviously it was my fault for splitting my attention between the Lakers and the Saints/Vikings.

    If you’re looking for who to blame, choose me.


  31. Both the Vikings and the Lakers outplayed their opponents and should have won. But both teams made far too many errors. Turnovers and mental errors at crucial teams gave the game to the other side.

    Even at age 40 Favre throws across his body, off-balance because he still has the arrogance of youth. Kobe shoots two off-balanced turn around fade away threes. The first with 3 seconds left on the shot clock and the last with 1.2 seconds left in the game when neither situation required a 3.

    Why did Pau pass up two open shots in the lane off of perfect Kobe screenroll passes (for 10th, and 11th assists) and instead, pass for three pointers?

    Did injuries have a part? If not for a bum ankle, would Favre have attempted to pick up some yards on the roll-out instead of making his ill-advised pass? Surely another 5 or so yards would have resulted in a field goal and a Superbowl birth.

    Did Kobe’s finger start acting up, reversing his fantastic shooting of the first half to the more erratic result often seen recently?

    Not one official replays went the Viking’s way… especially the pass that looked like a trapped ball. Would replays have reversed Fisher’s foul on Belinelli when he kicked out his feet ala Reggie Miller?

    Having written all that. I thought that the Lakers played better than they have played in weeks, maybe since the Dallas game.

    The team played hard. The offense (their achille’s heel this season) for most of the game was efficient. Kobe played with a bounce. Artest’s defense on Turkoglu was as good has he has been. Farmar played his best game as a pro.

    Repeat the effort, the execution, clean up the mental mistakes, and practice a few in-bounds plays where Kobe is a decoy, and this team goes 6-0 from here.

    #20. There, I’m calling it 6-2. Boston/Memphis back-2-back wins.


  32. People have what is called the disease of now. They feel that recent events carry more wieght than events which are further removed by time.

    The truth of the matter is that we are in an 82 game season. The middle of the season is not more important that the start or the 3/4 way. What you do now, quite frankly does not effect the playoffs more than what you do in 2 weeks time.

    Last year everyone thought that the Lakers simply didn’t have the championship mentality. Even DURING the playoffs, remember when a crappola Houston team took us to 7 games? Remember when Denver went home taking 1 of 2 in LA? The Lakers were NOT in form even during the playoffs.

    The Lakers just went into form, when it mattered. No one is saying that the Lakers can do that this year and get away with it. I’m just saying that the current bad form is not any more meaningful than the form at the beginning of the year, or the form in 2 weeks time.

    What matters is what form this team is in when the playoffs role around. We have seen them play in that top notch form so we know they have the ability. The form when Pau came back the first time and the Lakers won 11 in a row blowing out teams by 16 points per game. They have the ability. The problem is not that they are not in that form now, the problem WILL BE if they cannot get into that form again, when it matters.

    Don’t worry too much about how they are playing now. It is not the end of the world.


  33. I was disappointed in the loss, but not in how we played. Toronto played a great game and got contributions from other players (Belinelli) who have been inconsistent. They also played like a team bent on beating us to prove they belong. A tough loss, no doubt, but just more motivation to kick it up a notch. There is stil time, but we must use this trip to win with adverse conditions. All 3 games have been close, but only 1 win to show so far….


  34. 26,
    I disagree. We have a lot of excuses… Kobe and Artest are hurt and we start the worst PG in the NBA. Gasol and Odom both look like they have lost a half of a step also. Does that work for anyone? We still have one of the best records in the NBA. Let’s settle down and hope everyone is healthy come playoff time.


    • New post up with the video of the Lakers at the White House. For the record, Obama did not take Fisher off the dribble and get to the rack for the lay up. But you know he could have.


  35. Empty possesions at the end of the game is what really killed us last night. KB does not seem to be able to get by his man to get to the rim and draw a foul. Thats the difference between now KB and years past, the ability to beat his man and draw contact at the rim for a foul in close games. The fact that the whole team seems to be content on taking low percentage jumpers at crucial times is very concerining. Thats the reason you dont see Artest in the final minutes of the 4th quarter, have you seen him go to the rim. I always hear that the Keltics are old, but it is looking like LA is old. Even Bynum, who is the youngest, has a older style game played below the rim. Farmar and Brown have a better chance of penetrating a defense and at least getting a foul. They too are more inclined to take a jumper, than to finish at the hoop. The end is not here for LA, but it is starting to show a weakness in its armor that several teams in the league are taking notice of. Having faith in Phil and the FO, I hope they can work some magic and motivate the players to play up to their talent level and not be complacent.


