World Peace’s Return, Nash’s Status, and Kobe’s Minutes

Darius Soriano —  April 8, 2013

So, just when you thought this season couldn’t have any more twists and turns, I see this on twitter:

Okay, then.

Ron potentially coming back this early is pretty much shocking to me. While he originally tweeted that he’d be back in a little over two weeks, he deleted that tweet only for the team to announce that his recovery timeline was around six weeks. Today marks the 18th 10th day since his surgery and, as reported above, if he doesn’t experience any swelling he could be back in the lineup tomorrow when the Lakers host the Hornets. From now on, I’m calling him Ronstradamus.

Getting Ron back will surely help with the Lakers’ rotations and should allow the team to put better defensive lineups on the floor for longer stretches. Ron, even at less than 100%, is a crafty wing defender and at least has the size to switch on screens and not get buried in the post or be completely overmatched in a matchup. Plus, when Ron and Clark share the wing, the Lakers have a lot of defensive versatility on the floor, allowing  them to mix their matchups in a way that maximizes their effectiveness. I wouldn’t be surprised to see lineups with Kobe, Clark, Ron, Pau, and Howard with the team doing a lot of switching funneling everything to the paint where multiple guys can protect the rim.

The news wasn’t all good from practice, however. Steve Nash continues to struggle with his hamstring and hip issues and missed practice again. As for his status tomorrow, it doesn’t look good:

Nash being out is probably a bigger deal than potentially getting Ron back. Having Ron around to bolster the wing rotation is fantastic and his defensive effort and smarts can only help a team that’s struggled on that end since he went out with his injury. But missing Nash means that Kobe is still likely to play heavy minutes as long as the games are reasonably close (or in some cases unreasonably, since every win matters so much). With Nash out, the only two ball handlers Mike D’Antoni seems to trust are Steve Blake and Kobe. Blake is already starting but it’s unlikely he’s going to be the player who goes really heavy minutes in order to keep Kobe fresh. If anything, it will be the opposite in that Kobe will need to be on the floor for almost the entire game as he’s so important to the overall flow of the offense.

This isn’t just me speculating, either. Mike D’Antoni said so himself today:

“We’re playing a little bit with fire,” D’Antoni said of Bryant, who has played 46 minutes a game the past four games. “We wouldn’t like to but we put ourselves in the position we have to. We’re short-handed right now and we’re playing it very tight. Normally this wouldn’t happen but we put ourselves in a hole and Kobe is our best bet going forward to win games. He said he’s going to retire after a year so we’re going to get our money’s worth for two years. I don’t know what to tell you.”

Would the Lakers’ be better off getting Kobe more rest? Yes and no. No because they’ve not clinched anything and don’t have the luxury of losing games. Do you rest Kobe more now and hope it pays off for a playoffs you’ve not qualified for? A tired Kobe in the post season is a “cross  that bridge when we come to it” situation, only you need to replace “when” with “if”.

That said, there’s a strong case to be made that a tired Kobe isn’t much good to the Lakers in games either. If he’s too tired to make the right defensive rotation or to close out games with the correct play on offense, the team isn’t really getting Kobe Bryant. They’re getting a tired player who’s wearing his jersey. Granted, Kobe can still make plays (like he’s done countless times), but where is the line of diminishing returns? Is it at 40 minutes? 42? 46? It surely shifts depending on opponent and the circumstances of the game up to that point, but no player is able to fully fight through fatigue. Not even the best players in the world.

This is where developing the end of the bench to be more than mere spectators would have been helpful, but that’s a discussion for another day. D’Antoni had to fight for every win he could get all season and that meant approaching games in a way that doesn’t always take the big picture into account. The alignment of short and long term goals was approached through the prism of getting victories, not player development and roster sustainability. Maybe the latter should have been taken into account more and it’s also probably fair to point out that D’Antoni has typically played a shorter rotation so this isn’t anything that’s really new for him. However, this is a complicated situation with too many variables to simply say “he should have done X” and there’s no gray area.

The Lakers are where they are now because they’ve dealt with too much uncertainty — some from their own doing, some from bad luck — and have struggled to get wins in the process of working through it. The odds say they need to win out to get into the playoffs and the players seem to understand that. For what it’s worth, Kobe thinks they can and his approach is pretty simple:

Darius Soriano

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21 responses to World Peace’s Return, Nash’s Status, and Kobe’s Minutes

  1. Ron Ron coming back this quick is just amazing. I hope he is fully cleared, and if he is then major cudos to him. I will also give a dime to Kobe on this. He sets the tone. Not everyone has a body that can follow, but MWP is very tough so perhaps he can contribute without jeopardizing himself. Anything to reduce the minutes of the top 7 will help.

