The Lakers have been off since Tuesday, a terrible loss to the Warriors on national television which brought, front and center, all that is wrong with this team. Losing to the best team in the league — one motivated to break an all-time record on their home court — isn’t in itself embarrassing. Losing by playing as bad as the team did with Kobe floundering to a 1-14 shooting effort is not the same as going down admirably.

As the team’s play continues to suffer, it gets harder to insulate themselves from the criticism and critiques that stem from it. After the games, the beat reporters look for explanations from the players and the coaches. The onus is on those in the locker room to provide insight and context to what is happening on the floor. Speaking to why you are bad or why something isn’t working can get exhausting. Add in what’s going on with Kobe and things can turn uncomfortable.

This is the backdrop for the team right now. They are 2-12 and, after a back to back Saturday and Sunday, the Lakers head out on the road for an eastern road trip. It is not so much whether the losses ensue, but how they play in accumulating those losses. Good play from the young players, a solid Kobe game or two, more strategic game plans from the coaches will go a long way in pacifying some of the critics even if the losses don’t stop. Is this team up for that, at least?

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With the way Kobe Byrant has played to start the season, there has been a lot of eulogizing his career. You do not have to look far to find the next read on how bad he currently his, how he should retire, and how much of a drag he is on the court in what will likely be his final season.

But this version of Kobe is not how I will remember Kobe. The Kobe I will remember is the one who dominated for a decade and a half, the Kobe who struck fear into opponents simply by walking onto the court.

This is the guy I am talking about:

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After a strong few games to start to the season, Julius Randle’s effectiveness has been as up and down as you might expect from a 20 year old player who, while technically in his 2nd season, is essentially a rookie. Players at his age rarely come into the league and dominate, instead they rely on the best parts of their game to try to work their way through and hope it is enough to remain effective against an unforgiving league that feasts on players’ weaknesses.

Randle is no different, using his quick first step and off the dribble work to get into the paint where he can finish over, around, and through opponents. Some nights, this works wonderfully. Other nights, especially when facing disciplined defenders with length, not as much. Based on this early trend, the obvious next steps to improving his chances against defenses loading up on his drives is to develop a reliable enough jumpshot to make defenders think twice about sagging off him to wall off the paint.

To Randle’s and the Lakers’ credit, they understand this quite well and are formulating a plan to do just that. From the OC Register’s Bill Oram:

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I just want to take a moment to offer all of you and yours a happy Thanksgiving from FB&G. The Lakers may not be a very good team right now, but those of you who follow the site and are part of the community, who make this site what it is continue to make the season more enjoyable than it otherwise would be. For that, I am thankful.

Today is a day for family and, it should be noted, that to many of us the Lakers occupy a space in our lives very similar to our actual kin. We invite them into our lives daily, be it through watching the games, following them online, or reading them in print. And while we might not always like how things go, we keep following because we want to see them do well and hope what comes next will be better than what came before it.

This season has not offered much of that, but I am still thankful for it all. And, again, I am thankful for all of you who continue to support me, the site, and the team we all root for. We may not always agree, but we do this together. So, happy Thanksgiving to you all and have a safe and fruitful holiday.

It used to be you could put Kobe Bryant in any scheme and he would excel. Triangle offense? Sure. Spread pick and roll? You got it. Flex? Princeton? Whatever Del Harris or Rudy T ran? He’d still get his because, well, when you are that good at scoring the basketball, it does not matter.

At its most simplest level, Kobe would have the ball, the guy in front of him (and the guy behind that guy) would have to try and stop him from scoring, and they couldn’t. Check-mate.

Those days are gone. And if you didn’t know they were gone from simply watching Kobe play in his 20th season, you should know now that he’s telling you himself.

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The story of tonight’s game against the Warriors isn’t actually about the game, but instead the pending result. The Lakers look to do what 15 straight opponents to start the season have not been able to — beat the defending world champions. Considering the state of both teams, it is pretty much a foregone conclusion the Lakers will not win this game.

One Warriors’ win is not a big deal. 16 Warriors’ wins without a loss to start the season would be the best start in the history of the league. So, this would be a pretty big deal. With the Warriors at home (and the Lakers playing anywhere), the pending doom is only more predetermined.

Sorry, guys, there are no roses and rainbows in this preview. I do not offer any hope, here. The Warriors are, potentially, one of the best teams the league has ever seen. The Lakers are currently the opposite of that. When asked if his team could win this game, Kobe said “stranger things have happened” which, you know, isn’t an endorsement.

So, here we are. But, if you want me to indulge your thirst for how a Lakers’ win could happen, here is the formula:

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Renato Afonso is a long time reader, commenter, and friend of FB&G. He is based in Portugal, played semi-pro hoops, and after that coached his alma mater for two years. He now passes his time in a veteran’s league and raising his first born. This is his latest for FB&G. You can find him on twitter here.

With this post we’re trying to analyze the Lakers current offense and maybe understand the reason behind the team’s offensive woes. While it apparently seems the Lakers are also as bad on the defensive side, the fact is solving the problems on defense seems far easier than solving our offensive issues. Also, this is an X’s and O’s analysis and not a discussion about shot effectiveness, or putting it another way, what is the offense designed to do and which are its shortcomings.

For this analysis we’re considering only the recent string of games without Kobe. The reason for it is quite simple: Byron Scott enables Kobe, the players on court defer to him and we end up with a pump fake, pump fake, jab step, contested fade away three point shot that doesn’t find the net.  So, what kind of plays are they running?

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I want to see Kobe Bryant play well. I want this not as much for me, as a fan with rooting interests in the player and the team he plays for, but for him. As a person and a player.

I want it for him because as one of the best players who I have ever seen play basketball I want him to go out on terms somewhat relatable to the player he has been throughout his career. I want it for him because, after coming back from three season ending injuries and spending an inordinate amount of time simply rehabbing to prepare to play, I want that work to have meant something. I want it for him because, well, on some levels I think he’s earned it.

You can understand my disappointment, then, that I am coming to the conclusion that Kobe will not play well this year. He will not approximate the player he was. He will not depart the game at a status befitting his contributions to it. The hope to avoid the “Willie Mays as a Met/Patrick Ewing on the Magic/Hakeem on the Raptors” comparisons will, very likely, go unfulfilled.

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