  36. What do Kobe’s first half vs second half shooting stats look like since he hurt his finger? Does it tend to get worse as the game progresses? It would seem likely that it would.


  37. @Kurt

    Great Article, but you missed one thing. The drop off to Gasol with 30 seconds left. Gasol had a shot, hesitated and then passed out to Farmar. This infuriated Kobe because he had the shot, but did not take it. Kobe goes to the sideline and reading his lips he says “Shoot the fucking ball”. That play will burn in Kobe’s mind as Pau being scared to put the game in his hands.

    I think Kobe sees what we all see, Pau is not an alpha male. He is the consumate Robin which there is nothing wrong with that unless we need you to be a hero sometimes. But his lack of killer instict and softness were exposed for the 2nd time in three games.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like Pau. He fits what the Lakers need in many ways, he is just soft. He could hide it in Memphis because they were not expected to win. If he had monster games, but they still lost, it wasn’t a problem. The problems came when they got better and were then expected to win more often. He couldn’t do it, he could not be the alpha male and that’s why he was available.

    This is why Fish is still a Laker. Kobe as always said that he needs warriors and Fish is a warrior. The problem is Fish is at the end of warrior career. The Lakers as a team need to get the warrior mentality.

    Lately, the only other warrior besides Kobe has been Jordan Farmar. He has fought about pulled from games, he is not scared to take the shot or drive to the basket. Unfortunately, he is not running the offense and it has cost us. This is where Andrew needs to step up and move from potential to actual all-star. If he continues to beat up the opposition inside and play the defense he is capable of we will be alright. All right until our other warriors get ready for battle.


  38. Dunk Specialist January 25, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    The only thing I see that people seem to forget (or not notice) that on the last play Walton through the ball one way and Kobe was going another. I don’t know who messed up the play or the read, but I don’t think Phil drew up a 30 footer. Either Kobe was supposed to cut or Walton paniced thinking he didn’t have enough time to wait for a different pass. But I actually think that it played out well. Those are the kind of plays that you say we should have done this or we should have done that. When the Lakers are down in the last second of a catch and shoot situation I bet Walton doesn’t make a bad pass (or if it was Kobe’s fault he let Walton know he wanted to come out first). Playoffs are where it matters and just having those situations now always pay off big. I don’t care about 70 wins or even 60 wins, I care about championships.


  39. @Darius

    Wow!! Great insights and post. Thanks for bringing me back off the ledge. What I expect from the Lakers is MJ Bulls Championship-Caliber performances. Those guys understood it.

    We play like Laker teams have always played and it sometimes becomes maddening.

    The Magic Johnson Lakers allowed teams back in games. If you are old enough you remember them being up by 20 and losing games. What about Terry Teagle eating the Lakers lunch so often they went out and signed him. You remember TT, he hit the shot that gave Magic the assist record.

    For you younger guys, you remember the 1998-2003 Lakers. They had a habit of coasting and “turning on the switch” we they had to. As a fan it drives you crazy. The problem I see with this team is that they are not that good to get away with the same things those other teams did. This team is just not that good to be that cocky. They need to perfect their games instead of taking things for granted. They are playing with fire and they just may get burned.


  40. here’s where Cleveland currently has a big advantage, in evidence again tonight. if they need something on the last play, just give it to the man and let him drive to the rim – two or three points nearly guaranteed; no 30-footers at the buzzer for them.


  41. 42. Cleveland won that game because Wade made a lazy behind the back pass while covered by LeBron with the game on the line.


  42. The good news about most of our issues on offense is how easily they are solved.

    Give Bynum and Gasol 4 more touches each per game. Take those touches away from Kobe (2), Farmar (2), Brown (2), Artest (1) and Fisher (1).

    With the high percentage both Bynum and Gasol convert, that is essentially giving away 7 points (+/- 1 point) and getting 11 points (+/- 1 point).

    Based on True Shooting % it is really just that simple.


  43. @ wiseolgoat #25

    Isn’t that the reason we are here? We voice what we feel is the issue and discuss it with one another. We know we don’t have a say and what the Buss’ family and Mitch will do. We just share ideas on what we would do or what our concerns are. THIS is a Laker fan site and I come here to vent.


  44. While I agree Phil is tinkering and there are nagging injuries happening to the major players (Artest-feet, Bryant-fingers, back, and worn down; Bynum-respitory, Gasol-quads, Fisher-age, and Odom-hand) they just don’t seem to be into it. Except of course for Kobe and Fisher. Everyone else is going through the motions and that’s dangerous. The media and team both seem to feel like this team is just going to turn it on, but I don’t agree. They are not as loaded as people see. They play the same game as Cleveland, except Cleveland has a healthier, younger, stronger finisher. I won’t say better. Has age finally caught up to the two true Laker warriors? Only Father Time will tell.


