When recapping yesterday’s Lakers/Kings game, I mentioned that it’s tough to take too much away from this game. The Kings are a bad team that are trending even further downward and they showed little fight in a contest where they got down early. So while it was a blowout win for the Lakers that showed their extra work in the film room paid off (which was very good to see), it also came against an opponent that did little to disrupt what the Lakers were doing. So it’s difficult to say that the Lakers have really left their suspect play in the rearview mirror because they were hardly tested in a way where some of those same habits could reappear if the game got tight (as it was against Houston).
After rethinking it some, I still hold that belief but would modify the thought to point out that when you play a team like the Kings, this is the exact type of performance that you could hope for. The Lakers jumped out big, never let up, and even in garbage time continued to press forward and execute their schemes without allowing the Kings any room to breathe or find any sort of rhythm late. The takeaway from this game is more clear now – it’s that the Lakers held their collective foots to the Kings’ necks and pushed down just as hard in minute 5 as they did in minute 48. That focus – regardless of opponent – is some of what’s been absent in recent games and it was good to see that it returned. Because when it’s there, the results can be devastating – as we saw last night; as we’ve seen throughout the season to this point.
And where I think the Lakers’ focus was best was in executing the little things that have been inconspicuously absent in recent games (both during the losing streak and even in some wins before it). Offensively the Lakers got back to three major principles of their sets: 1). Spacing, 2). Patience, and 3). Hard cuts/screens. When those three things are happening on offense the Lakers sets look nearly unstoppable as constant motion combined with the individual threats of their best players create situations where the defense can’t do everything at once. Maybe the extra help on Kobe or Pau or Odom means that those guys can’t score as easily in one on one situations but it also means that cutters become open or other offensive players find themselves open just because their man left to go help. And then, of course, the opposite is true in that when defenders get too caught up worrying about where their man is going or playing the off ball actions of the offense, the Lakers one on one players get to attack with space and freedom.
Defensively, it was a similar story in that the little things reappeared. Ball pressure on the wings returned. Help defenders stepped up earlier and even if they were late they actively contested shots rather than passively jumping or acting like human traffic cones that can be easily avoided in the pursuit of an interior basket. When all else failed, the Lakers would just foul to deny an easy score. It really was a turnaround from what we’ve seen recently.
Believe me, I get that it was the Kings and that disclaimer can’t be stated enough when evaluating what this performance actually means. But, again, the flip side of this is true to. After a losing streak I think most would be happy with any win at all. But, against a team like the Kings, if the Lakers were to come out and scratch out a win where they looked disjointed on both sides of the ball but were victorious only because of the immense gulf in talent, I think many would be less satisfied with the result. Instead the Lakers rolled over the Kings in crushing fashion. That, in itself, means something even if it’s only that the team brought its ‘A’ game against a team that it probably didn’t need it against.
All that said, check out the (lengthy) highlight clip below. In it, you’ll see examples of all the little things that I’ve discussed above and how a real attention to detail was present last night. On offense notice the spacing; the attacking nature, how the players are consistently moving well off the ball by setting screens or flashing into open space. On defense notice the increased activity, how the Lakers do a better job of collapsing the paint and then contesting shots when the Kings try to attack the interior. I know it was the Kings, but against any opponent these are the types of things the Lakers need to be doing more consistently. Because while it may not always lead to 30 point wins and it certainly won’t always be as easy, this is the style of play that is needed against every opponent.
Great Highlight video Darius. Anybody else catch Kobes double dribble on the steal and breakaway dunk at the 4:10 mark on the video?
dave m says
While agreeing that victory against the free-falling Kings isn’t the same as besting a contender, a win’s still a win and it has to be remembered that the lowliest of teams will give their best against us. Just what the Kings’ best is, isn’t quite certain. The game was a welcome break however, from a series of speed bumps that rattled the undercarriage and kudos to the end-of-the bench mob for playing the 4th quarter like they truly meant it.
Just a thought while watching sports today; watched the UNC/UK basketball and currently the Oregon/OSU football game. Multiple times after penalties I’ve really watched reactions. Every single time there is the angry “emotion” that is typical of a call going against you. I am 100% certain that at least 3 times during the basketball game, had there been NBA referees, a technical would have been called. In the football game, after any PI call I’ve ever seen, there is enough “emotion” to warrant an NBA-tech.