  2. Metta is one of my favorite players. I think the main reason why he came back was because he saw how many minutes and effort Kobe has been putting every night. Even 15 minutes at this point would immensely help because I DO NOT TRUST Meeks or Jamison.

  3. Realistically, the Lakers were not candidates for the playoffs the minute they discharged their head coach eight games into the season. That move was the death knell to the Lakers 2013 season.

    With the hiring of MDA the Lakers should have immediately started to build a roster that coincided with the new coach’s philosophy. The 2012-2013 season could have been a chemistry building, offense and defense solidification for the team in preparation to make a serious run in 2013-2014. By integrating the team’s identity over time, the Lakers probably would have made the playoffs because the championship expectancy level for the team would have abated. Instead the Lakers manufactured a dissociative identity disorder team by force feeding the team three different offensive and defensive schemes, which has them in the position they are today.

    It works in the Lakers favor that the Western Conference race to playoff positioning is so tight, as it behooves all of the teams above the Lakers to play to win the remaining games. The Lakers have a bunch of teams that would love to keep them out of the playoffs, including the Pelicans whom the Lakers tried to take Chris Paul away from.

    I’m not sure that MWP will add enough to bolster the Lakers into the playoffs, but one thing we know for sure and that is that Peace usually plays very well after having time off. Here’s to the return of the MWP from the start of the season.

    While Nash is out, I just wish he would take Darius under his wing and teach him all that he knows. It may not help this year but could be valuable for next season, if the Lakers retain Morris.

    I hope Howard is sufficiently outraged and he takes it out on New Orleans.

    Four more games!!!!!

  4. Wilt avg. over 50 minutes a game one year…Kobe can avg. 48 minutes last few games….Kobe is the best player and best conditioned.

  5. As a long-time Wilt fan who really enjoyed watching him, I have to say he and Kobe are in vastly different situations.

    Wilt had four years of college (high class track-and-field athlete) and a year with the Globetrotters before he came to the NBA. He was an immediate Most Dominant Player. His 50pts/game and 27rebounds/game came early in his career.

    Kobe came into the NBA from high school and has gone through 17 years of this life. What he is doing is as amazing as what Wilt did that year. Be thankful you are here to watch this because it simply cannot continue over any type of long term.

  6. Coming back in less than 2 wks after surgery from a Meniscus Tear? Maybe it has occurred, but I can’t recall this ever happening. They always say know one knows an athlete’s body better than the athlete themselves. So, with that being the case, I hope that Ron is sincere within himself in what he’s trying to accomplish.

  7. Deer Antler Spray strikes again.

  8. Ron Ron’s official new name should be Metta ‘Not of This World’ Peace.

  9. Rusty Shackleford April 8, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    I just hope Ron isn’t doing anything too risky. I don’t want to see his career end with an ugly knee injury. I’ve never blown out a knee but I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

    Is Steve Nash ruled out for the indefinitely yet? Bad pickup. He’s 78 years old and has been battling injuries for years before his time here. Bob Cousy on his years playing against Nash, “Didn’t play defense worth a $hit but boy can that guy shoot the ball.”

  10. Coming back 12 days after a surgery that is supposed to put you out 6 weeks is crazy suspicious (like Ray Lewis coming back from a season ending tricep tear in a few weeks suspicious).

    I just hope everything about MWP’s knee is on the up-and-up.

  11. Congrats to Metta. As for Nash a half a season at 39 is not a surprise. Plan B should have been thought of long ago. Lot of decent young PG were out there. Wonder how many teams will play harder aganist Lakers then Utah?

  12. Off-topic, grats to Kenneth who won the F&B bracket. :)

  13. @Gene: I think Wilt avg’d just over 48, which ain’t bad either (over 48 because of overtimes). If I remember right, he was kicked out with 2 techs (??), with 8:33 left in one game … and otherwise didnt miss a minute … ever (that season).
    Geez.

