Where Are We Now? A Lakers State of the Union

Dave Murphy —  January 26, 2013

With the nation’s annual State of the Union address approaching, as well as the midpoint to the NBA season, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect. The subject at hand of course, the Los Angeles Lakers and their state of being. This certainly isn’t the team’s finest hour but it is what it is – a few of us offered observations within a basic context of past, present and future. It’s not surprising that there’s a commonality of disappointment and sharp criticism at play in the following capsules. There is also pragmatism, thoughtful analysis and possible ways out of a morass that nobody would have predicted during a summer that now seems long ago. Settle in for some good reading and commentary from J.M. Poulard, Emile Avanessian, Zephid (Jeff King) and Rey Moralde:

J.M. POULARD

Where Lakers Have Been

Forget Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain; or Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal, these new Lakers would be by far the best collection of individual talent on one team in franchise history.

But that wasn’t to be.

Steve Nash fractured his leg and thus missed a huge chunk of the season and consequently the Lakers had to manage without their superstar point guard steering the offense.

Things looked promising despite a few early setbacks because Kobe Bryant was shooting the heck out of the basketball and looked 28 again on some nights.

Dwight Howard was a little different; check that, plenty different because his back injury that sidelined him the previous season affected his mobility.

And well, Mike Brown got fired.

In came Mike D’Antoni, and out of the post went Pau Gasol.

Things looked bad for a stretch, but everything would be fine once again as soon as Steve Nash would rejoin the team.

Nash came back and the Lakers defeated the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena and everything in Laker Land was fine…

Until the team started losing again. Thus bringing us to…

Where Lakers Are Now

Lost.

It’s the one word that perfectly characterizes what’s happening with the team at present time.

The offense is statistically good, but we expected it to be miles ahead of everybody else’s and because it hasn’t been, that’s been somewhat of a disappointment.

The defense has been awful. The communication has been non-existent and the rotations just aren’t there. The trust on this side of the ball just seems broken more often than not.

Consequently, every player is operating in ways that they think serve the team best, but no one is quite sure.

Nash is turning down shots to get others involved but is actually hurting the team in doing so at times, while Pau is camped out on the perimeter doing his best to emulate Dirk Nowitzki.

Kobe is Kobe while Dwight is not quite himself but certainly acting as such. This leads us to…

Where the Lakers are Headed

There’s no obvious answer here:

·         Staples Center?

·         Trades?

·         Phil Jackson?

·         NBA Finals?

·         Western Conference Finals?

·         Western Conference Semifinals?

·         First round?

·         10th seed in the Western Conference?

All of those answers come in play. The Lakers could figure things out and go 30-10 the rest of the way by virtue of the performance of their stars, make the playoffs, catch the right matchup and make some noise in the postseason, or simply go 16-24 as their winning percentage (.405) suggests and then the front office might just throw a stick of dynamite at the coaching staff and the scouts and blow it all up on that front.

No team in the NBA has a higher ceiling or lower floor level than the Lakers right now. And really, that’s what makes them the Lakers.

Always keeping you on the edge of your seat.

EMILE AVANESSIAN

Where We’ve Been

The top of the mountain.

With the exception of the New York Yankees, no team in the annals of American sport has so consistently taken up residence at the pinnacle of its respective game. You’re likely acquainted with the numbers: 59 playoff appearances in 65 seasons of existence, including 34 in the past 36 years, and appearances in 31 of 64 championship series since inception – 16 of the last 32, with 16 victories. On another 11 occasions they’ve stumbled at the postseason’s penultimate hurdle. And consistent within that staggering consistency has been generational greatness.

From Mikan, to Baylor, West, Wilt, Kareem, Magic, Shaq and Kobe, not a chapter of NBA history can be written that does not prominently feature the Lakers’ talisman of the day. This summer, the 2012-13 season seemed destined to be the opening stanza of yet another glorious entry in the Lakers tome. Following a pair of substandard (by Laker standards) campaigns in which they’d failed to advance past the postseason’s second round, the new-look Lakers – a new Buss at the helm, Phil Jackson on a ranch (again), Magic no longer officially in the fold – as they are wont to do, pulled off a retooling for the ages, filling a long-running void at the point with the greatest playmaker-shooter in NBA history and not only upgrading an already strong center spot, but putting in place a cornerstone that would make seamless the transition from this dynasty to the next. That was the plan…

In roughly three months (how has it only been three months?) since the season’s inauspicious come-from-ahead loss to the Mavericks, Steve Nash broke his leg, Mike Brown got the boot, the salad days of Bernie Bickerstaff came and went, Phil Jackson was wasn’t was wasn’t brought back to anchor a minefield roster seemingly created to test his mastery of Zen, in favor of Nash’s Phoenix co-mastermind…

Ok, you know what? I’m tired. I am tired of doing this, rehashing the laundry list of missteps, shortcomings and indignities for which this season will – in all likelihood – ultimately be remembered.

Other than Kobe Bryant playing extremely well (at times, even by his own standards) and Earl Clark showing himself worthy of a place in an NBA rotation (yep, we’re there), literally nothing has gone right this season.

At the time of Mike Brown’s ouster, I, like most, believed that in a vacuum, Phil was the best candidate to assume the top spot on the bench. However, I also understood the Busses refusal to be held over a barrel by a smug now-in-law-to-be that they cannot stand. I will also admit, however, that the hiring of Mike D’Antoni to coach Nash-run team with the preapproval of Kobe Bryant did not trouble me one iota. Granted, the expectation of smooth sailing was buoyed by the assumptions that Dwight Hoard would have regained more of his trademark dominance by this point, and that a healed Steve Nash would be back to being Nash, pulling solid, sometime spectacular play out of otherwise middling guys, while burying 40% of his numerous 3-point attempts per game, and that D’Antoni’s first order of business would not be a scorched earth campaign against Pau Gasol’s psyche.

