The Lakers Just Aren’t Very Good Right Now

Darius Soriano —  April 1, 2010

[picappgallerysingle id=”7391138″]
Frustration reigns supreme right now.  Forget creeping in, doubt has overwhelmed the dam and flooded our minds.  I think even the most optimistic Laker fan is extremely concerned right now and those glass-half-empty folks are looking at free agency lists and scanning draft ratings to see who might be available when the Lakers pick in the 2nd round because this season might as well be over.   And while I think that’s taking things a bit far, when the Lakers play as poorly as they have over this extended stretch, I understand the sentiment.

I mean, why shouldn’t fans be worried?  Much earlier in the season, I compared this current Lakers outfit to the 2004 team that lost to the Pistons in the Finals.  I said that they were a collection of talent and had not yet played like a true team.  And while that would be enough on most nights, relying on isolation plays and individual ability would not be enough on others.  And at this point in the season, that really hasn’t changed.  This team is extremely talented.  Their top 5 players, when healthy, represent as talented a group of players that can be found across the entire league.  Plus, the versatility that allows them play multiple positions is almost unmatched and that strengthens every other part of our team because the coaches are almost always able to play 2-3 starting caliber players at the same time. 

But right now, this team isn’t healthy.  The Lakers’ already shallow depth is weakened.  No Bynum and no Walton (regardless of the short minutes that Luke’s asked to play) means that a monkey wrench is thrown into player rotations.  Suddenly Kobe or Shannon have to play a lot of minutes at SF behind Artest.  Powell and Mbenga, hard working players that I like, are then forced into duty as 8th or 9th players when they are really 11th or 12th men.  And the dominoes go from there.  You throw in the almost forgotten ailments that Kobe, LO, and Artest have been playing with for weeks (or months in Kobe’s case) and the ceiling for this team, right now, is lower than what it has been all season and their margin for error is thinner.  As presently constructed, this team doesn’t have the talent in players six through ten on the depth chart to make up for the aforementioned injuries.  This is only magnified if they’re not going to play with a team oriented attack.  Right now, things just aren’t looking up.

However, the key phrase in all this venting is “right now”.  Right now, the Lakers aren’t very good.  Right now the Lakers don’t have their full compliment of players.  Right now they’re faltering when we’d all like to see them peaking.  I’m not trying to explain away anything.  As I mentioned the other day, there is no switch to flip.  I don’t buy into that line of thinking.  But, what I do believe is what I’ve been saying for a while now – nothing has changed with this team.  And while that has negative connotations, it’s also something that I take solace in.  Why, because right now is not tomorrow.  The playoffs aren’t right now and the Lakers aren’t facing an elimination game.  Yes, time is short and of the essence.  But, if you want my honest opinion this is a bad stretch that the Lakers will come out of. 

Why do I believe that?  Because they’ve played better this season than they’re currently playing; they’ve proven that they’re better than this.  Does this mean they’ll walk to the Finals (and then to another title)?  Does it mean that they’ll suddenly turn it on when the playoffs start?  Does it mean the same problems – suspect offense, poor play at point guard, lack of outside shooting, etc – will suddenly no longer exist?  Of course the answers to those questions is no.  But, as I’ve said all season, to judge this team on its worst qualities is as big a mistake as ignoring the problems to begin with.  So, understand that right now is only right now.  Recent trends can predict future performance, but past performance is just as relevant.  I have faith that this team is good enough to win and, as was always going to be case, they’re going to have to prove it in the post season. 

It will take better execution.  And better teamwork.  More focussed game plans and adherence to them.  But why can’t that happen?  I’m not convinced it can’t even if there are obstacles in the way.  By no means am I trying to say that the sky is crystal clear with no clouds in sight.  I just don’t think it’s falling either.

Darius Soriano

Posts

58 responses to The Lakers Just Aren’t Very Good Right Now

  1. Maybe this has just been one big elaborate April fools joke that the Lakers are playing on us fans. Yeah, yeah… you know. Maybe Fisher can still hit open threes, our bench can really run the offense, Kobe can pull us out of tight games, and we can be an overall dominant team. Well, I guess we’ll find out tomorrow against Utah.

  2. I think getting Andrew back (assuming this isn’t the last few years and the real Andrew is coming back…) will really help the team. I mean they had the 6 game win streak prior to him going down, that should say a lot about his importance. Granted, the competition wasn’t overly tough, but it’s not like the Lakers have been super consistent over “lesser” opponents as of late.

    It’s a long season, I wish this stuff wasn’t still happening with a championship squad, but the Lakers are still in first place in a tough Western conference and still have the talent to make a serious run for a title.

  3. chicken and egg question to be sure, but how much of the lakers struggles are due to the fact that other teams seem to have figured out how to play them– specifically, pack the middle to crowd cutting and passing lanes, give up the outside shot to anyone not named kobe, and double pau hard in the post. add to this kobe’s rookie-like insistence on jumping in the air to look for the (cross-court) pass, farmar and shannon’s selfishness, and fish’s much-discussed decline, I think we’re in real trouble. I still think we may come out of the west, but I don’t see us matching up favorably against cle or orl.

