The Lakers have played a lot of games in a short period of time this season. This week brought a brief but welcome respite – they play the Phoenix Suns at Staples tonight, and will travel to play them again on Sunday. It’s an opportunity to further tighten what is already a bunched-up field in the west. And frankly, an opportunity to assuage some feelings of unease amongst the fan base. This has not been your usual season, by a long shot. Here’s a few articles to get you through the lunch hour, and perhaps beyond:
Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’Lakers: The organization just announced Devin Ebanks will be sent down to the L.A. Defenders, the Lakers D-League affiliate. Having not played since January 31, nor logged double digit minutes since January 13, this move hardly qualifies as a surprise. First and second year players are eligible for a stint in the “minors,” so to speak, and franchises typically like taking advantage of this opportunity with youngsters buried on the bench. (And for those wondering, Ebanks in the D-League DOES NOT open up a roster spot, so don’t treat this as a sign of a move in the works.) As a card carrying member of the “I don’t get why Ebanks can’t crack the rotation” club, I get whatever disappointment may be felt by those hoping he’d get a shot at improving a wildly inconsistent small forward tandem. Personally, I think Devin’s skill sets and athleticism provides a unique utility for the Lakers, and he started out the season looking pretty good before abruptly being removed from the rotation altogether. Plus, as one of the few young players on the roster — and at a position of weakness to boot — I think it would behoove the Lakers to figure out what they have in him moving forward.
Janis Carr, the OC Register: Lakers coach Mike Brown doesn’t believe the team needs an overhaul. Where others see 12 losses, the ever-optimistic coach sees 17 victories. Where some might see a lack of offensive production (the Lakers rank 24th in scoring despite having the league’s top scorer in Kobe Bryant), he sees defensive excellence (limiting teams to a third-best 45.3 shooting from the field.) While still others might hear grumblings, Brown resonates a calm. He and Metta World Peace settled their differences earlier this week after World Peace complained about the inconsistency in his playing time and the coach even complimented the forward after Thursday’s practice, saying his hard work is “starting to show.” But is Brown simply looking at the Lakers situation in purple-and-yellow hued glasses, or are they starting to show signs of improvement? Brown said the team has come a long way in short amount of time, given the fact the players had to learn a whole new system from a new coaching staff. “We have a better feel for where we are,” Brown said, adding that it understandably was going to take time to come together as a unit. “People don’t understand that. We don’t have the same team as we did last year,” he said “We’re going to struggle a little bit,” Brown said. “We’re going to get hit in the chin a little bit and we are going to have to withstand that. And if we can withstand that, we got plenty of good times in front of us.”
Matt Becker, Phoenix Suns, NBA.com: While the Lakers and Suns were known for their high-scoring ways over the past few seasons, neither has been prolific in 2011-12. Los Aneles is putting more of an emphasis on defense under new coach Mike Brown, allowing an average of 90.4 points – 5.0 fewer than last season. The Lakers held the Hawks to 34.4 percent shooting and improved to 13-1 when limiting opponents to 91 or fewer points. “On the defense end of the floor I thought that our guys were very active,” Brown said. “On the days when we don’t shoot well, that’s what’s going to help us win ball games, especially come playoff time in a seven-game series.” The Lakers completely frustrated Grant Hill in the first meeting, limiting him to five points and 1-of-12 shooting. He posted his lowedt field-goal percentage when attempting at least seven shots in his 17-year career. Controlling the boards has also been a big key for the Lakers, who are averaging 45.3 rebounds per game. Pau Gasol has 20 points and 13 rebounds against Atlanta, while Andrew Bynum had 15 points and 16 boards as Los Angeles finished with 52 rebounds. The Lakers dominated the glass in the first meeting of the season with the Suns, outrebounding them 49-35 with five players grabbing at least seven boards.
Actuarially Sound, Silver Screen and Roll: When Mike Brown took the position as the new head coach of the Los Angles Lakers, he knew full well what this team possessed in both strengths and weaknesses. His three stars in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Abndrew Bynum, have enough size and talent to contend with any other team’s best roster. But talent doesn’t always guarantee wins. If it did then LeBron James wouldn’t have the same number of championship rings as yours truly. Oftentimes match-ups can mean just as much, if not more, than pure ability on paper. The ten players on the court don’t operate in a vacuum but instead have interactions that bring out the best and worst in each other. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban uses statistical analysis to determine which combinations of players have the biggest positive and negative impacts on his team’s performance, and it helped the Mavs win a title when no one else gave them a chance. Coach Brown is a stats guy too, at least according to Metta World Peace. He has spent the beginning of this shortened season trying every combination of players to identify what works and what doesn’t. How many combinations has he tried? Only 163 different line-ups have been on the court for the Lakers this season. There are many different combinations of pieces that Brown can put on the floor, and as the minutes begin to accumulate, we are starting to put a few of the pieces together.
(make sure to click on the above link for the rest of the article – the side-by-side comparisons are well worth checking out – D.M.)
The nature of today’s media is that of the beast – the 24-hour news cycle feeds evermore on transience and instability. It is hungry and does not pause in its consumption – only when the table is laden with something especially timely does it linger, and sometimes in positive ways. The media’s obsession with Jeremy Lin comes from varied places, but there’s an inherent goodness to the story that jaded hunters can’t help but embrace – the underdog makes good. If you’re looking for any new Lakers trade-centric pieces, I didn’t spot anything substantive this morning, or at least that wasn’t day-old. That could certainly change.