There has been a lot of handwringing over the Lakers’ offense. I know, I have been doing it myself. And while I stand by my criticisms of how the team’s worst tendencies have been too present to start the season, we are beginning to see a slight shift in how the team attacks.
Since the Nuggets game, the Lakers have been running more quick hitting actions, getting into their sets faster, and using more integrated pick and rolls throughout any given set. This has all led to a more fluid looking attack. Granted, the team has played two very poor defenses, but I’ll take any progress I can get.
But even when the team has been running some of the actions they have been running all season, the execution and attention to detail has been better than what we saw in the preseason or the team’s first few games. An example of this was a Triangle action from the Brooklyn game on Friday night:
This is basic Triangle stuff. Rather than start with the normal guard to guard or high post entry of the Lakers’ Princeton sets, Russell pushes Clarkson to the corner and dribbles to the wing. Hibbert then fills the post to set up a sideline triangle. Russell then enters the ball into the post with both he and Clarkson executing top and bottom side cuts respectively.
The next action is one the Lakers have run a fair amount this year, though to a different result. When Russell cuts top side, he sets a cross screen for Kobe who comes off the screen into the paint. Earlier in the year, it would normally be Randle who is in Kobe’s spot and Hibbert would look for his frontcourt mate ducking in to get a short shot inside. This option was, typically, the only one explored out of this set.
This time, though, when Kobe comes off the screen, Russell’s man tries to disrupt any attempted pass to Kobe flashing by stepping into the passing lane. When he does, Russell quickly recognizes it and slips back door to make himself available for a pass. Hibbert, reading the play just as Russell has, drops off a perfectly timed pass to Russell who gets a layup. Two points.
This sort of incremental growth is good to see. Note the interchangeability here. On this play, Clarkson isn’t the other guard in the two-guard front, but instead is on the wing. Kobe, isn’t on the wing (where Clarkson is), but is down low where Julius Randle would normally be. And Randle, with his perimeter skill and face up ability, is standing near the arc where Clarkson normally would be. Combine all this with a secondary option being explored and executed with good recognition and timing by all the players and it’s a small, but meaningful nod to the players starting to get it.
This is only one play, of course. And, through the first part of the season, I have seen several actions be broken out almost naturally and see them disappear not only in that game, but in future ones as well. But seeing the players execute this set was nice to see. And as a fan of the Triangle in general, it brought back some nice memories. Hopefully we see more of this play specifically, but more actions like this in general where the team explores more options — and seamlessly — more often.