  4. Funky Chicken April 1, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Darius, I wouldn’t say the sky is falling either, but I do think that problem is bigger than injuries. Until recently, the team had a healthy Bynum and (save 10 games at the start) Pau. Injuries to Kobe and Artest earlier in the season, which seem to have nagged them all year, make it all the more incredible that this team seems so unwilling to exploit its primary advantage in the low post. If anything, injured perimeter players ought to be MORE inclined to dump the ball down low and let the big guys do the work. That hasn’t happened (as recently as last night it didn’t happen).

    So, while I agree that injuries mess up rotations, and that is a big problem, I don’t think injuries alone can explain why this team plays a disjointed offensive style that fails to exploit its biggest strength, and for that reason the problem to me is a lot bigger. No, the sky isn’t falling, unless you define “sky” as the Lakers shot at winning the championship, in which case I think it can be fairly said that it has been falling all season long….

  5. Another issue, long term, is how small of a window of opportunity we have to win championships.

    Fisher will be retiring soon, if not this year, almost certainly in the next year or two, and Kobe cannot win a championship without him.

  6. >It will take better execution. And better teamwork. More focussed[sic] game plans and adherence to them. *But why can’t that happen?*

    here is, finally, the crux of the matter. those of us who have been in a sour mood (a funk?) since about mid-season have been anxiously awaiting the answers to this question. there has been little joy to be had in the trip from there to here, unless you really enjoy watching bad basketball, or enjoy watching some of the good young (but also flawed, at this point) talent on other teams. has it reached the point that we’ll have to depend mightily on those flaws to expect any kind of success in the upcoming playoffs? several people here have admitted to ‘checking out’ of the regular season (you know, just like the players) – see you in the playoffs.

    *this* is the attitude that disgusts me. I invest my time and interest in this team, and I damn sure have gotten little in return for much of this season.

  7. From the previous post:

    This is not the time to turn on the Lakers team and coaches. This is the time to show support. I like this team as it is right now. I like every player on this team–including Derek Fisher, Luke Walton, and anyone else anyone would attack. That doesn’t mean I agreed with every management decision on every player.

    I would have kept Turiaff–no matter what. I would have let Sasha go, and signed Mo Evans as a free agent instead. I would either have traded Lamar Odom or let him walk. I would have tried harder to sign Trevor. I would have tried harder to get Kurt Hinrich this mid season. I’m thrilled with everything else.

    Point is, no one agrees with every Laker decision every time. I now think that I was wrong about Lamar–but I’m still not 100% convinced. I think that we were very lucky to get Ron Artest–and it may well still pay off this season.

    As Laker fans, we need to keep in mind how much we don’t know about what is going on, and appreciate the great team we have right now. They’ve all been chosen for a reason; they’ve been together in the best of times. Let’s support them even if they lose–and thank them for all that they’ve done for us for almost three years.

    Let’s accept the journey–and see where it leads. If it leads to an NBA championship, be happy and grateful. If the Lakers don’t get through the first round of the playoffs–accept it. It happens.

  8. Darius, I think a distinction worth noting is that unlike last year, when the Lakers were struggling in the playoffs, and there was ample grounds to believe they’d pull through – having risen to the challenge in all of the big games, home and road, and locked down in second halves all season long – this year is the exact opposite.

    They have lost the big games, been especially weak on the road and rarely played a complete quarter, let alone a complete game.

    It’s the adage about a tiger not changing it’s stripes. Last year, that adage was a comforting truth. This year it’s a depressingly prophetic one.

    Mark

  9. 6. “*this* is the attitude that disgusts me. I invest my time and interest in this team, and I damn sure have gotten little in return for much of this season.”

    1. LOL
    2. Stop Watching and invest in the Cavs
    3. LOL

  10. And the next 4 games will be interesting: Utah, San Antonio, @ Denver and @ Minnie (back to back). I hope they get back to playing better defense – it will certainly help the offense.

  11. As long as Bynum comes back healthy for the playoffs I have a feeling this team might go on a 2001 like post-season run. I couldn’t agree more with Darius. How the team is playing right now has almost nothing to do with how they will play in the playoffs. Just like how the Lakers dominated in the first part of the year has had zero effect on how they are playing now. Yesterdays successes or failures have little to do with tomorrow. I wish it were the case… then Derek Fisher would still be able to shoot.

  12. i’m going to assume most of you that are complaining haven’t been basketball fans for a very long time. in the 30 seasons I’ve been following the Lakers, there isn’t one of them that hasn’t had some lapses at some point in the season…please remember this is a team not only trying to repeat, their trying to get there for a 3rd time..and let me tell you folks, that’s not easy to do!!
    So everyone please take a deep breath and have a little faith in our team..the playoffs are a whole different animal to deal with. and I guarantee you most teams don’t want to face our Lakers in a 7 game series.

