The Lakers had Thursday off after back-to-back road games to help their bodies rest for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers which means that there isn’t really much Lakers’ news for this morning. However, Los Angeles Times Mark Medina had an early morning post about how the Lakers’ defense has suffered since the return of Kobe.
The Lakers immediately enjoyed some of the positive aspects Bryant typically brings. He netted his sixth game game-winner Tuesday against Memphis and he kept the Lakers in contention throughout the fourth quarter. Though Bryant had an overall sluggish shooting night Wednesday against Dallas possibly because of fatigue, the majority of the failed shots were rooted more in attempts falling short than him selfishly hogging the shooting pie. But there has been one negative consequence upon Bryant’s return, and that’s the team’s defense.
Consider the numbers: the Lakers (43-15) held opponents during Bryant’s five-game absence to 86.6 points, a mark that ranked second-best in the league and was a near 10-point improvement from their regular season average in yielding 96.2 points per game. In the Lakers’ two games since Bryant’s return, the Lakers allowed an average of 99.5 points per game.
This problem doesn’t point to Bryant, but more the team’s reaction to his return. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and guard Derek Fisher had frequently mentioned one of the key factors that ensured a collective effort during Bryant’s absence entailed sharpening up on defense. The theory was that if most of the team felt involved offensively, that energy would carry over on the defensive end and create synergy. The defensive philosophy also extended to the fact that without Bryant’s scoring punch, there may be a chance points would be hard to come by, making it necessary to limit the opponent’s production whenever possible.
Brian Kamenetzky of Land O’ Lakers had a similar post on the reasons for the Lakers dip in defensive efficiency in their previous two games.
It wasn’t a sustainable pace- through Wednesday L.A.’s season long mark of 99.3 is second in the NBA behind Boston’s 99.1- but obviously this week has seen a regression. One explanation beyond the natural ebb and flow of a season suggests the Lakers relaxed little with Kobe back on the floor, losing the do-or-die mentality they had on seemingly every stand in his absence. Another, though, is far more practical:
Apparently, having Kobe back makes it open season to treat the ball with the same respect teenagers tend to afford their parents. 17 giveaways against Memphis, 17 more against Dallas. This for a squad with the league’s second best turnover rate, against two teams not exactly noted for their ball-hawking (Memphis is 20th in opponents TOR, Dallas 16th). There is no defense for those.
Mike Bresnahan has a story about how Ron Artest has changed his diet and is down more than 15 pounds from what he was to start the season. Artest has been moving much better as of late, which also may be due to him finally getting his foot problem under control, but whatever it is, Lakers fans should be excited that Ron is determined to get back to the defender he was back in 2004.
Early this morning, NBC Sports reported that surgery to repair the pinched nerve in his back may be in play for Luke Walton. He’s going to try and hold off on surgery, but if his back doesn’t improve soon, his season is likely to be ended.
Over at Pro Basketball Talk, Rob Mahoney has a sarcastic post about Andrew Bynum’s post game comments where he criticized the referees:
And don’t even give me that “the refs aren’t perfect, they’ll miss calls on both sides” nonsense. This is an institutional conspiracy. David Stern loves LeBron James and obviously wants the Lakers to lose every game. That’s why the Mavs only committed 16 turnovers while the Lakers committed 17. And that’s why the Lakers were called for 20 fouls while the Mavs were called for 20 fouls. Every referee in the NBA was given the explicit order to make tons of calls against the Lakers, and last night’s game was only the latest piece of evidence to prove it.
Kurt Helin also has a post up about outrageous Lakers’ ticket prices.
DIME Magazine has a post up about how it’s possible that Lebron, ‘Melo and Kevin Durant have all passed up Kobe because the small forward position is what teams should start building their teams around
And finally, Mark Medina has a post up where he asked members of the Los Angeles Zoo to compare Kobe to different wild animals:
Tiger: Tigers have to be self sufficient. They have their own territory and they hunt for themselves. They have to be dependent on themselves. They’re camouflaged. No two Tigers striped patterns are alike.
How Bryant is like a tiger: You don’t find a lot of Tigers and you don’t find a lot of Kobes. For the solitary animals that Tigers are, Kobe, while popular and widely recognizable, he’s not really all that social. You don’t see him on the social scene. He’s not the most social person there is. He is sort of predatory. He’s slow and calculating and then he jumps at it.