Last night was one of the most entertaining games of the still-young NBA season. Two top teams, one from the east, one from the west. The reigning champion Miami Heat with their big three superstars, LBJ, Wade and Bosh, plus legendary shooter Ray Allen, versus the always-dangerous San Antonio Spurs, starring…. a bunch of bench guys. At the tail end of a grueling road trip, that wily curmudgeon Coach Popovich sent Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home. David Stern promised substantial sanctions and the remaining Spurs went out and put on a gutsy show, nearly holding off the late-charging Heat who won it in the final minute.
That’s basketball. The idea that on any given night, a team that’s not expected to be in the picture, can very much be in the picture. Fans of the sport were pulling for the underdogs and it makes me wonder about a common Los Angeles Lakers narrative of late – that we have to be patient and bide our time because Steve Nash isn’t back yet and all we can really hope for is to hold our ground. Except the ground we’re holding is barely above water. I’m not sure that I quite buy this philosophy. I’m not sure that a starting lineup of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Darius Morris should have lower expectations than Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw and Nando De Colo. Or in cold hard cash, $75 million versus $15 million. Unless of course you assume that Nando De Colo is so overwhelmingly better than Darius Morris that the whole thing’s a wash. It’s certainly possible – De Colo can play.
Here’s what I think. I think we should beat Denver tonight. I think that it is not unreasonable to expect that we should beat a team that is exactly half-a-game above us on the leader board, at Staples. On national TV. Segue the links:
Kevin Arnovitz at ESPN’s TrueHoop offers the book on Mike D’Antoni.
Andy Kamenetzky at ESPN’s Lakers Index breaks down tonight’s game with Joel Rush from the Roundball Mining Company.
Dave McMenamin from ESPN Los Angeles brings a reflective Kobe Bryant interview, about his lasting impact on the game.
Ben Bolch at the LA Times reports that Mike D’Antoni is preaching patience given his floor general’s absence.
Patience is one thing, but as Janis Carr at the OC Register points out, D’Antoni is also calling his team’s offense anemic.
The staff at Mavericks Moneyball takes a look at the signing of Derek Fisher.
Drew Garrison at Silver Screen and Roll brings Matt Barnes’ reasoning for his Lakers exit, “Mike Brown.”
Arielle Moyal at Lakers Nation offers reflections, rumors and Lakers news.
Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie looks at the ravings of David Stern, a man who once did big things.
When it comes down to it, there are truths that cannot be ignored. That on any given night, the worst players in the league can run with the best. And to be honest, the Spurs role players are far from the worst in the league. That a coach of the caliber of Gregg Popovich can motivate his guys to go hard, from one end of the bench to the other. And that superstars have been known to phone it in now and then. Kobe Bryant doesn’t fall into that category – he nearly beat the Pacers the other night all on his own, while battling the flu. But there’s something about supremely talented teams of whom much is expected. They don’t always live up to expectations. Mike D’Antoni is new to this team and he’s new to this town. And he needs some time to get everybody on the same page, from one end of the bench to the other. That includes a somewhat elusive figure who’s been hanging around in the warm California sun for a lot of years now, stretching and yawning and coming forward to say hello to the new boss. It’s our old friend the switch. Remember the switch? It’s another one of our truths.
oh no faried is in town tonight, maybe Pau should call in sick.
Kenny T says
Dave, I enjoyed that write-up. What the Lakers need to try is outworking their opponents. The Lakers have talent, but hard work will beat talent quite often. Talent COMBINED with hard work is hard to overcome. This group has not proven a thing. They need to stop reading their press clippings and get to work.
“And he needs some time to get everybody on the same page” – Exactly how much time?
Kenny T: “but hard work will beat talent ” Agreed and it is part of the coaches job to get the players to play hard/work hard. We are under achieving right now and that is a direct reflection on coaching/systems.
I will continue to wait – but not patiently
Dave – thanks for putting it into such stark perspective with your post. I’m so sick and tired of hearing the excuses – the offensive system, a bad coach, injuries, new teammates needing time to jell together, etc. All this personally makes me want to barf.
Steve Nash or no Steve Nash – a starting unit of Kobe, Dwight, Pau, Metta and point guard X should be good enough to beat 90% of the teams in this league. No ifs, ands or buts. That they’re under .500 at this point is ludicrous.
Unless they really aren’t as good or as compatible as they were made out to be.
Another game where the opposing PFs must be salivating at facing against the injured and slow Gasol. And its not like Gasol didn’t have trouble before containing Faried. I expect Faried to outhustle Gasol and get a easy double double.
Actually a starting lineup of Kobe, Dwight, Pau, Metta and point guard X is not good enough to beat 90% of the league, at least not now. Dwight is not 100% and is a horrible free throw shooter even below his standards so far. Gasol is either injured or washed up, who knows at this point? Point Guard X, not including Steve nash, is one of the worst point guards in the league, be it Duhon, Morris or steve blake. Only Metta and Kobe are playing above expectations. Couple that with the fact that only Howard is in his prime while others are old(at least 34 yrs old) and you get the disappointing Lakers.
@JonM: Keep in mind, the “below .500” mark includes Brown’s 1-4 record. Sure, they’re only 6-4 since his firing, but winning 60% of your games will still get you into the playoffs, underachieving so far or not.
Considering we’re starting a PG who would probably have been reassigned to the D-League if the Steves were healthy, adding to Gasol’s tendinitis/fading skills/exhaustion, and a short camp for coming-off-back-surgery Howard, to be sniffing .500 after a 1-for-5 start isn’t bad.
We’re spoiled as Laker fans. If this team’s .500 at the break, I’ll worry. Until then, winning 6 out of 10 ain’t bad until everyone’s back and healthy.
Kenny T says
Haranguing the Spurs organization about their decision to rest their players is typical of David Stern. Granted, as a fan, if I paid my hard earned money to attend last night’s game in Miami I’d be upset that the Spurs’ best players were resting.
But, Stern has to revisit the oft times ridiculous schedule that the league puts together. Teams playing 4 games in 5 nights and various backs ot backs have got to think about the big picture and protecting their players’ health. A fine line and a slippery slope, to be sure.
Intimations about the integrity of the game ring hollow from a commissioner whose lack of transparency concerning his referees and disciplinary procedures have often cast a dark cloud over the game. I certainly won’t miss the heavy-handed King David when he finally vacates his throne.
Case in point, the league only suspended Rajon Rondo 2 games for clearly instigating a brawl the spilled over into the expensive seats at TD Garden. Uneven discipline coming from the NBA honchos have caused many observers to simply shake their heads on more than one occasion.
Jon M: Exactly
Gary: I certainly can’t argue with your appraisal based on our performance. However the question is why? Not questioning you, but the Lakers as follows: Did Pau become washed up over the summer? DH is a shell of what he was? AJ became lost over the summer? Hill became a dog house resident? Everyone became inept at 3’s? Everyone became inept at Free Throws? We started turning the ball over at an alarming rate all because we became 6 months older? So I ask you – is it more likely that all of this stuff happened because of age, or because we simply are not working well together? The age thing is especially baffling when KB is the only one who is playing well. Our young players and Howard are the biggest under performers.
I laugh at those who say Lakers can’t play an up tempo style of ball, Spurs walk all over that myth.
A Spurs team whose big 3 is actually older than our so called big 4. Watching the Spurs last night against the Heat without any of their big 3 even suiting up was eye opener to say the least.
I can’t bare to imagine how badly we’ll lose if we did the same, Spurs without ANY ego’s actually play like a team, none of this go bail us out hero ball. While we’re left wondering if Nash is the missing piece in our puzzle.
No doubt Nash helps out when your 3rd & 4th string PG’s are Morris (who wouldn’t start for any of the other 29 teams and Duhon whose only use is hitting 3’s) I’m still not convinced either way with this team with and without Nash.
