Hoping does not make it so.
You see, I was hoping that after the Lakers struggled to score (save for a Kobe explosion and Pau being Pau) on Sunday, that the Lakers would come out in Tuesday’s game with more focus and a dedication to executing the Triangle. I was hoping that shots would start to fall and that both the Lakers starters and reserves would start to show some cohesion in running their sets and putting the ball in the hole. I was hoping that making the extra pass and a post oriented offense would return after being absent since the win over Denver on Saturday. Really, I was hoping for a win. But, again, hoping doesn’t make it so as was proven by the 82-74 defeat by the hands of the Jazz.
But none of those things really happened. At all. After the game Phil Jackson said that the Jazz out worked the Lakers. I would agree. The Lakers just weren’t that interested in this game. It could have been the thunderstorms that kept the gym from being full and my broadcast of the game from being uninterrupted by severe weather warnings. Or maybe the team is just ready for the regular season to start already and is tired of playing games that don’t count (after all, reporters courtside kept mentioning players checking monitors for updates on the baseball playoffs). Or maybe still the persevering travel that the team has faced this entire pre-season (Europe, Vegas, Anaheim – though those last two destinations aren’t that far from LA).
Or maybe it’s just the lack of practice time that this team has had together. Remember, one of the reasons Phil Jackson wasn’t that excited about the Lakers going to Europe was that it was going to interfere with the team’s preparation. A team that was integrating 5 new players would need that extra court time; the extra drilling of offensive and defensive principles in order to get ready. This team hasn’t had that. And while that was somewhat masked a bit earlier in the pre-season by guys making the extra pass and the simple basketball play, the lack of cohesion has really shown these past couple of games. Because while individual players are looking good – despite poor shooting nights, I think Kobe and Pau have progressed to the point of being nearly all the way back, plus LO, Shannon, and Ron have all had above average pre-season’s thus far – the units as a whole have not yet jelled and don’t yet have that rhythm and chemistry that will be needed.
All that said, I’m still not that concerned. There are positive take aways from every game and it’s not like the season will be won or lost based off performances in early/mid-October. Taking this to the next level, it’s not like the Lakers came out firing on all cylinders last season (I recall a bit of a struggle on opening night against the Clips and some underwhelming performances throughout the beginning part of the year) and if my memory serves the 2010 campaign seemed to turn out just fine.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, here are a few thoughts on last night’s game:
*It was very nice to see Blake and Barnes have bounce back games after not playing that well on Sunday. Both newcomers looked comfortable on offense as they hit their open shots and were the feisty competitors that the Lakers hoped to get when they inked them as free agents. Blake in particular got into a scuffle (for lack of a better word) with Francisco Elson that really seemed to light a spark with both Blake and the rest of the Lakers. After disposing of Steve with a forearm to the chest in the pursuit of a loose rebound, Elson then received a knock to the upper back/head area as retaliation from Blake as what looked like retribution for the initial physical play. Blake and Elson then exchanged words and slight shoves as they were simultaneously separated and T’d up by the refs. Nice to see Blake stick up for himself, but based off Kobe’s comments during the summer, that’s to be expected.
*Speaking of technicals, the Lakers were whistled for three last night – one each by Blake, Kobe, and Barnes. Both Kobe and Barnes’ T’s were for the “respecting the game” clause that is being strictly enforced by the referees while I mentioned that I’m on board with the league attempting to cut down on the complaining, I must say that those were tough calls to see happen live. Not saying they weren’t deserved (based off the rules, they were), just saying that in the moment of a bang/bang play (like the one involving Barnes) it’s going to be difficult to not express disapproval with a call. If this is the standard that players are going to be held to throughout the season, the number of T’s called is going to skyrocket as it will take time to the players to adjust.
