Report: Lakers Trying to Implement a New Offense

Darius Soriano —  February 27, 2016

The Lakers suffered their second blowout loss to the Grizzlies in three days on Friday, a 112-95 defeat that left much to be desired on both ends of the floor. The team had a defensive rating of 118.4, which is 9 points per 100 possessions worse than their already last in the league level for the season. On offense they were nearly as bad, only posting a 102.0 offensive rating.

Their work offensively was especially poor, though, considering they had actually been playing well on that side of the ball this month. In February the Lakers have posted an offensive rating of 109.8, a mark that would rank 2nd in the league if it took place over the full season. A dip on that end of the floor shouldn’t surprise, the team is 29th in offensive rating for the season so a regression to the mean is coming. But were there other reasons for the drop off?

The answer to that question may lie in the fact that after returning from their three game road trip, head coach Byron Scott decided he wanted to implement a new offense. Bill Oram of the OC Register has the details:

The Lakers allowed Memphis to score a season-high 128 points Wednesday at FedEx Forum, and when travel-weary players arrived for practice in El Segundo the next morning they were greeted with a plan from Scott to overhaul the Lakers’ offensive scheme.

“We had a whole new offense thrown at us yesterday,” rookie guard D’Angelo Russell said….

The Lakers had essentially one day, with Thursday’s practice and Friday’s morning shootaround, to digest new information and implement it. Center Roy Hibbert said the schemes borrow heavily from Gregg Popovich’s much-admired system in San Antonio.

But the Lakers fumbled with the changes early in the game and struggled not to revert to old habits as they fell further behind.

“Coach was demanding to run it,” Russell said. “It was kind of tough because we didn’t really get to run it against a defense. We just talked about it, threw it in and played with it.”

Russell said the offense was “thrown at us late,” and 22 games left in the season might seem odd timing.

As Oram notes, the timing is strange, but not just because it is late in the season. After all, the Lakers are bad on offense. Tweaking things or, in this case, trying to overhaul their sets in a more substantial way has some merit in order to try and kickstart flailing production. My bigger concern with the timing is that the coach tried to do this on their lone off-day after a road trip that saw them traveling back to LA from Memphis. As Russell stated, it seems the team mostly walked through or did 5-on-0 work — indicative of them not having a lot of time to really drill what was wanted from the staff.

Later in his story, however, Oram makes a very good point that the team does have time to practice their new scheme in the coming days. The Lakers do not play again until Tuesday, leaving them Saturday (normally a day off after a Friday night game, but Scott has called a practice), Sunday, and Monday to teach and refine their offense. And while that’s true, I would argue the team just had several days of practice without playing a game when coming out of the All-Star break. Coming out of that weekend, the Lakers had, like they will coming up, three days of practice. Plus, most players were coming off a vacation and were refreshed mentally and physically.

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to start to put this offense in place at that time and use the practice time since, and coming up, to further refine, tweak, and determine the ways the new approach works and doesn’t for this specific group of players? Hibbert says the offense Scott is implementing is influenced by what the Spurs do, but that style of play is predicated on timing, feel, and awareness of what teammates and the defense is doing in order to make the correct reads. This takes time — time the team does have some of in the coming days, but would have had more of just two weeks ago with the added bonus of also having this stretch ahead to continue to build on the new principles.

There’s no way of knowing why Scott didn’t make this type of change earlier, but if it’s because the idea just came to him on the plane ride home from Memphis it is another data point for those who believe he lacks foresight and/or does not seem to have a genuine plan for how to move his team forward. One of my chief concerns of Scott’s tenure has been that changes he implements seem more reactionary than part of a bigger plan; that his decision making feels impacted as much, or more, by recent events than a progression of a vision he has for how he wants his team to play and his ultimate goals for the season.

I do credit Scott for trying something, however. As Hibbert noted later in Oram’s piece, Scott isn’t just sitting on his ass but is looking for ways to improve his team. There is a logic that better ball movement and a refined offensive approach will help the team score better which, in turn, can have a positive impact on the defense. If Scott can get his team to play better on both ends in the last 20+ games, then good on him.

A part of me just wishes this type of change would have happened sooner and that it actually felt like a part of a larger plan and vision the coach has had all along. Instead, it sort of feels like he’s grasping at straws down the stretch of a lost season. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it is far from ideal.

Darius Soriano

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41 responses to Report: Lakers Trying to Implement a New Offense

  1. Darius,

    Since you are a professional, published writer, I want to point out that the saying “try and” has crept into our language, and in today’s post you wrote …in order to try and kick-start… If you stop to think about it, how does “try and” make any logical sense?

