Around The World (Wide Web): Kupchak’s Patience, Nash, Upcoming Trip

Ryan Cole —  December 11, 2012

From Mark Medina, LA Daily News: This should have marked a time for Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak to enjoy the fruits of his labor. The Lakers spent this offseason acquiring an elite center (Dwight Howard), an elite point guard (Steve Nash), secondary scoring (Antawn Jamison) and 3-point shooting (Jodie Meeks). They didn’t trade Pau Gasol. And, by the way, Kobe Bryant still remains on the team. But the Lakers’ $100 million payroll hasn’t provided an immediate return on their investment. The Lakers (9-12) enter tonight’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers (4-17) in 11th place in the Western Conference. Long-term injuries to Nash (fractured left leg) and Steve Blake (lower abdominal strain) and a coaching change from Mike Brown to Mike D’Antoni prompted Kupchak to say “it’s impossible” to evaluate this team. Nor do these variables provide clarity on what will happen after Dec. 15, the first time teams can deal players they signed during the offseason.

From Marc Spears, Yahoo! Sports: Steve Nash’s delayed return to the Los Angeles Lakers has more to do with nerve irritation in his lower left leg than the fracture he suffered, sources told Yahoo! Sports. Nash appeared set to return from a non-displaced fractured left fibula about three to four weeks ago. His fibula has healed well, but what caused the setback was a nerve irritation that surfaced in the leg during his rehabilitation, sources said. The nerve caused Nash pain any time he put pressure on it. The irritation is steadily improving for Nash and he is expected to play before the end of the month, sources said. Nash suffered the broken fibula on Nov. 1 against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Lakers originally thought the injury was just a bone bruise, but an MRI showed worse.

From Ben Bolch, LA Times: The Lakers’ holiday to-do list is getting lengthy for a team that thought it had finished its shopping over the summer. Spending $46.5 million on Dwight Howard and Steve Nash has left surprisingly little under the tree six weeks into the season. This team still lacks more than just stocking stuffers. It needs major items such as improved defense, sustained effort and more effective communication on the court. Oh, and there’s one more thing that has to happen as the Lakers begin a four-game trip Tuesday in Cleveland. ”Win,” Howard said Sunday after the Lakers sustained a 117-110 loss to the Utah Jazz, their seventh defeat in their last 10 games. “That’s the only thing on the list is to win.”

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: It’s been a pretty regular happening for the Lakers the past few games: The opposing point guard blows past Chris Duhon without much resistance. Dwight Howard sees it coming early (there’s a reason he’s three-time Defensive Player of the Year) and rotates over to cut off the lane — but then nobody helps the helper. Nobody makes the next rotation to pick up Howard’s man, or if they do it is late. Either way a big man gets a shot at the rim or there is a wide-open guy on the perimeter for a kick-out corner three. The Lakers defensive rotations are maybe their biggest weakness right now (outside of injuries, anyway) and if they are going to start winning that is the first thing that has to be fixed.

From Elizabeth Benson, LakersNation.com:  The roller coaster of a season thus far is still in full throttle as the Lakers still look to find their way. The fans are still left to question which team will show up for a game. What are considered “for sure” wins are proving to be a challenge for the current roster to handle. However, this doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any glimmers of hope from the team this year. Additionally, their current struggles don’t mean that the Lakers are completely doomed, but rather represents obstacles that the team needs to overcome. We started off the week with the news that came out yesterday of Mike D’Antoni telling the media thatSteve Nash has a “possibility” to return to the lineup during the upcoming four game-road trip that kicks off Tuesday against Antawn Jamison’s old team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. This doesn’t mean that Nash’s return is a definite for this week, but it is a huge step in the right direction. Laker fans have been hearing the “when Steve returns” excuse for weeks now, even from D’Antoni himself, especially after losses. While I believe that the absence of Steve Nash isn’t an excuse for some of the poor performances the Lakers have strung together this season, as Lakers Nation’s Carmen Vitali pointed out this weekend, building the team’s identity has yet to show its face and sure has been affected without the on-court presence of Nash.