  13. j.d. Hastings April 1, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    I don’t think whether I show support or gripe will ultimately affect how this team performs.

  14. 12, nor whether or not you post here.

  15. j.d. Hastings April 1, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    13- Probably true.

  16. They play a disjointed offense because too often Kobe doesn’t play the offense. For whatever reason, Phil has never been able to get Kobe to buy into it completely. It is inevitable that when the leader does that, no matter how great a player he is, it will filter down to the rest of the team, in varying degrees. That’s human nature.

  17. 11
    Thanks, Bynumite,

    Dwyer obviously saw some of the same things we all saw when Kobe was out, but has expressed it better than I’ve seen before.

  18. I think its prudent not to expect anything to change about the team and its play as of right now and pretty much the rest of the seven games remaining on the schedule. The regular season complacency bug has infected every player on the team including Phil.

    Deep down I am feeling a lot of anxiety about the way the team is approching the situation at hand. But on the other hand its only the small things(hustling, urgency, unselfishness) during the games that this talented group has to correct that could make them winners of it all.

    So here lies the thin line between hope and doom. I am going to toe the line of hope and have faith that a team minus Artest and WOW have played together for three years and knows what it takes to bring it home in June.

  19. j.d. Hastings April 1, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I just checked out some of the posts from this site from early April 2007. It made me feel a lot better about now.

  20. Well there is one thing we still haven’t tried-
    Bench Fisher.

    Not only has he been the worst statistical starter in the entire league this year, right now he is playing worse than ever.

    I know people are sick of hearing about Fisher, but when his production levels are starting to reach unbelievably bad levels I’d say we have the right to complain incessantly until something finally changes.

    The old “we have no one else” excuse just isn’t going to cut it. Statistically Farmar has been much better this year. It’s long past time to give him a chance to start and see what happens.

  21. I believe the Lakers will play 7 more games and then play some more in the playoffs. They may win or lose,

    They will get paid millions of dollars as will Phil and Buss will make millions more.

    Their life’s will go on and we will be left without those millions and probably posting and yelling for the next year.

    We are like that tree in the forest that falls but no one is there to hear the noise.

    Another words we seem to care way more then they do and they are being paid and we aren;t.

  22. Dwyer said it very well. That is the biggest factor that is holding this roster/”era” back from being one of the all-time great teams.

  23. So, let’s assume that, for a moment, Dwyer is correct and that the biggest thing that can happen to help the Lakers win a championship is for Kobe to conform to the offense and make a more serious commitment to the ball movement and player movement the offense dictates.

    Does Phil have the ability to elicit this response from Kobe? I say elicit because Phil is a clever guy, and I’m sure it won’t be as simple as a straightforward conversation. Is Kobe ready to hear it?

    Re: Fisher. It’s time to stop the attacks. His deficiencies and eroding skills are well documented. I’d just ask the bashers out there to consider this: He was well into the backup 15-20 minute phase of his career two years BEFORE we reacquired him. The plan clearly was to have a nice transition between him and Farmar, but Jordan has not seized the role with any sort of force or indisputable evidence. Phil has to choose between the mentally toughest player, the best athlete (ShanWow), and the most skilled (Farmar), and most of the time he’s going with Fisher. From his point of view, can you blame him? Watching Fisher saddens me now the way it must have saddened my Dad to watch Willie Mays play too long. But Fisher has no control over how much playing time he gets (Phil’s call), the inconsistencies of his fellow guards (in Farmar and Brown’s hands), or the lack of availiability of better options (In Mitch’s hands). He’s doing the best he can out there, and that’s all you can ask.

    Also, I warn the Bynum fans out there not to put too many eggs into his basket. this is a player that is now working on his 4th straight incomplete season due to injury. Assuming that he’ll solve everything (and that he’ll make it through four playoff rounds) is a bit of a reach, though I hope it happens.

    Finally, I keep hearing about all this talent and versatility that the Lakers have with their top 5 players, and how nobody has a five with more talent. This seems irrelevant since those 5 are NEVER on the floor together. We cannot find a 5 man unit that plays with anywhere near the efficiency of Cleveland or Orlando’s best five unit, though our most talented 5 may be more talented than those teams’ most talented five. to me, this is the biggest obstacle to a repeat title. We need to find a 5 man unit that functions the best collectively, and commit to it for the majority of the minutes and the ends of games. Does anybody out there think we could make a Kobe, Artest, Lamar, Pau, and Bynum unit work? What does that do to the bench? Would love to hear thoughts and suggestions on this.

  24. I agree that things are not looking good – but if PJ leaves things can always get worse. What happens if they hire Dunleavy?!?!?!

