Lakers Fall to the Suns, Drop 2nd Consecutive Game

Darius Soriano —  December 10, 2013

In only his second game back from injury, it’s difficult to avoid making almost every bit of analysis Kobe-centric. So, win or lose, the focus will shift his way and the tone of the conversation will shift away from the what the team did well (or not) to what Kobe did well or not. On that note, let’s look at Kobe first…

Number 24 looked much better tonight than he did on Sunday, showing better decisiveness in nearly everything he did and making sharper decisions in the process. His pass/shot decisions were worlds better than what they were against the Raptors and that showed up clearly in the box score where he tallied 20 points on 6-11 shooting handing out 3 assists to (only) 3 turnovers (compared to the 8 he had against the Raptors). Kobe’s movement in the full court wasn’t much better than what he showed on Sunday (more on this later), but he was much more crisp in how he moved in the half court, making sharp cuts to the ball and in backdoor plays on several occasions and showing good change of direction on more than a handful of possessions.

These are the positives that come from this game; the easily identifiable progress he made from his first game back to his second. But just as some of these improvements were clear, so was the fact that integrating Kobe back into the lineup has (and will continue to) provide hiccups that translate to adjustments from the way the team was playing before.

I tweeted that after the game and while some may interpret that as a dig at Kobe, it’s really not meant that way at all. Throughout the game what became quite evident is that Kobe is playing a style that mostly suits what he’s most comfortable doing and those aren’t really things that fit snugly into the style the team was playing before he came back. Kobe wants the ball in the mid post or the shallow wing. He wants to post up and play out of the triple threat. He wants to work in isolation, survey the floor and either create a good look for himself or draw the defense and kick the ball to an open teammate. We saw all of this on full display against the Suns.

These aren’t bad things. In fact, in many ways they are extremely effective ways to play this game. Kobe knows this because he’s played this way for the majority of his career and has had a lot of success doing it. It’s just not the way the team was playing before he rejoined them in the lineup.

Before Kobe came back, the team relied heavily on dribble penetration from the point guard out of the P&R or hand-off sequences at the top of the key and hard dives from their big men after they’d set screens in either one of these actions. When the ball was penetrated via the dribble or a pass to the diving big man, either shots were put up in the paint or passes were made out to perimeter players who either took shots in rhythm or swung the ball to the open man against a rotating defense (which then led to an open or semi-open shot before a close out fully arrived). Against the Suns, this wasn’t happening as often. You only need to see the box score and notice that the team only took 18 three point attempts (making only 5, which is as much of a problem as the low attempts) to see that the offense isn’t producing the same shots it has in the past.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it is a thing. And that means an adjustment by players who have played one way for the first part of the season and now will need to start to play a different way. This will take time and while that time is passing, things won’t always look as good as you (or I) would like.

All that said, this game wasn’t lost because of the offense (at least not totally). Another quick glance at the box score reveals that the Suns made nearly 52% of their baskets while scoring 21 fastbreak points and 56 points in the paint. In other words, the Lakers’ defense mostly stunk. They couldn’t contain Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe all night and that duo combined to score 39 points while dishing out 14 assists. Add in Marcus Morris’ 22 points off the bench and the fact that the Lakers did not get enough stops is pretty obvious.

A lot of what the Suns did offensively was play at a tempo that bothered the Lakers. When Kobe and Pau shared the floor the team was at a clear speed deficiency. But it wasn’t just that the Suns outran the Lakers, it was that they out-quicked them too. In other words, the Lakers had severe issues transitioning from offense to defense (Kobe was a culprit in this, but so was Pau and several other Lakers who chased offensive rebounds but did not snare them) and that allowed the Suns to generate early offense. But, the Suns also used very good tempo within their half court offense to generate looks by attacking quickly and directly via penetration out of the P&R and off ball reversals when the Lakers closed out on shooters. These quick movements to the paint really bothered the Lakers’ defense and created a feeling that the team was often playing flatfooted against superior athletes.

This is another area where Kobe, in his current state of not yet having his full game legs, will need to make adjustments. Much like Gasol needs to (but still too often doesn’t), Kobe will need to position himself better defensively so that he can be in the right place at the right time to compensate for not having the burst he’d like to have. Over the past couple of seasons Kobe has lost more defensively than he has offensively, but coming off this injury he needs to compensate even more rather than just trying to gamble and hope it pays off. Because, while in the past those gambles may have worked and given him a sense that he could continue to try that style, as long as he’s a half beat (or more) behind those gambles will not work now.

This isn’t to rag on Kobe or blame the team’s defensive woes on him. An opponent doesn’t shoot 52% because of one guy. No one was particularly good on defense tonight and singling out Kobe would not be fair. I comment on him because he’s new and evaluating him is fresh, but the same trends of Nick Young and Wes Johnson committing bad fouls, Pau not helping well enough at the rim, and people not helping the helper when Hill leaves his man to block shots were on full display against the Suns and those errors cost the team many baskets.

All in all, then, this was a fairly bad loss even though it can be rationalized through the prism of adjusting to Kobe’s return and the Suns actually showing a lot of early season promise. There were certainly positives of Kobe playing better than he did on Sunday and the team finding good looks with him as a centerpiece shot creator. But there is still growth to be made and, much like in games before he came back, the team needs to play better defense consistently and can’t let bad offensive stretches define their effort level. These are things that already needed improvement but now that Kobe is back and the expectations for the team to play better are real, they really need to be better at them. Hopefully we start to see more consistency in these areas soon, especially since the adjustments that need to be made in other areas are very real.