It’s amazing to me that not only in pro sports, but in college are players allowed to get away with showing more emotion than our players. As has been perpetually stressed, the games are full of ups and downs and when these players are so invested, it is impossible to take that out. Now unless Stern’s idea is to make the NBA a mocked role-model, I think the rule needs to be lightened. When you have college players, in the same sport, acting how any competitor would and the NBA standards not flowed down (which they are not), I think it’s ridiculous.
Maybe an off-analogy, but it may be relevant (just thought of it). Now the NFL players are being asked to change the way they’ve been taught their whole life in regard to tackling/hitting. Basketball players have worn their emotions on their sleeves from the schoolyard through college, and now you want to change them? I don’t like it.
I’m not saying I enjoy the oft-overboard complaining, but I do think there’s a middle ground that we’ve flown right by in the hopes of completely sanitizing the NBA.
Craig W. says
I couldn’t disagree with you more.
The NBA; by virtue of it’s closeness to the fans, lack of heavy clothing, and constant close-up images on camera; is the sport that most exemplifies what young athletes in any sport will take to be their guidelines.
When the NBA doesn’t require the mental discipline required to play the game in-the-1st-place, i.e. players can pretty much blow-up whenever they feel like it, then that becomes the model for young people in many other sports.
By setting the current example that it is unacceptable for players to abuse the refs, the NBA is sending the proper signal to our youth. You can disagree, but you can’t take out your frustration on an official.
Personally I like that message sent to young people in our society.
I believe that is a hard sell. “Watch the TV. See Little Jimmy, they don’t talk back to the refs.” Then he goes out on the playground and does it? All through grade school, high school, and then college, and is now expected to change it because he grew up watching NBA games? How can you correlate and reinforce that behavior if it isn’t standard across sports or at all levels? The youth aren’t only watching one sport.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing that NBA players should have the ability to “blow-up” whenever they want, but I think some emotion adds more to the game. I think you’ll agree that the tech-calling in the pre-season was a bit outrageous, no? Ultimately, I think it’s a decent attempt to send a message, but compromises some flare of the game.
It’s hard for me to believe, though, that the NBA player typifies what young athletes will model themselves after just because they are more visible; not wearing a helmet. There are still names/numbers on the back of people’s jerseys, and you see their fans sporting that gear. Just because TO or Ochocinco has a helmet on, to me, doesn’t mean that thousands (more?) young kids now do ridiculous end zone dances.
Finally, I agree, to some extent, about abusing the official. I do not condone that in any means. I wouldn’t like to see technicals for reactions that aren’t directly aimed at the official, though in reaction to a call nonetheless.
Craig W. says
Kids got their lead from the pros in the constant bickering.
I think if the NBA cracks down – and stays cracked down – then other pro sports may follow, then colleges will. It is to the organization’s benefit to keep the players off the refs, as this reduces the involvement of the fans with the refs.
Someone has to lead and the NBA seems to be in a unique position to do this.
Igor Avidon says
Kids should be receiving their ‘lead’ from their parents, not athletes on TV. I find it irresponsible to hold star athletes responsible for ‘setting the wrong example’ to our children.
Dave M says
I’ve been watching basketball for a whole lot of years and it’s hard to quantify the current generation of players as being any more abusive or disrespectful as those from the past. The game’s over-controlled in my opinion… I can’t imagine the Celtics, Pistons, Bulls or Lakers of old, getting t’d up for looking crosseyed at a ref. Stern’s doing nothing for the league at this point and is clearly looking for ways to keep himself relevant.
Chris J says
I don’t mind the league trying to dial back the antics a bit, though I’ve got a wait and see approach to the steps taken so far this season.
Something had to give, though. Re-watch some of the crap that was going on in the playoffs last season — Rasheed Wallace (of course), in particular — and it’s just amazing to see how carried away some players were allowed to be without the refs doing a thing.
Hopefully there’s a balance out there somewhere.
lil' pau says
Of greater absurdity in my book is the notion that, wait for it, by forbidding coaches and players to criticize the refs in postgame comments, somehow this will eradicate any subsequent media/fans debate over the *quality* of the refereeing or whether or not they blew a specific call. I find this idea to be almost comically inane, other than of course the vaguely stalinesque echoes…
Sports at the highest level should be passionate– forbidding displays of emotion by the players only dilutes the experience. Want to stop players from bitching about a bad call? Give the ball to the other team and let them bring it in bounds….