Kenny T says
1 hr, 7 mins ago
Pau this. Pau that. Pau in the post. Pau on the perimeter. Blah, blah, blah. None of this amounts to a hill of beans unless Pau plays hard and stops drifting on the court. He needs to play like a 7 footer and stop letting players come over his back for rebounds. He needs to give a few good, hard fouls. He needs to take the bull by the horns and find a way to live up to his status on this team. This poor me Pau stuff is for the birds. Pau needs to make up his mind to play hard. To me, this is not about systems, this is about Pau and his desire to play well. Lip service is fine. On court aggression is better.
I posted this on the last thread. Any thoughts?
If you dont follow Darius on twitter – his latest tweet perfectly encapsulates the state of some fans
Dave Murphy says
This article by Woj went up after I’d posted the links but it’s a great read, about the Stern debacle.
Lakers brass wanted a certain brand of basketball back in LA. Traded for the PG and hired the coach who’s had some success trying to duplicate that. Now must give D’Antoni the players to help him implement his system fully. Lakers changed team’s way of thinking by having 3 above average big men. League has changed again now it’s time for Lakers to act accordingly.
@kenny – agreed, if pau is hurt and needs rest then fine – but yeah, at a certain point he needs to be aggressive and bring energy. Dantoni gives all the guys the green light – if Pau doesn’t Like Shooting 15s, he can always drive and get closer or get lower position when howard isn’t on the court. Getting his shot blocked 5times last game is his own fault-not the coaches.
@robert Well, I think we should just give the lakers time to figure out the rotations and what roles each player has on offense. For example, we all know how AJ and Howard works well together. So there might be some logic in playing Gasol at the backup center more and less at PF especially when Howard is in the game. The reason why everybody wants Nash back is because we need him to maximize the capabilities of guys like Meeks. Kobe is not the solution with all his turnovers. As of right now, however, the team’s just not getting it done
Gary: “just not getting it done” That about somes up the year : )
Kevin: That can’t be the plan can it? That plan would be a 3 year project and the PG we just signed will be gone by then. And so will the coach at this rate : )
Darius Soriano says
The game preview is up.
T. Rogers says
One reason the Spurs bench is so good is the staff has taken the time to develop their role players. The Lakers “win now” mentality can sometimes work against them. Guys like Morris, Hill, and Ebanks aren’t bad players. They didn’t get much burn under Brown last year. This year they are adjusting to their third coach and yet another system change. They have to figure out their roles all over again.
Also the Spurs run their sets now matter if guys are hitting shots or not. Tim Duncan doesn’t try to take over games. He keeps on kicking the ball out to open shooters no matter what. There is no hero ball. That makes the bench accountable and forces them to take collective responsibility for the outcome of the game. If a game is up for grabs Pop still won’t overplay his big three. He is expects the bench to be able to close the deal as well as the starters. It doesn’t always work. But it leads to exponential development in his role players.
The Lakers need to once and for all nail down their identity. They need to let guys like Morris and Hill play good minutes so they can develop. They will make mistakes, but they will become key contributors. Better to do it now. Because I’m starting to think we will never see the “old” versions of Steve Nash and Pau Gasol again.
“Also the Spurs run their sets now matter if guys are hitting shots or not. Tim Duncan doesn’t try to take over games. He keeps on kicking the ball out to open shooters no matter what. There is no hero ball.”
There is truth to this statement, but some falseness as well. Parker running endless PnR where he either shoots or drives to the hoop isn’t hero ball? Manu running PnR, or isos isn’t hero ball? The Spurs have been gifted with 3 alpha players for the last decade. Players who are stars in their own right. All three can/could torch anyone that is guarding them on any given night. Can you say the same about the Lakers? Please don’t mention Gasol because he has *never* been an alpha dog. Dwight? Absolutely, but he’s hurt and isn’t quite back to normal. Nash? Absolutely, but he’s hurt. Also, there is no comparison between the Spurs bench players/role players and those of the Lakers. I mean come on man. Do I need to break out the stats from the other night where every other player, not named Kobe, shot 25% from the field (12-48), and 1-17 from three, and 12-30 from the free throw line?