*I didn’t mention this earlier in the recap, but this team misses Jordan Farmar something awful. Farmar was playing his best ball of the season when he got hurt and that makes it doubly worse, but just the simple fact that Blake is now the team’s only real PG makes finding suitable rotations quite challenging. One potential solution is to stagger Kobe and Blake more, but even that requires putting the ball in Kobe’s hands more off the dribble and the Suns game showed he’s probably most comfortable as an off the ball worker in the mid post and at the elbows. Ultimately, I am not sure where the team can go to get that creator and driver of the 2nd unit, but Farmar’s quickness on both ends of the floor is something that needs replacing but seemingly doesn’t have anyone to fill in. In other words, heal up quick Jordan. The team really misses what you bring.

Darius Soriano

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50 responses to Lakers Fall to the Suns, Drop 2nd Consecutive Game

  1. These are games the team really needs. Such a shame.

    Wven without playing well an extra three and a few mroe FT’s would have given some relief.

  2. You said it all Darius. Reality is that the team was very hard to plan or scout before. 7 or 8 guts coming at you and shooting 3s is tough to coach.

    Now it’s much easier. Push around a weak Pau to the free throw line and let Kobe dribble around. Neither is going to the basket and the others are standing around with their hands out.

    Pau and Kobe do not and will not fit the MD system. 10 guys running around and launching. Painfully slow Pau and balls centric Kobe won’t work for this coach as it goes completely against the only thing he knows. Run and gun.

    I see problems ahead.

  3. Kobe and Pau obviously have familiarity with each other’s game, but they are defensive liabilities now–hard to hide both of them at once. They’re too slow to be on court at the same time.

    Darius, I totally agree about Farmar’s absence. If I were Mitch, I’d sign Seth Curry or someone similar to a 10-day contract.

  4. We’re kinda growing into the doom and gloom situation once more. Partly because the tempo of the last 2 games has been quite painful like last year. I’d hate to think this is Kobe’s fault because he’s still recovering. I put the blame on Pau because we played like this even before reintegrating Kobe.

    Pau Gasol played well for a stretch until he had respiratory illness. Then he had an ankle tweak… what’s next? Tendinitis? Stiff Neck? Hernia? I don’t mean to harp on him as the sole guy to blame but he is part of the big problem. He complained he lacked touches with Dwight around, now that there’s absolutely no one he could not deliver. I’m sorry to say that having him on the floor doesn’t really equate to a higher odds of winning. The elephant in the room.

    There’s no point in thinking Pau will regain anything. His value is at an all-time low and he will not fetch a king’s ransom, but this is the time you trade him. Find pieces that fit our theme and team and take long-term salary as long as the guy is part of our future team. The biggest mistake we’ll make is to sign him for more seasons.

    Enough.

  5. Warren, I have no problem with signing Pau for more seasons, as long as his contract is fairly cheap and we get another big we can use…

    This game was simply a continuation of the Toronto game. While Kobe looked better, the offense is simply out of rhythm. And one can say that our offense wasn’t so bad and the problem was the defense but those who played the game know that you can’t look at either of them with considering the other. Like I said in the comments for the previous game, our help defense is not good enough and our bigs get out of position and our transition defense is actually getting worse. The number of three point attempts actually won’t matter as much if we’re not generating fast breaks chances and stopping the other team from outrunning us down the court.

    This isn’t rocket science… If our offense is fast enough and the ball rotates fast, every help defender is running and may actually be out of position by the time we shoot. If they’re out of position it’s easier to either get the defensive rebound or recover (transition defense) to our own half court. And they get tired of running from sideline to sideline (remember Shaq’s comments about Phoenix’s uptempo game when he signed there?) as a bonus. On defense it’s the other way around. If everyone can do a proper job of containing their man we don’t need as much help defense…

    Anyway, my point is that Kobe (while coming back from injury and being a bit rusty) may not be the best fit for this team. Things can only improve but once we get Farmar and Kaman healthy, we should re-evaluate how things mesh. Still waiting for the end result but losing at home to Toronto and Phoenix is as bad as it gets for a team that they say is not tanking…

  6. Doom and gloom assessments of Kobe’s reintegration should be withheld until after at least 10 games. The potential problem the Lakers FO created with their Kobe eats first contract is evident. He isn’t the best fit for winning games playing their present style. Darius said it very well. Kobe wants to go triple threat from the low block, however that isn’t best for his current team mates. Its like Kobe wants to run triangle, while everyone else plays MDA’s system.

  7. I get the point Renato. Kobe is not a fit esp at his stature where he’s just trying to get his legs back. Not the best line you’d hear that your superstar being paid big time doesn’t seem to fit the scheme of things.

    I have a problem with this claim. Its natural, understandable and outright forgivable for a guy to be 6/11 and score 20 points albeit he ‘drags’ our offense a little bit. Its not rocket science and its obvious to everyone who saw the last 2 games that our usual speed and pace isn’t there to accommodate Kobe.

    What is Gasol’s excuse? Another illness, ailment, injury or so? Not enough touches? How’s that going to improve with Kobe back? Why didn’t it improve when there was absolutely no one around? Oh right, coz he gets pushed around and couldn’t hit his 18-footer. Is that what we need him for? Coz we could pretty much get Steve Novak right now and he’d do a better job.

    Where is Pau when our perimeter D and rotations are solid, but our interior D is worst in the league? Ok not worst but next to Utah. As Craig puts it we’re like a donut. We got nothing in the middle. I mean c’mon Pau, you gotta man up.

