Considering it is all too easy to remain negative and focus on all that is wrong with the Lakers, I will try to avoid that today. Yes, the frustration is real and in dealing with a 3-17 start — and all that has come with it — in a season where I was genuinely feeling excited about the year has been, well, difficult. But, I will try to be better than making the easy joke or focusing too much on all that has gone wrong. There will be plenty of other days for that, I’m sure (that’s the last one, I promise!).
Archives For Game Preview
The Lakers head into Detroit to face the Pistons, one of the three teams they were able to outlast to earn a win this season. This game also serves as the halfway point of the team’s 8 game road trip, which will still send them to Toronto, Minnesota, San Antonio, and Houston. I have been talking about fatigue for several games now, but whatever hints at tiring will only grow more evident in the coming days as the team zips around the country (and to Canada on Monday) to finish off this trip.
One way to battle against fatigue is to cut down players’ minutes, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. At least not in any predetermined sort of way. Kobe’s minutes are steadily, even if only slightly, on the rise in recent games, where he’s seen his totals reach 34, 33, 32, 36, and 35 in his last 5 games. Byron tried to rationalize the uptick in minutes a couple of weeks back by citing Kobe’s season average, when he made it perfectly clear it was a true in-game cap he would use. In any event, don’t expect Kobe’s minutes to drop anytime soon, unless game circumstances (score, injury) to make it so.
I want Kobe’s minutes cut because I want him to last the season. After Friday’s game, he was asked about his legs and he said they weren’t doing well. Playing while fatigued can lead to injuries. Any injury to Kobe — especially one which jeopardizes his season — is bad. If the goal is to get him through his last season healthy, monitoring his load more closely and not approaching the threshold which can put him in a position to get hurt is the prudent approach.
The other side of this is that this is his last season so there is no “saving him” for something. “Leaving it all on the floor” is probably something he’s not totally against and him trying to give every game his all in order to give fans what they want might be something that weighs on him. How much the coach should care about such things is up for debate (I think he should care), but I think it’s clear he wants Kobe out there. We’ll see how long this lasts.
Is the third time the charm? It may be somewhat chuckle-inducing to note — or it would be if it wasn’t sad — the Lakers have only three wins on the season and in each subsequent game after getting the W, have lost both times. The first was a 4-point loss to the Knicks. The second was a 19-point drubbing at the hands of the Suns. Tonight, coming off a win against the Wizards, the Lakers face the Hawks and try to get their first set of consecutive wins of the year.
This, though, isn’t very likely. The Hawks are a good team like the Suns are a good team (we do not know what the Knicks are). As noted above, the Suns thrashed the Lakers. That game was on a back to back. Tonight’s contest is not, but it is the 5th game in 7 nights and the 5th in as many cities. In other words, while I expected the Lakers to be tired in their win over the Wizards, I may have simply been off by a night. The fatigue may very well strike this evening. In fact, after a nice win and a longer flight south, I think it will.
I’m going to keep it short and (as) sweet (as possible). Tonight the Lakers play their 4th game in 5 nights. All of those games were/will be played in different cities. From Portland to Los Angeles to Philadelphia and now to Washington, D.C to face the Wizards.
I frame things this way because I expect the Lakers to be worn down in this game. Not just physically, but mentally. All the travel is one thing, but add to it the burden and frustration of losing along with the Kobe announcement and you have a cocktail of burnout waiting to happen. Will it be tonight that it hits?
The Lakers are back on the road for a massive road trip which won’t see them back in Los Angles for nearly two weeks. The eight game, 13 day trip is their longest of the year and includes three back-to-backs including the trip’s final games in San Antonio then Houston. As it stands, the team is currently 2-14, but is it possible they return from the trip 2-22?
Anything is possible, I suppose, but that would mean losing tonight, to the 76ers, a team which may not actually be trying to win. The Sixers are winless to start the season, perfectly futile in their 18 games to this point. Actually, let me take that back. The 76ers on the floor are definitely trying to win, they have just been outgunned by teams with more talent — especially late in games where they have been competitive, but have not been able to close.
Through 15 games, the Lakers only have two wins. This, in a vacuum, is concerning. In an ideal world — a world where the Lakers would have the inside track at a top free agent — winning a few more games with the young players showing a readiness to contribute to those wins would be occurring. In that alternate universe, the Lakers wouldn’t be .500 (or even close to it), but a 5-10 record with some eye popping numbers from any of the younger players in those wins would have happened.
Of course, this has not happened. In the teams two wins, one was predicated on Kobe handling the ball a lot and being a key facilitator of the team’s offense (vs. the Pistons) and in the other one the win came against a team arguably worse than the Lakers (vs. the Nets). The young players have shown some promise, but like most young players they have also been inconsistent, mostly subpar defensively, and still sorting out what they are good at in the NBA.
Through 15 games, then, it’s hard to feel too good about where this team is. We might feel differently if the team were 2-13 with the young players getting the bulk of the minutes while playing a style which seemed more in tune with the rest of the league, but this team is still heavily invested in Kobe Bryant as a centerpiece player and coached by Byron Scott. These variables impact the approach to any given game and the underlying schemes the team employs, leaving us to watch exactly what we are watching.
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?
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.
Laker Nation, our Lakers are used to setting records on teams, tomorrow the Warriors will set the record for the best start in NBA history.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) November 24, 2015
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: