Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  December 5, 2012

Smart money would not have predicted that this season’s Lakers would be lower in the standings at this point in time than last season’s lockout model, or the Smush versions, or the Rudy T. limited edition. I’m not quite sure about that last one though. The 2004-05 campaign ended with a .415 average under Frank Hamblen’s stewardship. He was just keeping the chair warm for Phil at that point.

There are any number of plausible reasons and explanations for our present .444 position – most of which have been voiced here, there and everywhere. One of the most common hopeful lifelines is that we just have to wait until Steve gets back. That’s not smart money. It’s not “the chalk” in betting terminology. It’s a storyline though – the idea that a 38 year-old point guard coming off a fractured leg, will lead this talented, aging team of polar opposites to the promised land, coming from way, way back in the pack. Beware the links:

Tom Ziller at SBNation offers a blunt view of Pau Gasol at this point in his career.

Dave McMenamin for ESPNLos Angeles examines new drama and old problems for the slow-learning Lakers.

Ramona Shelburne at ESPNLos Angeles relays Kobe’s support for the beleaguered Pau Gasol, now sitting with tendinitis.

Kevin Ding at the OC Register takes a look at a good effort that ended poorly. Kevin also notes the uncertain timetable for Pau Gasol’s return.

Jeff Miller at the OC Register reads between the lines for Mike D’Antoni.

Aaron McGuire at Gothic Ginobi writes about Kobe.

Drew Garrison at Silver Screen and Roll breaks down last night’s loss.

Eric Pincus at the LATimes offers a preview for tonight’s game.

Eric Freeman at Ball Don’t Lie examines Dwight Howard’s free-throw woes.

Kobe Bryant is 13 points away from 30,000. Rey Moralde at SportsCity has the story.

Kevin Chan for Lakers Nation writes about the Lakers search for consistency.

***

The Lakers have taken their unlikely show on the road. They played well last night in Houston until they didn’t. And this is where we now find ourselves, watching the losses mount and the odds climb on the tote board. Tonight they face the soon-to-be New Orleans Pelicans, and get another roll of the dice with their disparate parts and injuries, and a new coach trying to fit square pegs into round holes. A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum. The Lakers turned into longshots.

Dave Murphy

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18 responses to Wednesday Storylines

  1. nash is 38.

  2. Continuation of the last thread:

    Not entirely sure what people are surprised about. D’Antoni has shown no history of flexibility or even willingness to adapt to personnel during his time in Phoenix or NY. However, I think he’s getting hammered here for decisions that I find perfectly reasonable:

    -I’m amazed at the short-sightedness on display as people call for Hill to sub in when teams try Hack-a-Dwight. Benching Dwight will show teams exactly how to take the best center in the league out of the game in the playoffs. Forget Popovich – every coach we face in the playoffs will use it against us, to get Dwight out of the game at key moments. This really is an easy decision. We – not only Dwight, but the entire team – has to learn to play through this. Even if Dwight doesn’t improve his FT shooting – likely – the more times our team plays through the Hack-A-Dwight, the more they’ll learn to adapt and play through it without it affecting their defensive or offensive flow (on full possessions); the biggest thing I’ve seen so far with the H-A-D is that it takes our team out of rhythm and we end up no longer running an offense.

    -His rotation patterns have been odd, because as the new coach he has the right to give each player a shot in several situations before selecting a lineup. If he’s still tinkering like this in February, then it’s more legitimate.

  3. A few observations on an ugly game:

    1. I didn’t miss Pau at all.

    2. In a game that was hyped preseason as a matchup between Jeremy Lin and Steve Nash, the best PG on the floor, by far, was a guy drafted by the Lakers. Sadly, he’s now a backup for Houston.

    3. The Lakers actually dominated that game throghout the first 3.5 quarters and still had a relatively small lead. This was the kind of game that should have resulted in beacoup rest for the starters in the 4th.

    4. Duhon looked better last night than Blake has looked in 3 years in a Lakers uniform.

    5. Kobe looked like he wanted to send a message to Harden from the opening tip, and it was an early indicator that we were going to see ball-dominant Kobe last night.

    6. Can’t see how anyone (especially the coach) can justify not getting Hill more minutes. Nearly a double-double in 14 minutes was the result of pure hustle when he could have sulked over his prior benchings.

    7. Losing a game to Houston when Lin & Harden go 5 of 27 does not portend well for games against teams like the Thunder.

    8. Earl Clark looked pretty spry, and in limited minutes he closed out on shooters as well as any Laker in memory.

    9. With the knowledge that DH12 can make 75-80% of his FTs in practice, Kobe knows that his in-game difficulties are 100% mental (as in mentally weak). I cannot imagine any scenario where Kobe is able to respect Howard when Dwight consistently reveals how mentally soft he is.

    10. From the euphoria and excitement of October to the despondency of December, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this much of a let down so early in a Laker season. I thought the move to TWC was going to be awful, but it turns out that DirecTV actually spared me a little pain with their early season holdout. You guys should’ve held out for a better deal….

