Thoughts on General Trends and the Win over the Hawks

Darius Soriano —  November 4, 2013

Through 4 games the Lakers are 2-2 which, if we’re being honest is a bit of a surprise. After playing 3 contenders to reach the western conference finals and a borderline eastern playoff team, 0-4 wouldn’t have been a surprise and 1-3 would have been viewed as the most likely scenario. The team’s .500 record doesn’t make this team a world beater by any means, but it does show that they’re a bit more competitive than some would have thought. Whether that lasts is another story, but as of now the Lakers look like a feisty bunch that plays a style that can cause teams some problems.

The Hawks game was a perfect example of who this team can be. In the first half, the Lakers found their stride on offense, raining shots from the outside while showing enough activity defensively to give the Hawks some problems. The ball movement wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough to create good looks for the team’s shooters and the defensive rotations, while also not perfect, were good enough to force the Hawks into some misses. The combination of both allowed the Lakers to build a comfortable lead they could carry into the second half.

In those final two quarters, though, the Lakers also showed how the style they play can lead to their downfall. Being reliant on making jumpers is always dangerous and when those attempts went errant, the offense got off track. Defensively they became less attentive and those holes sprung leaks the Hawks took advantage of. Kyle Korver’s second half shooting helped close the gap on a game the Lakers were controlling and down the stretch of the game things got tight enough where nervousness of a loss was very real. When a crazy sequence of a block/charge call went in Pau Gasol’s favor with the subsequent two free throws going down combined with Pau closing out on and blocking one last Korver bomb was finally played out, we could all breathe a sigh of relief that the team held on.

This is probably what a lot of games will look like for the rest of the season so I hope you have a strong heart. The Lakers don’t have an abundance of talent, a fact that will still be true even when Kobe returns. Kobe will help, of course, and his presence will give the team more structure in late game situations, but the rest of the roster is still made up of multiple guys trying to earn a place in this league and with that will come ups and downs that aren’t easily escapable.

In any event, the team is .500 through 4 games and that’s undoubtedly a nice surprise heading into a rough stretch on the road that begins tomorrow. We’ll find out more about this team on that trip, but even with those new things we’ll learn it simply adds to the things we already know (or at least the things we think we know). So, on that note, some more thoughts from last game and the trends we’re learning through the three before it…

*Mike D’Antoni has a problem to solve in terms of his rotation and it’s not necessarily a bad one, or, for that matter, an easy one. For the type of offense he wants to run, this roster is not balanced. He has three point guards – Nash, Farmar, and Blake – who all should see floor time. He also has three centers – Pau, Kaman, and Hill – who all deserve time. His answers on the wing are mostly unproven, minimum salaried players who all have holes in their games. His stretch power forwards are a guy who was out of the league last year and a guy who has never played the position before. But, in stretches, all of these players have shown capable and are worth giving looks to. Managing this is not easy and, this early in the season, it’s not exactly crystal clear how the rotation should shake out. In other words, put away your pitchforks for now as these things get sorted out.

*All that said, let’s not act as if we don’t have hints as to what’s working and what’s not. Jordan Hill deserves more minutes. Yes, Hill has become a “closer” of sorts who comes in late and impacts the game down the stretch to either keep a game close or help the team win. But, it’s safe to say he should probably get more minutes in other parts of the game to try and make sure the ends of games aren’t as close. Who those minutes come at the expense of isn’t perfectly clear, but one candidate is Shawne Williams, even if it’s not Hill who ends up playing PF. One solution could be to play Kaman and Pau together a bit more and then let Hill play C with the second unit he seems to thrive with.

*Another player who could see an uptick in minutes is Jodie Meeks. Before the season I said Meeks would probably play his way out of the rotation, but it’s actually been the opposite. Meeks is shooting the ball well, making better decisions with the ball in his hands, and still displaying the hustle the coaches love. Yes he can still be turnover prone due to a shaky (though improved) handle, but when a guy is giving 50/40/90 shooting through four games, he deserves his praise. Meeks could likely see some more minutes at the expense of Steve Blake who is still competing well and dishing out assists, but not hitting enough shots considering the opportunities he’s getting. I expect Blake to start to hit those shots at some point, but until he does it’s hard to say he should be play the team’s most minutes as he did against the Hawks.

