Let’s get all the sad stuff out of the way first:
Everything is sad about this season.
Okay, now to everything else.
Seriously, though, there’s really not a lot to be happy about right now save for the idea of a high draft pick.
The Lakers have won 19 of their 56 games this year. They’re coming off a home stand that saw them lose five of their six games (at least their lone win was over the Celtics!). Kobe and Nash are still out. Xavier Henry may be cleared to play within a week, but he remains out too. And after returning for a single game — after declining to have an MRI and admittedly returning at least partially because he didn’t want to fall out of the rotation — Nick Young is also out for at least two games, staying in L.A. rather than making the trip to Indiana and Memphis with, wait for it…soreness in his knee.
If you can find the bright side in this stuff, you’re a better person than me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be happy with a high draft pick in June, but the day to day grind of watching this team “earn” that pick has pushed me to my limits as a fan and someone tries to watch games with an analytic eye.
The games go on, however, and tonight there is no reprieve for the downtrodden as the Lakers roll into Indiana to face one of the best teams in the league. The Pacers have fewest losses and second most wins while boasting the league’s best scoring margin and efficiency differential. They have the NBA’s best defense from any metric standpoint and while their offense is only middle of the pack it barely matters because they’re so good on the other side of the ball.
They also have a fair amount of depth, an area they bolstered in the past month by signing Andrew Bynum after he was waived by the Bulls (after trading Luol Deng for him) and by trading longtime franchise player Danny Granger for former #2 overall pick and 76er Evan Turner. While the Bynum signing probably made more headlines (especially since there was a strong impression they were competing for Bynum with the Heat), but the Turner acquisition actually intrigues me more. Turner has earned a somewhat sketchy reputation as a guy who doesn’t play enough defense while also trying to do too much with the ball offensively. Joe Johnson may have the nickname “iso-Joe” but Turner is also a guy who likes to pound his dribble and look to create off the bounce more than he probably should.
Now that he’s with the Pacers, however, he will need to tone down some of those tendencies while also coming to a team that highly values defense. Turner may have been a reach as the #2 overall pick in his draft, but he does have talent. He is a better than advertised spot up shooter and, while it has earned him critique, his shot creation skills do have value — especially on a 2nd unit who will face off against other team’s bench players. Whether Turner is a long term fit in Indiana is unknown at this point, but the Pacers gave up a guy who was oft injured for a guy who can probably help them this year.
Anyways, that’s just a long way of saying the Pacers have gotten better in the last month and the Lakers remain…well…bad. This is nothing against the guys they have available. I think Pau is doing his best to set a good example and play hard. I think Hill is doing the best he can with his minutes and has found a nice niche next to Chris Kaman. Kendall Marshall and Jordan Farmar are doing well manning the point and while the wing is crowded, it is nice to see Meeks still shooting well, Johnson make the occasional highlight play, and the new duo of Bazemore and Brooks adapt quickly to D’Antoni’s style. All that said, those positives do not a team make (or whatever Yoda-like phrase you want to insert).
Tonight, then, the Lakers can keep the game close the way that they normally do. They can bomb threes and catch a few breaks defensively and hopefully sneak up on a team who knows who the better outfit is. But, over the course of the game, talent and coaching and teamwork will win probably win out. Let’s just hope we get some entertaining play for our time.
Where you can watch: 4pm start time out west on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.