    For what its worth, this is a solvable problem. We aren’t identified with Pau and for lack of a better word he sucks this year. Maybe a fresh start elsewhere is what he needs? Maybe a team would look to add him to get to the next level OR trade for his huge expiring contract to shed some salary.

    Either way, something has to happen because Pau isn’t improving from hereonin, esp with Kobe back.

  8. This is really tough to watch. I love Kobe and he is one of the best at all times, but with that injury and his age, he will need this year to even have a chance to get back to the old Kobe. Meanwhile the young gunslingers are stifled and frustrated and as the losses pile up, the team unity will erode. This is a 40 win team with young guys we signed to see if they might emerge to keep or get better via trades now likely going to lose the momentum of increased value. There will be great games and games like the last two but its still likely a .500 overall result.

    The problem is the Lakers had to sign Kobe and pay him. You couldnt show him the door and it was the right move. Assume he gets better over time and is fully healthy for next year. The Lakers are now in the position they were in the summer of 2012 except Kobe is not the same player. Hes still on the team wanting that 6th championship so via free agency or trades, they have to surround him with some superstars as they cannot go young or even think about it until 2016. So what can Kupchak do? Throw a bunch of money at Carmelo Anthony? He and Kobe go together on a court like oil and water. The bottom line is options will be limited because you spent 2013-14 getting Kobe back and reducing the value of the chips we got cheap over the summer. Say what you want but what the front office did in the summer after losing Dwight was pretty good. We found some nice players cheap but the value they were creating either as keepers or trade pieces is going to go down with the return of Kobe because he is now the centerpiece.

    I dont think anyone is to blame for the current state of the team. I cant criticize the front office for moves they have made at all. Maybe the draft picks for Nash was dumb, but with the league screwing us out of Chris Paul(I still dont see why we didnt sue the league immediately after it was nixed). Its not their fault we couldnt keep Howard. It was just a bad fit. Again you just couldnt get rid of Kobe.

    I am not an advocate of tanking at all, but dont be too upset if we fall down the standings. Ultimately, the team is in the worst possible position which is good enough not to be the worst, but not good enough to be amongst the best. I dont have any answers, but I dont see how blame can really be thrown anywhere.

    It will be fun to see how it plays out.

  9. I feel bad for Mike D. If this guy can get a team which has bunch of players, who can shoot and play strong D, he can be make that team a championship caliber one.
    Too bad, D’Antoni is nothing without his offense philosophy. And there is no way Kobe style fits in that philosophy, not atleast at this point of Kobe’s career. I expect a lot of players’ to diminish if things don’t get better. Kobe can’t be a role player. The longer a ball stays in one player’s hands in Mike’s offense, the more it loses its energy. We have a big issue here. It will be interesting to watch how the Lakers deal with it.
    On a side note, something should be done to improve the interior D. Other teams know where to hit to cause the most damage. Pau is costing us games.

  10. Lakers lost because of one trick Tony.

  11. Hindi,
    Did you watch the Phoenix Suns? what about Linsanity? GO look up Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin’s usage rates. This myth about ball movement in MDA’s system makes me laugh. The system works best when you have a “Ball Dominant” PG. So to say the system is predicated on ball movement is laughable. Secondly, the system has never won anything. Now to the issue at hand last nights game. The Lakers lost mainly because MDA isn’t a good coach. Players do not know their roles with this coach. Instability isn’t due to reintroducing Kobe, it is due to a lack of vision. Please explain to me how Rob Sacre goes from never playing, to Starting and back to afterthought? Kobe is doing just fine. I have no issues with him, he is playing his way back to shape and he will be fine. However, Kobe wasn’t defending Dradgic or Bledsoe, neither was he defending Amir Johnson against Toronto. Lakers lost because they couldn’t stop the aforementioned guys. BTW, the guy Kobe was on primarily all night went 1-5 so lets stop trying to say the defensive problems are because of Kobe.
    If you guys are looking for someone to blame for the losses look no further than MDA and PAU GASOL.
    Before Kobe returned Pau has been playing horribly. He misses gimmes under the basket, cant get a contested rebound, doesn’t expect passes when in the post, offers no help D.

  12. Game: Don’t even know what to say. Darius – thanks for the write up, because I know they are probably not very fun to do after 2 games like this.

    From the comments above:

    Ranato: “Kobe… may not be he best fit for his team”
    Ken: “Pau and Kobe do not and will not fit the MD system. ”
    Darius: “The contrast between the style Kobe is comfortable playing at this stage & the one the team was playing without him is very evident.”
    Hindi: “And there is no way Kobe style fits in that philosophy,”
    WWL: “your superstar being paid big time doesn’t seem to fit the scheme of things. ”

    Well – I till think it is a bit early, but I certainly understand all these types of comments. Last November we were told that MD was a “better fit for the roster”. We let DH walk because he basically did not fit, and now we are turning this topic to Kobe? Forget whether you like/dislike Kobe, or like/dislike MD, I think it is safe to say that signing MD last year and re-upping Kobe does not look like a well thought out plan at this point.

  13. We didn’t let DH walk, we offered him the max and he turned it down. Phil Jackson wasn’t going to fix a Pau who is breaking down more each day. The CBA, current rules, and officiating isn’t going to change, and doesn’t favor back-to-the-basket basketball.

    Watching last night’s game was tough because we got behind and our defense wouldn’t let us get over the hump and put pressure on the Suns. That’s where most of our criticism should be focused – not on Kobe’s offense. What I saw from Kobe last night was much, much less dribbling around and more quick passes than he showed on Sunday – Kobe understands what is going on and is trying to integrate it into his game. It was people like Henry and Young who were the major dribbling-around culprits.

    It was on defense where our adjustment needs to be made and it is defense that makes me want to see Jordan Hill’s minutes managed so that he is in the game for the last 6-8 minutes of the 4th quarter. We need a body to clog up the middle and go after rebounds. Meeks is a more consistent defender than Young. Blake needs to handle the ball, instead of Henry at these times. Then, of course, Farmar needs to heal – that requires patience from us fans – not our strong suit, myself included.

  14. Team 4 games ago is the only one MD can win with . Fast , run and gun. 26 3 pointers a game.

    This team is Pau standing at free thrown line getting. 5 RBs and Kobe dribbling and holding the ball while 3 guys stand at the 3 point line watching their careers diss spear .

    You wonder why Dwight left MD and Kobe. As other teams build for the future the Lakers build for a nostalgic view of the past with Kobe, Pau Nash and a 35 wins.

  15. Whether Phil was the answer or not is irrelevant. The fact remains that we had “system” issues with Dwight. And everyone is referencing “system” issues above, as it pertains to Kobe. Super Stars do not conform to systems, you build systems that work for them. Some are bashing Kobe, Some are bashing the MD system (same was true of DH). Which one is correct might be debatable, but the apparent incompatibility is not. Craig – you are a Kobe fan + supporter as am I. Expecting him to change his game has not proved fruitful over the years. Further, the back to the basket, ISO – type Kobe is where he can still be strong in his 18th – 20th years. Try to take that away to conform to a system, and you will reduce his effectiveness, certainly relative to what he is being paid. You have to see some irony in the fact that we just committed the franchise to the guy and now many are questioning the fit (and yes – I have been saying let’s give more time – but still). You can’t make this stuff up.

  16. darius: where to begin…

    for starters, all eyes must look toward the front office. it’s obvious what coach d’antoni is doing: giving us what all laker/kobe fans have been waiting for and showing the front office what our most glaring deficiency is by continuing to trot out pau gasol; not for wins, for show. the coach is not stupid; he’s trying to do what is popular on the one hand and screaming silently for alternative help up the middle in the line up. sadly, pau gasol needs some real rest.

    so what we got here is a .500 coach that has the front office by the short and curlies; two barely walking wounded centers and jordan farmar; weeks from rejoining the team. bookend that dilemma with kobe trying to be kobe and the real dilemma is about to begin. and don’t forget; we still got that logan’s run guy: steve nash.

    never a dull moment with the team that brings out the most passion for me – basketball wise.

    front office: do your thing.

    Go lakers.

  17. You are spot on as usual Robert . Mike system will not work for Kobe and or Pau. Didn’t ‘t work in NY and didn’t work last year with Kb and DH .

    So what is the solution and of you knew it won’t work why put Kobe and this system together?

    Please help me to understand Robert!

  18. the team needs to play better defense consistently and can’t let bad offensive stretches define their effort level.
    ___
    ain´t it the truth!
    ___
    Fine post Robert
    ___
    How´s Farmar progressing?

  19. I think most of us are on the same page here… I’m not saying that Kobe is wrong and MDA system is right. Nor am I saying the opposite. It simply appears that they don’t fit together at all.

    Obviously, for a player entering his 18th season, the back to the basket and surveying the floor type of play is the only way to go. You get to use your experience, your high basketball IQ and won’t rely on your diminishing physical ability. And I do agree that Kaman and Farmar can do wonders for us, so we should be a bit patient before judging the future success of this team. But the question that we were talking about is here… Does this coach and roster fit with current Kobe and current Pau?

    And amazingly, everyone was afraid if Kobe would be a shameless ball-hog and yet that doesn’t seem to be the problem at all. He’s willing to pass and actively looking for the team’s best shot. Who would’ve guessed that?

    Now, before we go on about a complete roster overhaul and deciding who gets to stay and who doesn’t (btw, the answer is Kobe, Farmar, Henry, Johnson, Hill and maybe Young, so far), we need to fix some issues and that’s on the coaching staff.

    MDA must correct our offense to accomodate Kobe and put us in a better position for transition defense. That’s what was so great about the triangle and yet noone cared to discuss about it. Unless you were shooting a corner three in the strong side when your second big was still cutting to the paint, the player’s positioning was ideal to have a proper transition defense. If you guys need it, I can get you the diagrams of what I’m talking about. That’s step one.

    Step two is cutting down on turnovers. I think that Farmar will do wonders to correct that. I also think that Kaman playing down low can provide some space, since he’s not as easy to push around as Pau.

    Step three is correcting our help defense and defensive rebounding after help defense. Kurt’s strong side zone (or proper defense as we call it in Europe ;) ) works if the help is fast enough to prevent a shot from that player or an assist to an open man in the lane. And the ones who can help with that are actually the guards who need to help seal off the paint when the bigs are out of position. It’s a team effort that can be corrected through practice and I’m sure Rambis will do his best to fix that. After all, he knew a thing or two about defensive rebounding.

  20. Listening to the comments I’m concerned about team speed. The Lakers have been poor at getting back all during the Twin Towers era. Going away from the Twin Towers approach should have relieved this. It is something to watch for if Kobe can’t get back in transition over time. Kobe failures in transition in the past have come from talking to the refs while the game still going or playing out of position completely abandoning his assignment. Will see how this all works out soon.

  21. Farmer will help but that doesn’t change the way Kobe plays….Can you run 2 different systems? One with Kobe/Pau ….one without? Kobe will not get faster or will fit in D.A. system…Same problem as last season..D.A. system doesn’t work with certain players.