*Pau Gasol had a dreadful shooting night against the Hawks and looked low on energy for some stretches. After the game it was found out he’s been dealing with a respiratory infection, so part of that can be explained/excused. That said, Pau must still find a way to be less of a long two point shot taker and more of a guy who’s working closer to the paint. Pau has historically been a good mid-range shooter so I don’t want to take that part of his game away. However, if he rolled more towards the paint out of the P&R rather than being a stationary target and popping for the long jumper, I think he can have more success and be more of a threat to the defense. Get him on the move some and he can up fake and drive, make the skip pass to shooters on the wing, or still just shoot his jumper. Basically, I want Pau to have more options, not fewer.

*The Xavier Henry/Nick Young swap as starter worked out well for both gus ys. I want to see if that will remain to be true, but I liked how Young looked on the second unit – he even drove and created shots for others – just as I liked Henry’s aggressiveness in attacking the rim with the starting group. I think Henry’s 2-4 from behind the arc isn’t going to be there on most nights, but his driving and foul drawing will be and considering the starters don’t have a guy who draws a lot of fouls in that group, I like how his game complements theirs. Hopefully this continues. Young, meanwhile, seemed a bit looser coming off the bench and seemed to fit in better with the free-wheeling style of the reserves. Maybe it’s weird to say, but his decision making seemed to fit in better with that group and moving forward I expect that to be the case as long as Farmar remains a reserve.

Darius Soriano

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30 responses to Thoughts on General Trends and the Win over the Hawks

  1. Jordan Hill should definitely get more minutes. I think they should start Kaman alongside Pau and bring Williams off the bench. A starting unit of Pau,Kaman, Henry, Meeks and Nash would create great ball movement and they would have knockdown shooters at 4 of 5 positions. That would force teams to play them straight up which would give Kaman, Pau, Henry and Nash the advantage of their defenders most the the time. It would also allow henry to slash and get easier shots. However, that creates an awful defensive line up with 3 of the teams slowest defenders. I think they can manage defensively for the first 6 or so minutes of the game.

    Pau and Nash have to step for this 3 game road trip or they will easily go to 2-5 for the season.

  2. 2-2: The 8th place team in the West was 8 games over 500 last year. Whether 3 of these games were against decent teams or not, another fact is that 3 of them were at home. If we are trying to make the playoffs, then I would say we are “par” at best at this point.
    Texas Trip: We need to go 1-1 minimum. If we go 0-2 and take a beat down from DH, it will be demoralizing.
    Hill: MD needs to get over whatever he does not like about this guy. JH is no all star, but he needs minutes. Last year he was in MD’s doghouse, this year he is in the outhouse. What’s up with that?

  3. The question is how many games/minutes will Nash play on the road trip? He is obviously better after an extended rest.

  4. If the Lakers dont get their shooting pct up it will be a long season…

  5. Laker castoffs Andrew Bynum and Mike Brown have landed on their feet in Cleveland, on a team that looks a lot better than the Lakers at present. Life sure can have some strange twists and turns.

  6. “Jordan is kind of a spurt guy,” D’Antoni said after practice Monday. “The longer the minutes, the [more tired] he gets, the less productive. So he spurts out there and he gives us some energy and he doing a great job. There’s no doubt we’re trying to find him a few more minutes here and there, but we’re trying to be strategic about how his minutes are going to impact the game and they have so far.”

    Hill missed the team to get an MRI but is expected to play in Dallas.

    http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/9928376/los-angeles-lakers-jordan-hill-bone-bruise-right-knee

  7. The 18-year veteran said he is working daily with Judy Seto, the Lakers’ head physical therapist, in order to try to get his body right for the long haul.