    From Grammar Girl – Try to Versus Try and
    Avoid “try and” in formal writing. If you use “and”, as in — I’m going to try and call Grammar Girl — you are separating trying and calling. You’re describing two things: trying and calling. When you use “try to” — as in I am going to try to call Grammar Girl — you are using the preposition “to” to link the trying to the calling.

  2. Thanks, Robert Fisher. I will try and do better in the future.

  3. This makes zero sense… Byron Scott should be fired at the end of the season. He is the proof that being a good player, which he was, doesn’t make a good coach.

  4. I thought that Jerry west and Magic Johnson were two excellent examples of good players don’t make for good coaches.

  5. Looks like byron is finally gonna run an offense that is russell friendly, I’m anticipating for his numbers to jump up.

  6. I agree with Renato. The Lakers have already played 60 games out of 82. Now is not the time to put in a new anything, especially with so many young players who are still learning how to tie their shoes.

    This is the equivalent of climbing 3/4 of the way up Mt. Everest and then saying you want a new Sherpa.

    It’s a bit late to be implementing a new offense. I think Byron is desperate to save his job and is at the point where he’s trying anything. I hope the kids don’t get more confused than they already are.

  7. i see what you did there

  8. A) Time to try something new because the Princeton sets aren’t working

    B) Byron wants to demonstrate that he can x’ and o’ and in so doing save his job

    C) Further confusing the young players helps ensure the tank

    My guess it’s A and B, but C should also be considered.

  9. West was highly successful as a coach and could have won a championship except for one key injury. He just found it too emotional and he knew he was too hard on players.

  10. There’s no way of knowing why scott didn’t make this type of change earlier…lol

    The mystery of byron scott’s coaching strategy

  11. Better late than never I guess? The Princeton has been horrible. I commend Scott for finally recognizing that. Might have been better to implement a simpler offense. This will likely cause a few more lost games but, if by the end of the season things start to click, Scott might buy himself another season.

  12. Russell is going to get many coaches fired.

    You put an offense in, you want them to run it, if they can’t(and they can’t ) you try something different.

    But sometimes the players jus suck, they may get better, they may be tiny superstars in the making….but right now, today, they are terrible NBA players.

    All this blaming kobe and the coach for every single thing is just silly.

    The offense doesn’t force you to get ripped at half court or toss up wild shots or look people off, or set bad picks…

    “coach demanded we run it” seriously? I mean really….you guys hate Byron that much you are willing to ignore this nonsense from a rookie…..wow.

  13. Like bob marley said “time alone, ohh time will tell…”

    BTW BYRON SCOTT IS NOT A ROOKIE COACH.

  14. Marques,
    In case you didn’t notice, Byron’s “coaching” is a joke. Darius points to the obvious judgment lapse that Scott did not implement this system change right after the All-Star break. Scott is not a good coach. He is inconsistent. Picks favorites. Put in place rotations that are not supportive of the development MO that should guide this season. Your expectation that players should say and do things that make their coaches look good, even when their coach is doing a poor job doesn’t really make sense. Scott is sewing his own seeds. But sure, blame the 19 year old rookie who’s frustrated with his own poor play and that of his team.

  15. It is amazing that that there are still Byronbots out there.

    Let’s dispel this fiction once and for all that Byron doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing; he’s undergoing a systematic effort to change this team and make the Lakers more like the rest of the NBA. When Russell re-embrace what makes the Lakers the greatest team in the world and leave our fans what they deserve; the greatest team in the history of the world.

    Real men don’t worry about offensive/defensive systems at the beginning or early in the season! Real men throw out new systems at the end of seasons and run with it! MAN UP! BALLS OUT!!!

    GO LAKERS!!!

  16. Off-topic: tonight Hassan Whiteside had 13 pts. (5-9 shooting, 3-3 FTs), 15 rebounds, 8 blocks, and 1 steal in 32:33. Miami lost to Boston 101-89.