  22. Pau Gasol’s “defense” is hysterical.

    Any analysis of the Lakers which doesn’t start and end with how embarrassing their interior defense has become, is missing the point. Gasol’s lousy defense- and his anemic offense- make him one of the worst players in the league. And still he soaks up huge dollars and way too many minutes.

    A 7 footer who can’t defend and shoots less than 42 per cent doesn’t belong on any team that isn’t looking to increase their chance at the number one pick. How it is that this continues to go on- and that there is no end in site- is the most absurd bit of decision making that I have seen from the Lakers in nearly 40 years.

  23. Its absolutely ridiculous for anyone to expect Kobe to magically adjust to new teammates, somewhat limited mobility and find his mid-season rhythm after only 2 games. Kobe has been a beast for 17+ years, it will take him a few games to get a feel as to what he can and cannot do physically. Kobe is not the same player he was last year as a result of his injury. Kobe will adjust accordingly.

    MD will also adjust. As Kobe’s athleticism returns (or does not) rotations, plays and other things will change. I think its unrealistic to expect a whole new set of plays and team playing styles to be implemented overnight. Remember that it is not only Kobe that has to adjust here – the whole team (players, coaches) have to adjust to his return and figure a way to make him be productive while also making the rest of the guys productive.

    Again, 2 games out of the gate for Kobe is hardly the time to start to panic. Let’s revisit this at the all-star break and see where the issues (and blame) reasonably lie.

  24. What will kill the rest of the season is that we have too many players that deserve some floor time that will not be provided it because of the time required by Gasol, Kobe and Nash (upon his return). Not suggesting that these HOF players don’t deserve the time they receive but taking time away from Johnson, Meeks, Henry and Young certainly won’t increase their trade value or provide any confidence in signing them to bigger deals with the Lakers. If you can unload Gasol for a no-offense rim protector and an expiring contract it would benefit the team immensely as they don’t really need Pau’s offense to win games. Going 4 weeks without a backup point guard has been stupid by the FO. The sooner they can jettison Nash from this team the better everything will look.

  25. Jay A,
    I don’t think Blake and Farmar are so ball dominant. None of them will ever be mentioned anywhere close to Nash. And I don’t see them doing something more than a normal point guard work. That’s how the plays work. Point guard brings the ball and starts things because he is a PG. The system even runs almost fine when Xavier has to handle the ball. And yeah D’Antoni might not have won any championship but he is who is, Run n Gun, and Lakers hired him for who he is. If you play under Mike’D, you play how he wants to play. Or else fire him.
    I absolutely agree on the Gasol point. He is a big liability. I would agree that not playing Hill was a mistake, and so was taking Henry out in the previous game. Interior D was bad a couple of games ago to but team was managing to win. And we have lost to freaking short handed Raptors and the Suns. I know it’s adjustment period. I am not hitting the panic button. All I give is my personal assessment of the situation. I am skeptical right now, I won’t deny. But its the Lakers!

  26. I am happy that kobe is back but frustrated at the same time. At least prior to kobe’s return it was low expectations for the team- fun just watching them scrap and play hard. There was no interior d at all – but fun to watch as they played hard and won games on effort and hustle.

    Hoping this will start turning around or it’s going to start getting ugly on the blogs again – and then who will be the next whipping boy? gasol? dantoni?

  27. A Kobe on the mend can’t pkay in the MDA system. We will see how he looks in a few months. As for Pau… Very sad to see him look like he is the one with the achillies tear. But we also have to understand he is playing out of his natural power forward spot entirely this year. Not easy for an aging player.

  28. Renato Afonso: Anyway, my point is that Kobe (while coming back from injury and being a bit rusty) may not be the best fit for this team.
    __

    Agreed. It’s as if the FO has changed directions on what they are trying to accomplish this year. This past offseason they went after players that were young, unproven and cheap. There is very little chance of winning a championship with those requirements fitting most of your roster. So we as fans hope for the best but realize that the likelihood is that the team, with Kobe injured, is preserving future cap space and is essentially writing off the year.

    However, 15 games into the season they extend Kobe. There goes the future cap space and the potential for a clean slate. Now we are building around Kobe for the next 2 plus years. Clearly we are not built to win as this roster was put together with the criteria mentioned above.

    So the questions that has to be asked of the FO are these:
    A) Did you resign Kobe solely to keep butts in the seats? Is Kobe the required distraction for the team while we miss the playoffs for the next three years? This way we pile up draft picks and young/cheap assets and officially hit the reset button when Kobe finally retires.
    B) Or, are you serious about winning? If yes, are you going to trade Pau and get assets that help you win now but have contracts that extend beyond this season?
    C) Or, do you know for a fact that Lebron is coming this summer?
    d) Or, have you completely lost your way and don’t know what you are doing?

    It pains me to say that I think the answer is D. This is not a wining roster – the pieces simply don’t fit. Under the current CBA building a winning team requires making the tough decisions that our FO is apparently not prepared to make. To win in the league you need cap flexibility, young talent and prudent spending.

    Look at our old rival, Boston. Danny Ainge isn’t stupid. He knows there is no way to rise to the top unless you get out from under dead weight contracts, build through the draft and spend your cap space wisely. It ultimately means that your team will lose games – lots of games.

    I honestly don’t know what our FO is doing. You can’t have your cake and eat it too in this league anymore.

  29. Tim: Is Kobe the required distraction for the team while we miss the playoffs for the next three years?
    __

    Kobe: The opiate of the masses, er, Laker fans.

