Crowded Up Front

Zephid —  November 29, 2012

Over the past few games, the Lakers play has been extraordinarily up and down.  Seemingly shifting overnight from blowouts to getting blown out, the Lakers play has been nothing if not inconsistent.  Part of this surely has to be blamed on the firing of Mike Brown after 5 games, the hiring of Mike D’Antoni, and thus the introduction of a completely new offensive system.  This change has come with the re-surfacing of many old questions, many specifically centered around whether the Lakers have the personnel to maximize this system, particularly the Lakers can find a way to make their frontcourt rotation work.

The following is an exercise to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each of our four front court bigs: Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, and Antawn Jamison (talk of playing Jamison at the 3 is strictly forbidden).  In order to truly maximize this team’s potential, finding a balanced way to utilize each of these players properly will be key.

Pau has certainly had a very inconsistent season.  Basically becoming this year’s Lamar Odom, Pau is now regularly derided for his poor performances (by me included), and has had many of his good performances swept away as things that “should” happen. He is currently sporting career lows in points, field goal percentage, and PER, even lower than his rookie year.  Having to share the front court and thus low post time with Dwight Howard certainly hasn’t helped, but Gasol has been able to work with guys like Odom and Bynum in the past to great, championship-level success.  However, both Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni have yet to figure out a way get that same production out of Pau.  Maybe he’s over the hill; maybe his bout with tendinitis is truly what’s hurting his game.  Either way, things are not going well for Gasol.

Gasol is clearly weakened on defense by his knees; he doesn’t have the lateral movement he used to, so recovering on pick and rolls and recovering on guys who face up, make a move, and pull-up for jumpers has been hard on him.  Playing at the 4 alongside Howard has forced Gasol to guard smaller, quicker guys like Zach Randolph and David West, against whom he has had little success.

On offense, Gasol has mostly been relegated to a mid-range jumper shooter, because teams are sagging into Dwight’s lap and following Kobe off picks, leaving Gasol wide open at 18-20 feet.  When Gasol has hit from that range, the team has been unstoppable.  The problem is Gasol has not been hitting from that range, to the tune of 40% from 16-23 feet.  He has struggled basically from all ranges except at the rim, where he is shooting nearly a career high.

Gasol must play closer to the rim: His lateral movement isn’t quick enough to guard quick 4’s, and his outside shot isn’t falling, so he needs to start creating from the post.

Jordan Hill was one of the league leaders in offensive rebound percentage and had the 3rd highest PER on the team up until a couple of games ago, when Mike D’Antoni took over and Jordan Hill basically entered the dog house.  Hill’s skill set is one predicated on effort and energy, and in a system where spacing and putting the ball in the basket is at a premium, Hill’s talents have gone under-utilized.  What Hill lacks is an ability to create his own shot, and he feeds off other players bringing unbalance to the court to take advantage of offensive rebound opportunities.  Bringing him out on pick and rolls hasn’t helped, as his love of 20 footers is clearly unrequited, and his abilities as a roll-man are not as developed as a guy like Dwight’s.

Hill must play closer to the rim with a shot creator whom he can play off of: Pulling Hill away from rim has hurt his value, which is crashing the boards, and he can’t be expected to create his own shot with the 2nd unit.

Antawn Jamison has also had a tumultuous season, going from barely an NBA player to a Sixth Man of the Year candidate seemingly over night (a poor performance against Indiana, notwithstanding).  While his offense has not been up to par, his defense has been a pleasant surprise.  Once touted as the worst defensive player in the league, he has stood his ground against guys like Zach Randolph and David West, which is no small feat.  Jamison sports some of the weirdest post moves in the league, but they are amazingly effective.  He is also one of the few Lakers who can create his own shot consistently, while also being a great off-ball cutter to create easy baskets.  To take advantage of these, however, he needs to play at the 4 and not be forced to stay on the perimeter.  He has been at his best when he has attacked the basket instead of settling for threes.

Jamison must be played at the 4, and be utilized as a shot creator and facilitator of the offense.

And of course, there’s Dwight Howard; the superman, the superstar, the future of our team.  His physical skills are dominating; his presence, undeniable.  His recovery from back surgery, however, has led many of us to speculate that we’ve only seen 80% of Dwight, even though that 80% has been quite good.  Dwight, however, has disappeared in too many games, too often being ignored on the post in favor of Kobe-Pau PNRs. For one of the most devastating pick-and-roll roll men in the league, it is a travesty that Howard has not been used to set the picks in these sets.  He is also effective in the post, but he needs space to use his physical gifts to get past his man in order to score on his own.

Dwight must be used in pick and rolls as the pick-setter, and he needs to be surrounded by shooters when the primary option on offense.

Following these four themes, a few things seems clear.

1.) Pau and Dwight should be switching roles on offense.  Pau has been the pick-setter, Dwight has been the post guy in 90% of the PNRs the Lakers have run this season.  Pau has been terrible from mid-range, and not using Dwight in the pick and roll has neutered so much of his effectiveness that he has disappeared for long stretches in games on offense.  So, why not switch the two?  Why not bring Dwight out to set the pick, and allow Pau to operate closer to the basket?  If the ball doesn’t go to Dwight, it can swing around to the weak side for a Pau post-up, allowing one of the best post operators in the league to facilitate from a position closer to the basket.