    “She’s tremendous,” Nash said. “She relieves as much of the issues I’m facing as [she] can and the rest is just recovery time and doing everything I can to prepare to do the best I can.”

    http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/9928053/steve-nash-los-angeles-lakers-dealing-nerve-damage

  8. Wow Clips are gonna score 75 points in the first half!

  9. Andrew Bynum is avg 4 points and 3 rebounds and has missed 2 games already and the Cavs are a tipical MB team, they cant score so good luck with whatever they have going on that hellhole, im glad about 3 things tonight, Dwight is giving a taste to the rockets on how useless he can be at times, as much as i despise the Clips im glad they winning handily and im extatic at the massive booin Dwight is getting. On to the Lakers the Dallas and NO games look winnable to me, we might get in a world of hurt in Hou but if we get 2 of 3 that be gravy, like i been saying since the roster took form this team is better than advertised not a world beater but could do some damage if healthy and with an 80% Vino. We just need to hover around that 500 mark. Im agree with everything Darius said. All Lakernation is unanimous about Hill so i wont harp anymore on it lol.

  10. Chris Paul is the best PG in the world.

  11. Lakers rotation:

    Nash and Gasol need help on the athleticism department and thus need to be surrounded by capable players that run and fit the system. These players are Xavier Henry, Wes Johnson and Jordan Hill.

    However, we should not take out too much from our bench mob (led by Farmar) so as not to take away the advantage that we have created. Nick Young, Jodie Meeks and Shawne Williams fit here with Jordan Hill as its ideal center. This leaves Kaman in no man’s land and therefore might fit better at the starting lineup.

    Nash – Henry – Johnson – Gasol – Kaman
    Farmar – Meeks – Young – Williams – Hill

    This puts the Lakers at a conundrum on how to play Steve Blake. I’m sure with Nash’s struggles you’d want to give him more burn if he’s aggressive enough and feeling healthy in order to get accustomed to the players he plays with. The only problem with Blake is that he is at this point a tweener between 1 and 2 and it puts him at a very difficult situation once Kobe comes back. However, we couldn’t trade him due to Nash’s fragility.

  12. People keep wanting johnson to play the 3.
    However, if Johnson plays the 3, 2 of Hill/Gasol/Kaman will be at 4/5.

    Johnson is not good at shooting the 3 (he’s more of a slasher like Trever Ariza), and Hill/Gasol/Kaman cannot be stretch 4s. As a result, the unit on the floor will not be able to space the floor properly, which is against MD’s offensive philosophy.

    If Johnson can be a consistent 3pt shooter, I’d like to see him start at the 3 and provide some length and athleticism on the wing…

  13. Casual fan I agree with you…Johnson should not be at the 3…with him slashing he could in some ways (wait for it…) be a Lamar Odom type offensively as far as being to take bigger players off the dribble. Obviously he doesn’t have the post game Lamar does…

    I’ve said it once I’ll say it again…I think Farmar should start in these dual lineups because I don’t see him as a floor general…I see Farmar more of a Bledsoe type of player who can do things and may eventually learn and pick up things from Nash but at the moment he simply isn’t do those things at this time to lead a unit…doing so will put Blake at the point for the Bench Mob and will undoubtedly slow things down but having 3 point guards you can definitely interchange somethings.

    Positive about this 10-11 man rotation is that it lets each player show their contributions without going 35 or so games or waiting for a major injury before we can see what a player can do…that said, unless they are going to do more aggressive trapping or full court schemes defensively or run at a faster pace they are definitely going to have to shorten the rotation.
    Williams needs to be a rotation player on a match up basis, not as a bonafide part of the teams rotation. If we are playing the Lebrons and Melos and Durants he can guard them but really I’m not sure what is going on with his shooting. Maybe he just needs a breakout game to get going..maybe he is used to being in an 8man rotation where he can get more minutes at a time…not sure…but no shot no play….simple.