It felt safe to assume that the Lakers under MDA would be just fine.

Where We’re At

Old as sh*t and completely adrift.

As much as any team in recent NBA history, the 2012-13 Lakers are a monument to instant gratification. Sure, the talk of eras to come and Dwight’s expectant place in the pantheon of legendary Laker big men put a forward-looking spin on the situation, but no team that trots out a pair of starting guards that have each been playing professionally nearly as long as Kyrie Irving has been alive – one that severed its final remaining ties to the first round of the draft for the foreseeable future to do so – is not overly concerned with the long term.

And now halfway though (seriously, how is this thing only halfway over??) what was to be if not a coronation then a slow, tantric build to title contention, has spiraled out of control. On the floor, the offense, though statistically effective, is disjointed and inconsistent. Turnovers continue to be a bugaboo, both when the Lakers have the ball, as only 10 teams are giving the ball away more frequently, as well as on the defensive end, where only the Orlando Magic have proven more inept at taking the ball away from the opposition. There is no communication on defense, nor, on most nights, is there a good faith effort. Keeper of the effort flame, Jordan Hill, is lost for the season, and Steve Blake might as well be.

Meanwhile, off the floor, the not-so-good ship Laker is taking water at an alarming rate. Closed-door meetings have barely concluded before they are in the press. The Lakers are contemplating flipping Dwight. No, they’re not. But are they really not? Dwight hates D’Antoni. If not for the fiasco of two months prior, D’Antoni would likely not last the season. To placate Dwight, he might not make it to the summer. Dwight might hate Kobe. Kobe asks Dwight if Dwight hates Kobe – Dwight gets the sads.

Midway through a season for which #4 or 5 seed that “no one wanted to see in the postseason” seemed a worst-case scenario, the playoffs are becoming a pipe dream.

On the bright side, I hear that whole tanking thing has worked out well for some teams. We could try that…

Where We’re Headed

In times of crisis, fixation on a single tree often diverts attention from the forest. Other times, so transfixed are we on said forest that the loss of a tree here or there is overlooked. Whatever your perspective, right now, it’s all burning.

Outside of the occasional kneejerk outburst, I tend not to be alarmist about the Lakers struggles. Too many times history has taught me that to trust those at the helm, and that there is, in fact, a plan in place.

The problem is, this thing working out was the plan.

In this bleakest of times, I will, as I always have, trust the guys upstairs to unearth a trump card. I must, however, wonder aloud, what exactly that card will look like. There are no draft choices for which to tank. The Phoenix-bound unprotected first-rounder – over the summer a lock to ensure no better than a mid-20s pick – accumulates ping-pong balls by the game. Hell, should they so choose, Dallas has the right to swap second-rounders with the Lakers. There’s always assessing the young guys for next year. Well, with Hill on the shelf, Earl Clark stands alone among those to be assessed. Maybe some of the NBA’s underexposed, ascendant commodities can be convinced to part ways with cap relief or picks in exchange for some of the Lakers’ 15 remaining national television appearances…

And then there’s the question of Dwight Howard. Wishy-washy on his best day, and with a right to blow town on July 1 should he so choose, the Lakers are likely in store for an Orlando-esque Dwightmare of their own, one whose happiest ending will involve a healthy D-12 sticking around, though probably only after the appointment of a third full-time head coach (fourth overall, counting Bernie) in under a year, with the best candidate for the job still waiting for the stitches in back from his last run-in with Dwight to heal – and the second choice his brother.

On the bright side, we’re probably in store for some vintage 2006 Kobe the rest of the way, right?

ZEPHID

Where the Lakers Have Been

To fully answer this question, recent historical context is necessary.  Where have they been?  Winning championships.  2009 and 2010 are still very much fresh in the minds of Lakers fans, many wanting to recapture the magic of those seasons and somehow transfer it to the here and now.  It is why there was so much fervor to bring back Phil Jackson.  It is why many lament the loss of Lamar Odom.  It is why Pau Gasol is viewed with such vitriol, unable to reproduce the skills and energy he had in those seasons.  It is why so many lament the Lakers lack of depth, energy, and youth, crying for names such as Trevor Ariza, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown, etc.  And there are even some who decry the sabotage of the Chris Paul trade, seeing his success on the Clippers and claiming that his success should be for the Lakers.

Where the Lakers Are Now

But as it always is, the past is colored by rose lenses.  Could Phil have brought out the potential of this team of all-stars and cast-offs?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  Frustrations with D’Antoni stem from so many things: an unwillingness to alter his system, an inattentiveness to defense, constantly altering rotations, lacking the gusto to lead a team of strong personalities.  Many of these could be said of Phil, many are the opposite of what was said about Phil.  Phil was also unwilling to bend his system, albeit his was the result of 9 NBA championships.  Phil’s teams weren’t necessarily known for their defense, but generally played well on that end.  Phil refused to alter his rotations on a whim, sticking with guys long after fans would have abandoned them.

The magic of players like Odom and 2009 Gasol is alluring to so many, but these players are simply not as they were those few years ago.  Odom is now a shell of himself, with absolutely no outside shot, and even though many see similarities between he and Earl Clark, Odom’s unique skill set will almost certainly never be reproduced on this current incarnation of the Lakers.  Even more frustrating is those who have seen the greatness of Pau Gasol first hand, and are now stuck with this poor imitation we see now.  The truth is that Gasol is now several years older, with several years of 40+ mpg season and several years of international competition.  His lateral movement has eroded to the point where anyone who would call him a power forward would be absolutely ridiculed.

And the vaunted Lakers depth of 2009 and 2010?  How many years did we spend claiming the bench mob was useless, giving up huge leads and forcing the starters to play huge minutes?  We soon forget how awful Farmar, Vujacic, Brown, and even Ariza could be at times.