2.) Jamison and Hill need each other.  Jamison has been horrible from three point land this season.  He is currently shooting 26% from three, and being relegated to the perimeter has destroyed his effectiveness.  When Jamison has attacked from the 4 position, he has been able to consistently beat his man and get into the paint for easy scores on his crazy scoop shots, or kicked out to shooters. Hill, on the other hand, needs someone with him who can create shots for offensive rebound opportunities.  While he will hopefully see better results when Nash returns, putting Hill in with Jamison can allow Jamison to be the shot creator, and Hill can be there to follow the shot.  Jamison has shown himself to be an adequate defender at the 4, and Hill’s defensive energy and recovery in the PNR is the 2nd best on the team to Dwight.

3.) Jamison should never ever ever ever ever ever ever play at the 3.  If Jamison is at the 3, that means that 2 of Pau, Dwight, and Hill are in the game.  Each of these players need to play close to the rim and needs spacing to operate most effectively.  Jamison, sadly, does not provide spacing, at all.  Plus, having two other bigs in the game cuts off all of Jamison’s ability to attack the basket from the perimeter by clogging the lane, removing the strongest part of his game.  On the flip side, if 2 of Pau, Dwight, and Hill are in the game, they need to be surround by 3 excellent shooters to space the floor properly, and right now that isn’t happening with Jamison at the 3.

4.) Dwight should be the guy who plays with the bench, not Pau.  The 4th quarter unit of Dwight, Jamison, MWP, Meeks, and Duhon crushed it in both Dallas and served to make the game competitive against Memphis.  With Dwight attacking in the post, MWP, Meeks, and Duhon were able to get several wide open threes, bringing it within 4 against Memphis.  Meanwhile, Pau’s tendinitis gives good reason to play Pau less minutes.

5.) Steve Nash really will make everything better.  What are the problems? Pau isn’t getting touches close to the basket.  Dwight isn’t being used as a roll man in PNR.  Jordan Hill needs someone to set him up on offense.  Jamison needs to be getting the ball in a position to attack.  All of them need spacing on the perimeter to operate most effectively.  Steve Nash does all of these things, and well.  While it seems like every time he seems near to returning, it gets pushed back, if having a weaker November means having a stronger May, I think the Lakers will take it.

Follow me on Twitter @ZephidFB_G.

Zephid

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52 responses to Crowded Up Front

  1. Unfortunately I’ve seen little evidence that Pau can score in the post one on one against a set defense. He also doesn’t seem to be the same offensive rebounder he used to be. I think if the tedinitis is a real issue he should be resting. If it’s his natural decline then our best hope is for him to knock down open jumpers and be the decision maker off PNR’s. Either way Jordan Hill and Meeks (in a MWP-4 small ball lineup) should be playing more to occupy Pau’s minutes at PF.

  2. Zephid – I appreciate your write up. Everything you say about Pau’s effectiveness in terms of shooting percentage and rebounding increasing as he gets closer to the rim is true. In between the lines you are saying what most of us already know: Pau is better suited as a center and not as a power forward. Unfortunately, we already have a center and a pretty good one at that.

    My fear is that by making adjustments to accommodate Pau we will move Dwight out of his comfort zone and jeopardize his resigning at year’s end. If the FO believes that Dwight is the new core then maybe they should look to move Pau for a piece/pieces that fit better with D’Antoni’s philosophy. Pau’s performance this year has been pretty ordinary but I sense that whomever trades for him will move him to the center position where Pau’s numbers should improve dramatically.

    I have a question for others. I have read that Bargnani has worn out his welcome in Toronto. Would he be a good fit for the Lakers? He’s a stretch four and has young legs. Not making a trade proposal but I’d be curious to hear comments about how Andrea’s skill set works with Kobe, Dwight and Nash.

  3. I completely agree with pretty much everything you broke down here. Great write up.

  4. the other Stephen November 29, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    thanks for the excellent post, zephid.

  5. The Lakers have like 37 assistant coaches. Zephid, you available or maybe you’re thinking of joining Messina and Snyder in Moscow? All your points seem supportable and sensible.

    On the defensive end, I also think getting Dwight to cover 4s when Pau is on the court will be useful, at least until (if ever) Pau’s knees recover. I realize it takes our best defender, and rim protecter, away from the critical area of defense, but Dwight’s mobility should mitigate that along with Pau remaining pretty capable of defending the cup. Dwight’s hands are fantastic as well, and should be disruptive further away from the rim. These were all reasons I was excited about getting Dwight when he first became available. With Pau there, I think Dwight’s mobility, instinct and help would sharpen up the defense in general.

  6. Don, I agree. I don’t think Pau should be the primary option in the post; we should not expect Pau to be a scoring machine the way he was 2-3 years ago. He can, however, be the focal point, and if our guys make smart cuts and play with energy, Pau is the best guy to be able to find them in a position to succeed. It’s not just his scoring, it’s his ability to facilitate. Whether he can really do it with the tendinitis has yet to be seen, but I think we’ve already seen how much he has struggled out on the perimeter.

    Leo, I don’t think Dwight will be uncomfortable in the PNR. He is a beast when setting picks and rolling.

    And about trading Pau, Darius and I have had a lengthy discussion about how a good trade of Pau for pieces just does not exist. Bargnani+Calderon is just not a good trade; anyone who has watched the Raptors at all can see that. Every other trade has huge money issues, or involves taking on a contract worse than Gasol’s (think Stoudemire). We’re much better off sticking with Pau and trying to make this work, because the trade options just aren’t there. Maybe Mitch can pull magic out of his ass like he has in the past, but we can’t expect that every time.

  7. In response to Leo’s question: I travel on business frequently to Toronto. As a result I have seen Bargnani a number of times in person. I like him a lot. He does have some issues that are likely not to change. He’s not a great rebounder or defender. I will say he moves really well (when healthy) and should be a better defender than he is.

    He is a great offensive weapon and has range out to the 3 point line. On a team with Dwight Howard and playing with Steve Nash he would fit in easily. He would be like a taller version of Shawn Marion in the old Phoenix offense ran by Nash.

    We’re not allowed to speculate on trades so I can’t comment on how Andrea finds his way to the Lakers – although we can assume who would be involved in any such deal.

  8. Pau should spend more time in the weight room in the off season and forget about playing year ’round.

    Too late to do anything about that now of course.

  9. At least we don’t have to deal with the ‘drew watch anymore.

    Will he or won’t he? Can or can’t he?

    Somebody else’s problem now …

  10. I think the suggestions above are all sensible and easily tried. However, I’m starting to wonder if Pau shouldn’t follow in Lamar’s footsteps in a way besides being terribly inconsistent and not living up to his potential. By that, I mean perhaps he should become a reserve.

    I was very vocal in opposing the idea last season that Sessions should be moved to the bench even though his speed and style seemed to fit better with the bench players, primarily because I felt like the Lakers starting 5 wasn’t talented enough to put their best (by far) PG in a reserve role. Moving Pau to the bench, I think, is not quite the same.

    For starters, given the way Pau is playing (both in terms of offensive stats, defensive ability, and floor spacing), I think it is at the very least arguable that Jamison (as a starter) could produce comparable numbers to what Pau is doing. Jamison has obviously struggled in his bench role so far, but he is better suited to shooting the shots that Pau currently gets, and would be a more comfortable fit alongside Dwight than Pau seems to be–particularly if Nash ever comes back.

    Moreover, Pau (in a reserve role) is likely to be FAR more productive than what we’ve seen from Jamison to date. Pau could be the leader of the 2nd unit, and a focal point of the offense, where he would be the low post presence that he needs to be, and would be nicely paired with the more rugged & physical Jordan Hill.

    This approach, as opposed to keeping Pau in the starting lineup would probably lighten the load on Pau considerably, helping his knees and probably allowing him greater comfort in demanding the ball and taking shots than he is when playing alongside Dwight & Kobe. If it worked, it would have the effect of improving both the starting unit and the bench, all without making any hasty trades….

    Just a thought….

  11. Great Post!

    This team would be more effective with Pau playing 25 min a night, And can someone please show Pau how to help the helper!

  12. It seems Lakers have been dealing with Pau needs to be utilized more in the post for 3 years now. This will never happen with Dwight and not in D’Antoni’s offense because he feels “the post up is the least efficient play in basketball.” His talents fit well on many teams including this one because of his high IQ and passing skills from the high post. But his days as the premier low post player we’ve come to know are over not because he’s suddenly lost that skill but because Pau exclusively plays PF now. Time to get players who better fit the system D’Antoni wants to run to maximize the opportunity for a title. The way the roster is set with the offense it runs isn’t going to get it done.

  13. I completely disagree that a good trade for Pau does not exist. There are plenty of starting PFs in the league who would be a better fit than Pau in D’Antoni’s system. In fact, most of the starting SFs are better fits to play PF on this team than Pau. That’s a pretty large pool to choose from. This team needs a PF who can run with Nash and Dwight…….one who runs back, hedges and recovers quickly on defense……and one who can spread the floor, preferably out to the 3 point line. Pau does none of these things well. I can’t think of many PFs who do all three well, but there are plenty of PFs and SFs who can do a couple of these thngs well. DAntoni has a poor history of adjusting to his roster, so it’s up to Mitch to adjust the roster to fit DAnotni’s system….and I believe he will.

  14. Great post. I have also been wondering recently why the coach plays Pau and Dwight against their best talents: Dwight is the best roll man in the league, and Pau is a post player, but he has them reversed. Very interesting point by Leo, though. If the goal of this less-optimal setup is about making Dwight feel like he’s the man so he’ll re-sign, then at least there is a logic behind it I guess.

  15. “The problem is Gasol has not been hitting from that range, to the tune of 40% from 16-23 feet.”

    The team would be happy if he could put up 40% from 16-23. Kobe’s last four (4) seasons from that range (not this season, but the four (4) prior seasons): 41, 38, 41, 42. Where Pau is hurting is at 3-9 and 10-15, with his FG% at 22.9 and 22.2, respectively. Beyond that, as related in that SI piece, and I’m glad that someone besides me read piece, but Pau went from 1.6, 2.0 and 1.6 FGA per game from 16-23 in the 3 Finals appearances seasons, to 4.1 last season and now 5.5 so far this season. Another interesting item is FGA:

    4.2 + 3.2 + 2.1 + 4.1 + 0.4 = 14 FGA
    3.2 + 2.5 + 0.6 + 5.5 + 0.4 = 12.2 FGA

    BR has it as 14.1 and 12.1. So that’s 2 FGA less per game as well. So no surprise that he isn’t scoring as in days of yore, since he went from 1.6, 2.0 and 1.6 all the way up to 5.5 from 16-23, and add on the 2 FGA less per game as well as the abysmal FG% from 3-9 and 10-15. Your guess, everyone’s guess is as good as mine when it comes to comprehending how he goes from 40% from 16-23 down to an abysmal 22.9 and 22.2 from 3-9 and 10-15 feet, especially considering that last season was 46.4 and 43.4 from those ranges (i.e., not only is the current roughly half his usual from those distances, but the math usually works as FG% goes up the closer one gets to the rim)(so the 3-9 is particularly incomprehensible). Perhaps it is his knees, though, since I would imagine that the shots from 16-23 are likely to be less contested, more open looks, than the 3-9 and the 10-15. He may have a problem getting separation and so is forced to alter his shot, may not be getting the desired lift, etc.

    That said still an inefficient use of him out at 16-23 feet. Was inefficient last season as well. I can see the 1.6, 2.0 and 1.6 going up to, say, 3 to 3.5, but 4.1 is a bit much and 5.5 simply jumps the shark (as it were).

    Glad you also mentioned the PnR and the failure to use the same. Howard on the PnR with Pau down low would work. So would, as I said two threads ago, running some sets out of a double low post. If anyone cares to observe, simply watch McHale coached teams. Ole Kevin has not forgotten his days with Parish and Bird and so his teams prefer the double low post and the high screen PnR. If Dwight ever resumes his former athleticism, the double low post especially works, as Dwight would be free for the lob if his man goes to help on Pau and Dwight would otherwise be in good position to rebound and put back any Gasol miss.

    Lastly, here’s the one part that I entirely disagree with:

    “…there’s Dwight Howard; the superman, the superstar, the future of our team.”

    He’s no Shaq. No Hakeem. No Bird. No MJ. No Kobe. Likely never will be. And what I mean by that is that both he and Shaq average(d) around 10 FT per game. But whereas Shaq went for 18-21 FGA per game, Dwight’s highest, last two seasons, is 13.4 FGA per game. MJ was 22.0 FGA per game. Kobe is at 19.5. Bird was 19.3. Back to Shaq , he ended at 16.3, but that’s largely owing to his last six (6) seasons wherein his high FGA per game was 11.2 And Hakeem went for 17.2 FGA per game, but as par for the course, during his heyday, was the same 18-21 FGA per game as with Shaq. So one and all get my point, if you take Shaq’s FG% of .570 (.582 career, but that was upped by those years wherein he took less but higher quality shots), the extra 4.6 to 7.6 FGA per game works out to 5.244 to 8.644 more points per game. And that’s why Shaq was and is “Superman” (recall the emblem or logo on his shower door at home) and Dwight is not even his shadow.

    And that’s related not to dis Dwight, but simply for expectation correction purposes. He won’t be the primo supremo guy so long as he is down at 13.4 FGA per game. That’s Kevin McHale territory (even with adjusting the FGA in light of the FTA). Good enough for the HOF if everything else is all good, but you’re going to need Larry Bird going for 19-20 FGA a game if you want to be champion. Same as with Shaq, same as with Kobe, same as with MJ, same as with Hakeem. I was thinking, and Darius, please indulge the speculation, but I was thinking more along the lines of Lebron opts out and becomes a Laker and it is Lebron as Batman and Dwight as Robin, or LeBron is Captain America and Dwight is the Falcon. And let LeBron put up the 18-20 FGA per game.

    Almost forgot, but correct expectation re Hill also has merit. Sure, he rebounds, but so could A.C. Green, and Hill ain’t no A.C. Green (since at least A.C. could score on the break, on the put back, and on the occasional jumper as well, whereas Hill seems to have trouble doing all of those). Oh, and re lineups, since I did speak to double low post, I’d like to see a double low post scheme with Dwight and Pau down low, Kobe at SF, and Nash and Meeks at G. Call it the double low post with 3 shooters and perhaps the best baseline roamer (Kobe) in the game (sorry to have to have Kobe as the SF in such a scheme, but the thought of MWP as the baseline roamer simply isn’t all that appealing). And as we all know, they can run the double low post with the PnR, and make our lovable Celt, Kevin McHale, seethe with envy and jealousy.

  16. Zephid: I like much of what you wrote. Steve Nash, our trainers, and a little luck are responsible for #5. Who is responsible to make sure some of 1-4 actually happen? : ) These type of suggested changes in some cases appear obvious, and this reminds me of similar suggestions that were made during the Mike Brown era. I thought we had a guy we were paying to come up with stuff like this, and then more importantly – implement it. Forget Mike Brown and forget Phil Jackson. Let’s just focus on Mike D’Antoni. I know it needs some time, however as you state, he has not done anything to help Pau’s performance, and he has put one of our supposed good bench players in the “dog house”. He has also done little to improve Jamison’s performance (save 1 game), not significantly helped our minutes situation, and not improved our results. I guess what he has done is what all of us are doing and that is to hope that Nash comes back soon, and clearly he is not hoping hard enough as that date is not known. I called this the best roster in the league – and I do not have too much to claim I am correct right now. Many on this board stated that Phil would only take over a championship roster, and he wanted this, so he clearly thought this was a great roster. The press thought this was a great roster. Are all of these people wrong (easy to believe in my case)? Or perhaps they are correct and the coaching, the systems, and the dysfunctional family are causing the whole to be less than the sum of the parts. Or perhaps as others think, we just need to be patient, limp through the regular season, and become the first 7 seed in history to win the NBA championship. Keep repeating this to yourself until you believe it: Teams sleep walk though the regular season all the time and then go on to win the title. Just make sure you are applying the statement to ice hockey and not basketball.

  17. D’Antoni has said that he’s not even going to start *practicing* (insert Iverson voice) most of the plays he’s going to inculcate until ‘the Steves’ come back. With that in mind….

    According to an SI article this summer:

    1. Nash is the best PNR PG in the league in terms of his own shooting percentage and overall FG% off of the play (either his or the roll man, if one of them ends up shooting)

    2. Dwight was the best PNR finisher in the league. I can’t remember the FG%, but it was something completely insane, perhaps north of 73 percent (!)… and that was with Jameer Nelson (!!!!) as the PG.

    3 Jodie Meeks had the highest 2PT and 3PT FG% in the league when he shot out of someone else’s PNR (i.e., when the ball was kicked to the open shooter out of the PNR).

    That’s three of the very top PNR players in the league, and we’re not even mentioning Kobe.

    This, specifically, is why I think D’Antoni was hired over PJ and I am convinced we will see tons of this action – a gluttonous feast of it! – once Nash gets back. You will also notice that making DH the roll man naturally creates space for Pau to play closer to the basket, almost as if he is the 5 and Dwight the 4. It also allows DH to explode to the basket rather than playing with his back to the basket like some kind of ersatz Diesel.

    I had the misfortune of attending the Pacers game, which briefly led me to swear off Lakers games forever, but with a little distance from that atrocity, I think we’re going to be a very good team once Nash has a couple of weeks under his belt.

  18. You should explore the idea of Pau guarding the opposing C instead of Dwight so Dwight can match the speed that is killing Pau!

  19. lil pau: I like the optimism. I have a less optimistic post waiting for approval. A couple of things:
    1) Define Very Good : ) We make the playoffs? Or are we then one of the top 3?
    2) How to you avoid having your comments go into approval? I thought I knew the tricks, but you are obviously the master : )

  20. 1/2decaf1/2regular November 29, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    i have to agree there has to be a monumental improvement to the lakers offense once nash returns.. d’antonis offense is PG centric and they are currently operating with 2 below average PGs who just combined to shoot 0-9 FG 1 pt 3 assts in 46 minutes last game. even blake should provide a huge lift at this point.

  21. I totally agree to what you have written Zephid with regards to Pau although I’m more convinced that he would be the 6th man Center rather than a starter. I think Hill and Dwight are good combinations on the starting line up, although Hill is not the type of player in Coach D’Antoni’s rotation because he’s more of a post player than an uptempo. Pau should really be near the post just like what his favorite position in Memphis. Lakers are not utilizing his height and pivot hook shots if he’s shooting 20 ft away from the basket. If he misses those shots, there is one less rebound available because Pau is away from the basket. Another point to be considered, Pau has a better FT% than Howard, therefore if he’s in the post, he would be going to the foul line more than residing on the outside of shaded lane.

    What I noticed also when Pau tries to trap the PG or any ball handler through double teaming, many times the double teaming is ineffective and leave somebody open with those useless lateral motions. As you indicated deemed he is slow in lateral movement. That’s how West got a lot of free shots or Hill of Pacers got away from Pau because he was late in the umbrella coverage with Howard. They should apply what they used to do before with Bynum and Pau where there are double coverage in blocking shots, if Howard or Hill are the PF’s it will first pass thru them before getting to Pau. I think he would be more effective in delayed blocking than meeting the attacking player.

