Around the World (Wide Web): The State Of The Lakers

Phillip Barnett —  March 12, 2010

Mar. 02, 2010 - Los Angeles, United States - epa02062966 Los Angeles Lakers Derek Fisher reacts against the Indiana Pacers during fourth period action of their NBA basketball match in Los Angeles, California, USA 02 March 2010. The Lakers beat the Pacers 122-99.

The Lakers recent three-game losing streak and subsequent last second win against the Raptors has garnered a lot of talk about the “state of the Lakers.” It’s not a secret, the Lakers have struggled of late. They aren’t the dominant road team of a year ago, they aren’t as hungry as a year ago, and teams don’t lack the confidence in playing the Lakers like they did a year ago. However, as we saw yesterday, all of this talk is starting to wake the Lakers up. One of them, Derek Fisher. Mike Trudell of had a one-on-one interview with Fish about their confidence, how teams are coming at them with their best shots and the rigors of a 82-game season. Here’s a clip from the interview:

MT: The three-game losing streak was, of course, not exactly what you had in mind. But it doesn’t seem to have affected the team’s confidence in the larger picture.

Fisher: No, (that’s right), but right now I don’t think it’s about confidence. It’s about doing things out on the floor. In some respects, because we still carry so much confidence, we’re still maybe not pressing (the pedal) to the mat in terms of the sense of urgency that we’ve shown in some games. We haven’t been able to stretch that out over two, three weeks, and that’s tough to do in the NBA season. That’s tough to do after experiencing what we have. We lost in the Finals in 2008, won in 2009 and we’re on a quest to win another title. That’s a lot of basketball, it’s a long three-year process, so you’re going to have some ups and downs. But if we can stay healthy and continue to get healthier, we feel OK in terms of where we’ll to be. We still want to have home court advantage in the West, and having (it) overall would be the best of both worlds.

Land O’ Lakers also have comments from Phil Jackson and Kobe on some of the same issues. Here are a few of the quotes from the interviews:

Phil Jackson on the team’s urgency:

I think that’s impossible to replicate at this time. There’s something that’s a driving force last kept us on that goal oriented, I would say. We don’t have that. Not that we can’t reclaim it at some point and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Kobe Bryant on the team’s focus:

“I think what we have to do right now is just focus on execution. A lot of times what happens is you get so wrapped up in the length of the season and wanting to win a championship again that you overlook the small things. And I think that’s when the malaise sets in because you look at the length of the season and that takes its toll on you mentally, as opposed to just thinking about the next day and playing as hard as you can for that day. That’s the mentality that we have to have.”

On another post, Land O’ Lakers has post practice interviews from Kobe and PJ (the other videos were from after Tuesday night’s win). PJ answered questions about the Phoenix Suns and the Lakers P&R defense and Kobe commented, and agreed with, Lamar Odom’s soft aura statements:

Asked today about Odom’s comments, Kobe agreed. “I think teams are getting confidence seeing us struggling and obviously are getting more confidence in terms of how to be able to beat us, and things like that,” he said. “But it is what it is. It doesn’t matter.”

Not yet, at least. “When the playoffs come around and you’re playing well, you take that confidence from your opponent as the series goes on. So, that’s the most important thing, when the playoffs come around, we’re rolling.”

Bryant, unlike a portion of his team’s fan base, was far from panic mode– “You guys can worry all you want to. I really could care less,” he told the media with a smile– but when asked if the team was tightening up, he admitted it was a possibility: “It could be. I don’t know. This is the first time that most of the guys on this team have had to defend a championship, so, it might be.”

The Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog has a post about the Lakers rise in energy during yesterday’s practice. Basket Blog has a preview on tonight’s game against the Suns, which chronicles the three previous meetings against Phoenix. On the Dan Patrick show, Charles Barkley said that Kobe Bryant is not in the same league as Jordan when talking about the greatest player of all time, saying that some of his game winners were “lucky.”

Finally, we’re beginning and end ing with Derek Fisher. Silver Screen And Roll has a long, drawn out post trying to figure out whether Derek Fisher hurts the Lakers more on offense than on defense. I though the article was unfair, but you be the judge of that. The title is “Everything You Know About Derek Fisher Is Wrong,” but the article starts out like this.

Um, OK, so full disclosure: The title of this piece is a bit of hyperbole.  A more correct title would be “There’s a slight possibility that the order of importance you have assigned to the reasons why Derek Fisher shouldn’t be the starting point guard of a championship contender is a tad bit inaccurate”, but I think SB Nation has a word count limit on titles. Forgive my exaggeration, but hey, the flashy headline puts butts in the seats.