  45. Kurt

    Miami actually LOST the game because D Wade:

    1) only scored two points after halftime,

    2) missed two free throws with less than a minute left in the game, and

    3) made the ill-advised behind the back pass with less than 10 seconds in the game.

    As good as he was in the first half, he negated all of it in the last minute.


  46. @Aaron (35) , Re: Fisher.

    David Ricardo laid out the theory of comparative advantage and applied it to trade. He posited that even if one nation was more inefficient than a second at creating either of two products, if the first nation was better at creating one product than it was at the second, both nations would still benefit.

    Now, I’m going to make up numbers for an artificial scenario with Fisher and Farmar. Let’s assume that 25 minutes of Fisher with the first team yields 10 ‘units of basketball value’ and 20 minutes of Farmar with the second team yields 20 ‘units’. Now, giving Farmar 25 minutes with the first team he produces 25 units while Fisher in 20 minutes with the second team only produces 1 unit. In other words, the drop off from Fisher working fewer minutes with the second team is more than the gain produced.
    Looking at some possible sources of Fisher’s value to the team : 3 point shooting when left open, ability to inspire trust from Kobe, ability to make a defensive stop or two in a system, possibility of running the offense, these would seem to be strengths that are more valuable with the first team.
    [Asides : For: Luke provides the second team the same steadiness and “run the system” that Fisher does and Luke could not step into Fisher’s role in the first team.
    Against: Then again, it doesn’t seem as if Fisher actually runs the offense, it seems as if Kobe does what Kobe wants, either way.
    Further : I would suggest that giving Farmar 36-40 minutes is also a worse option as is Farmar is not yet ready for 36-40+ minutes and would have poor effects on the team play
    Further : Brown is not a replacement for Fisher/Farmar
    Finally : ~6 minutes playing time is usually not enough for most players who need more time to settle into a rhythm ]

    Note that this argument is not conclusive, as there are always “fudge factors” I have ignored. (Kobe/Odom running the offense, reducing Fisher’s minutes, etc). I do suggest that this could be a significant reason behind Phil’s decisions, though.

    [And yes, I *am* ignoring the 5 man lineup plus minus statistics for the Lakers, which would be relevant if this decision were primarily about the statistics and not about the general nature of the reasoning]


  47. #39,
    Regarding warrior mentality: I think Pau is a soldier, just not the type that is a good commander. I agree that never showed in Mephis, since no one expected them to do well anyway, but with the Lakers it’s more obvious. Thing is, he doesn’t have to be in charge with us. We already have an alpha male, that will refuse to yield that position no matter how old he gets. Kobe will never step down, because he will, to his death, remain convinced that no one on the Lakers is better at basketball than he is , and that no one on the team wants to win more than he does.

    By the way, when Fisher comes up, Kobe often mentions that he respects Derek because “he’s as competitive as I am”. That makes it possible to believer that Fisher wants to win as much as he does, and that, I think, is how you earn Kobe’s trust. By proving that you’re willing to fight as hard to win as he is, that you want it as badly, as passionately, as pathologically as he does.

    Pau is however a very good second-in-command. He can move the ball, play in the paint, he rebounds, he passes, he scores when we need him to. When he’s on the floor things flow smoother.

    As for additional warriors on the team: Artest. Before he developed the feet problems, got a concussion and now stomache flu, he was diving for loose balls, fighting for rebounds, and played with pretty much the same intensity as Kobe. I have no doubt that once he recovers and his energy levels go back up to normal, Ron the Rottweiler will be back in his full glory.

    I really didn’t like the idea of him coming to the Lakers, but I’m starting to warm up to the guy. He’s a fighter, in the good sense of the word.


  48. In looking through some old pre-season basketball annuals (Lindy’s , Sporting News, etc.), I was astonished to see just how much more talented the league is than it was just a few years ago.

    I knew that there had been an influx of talent, but I didn’t realize how significant it has been.

    Consider the New Jersey Nets, on pace to have the worst season in NBA history.

    Even THE NETS have 2 All-Star caliber players (Lopez and Harris), the starting shooting guard from an NBA conference champion (Courtney Lee), plus some solid rotation players (CDR, Yi Jianlian, Terrence Williams).

    Would you rather have that team, or your 2006-2007 Lakers (Kobe, LO, Kwame, VladRad, Smush Parker)?

    It’s a truism that on any given night, any team in the NBA can beat any other team. There’s that much talent going around now.