  30. While all this discussion about MDA and Kobe is interesting, the issue is defense. Kobe has been an average to bad defender for a few seasons now. That was not going to get better after a blown achillis. Pau is lead footed. I noticed an awful lot of switching on picks which put either Pau or Hill on an island against a small. Hill can make adjustments on the move and had a couple of good plays defending penetration, but neither he, nor Pau could recover to get a hand up on jumpers. That is the sort of problem you run into when you have a defensive scheme that is protecting a defensive liability from fighting through picks. Young, Farmar, Johnson and Henry have the quickness to recover when picked off. Not Kobe. Couple that with Pau’s lack of quickness and I think we are seeing the sort of defense we will be running. Last year was even worse, as Metta is also slow, and Dwight did not have his former speed. We solved that issue with the young guys that were brought in. Now?

    I have no doubt the Lakers will figure out how to score, but Kobe’s return has made us susceptible to fast breaks and weakened the defensive scheme.

  31. Given where the discussion is, I am going to repost this. I put it up before the Toronto game:

    With the curtain about to go up on The Last Chapter for the Mamba and the next chapter for Mike D’Antoni and Jim Buss, I wanted to make a few points about the team and about the various disagreements here.
    The performance of the team so far is an object lesson in coach evaluation. Last year, MDA was in a high-expectations situation that highlighted some of his weaknesses (personality management, minutes management, media interaction, adaptability) and he made some very questionable moves and then an All-Star center in his prime left the team in part because of him. This year, he is in a low-expectations situation that highlights some of his strengths, and Dork D’Antoni has become Magic Mike. Too often, we think of coaches as good or bad, instead of as having strengths and weaknesses. MDA is a good reminder of the flaws in that approach.
    But now he has to deal with Kobe’s comeback. KB and MDA seem to have a pretty good personal relationship, due to the Team USA and Italy connections, but their philosophies about the game don’t match up well at all. Kobe is a slow-down, post-up, ball-stopping ISO guy who does not shoot 3s that well. MDA likes ball movement, PG dribbling if dribbling is to be done, fast-paced 3-driven O, and has said many times that he does not like post-ups. One reason the team is doing OK is that the perimeter D is better; Kobe was a big reason it was so bad last year. So, whether one loves Kobe, hates him, or is somewhere in between, and whatever one thinks of MDA, there will be very serious challenges for both guys here.
    As to the FO debate, some of the most vocal of the FO apologists have spun the MDA hire as actually being due to Jerry Buss, not Jim, and have written off MDA’s problems with Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony as being due to the pampered egos of players who overrate their own skills and subtly kill teams. Robert, OTOH, has taken these issues as strong indicators that MDA is not a “championship coach”, that he is a second-rate hack who lacks the gravitas to get buy-in from the NBA Elite and is not worthy to be head coach for this organization, given its long tradition.
    I have never bought the Jerry Buss argument: Jim was officially in charge at the time, although he himself has brought his father’s shadow into the MDA hire once or twice. But for those who did buy the argument, it is no longer on the table with the passing of the old man. It was Jim Buss who decided to pass up one last-ditch effort to keep Howard by trying to bring in Jackson or maybe Shaw or maybe someone else , and then decided to make Kobe Bryant the league’s highest-paid player for his age-36 and 37 seasons, when he is coming off a brutal injury. Those moves, however they work out, are ones Buss and his backers will need to fully own.
    IMO, the reality on MDA is somewhere in between. It is worth noting that D’Antoni’s best teams in PHX were led by Steve Nash, long noted and lauded for being one of the NBA’s most easygoing and unselfish stars. And as Aaron and the KBros reminded us, it is a Talent League, and working with prime talent, and the various issues that sometimes come with that, is a part of the job and one MDA may not be good at. And no one was better at that than Phil Jackson. OTOH, between the injuries, the personalities, the bad perimeter D, the bad bench, the massive shadow of Phil, and Howard’s free agency, MDA was in a very rough situation last year, and the team did, after all, pull together enough to go 28-13 the second half. MDA critics should note that as well.
    Going forward, the game has changed a little for MDA. There now seems to be some idea out there that this is a playoff team after all, that adding Kobe to the gritty group of 3P bombers/hustlers may make this team a 6 or 7 seed. I do not know what will happen, but I do know that we are going to find out something about how good a coach Mike D’Antoni actually is and whether Jim Buss was right to make MDA and KB such central figures as he has.

  32. Looking at the numbers on the two games as well as the eye test on the TOR game (didn’t catch the PHX game), P Ami’s point is well-taken.

    Last year, the biggest single problem with the team was the perimeter defense, and Kobe was a big part of that. This year, the perimeter D has been better, but the interior defense, without Howard, has been dreadful. The ORTGs of TOR and PHX in the two games are 110 and 119. The Lakers’ season average is aorund 106. The Lakers ORTG against TOR was 97, but against PHX it jetted up to 110, well above the season avg of 104. That we would about the effect that one would expect from KB.

    So…a few of us, including me and WWL, suggested a couple of days ago that the two guys to keep for sure and Farmar and Johnson, and I think the reason is simple: those are the best defensive options in the half-court and in transition, to keep on the floor with Kobe. So, if I were MDA I would keep those two guys on the floor with as much as I could with Kobe and Pau and Hill/Williams depending on matchups.

    Thne, I would have a Steve Blake plus “chaos” unit with Henry, Meeks, Hill and Young.

    And, I would try to move Kaman, and as many have said. I have no idea what to do about Nash.

  33. I wonder that even if Kobe knew that he wouldn’t win another championship with the Lakers would he still resign here? The cynic in me says that Kobe might just be taking care of his own legacy. Might his thought process be, “Even though I didn’t win more championships than Jordan and be thought of as the greatest player ever I might still be regarded as the greatest Laker ever.”