Everything you know about Derek Fisher is true.  You know he’s an extremely poor defender, on account of his being ancient in NBA terms.  You know he hasn’t shown the ability to shoot the ball well this year.  You know he’s considered a very good leader, and that the only viable explanation for his continuing to play a large role in the Lakers rotation is due to the experience and intangibles he brings to the team.  But it’s an accepted truth that Fisher’s biggest liability is on the defensive end, and I’m not so sure that’s true.  So, to aide me in re-aligning your perceptions, I’ve invited my good friends, advanced statistics, to help convince you that up is down, black is white, and Derek Fisher hurts the Lakers more on offense than on defense.


Phillip Barnett


to Around the World (Wide Web): The State Of The Lakers

  1. just a reminder, for the preview post later today, ol’ what’s his name has suggested that maybe we should give that first post thing a rest.


  2. Wow, rarely have I seen all those things (other than the Barkley comments) before they were linked to here

    And SSnR’s opinion about Fish coheres with the stats and my eyeballs so I don’t know how that’s unfair other than that maybe you just don’t want to see or hear Fish criticized.

    Even if you don’t think he “hurts” the offense or defense I do think he uh… helps defensively more than offensively.

    Fish jacking up a 3 when Gasol and Kobe had an advantage in the post on a crucial possession against the Raptors was pretty much the essence of what point SSnR was making. On top of that, Fish’s clutch play of the game involved getting a steal and two FTs (and luckily not a lay up attempt) so… yeah.

    Just a one game example of innumerable where the best things Fish brings is defensive awareness, hustle, and physicality (particularly in dealing with screens, something Farmar and especially Brown struggle with) even if he’s slow as molasses and the worst thing he brings are his attempts to score in “other ways” aside from spot up 3s to make up for his declining long range shooting or athleticism or whatever it is he’s compensating for. It’s almost never a good thing when he ventures inside the 3 point arc

    I think the section about our guard’s misuse of the shotclock is something that’s been an age-old complaint so I’m not sure if that’s exactly “unfair”, and he didn’t even mention the increase in stupid turn overs.


  3. Actually here’s what’s unfair about the Fish article:

    He isn’t starting because of “leadership” which is ridiculous (if that were the case wouldn’t he “lead” the bench when the starting unit already has Kobe and Pau?)

    He’s starting because that’s the best place to hide him (amongst the other starters) and because like it or not we truly need him. Farmar deserves more run but he’s not likely up to the task of too many more responsibilities. Although I’d be interested in seeing more minutes outside of his typical bench “change of pace” role that doesn’t come in crunch time when his mistakes make me want to pull my hair out.

    And Shannon isn’t the answer at PG either, I think we’ve all realized that. That is, unless he can develop a killer outside shot and some better defense and focuses on those two things instead of the long 2s early in the clock that Fish already kills us with, just less frequently.

    But I really don’t know how we can maintain that “the problem” is outside shooting (in terms of accuracy and selection) without that primarily falling on the shoulders of Fish and Kobe. We’ll live with it for Kobe more readily because he does so much for us, but Fish really really really needs to sort that issue out.


  4. Good roundup. The K Bros continue to do great work at their new blog. Fairness is definitely subjective, but what I liked about the Fisher article was that it showed me some numbers I hadn’t seen before (because I was too lazy to do the research). I wasn’t aware exactly how many shots he took at certain points in the shot clock, for example.

    As many have said before, what Fisher does is intangible, and I agree with some part of that. I think all that article’s showing is that if you do look at the tangible numbers, you can’t really say his ‘veteran experience’ is manifesting itself in shot selection. We’ve known that for a while, though; hence the PUJIT acronym.

    Is it my imagination or has Fisher’s shooting slightly improved over the last 1-2 months? I’m not sure if you can find a hotspots chart per month, but it seems like his 2-point % (in the games that I’ve watched) may have increased marginally. But I haven’t watched every single game.


  5. What a great time for this quick 3 game roadie. After the (gasp) 3 game losing streak and (gasp) last second shot by Kobe to stave off those pesky Raptors, our team finds itself at a true regular season crossroads. We have just over a month to go in the regular season and with several significant road games/trips left, this is where our Lakers will either bloom or wilt. I think we bloom. Confidence is like the first few specs of snow that band together on the side of a mountain. If the right shakeup occurs or if more snow bands together and they start rolling, watch out – you have an avelanche on your hand. Denve and Dallas are on our heals, but that shouldn’t matter. Winning tonight keeps the winning streak going and we can continue to build on the confidence. Winning on the road starts with not making a lot of mental mistakes (turnovers, poor shots, bad fouls). If we play the way we did in Orlando, we’ll be fine. If we play like we did in Charlotte, ummm…

    Go Lakers!


  6. Question…Would the lakers be better suited to go to a 3-2 matchup type zone to force a team from running pick and roll all day and exposing fish/farmar/brown & our bigs? I think I would do this. Thee old adage is take what the defense gives you right? So why give a team something you are not good at defending? Protect your weakness (POINT GUARDS)!!!!