But mostly, we the fans remember the winning.  And we miss it dearly.  Kobe is still Kobe, doing Kobe things, but Dwight Howard and Steve Nash have not been the saviors they were heralded to be, not the knights riding to carry the Lakers back to the heights we so desire them to achieve.

Where the Lakers Are Headed

To some quantum state that we cannot even begin to predict until it has already happened.  Could this team be blown up and split apart for youth and draft picks?  Absolutely.  If management fears Dwight will leave in free agency, they would be remiss not to try and get something for him.  If Dwight does re-sign, his massive contract along with Pau Gasol’s $19M will be on the books for next year, totaling a whopping $185M in salary commitments for next year.  Remove Gasol and his contract, and that payment goes down to $116M.  Nash also isn’t getting any younger, and if his abilities to control the offense continue to not offset his defensive woes, it would be wise to trade the remaining years of his contract elsewhere.

Could this team turn it around and be the most feared 8th seed in the history of the NBA?  Absolutely.  Maybe Dwight miraculously heals and gets back to being the dominant athletic freak we all thought he would be.  Maybe Nash turns on the offensive savant switch, slicing and dicing defenses in a way that we do not see now.  Maybe Kobe starts to actually give a shit about off-ball defense, and begins to seek the ball in better positions instead of just asking for it in better positions.  Maybe Gasol accepts his role off the bench, and somehow regains enough lateral movement to make our 4 All-Star lineup work.  Maybe our supporting players come together, using the talents of Jodie Meeks, Earl Clark, Metta World Peace, and Antawn Jamison to their fullest extent.  Maybe the Lakers begin to trust, depend, and work for one another on defense, being the swarming inside-outside defense we know they can be.

Maybe everything that has gone wrong so far this season will go right.

REY MORALDE

Where The Lakers Have Been

Good? Excellent? Championship Material? That seems long gone now, doesn’t it? 2009 and 2010 were good times. Heck, even 2008 was looked at as good times as people fondly remember that team because that’s when the Lakers came back to life. So revisionist history makes fans pine for the days of Jordan Farmar. Sasha Vujacic. Trevor Ariza. Lamar Odom. The good Pau Gasol. The Lakers and its fans are spoiled; we expect nothing but success for this squad.

Where The Lakers Are Now

Which is why this losing has been so hard to take. Maybe Farmar could help. Maybe Vujacic could, too. But the problem is that the Lakers did put together a team that we mostly wanted, it’s just that the pieces did not fit together as we envisioned. I was a staunch defender of the Mike D’Antoni hire, too, and I thought that would’ve fit but I didn’t think he’d be one stubborn son of a female animal. They did have one good game against Utah but the Lakers are in a quagmire. All they can really do is work through this (and we’ve seen flashes of BRILLIANCE with this team) because I don’t believe a trade can fix this team unless they get a transcendent player in Kevin Durant or LeBron James. While it’s not out of the possible realm to get these guys in the future, they’re certainly not going to get them this season.

Where The Lakers Are Headed

I am not the best prognosticator. After all, I thought they would go to the NBA Finals with this squad. Of course, many thought so, too. Nevertheless, who really knows where they’re headed? Are they going to stick with this team? Are they going to trade somebody? Are they going to go deeper into the abyss? Are they going to make a run for the postseason and suddenly catch fire there? Will Kobe Bryant piledrive Dwight Howard next week? Will Pau Gasol cry in the middle of the court? Will Earl Clark suddenly find more mythical powers and become a 30-10-10 guy? This is what makes the Lakers who they are: full of intrigue and full of drama. Whether we like it or not, we’re going to tune in to the next episode.

DAVE MURPHY

Where We Were

We were at or near an elite level for a long time. There has been much talk around the league about the Lakers’ coaching woes and it’s important to understand that the Phil Jackson years were unique. I am sometimes puzzled by those who preach advanced metrics on the one hand and so easily dismiss 11 NBA championships in 22 seasons. If Jackson had been hired instead of D’Antoni there would have been no guarantee whatsoever that he would have won his 12th coaching ring. There is certainly a guarantee however, that if he had, it would have been easily explained away – he had the talent and was simply along for the ride. That particular journey never happened but the talent’s still here, spiraling into an abyss that nobody but a fringe conspiracy theorist would have considered.

Where Are We Now

After a sublimely disastrous road trip the Lakers returned to Staples center last night and demolished the Utah Jazz, a very solid team. It’s not surprising at all – this year’s model has made a habit of tossing us tantalizing glimpses of greatness when we least expect it. The Oklahoma City Thunder will be in town tomorrow and Sunday matinees have never been the Lakers’ strength. The immediate path ahead will be challenging to say the least – the Pelicans visit on the heels of the Thunder and the Lakers then head back out on the road for the seven-game Grammy trip. Forget all the previous ‘season starts now’ mantras – this is the moment you know, you know, you know.

Where We’re Headed

The current roster for better or worse is an anomaly – a star-studded roll of the dice that is here for the short term. The rebuild years lie ahead because you simply can’t continue to cheat time. Plus there’s the small matter of the new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. Forget for the moment the positional questions – the need for athletic defenders, outside shooters and a younger point god. Of course the player needs are important for without them we have nothing. But the union is made of many parts and operates at its best through common belief systems and adaptability and the willingness to buy into a common purpose. It takes forward thinking and leadership and what that looks like for the Lakers is anybody’s guess. Uncertainty is the great equalizer in sports.

 

Dave Murphy

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43 responses to Where Are We Now? A Lakers State of the Union

  1. Good stuff.

    Maybe the key number from last night:

    LAKERS PACE FACTOR, SEASON: 94.5, 3RD IN NBA
    PACE FACTOR IN UTAH GAME: 87.7

  2. Good piece by the mods and contributors.
    rr: As I pointed out before – some use stats – some use the eye test. So you have your stat above. Some of the rest of us simply said – older team – better at half court – why not run a slower pace? Either way the conclusion is the same (stats or eye test). Which begs the question: What was being used to determine that we should run a faster paced game?