    Have to believe that Nash isn’t going to shoot 20% from the field the whole season and I hope hope hope hope Gasol will not be shooting 40% from the field for the rest of the season because if he is he can get traded for a Ryan Anderson/Anthony Morrow combo or something (I know I know….thats what I would want…kind of a one sided trade oh well)…

    Kaman wants more time…play big and you will get more time…I’ve never seen him play strong in the post or even be aggressive pursuing rebounds…if you are a beast in the paint you will likely play…wait a minute nevermind we do have a beast in the paint who currently isn’t getting enough minutes so scratch that.

    I loved the sequence off the pick and roll that had (I think it was Meeks) cutting backdoor from the corner to the basket…think it was missed or blocked, but I love the action…we have to get off ball movement from the team even if it is false motion on the weakside….And no I’m not talking about just the Horns / A-Set where it takes 10 seconds for the play to develop while the post player holds the ball…

    All things considered 2-2 and could argue should be 3-1 without Kobe isn’t too shabby. We were 1-4 last year with a team MWP said would win 70 something games so I guess we aren’t doing too bad….So basically we are a .500 team without Kobe give or take a few games above/below…..question is how many wins is Kobe good for?

  14. Observations:

    -With just under 5% of the season in the books, the 2-2 the Lakers are currently in 10th place in the West, two spots higher than their predicted 12 place finished.

    -This Laker team truly appears to be having fun. Everyone is getting touches and the bench is very supportive and rather productive.

    -All the Dwight Howard & Andrew Bynum haters must be a bit disappointed. Both players are looking better than expected at this point in their respective seasons. I for one am happy for both. Let’s hope our Lakers can meet them in meaningful games later in the season.

  15. LakerFanatic: “So basically we are a .500 team without Kobe give or take a few games above/below…..question is how many wins is Kobe good for?”

    That’s an optimistic and one sided look at how the teams chemistry will be if and when Kobe returns. These guys are having fun, sharing the ball, and winning enough games to smile and as it appears, give hope to fans. Just be aware Kobe’s return can have just the opposite effect, unless you feel Kobe will be ok averaging 18-20 ppg. And remember, Kobe is only 675 career points behind Jordan for 3rd place on the all-time scoring list.

    Stay tuned.

  16. Bigcitysid,
    Once again I am convinced you don’t watch games. Bynum went from being a player who felt he needed to be featured on offense on a championship team to being Greg Oden on a team headed nowhere. As for Dwight, he is playing on a team that does all the things he complained about in LA (Pick and roll, horrible perimeter defenders). So why would their “haters” (as you called them) be disappointed? Those 2 are exactly who we thought they were; spoiled players who are not as good as they think they are.
    As for the extra touches, the Lakers play at a hurried pace which leads to an increase in possessions so the touches for everyone should be expected. The extra touches isn’t why the team is having fun. They are having fun cos they have won half their games. If they were 0-4 they wouldn’t be having “fun”.
    We are sometime so caught up in sports cliches we fail to grasp the reality of situations.

  17. BigCitySid if you think Bynum with his 4 points and 3 rebounds a game and missing 2 games already is looking better than expected, i want some of what you smoking, about Dwight,watching the Rockets for the 1st time last night, like Jay said he is in a team that do all the things he complained about , i saw at least 4 ocasions when he was totally ignored on offense and i went to bed after the 1st half, this is James Harden’s team. What they asking from Dwight in Hou its the same thing he was being asked in LA. Last night they got a dose of “useless” Dwight, turnovers and stupid fouls. They got a taste of what we got on almost a nightly basis and i bet as the season goes along he will start complaining about touches. Mark my words…

  18. Dwight Howard about Lakers: “Unfortunately the Lakers have the most fans in the world.” This dude dont know when to shut up. Even long gone he find ways to alienate us. He must have a mutant ability for that, must be an X-man.

  19. I don’t think Dwight is going to ‘complain’ just so he could avoid being harped on with his decision. That only if he keeps his mouth shut. Remember how ‘happy’ he was to be in LA? Yeah.