From Ben R, Silver Screen & Roll: Three years ago during the Lakers’ championship seasons — good heavens, that seems like a long time ago — we were treated to a consistent phrase about how the Lakers handled the regular season: “margin of error.” In other words, it was a measure how many things could go wrong in any single contest with the Lakers prevailing regardless. The greater your team’s talent, comfort in the coach’s system, and so forth, the bigger your margin of error was. From a more cynical point of view, it was the degree to which the Lakers could coast and still win regardless, with the ’08-’09 season the pinnacle of this phenomenon. Missing Andrew Bynum for half the year, not having consistent three-point shooters, and the bench regressing were all mostly papered over by the fact that Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and whomever else decided to have a good night were awesome and most teams simply couldn’t compete with that. Against opponents that actually required a more thorough application of effort such as Boston or Cleveland, the Lakers responded appropriately. This is all relevant since a few years, several coaches, and a huge turnover of players later, the Lakers still are deep in this mentality despite the fact that the only player on the floor right now who was part of that team is Kobe.

 

Ryan Cole

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8 responses to Around The World (Wide Web): Kupchak’s Patience, Nash, Upcoming Trip

  1. Here is an interview of Magic on the Lakers:

    “JOE MCDONNELL — Explain why you’ve been so critical of Lakers management this season.

    EARVIN JOHNSON — God bless him, Mike Brown is a good guy and a good coach. I think he’ll be good for somebody else. His coaching days are not over. But he’s just the wrong guy for this team. OK, so we made that mistake. But then you turn around and fire him so fast … wow. OK. Then you reach out to Phil (Jackson); they shouldn’t have even talked to Phil if they weren’t going to do it for real. (They) got all of us excited. I was excited; L.A. was excited; the whole country was excited that Phil might come back maybe. And then you turn around — without even negotiating; you didn’t know what he really wanted. Then you hire Mike D’Antoni, a coach who wants to run. But you don’t have a running team. Does that make sense? It doesn’t make sense to me, but hey, I’m going to give him a shot. I’m hopeful that it will work out because I love the Lakers. But I still feel that if he doesn’t change his system to fit the talent that he has, it’s not gonna work. (Jim Buss) has to rely on Mitch Kupchak’s basketball knowledge. Look, Dr. Jerry Buss let Jerry West make basketball decisions. West just said, ‘Dr. Buss, here’s who I want to trade, and these are the reasons that I want to trade him.’ Dr. Buss would tell him to go ahead and make the move if it was going to help our team. Jim wants to make the move and then tell Mitch to do it. No. (He) doesn’t have that kind of basketball expertise. You’ve got to let Mitch Kupchak make those decisions. That’s what made the Lakers so great. We had Jerry West — the greatest basketball executive of our time — making the basketball decisions. Look at Miami and what’s happening with the Heat. Why are they so great? Because Pat Riley is making basketball decisions. Now he’s the best basketball executive in the game today. And they all came from the Lakers.

    JM — Is Mike D’Antoni the wrong coach for this team?

    EJ — The system is wrong for this team. And if it doesn’t change, he’ll be the wrong coach for this team. We don’t have runners — look at the roster. Things will change a little bit offensively — no question — with Steve (Nash) back and healthy. But that’s not going to help us … in terms of playing defense.

    JM — Even Kobe — normally great on defense — isn’t playing well right now. Why has his defense been so poor lately?

    EJ — We’re asking a man who’s in his, what, 17th season, to do everything. He scores 30 points, then he needs to play defense, then he’s got to be the leader in the locker room. It is tough. I think right now Kobe is a little down. He’s down because they’re not winning, and Kobe wants to win. He’s one of those guys like me; you get upset and you’re looking around (at your teammates for help). He’s playing hard, but you get discouraged. I can understand why Kobe’s discouraged. He never thought in his wildest dreams that we’d be under .500 and almost last in our division. This is not Laker basketball. And I want them to understand that if they want to become the second coming of Showtime — Showtime played defense. Showtime was committed to the defensive end first because we knew that if we couldn’t stop anybody, we couldn’t get into the fast break. We’ve got to be better. I don’t see the guys happy. It’s one thing to lose, but there’s no spirit. The other team is up — high-fiving — and look at the Lakers. They’re just sitting there. We’ve got to start having fun again. It’s gonna take a while, but we’ve got to get to feeling good about playing with each other as well.”