  25. Vahagn Mkhikian April 1, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Lots of Laker fans talk about our perimeter problems, and outside of Kobe, EVERYONE on our team is a perimeter problem. We could trade our entire backcourt (outside of kobe), get Steph Curry, and we’d be up on top. That’s not right. There’s no way FOUR players on a championship squad should ever be worth a pretty good rookie, but that’s what this has come down to. I feel like the bigger problem though, is our bigs. We talk about how Pau is being fronted down low….SOOOOO?? This is why he’s soft. When Kobe’s fronted down low, he fights for position. When Pau is fronted down low, he holds his hand up waiting for a lob pass over the defender. The team gets sick of trying and swing it around the perimeter. Pau needs to be more aggressive. If he’s fronted, he needs to circle around his defender and pin the defender behind him. And on pick and rolls, the bigs need to show and recover. I feel like they refuse to show because they 1) either feel like it will be a large waste of energy to show and recover or 2) they don’t think they can recover in time. Against the Hawks there was a play where Joe Johnson got a screen on the arc, Kobe got rubbed out from the screen and JJ shot an open 3. Kobe looked back to Pau and Pau was BELOW THE FT LINE IN THE KEY. What the heck is Pau trying to do? I get it, you’re trying to stop penetration by packing in the paint, but you dont’ stay 12 feet behind a top 5 SG in the game on an open 3. Surely enough, Kobe was pissed. I feel like whenever Kobe runs a pick and roll he either has to split the defenders or dribble around the big men that ALWAYS show. As much as we all like to talk against Fish, let’s face it. NO ONE can do much when they’re screened off. Fish needs his bigs to show and give him enough time to recover. If nothing else this will burn 5-6 seconds off the shot clock and prevent an open drive or a shot.

    Our defensive rotations are lazy right now. Pau and Bynum NEVER DRAW CHARGES and rarely contest shots when their initial rotation makes a pass

    blah…I’m just frustrated

  26. *I agree on most of what RJ said.

    *One of the reasons I mentioned the 2004 team is because for long stretches of this season, teamwork within the Triangle has been absent. That’s why, speaking to RJ’s point, I don’t really care to see a line up with our top 5 players, what I want is for the 5 players on the court to play better together. One of the benefits of the Triangle is that top heavy teams like ours should function just as well (or better, really) than teams that have more evened out talent because the the system generates good looks for all players based off the movement of the ball and players making the right reads with both their passes and their cuts.

    *Building off of that, I agree with Kelly Dwyer, but only to a point. I also agree with exhelodrvr (#17), but only to a point. The reason being is that Kobe is only one player. He’s very important, but he’s only one guy. Every player, save for Artest, Ammo and Shannon Brown, have been in this system for more than 2 seasons. They should know the offense. They should know the reads and the cuts and how to get good shots and they should act accordingly. Earlier this season, Phil made a poignant comment that I don’t think gets enough replay when he was discussing the offense and Kobe. He basically said that the players need to have the confidence to 1). go away from Kobe even when he’s calling for the ball but 2). they better do something worthwhile with the ball and not just pull some BS that doesn’t lead to anything good. I think this is an often overlooked statement about the Lakers offense. Yes, Kobe calls for the ball and yes Kobe shoots a lot and yes Kobe breaks the offense. So? Don’t pass him the ball and run the offense yourself. You know the sets. You know how to put the ball in the basket. Do I get frustrated with Kobe at times? You #!%^* bet. But I get even more frustrated when I see players slow up and just give up the ball and bend to his will. Earlier this season when LO and Artest (?) had a really good game, Kobe said something along the lines of “it’s about #$!*% time…stop waiting on me to bail you out….I’m going to get mine”.

    Sometimes, I feel like the other players just don’t get it. I think our guards don’t mind shooting but they don’t run the offense to get their shots. They just fire away and take bad shots (especially Farmar and Brown; Fisher is just missing and is forcing way fewer shots than those other two). And I feel like Artest defers to Kobe way too much and his offensive aggression has been pretty much absent for the entire year. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Artest had some of his most fluid games on offense in the stretch where Kobe was out. He was passing and moving and he and Odom showed a real chemistry (Queensbridge!). Watch him closely now when he shares the court with Kobe – he looks for him (or Pau) on almost every possession and no longer drives the ball or takes tough shots in isolation. Look, it’s not like I want the ball stopping Artest that I was fearful of when we first got him, but he’s got talent – he should be more aggressive regardless of who he’s on the court with.

    Anyways, that’s why I do see what exhelodrvr and Dwyer are saying and I think their points are valid. And Kobe is the leader he should lead. But we run an equal opportunity offense – we should, you know, run it. I can almost guarantee that Kobe would not mind being frozen out of several possessions straight if the rest of the guys ran the offense and got good shots. But, I can also guarantee that when Shannon goes between his legs 5 times and shoots a jumper or Farmar comes up court and shoots a PUJIT or Pau get the ball at the mid post and everyone just stands around and watches as he tries to create for himself from 15 feet out that it bugs the hell out of him (Kobe). Obviously I’m not in his head and I hate when writers say things like “he’s thinking this” but Kobe’s pretty much admitted that he wants players to run the offense and he wants them to be aggressive. At this point, I think they just need to do it.

