It is pretty easy to be down on the Lakers right now. They possess a 1-5 record. They are in the bottom 10 in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They have lost two very winnable games (opening night vs. the T’Wolves, Sunday against the Knicks) while facing a relatively soft schedule (for example, one of their losses was to the Kings who have only that single win in eight games).
I think some of the major frustrations aren’t necessarily with the losses (though winning more would be nice), but the process in which the losses are occurring. If the Lakers are going to lose anyway, many would like to see D’Angelo Russell in those late game situations where learning can occur. There are questions about the rotations being put together, the schemes the team is using on both sides of the ball, and whether it all combines to put players in the best positions to be successful.
And while it is important to always know that there are things we do not have information on (how practices are going, what’s being discussed in film sessions, specific directions doled out to players), what we see in the games does cause frustrations to mount.
In getting to our links for the day, I think David Murphy at Bleacher Report did a good job of diagnosing what ails the team right now. An excerpt:
There are numerous flaws that make up a losing team, from players’ shortcomings to management’s failure at making the kind of free-agency summer splash that could have vaulted them back into relevance.
But if there is one deficiency that stands heads above the rest, it lies with poor coaching.
Granted, the Lakers haven’t had much luck in this department during the post-Phil Jackson era—not with grind-it-out Mike Brown, or his successor, Mike D’Antoni, a man saddled with back-to-back rosters uniquely ill-suited for his run-and-gun style.
But Scott’s the one in the hot seat right now. Bringing the former Showtime legend back into the Lakers family seemed to be more an act of nostalgia and misplaced loyalty than forward-thinking strategic planning. Simply speaking, the game has evolved since Scott’s early successes as an NBA head coach, and he hasn’t.
Keeping on the theme of what’s going wrong, Drew Garrison at Silver Screen & Roll broke down the Lakers’ offense in the last 8 minutes of the Knicks game and saw failures all over the floor. He has nice still pictures, gifs, and videos to explain, but his conclusion sums it all up well:
For over seven minutes the Lakers’ offense couldn’t convert a single field goal. The few quality shots they took didn’t drop, the rest of the muck they tried to survive with didn’t work, and the Knicks defense did exactly what it needed to do to finish off an opponent that simply couldn’t score.
We see these types of scoring droughts often from the starting lineup, too. It’s clearly a problem that between their starters they couldn’t come up with a single made basket in a game they were very close to winning. Their pick-and-roll scheme is problematic because it’s too easy for the defense to pack the paint, and there’s nothing else really going for it right now. It’s a mix of system, talent and inexperience that’s causing these kinds of ugly stretches.
Everyone deserves part of the blame. From Byron Scott, to Kobe, to Russell. Hopefully this clears up with time, but we’re starting to see why something even as bread-and-butter as a pick-and-roll might be a challenge to execute for this team.
Moving on to Kobe, he recently made more headlines by again acknowledging he would like to play in the 2016 Olympics for the men’s National Team. While many in the twitter-verse are, basically, laughing at this concept, over at The Sporting News, Adi Joseph thinks Kobe should make the team. He offers points for an against, but closes with the idea that he would like to see Kobe “go out on top”:
The Lakers are bad. Bryant is part of the reason for that, yes, but he also is one of the greatest players in NBA history. Furthermore, he is one of the most popular players in international basketball history, arguably the face of the league during an era when it expanded to the international audience in a major way.
Women’s basketball legend Tamika Catchings plans on retiring after the 2016 Olympics. She’s led a celebrated, championship-winning career in the WNBA and abroad. She also is longtime friends with Bryant, friends from the time when their fathers played professionally in Italy.
Catchings and Bryant are global superstars. They deserve to go out in the red, white and blue. Let them go out gold.
The idea of Kobe ending his career in Rio implies that this year will be his last. I am on record as saying I think Kobe retires after this season:
I've been saying it for a while, but I think Kobe retires after this season. He's worked so hard & is only this good. He knows.
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) November 9, 2015
Used to be Kobe would put in the work & got better. Then, to maintain his superiority. Now? To it's to be this guy hanging on. He knows.
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) November 9, 2015
Kobe has deflected on this topic as much as humanly possible, but like it or not, the notion of this being his last season is taking root. Even more so now that he may be showing his hand a bit more. From Baxter Holmes of ESPN:
Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott said star guard Kobe Bryant recently told him for the first time that this could be his final season.
Scott said the conversation took place in the past few days and was about a different subject, which Scott declined to disclose, but he said it was during that talk that Bryant revealed that he might retire after the 2015-16 campaign, his 20th with the Lakers.
“That’s the first time that he hinted to me that this might be his last year,” Scott said Sunday before the Lakers faced the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Bryant maintained after the game that he has made no decisions about his future and will do so after this season. When asked what will go into that decision, he said it’s “just desire, if i want to put my body through it again and continue to play.”
This is reflected, too, by how opposing crowds are treating him now that Kobe and the Lakers are out on the road. Especially when the team heads east for their lone visit to some arenas. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! wrote on this after the Nets game in Brooklyn:
Over and over, they chanted Bryant’s name at the Barclays Center. He let the love wash over him, waving to everyone on his way out, disappearing into the tunnel with his hands raised to the rafters. The Lakers won’t win a lot of road games this year, and that kind of response won’t always feel appropriate. It did on Friday, though. Truth be told, it felt perfect.
“The crowds, the chanting, people wanting to see me play – I’m extremely, extremely appreciative of that,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports. “I understand what that means. Listen, my personality isn’t the rocking chair kind of thing, but the chanting of my name means enough to me.”
Part of the reason Bryant doesn’t want a traditional farewell tour is that he hates the idea of ceremonies draining the competitive fire out of him. Nevertheless, he’ll no longer get what drove him all those years: the venom and vitriol that comes for the villain. Those days are done, what with Bryant transformed into a grand statesman. Twenty years is forever in the NBA, and now opposing arenas, beginning in Brooklyn, understand the likes of him will never come again.
This idea that there will “never be another Kobe” is not just a media thing, either. In anticipation of Tuesday night’s Lakers/Heat game, Dwayne Wade mentioned the same thing. From Michael Wallace of ESPN:
They’ve combined for eight NBA championships, 28 All-Star appearances and more than 50,000 points as the two most accomplished shooting guards of their era.
But Dwyane Wade embraces the distinction that sets Kobe Bryant apart.
“I do feel — and I’ve said this before the last couple of years with LeBron [James], when he became the best player in our game — that Kobe Bryant is the greatest player of our era,” Wade said. “The Kobe Bryants aren’t around no more. There are good young players, but there will never be another Kobe. So every opportunity you get to [face him], you want to seize that moment.”