Archives For Laker Analysis

It is not new news that Jim Buss (and, by association, maybe Mitch Kupchak) has a self imposed deadline for returning the Lakers back into contention. That word — contention — has been defined as competing for a conference championship and/or an NBA championship, so one would assume a push into the 2nd round with either a win or a very competitive loss would be needed to qualify.

The actual timeline has been somewhat debated, but Jeanie Buss has gone on the record, again, to explain that the timeline is by the end of next season. She reiterated this just a few days ago and USA Today’s Sam Amick has the details:

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Frustrations mount when a team has lost 45 of its 56 games. When a team loses at that rate, there are many issues to point to and the Lakers are no different. I have maintained, however, that once it was abundantly clear this team would not win at a level which would match some of the preseason rhetoric issued by those in charge, fans would have been pacified if the young players were showcased while playing a more aesthetically pleasing style.

This, though, has not necessarily been the case. Yes, the trio of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle have gotten plenty of burn. Not at the rate which many would like, but none have been buried on the bench either. We can argue about who is starting and/or who is closing — which are worthwhile discussions — but all are playing at least half the game and getting at least enough minutes to show off what they are capable of.

The problem is, they’re just not doing it together as a group. Take, for example, Friday night’s game against the Spurs.

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The Lakers, as I thought they would, stood pat at the trade deadline. Trading their veterans for any sort of viable return was going to be difficult, trading their young players was going to be a nonstarter, and by wanting to maintain cap space for next season there simply was not going to be a deal to make.

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The Lakers only have 27 games left in their season. That means only 27 games left in Kobe Bryant’s career, only 27 games left for the team’s young core to grow with game action, and only 27 games left before a decision is made on Byron Scott’s future as head coach.

It’s been made pretty clear the Lakers were always going to let Scott finish this season, but there has been more than a little chatter that he would not be retained after that. It seems, however, that chatter is being countered by some in the organization who are not quite ready to do away with the former Showtime Guard.

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Let’s Talk Trade Deadline

Darius Soriano —  February 16, 2016

One of the benefits of playing 55 games before the All-Star game is the Lakers getting an extended break by not having to play a game again until Friday. All of that extra rest has its pluses and minuses, but I’ll happily trade a bit of rust and the potential for a small dip in conditioning for all the guys getting some needed time off to refresh their bodies and minds as they head into the closing push.

Not playing until Friday also means another thing: the Lakers’ front office heads into Thursday’s trade deadline with nothing on their plate but managing the phones and trying to figure out if (and, if so, how) any deals would be available to them. There are no games to navigate, no “holding a player out” as a signal that he may be on the block. No, the players will return to practice (today, I am guessing), and the FO will be working the phones.

We all know what the Lakers would like to do heading into Thursday. They have a slew of veteran players, of varying ability, who they would like to trade. The rumors have been out there for weeks — that the team would like to find Roy Hibbert a playoff team to play for while also making Lou Williams, Brandon Bass, and Nick Young available. However, just because the Lakers would like to make deals doesn’t mean they will.

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Byron Scott has said that he D’Angelo Russell will return to the starting lineup at some point. All signs indicate this will likely occur after the All-Star Break when the Lakers enter their final leg of the season with only 27 games left on the schedule. This last burst should give the coach and front office ample time to see how Russell plays upon his return and offer data points to include in a development plan for the summer.

Russell’s return, however, isn’t the only change I would like to see. As the team heads into the stretch run, looking at the way to maximize all their young players by finding new lineup combinations via further rotation changes should be a priority. I mean, swapping Russell is fine, but also finding ways to play Black more, get Nance back into the rotation (good health in his knee permitting), and getting Anthony Brown back into the fold is also important.

With that, here is my proposal for the Lakers new starting 5 coming out of the All-Star Break:

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Coming into this season, his 3rd with the Lakers, Nick Young was put on notice. He ended his second season with the team firmly in Byron Scott’s doghouse and the only way out of it was to no longer play like Nick Young. Scott said he wanted Young to play better defense, to exercise more discretion offensively, and to be a more serious player. If he did these things, he might see more playing time. If he didn’t, well, the wood has a way of speaking to a player, as this coach is fond of saying.

So, what did young do? He tried to improve in the areas the coach asked him to. At the start of the year was often seen trying on defense and taking less crazy shots in isolation. While he wasn’t a playmaker, he was more willing to move the ball and resembled more of the player he was under Mike D’Antoni; more of the player who the Lakers thought they were keeping on when he resigned after his first with team.

It turns out, though, that really didn’t last. Since the first 10-15 games of the season, Young’s shooting has fallen off, his effort on defense has been spotty, and he has fallen into the trap of looking for his own shot — especially when working in isolation. A tiger doesn’t change its stripes, after all.

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On D’Angelo Russell…

Darius Soriano —  January 29, 2016

I have many thoughts about D’Angelo Russell. Most of them good, some of them concerning, all of them pitted against the backdrop of his age, the direction the league is headed, and his current position on this specific version of the Lakers.

That’s a mouthful, I know.

In a shade under 4 weeks, Russell will turn 20 years old. In NBA years, he is a baby. And while he possesses a polished game, it sometimes only takes a light wipe to pull away some of that veneer and see all that he currently is not. And when playing for an organization that is not used to the types of lows currently experienced and in an era of instant gratification/reward seeking, the breaking down of what Russell isn’t has become a favorite pastime for some.

I am not completely exempt from this. I look at Russell and have concerns. He has a laid back demeanor that can, visually, influence how hard I think he’s playing — especially defensively. There are some bad habits I see nightly. Not running back hard on defense. Not defending with assertiveness. Relaxed hands when guarding on the ball. Lack of effort to fight on the glass when switching in the P&R. Not enough…well, effort. I see it.

Then I reflect. These are flaws, but they seem to be habits that can be broken. I watch guards who came into the league young and see where they are now and understand that the things I don’t like now are things which can be learned and executed as a career advances. I remember that he’s not yet even 20 and I know through good teaching and a want to be better, improvement comes over time. That doesn’t just apply to basketball.

I also see all the good in this kid’s game. All that skill. The ball handling — which could be tighter, but is still excellent. The shot making and pure stroke. The feel for passing and how defenses move. The ability to not only see the pass, but execute it on time and on target. The desire to lead. The recognition of the moment and the visual uptick in wanting to do more in games that are tight, late. And then I remember that he’s not yet even 20 and that through good teaching and a want to be better, improvement comes over time. And that, in this case, it does apply to basketball.

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