    Well, Coach D’Antoni’s games are more concentrated on offense. The offense that I saw where mostly outside shooting, so far only Kobe deemed to be the most effective outside shooter. Because of his effectiveness I’m also discourage when I see that he’s doing all the shots and the ball is always in his hands. Of course, you can fault him if his teammates are not making any of their shots and he wants a W. My suggestion to run and gun offense is to go to the hoop whether your name is Duhon or Morris or Jamison try to go nearer the basket as mid jump shot or lay up. Howard or Hill will be there to clean up what is missed. If they go for outside shooting, it will be long rebound and chances are, a defensive transition headache as well.

    Last but not the least, Howard’s bad free throws is so contagious that Morris, MWP are fast catching up with the disease. Whatever offense you could think of, if Howard free throws are stuck at 40%, he becomes an island out there, they can’t pass the ball through him because he will be fouled and that pass becomes missed free throws.

  22. On the plus side – lakers defence despite the losses – is still ranked 4-5 in league. Take away the brutal unforced turnovers and the Lakers are in good condition on that side. but yeah, until Nash is back and some stability takes place on the offensive side – its gonna still be ugly at times. Dwights issues w free throws are starting to get to him – he’s getting testy when asked – plus knowing that him shooting so far below 50% from the line some games has cost the Lakers a win – the pressure must be building a bit.

  23. Every year that Steve Blake has been with the Lakers he’s been injured. Either he is injury prone, or he is not in good shape. Blake stepping on a spike in the garage is akin to Radmanovic going snowboarding and getting injured…boneheaded.

    I for one am fatigued with waiting for Steve Blake to: a) Come off injury list or b) Get in game shape. Add insult to injury Ramon Sessions is playing very confidently with the Bobcats, he would have been a good player in the D’Antoni system.

    Darius Morris has hit the wall. He was bound to hit the wall a little sooner than most players because he plays full court defense. He may get his legs back under him this season but I would not count on it.

    Hill has lost his confidence, he is not playing with energy anywhere near what he did when he played for Mike Brown.

    Kobe will keep shooting the ball if no one else on that team steps up. But, what I don’t get is why Kobe is not acknowledging how he is alienating Howard by not getting him involved in the offense. Kobe should go back to the formula the Lakers utilized with Shaq. Let Howard take over in the first half and Kobe take over in the second half or depending on the opponent vice versa.

    Kobe cannot expend this much energy scoring in a losing cause this early in the season, as he will be ineffective in the latter parts of this season.

    D’Anotoni has to play Ebanks to inject some energy and floor running into the offense, or else send him down to the D-league he’s not going to improve sitting on the bench.

  24. Is Dwight a prototypical D’Antoni center? His past centers have all had the ability to shoot off the PnP. Except for Shaq and Chandler and we all saw how bad Chandler looked this past Olympics. Shaq was getting fed by a prime Nash so it’s unlikely that production replicates itself. Pau may not be the only cog in this offense.

    Pau has similar talents to Amare and Lee. I don’t think we’ve seen a player like Dwight thrive offensively in this system.

  25. Well this is an interesting new debate on the limits of the commissioner’s power. Not sure yet where I stand on this, but even if I were to side with Stern (ugh) I don’t see what precedent Stern could use to punish the Spurs for a move they appear well within their rights to have pulled off.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/spurs-playing-without-4-regulars-001405051–nba.html

  26. @Kevin_ just think of dwight as the aggressive, athletic player that amare used to be, thats exactly how they’ll use him. Amare shot 15’s because he could and it kept him from getting tangled up against bigger centers/front lines (Amare was never much for contact). In this case, all pnr action between Nash and Dwight will be with Dwight moving towards the hoop – not popping out – the pnr sets they run won’t put Dwight out on an island. Dwight can take everything to the hoop because he is big and athletic enough to force his way to the hoop in a way that Amare couldn’t (Amare was never much for contact) plus he’s a much more competent rebounder and won’t give up on misses. plus given the talent on the Lakers, Dwight will almost always be going to the hoop w the one on one advantage as no one will be able to help without leaving Kobe, Pau, or Artest.

    The beauty of Nash being back and running high pnrs with Dwight – is that Pau moves closer to hoop where he is back to a more natural position.

  27. And D’Antonis two centers were basically Amare and Kurt thomas – Amare is what he is – and Kurt had no offensive capability other than to set a hard screen then shoot an 8-15 fter lol. Mike D just played the guys he had on his roster for better or worse.

  28. @Robert:

    How good? I think, barring injury, we’ll be the favorites in the WC Finals regardless of our opponent (Memphis might be the toughest for us matchup-wise)… and it doesn’t matter to me so much what our record is going in. This is from an avowed pessimist, Lakers and otherwise.

    As to your other question, I’ve had plenty of comments held in moderation, including some that were incredibly brief and not containing any conceivable objectionable content. It’s like pulling the handle on a slot machine sometimes….

  29. Will be funny see what Stern thinks if Spurs actually end up beating the Heat without key starters.

    Commissioner has no business meddling into a head coach’s thought process, talk about heavy handed tactics.

    It’s actually fascinating watching this ball game.