  4. It’s D’Antoni’s fault just like it was Brown’s fault. With four All Stars in the starting lineup how good did you think the Lakers would be this year? Well… The Lakers have only two All Stars this season… So they are half as good as you thought and their record indicates it. This isn’t rocket science. This is a talent based league.

  5. Dwight with 14+ FG: 26.3 pts 14 reb 2.8 blk 55% FT. Those numbers look quite familiar. Team 5-1.

    14 FG or less: 14.6 pts 10 reb 2.6 blk 39% FT. Team 3-9.

  6. What I wonder is: can we get our defense together any time soon? What, apart from the oft mentioned consistent energy (thanks coach), can be done to solidify that purpose?
    Once again I thank Dave M. for the brief yet witty write-ups -

  7. Aaron: Yes talent – as was the case last year. However, we are losing to teams with inferior talent. With Nash out, Pau lost, and DH less than 100% I can see us not being the top tier, however even at current strength, we are not playing up to potential. This is pathetic.
    Snoop: I am actually not entirely surprised, which is why I wanted the guy with 11 rings. You are correct – no willingness to adapt and that did not work too well in NY.
    rr: Based on my reading of the previous thread, it appears as though I am not alone in my MD views. In fact I appear to be rather moderate on the subject : )

  8. Dave Murphy: “keeping the chair warm for Phil”
    An interesting concept indeed : )

  9. It seems to me that we have reverted back to pre-PJ era, where we would play hard / well for the first three quarters and then run out of gas or lose interest in the fourth. With PJ, it was the other way around, other teams often accused of Lakers cruising during the first three quarters only to play fourth quarter.

    When I first saw Magic scoring 40 in the fourth quarter, I just thought it’s anomaly as Jameer and J.J. got hot. Now that I see it again with Houston, it definitely is more of an innate problem than anomaly here and there.

    We really should use Clark and Hill more. I feel like these the most athletic bigs we have on the roster at this point. As Dwight recovers, maybe having more young legs on the court would help?

    Defensive rotations were off, as players tried to help out and what not, in the fourth quarter, Jamison overplayed while Kobe tried to fight through the screen resulting in wide open shot. Other time, Kobe’s man lost him and as Kobe tried to recover, another player (Duhon / Jaimson) tried to help resulting in the two player collapsing on the same player, resulting in a wide open three from the corner. These things take adjustments and time to get used to but who knows when that would be.

    Kobe really isn’t good at running PnR. Numerous times he tried to run it with Dwight but ran straight into the trap or did not pass to Dwight in time to make the play work. He is “adjusting” and “changing his game” but really I see more of Melo than LeBron in current version of Kobe which is oh not so good. Kobe could take over the game, but he often does that at the expense of others. Not sure if the current cast likes that.

    I’m also for keeping Dwight in the game during the Hack-a-Dwight time. Like Dwight said, the more practice he gets, the better he’ll be. I’d much rather have him go through these mental exercises now than later in the season.

  10. So basically, since MD’A is “unwilling to adapt” do I have to go back in time and decide that Boris Diaw played his position in the same manner as Amare did? Did Kurt Thomas bring to the Suns the same game as Tim Thomas? Is Kobe being told to do his best Joe Johnson impersonation or is he biting on Barbossa’s game? You all realize that at the time of of his “resignation” from the Knicks he had a top-10 defense? Talk about MD’A not being willing to adapt is slightly tunnel visioned. Is it possible, just maybe, that D’Antoni is getting to know his team?

    It is not that complicated, nor earth shattering. Help the helper, play with energy and keep running the offense without using Kobe as a bailout. Dwight will get hacked. He needs to get to a place where missing free-throws doesn’t depress the rest of his game, but that is the only issue I have with him right now. It really is about committing to defense in a consistent manner. Oh, and most teams missing two starters will struggle.

    I want to bring up one more issue I have with the PJ solution. In game 7 of the 2010 Finals, I saw some great defense. The Lakers closed out on shooters, helped on penetration, rotated to their man and closed in on the rim to secure rebounds. LO was a big part of that and then in the next season, with Bynum having secured his spot in the middle, we began to see Gasol get isolated on perimeter players as he was switched to PF. CP3 really highlighted this in that first round series of 2011. Leading up to that series the Lakers had recovered from having a mediocre defense due to a defensive eruption by Bynum in the second half of the season. So, aside from this Bynum burst of defensive dominance (which was never dependable, and considering his current condition, I’m not lamenting his loss) the Lakers had a half a season and two rounds of a playoffs with a mediocre defense with Phil as the coach. This continued under Mike Brown. The fact that we are seeing some clear issues with the defense, in spite of having two defensive geniuses in the starting lineup, well I think this trend has something more to do with personelle then coaching. Players need to slide over and help Dwight on his man when he has rotated over to smash penetration. Especially with our PGs, who will not be able to keep their man in front of them very much, the system has to account for Dwight’s man when he has left him to protect the rim. I’ve seen, both Gasol and Jamison, get lost in those situations. Kobe doesn’t seem too bad at it but I need to pay more attention to Ron and see how much he is to blame. Another thing I see a little too much of, guys are staying in front of their player and rather then stay down and avoid the foul, the player winds up trying to make a defensive play, even as Dwight has arrived and erased or, at least, put the shot in serious jeopardy. These fouls have bailed teams out and that can be cut down.