  14. DonFord,
    That was Wilt’s 2nd yr, I think – although he stayed 4 yrs in college and one year of Globetrotters.

    This is Kobe’s 17th yr and probably effectively about 19 – with all the playoff games. I think that is about as amazing as 50pts/game, 48+ min/game, 27 rebounds/game was for Wilt.

  15. Too true, Craig.

    It seems to me as though the Lakers allowed every player on the team to come back too soon from injuries. Howard should have not played until January, February. Kobe should have stayed out during injuries, Nash returned too soon early in the season. Blake and Pau are the only ones that appear to have stayed out until they were healthy.

    Good organizations do not allow their players to return early regardless of what they say. The Lakers used to be an organization that cared about their players.

  16. Chearn

    If they cared about their players would they sit by while a desperate coach runs his starters into the ground playing only 7 guys aganist fast break teams?

    Find me another of the 29 teams doing that and I’ll send you a case of wine.

  17. If you don’t like MDA or wish Phil were here – not a sure thing, incidentally – plus you want Jerry Buss back – now that really ain’t gonna happen – then you can find fault with just about everything.

    I have lived with the Lakers for many, many years and there have been droughts before. Even when we had two superstars there were the hated Celtics who had a team full of young all-stars.

    I’m not one who thinks we should stay the course, but blowing up the ship in the middle of the ocean is simply not a very good plan; especially when you have to pay rent on the ship whether or not it is above the water line.

  18. I’ve made an attempt at trying to determine the odds the Lakers win out from here on and it doesn’t look good.

    I estimated their odds against each opponent and as a check I calculated how many wins that would be over an 82 game schedule vs that opponent with all the games being either home or away depending on the location of the upcoming game. For example how many games would this Lakers team win if it played 82 games at Portland.

    Here’s what I came up with. The percentage is the change I give the Lakers of winning.

    H vs. Hornets 75% 61.5 wins
    A vs. Blazers 45% 36.9 wins
    H vs. Warriors 60% 49.2 wins
    H vs. Spurs 35% 32.8 wins
    H vs. Rockets 57.5% 47.1 wins

    Odds of winning out 4%

    Even if The Lakers can win against the Hornets and then win in Portland our chances of winning out only go up to 12%

  19. Craig- I agree with you. I wonder if some of these guys were around during the post-Magic pre-Kobe era. If so, what would have been their opinion of Dr Buss? Would they have chanted “we want Riley” when Magic coached this team for a brief spell or during the PFund or Harris eras? Yeah, I bet they would have.

    One thing I have learned from watching this team for decades is that it takes time, patience, strategy and a bit of luck to get your team ready to win a championship. Right now we are in a rut. Things did not go as planned. But, I’m not ready to throw the FO under a bus. Only time will tell if they made the right move. Unfortunately, in the age of the internet people want immediate results and I have to wonder if the net had been around in the early 90’s the way it is today if these guys would have been Laker fans at all or would have happily jumped on the Bulls Bandwagon so many people jumped on during the 90’s (and without the internet!). Gone are the days when folks prayed for a single championship (I remember the 80’s!). NOw people are only content with repeats, threepeats and fourpeats – a laughable position that ignores the complexities and hardships involved in just winning a single championship. Day by day we are changing from fans to fanatics and I dont like it – but that’s probably because I’m getting old.

    But, if there is anything I have learned from being a Laker fan for over 30 years is that the Lakers will bounce back. It may not be today, it may not be next season, but it will happen. I just don’t know if today’s “fans” are wired to be that patient. Look how worked up they are after only a few games. I can’t imagine any of them sticking around for a 3-4 year turnaround and, frankly, that’s fine by me.

  20. I just don’t know if today’s “fans” are wired to be that patient. Look how worked up they are after only a few games. I can’t imagine any of them sticking around for a 3-4 year turnaround and, frankly, that’s fine by me.

    There are different ways to be a fan; your way is not necessarily better than someone else’s. That is something both you and Craig would do well to keep in mind. Also, I think most people who post a lot here are loyal fans.

    As far as what is up with the team, Ken’s daily anti-Buss, anti-MDA and anti-Nash rants do get tiresome, as do some other people’s. But there is a legit point being made along with the venting: both the landscape of the league and the team’s leadership have changed, as have the scouts and talent evaluators.

    In fairness to the current FO, most observers did think that this team was a serious contender when assembled. But there are some troubling patterns in the decision-making process.

  21. rants do get tiresome

    Yes, yes they do.