*Kobe’s shot was back to being off target and at this point I’m not sure what to make of it. He took some ill advised shots last night (his attempts at step through finger rolls in crowded areas aren’t what I’d call high percentage looks) but even the shots that were open weren’t falling for #24. As Matt R. mentioned in the comments:
I’m really thinking that Kobe could use the rest of this next week off. His legs still aren’t there. I liked that he took Bell to the post a few times and he looked pretty good backing down the smaller, weaker player, but he still lacks lift and he was visibly frustrated by his shot.
There could be some merit to what Matt’s proposing in that Kobe needs to be ready for opening night on Tuesday, not necessarily a pre-season game against the Warriors on Thursday. However, I also think that what’s best for Kobe is to get some more game action in so he can test his legs under real game conditions. Three games in 4 days also could have contributed to what we saw from Kobe last night.
*More Matt R. from the stands:
Ratliff’s awareness on defense (for the most part) as well as his positioning and communication on the floor really impressed me. Offensively as well. As everyone has pointed out, he’s a good player in limited minutes and when you watch the game live and you can let your focus drift to people that aren’t near the ball, it’s very obvious how involved he is when he’s on the floor.
I think it may be time for Phil to try a Ratliff/Pau front court for limited minutes in the upcoming games. I think Pau could really benefit from being paired with a Center and the Lakers defense at the rim would also benefit from having two legitimate shot blockers clogging the paint.
In the end, we’re still in the preseason and as I’ve mentioned the starting group didn’t seem that tuned into the action for long stretches. But, the time to start playing better is quickly approaching and while hoping doesn’t make it so, I do hope the Lakers start to show a bit more before opening night.
“Shannon, and Ron have all had above average pre-season’s thus far – the units as a whole have not yet jelled and don’t yet have that rhythm and chemistry that will be needed.”
i like the above statement…although i think that shanwow has shown a tendency to try and “captain” the unit when he’s out there, as if he were a kobe “mini me”. he doesn’t have the ability to consistently create off the dribble and he throws the newcomers into a “2009 artest” mode (blake, whom he’s been paired with much this pre season). artest has shown growth in terms of the triangle thus far, imo…..
Darius Soriano says
I think you’re right about Shannon being very assertive on offense. But, I also think he’s been more consistent (albeit in a small sample size) than he showed last season in his shot making. Also, he’s seemingly been given the green light to shoot when he’s open (which, in actuality is a staple of the offense) so I’m not too worried with how he’s playing right now.
Kobe still needs some in game situations to gain the strength needed in that knee. It will just take a little time,even he said around mid to late November. We all love our team & just have expected more even though it’s just Pre-season. We could really benefit from home advantage for the playoffs. Let’s go La
Darius Soriano says
On a side note, I’m still thinking of doing a Fantasy Hoops league. Would anyone be interested? Let me know and I can set one up and we can draft on Sunday before the season starts. I promise not to beat everyone too bad. 😉
I’ll play fantasy basketball. I also agree that Ratliff/Pau definitely need time together. Ratliff’s defensive instincts will really help the Lakers protect the paint.
Ratliff is supposedly only able to give limited minutes – so who plays when Pau sits?
Darius Soriano says
#6. Your point is valid, but it’s why I’m only talking about short spurts for a Pau/Ratliff combo up front. If Ratliff plays anywhere from 10-15 minutes while Drew is out (which is a reasonable expectation unless Caracter really shows capable at Center) than 6 of those 15 can be with Pau if need be. This would mean that for the other 8-10 minutes, Pau could be resting. While Drew is out, I think we’re going to see Pau in the 38+ minute range. There’s really no other way to get by unless, again, Caracter proves capable of playing 5-10 minutes a game. (On a side note, this also assumes close games. In blowout wins – or losses – the Lakers big men will likely sit more. Especially Gasol. So I could also see scenarios where even if Caracter isn’t playing well enough to earn heavy minutes, he may get them based off the game’s circumstances).
I’m already in a fantasy league where, like our Lakers, I am going for the threepeat!!!! Plus, it’s a keeper league…much tougher than traditional fantasy ball.
I still would liked to have seen Mbenga stay at least until Bynum gets back into the swing of things. Caracter is a power foward and we need another big man who is at least the height of a center.