  27. I have a funny feeling with this team. Either 1 of 2 things is going to happen:

    1) We lose in the first or second round of the playoffs.

    2) We win another title.

    In fact, i really think that it is going to be the 1st round that we lose. But if we make it past the 2nd round, you heard it here first, we are going to win it all.

  28. To RJ. You have just nailed it on every point. Been a out of control fan for 40 years and I can’t remember many saying it are well as you just did.

    Can you see if you can get the players to read it. Might wake them up.

    They are a good team, but not nearly as good as the media painted them and no where close to as good as they think they are.

    When I watch Cleveland, Dallas and even Utah pass and cut and run pick and rolls I see a real teamwork which we seldom see with this years team.

  29. Do you think there are some internal problems with this team right now? I mean, you dont see the same ‘fire’ and ‘togetherness’ that this team had the previous seasons, and the ‘sasha’ thing that surfaced yesterday may just be the tip of the iceberg.

  30. How can the players not understand what they are suppose to do within the offense, with the exception of Artest. So it must fall on the coaching staff letting the guards shoot PUJITS, fall away jumpers and no repricusions for their actions unless your name is Sasha.

    Is Kobe the Chief or is PJ, who is allowing the Indians to run the reservation.

  31. Dirty, you don’t feel that, just maybe, Jordan’s status as a reserve, and lately general lack of PT is a ‘repercussion’ for his actions? most recently, Shannon is the 1st G off the bench, but what other choice is there? I suppose PJ could hand out fines or demerits..

  32. Several years ago I used to work with the Raiders when they were last in LA. The mangement would walk around with the Al Davis mind set “The best franchise in sports”. They were not as good as they thought back then and have become one of the worst in sports.

    The point is you can fool yourself for just so long but reality can not be fooled. This team needs to play 100% every game if they are to win it all. They are not as good as they think and really do remind me of the team that lost to Detroit.

    Reading about how good you are is nothing like being as good as you can be.

    Its time to earn your pay Phil and take control of ALL the players on this team.

  33. 33. No because the message is not being heard. Its a case of I hear what somebody says, but am I truly listening. Whether the lack of playing time was at the beginning of the year or now, their brains seem to be continuiously on autopilot. As somebody posted earlier, LA seems to be getting worse as the season goes along, not improving as their time on the court together increases.

  34. I’m on both sides of the fence regarding the lakers recent struggles and what their struggles mean for the futures. I do believe that the lakers will still make the finals regardless of how they end the playoffs because of a guy name Kobe Bryant. Say what you what but the guy steps up in the playoffs. People really don’t realize how he basically single handedly took them to the finals 2 years ago as Pau was just decent. If Bynum returns within the next week, he’ll actually dominate in the wc playoffs against any team the lakers face.

    But as far as their struggles now, its not just the triangle offense. Its their defense. Their defense has been just as inconsistent as their offense. They have way too many defensive breakdowns and they foul too much.

    But back to their offense. Players need to make individual adjustments just as much as they need to run the triangle better. Because lets face it they lakers are not going to run the triangle for all 100 possessions. First, Lamar is not playing around the basket enough. He’s floating around the perimeter where he’s least effective. Lamar is best when he around the basket (not just driving to the basket) because he’s an underrated scorer with his back to the basket and he’s a great offensive rebounder and can get a lot of garbage points. In Lamar’s best two games on the road trip he only shot 8-18 and 7-16 thats because he takes way too many perimeter shots. 8-18 he was was 2-7 out of the paint and 6-11 inside. In the OKC game 1-4 outside the paint 6-12 inside. In the game versus Houston he took all but 1 of his shots inside the paint and collected 4 offensive rebounds. Good things happen when Lamar is inside the paint and active. Phil allows lamar to just wander around the perimeter way too much.

    Secondly, Pau still needs to be more decisive and more aggressive when he gets the ball. He needs to be more aggressive especially when the guards aren’t knocking down shots. Pau looked tentative whenever the bigger Zaza entered the game in Atlanta and was tentative against Duncan as well (but he did play really good defensive in that game).

    Then when the bench comes in, Shannon Brown should never bring the ball up court and initiate the offense. Pau should not be setting screens for shannon when shannon has the ball. Shannon should be only a spot up shooter. Nothing more unless he’s in the open court. Just look at the shots he makes and the ones he misses next game.

    I thinks that has been the big difference between last season and this season. The lakers still won games when the offensive wasn’t clicking. This year when the offense isn’t clicking they lose unless kobe bails them out. The lakers need to take pride in their game individually as much as they need to collectively.

  35. >So it must fall on the coaching staff letting the guards shoot PUJITS, fall away jumpers and no repricusions[sic] for their actions unless your name is Sasha.

    I’m going to ask again, since your previous seemed a bit tautological: what do you suggest that the coaches (particularly PJ) do at this juncture?