  30. Jerke: Nash/Amare PnR was devastating for so long because Amare’s superb rolling skills and ability to pop out for the jumper. Same thing with Marion and Diaw. Dwight is only going one way and that’s to the hoop. It’s much easier to gameplan for if you know the screener is going to be rolling 100% of the time and your helping off a career 23% 3pt shooter. Not saying it won’t work but there’s hurdles. And the post was directed in the area Robert was going and some have said D’Antoni has to make adjustments with this current roster. Or build a phx suns roster to better fit the system.

  31. Kevin: “Time to get players who better fit the system D’Antoni wants to run ”
    I thought the theory was that D’Antoni was a good fit for our personnel? Are you saying we broke the bank on the roster, then we get D’Antoni, and that forces another roster makeover?

  32. @pinch – It does come across heavy handed right now, but the issue i think they’re trying to prevent down the road is intentional tanking come march/april. If pop is allowed to say “my guys have played too many games and I’m willing to lose this game” whats to stop the bottom feeders in the league to do the same thing in order to gain more ping pong balls. If they allow Pop to do this now, then they have to allow it later in the year and it sucks. Plus Sterns pissed that this is a marquee matchup and pop turned it into a farce. i’d be pissed if I was travelling to miami – bought tickets for what I thought would be a great game – only to find out that Pop is tanking it and sent Tim D, Parker, and Manu home..

  33. So now Stern is going to do “something” because Pop sent his starting lineup home?

    The guy keeps jumping the shark, over and over. Maybe the commish should approve ALL starting lineups, in advance.

    Sheesh.

  34. Robert: possibly or the coach has to tweak some things. Nash won’t fix all problems. The only way to improve may be through trade. Can’t keep fooling ourselves the team is 7-8 with the same problems as the last few years. How to get Pau more post touches? How to improve the bench? How do lakers combat with faster teams?

  35. Jerke – Your points are well taken.

    I’m coming from a persceptive of extreme Stern fatigue and wish he would just … go away.

  36. I can’t seen how this isn’t a slippery slope for Stern. So what’s the rule going forward: the usual starters always have to start? or 4 out of 5 of them at least? what if Pop pulled the starters after 10 minutes and kept them out for the rest of the game? What if he played them 5 minutes each half? What is acceptable and what isn’t? What should (but won’t) be the solution: shorten the season or reduce the # of playoff teams. You’ll note this isn’t a problem in the NFL….

  37. @Jerke

    The funny thing is, it has actually been a good game. Heat barely beating the Spurs.

  38. can you imagine the lakers resting kobe, pau, MWP, Howard in a game against miami? yeah we would get destroyed. Thats the difference between the lakers and every other contender. They have good benches and we have players who miss wide open 3s.

  39. Gah. I hate to say this, but…. I kind of agree with David Stern on this one. This is bad for the league. Whether or not the Spurs win is beside the point. This is about the integrity of the game and about the Spurs/Heat fans that don’t get to see 3 of the best players in the league. I can tell you that I would be ticked off if I bought tickets to a game expecting to see Kobe, Nash, and Howard, but didn’t get to see them play because D’Antoni decided to rest them….

    Pau? He could do well from the bench if D’Antoni has the courage to sit him. I’m partial to seeing him spread his wings for another team that could use one of the best post players in the game. There just doesn’t seem to be enough post touches to go around in Mike D’s offense. Who knows though…maybe we will see a new wrinkle.

  40. The Spurs are 13-4 including 9-2 on the road. Their 3 leading scorers are 36,35, and 30 years old. Our three leading scorers are 35, 34, and 26. Yet we are 7-8, and known as old and slow. What’s up with that?

  41. I would love it if the SAS management refused any fines and went to court against Stern about who controls the starting lineup of any team. Stern couldn’t afford to lose any court fight because…
    1) It would severely reduce the power of the commissioner and call into question anything not specifically covered in the CBA.
    2) It would be a final ‘black eye’ for a man wanting to retire as ‘god’.

  42. @ Robert — Spurs kept the same great coach and the same great players. We dumped our weirdo coach and revamped half our roster. We’re being victimized by adjustment period woes. And there are 29 teams I can name that want to take advantage of that.

    As much as I love Pau, wish that he will be a Laker until he retires, and think that he will never get as much love from us as he deserves, I can’t help but be a little envious of Golden State whenever I watch David Lee play.

  43. I agree with this entire post. To the Lakers fans who want to trade Pau and think there are options for the Lakers: do you really think there are many teams trying to get their hands on a 32 year guy who makes 19$ million a year? There may be better fits for the lakers than Pau, but how are the Lakers going to convince these other teams to take pau? I love pau personally and think he can turn it around. The guy needs the ball in the post. The SI point forward article is awesome Pau basically went from a guy who shot half of his shots close to the rim and a small % from midrange to a guy who shoots half his shots from mid-range and a few shots at the rim. Those numbers from 3-9 feet are flukey to me and are a small sample size. Also of note pau should probably guard the big men and Dwight should cover the faster, athletic guys.

  44. Agree with most of it, especially with Pau being our new Lamar. I think the two were truly kindred spirits and really fed off each other.