    One question, why does Dwight swat balls out of bounds instead of tapping it to his player or knocking it to the other side of the court. In once scenario, his team gains possession and in the other, even if the opponent recovers the ball, there is no reset of the clock, so the team is trying to execute with little time on the clock. It’s a weird habit I see from lots of shot-blockers and I wonder where that comes from.

  11. Robert is right. Even without Gasol and Nash there is no way the Lakers should be losing to Houston, Orlando, and Sacramento. Forty eight minutes of effort and smart basketball are enough for the Lakers to beat these teams.

    Teams like Memphis, OKC, and Miami are another story.

  12. rr: Based on my reading of the previous thread, it appears as though I am not alone in my MD views. In fact I appear to be rather moderate on the subject : )
    _______________________________________________________
    Robert,
    I hold you to a higher standard, buddy. ;0

    As to “talent”, I mostly agree with Aaron’s point, but I would add that I think some people are missing the depth of the drop-off from 1-4 to 5-10 and the importance of the facts that:

    1. Kobe is 34, not 27.
    2. Howard is about 75% of what we need, due to the drop-off in mobility and explosiveness on D.
    3. Duhon and Morris, are, respectively, a 3rd-stringer and a DLeaguer.

    As Darius pointed out, basketball teams are “interconnected.” The Lakers’ bench guys were selected based on having 1 or 2 skills that complement the core. They are not skilled enough for heavy lifting: Jamison is very poor on D, Hill is not much of a rim protector and has very limited shooting range, Duhon cannot create shots, Meeks can’t handle or drive, Ebanks cannot create shots, and Clark is a one-way player.

    With Gasol and Nash gone, Howard and Kobe would need to be age 27 Kobe and Shaq for this team to be really good. They are not, and, predictably, people are blaming them. That is not to say that they should not be criticized, but it needs to be done with a big-picture view.

    As to MDA, we covered it. I like some things, and I don’t like others. But his system needs Nash to work, so it is my belief that the season and whether Howard stays or walks now depends on Nash’s return.

  13. Good post by P Ami, but as I have said, IMO some of the Lakers’ issues on D simply stem from lack of quickness. MDA has said that, “Our half-speed is quarter speed” and “We are struggling athletically.”

    IOW, I don’t think the breakdowns are always about effort, focus and cohesion.

  14. Adaptability is relative, I suppose. If a coach tried to run Nash-Kurt Thomas PnRs the same he did with Nash and Amare, he’d be cleaning up spilled drinks in the aisles before long. Any system has multiple options; D’Antoni showed inflexibility in the basic fabric of his system. This is in stark contrast to coaches like Pat Riley or Stan Van Gundy, who adopted very different systems to mold to their personnel (Showtime vs. the 90s Knicks; the 2004 Heat vs the 2005 Heat vs. the 2009 Magic). That’s a little different than saying “Hey, D’Antoni let Diaw pass the ball! He’s flexible!” It should be noted that the same charges could reasonably be levied at Phil Jackson. He has a system that he’s stuck with, and players were brought in to fit that system. You can get anal and say he simplified the offense for triangle-dumb players in his later years, but the basic principle is that you have coaches on 1 side who draw up systems from scratch when they get to a new team, and on the other side, coaches that bring their systems with them from team to team. I am not critiquing either philosophy (clearly coaches from all points on the spectrum have enjoyed success), merely pointing out that people shouldn’t exactly be surprised that D’Antoni wants to push the pace. I’ve seen a few posts over the last couple days complaining that D’Antoni is forcing his system onto an old, slow team that can’t handle it. What else was expected?

    Like others have said, D’Antoni would be foolish not to give each player a chance and play with his lineups right now. I get that people are impatient for wins, but experimenting now is necessary; or else you end up wondering in April why Mike Brown won’t give Ebanks a fair chance and wondering how much game the kid really has.

    I was never a huge D’Antoni fan – reminds me of a used car salesman more than anything else – but he’s what we got and I think he’s getting hammered unnecessarily. Like rr said, it’s very hard to judge the MDA’s impact when Nash hasn’t played yet. It’s a waiting game at this point, but so few of us want to wait.

  15. Joeatlanta: posting dwight will open up the floor. He is the best big in the game and Lakers need balance on offense. Let dwight be great and give him the ball.

  16. Funky Chicken: you touched on some great points. I didn’t miss Pau one bit. They lost but they went down fighting. I agree that Dwight is not Shaq however he is the best in the league and that assumes that he should get at least 15 attempts. These new look Lakers are going thru training camp now. I think they will be fine. Most importantly I want to see Kobe help get Dwight some easy baskets rather than try to lead the league in scoring.

  17. @Snoopy, just now reading your comments about system coaching and very much agree. Of course, MD doesn’t have a tribal drum and incense. So, advantage Phil in that regard.

  18. @Snoopy
    “I was never a huge D’Antoni fan – reminds me of a used car salesman more than anything else”
    You nailed it, man.