    If championships were the most important thing to him he would have waited to the off season to sign either with the Lakers or somewhere else. Or, he might have signed for a lot less with the Lakers to give them more flexibility. I really think he wanted to be A) retire a Laker B) be paid C) win.

    We have always thought that Kobe just wants to win. Maybe that isn’t so true anymore.

  34. @rr… If the team is looking to win now, Nash is not going to spend much time on the court and when he does, it had better not be with Kobe and Pau. If they do put those guys on the court together, mediocre NBA players will set our team on fire. Those grizzled old men will be the rough side of a matchbox and it takes only a little bit of talent to set the phosphorus ablaze. I don’t know that I want Nash out there with the second unit either, as their frenetic pace is their strength and that includes their work on the defensive end. Considering all the talent that has worn the FB&G armour, I am still honored to have seen Nash take his battle with Time in a Lakers uni. The man is a class act and a great talent. It’s unfortunate that he has lost that battle, but there is no shame in that.

    Maybe I’m a little weird. My favorite moments from this year do not include Kobe’s return. It’s great that he is back, and that Darth Vader theme music is classic Mamba. My favorite moments have been seeing Nick Young take charges, and body up on his man. I love seeing Wes Johnson dig low on a big and tip the ball loose. Farmar, Johnson and Henry on a break was fun to see, as we had seen so little of that the last few years. We have been an old team that forced few turnovers and didn’t run. Meeks finishing layups is eye-popping. If we go back to that old plodding style of basketball, the style that failed in 2011, 2012, and 2013- the style whose best practitioners on this team are all well past their primes, it will fail both in the win-column and in the fun column. Slow does not win.

    As for back to the basketball not winning in this league, I totally disagree. Back to the basket is still the best way to win in the league. Look at Indiana. West and Hibbert are both back to the basket players. We won two championships a few years ago as a back to the basket team. You just can’t win in this league if you are both back to the basket and slow. This holds especially true when considering the need to play defense in an uptempo league. Slow does not play defense.

    I don’t care what system you run, be it the Triangle, SSL, Motion, Princeton, whatever… You might score in those systems but if you are slow you won’t get back in time to stop the ball and play defense. That, and being slow will make it harder to score as well.

    Finally, talking about the SSL system never having won in the league… 11 championships is a nice chunk of rings. Clearly it has worked, even if I would argue that the last two championships in Phil’s resume were not exactly triangle. That said, nobody has been able to make the playoffs running the Triangle besides Phil. You see aspects of the Triangle in the league, but nobody bases their system on it anymore. SSL had a great run as well. Those were championship caliber teams, with a championship caliber system in place. Luck went against those teams, not their system. It wasn’t SSL that injured Joe Johnson. It wasn’t SSL that ruined Amare’s knee. It wasn’t SSL that got Amare and (I don’t remember who else) to stand up and step towards the court during that fight with San Antonio. Those events had more direct influence on the outcome of PHX’s playoff runs that the system they were running. I’m fine with SSL. I just don’t like slow.

  35. There’s just a slight hesitation to Kobe’s game when he’s looking to score were not used to seeing. Besides his mid range jumper (which can tell was a staple during rehab) and free throws, when looking for his own offense he’s not sure what move he can make. I’m positive this will all fade away with time as he garners more trust in his Achilles. But it’s obvious his jumping and quickness have taken a hit. May get some back with more time on the court and gym, but still doesn’t dismiss his bad off ball defense last 2 games. What I would like to see Kobe contribute nightly and what I think the team needs from him the next 3 years. Be a vocal leader, be conscious of his shot taking and make half the shot he takes and get player in position to be successful. Whether teaching in practice or assist passes. But I’m afraid his last 3 years will be unsuccessful unless the Lakers get a player/s who’s much better than Kobe to take burden off him the way LeBron and Bosh does for Wade.

    Agree with CMB. Much of the discussion is always offense with the Lakers but the interior defense has been anemic. Used to seeing length on the floor and guys shooting over an outstretched Bynum or Dwight arm, not anymore. Guys are blowing past guards and get a tip toeing Pau challenging their shot. Lakers need a system to encourage certain tougher shots or sign or trade for a guy who helps in that department.

    D’Antoni was a bridge coach anyway, I think the plan was to win with Brown’s twin towers offense. Hopefully the team gets a coach this off season who has won and can build a system around his players. *cough, cough* Lionel Hollins.

  36. Rr

    Please stop with all these logical, common sense, intelligent posts. It’s killing my hysteria!

  37. By the way am I they only one bugged by Kobe giving himself a grade of B while the team gets a grade of F.

    Used to be a team game. Three games ago at least.

  38. I dont like Kobe giving himself a grade…now if the grade is based on how he feels….thats ok…but after the team loses…He should not grade how he played….we watched….

  39. Great post rr!
    @gene
    You wouldn’t like Kobe if he somehow willed this team to another championship. Why continue to comment about the guy?

  40. Ken: I have noticed that too. Kobe, the team lost – does it matter what your individual grade is?

    I fear that team chemistry wil take a nosedive.