They can change very quickly if they want to – just like any other rule change. And it won’t affect the passion with which they play the game. If they “had” to get that passionate, then every time a teammate screwed up, they would have a tantrum.
I think this discussion will become really interesting come play-off time when several players will be in danger of having to miss a game because of accumulated T’s.
The line between acceptable and overboard is quite difficult to draw. My feeling is that if a player reacts to a call (or quite possibly being only frustrated about what he did wrong himself) while walking away from the situation and the referee, that should not be a T unless he curses audibly at a ref.
In my opinion players have to be afforded the chance to have an emotional reaction and to then settle down. Imaging fighting with Paul Pierce, having some trash talk all game and getting riled up, then him drawing a cheap foul by initiating contact and telling you all about it. I think nobody can be asked to not react at all to something like that.
Hard to judge, but in my perception it wasn’t that big a problem to begin with. I’D rather the NBA clean up that messy block/charge call that has defenders get in the way of players already jumping towards the basket. This is what has bothered me more than players’ reactions in a game in which the personalities are also part of the fun.
Craig W. says
I’m sorry, but to measure today’s reactions by today’s attitudes is to miss the point completely. Today’s attitudes come, in part, from how the game has handled these situations over time. Now is the time to start dialing back the ‘crap’ players put out and that dialing back is going to cause the comments that are appearing here. We have gotten used to doing things this way and we (the game) are going to have to change our habits. This goes for the fans too, however, I doubt fans will take this lying down.
The game used to be physically much rougher, but that didn’t make it better. Athletes are bigger, stronger, much better paid, and much much more spoiled by the public. Also, they are spied upon much more in today’s world. That makes it a different game – regardless the actual rules. This is true in all sports.
I am not asking athletes to be role models – although the fact is they are, whether we like it or not. What I want is the same mental discipline in the game as athletes are required to put out to learn the game.
Craig W. and Taylor,
The reasons for the emphasis on technical fouls is complex. It’s not just the obvious reasons of too much player complaining. To me, the number one reason is race and image.
Unfortunately, the NBA has different issues to deal with than other sports. There’s always this thought of the NBA being a rich, spoiled , young black star’s league. It’s the reason a dress code was instituted as well. The NFL and MLB don’t suffer the same stereotypes the NBA does. (and white) They still have the benefit of enjoying the hard-working blue collar perception that most NBA players aren’t afforded. David Stern doesn’t want casual fans to be turned off by whiny millionaire superstars whom are already presumed to not work hard in the first place. Those sports are identified as structured and team first sports. One man cannot make a difference. In the NBA, one man can. Fans want team. Not brat superstars.
The NBA just took another step in trying to erase the spoiled athlete image their players suffer from. True or not. Plus, everyone questions the refereeing in the NBA, especially since Donaghy. Complaining players only perpetuate it the thought of poor officiating.
The NBA could probably care less about how it affects the youth. They care how it affects their pockets.
chris h says
my whole problem is the inconsistency, I’ve seen LO get some real ticky tack T’s, while in the same game, someone from the opponents gets away with something even more demonstrative.
LO got called once for just leaving his arms up in the air, didn’t say a word, that, was just redonculous.
Craig W. says
You are right; there is quite a bit of inconsistency. However, it also has something to do with which team you are rooting for – I was listening to the Bulls announcers in the game last night.
Anyway, some of the inconsistency is in the eyes of the beholder; some of the inconsistency is in the newness of the rules enforcement by the refs; some of the inconsistency is in the number of huge bodies in a very confined space.
I expect to see the fans continue to scream, but the officiating will even-out somewhat. Also, I think things will be dialed back a little bit, but not until the new enforcement perspective is fully accepted by the players.
dave m says
I think over-inking goes hand-in-hand with your point. Boiled down to its essential, whether black players or white, is the idea that the league can mandate dress, language and attitude, but it can’t control the appearance of skin. Of course, tattoos as a societal trend is larger than basketball and attributing it all to rebellion would be wholly inaccurate. And, Andersen’s “Free Bird” face encroachment is a whole other story altogether. In fact, the mental image pretty much erases whatever it was I was originally thinking of. Gimme back my bullets!
