Let’s not make any excuses for the Lakers.
We can. After all, they are missing three future Hall of Famers from their lineup. That said, they could have won two games this week and they blew it against Miami and Utah in the late stages of both games.
It’s easy to blame the fact that the Lakers are playing with numerous injuries. However, there are some coaching decisions that need to be brought to the forefront.
It shouldn’t take a Pau Gasol upper respiratory infection for Mike D’Antoni to finally give Chris Kaman some playing time. In a starter’s role against Utah, Kaman was phenomenal and arguably the best player on the floor for the Lakers.
In 30 minutes, Kaman scored 19 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and blocked three shots. It’s also important to note that with Kaman on the floor, the Lakers are a far better defensive team than without him.
Knowing this and the fact that Kaman was playing the best game of his season, it was stunning to see D’Antoni take out Kaman with just over a minute left in the loss against the Jazz in favor of Ryan Kelly and then later, Robert Sacre. Neither player had played much in the game, but for whatever reason, D’Antoni thought it would be wiser to have Sacre on the floor for the last possession.
Gordon Hayward of the Jazz easily drove past Sacre and set up a put back dunk for Derrick Favors in the dying seconds which gave Utah the win. It’s impossible to say whether anything would have been different with Kaman on the floor, but letting the man finish the game, especially when he’s been playing well, wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
At least we even saw Kaman in the Utah game. D’Antoni didn’t play him at all against an undersized Miami team. Game management toward the end of that game was questionable, too. With the Lakers down by five midway through the fourth, D’Antoni benched his two best players – statistically, at least – Jordan Hill and Jordan Farmar and the game slipped away from there.
Finally, in the Phoenix game on Monday, the Lakers were outrebounded 62-39. Of course, Hill only played 14 minutes that game. Another head scratching decision by the Lakers bench boss.
Speaking of Hill, he’s still only averaging just over 20 minutes per game. Why is this? Is he not conditioned? Does he get tired? Hogwash.
As seen in the table above, Hill is just as effective when he gets minutes. He doesn’t get tired. He still scores, he still rebounds, and he’s still effective. In fact, in a win against the Pistons earlier this year, Hill played 36 minutes and scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. Hill should be starting and getting big minutes. There is no excuse as to why he shouldn’t be.
There were several positives from this week aside from Hill’s strong play. Farmar got minutes and after a rusty performance in his first game back from injury on Christmas, he produced in a big way in the loss against Utah, scoring 16 points, dishing out seven assists and getting three steals. Farmar has been showing potency on both sides of the ball this season. The Lakers have a 97.9 defensive rating when Farmar’s on the court.
Finally, Nick Young showed spurts of solid offensive play this week. He hasn’t been overly consistent. One day he’ll shoot 28 percent, the next night he’ll shoot 59 percent. That said, the ON/OFF numbers for Young are incredible. With him on the court, the Lakers have an offensive rating of 103.6. Without him, they’re just producing at an offensive rating of 96.5. At least, he’s getting minutes.
In short, the Lakers need to give Young, Kaman, Hill, and Farmar the minutes they deserve. There is no such thing as an easy win for the Lakers anymore, but they have a favorable home schedule this week as they play the Sixers, Bucks, and Jazz. Gasol should return this week and if D’Antoni keeps playing Kaman, Hill, and Farmar, the Lakers should be able to turn their fortunes around and inch closer to .500.
Totally agree i hate to comment on coaches decisions but not playing Kaman and those Hill minutes are beyond me, suicidal even.Kaman can play.
Baylor Fan says
What position do you have Gasol, Kaman, and Hill play? Those numbers are all coming from them playing center (with some overlap). It would be better to decide who you like and give him the lion’s share of the minutes and teach the other two to shoot threes :).
Interesting story from JMPollard. Here is some of it.
Mike D’Antoni might be coaching out his final season with the Los Angeles Lakers. The former Phoenix Suns coach has consistently demonstrated he is a one-trick pony headman, and that might very well lead to his demise.
D’Antoni comes to the table with a predetermined system that does not always capitalize on the talent at his disposal. Thus, it’s a little difficult to make the case that the Lakers need to retain his services going forward.
That is a link to the article Ken quotes. It is by JM Poulard, who has written stuff for FBG IIRC.
Maybe we’re tanking…although it wouldn’t surprise me if D’Antoni was really trying. How sad is that?
Warren Wee Lim says
Thats also just JM Poulard’s own opinion.
Alex H says
What 3 Hall of Famers!?!? Gasol ain’t a Hall of Famer. Kobe is…who is #3? Man you are prone to hyperbole.
MDA has no defense
Alex, it’s the BASKETBALL Hall of Fame, and Pau will be in for sure when you add his international résumé. And if you think Nash won’t easily make it too, I don’t know what to say.
Now, neither of the have played HoF level ball of late (and Nash has never really had the chance in LA given the injuries), but that doesn’t make the “3 Hall of Famers” thing hyperbole at all.
Wow the Pollard article is quite the read and simply hits the target. Opinion yes – but he supports his opinion well.
I have said all along that whether MD gets this rag tag outfit to win 40 or 45 games (being a little optimistic) is irrelevant. What is relevant is the coming off season(s) and our ability to get better and sign FA. Pollard nails that part.
“Mike D’Antoni has alienated superstars during his career and in turn, it’s fair to wonder how that impacts the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2014 free-agency plans.”
“This is pertinent going forward because one could say that former New York coach has not learned from his mistakes.”
