A game with a little good and a lot of ugly last night – this time it was in Miami, and this time we didn’t win. I’m not at all surprised about losing to the Heat. We may not like it, but it’s hardly unexpected. The larger question mark, is the road itself. What little the Lakers have seen so far, hasn’t been encouraging – one win, five losses. They’re about to see a whole lot more. Out of the next 12 games, nine are away. It’ll be a tough, revealing three weeks. There’s a lot of food for thought today, from Coach Brown leaving his starters in to the bitter end against Miami, to the game ahead against the Magic.
Brian Kamenetzy, at ESPN’s Land O’Lakers: I realize the Lakers get virtually no practice time, so Mike Brown has to use games as his laboratory … but if ever there was a game to go full Popovitch and sit the starters down, this was it. There was absolutely no way the Lakers were going to make up the gap, and I don’t think full speed practice against an amped Miami team was going to help iron out the offensive kinks. Meanwhile, there’s another game tomorrow, and another following Sunday, both against playoff-caliber teams. Sit. Them. Down. What was gained in the fourth, other than a slightly tighter score?
Dexter Fishmore at Silver Screen and Roll: This was the game, I suspect, that could make Laker fans start to turn on Mike Brown. It’s not his fault that his team can’t shoot threes, but there are large problems with this Laker offense. For three quarters it lurched along well below a point per possession. The passing was slop, there was very little creative ball movement, and nobody on the Lakers seems to know what they’re supposed to do when a double-team arrives. The Heat didn’t even double that often, but it seemed like whenever they did the doubled-up Laker attempted a crap pass that got picked off. Even after the Lakers put up 31 points in the garbage-time fourth they just barely finished above a point per possession for the game. I get that the systems are new and practice time scarce, but 16 games into the season no team with the Lakers’ talent should be this bad at scoring
Eddy Rivera at Magic Basketball, did a three-on-three for tonight’s game against the Magic, with the Land O’Lakers’ Andy Kamenetzky, and our our own Darius and Phillip. Sample question, “why is Kobe Bryant using up so many possessions on offense?
Barnett: A lot of it has to do with his new found freedom without the constraints of the triangle. He’s handling the ball more because of the lack of point guard reliability, and Pau Gasol still hasn’t found his way in Mike Brown’s system. His ridiculous usage rate will be problematic in the offense’s development as the season progresses.
Kamenetzky: The pragmatist in me blames an early schedule allowing virtually no practices to learn a new system. Thus, as Mike Brown has noted, Kobe’s been summoned to keep a somewhat offensively-limited team afloat. The pessimist in me says Brown’s catering too much to 24, who’s already motivated to show up Father Time and any doubters. In reality, it’s probably a little of both.
Soriano: The answer to this is actually complex but in simplistic terms, he’s the only perimeter playmaker the Lakers have and remains their main scoring weapon. When a team is as reliant on one player to both score and set up his teammates as the Lakers are with Kobe, a high usage rate results.
Adrian Wojnarrowski at Yahoo Sports: When this 98-87 beating by the Heat was over on Thursday, Bryant had settled into something rarely seen in these circumstances. Something between resignation and exasperation. The offense feels like a mess because it is. These Lakers are fumbling for an identity with Mike Brown that isn’t there, waiting on their new coach to come to conclusions and push past the experimentation of too many games, too little practice time. This is a grind of a season for everyone. The sport is suffering with disjointed, choppy games hard on the eyes and soul. Everything feels like a fire drill. Bryant didn’t go back into American Airlines Arena and take more shots like a year ago. He wrapped his right hand in that big protective mitt for his wrist, and marched out of a loss that will linger with these Lakers.
Mark Medina at the L.A. Times, Lakers Now blog: Brown has clearly outlined that the Lakers’ offense rests on Bryant finding shots on the elbows and baseline, while Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum work the post. But his conflicting messages on Bryant’s shooting volume and the balance he wants on offense adds little clarity to an offense already without structure. Some might argue that the Lakers’ quest to continually tweak and fix things eventually will work out. The grinding mentality may at least ensure some wins no matter how ugly. And the Lakers’ hope to land Dwight Howard or Deron Williams before the trade deadline could make these concerns mute. But it’s also easy to see how this could mark the beginning of the Lakers’ flimsy foundation falling apart. In most cases, the Lakers at least embrace the intent behind the long practices. They remain patient with the shuffling lineups. And they’re eager to learn all the new information thrown their way. It won’t take long, however, for that enthusiasm to wane. Performances such as the Lakers’ loss to Miami will only accelerate that frustration even more.
Mark Travis at the Chase Down Block: It has been abundantly clear what Kapono’s role has been for Mike Brown: spread the floor. When the Lakers get into slumps offensively, specifically from the outside, Brown normally goes to Kapono to force the defense to play at least one of the Lakers perimeter players honestly. In theory, the career 44% three-point shooter should be able to keep defenders from collapsing on Los Angeles’ big men, but so far it has been the 2010-11 version of Kapono showing up for the Lakers. The one that played in just 24 games last season for the 76ers. The reason is quite simple: Kapono is a spot-up shooter at this stage in his career, but Lakers don’t give defenses any reasons to cheat off of Kapono. He is rarely in the game with both Bynum and Gasol, so on post-ups, defenses aren’t doubling with his man, they’re doubling with Troy Murphy or Josh McRobert’s defender. And when he’s in the game with Metta World Peace, defenses leave him on purpose to double team the Laker big men. Kapono can still knock down the spot up jumper – he’s shooting 44% on 18 spot-up chances this season – but 18 looks in 10 games is a very small number.
Mike Bresnahan, the L.A. Times: The Lakers’ locker room was quiet after the game, but there were fireworks at halftime, Coach Mike Brown loudly telling players to trust their defense.The problem, however, is the offense.”It’s under construction,” Bryant said dryly. “We’re still working on the blueprints, actually.” And that feels …? “Strange,” he said after so many seasons of the triangle offense. Remember Pau Gasol? He actually played well, following up his invisible eight-point game against Dallas with 26 against Miami. Andrew Bynum had 15 points but made only six of 13 shots. “When I get it, I’ve got to do something with it,” he said. “If I’m not doing anything, then they’re going to have to skip over [me].” Bynum played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter. The Lakers play in Orlando on Friday. “I wanted to see our guys fight,” Brown said. “I didn’t care what the score was at that point. They did [fight], so it’s a confidence-builder for me and hopefully it’s a confidence-builder for them too.” The Lakers shot 31% in the first half and trailed at the break, 52-37. “We normally play hard, but tonight just wasn’t one of those nights,” Bryant said. Or, as Bynum said, “It stinks, man. It stinks.”
The Lakers have not played an elite style of basketball this season. They have however, shown character. They’ve become a team that punches in the clinches, they play like journeymen on their own home court. Now, we get to find out if the road is the great equalizer, whether adversity will bring them closer together or as some seem to feel, if the foundation will start to crumble. As the saying goes, fasten your seat belts – we’re in for a bumpy ride.
- Dave Murphy