  3. I think I’ve found a place of wisdom as handed down by Ben Franklin. I don’t expect the Lakers to win games. I just watch because the individual talents do make regular appearances. If they happen to win then great, but I am not invested in their winning anymore. Too many false starts. Too much of the new season being one loss away. I thought the two games leading up to the Heat game looked promising, and then the game against the Heat showed a very good team going up against another very good team but with LBJ having grown into the leagues most dominant closer. I’m fine with that. I am fine watching growth and improvement. I’m fine seeing baby steps. I am fine seeing Pau fall to the floor for a loose ball. I’m fine seeing Dwight’s back limit him to a once every three games effective status. Maybe by March he is up to 2 of 3 and then in June-July we can reasonably expect him bringing it every night next season. Yes, the team needs to get younger and more athletic. Yes, we need to develop high end role players to support our superstars. We need to figue out who our superstar perimeter player is going to be when Kobe is gone. That is the state of the Lakers, but even this incomplete and limited team remains an interesting hot and sour sauce. Sometimes they burn you, sometimes they make you pucker up, but the combination of the two is better then dry chicken.

  4. Robert,

    If you are going to talk down to me, talk to somebody else.

  5. What is the chance that Kobe buys into the new game plan the rest of the season???

    There were a lot of factors involved in this game other than Kobe’s FGAs. Like I have pointed out before, the Lakers have had enormous success with Kobe’s overall USG about the same as it is now. Among the other factors:

    Getting the ball to Howard in motion to the rim, and at the rim, rather than on the block.
    Utah’s missing a lot of shots and the Lakers playing better D overall.
    Slowing the pace, as noted above.

    So, the thing to watch with OKC will be pace. Playing against Ibaka, Perkins, and Collison, things will be a little different inside than they were against Millsap and Jefferson. The Lakers will need to keep OKC out of transition if they want to have a shot.

    Kobe does need to cut down on the 3s, particularly those taken in transition. Metta’s FGAs will stay high as long he is weakside guy spotted up. The team needs a better shooter over there.

  6. Love what Zephid had to say about Pau. He perfectly described how tough this is for me. It’s just sad. I know the way I have described Gasol for the last two years makes some think I’m not a fan of his talents but since he had a buzz cut I’ve thought Pau was every bit KG’s equal in the NBA as the top PG forward in the world for a decade. He once was a freakishly coordinated and explosive seven footer. By the time he came to the Lakers (because of a less than stellar work ethic) he still had the coordination although much of his explosivness was gone. He still was a top 2 PF in the league. Watching Pau now is so difficult because I know the player he once was. Many Lakers fans have never even seen skinny short haired Pau in his prime flying around the court in Siberia errrr Memphis… Catching lobs from Jason Williams. One of the first highlights I ever saw of Pau was this one… Where he drives around KG right in front of the three point line and dunks over every Timberwolve that has ever played…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kc_JQhXP8Do&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    Until he came to the Lakers Gasol was one of the most underrated players of all time. I will choose not to remember him this way.

  7. Its not hard to like what we saw yesterday a lot more than what we have seen up till then. The team played a lot more like prior versions with plenty of usage for Kobe and a slower pace, but with a twist….better ball movement, more made shots, and a defensive cohesion more reminiscent of prior versions that what we have seen this year.

    But for me it begs the question. If Nash can’t play how he wants to play, he is not an upgrade on Sessions and an uninspired and injured DH is not an upgrade on Bynum..and the bench is worse, than last year. In that context I think we can understand what we saw up to last night. The FO, no matter how ham handedly it was done, thought, correctly, that a significant upgrade to the offence (read Nash/Dantoni) plus a significant upgrade on the defensive side (read DH) was necessary to get to the promised land, real contention. I still think, Nash’s style of play will need to be incorporated into what we saw last night, at least a bit, but perhaps what we saw last night was a back to basics and the establishment of a core identity. i.e. as a base the team needs to a) slow down the tempo and b) really focus on getting better looks and creating a degree of comfort for their bigs in how and where they are getting the ball, in order to succeed.

    And maybe they need to really establish this before they even consider running with a bit more tempo and using DH more in the PNR. Interestingly, I also noticed that in the second half you started to see, Nash run the offence a bit more and DH becoming more comfortable in running more PNR. It was almost as if, having won DH”s trust in the first half, he started to see the value in running a bit more PNR, and bringing in a bit more of the elements instituted by Nash/Dantoni. So while I think this is still a work in progress, it sure was interesting to see yet another whole new direction that seemed to do a much better job at maximizing everybody’s skill set.

    And for once, it would be nice to see some people not merely assuming that all failure is purely attributed to Dantoni, and the successes like last night, obviously had nothing to do with him.

  8. rr: Lakers are 12-3 when Kobe shoots 19 or less. 9 game winning streak. KB: 23 pts 5 reb 6.4 ast 54% fg in those 15 games. All better than his season average. DH: 20.7 pts 12.4 reb 2.7 blk 63% are also better than his season averages. In those the teams avg. 25 assists (21.8 on season), 14.8 to (15.4 on season), 8.1 stls (7.3 on season). Assists, energy and team moral are all up when he wants to involve others. Hope it stays that way if not we’ll continue to pile onto the 6-22 record when he shoots 20+ in a game.

  9. Kevin_
    It’s the chicken and the egg again man. When role-players are hitting their shots, then Kobe piles up the assists and shoots less. He also gets more rest on the bench because the Lakers have the lead. If it’s a blow-out, then he sits more in the 4th quarter. This really isn’t rocket science, but you have to have an open mind about what you’re seeing. When the team is missing wide open shot after wide open shot after wide open shot, then you’ll see Kobe flip the switch and go into Mamba mode. Does it *always* happen like this? Nope, but more times than not it does.