Craig W. says
No doubt you are correct. I do think, however, this change in the enforcement of the rules goes beyond the race question.
Basketball is such an ‘in your face’ sport that the appearance of arrogance is impossible to ignore. Your point is extremely well taken; I don’t think it is the driving force, just the accelerator.
I agree with Igor – it’s for the parents to set the example …. not the athletes.
Anyway – back to the basketball. I haven’t seen much game this year – but what I saw of Caracter in this highlight real was pretty impressive.
dave m says
To me, the 4th quarter against the Kings was one of the young season’s memorable moments. The unit of Brown, Walton, Sasha, Caracter and Ebanks, isn’t one you’ll see a lot of and is as much 3rd as second-string. Too often, these blow-out leads shrink as the bench empties out, whether a lack of enthusiasm or rust or simply because the other side’s trying desperately to make a final push. This time, there was no lack of effort, the lead was not only preserved but extended. Caracter nearly fouled out but managed to stay on the floor (much to Pau’s relief). He used Cousins on a couple post moves, scored a career/season high in points and hopefully made a case for continued minutes.
The NBA is a very peculiar product. In other parts of the world, soccer is what NBA would be to poor kids, as it is a sport that even the very poor can play due to its low entry cost and can literally change lives.
Anyway, since the US soccer league isn’t really as popular as the NBA, basketball tends to be the sport that serves as the way to riches for the poor, and thus it will forever be connected with bad neighborhoods.
So that’s the image that the league is fighting against. Evidently it’s a bigger problem than having athletes spit in dugouts and chew tobacco, or players basically getting smashed up and drugged up to play, or it is a way of competing with baseball and football by staying in the media spotlight.
Or it may all be a big show to dodge truly relevant topics such as PED usage and what these athletes actually DO with all their money in this age of twitter and facebook. Actually, I’m surprised that the league has not made rules and guidelines regarding social media usage (other than not twitting during games).
At any rate, I tend to agree with the new techs in that the leagues needs to do SOMETHING, and actually I like the idea of stopping whining, but would’ve probably preferred something more thoroughly thought out and something that is more common-sense.
But in the end, you can’t make something look like something it isn’t. The best way to clean up the league’s image would be to give them classes and let them know that it’s not ‘cool’ to pretend you are a gangster when all you are is a millionaire pampered more than the guys watching the game are.
T. Rogers says
Maybe the players wouldn’t get so frustrated if the officiating was more consistent. We went through the inconsistency of the refs on several threads during last season’s playoff run.
We have all watched games where the same defensive play is made on both ends of the floor, but only one team gets called for it. We have all seen refs “let them play” in the first three quarters of a game only to get whistle happy in the last period. We have all seen a team play “good defense” in game one of a series. Then the same team plays the same kind of defense in game two or three, but it leads to a parade of free throws for the other team. All of this is frustrating to watch as a fan. So how do you think the players feel?
The 1990’s were obviously more rugged. But at least players knew what to expect. Now the league is trying to turn an adult, professional game into a day at Disneyland. But since there are so many old school officials mixed in with newer ones the officiated is like a mixed cocktail.
And the players of yesteryear were no less abrasive. Guys like Kevin McHale, Vernon Maxwell, and all of the Bad Boy Pistons could give this generation a run for their money in on court outbursts. I think Stern is completely off the mark with his approach.
(edited) The most horrible thing about this new rule, of course, is the unfair execution of the rule. Some players barely do anything and get a double tech while others yell in the refs face and are ignored. Rules must be clearly delineated, and this rule among others clearly is not. Bad move by Stern, but by now i am not surprised.
The one positive move has been that star athletes aren’t getting as many of those “star calls” anymore, and in general the other rules are being more fairly called which i like. This new “respect for the game” joke of a rule notwithstanding.
John Morris says
I agree with #12. If the players are being asked to clean it up the officials should too. Sliding in underneath a player when they are going to the rim goes against all basketball instincts I know of. The whole idea of taking a charge in the NBA has been totally perverted.
Derrick Character = 2nd Coming of Charles Barkley?
Phillip Barnett says
Morning links are up:
Darius Soriano says
A new post is up.