  36. There is no answer to the problem this late in the season as far as punishment for bad play. The trade deadline has already passed, that would have been sufficient punishment for me. When your backup point guard cant take D. Fish starting job away. That is a problem that had to be rectified sooner than later.

  37. And it’s nice to know that Artest and Odom hosted a party at an Atl club Tuesday night. Artest had an okay game but was a step slow on defense after the first quarter and Lamar hand a nice night with missing 6 of 9 shots with 3 turnovers.

    Its one thing to have an off night, but the lakers don’t have the intensity and focus they should have this late in the season. Thats why they aren’t just having a bad game here and there, they are getting blown out every other night.

  38. 28, Darius, I disagree that the solution to the stagnancy of the offense would be to go away from Kobe and run the offense through the outlets. The offense is specifically designed such that the entry pass into the post is the position that leads to the best possible scoring opportunity; it is the first option because it is the best option. Telling our guys to go away from Kobe is like cutting off their natural shooting hand and telling them to shoot with the other. If the problem is offensive stagnancy, then the problem is Kobe; there’s no getting around that. Sure, the other players may not be running the triangle to perfection (Jordan and Shannon certainly over-dribble, a lot), but no one stops the ball more than Kobe. Once Kobe receives the ball in the post, the defense knows what’s going to happen: he’s either going to take a difficult shot, or he’s going to attempt a half-drive and do a jump pass across the court. Neither of these are truly the best option out of that set.

    In the end, the team does need to learn how to go away from Kobe in the offense. But, Kobe needs to stop stopping the ball, considering he is the primary option. We managed to win last year despite the fact that Kobe still played “his way;” we may not be so fortunate this year.

  39. Zephid,
    I don’t mean that Kobe should be ignored, I mean that Kobe should not be relied upon as heavily as he is. Obviously he’s the focal point of our offense, but he’s a threat off the ball too.

    And stagnancy is a problem that is not solely defined as stopping of the ball. It’s the lack of movement off the ball as well as players needlessly deferring and then standing and watching. One of Phil’s complaints – going back to the Kwame/Smush years – is the team “leaving Kobe on an island”. That means they give him the ball and expect him to create. Now, I understand that this works both ways – Kobe calls for the ball and proceeds to work in isolation *but* players pass him the ball and stand around. It’s different sides of the same coin.

    I agree that Kobe can be better at running our sets. But I watch the games, and for weeks now (really since the win against Denver) Kobe has been playing a style where he is looking to set up his teammates more. The fact is, that the players are still deferring too much to him, imo. But, what I was saying earlier (in reiterating what Phil has said before) still stands that the players need to be able to go away from Kobe, but they need to run the offense when they do. The Triangle, when run properly, will find the player that has the open shot. The ball just moves. Kobe is a willing passer, but too often he’s directing traffic – especially when off the ball – and players just do exactly what he says. Directing traffic when you’re not the initiator/ball handler is not the best way to run our offense. Sure, Shaq got away with it because he was Shaq (probably the most dominant post player since Wilt – even above Jabbar whose hook shot was dominant but not in a truly traditional low post way).

    I’ve said this before in other places, but for running a read and react system, the Lakers sure do make up their minds early in possessions where they want to go with the ball. Now, that can be useful and rational (i.e. we want to get Pau/Kobe/Bynum a shot this time down), but for the most part you want the natural flow of our sets or how the defense responds to also be a variable in where the ball goes. It’s why I’m saying that we can go away from Kobe more. We can run our sets better. Even if the ball ends up in Kobe’s hands, the likelihood that it comes from better ball movement and creates a better shot is a lot higher if he’s not always the guy saying “pass there, move there, look I’m here, pass it to me”. He can move off the ball, he can be the guy that works the offense from other places. This was the gist of what Dwyer was saying too, but his teammates have to do better if he’s really going to be able to play like this. It’s why I said that I agree with KD, but only to a point. It’s everyone, because in the same way that we call out Kobe (which, I admit is valid) his teammates can’t get a pass for not committing themselves to what it takes to actually do the right things too. The only guy’s that ever even challenge Kobe are Fisher and Gasol. Everyone needs to do it – but to do it, they need to do what’s right themselves and then it will have meaning and matter. The reason why Pau can say the things that he says is because he’s making the right reads and moving the ball. (Then fans complain that he needs to be better if he’s going to complain about how the offense is run, but that’s a whole other story.)

  40. Change in priorities April 1, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    22 – I think you have it totally correct and wish that we could change the culture of this country. Sports is great for entertainment but it has reached a point of pure insanity.

    Paying kids who are 19, 20 years old, millions of dollars because they have the talent to play a game is asinine. What’s really lame is that you don’t necessarily have to have a ton of talent – you just have to be tall!! Granted, most of these guys have practiced nearly their entire life to get to this stage – but does it warrant this kind of salary?

    Meanwhile, many players are more concerned about partying and living it up at the Playboy mansion – while us fans are blogging for hours on end trying to figure things out – what’s going on, how can this be fixed, etc… and the players don’t give a crap. They’re going to make their millions – they really don’t care what we think. Do you honestly think that DFish reads this crap about him on blogs and cries himself to sleep? Heck no – he’s got too much character. It’s a job he knows he’s blessed to have. He does the best he can and then he spends time with his family while his bank account soars. We are the ones who are all upset and in arms and it all doesn’t matter one bit.

    Actually it’s pretty sad. This country needs to start rewarding kids for their scholastic achievements (besides scholarships). There needs to be a greater incentives to reward children and adults to pursue endeavors that will benefit society.

    Don’t get me wrong – I like to watch sports and play sports – it just seems like our world’s priorities are really screwed up.

  41. thisisweaksauce April 2, 2010 at 1:08 am

    Darius, agreed. When one of our main options (Kobe, Pau, Drew) has the ball there is TOO MUCH standing around. I get so frustrated when I see it. They are willing to pass if their teammates are moving around: how many times have seen Kobe or Pau pass to a cutting Shannon right under the basket? They need to stop watching the ball on offense. They need to make meaningful cuts.

  42. Wow, what a comment thread here today, good input Darius. Yeah, I remember when Kobe was out, how the triangle seemed to click because the players could not defer to him and have him bail them out. I understand how Kobe must be frustrated when the guards (everyone not named KB24) shoot and just keep missing, nothing but bricks, night after night. Especially from downtown, even short corner 3’s miss with regularity it seems like, and this has been happening all season long.
    The upcoming games are no cakewalk either, but we do not need them to all be wins to keep the Western HCF.

  43. This is just not a championship-worthy team right now. These are “Lackers”. They lack pride and honor to compete at the highest level.

    Kobe and Phil are secretly hoping to loose somewhere during the western conference play-offs, so they don’t have to face Cavs with LeBron and Shaq. Because deep inside, Kobe knows LeBron has surpassed him as the best player. Even more disturbing would be if Shaq had won the championship against Kobe and Lakers, he would take this opportunity to rip everyone in the Lakers’ organization, including the Buss family. So it is almost easier for Kobe and Phil to tank right now, and loose before they reach the finals.

    Mitch should have traded Bynum to get some real players before the whole league finds out he is the well-skilled version of Elden Campell. Heck, Elden was more durable.

    Lakers fans need to stop this Fisher-bashing. This guy had given all he got to help Lakers win championships. It is Lakers’ management problem that they could not get a worthy replacement for Fisher before his game declined.

    Pau needs to be reminded about his past play-off history. While he is complaining about lack of touches, and how the offense runs better through him. Just ask this: “How many play-off games has he won before he had Kobe playing alongside?” If he can be the focal point of an offense, the Grizz would have at least won a game or two in the play-offs when he was at Memphis.

    Of course, the “Lackers”might get a lucky break, somehow Cavs get beat by Magic again, then they still have a shot at winning it all

  44. As much as the actual execution of the offense, what worries me is the Lakers’ continued mediocrity from the outside. The last 2 games are a perfect example. How many times did Kobe and Pau suck the defense inside and kick the ball out, leading (directly or indirectly) to wide open jumpers? (There’s a reason they took 29 3s against the Hornets – most of them were unguarded.) Yet somehow the Lakers – apart from Kobe – managed to shoot 11 of 41 from beyond the arc in those 2 games.

    Right now, every single long-range threat on the roster is a streaky shooter at best. This has been a concern ever since last season, when Radmanovic was traded and Sasha went into the tank. Fortunately, Odom, Ariza, and Brown all shot remarkably well from downtown in the playoffs. I wouldn’t want to bank on something like that happening again.

    Whether they run the triangle consistently and with purpose, or they fall back on simple pick-and-rolls, drive-and-kicks, or post isolations, open shots will be there. Even the most unimaginative offense will create those looks with Kobe and Pau on the floor. Right now the constant masonry we’re seeing is allowing teams to sink into the paint, with is a major problem when all of your top 5 guys like to post up. It’s screwing up so much of what the Lakers want to do on offense – allowing teams to swarm Kobe and Pau in the post, forcing Artest to finish in traffic (always an adventure), etc.

  45. What I find frustrating is that Kobe would actually be more effective moving without the ball, making the defense follow him. It’s much more difficult to double someone who is doing that, which results in easier shots for Kobe. And more layups/dunks when someone doubles him at the last second. He doesn’t have the quickness anymore to get past defenders off the dribble like he used to.

  46. 44, watching Artest finish in traffic is so unintentionally goofy, I think it’s hilarious to watch, even if it isn’t so effective, basketball-wise.

    41, Darius, I agree that Kobe-watching is probably a bigger problem than Kobe-hogging. I don’t see why our guys can’t set a high screen and get at least one player cutting toward the basket. At least that way, we’ll probably have someone near the hoop when Kobe jacks up an off-balance, fading jumper with a hand in his face.