    Does Kobe sometimes shoot too much? Yes. Does he take bad shots sometimes? Yup. But, don’t let the stats fool you or you will end up sounding like Skip Bayless. Speaking of Bayless….I was watching him the other morning (I don’t know why.) and he was going on and on about how great Jordan was and how easily Jordan would have this Laker team playing for a championship. It’s almost like he forgot just how many times Jordan got punked by Larry and the Celtics or Isaiah and the Pistons. Here’s a link from Larry’s heyday. Man he was good!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svHk8Zntc5g

  10. @Kevin_, please the stats you just listed make no sense. If you have ever taken a statistics class u probably heard, “Correlation does not equal causation”. Also, this statement “Assists, energy and team morale are up when he wants to involve others” makes no sense whatsoever. Let me dissect and explain. 1st of all, an Assist is recorded when player A passes to Player B and player B shoots and makes a basket. So assists don’t go up simply because the ball is shared, the shooter has to hit a shot. So unless you are showing us a stat which begins with comparing # of passes, ur analysis is flawed. 2ndly, couldn’t an arguement be made that in games where teammates are locked in, playing with Energy, hitting shots, matching or exceeding opponents intensity, Kobe’s shot attempts are less and the Lakers win? 3rdly, Kobe was the initiator of the offense last night (as he was in the triangle) and the Lakers strayed far away from MDA’s offense, so comparing last night’s game to other games makes no sense; especially considering that the 5 game stretch where Kobe was allowed to operate like last night the Lakers went 4-1 (Bernie). Now back to causation, the Lakers have struggled because MDA is trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Kobe has the best post statistics in the NBA however all season MDA has sparingly utilized him there. Last night he did. Hopefully, we will have more of Kobe post ups rather than Nash aimless drives through the lane. The team has clearly refused to adapt to MDA and Nash, it’s time we utilize tried and proven weapons. #GOLAKERS.

  11. —-rr January 26, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    —-Robert,

    —-If you are going to talk down to me, talk to somebody else.

    Dont even post that next time.. its waste of time for everyone and me.

    Stuff like this.. close

  12. From a good piece written by DJ Foster:

    Who are the best corner 3 [shooters] in the NBA?

    I almost guarantee you’ll do a double take here, but the leader in made 3-pointers from the corner this season is…Metta World Peace! He’s shooting 46 for 100 from that area this season, and he’s quietly been a rock for the disastrous Lakers, whose offensive issues aren’t really the problem.

    The full piece here: http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/01/26/the-extra-pass-where-do-great-offenses-get-shots/

  13. Aynatix,

    Probably took you 10 seconds to read my time-wasting post, but about 30-45 to copy it, paste it, and respond. If such a post (which was between Robert and me, and had nothing to do with you) is a waste of your time, then talk Lakers and ignore it–as others in the thread have, intelligently, done.

    Kevin,

    I am aware of those numbers; you have posted them many times. The problem with them is that they focus on one stat, and one player, instead of focusing on the whole team and the opponent. One reason the Lakers won last night is because Utah missed a lot of shots. Howard, Gasol, Nash, D’Antoni et al also bear responsibility for how the team plays and how the shots are distributed, and there is another team on the floor. So, it is easy enough to argue that Kobe’s FGAs in the Ls are an effect, as opposed to being a cause, much less the primary cause, of the team’s failures.

    As Darius pointed out, what Kobe tends to do is try to take over when the team is laboring. Criticize him for that if you like, or, as I have done, criticize him for taking too many 3s and long Js. But there is much more to the Lakers than how many shots Kobe takes. That said, this Tweet from the Mamba should make you happy:

    @ImJustSam_: @kobebryant you should pass more often bro”u know what? In this situation, I think u r 100% right

    harvey m,

    Good points. My own hobby horse relates to that–the idea of a Nash/Howard/Meeks unit and a Kobe/Pau/Metta unit, to maximize players’ skills and get them more rest.

    The Lakers play the Thunder and the Pelicans in LA, then they have the seven-game Grammy Trip. I would surmise that nine games from now, we will know whether the Purple-and_Gold actually has a shot at the 8th seed, or doesn’t.

  14. Snoopy – cool post, thanks for linking.

  15. KenOak and Maert–good posts.

    Snoopy,

    Also a good post. MWP has been rocking from the corner, but he has had issues spotting up elsewhere–that was part of the breakdown vid I posted yesterday.

  16. Good post Maert and thanks rr!
    Holy cow Snoopy- I really did do a double-take when I read that….

  17. That probasketballtalk article is kinda of misleading. It says MWP is the the best Corner 3 pt shooter this season but by what measure? Yes MWP has hit the most corner 3s but he doing so shooting 46% which is way less than the rate at which Ray Allen and Steve Novak are hitting that shot.

  18. My only fear – not really discussed anywhere that i’ve seen – is that a big factor in last night’s superior defense is that the opposing PG was jamaal tinsley who is not really a threat to break down defenses through penetration, which I still hold onto as the biggest overall weakness of this team and the greatest cause of its struggles (specifically, the defensive perimeter footspeed of Nash, Kobe, and MWP and the corresponding mess it makes of our D when the ball handler blows past the first line of defense).

  19. Again, my straight-forward comment about the Lakers defense gets stuck in moderation, but last night, someone posing as me posted about me being sodomized in a bathtub and it goes straight through! Curious.

  20. Great article, and it’s always good to get a Zephid sighting.

    P. Ami- I watch the games to support the Lakers without expectations that they will win the game…too many up’s and down’s this season.

    Aaron-When Pau was in his prime with Memphis I watched many of his games and longed for him to join the Lakers. Due to the structure of the payroll with the Lakers it is difficult to get a bunch of players in their prime. So I’ve been happy for what Pau has contributed to the franchise, and think that if Pau tapered back playing for Spain his skills and body would have not deteriorated so precipitously.

