If the silver lining to the loss to the Magic was the young players playing well while gaining valuable experience down the stretch of a close game, the loss to the Mavs offered some hints at improving group play from the starting group. After a Heat game that saw the Lakers’ starters struggle against the Heat’s top 5, the team’s first five had a stronger showing against the Magic one night later.
Last night, against the Mavs, the starters’ showing was even better:
Against the Mavs on Friday, Lakers starters played 14 minutes together, had an OEff of 133.2(!!) and a DEff of 72.1(!!!).
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) November 14, 2015
This improvement came even with a shift in group dynamics as Kobe returned from a 2-game absence nursing a sore back. The time off did Kobe well as he came back looking fresher and with more life in his legs than when he departed. That extra pep in his step translated to better shooting accuracy early, a 4-4 start for 9 points. These shots mostly came within the flow of the offense and things were going well for the entire team.
Until it wasn’t, of course. After jumping out to a 19-9 lead in the first six minutes of the 1st quarter, the Lakers were outscored 20-5 in the final six minutes of the period to trail 29-24. A lot of that was on the backs of a disastrous performance from the 2nd unit. And while a competitive game ensued the rest of the night, the Lakers never again led. They got within a single point multiple times, but never got ahead on the scoreboard.
Their are individual positives to take away from this game, however. Jordan Clarkson played very well offensively, bouncing back from his poor game in Orlando two nights earlier. Clarkson’s 9-18 shooting (including 3-5 from distance) for 21 points were team bests. He looked fluid, quick, and strong. D’Angelo Russell didn’t have a strong shooting night (3-7), but stuffed the boxscore with 9 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. He only had a single turnover (which is both good and, for me, a bit bad — I want a bit more risk taking) and was in control for a lot of the night.
On the not as good side, some of the team’s veterans again struggled. I mentioned Kobe’s hot start, but he only hit 3 of his final 11 shots and had a couple of forced shots late. Lou Williams was, well, bad. He was only 3-11 from the field, but only two of those FGA’s were three pointers. So, a lot of his shots were of the long two-point variety and he came up empty. Further, he was -21 in his 28 minutes and had trouble organizing the team’s offense during that terrible 2nd quarter stint. Nick Young also couldn’t hit a shot, literally missing all of his 4 shots and never getting to the FT line.
I think it is also fair to question the coach for how he managed the closing lineups. Not because swapping Metta or Bass for Randle was an egregious mistake (Randle wasn’t shooting well, Bass/Metta are better defenders), but because it once again showed that Byron is chasing wins and is more than willing to sit a young player to try and get it. He did it in Orlando by sitting Clarkson, has done it with Russell, and did it with Randle in Dallas.
Again, I don’t blame Scott for wanting to win games. But, if he’s going to make these changes and deny some of the young players for closing games in favor of veteran alternatives, actually coming up with a win would be nice. By not winning games and not having the young guys in the game, it really does accomplish nothing.
Sure, maybe the veteran player is appeased and the young player gets a taste of (insert whatever your favorite Byron idiom is here). But if your two stated goals are to develop the young players while winning as many games as possible, but your team is 1-8 and every other game one of your core young players sits out the closing minutes of a game (some of them the type of close games where valuable experience is gained), I would argue you are accomplishing neither of those goals.
There’s more nuance involved than that last sentence above, but that is the gist of it. So, while it is somewhat of a broken record, it is worth mentioning again – in the goal of balance winning with player development, the Lakers — via game action — aren’t doing so hot on both fronts. This is a problem.
Its the Vets that is bringing the team down… Williams shouldn’t play point …or shoot as much as he does.Kobe took some bad shots in the 4th quarter (1 out of 4)….Hibbert was dominated by their center….Peace took 9 shots in 18 minutes…and missed everyone.Young missed all of his but he didn’t even get an attempt for the longest time….
pat oslon says
Good article D.
The team lacks talent. No matter who is played we will have to fight for our lives to have any chance. Therefore we must develop the young guys and let the chips fall where they may since the coaches can’t seem to figure out or implement a solid plan/ team direction.
Perhaps Lou and Nic would play and shoot better if they were not seen the night before by friends of mine at the local certain entertainment spots Dallas after 1am. Good discipline there Bryon.
Personally I am sick of those two clowns minus 32 performance and Bryon and his mismanagement of this team. Dump em all and go young and lose with class at least.
Not to be a contrarian for its own sake, but isn’t that a hidden positive when the vets struggle? Unless you think Byron is guaranteed always to play vets over youth, struggling vets represent opportunities for young players. Does Nance get in at all if Ryan Kelly plays well? Does Russell close games ever if Lou Williams is lighting it up?