  7. Just saw this posted by Kurt over at his new home, Pro Basketball Talk:


  8. If we’re going to talk about Fisher, let’s talk about what Kobe was (indirectly) saying about him. “This is the first time that most of the guys on this team have had to defend a championship”

    Fisher has been there before. He and Kobe are actually the only ones on the active roster who have, unless I remember completely wrong. To be honest, that’s the only reason I need to defend his place on the team.


  9. Game preview withdrawal!


  10. My main objection to the Fisher article is that it seems to take the approach that numbers which show Fish are bad (PER, eFG%, etc.) are clear proof, and numbers which might say something good about Fish (team defense rankings, opp’s shooting %, etc.) are clearly wrong (or show how the team carries Fish, or whatever). These things might be true, but it looks like there’s a lot of confirmation bias in the analysis.

    Bottom line, Fish isn’t getting minutes because he’s great, or because he’s flawless, but because he’s better than the alternatives. And he clearly brings some things to the court.

    Would the Lakers be better if they had spent some money on a better point guard? Maybe. Probably, even. But then they wouldn’t have some of the other assets they have (LO, probably Gasol or Bynum after this year). Another cheap veteran? Gary Payton didn’t exactly work out. But the trade deadline has passed, and this is the team we have.


  11. “However, as we saw yesterday, all of this talk is starting to wake the Lakers up.”

    Hate to keep harping on Phillip’s writing, but what evidence is there to support this statement? The fact that the players and coaches are talking more about staying focused, or this or that – none of that means anything.

    The last we saw of the Lakers had them heading to OT versus a lesser team at home, until Kobe bailed them out yet again.

    No one should put any weight in anything the players or coaches say about righting the ship. They know what they need to do, and now’s the time to do it. I’ll believe the “talk” awakened the Lakers when I see them start to beat good teams, play 48 minutes consistently and case to need Kobe’s heroics to topple non-contending squads like the Kings or Heat or Raptors.


  12. Chris J,
    I would say that the Lakers – with Odom’s and Fisher’s statements especially – are actually acknowledging what other teams’ mindsets are and how that is affecting them (the Lakers). So I think it’s very fair for Phillip to make the statement that he did. Earlier in the year all you heard was the Lakers talking about themselves and what they have to do. And while those types of comments are still littered throughout all of their recent statements, a lot of what’s being said is prefaced with what other teams are saying about them or acting towards them. This approach *is* different from the Lakers just because they’ve rarely spoken about anyone but themselves for the entire season.


  13. 8. Good point, let’s make a trade for Devean George while we’re at it

    11. “and numbers which might say something good about Fish (team defense rankings, opp’s shooting %, etc.) are clearly wrong (or show how the team carries Fish, or whatever).”

    Not true at all, the writer uses the team ratings to show that Fisher hurts the team less on defense than offense.

    His personal opponent against rating is absolutely abysmal.

    There is no NBA statistic that supports Derek Fisher being a good player, honestly. There are some that suggest he’s on a good team and I wouldn’t disagree. That’s why we’re sitting here talking about “intangibles”

    But there might be some stats backing up the theory that he’s better than his replacements Farmar and Shannon, which really kind of says more about the young guys than the old guy.

    I just want to know why, in order to appreciate the guy for what he’s still doing at his age, we have to be unrealistic about his current failings. If anything that just takes away from what he used to bring to the court in his prime if we pretend he hasn’t lost something or minimize the importance of those losses.


  14. @15/TheSTD said “There is no NBA statistic that supports Derek Fisher being a good player.” But there is. The Lakers are top 5 (or better) in every measure I’ve seen of team defense (usually top 3+, IIRC) and usually near the top of Hollinger’s team rankings. Oh yeah, and the second-best win-loss record in the league. Like it or not, Fisher is a big part of this year’s Lakers team.

    You can make the argument that the Lakers have achieved these results despite having Fish on the team. Or you can make the argument (as I have), that Fish brings still brings things to the table that help the team succeed, even as his skills fade.

    But what you *can’t* do is say that the statistics completely prove a point of view and then go on to argue against the statistics you don’t like.

    I think we all agree that Fisher isn’t playing great. But what bugs me even more than the unrelenting negativism around here is the absolutism, and this latest round of “this proves I was right all along” crowing is just ridiculous.


  15. Jerry Nussbaum March 12, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Farmar has really never been given the opportunity to make mistakes and continue to play. I can guarantee you if he played the 30 + minutes that Fisher plays, the point guard issue would be resolved.
    The only time in Farmars history that he started a game and played minutes was last years play-off game against Houston when Fisher was suspended.
    He scored 13 points, had 7 assists and held Brooks to a poor game. It was a huge win for the Lakers and it was on the road. He has never been given that chance since.
    Playing time and confidence makes and develops a player. ie: Darren Collison.


  16. 16. Those are team stats, not individual stats. Is Adam Morrison also a great defender because he’s on this team? Is Lou Amundson a great offensive player because he’s on the Suns?