  20. Warren Wes, he is not that bright to begin with, remember this is the dude that believe he needs 25 touches with a offensive arsenal of a 10 year old. He is getting the same touches and same plays that he complained here. When he accepts who he is as a player and stop pretending he is a 25 ppg player the better off he will be.

  21. Prediction Edition:

    The Lakers currently are 10th in the Wild West. This is a team that’s missing its best player, playing its top PG on one leg and its aging big man on hobbled knees. So?

    Offensively, we’re not where we want to be. Yes, despite Kobe’s absence we expected to be somewhere in the top 10. But the league is scoring like crazy lately. Three teams are scoring over 110ppg. One of them (Clippers) is just way out of their head right now at 119ppg.

    Defensively, we’re right we’re supposed to be. Kobe can’t help that but we could be better once players settle with their roles and rotations more or less shorten to 9.

    But But But. Check this out. Phoenix is 2-1, I’m not sure they’re planning on winning 50 this season. Portland is 2-1 but I don’t think they’re up there just yet. Minnesota is 3-1 too and beating the Knicks and Thunder on Kevin Love’s takeover.

    Will any of those 3 teams hold out, better than us?

    Memphis is 2-2 as well and I believe their play is just off this season under Joerger. Denver is just lost out there and I feel bad for Shaw, but he just played the antithesis to the team’s concept under George Karl.

    Wanna bet that we’d finish better than these 2 teams?

  22. BigCitySid,

    I hate to pile on but I have to agree with the previous posters on this…and the only reason I’m commenting because I was going to make a Howard post.

    Now if your watching the games and your looking at how fluid his movements are and his morale at the moment playing a little more looser overall then I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

    The main problem with Dwight is his immaturity. Yes, he can make spectacular dunks and block shots and even grab rebounds even though he is stat stuffing in that department (he is usually with 4 perimeter players so he is usually the main one there getting them). Not trying to disparage him, he is a good talent although he still lacks a refined post game and quite honestly will get you at least one travel a game and maybe 2-3 strips while he is in the post. That said he is pretty decent.

    Interesting thing to see, and this is why I never thought he should be our “franchise” player, is what happens when adversity hits. Howard is the classic front runner….Rockets are 3-1…everything is fine…but what happens when they lose 4 out of 5? Howard is averaging 14 ppg which is 3rd on the team and nearly tied with Parsons in the scoring department…He is still getting the same amount of shots as last year he is just shooting UNDER 50% however. I’m interested to see if Howard will show everyone he has grown up through adversity or if he will crumble as he usually does.

    That said, 4 games is an extremely small sample…but if the style of play is going to continue certain things may develop over time. Everyone wants to leave the Lakers for greener pastures and then once you leave you end up wishing you hadn’t left…I’m sure Ariza probably wishes he had stayed…

    And on Bynum…it is kind of ironic that he made the comments about Kobe stunting his growth etc etc. Bynum will never be the centerpiece of a franchise as he imagined 2-3 years ago…

  23. Bigcitysid,

    Most of his posts, including the last one, are just veiled shots at Kobe.

    Also, WADR to everyone, I think it is a little early to be worried about the standings. Let’s let the team play for awhile and see where they are after 15-20 games (or even the brutal first 11)

  24. The Lakers are 2-2 after playing mostly good teams. As I predicted before the season the Lakers will make the play offs by beating up on the tankers and splitting a few games vs. the good teams. 2-2 at this point is a great sign of things to come.

  25. Warren,
    Don’t sleep on the Wolves. I think they are legit – barring injury, of course. Kevin Love stays healthy and he can carry that club.

  26. Howard will do what Shaq did when he left the Lakers. And that is he will play 2nd banana to any player in the league other than Kobe. Kobe is far too serious about basketball for some players, most are in the league to have fun, make money and get women.

    This coach made a good move by bringing Young in off the bench, it’s better for him and the for him to be in the position that he will play upon Kobe’s return. I like that he is thinking about the 6th man of the year award, it’s been a long time since any player has relished that role for the Lakers.