    The problem with playing on the fly is that the longer the Lakers play this way the more easily they will be to scout. In a tight game the Lakers will have to use some one’s system, either the Princeton or the SSOL to win games down the road.

    My problem with both Brown and D’Antoni is that they both tried to force feed their systems instantly. Both coaches could have let the team play some open games and incorporate plays slowly over the season, so that when the playoffs began they would all have a good feel of each other and their offensive and defensive schemes. How many more games would the Lakers have won if they were allowed to continue with Bickerstaff’s style of play and integrate variations of D’Antoni’s offense?

    Nash, Howard and Pau are still mending from injuries and the Lakers may not know fully what they are capable of doing on the court until they are 100%. Nash is not an elite defensive player nor has he ever been one. But, what he is a pg that understands the flow of a game. He is 39 years old and has a bum leg that is not strengthened; it is healed but not strong. Thus, when Steve gets fatigued probing the defense, and pushes off on that leg, the leg is not responding so he turns the ball over. On offense after 7-9 minutes he is reticent shooting due to the strength of that leg and when he does his shot is short.

    If the Lakers continue developing chemistry of defense they may just make the playoffs.

  21. @lil pau – sorry about that, it’s nothing intentional from the moderation side of things at all. The software has a mind of its own sometimes… I’ll go check the queue.

  22. WINNING WITH AN OLD TEAM.

    Phil Jackson and the Chicago Bulls won their 6th NBA championship in 1998 with a CREAKY VERY OLD team that went 62-20 that year and a record 72-10 the year before.

    Here were the ages of the primary players:
    Michael Jordan = 35 years old
    Pippin = 33 years old
    Dennis Rodman = 37 years old
    Ron Harper = 34 years old
    Steve Kerr = 33 years old
    Toni Kukoc = 30 years old
    Luc Longley = 29 years old

    This Bulls team is OLDER than our current Lakers team.
    This means an OLD team can win the NBA Championship.

    It takes a great coach to lead them there – like the best of all time Phil Jackson.

    Or – if this current Lakers team is to have a chance – the players have to IGNORE the coach and COACH THEMSELVES.
    After all, it is Steve Nash who was the actual coach of the Phoenix Suns, not D’Antoni.

  23. James – this is tough enough without you bringing up all those dudes, c’mon now! Play fair, haha. That old Bulls squad was awesome.

  24. Jameskatt-
    I’m also curious to know what the pace of the NBA was during those last 2 years of the Bulls dynasty? Where other NBA teams just as slow as the Bulls? The problem with the Association nowadays is that all the really great teams are ridiculously athletic and fast. It’s a different era now than it was then.

  25. I’m sorry but comparing the basketball we see in the NBA today to the NBA we saw in the 90’s is wholly inaccurate and false to say the least.

    The NBA as constructed today is a far more competitive league, it’s never a good idea to compare generations. Players evolve, the game has totally changed from what it was then to now.

    It’s the case in every sport, not just basketball. Look at the current crop of young QB’s in the NFL.

    Not saying OLD(er) teams can’t win, if coached well and injuries withstanding they can certainly challenge on the basis of being a well oiled machine. San Antonio Spurs being a prime example.

    Is this enough though? When you have the likes of the Heat who are athletic and play with energy for 48 minutes which most teams are incapable of doing, likewise OKC.

  26. The Lakers have been unlucky this season in regards to their point differential. I think the injuries and plain bad luck are the biggest cause.

    The Lakers have a point differential of a team that should be 23-20 instead they are 18-25. The Warriors have a point differential of a team that should be 22-20 yet they are 26-16.

    The Lakers basically have the same point differential as last season but last season they were luck and won 5 more games than they should have been expected to. This season its been the opposite and we could have used the luck more this season.

    I still think there is hope they could put together a solid run to get them in the hunt but the odds aren’t in their favor.

  27. Notice a couple of things about Howard’s stat line from the Utah game. People are mostly talking about how much Kobe changed his game…. However, Dwight had 12 shots against the Jazz. He has averaged 10.3 shots per game this year. So, Kobe was force feeding him all night right? Well, yes and no. Most of Dwight’s shots came off of lobs from either Kobe or Nash. That’s why he was 8-12 on the night. You can also see that he only had 3 free throw attempts because his shots were all dunks and that he only had one turnover…because his shots were all lob dunks for the most part.

    Most of this team’s issues are defense….and simply role-players hitting their wide open shots that either Nash or Kobe get them.

  28. Chearn and others,

    Nash is what he is and has been for the last 5 years. He may be a little bit bothered by the lasting effects of the injury and may be 2-3% slower than he was 2 years ago. Otherwise he is the same.

    What you are noting are things that have existed with him for years a) he wants to be an assist first guy, and I think that is doubly so on a team where touches has been a HUGE ISSUE. That is why he shoots less. It has nothing to do with leg strength. he hasn’t been shooting more than 10 times a game for a decade. 2) he is an ok team defender, though weaker man to man. There was an excellent article, on espn by someone named Beckley two days ago, which covers this perfectly. It explained that, knowing his limitations, he always goes under screens, but in Phoenix, there was a lot more hedging and covering for Nash, particularly on the PNR, to help him out. Against, Chicago, for example, and by contrast, he was left out there to fry and got cooked real good by Heinrich. DH and Pau have either been reluctant or have not been made aware of helping him out there, or are staying in the lane due to physical issues. He and Dantoni have been both unduly tarnished re D. In 2006, the only year when Amare was out for a Dantoni led Suns team, (who was the real problem on the defensive side and the reason that so many Dantoni teams were mediocre defensively, with such a poor defender as the interior anchor), Phoenix was #4 in defensive efficiency, until Kurt Thomas was injured. Nash can be part of an upper tier (top 8) defensive unit, because he plays good team defence to cover for his lower end skills straight up.