“Once Dwight Howard became a free agent, he reportedly outlined the terms that would prompt him to re-sign with the Lakers. One of them involved the dismissal of the Lakers’ coach.”
“Role players might enjoy playing under him, but high-caliber athletes have taken issue with the offensive genius. Let’s be honest, rotation guys are typically easily recruited whereas marquee players need an attractive presentation.”
P. Ami says
Well said, AussiePhil
I just want to comment that Andre’s analysis is the sort of work that is capable of swaying an open mind about MDA. Comments that he can’t win the big one, that his system doesn’t work etc… These hold no water without real data. On the other hand, if you can provide example for the various failures to secure wins, and one can show numbers the back up what the eye has told you, that is a rational and fair conversation.
MDA’s mismanagement of the current roster is demonstrable. The metrics do not indicate that Hill needs his minutes limited to a bench player’s quantity. The numbers that show the Kamen variable on on/off numbers for the team, those are real numbers. I would like to see some sort of account for the quality of the opponents he has played against, but Andre has made a compelling point.
If you were to ask me, MDA has a good system that can succeed, and he puts certain kinds of players in a position to succeed. He also draws good out-of-bounds plays. It seems MDA has a harder time with how to handle bigs. If we are hoping to get and then stay above 500 this season, that is going to be a problem. It will continue to be a problem as, if you were to ask me, the Lakers drafting a player in the 8-12 range will be grabbing a talented big who will require some development and playing time.
I can see reasonable arguments for why this could best be MDA’s last season with the team.
Renato Afonso says
The thing that worries me the most these MDA rotations is that everyone will be a free agent next season. Playing Hill, Kaman, Farmar, Young (plus Henry and Johnson, obviously) not only gives us the best chance of winning games but can also sell them on resigning with us next season. These are not marquee free agents that will demand a big contract. These are really good role players that can be signed at a fair price if they like their status in our team.
And P. Ami said it all. MDA has some strengths and some weaknesses, as most coaches do. We’re not winning the lottery and we’re not making the playoffs, which is a bad place to be right now, but the Lakers can win some games, entertain us fans and convince those productive role players to stay with the Lakers for next season, if those who deserve get their minutes.
excellent article Andre;
level-headed & spares no punches, hope the FO reads it
Andre Your article was great and on target as well. Overall however, I think MD has done a decent job running the team on the court this year. So while I question the rotations and his handling of big men – in general, I have no issue with his on the court management.
J C says
It’s interesting that Dantoni’s glaring flaws dealing with and using ‘bigs’ wasn’t apparent before the Lakers hired him.
Amare Stoudemire when in Phoenix seemed well utilized.
Was that success more a reflection of Nash’s genius in his prime than Dantoni’s formula that seemed so effective there?
Dantoni’s mixed bag of tricks will only take us so far.
More alarming is the Kobe contract extension that will effectively handcuff the team for the next several years.
Michael H says
Kaman had sprained his ankle and is listed as day to day. I’m thinking thats probably the reason he wasn’t on the floor.
– “Let’s not make any excuses for the Lakers.” Andre K. Straight and to the point. And keeping w/ that theme, after 30 games, over a 3rd of the season, those NBA experts predicting this season the Lakers would finish 12th in the West, and Kobe would be the 25th best player don’t appear to be to far off.
– Maybe Jim Buss is smarter than I thought. He’s found a way to satisfy fans and his new TV deal by signing Kobe while the Lakers continue to improve their chances of a top ten lottery pick.
52 more games to go.
Amare Stoudemire when in Phoenix seemed well utilized.
D’Antoni had an exceptional collection of core talent in PHX. Nash, Marion, Stoudemire and Joe Johnson was a great core, and Barbosa was a very good rotation player then.
What MDA did that was special was the adaptation of playing small and fast with them. Rather than looking at Stoudemire as a 4, Marion as a 3, and Johnson as a 2, and playing them with a conventional center, he moved them all up a spot, and made them his front line, and then found the perfect guy to run the system–and be a buffer–in Nash.
After MDA left, recall that Steve Kerr traded Marion for Shaq, and they went more conventional. It didn’t work that well, and the last really good team they had, the 2010 WCF team, basically played MDA ball under Alvin Gentry.
Looking at the current team, and looking ahead:
Hill is not MDA’s kind of player. Never has been. Can’t stretch the floor and is too small and short-armed to be a full-time 5. I doubt that MDA will change his usage of Hill. That said, I was very glad to see some actual data on the minutes issue.
As to Kaman, he is a very good backup C, a borderline starter, and is capable of playing well. Whether at age 31 he is more useful to the Lakers as a chess piece to try to add a pick or two, or as a player, given where they are, is an open question. Committing to Kobe would seem to make it more likely that they will keep Kaman.
I see the point about FA recruitment, and it is huge, and valid. But the fact that MDA had issues with Anthony and Howard doesn’t mean that he will necessarily be a negative with other FAs. And, FAs will look at the whole picture–talent, ownership, management, atmosphere, cap space.
Helluva game by Chris Bosh last night. W/o LeBron James, Bosh took over the Alpha Dog role, scoring a season high 37 points on 15 of 26 fga, 3 for 3 from 3 point range, including the game winning 3 pointer as time ran out. Bosh was actually allowed to overrule his coaches called play during the time out to go for the game winning 3. Bosh also led his team w/ 10 rebounds vs one of the best in the West, the Trailblazers in Portland.
Many have been minimizing Bosh’s abilities playing along side LeBron. Another game or two like this would go a long way to silencing his critics…and increasing his value in his upcoming option year.