    Xavier Henry is the type of player that Kobe will like having around, he’s tough, hungry and athletic. I can’t wait to see these two on the floor together.

    Hill: Of course, no player can play the game at a high octane for extended minutes. That’s exactly why you play a person like him and Johnson for 7-10 minutes at a time, and then take them out for rest and rejuvenation. Playing them for short periods will net results superior to playing them for 20 minutes at a time, where their energy will diminish and they will miss assignments, rebounds, shots and risk injury.

    Nash: Keep shooting, as it’s obvious your timing is slowly returning. I don’t think Nash should sit out back to back games. Probably far more productive to utilize him for the first 4 minutes of a back to back game and then sit him, just so he’ll retain a feel for the game.

    It’s easy to cheer for the guys on this team, at least they are playing above expectations.

    Methinks that Boston is aiming for the Wiggins Sweep Stake.

    Go Lakers!

  27. We can’t conclude much after only 4 games of an 82 game season. If we did we’d think the Lakers and Heat have the same ceiling for success this season. The thing that concerns me most is the recent injury history of Gasol, Kaman, Nash, and Hill. Gasol, Kaman, and Nash are up there in age and mileage. And Hill has a reckless style of play that always seems to bang him up.

    We already knew that the Lakers are nowhere near a bad team if everyone was hitting on all cylinders (that’s if we include Mr. Bryant). But the risk of multiple players being injured at the same time is HIGH for this team. I’m taking it one game at a time. I’m keeping my fingers crossed on the injury front. But I still don’t know what kind of team this will be yet.

  28. I’m disappointed in you guys knocking Bynum. Don’t go back to conversations 2 or 3 years ago. By all accounts the fact that Bynum is playing this early in the season can only be viewed as good news. And his minutes are increasing. As for Howard, keep watching.

  29. BigCitySid,

    That’s an optimistic and one sided look at how the teams chemistry will be if and when Kobe returns. These guys are having fun, sharing the ball, and winning enough games to smile and as it appears, give hope to fans. Just be aware Kobe’s return can have just the opposite effect, unless you feel Kobe will be ok averaging 18-20 ppg. And remember, Kobe is only 675 career points behind Jordan for 3rd place on the all-time scoring list.

    If Kobe didn’t average 18-20 ppg on a team that featured Dwight, Gasol, Nash and MWP what makes you think he would average any less with this group of players? I think he will add value to the team from a chemistry point…is he a hardcore competitor? Yes…but really they don’t have that now and once that comes I feel it will enhance what they have..will some players individual numbers go down? Yes….they will get less opportunities and it will be harder for some players to establish that flow that they had before…others will excel because they will get more shots…with Kobe out on the bench he is seeing players who are excelling (Meeks, Henry, Hill) and he will go to those guys and lean on them when he needs assistance for role players…

    Best chemistry isn’t even sharing the ball although that is big…winning generally solves the “chemistry” issues and it solves “everything” (kinda cliche) but true…Kobe may detract from the team from a defensive standpoint but I believe that shooting guards he was directly guarding were averaging like 10ppg or something it was really good on ball defense…his only problem defensively from what I could see was his off the ball help defense trying to gamble for steals kinda like Jordan did …only difference is Kobe was getting burned on backdoors or getting caught behind screens…other than that I’m looking at the Kobe return as a positive…


    If Ryan Kelly is as advertised shooting the ball from deep and D’Antoni is adamant about the stretch four with Williams shooting a low percentage, what are the odds he gives Kelly some burn?

  30. Houston is Harden’s team, period. Dwight wont get the ball down the stretch because he cant hit a FT, im sure he will have a stat stuffing season, but he will never been able to carry a team, even in ’09 when he went to the Finals he got carried by Hedo insane shooting agaist the Cavs, about Bynum, he said it himself the explosibity is gone, he will never reach the heights he reached with the Lakers.