    The offence being run up to last night was a far cry from SSOL, which ran a high pick for Nash almost every time down the floor and tolerated absolutely no post-ups, ISO’s or any form of ball stopping. Dantoni, even before last night was allowing a ton of that into the offence. But I do agree, with your other thought, that perhaps, Dantoni would have been better served to let the guys run what they know, and insert his ideas more slowly and only after the guys became comfortable in the offensive sets. Maybe that is where we have finally arrived after all this angst.

  29. jameskatt, while that Bulls team is alot older than what we are now, you have not factored in the degree of athleticism required to defend in today’s game. Hedges are harder, PGs that are lightning quick that are 22yos, specimens like Lebron James, freaks like Kevin Durant and beasts like Dwight Howard.

    The freakish abilities of today’s players do not compare at all with how the game was played 20 years ago.

  30. Again, my straight-forward comment about the Lakers defense gets stuck in moderation, but last night, someone posing as me posted about me being sodomized in a bathtub and it goes straight through! Curious.

    Well-played.

    Dave,

    Good points; I have brought that up a few times. Point differential, like all stats, has serious limits (in the Lakers’ case, they have come back and made some games seem closer than they were) but it is worth being aware of.

  31. lil pau,

    Correct. Always need to look at the other team on the floor when evaluating the Lakers. Tomorrow, it’s Westbrook/Durant et al.

  32. READY,
    Lets get em!
    GO LAKERS!

  33. The Laker FO risked everything on a two year adventure. They got the pieces, but they don’t fit. What can they do?

    Almost nothing–and there is nothing more difficult than doing nothing.

    The biggest and most obvious pieces that didn’t and don’t fit are the Coach Mikes–but it might not be their faults. Mike B was overjoyed with the pieces, but he couldn’t find a way to put them together. Mike D needs different pieces, with no guarantee he can deliver even if the FO could continue doing the impossible through trades. All the poker chips are on the table.. Checkmate.

    The least obvious piece that doesn’t fit is Kobe. There are few aspects of basketball that Kobe can’t do–and that may be his biggest problem. He needs to play a complementary role on a team, but he is self programmed to play the Alpha role–and that self programmed role keeps him apart from his teammates. Not only his teammates–even from all the other players in the NBA. To be part of a winning team, Kobe has to be managed. The only ones to partly manage him were Phil Jackson, the coach–and Derek Fisher, the teammate. With them both gone, Kobe has been exposed as an unmanageable spectacle.

    Dwight Howard is a recovering prima donna, as exposed as the Kobester this year. Dwight did not choose to come to the Lakers, partly because of Kobe, but the organization made him feel appreciated–until he started working with the Mikes. The Princeton was not designed with Dwight in mind–neither was Showtime–big guys prefer some type of Slowtime. For half a day, he was thrilled at the prospect of Phil, then confused by the choice of Mike D. In retrospect, that was the high point of his Laker experience so far. Against all odds, Dwight started the season, searching for Mike’s D, and hoping for Mike’s “o” to increase his comfort level. He was bouyed by confidence in Steve Nash–for one game. From there, he was exposed to the Kobe he feared would be his teammate. When Nash returned, it didn’t help much.

    Steve Nash may have been the biggest reason that Mike D was chosen to replace Mike B, but the reunion was short lived. When Steve finally returned, it was to a dysfunctionaol team, and even Steve has been unable to put Humpty together again.

    Those who have watched carefully know that Pau Gasol can do almost anything–but only a few anythings at a time-and about 30 minutes worth per game. By the time Mike D arrived, Pau had already been worn down by too much summer PT and greuling practices. Mike D’s solution was to get the team used to more end to end running at an unprecedented pace–not what Pau was looking for. In addition, Pau was stationed on the perimetry and encouraged to take three point attempts–but stay away from the post. Pau’s game fell apart just before Pau himself fell apart–He’s only now showing some life.

    We might speculate on the loss of Steve Blake for most of the season, leading to experiments with Morris and Duhon. We could talk about Mike D’s belated recognition of Jordan Hil just before Jordan was lost for the season, forced recognition of Earl Clark, Mike’s on again/off again relationships with most everyone else on tyhe roster–except Devin Ebanks.

    I believe that D’Antoni has been once again given his original mandate–love the guys you got–and make a miracle happen. Once any move is made, Gasol, Howard, D’Antoni, or whatever, it is hard to predict when the changes will stop.

    If Kobe–against all odds–allows himself to be managed–and if D’Antoni listens to his coaches, the FO, and Steve–giving us Showtime on Geritol–we could witness something beyond my imagination.

    More likely, the soap opera will continue unabated.

  34. Even though it’s water under the bridge, if PJ had come back to coach the team I believe Nash would have thrived in the triangle as a spot up shooter a la Steve Kerr. Nash is not as same player he was even as recently as last year with Phx. After suffering the first major injury of his career at age 38, a broken LEG no less, it may have been unreasonable for us to expect a speedy and complete recovery for Steve and a rapid return to his previous form.

    With this team, I believe that the biggest challenge for MD’A is to get his stars to accept roles outside of their comfort zones. Less has to be more for this group. Less one on one from Kobe and better sharing of the ball. Less dribbling from Nash and more of him spotting up and playing off the ball. His career #’s show us his greatness as a shooter. Dwight needs less turnovers and more help on defense and less uncertainty about his back and shoulder. It is damn near impossible for him to be the same force we’ve seen in the past unless he is completely healthy. Metta needs less wild forays to the hoop and more discipline with his shot selection. And Pau has to come to grips with the fact that he may not get as many post touches as he would like, but that his length on defense and going after the ball hard on both backboards is also an invaluable contribution.

    I’ve maintained from the start that this team needs its bench to step up on a nightly basis in the worst way. Nash and Kobe, in particular would benefit so much from the reduction in minutes that a consistent bench would provide. I stubbornly continue to believe that the big 4 is good enough to compete, with Gasol in a reserve role. Perhaps a trade deadline move will bring a needed infusion of constancy to the 2nd unit.