    I could not agree more with Magic. Why did we hire Mike D? Why? Because Mike D has a good relationship with Steve, yea that is a great reason.

  2. The current edition of my Laker team has soooo many issues, and they are mentioned daily. Plenty of suggestions on how to fix them also. The Laker front office has attempted to do what very few teams in pro sports can do, successfully rebuild on the fly. Trying to win a title this year with an aging core, while, at the very same time, completely rebuild this team around the best center (& free agent to be) in the world & position itself to make a run at the very best player in the world in a couple of years via free agency.

    Needless to say, that’s a very, very tall order. So far at the 1st quarter mark of the season, it’s not working. Personally, I’m interested in the big picture, not the small stuff. So I wonder, if the season continues as it is (or gets worse :-( ) , at what point will the Lakers decide who to hitch their franchise to? It won’t be pretty. It wasn’t when the feud between Kobe & Shaq couldn’t be bridged…and they were WINNING. Hopefully it won’t reach that point. These guys could be so good together, but both must be willing to make adjustments, otherwise….

  3. Lakers hired mike d for showtime. We hears for years they grew tired of the methodical pace and wanted a show. First step was hiring mike d. Second is building a team who may give up 110 but it won’t matter because they score 130. When the move is made it has to be the right one.

  4. Pretty easy schedule before Christmas, we should be able to go at least 4-2 next 6 games. I hope some effort habits will be built during this stretch.

  5. In the midst of all this PJ nostalgia, does anyone remember how BAD the Lakers looked in the playoffs the last two years? Does anyone remember the onslaught of posts on this board about how the Lakers would always give up tremendous runs in the first 5 minutes of the 2nd half, which led to questions about Phil’s demeanor and whether his laid-back zen attitude could inspire players to work hard (‘does he even talk to them at halftime?)’ Does anyone remember how unmotivated Pau and Drew looked throughout much of the last two seasons, esp when it mattered most? Does anyone remember our collective frustration that PJ refused to play rookies, no matter how promising they looked or how much the veterans have struggled? Does anyone remember teams going on 15 point runs against us and watching Phil study his cuticles?

    Phil is a genius, arguably the best coach of all time in any sport, but I’m getting a little irritated by all this nostalgia for him without the qualification of what the last two years of his tenure were really like. I don’t care if it comes from a poster here, or the great Magic, but let’s present the whole picture when making this argument, not just the pieces that support one’s own position.

    I profoundly admire Magic as a player and as a human being, but I think his analysis/commentary is generally pretty awful. Worse, everything I’ve heard from all Lakers executives all the time suggest that decisions are made by both Busses and Kupchak in tandem; Magic may be the last holdout for this sensationalistic and grotesquely inaccurate notion that Jim Buss is some kind of rogue figure.

  6. lil pau-
    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but PJ’s last 2 seasons went like this:
    2010- Championship.
    2011- Loss in 2nd round to the EVENTUAL CHAMPION Mavs. That Mavs team was a buzzsaw that year remember? Sure Pau was not motivated, but what’s new about that? Kobe was also injured that year if you recall.

    I do agree with you, however, that the team needed something new to recharge their batteries and they got Mike Brown. The only thing wrong with firing MB was when it was done. It should have been done in the offseason instead of after 5 games. Magic is spot on in this excerpt and was spot on previously when he said that the team needed to be “blown up” after the loss to the Mavs. For the record- I was pretty hard on Magic for that analysis at the time….

  7. So you hire Mike D for showtime?? How about hiring us the coach that gives us the best shot to win the title. Do you really believe Mike D is the guy? Maybe not even Phil, but it puzzles me that Mike D was the best we could get. Magic is correct, our roster is not one that matches a type of team that Mike D would normally coach.