  17. Byron scott helped the cavs tank

  18. Byron scott coached Cleveland cavs 2010-2013
    2011 cavs had #1 pick in draft
    2012 cavs had #4 pick in draft
    2013 cavs had #1 pick in draft
    2014 cavs had #1 pick in draft

  19. Remember 2016 and 2017 lakers 1st round picks #1-3 are protected

  20. I have dutifully watched all the Laker games this year, and certainly changes are needed. I don’t think that the coach is the entire problem, but obviously the defensive scheme he’s employed is not working. One of the key components of coaching is to adjust your style to your personnel. If we’re all seeing the same problems 60 games into the season, that would seem to indicate that there is a systemic problem that needs to be dealt with. On the other hand, I’m continually amazed/frustrated by the players’ seeming lack of understanding of basic basketball principles. Good passing angles, exposing defensively and recovering on screens, closing out on shooters while still preventing them from penetrating, help defense and helping the helper are all things that I was taught at a young age, but the current Lakers players don’t seem to have a clue. There are exceptions, sometimes night to night, sometimes player to player, but consistent basic basketball is sadly missing.
    I also question personnel decisions. Why is Roy Hibbert our starting center? He is slow to help, offensively inept, and a rebounder in place only. I honestly think I have a better understanding about how to play the post than he does. Plus, I don’t fall down as much. I think, based on his hustle and activity, that Tariq Black should start.
    When’s the last time you’ve read anything basketball related about Nick Young? His girlfriend? Yes. His hair? Yes. What nightclub he was at? Yes. Long hours working in the gym to improve his game? Nope. I have long felt that Young’s desire is not to be a great basketball player, but just to be famous, to feed his ego, and I think his attitude has a deleterious effect on the younger players. Contract or no, I would show him the door. I’m betting the Defenders have a shooter as good as Young with better attitude and more upside.
    Why is Metta World Peace taking up space on the bench? If he wants to be a mentor/coach, then he should retire and become one. If he thought he was going to be showcased and would find his way back to a contender, then it didn’t work. He should relinquish his seat to a younger player who could fill a need in the future. Coming out of training camp I thought Russell and Clarkson would become our Thomas and Dumars, and Jabari Brown would be our Vinnie Johnson, providing instant offense off the bench. There’s still time.
    Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, Lou Williams, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson , and D’Angelo Russell. Look at that list and tell me where the ball doesn’t stick. If Byron Scott wants to install an offense featuring ball movement, he is going to have to be a master psychologist to change the attitudes of about half his team. The problem is, if there aren’t immediate results, one of the above-mentioned players will take it upon themselves to try to win the game single-handedly.
    Good luck Coach Scott.

  21. Marques,
    I’m sure we all agree with you bro. Byron Scott is doing a damn good job and Kobe is the best player in the League!!!!! Them getting blame for everything IS silly.

    Russell is not only a BUST, but a COACH KILLER too right!?!!?!?!?!?!?!!!!! And did you see last night??? The guy had A SINGLE TURNOVER!!!!!!! No wonder we are losing with a COACH KILLING BUST getting A SINGLE TURNOVER trying to run an offense he was sorta told about a few hours before the game. 19 year old rookies really SHOULD be able to implement a brand new NBA offense in a matter of hours IF NOT MINUTES!!!!

    I’m just glad we have a real analyst of NBA talent like yourself in here to tell it like it is!!!! You should be an ESPN INsider……or maybe a comedian. Your posts almost always cause me to laugh hysterically. Thanks!

  22. Yes. Byron is the coach of choice for a team that wants to underachieve and thereby harvest lottery picks. However, this strategy (or is it a tactic?) comes with a potential downside: stunting the growth of the “young core”. Quite a dilemma isn’t it?

  23. Darius,

    You can make an arguement that the timing is actually right for this change for a few reason:

    1. Russell is now starting the rest of the season and a motion offense fits him better than with lou williams running the point.

    2. Scott has said that kobe’s minutes will go down. So more time with russell having the rock instead of deferring to kobe.

    3. The majority of the games left will be at home, so kobe might miss a few games here and there because he wants to make sure he always goes to the last away game in an arena. Also, there aren’t many farewell games left, where they need to feed him the ball to give one last hurrah to the crowd.

    You say there isn’t a plan, but maybe this was the plan. Especially given the timing of randle and russell starting the rest of the way, kobe sitting out on friday and the 3 days between games, it makes sense to me to get a head start. We’re tanking anyway, so what’s the worst that could happen? we lose more games? At least they start learning it and using it now. Byron is looking ahead to the next season it seems like.

  24. Tank commanders, good news. Phoenix won tonight, 111-106, beating Memphis. Phoenix is now 15-44. The Lakers are 11-49.

    In all likelihood, I believe the Lakers will hold on to their 2nd worst record in the league. After that, it will all be up to the ping-pong ball gods.

  25. Nets also won tonight. Good night for the tank. ( Suns are awful, it will be hard to lose to them twice.)

  26. Pretty awesome night for basketball fans and Laker fans. Nets and Phoenix results is a big win for the Lakers. Finally a win that even tank commander, Byron can’t sabotage with his brilliant coaching.