    Right now, all I’m worried about is staying ahead of Orlando in the HCA standings. After winning last night, they’re only 1 game behind us, and their schedule is a cakewalk. They have games against the Wizards, Knicks, Pacers, and Sixers, mixed in with a couple of possible losses @San Antonio and vs. Memphis and a monolithic playoff-preview battle @Cleveland. Comparatively, we have Utah, SAN, Denver, MIN, Portland, SAC, and the Clippers.

    Assuming Orlando beats all their cupcakes, loses to one of SAN and Memphis, and loses to Cleveland, they’ll finish at 58-24, with a conference record of 38-14. We’re currently at 54-21 with a conference record of 32-13. If we tie Orlando in the loss column (meaning three losses), we’ll move on to tie-breakers. However, we split the season series with Orlando 1-1, and three losses to West teams implies our conference record will be worse than Orlando’s, giving the Magic HCA in any potential Finals match-up. Thus, we can afford at most 2 losses in the remainder of the schedule.

  47. While I agree that there isn’t necessarily a switch that can be flipped as per the team as a whole, I think that there is a switch that can be flipped with regards to kobe. As a lot of people have noted, Kobe hasn’t been running the triangle as often or as effectively as he did last year. There are many reasons for his that have already been pointed out, so I won’t go into that, but I do think that Kobe has the ability to flip a switch and start playing the kind of smart ball that we saw last year. Kobe seems a little too eager to look for his shot this year, to me, but I think we can all look back at those series in phoenix where Kobe seemed to flip a switch and play team ball by looking for teammates and he brought us to the brink of a huge upset over the suns. In that way, I feel that Kobe can start to play much smarter, particularly on the offensive end.

  48. albert,
    The problem with that, though, is that not everyone else can instantly react to the “triangle” Kobe.

  49. A new post is up. I’m sure Phillip is not alone on this one: He doesn’t like the Jazz. He’s got some morning links too.

    http://www.forumblueandgold.com/2010/04/02/i-am-not-a-fan-of-the-jazz/

  50. Albert,

    How many playoff series did Kobe win after shaq left and before pau got there?

    ————

    Offense is key. Triangle is a great offense to run. It’s on everyone on this team to realize that. And the responsibility, sadly enough, is on Kobe. He’s the man. He’s the guy that gets the credit, the glory, and he should also get his share of the blame. It does start with him, and if that goes, then the rest of the team goes.

    Sacrifice for the good of the team to get championships. If that’s all he cares about, then he needs to see it. I really am not trying to “bash” Kobe, but there’s no one else on the team that can make those changes besides him. So for all the glory he gets, he also deserves the blame. But if we can get the damn offense clicking, the Lakers will go deep in the playoffs.

  51. >But if we can get the damn offense clicking..

    but, see, that’s what is so hard to be hopeful about; because it hasn’t done so for almost all of this season. I know, I know, 54 wins. but add up the cupcakes and the 6 (or is it 7) Kobe saves and it doesn’t look even that rosy.

  52. I do not feel that the issue is with Kobe, Fisher or Artest. All three of these guys have league leading +/- stats this year. The issue to me is with their subs.

    Farmar and Brown have lost all their confidence since the all star break and Artest does not have a backup. With Andrew out and Lamar starting the bench doesn’t have a single difference maker. Not even an energy guy that comes in and makes big hustle plays.

    For the regular season this is disastrous, but fortunately in the playoffs this will not matter quite as much. I think it will come down to Kobe, Pau, Lamar and Artest and I think these guys will be ready.

    I still think the Lakers have the best matchup against any team in the league with their starting five, especially if Andrew can return healthy.

  53. @ #52, how many of those series SHOULD he have won? none of them. and he certainly exceeded my expectations in those first round series with the suns. and yes, I realize that not everyone will instantly know how to react to the changed Kobe, which is why I’m hoping that Kobe starts to shift his focus more towards that during the last few games of the season.

  54. @anonymous:

    I have always felt that the triangle is a bit of a myth. The only teams to run it successfully had the two best isolation players in the history of the game on top of being completely stacked.

    The stretch when Kobe went down was way too small to judge much of anything around. No teams had any tape or knew what to expect out of that lineup.

    Kobe is having another legendary season despite many injuries. He is not part of the problems in my opinion.

  55. 37 tsuwm.

    Used the word “tautological” damn that’s a PRO commenter right there. My faith in the Laker fan base has been restored.

  56. albert,

    who cares how many he SHOULD have won. he didnt win until pau got here. I don’t care about “should”. He didn’t win. he needs pau just as much as pau needs kobe.

    and regarding the triangle, how can it be a myth? there’s a load of evidence that shows that the triangle has been successful. Yes, they had the two best iso players, but MJ, especially his last three years (i dont count Washington, do you?) he ran the triangle as the main post guy and did it very well. And they moved the ball, the offense moved. It doesn’t matter how many shots he takes, so long as it comes from the offense.

    It can’t be a myth if it has won 10 championships since 1991.