    Which, by the way, points to the obvious solution to this mess.

    Have Pau come off the bench to be the 6th man of the year, just like Lamar. There’ll be a myriad of lineups where Pau could be effective if only he doesn’t share court with Dwight. At the end of the game, just as Lamar played over Bynum, Pau can play over Dwight if situations warrant it.

    Of course this would require quite some management of egos, both in part of having Pau come off the bench and having Dwight be on the bench at the end of close games. But they should be professional enough to understand this, especially with a championship on the line.

    As this is obvious to even the most casual of fans, I believe D’Antoni is aware of it as well and is probably doing the carrot-stick spiel with Pau and getting him to realize that the only way he’s going to be in the post is if he comes off the bench. Or at least I hope so. I’m sure if it were PJ, he’d have flashbacks to Bynum/Pau/Lamar and realize that he’s got the same problem… just with different players… and the same answer.

  45. Maybe D’Antoni’s answer will involve complex choreography: but getting the right combinations on the floor at the right time may require a computer application to get it right.

    First half: big 4 plus Morris start; Antawn early sub for Gasol/Duhon for Morris; substitute Meeks for Kobe/Ebanks for MWP; substitute Gasol/Hill for Antawn/Howard; Starters finish half.

    Second half: start with Antawn/Duhon/Meeks/MWP/Howard; substitute Morris/Kobe/Hill for Duhon/Meeks/Antawn; substitute Gasol/Ebanks for MWP/Howard; substitute Howard for Hill/Meeks for Ebanks; substitute MWP for Meeks; Hill for Howard last three minutes.

    This type of tapestry constantly gives the opponents new looks and matchups; gives Pau some time at the 5, gives Antawn key minutes at the 4, gives Meeks chances to shoot the 3, gives Hill a chance to make energy plays both with Gasol and Howard; brings Gasol off the bench in the second half; makes best use of Morris and Duhon; gets foul shooters involved at the end of the game; gets Ebanks briefly involved.

    Uses 9 player rotation to provide sufficient rest/breathers for all players–pt for younger players. Rotations could be strategically staggered in different ways.

  46. Laker players should not be dependent on anybody but should act in unison as a team. If Nash and Blake cannot play, don’t delay achievement because they are two men down. The same attitude is expected to our PG’s Morris or Duhon, play your best but don’t treat yourself as go-to-guy and keep on shooting on the outside. You are not there yet. Morris should use his speed and youth to increase tempo but has to be aware in decision making what to do with the ball. Duhon should be aggressive enough in helping this team based on many years of experience as a PG. Stop gambling on blind passes to Howard if those have not been tried at El Segundo. It has to be a conservative game in managing TO’s but not necessarily wasting time in passing the ball on the top of the post.

  47. Randolph is quick?

  48. Pau this. Pau that. Pau in the post. Pau on the perimeter. Blah, blah, blah. None of this amounts to a hill of beans unless Pau plays hard and stops drifting on the court. He needs to play like a 7 footer and stop letting players come over his back for rebounds. He needs to give a few good, hard fouls. He needs to take the bull by the horns and find a way to live up to his status on this team. This poor me Pau stuff is for the birds. Pau needs to make up his mind to play hard. To me, this is not about systems, this is about Pau and his desire to play well. Lip service is fine. On court aggression is better.

  49. Ryan Anderson, anyone?

  50. The essential point I got from Zephid’s excellent article is the Lakers have 4 rotation bigs of which 3 need to set up in the low post. Combine that w/ D’Antoni’s dislike of low post play and the Lakers have a big problem.

    The simplest solution teams usually come up w/ in these situations is a trade.
    I will refrain from any particular deals,other that to say I cannot see the Lakers trading for Josh Smith. He is someone whose coaches have been begging him to NOT shoot outside,because he’s so bad at it,yet D’Antoni’s system welcomes it.

    Of course,D’Antoni has his own solution,which is simply to not play Hill.
    Run out a three big rotation,w/Artest getting a few minutes at the 4 and sit Hill.
    This is what I suspect will happen w/Hill being kept around for emergency purposes.(Altho a trade of Hill for some equally inexpensive perimeter shooting 4 is what I believe will happen before a Gasol trade.)

  51. This is so seriously simple its ridiculous. Move Pau to backup center and start Jamison. The benefits match up wise speak for themselves. You get the shot creation and spacing you need on the first unit. On the bench you put Pay back in the low post he can direct the offense. He will facillitate Hill and Meeks. He would be a match up nightmare against opposing back up centers. Plus his minutes would be reduced. As much as we talk about Kobe schedule and minutes logged, Pau are as arduous. You can then have a rested Pau for the last half of the fourth quarter.

  52. So let me get this straight. Pau should come off the bench so he can be “rested for the last half of the fourth quarter”. But, presumably, wouldn’t Dwight be playing in the last half of the 4th quarter?

    Regardless of whatever solution fans have for limiting Pau and Howard’s minutes together, the fact remains they’ll have to play together at some point during games. Getting them to do so effectively must still be a priority.