    Also, that Warriors Thunder game was awesome. That game was one of the most fun and exciting games I’ve seen. Beautiful and brilliant performance from Curry. He’s a killer. That was a real treat to watch as a basketball fan. Instant classic. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to witness fun smart amazing basketball and history being made and rewritten and the Warriors for making this horrid Laker season bearable.

  27. Great read as always, 2 thoughts:

    I actually want to give scott some credit for trying something new at the back end of a lost season, but i am not sure that this was an order from mitch/jim. We all knew it was all about kobe to begin with, but now that he will sit some home games and will have harshly reduced minutes, it is time to change a system that has not worked so far in favor of our young guys and the next season.

    And a free saturday is something players do not deserve in the midst of a season like this…

  28. I have no problem with Byron trying to keep his job by making changes to a system that clearly wasn’t working.
    The late/awkward timing of this change, to me, is simply further evidence of his general clumsiness as a coach.

    And as Vasheed says, it may even buy him another season if the front office is legitimately torn about his future and the team sees an uptick in effectiveness as a result. That could be unfortunate for tanking fans.

    Side note: Best game of the season last night was Warriors – Thunder. If you have a way to find a replay of it, and you like basketball, it’s worth the watch. Steph Curry is absolutely unreal.

  29. For the record, Jerry West was an excellent coach. He just happened to be even better as a GM.

  30. he didn’t change the offense at all. he just added a set. it’s still the Princeton, it’s still the same offense.

  31. Let’s add to the record: both West and Magic were superior players – by far – to Byron Scott.

  32. R: Unfortunately – and I am being serious – Byron is by far a superior coach than either Magic or Jerry West (they were that bad).
    Byron: Seems like people are talking about Byron doing things in desperation, too late, to save his job, etc.. Please remember these statements depending on what happens this summer with others who might be making similar moves to save their jobs. The battle of Byron Scott is over, so I am not sure why this is such an interesting topic. The summertime topic is where the future lies (inclusive of Byron’s). And it does not take a “Princeton” graduate to figure that out.

  33. Anyone who ever watched the Webber-era Kings offense would laugh at the suggestion that Byron’s Lakers have up until a few days ago been using the same sets.

    If one’s Princeton, then the other is University of Phoenix.

  34. Robert,

    Jerry West’s coaching record over three years
    1976-77: 53-29,
    1977-78: 45-37
    1978-79: 47-35

    Byron Scott most recent (“IS BY FAR” a superior coach to West)

    2013-14: 24-58
    2014-15: 21-61
    2015-16: 11-49

    You’re right!
    Byron is by far the better Tank Commander.

  35. J C: Jerry West had a roster that included KAJ, J Wilkes, Norm Nixon, and Adrian Dantley. He did nothing with it and lost to teams with way less talent. Both Magic and West were hired by the Lakers and were never given gigs by anyone else. Byron has coached 4 teams, the Lakers being the 4th. His coaching record and methodologies were all well established prior to his arrival here so I believe your beef is with Jim. Further, as I said – why are we so concerned about Byron? Are you worried he will be here for another year? If so – again your beef is with Jim. Get used to the desperate moves to save jobs by the way. But why worry about the big picture when we can critique the coach (re-arrange the deck chairs) for the rest of the year.

  36. Steve,

    Why didn’t he used all star weekend to install the new sets? Why wait a couple of games? He is clueless. Furthermore, concerning about offense when we are the worst defensive team in the league is laughable. I’ve written a few times how transition defense is connected to our offense but our half court defense is atrocious… He should change that.

    On Russell I won’t comment yet…

  37. Steve, I think Darius was just pointing out how questionable the timing was. Russell returned to the starting lineup 1 game after the all star break, so the break was the best time to implement the new offense.

  38. Jerry West did have talented Lakers teams that made the playoffs each year. He did not have the most talent in the West in any of those years. There were a lot of very good players in the late ’70’s and the deeper teams usually won out. West turned to scouting and when he moved to GM he was ready to build a deep and talented roster.

  39. Robert
    Your Kobe alerts are always a delight.
    Re Byron you’re just way off.
    I’m not referencing Jim Buss here.
    Byron was hired to coach the team.
    That means prepare them for opponents, communicate, motivate, teach, instill confidence, build comradarie, and install a system.
    He fails my eye test in every single way.
    He holds the NBA record for consecutive losses.
    I’m not the only one that thinks he’s incompetent.
    The team is seriously underperforming.
    If he has a job coaching in the NBA next year I’ll be shocked.

  40. West was not a bad coach- huh? He did a fine job, even if unspectacular. He did not have the temperament for it. His teams did pretty decently well, more or less. Byron… I mean, he’s horrible guys, no real shock here.