  41. Awesome posts all, Incredible stuff above.

    Jay A: “Please explain to me how Rob Sacre goes from never playing, to Starting and back to afterthought?” Good point. I was so focused on Kobe that I forgot about that situation which also seemed odd to me. Just add his name to the list Dwight, Pau, Hill, and now Sacre. Can’t seem to find anything consistent to do with anyone who has size. MD loves Nash and loved KB last year. KB and him are sparring a little in the press this year after KB gained the weight. Perhaps anyone with more than 220 lbs is not useful in MD’s offense? : ) AJ and Metta are also gone, while Farmar, Young, Meeks are thriving. I see a pattern.
    Ken: I wish I could help you understand, but I can only direct you to your inventory, which merely might help ease the pain. Purple – I am cranking up the metal as we speak.
    gene: “Same problem as last season..D.A. system doesn’t work with certain players.” Easy solution – we sign all small guards for minimum salary and all will be well.
    MannyP: “Again, 2 games out of the gate for Kobe is hardly the time to start to panic.” In my case I started panicking over two years ago on the day we traded Lamar Odom. Darius remembers it well. I made my first post here.
    Hindi: “D’Antoni …. Lakers hired him for who he is” Yes – and they signed Kobe for the same reasons. What up with that?
    rr: The behavior of the fans, the coaches, the FO, and the players is simply not very Lakerlike. In the words of a very wise man – at this time we are simply not being the Lakers.
    Tim: Someone recently brought up Occam’s Razor. So clearly the simplest answer from your list, as you fear – is “D”

  42. I fear that team chemistry wil take a nosedive.

    Unfortunately, it looks as if it already has and the only remedy is winning. Which, I’m pretty sure, will not begin on Friday night in OKC.

  43. Lots of interesting comments in this thread. Love the fact that Laker fans have varied opinions and it shows. It’s easy to be critical of the FO because we are all so used to winning and we are not now. Additionally, our future is not very clear because we don’t have a young building block, we have an older one (Kobe).

    I share folks frustration because we really don’t know what the direction of the team is. Until Kobe signed the extension I thought we were going for cap space and a rebuild around FA’s. Now I’m not sure.

    Someone above said in best, ‘this is a talent league – without it you don’t win.’ I think we have to trust the FO to know that as well.

  44. I don’t mean to be overly simplistic, but with our interior defense disintegrating into ashes before our very eyes, I think it would be logical to play Jordan Hill the last 6 minutes of every game (as Craig W. noted above).

    That may or may not win a game for the Lakers. But it’s our best option defensively. Last night we simply could not come up with a stop in the 4th quarter. And Hill was on the bench. Amazing.

    Jordan Hill played 19:12, scored 13 points and had 7 rebounds and 2 assists. And MDA sat him at the worst possible time–with 6 1/2 minutes left in the game. Big mistake. We then allowed 35 points in the 4th Q when we needed defensive intensity the most.

    A few games back, MDA played Jordan Hill in crunch time and it worked superbly. Why has he gone away from that? Does MDA honestly believe that Jordan Hill is incapable of playing 24 minutes per game? Hill seems perfectly healthy now and he’s the best defensive option that we have among our bigs. He may not be Bill Russell. But at least he challenges players who drive to the rim. He grabs rebounds. And he gets his hands on balls at crucial times. He’s active. He’s intense. He tries.

    In the last 6 minutes of the game, Jordan Hill should not be sitting on the bench. It shouldn’t take a Phi Beta Kappa to figure that out.

  45. First thing first,the interior D. Or let’s get ready to shoot another episode of the ‘Career night against Lakers’. We made Eric Bledsoe look like Russell Westbrook. We are playing OKC next, oh snap!

    Kaman?

  46. MD is to blame tired of seein y’all bring up Kobe. MD needs to players in proper positions to succeed and his doesn’t. Exemplified perfectly by trying to make Wes Johnson a 4. There’s no accountability with him. No defined roles. Kobe will get back, evident by his huge improvement just over two games. We have to MD and Pau tf out the paint NOW.

  47. I wonder that if Kobe knew that he wouldn’t win another championship with the Lakers would he still resign here? The cynic in me says that Kobe is just be taking care of his own legacy. Might his thought process be, “Even though I don’t win more championships than Jordan and be thought of as the greatest player ever I will still be regarded as the greatest Laker ever.”

    If championships were the most important thing to him he would have signed with the Lakers for a lot less to give them more flexibility. Or, he would have signed somewhere else where the possibility of winning is greater. I really think he wanted to be A) retire a Laker B) be paid C) win — in that order.

    We have always thought that Kobe just wants to win. Maybe that isn’t so true anymore.

  48. The biggest problem (besides Pau’s play) has been the inconsistent minutes of the bigs. I know others have asked this, but how does Sacre go from starting to playing zero minutes when we only have 3 bigs (Pau, Hill, Sacre) available to play?
    I agree that Hill should have been on the floor to close the game. As soon as Pau was subbed back in, I knew there was no chance of the Lakers getting the win.

  49. Seeing Kobe’s stride from Toronto to Phoenix gives me hope. There will be adjustments but don’t worry about paying 24 million to a non-superstar, Kobe will be just fine. Book him for 24ppg from hereonin.

    MDA does need several things to happen to be succesful but so does all coaches. This isn’t really an issue. Get players who can.

    This being a transition year, we should do just that. Having 3 aging HOFers the other team can decide which role player will have a career night against us. The solution? Have one retire and trade the other.

    Pau Gasol is not useless. He might have regressed but his skills are not lost. If he went to a team that would cover or mask his deficiencies or a team that would seek his offensive skill and leadership then we’re in business. Until then lets hope he can contribute.

  50. Could be smoke but no fire: Gasol hints at possible return to Memphis. If not trade, I say via sign-and trade.

    http://basketball.realgm.com/wiretap/231052/Pau-Gasol-Not-Ruling-Out-Appealing-Return-To-Grizzlies