Nothing has gone right for the Lakers in the last 11 games. They’ve only won one game during that span and most of the losses have been ugly…and that’s putting it lightly. The team hasn’t lost 10 of 11 since 2005 — the last year they missed the playoffs.
Seven of the ten losses have been by margins greater than 10 points. Their latest loss was a 36-point drubbing from the Clippers. At one point in that game, the Lakers trailed by 43.
It doesn’t matter whether Laker fans are on board with tanking or not — the fact remains that the team rarely goes on slumps like these historically. Times are, of course, different these days. The team lacks confidence and has been marred with injuries all season long. In fact, only four Lakers have played in all 11 games during this horrid slump — Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill, Nick Young, and Ryan Kelly.
It’s hard to find any bright spots because everybody is playing poorly — especially on defense. Over the last 11 games, there isn’t a single Laker who has a defensive rating below 100. Pau Gasol, who has been pretty solid offensively during the slump, has the worst defensive efficiency at 115.2.
Pardon me while I go vomit.
Every cloud has a silver lining, though. The silver lining throughout this slump has been the play of Kendall Marshall. Let’s rephrase that — the offensively play of Kendall Marshall. As awful as the Lakers have defended under Mike D’Antoni, he’s incredible in elevating the game of point guards. Marshall has thrived under D’Antoni’s system — averaging 0.92 points per play as the P&R Ball Handler. The team averages 0.7 points per play in P&R Ball Handler situations this year so it’s clear that Marshall has improved the P&R for the Lakers.
That’s where the good news ends, though. Even the proponents of Operation: Tank can’t be happy because the Lakers still aren’t bad enough. Along with the Kings and Jazz, there are still five Eastern Conference teams that have a worse record than the Lakers. This means that the probability that the Lakers land a top three pick are still pretty low.
It’s hard to imagine that the Lakers will continue their free fall. Kobe Bryant and Steve Blake should be back eventually – though it may be wise for the Lakers to begin considering perhaps shutting down Kobe for the rest of the season. That said, knowing Kobe’s competitiveness that probably won’t happen.
Until his return, the Lakers are in for a tough test. They begin their annual Grammy Road Trip this week when they head to Phoenix on Wednesday to start a string of seven games away from Staples Center. The road trip will begin after a home tilt against Cleveland tomorrow. They will also play against the Celtics at the Garden in one of the most storied rivalries in sports – a rivalry that can now be considered dormant because of the two teams’ performances this season.
Even in the Lakers’ best years, the Grammy Road Trip has given them fits. They went 6-0 in 2009 during their championship run, but aside from that year, they’re just 33-31 in the last 10 years (excluding 2009).
Again, these were competitive Laker teams that made the playoffs essentially every year. This year’s Lakers will most likely struggle big time during the grueling trip which features a match against LeBron James and the Miami Heat in South Beach.