  35. drrayeye: “The only ones to partly manage him were Phil Jackson, the coach–and Derek Fisher, the teammate. ”
    While I do not agree with some of your conclusions about Kobe, I certainly agree with that statement. Kobe is a huge talent, but even in his 17th year he needs guidance and a system that will maximize that talent. This was true during the Shaq era, during the 81 era, during second Phil era, and it is true today. The Phil eras were clearly the most successful, but even during the Kobe 81 era (I realize Phil coached that game) – we still had Fish. Today we have neither, and their replacements do not appear to have the ability to relate to Kobe in a way that maximizes his talent.

  36. Kenny T,

    I have said this many times and as a big Nash follower, I will go down to my grave saying that Nash has not really lost a step. The poorer play you are seeing out of Nash is a result of a) the team not knowing/not being prepared/not having the right personnel, to run the Phoenix offence (even a very Phoenix lite version which is more like 18 seconds or less), because a) DH wouldn’t set high picks for him, b) them not having enough floor spacing shooters to open up the defence, and c) too much ball stopping from really everybody not named Nash, allowing defences to pack the paint and really focus on the initial high pick. The other factor is Nash really trying his darndest to get everyone else involved therefore being reluctant to shoot. The triangle offence would not have been ideal for Nash in any way.

    But it is clear that a pure Dantoni offence does not work with this line-up anyway, so that is not the issue. The question is how can Nash be somewhat effective in a very different type of offence and we may have seem something on Friday night. With Kobe as the primary one, at least initially and with a lot more focus on forcing it into the bigs, you saw a much happier DH, and in the second half a bit more Nash facilitation and some of the more effective PNR, in small doses, that we have seen all season. So, so far, the use of Nash seems to be more in an offence where the PG position is much more shared with KB, there is more focus on posting the bigs, the pace is slower and less Nash focussed, allowing more energy to be expended on the defensive side by Nash and others.

  37. An error above by me. I did not remember that Fish was gone during basically that entire period between Shaq and Pau. So as the Dr said – perhaps he needs both : ) Early start today everyone !

  38. Again, with all the talk of chemisty, Kobe’s personality, etc, the Lakers’ biggest issue is perimeter defense. Utah, using Tinsley and Watson at the 1, was not in great position to expolit that. The plan was for Howard to cover that weakness, but, as noted so often, he is not himself.

    I can see an argument that Kobe’s USG should go down to about 27 from 32 with this team, but given Howard’s issues converting in the post, the poor bench, and Pau’s physical issues, that is a problematic argument to make.

    The Lakers are at the moment 21st in DRTG, 7th in ORTG. Robert has correctly pointed out to us that it is pretty rare to make the Finals from a lower seed. It is also very rare to win a title if your team is well below average in either part of the game. And for those who think Kobe’s shooting undermines the defense, the the 2010 and 2011 teams were 4th and 6th in D with Kobe shooting as much as does now. Even last year’s team was 13th.

    I think perhaps that we all underestimate how much Lamar Odom did for the team D, and again, Phil was a good defensive coach.

  39. @Harvey M…

    As a regular reader, I’m aware of some of your history and appreciation for Nash, so I respect your take on his game currently. But I have noticed him having difficulty handling the ball and getting to his spots against some of the quicker 1’s in the league whereas in the past he more than held his own in that regard. As per the triangle, I think that although it isn’t the ideal system for a guard with Steve’s skill-set, his ability to shoot would have served him well in that system. Plus the triangle is a vast and versatile offense that offers pick and roll options as well.

  40. Rr…

    Good point about Lamar’s defense during the last repeat in ’09 & ’10. The team nor Lamar has never been the same.

    I’ve always felt that the decision to trade Lamar was done in haste. Knowing that he can be emotional, and probably was when he requested a trade, a little cooling off period may have mended that fence.

  41. and their replacements do not appear to have the ability to relate to Kobe in a way that maximizes his talent.

    He is actually playing better on offense than he did last year, and more or less as well as he did from 2009-2011. You often say that you don’t care much about numbers, and fair enough,so I won’t post them. But I think the only specific argument to be made in favor of the post-Fisher/Jackson teams making Kobe an “unmanageable spectacle”, as dr rayeye called him, is that Kobe has been even lazier and less effective on D, particularly off-ball D, since they left.

  42. Kenny T,

    Well, given Lamar’s career arc since then and how excited I was when Nash came, I can’t second-guess it. OTOH, if we agree that Pau is mostly a 5, I think that we can also probably agree that the type of 4 you need to complement him would be:

    a guy with good size who rebounds and plays D on the interior
    while also
    having a face-up game and a perimeter game on O to clear the post on O

    IOW, Lamar Odom.

    Pau has gone from having the perfect running mate and the perfect system for his skills to trying to play the 4 in systems that don’t work as well for him. Add that to his getting older and adding more mileage…and here we are.

  43. I think the Lakers found the formula in beating Utah:

    1. Kobe must be the starting point guard – like Magic Johnson. By being pass first, Kobe enormously improves the play of every other player and the chances they will score since defenses are now much more pressured by Kobe than Nash since Kobe is a better scorer than Nash.
    2. Nash must be the shooter they have been looking for – like Steve Kerr was for the Bulls. And he’s better than Kobe as a shooter.
    3. This allows Pau and Dwight to play together well because it spreads the floor as defenses must stay on Nash since he is much more of a long distance threat than the other guards including Kobe. So defenses can no longer double up on Kobe. Nash can be the secondary point guard if the offense breaks down.
    4. Pau can be the center for the second team, being a much better and versatile post-up player and passer than Dwight. This shores up the much weaker point-guard play of the bench players.
    5. With Nash as a shooter, the other bigs have also much more room to operate.
    6. Slow down the game. Ignore D’Antoni’s offense. Play the speed the players can play.