Lou is struggling and Russell still has to justify his minutes. There is certainly some rationale for telling rookies that they are not entitled and have to earn playing time. However, that line only works if the vets replacing them are actually performing well. But the vets aren’t lighting it up and they’re still guaranteed PT. Byron is asking for accountability from the young core that is supposed to be our future, but not from the established vets who should have no expectations of playing when they’re not helping the team.
Did anyone see Upshaw’s statline from last night’s game?
16 minutes, 11 points (2/2FT, 1/1 3pt), 5 rebounds, 3 blocks
Obviously against D-League talent, but if he keeps showing this level of production, he’s going to get run by somebody.
Here are his highlights:
T Rogers says
After looking at the schedule the Lakers could realistically be 3-17 after 20 games. I’m just curious to see the organizational reaction to that kind of start.
The expectations for this season were laid out by both Jim and Mitch. Both stated that this team should compete for a playoff spot. Jim said they “turned a corner”.
If they have less than 5 wins with a quarter of the season behind them then some changes have to be made.
One basic thing: if you just ask a very simple question–“Who is the Lakers’ best player to help you win an NBA game tonight? ” it is pretty easy to see the reality of the situation. Kobe is of course the big name; Russell probably has the most upside. But the Lakers don’t actually have any really seriously good NBA players in their primes for either tonight or tomorrow night or the next night, and that has been the case the last three years. So, since he is just 21 and has played nine NBA games and isn’t LeBron James, sometimes Julius Randle will play well, and sometimes he won’t. Sometimes Metta will party like it’s 2009; other times he will go 0-9. That is just how it is.
As to Byron, the Lakers are now 0-3 in games decided by 4 points or less. A lot of data indicate that records in close games are largely decided by luck. For example, last year’s Spurs team, coached of course by Gregg Popovich, went 6-7 in games decided by 3 points or less. The Lakers, coached of course by Byron Scott, were 6-6 in such games. Utah, coached by Quin Snyder, went 5-10. Mike Brown’s Lakers team was 10-4 in such games.
So, while it may be true that the Lakers would be 3-6 or 4-5 right now with another coach (the argument being that those games were only that close to begin with because Byron doesn’t know what he is doing–can’t set up a rotation, can’t teach defense, can’t create a modern offense, says dumb things to the media etc. etc. etc.) there is another way to look at it.
The main things for the Lakers now, no matter who the coach is, are to:
1. Get the young guys burn.
2. Try to flip Lou Williams.
3. Say goodbye to #24 with as much respect and dignity as possible.
Darius: “your two stated goals are to develop the young players while winning as many games as possible………. I would argue you are accomplishing neither of those goals.”
I certainly agree with that.
T Rogers: “Jim and Mitch. Both stated that this team should compete for a playoff spot. Jim said they “turned a corner”.
Byron certainly decides the minute by minute, but overall objectives like these are set at the top level of an organization, like they are in any business. The objective should have always been about developing youngsters. However we articulated playoffs, corner turning, and deadlines. We also signed Lou, kept Nick, and re-upped a coach who clearly favors veterans and discipline. That might sound counter to development, because it is.
Jim simply tried to do too much. Rebuilding while competing is virtually impossible. Especially, when the security blanket was an aging star like Kobe. He was simply too brittle to provide the cover needed for Jim’s ‘sign multiple’ free agent plan — which required thin rosters for flexibility sake.
The kids, Randle, Clarkson and Russell are a fortunate byproduct of his failure. Remember, Jim wasn’t trying to tank — he was trying to compete and rebuild with Carmelo and Aldridge to play with Kobe. His annual plans just failed so completely.
Coaches are supposed to win now, it’s the FO that should have the longer term view. The FO simply chose a path that has never worked before (win and rebuild simultaneously). Their attempts at free agency failed because they found that they really didn’t have space for two elites (oops!) and honestly lacked the organizational ‘gravitas’ to recruit an elite. Jim having Jeanie lead pitches when she’s on record of not understanding personnel decisions was very telling.
The better course, and I believe someone with more basketball acumen and balls would have pursued it, would have been to fully embrace the rebuild two or three years ago. Assets should not have been allowed to walk out the door — Howard and Pau should have netted young players or picks. No more fighting for meaningless wins late in the season and sacrificing valuable draft position in the process. Young free agents should have prioritized and not 30+ year old win now types. A young creative minded coach should have been hired, one that fits the long term plan of the team and not one to be a caretaker of Kobe’s last year’s.
Would the results gave been different. Likely not. However the organization would have more talent and a better path out of the dark. Right now all we have is hope, which is a very small return for the price we have paid these last two+ years.
I’m not so sure Byron Scott isn’t resorting to a dartboard for some of his lineups. Bass and Kelly? Scott might be the only one that thought that could work.
However, I think it’s important to show a rookie that they have to perform all functions well, not just stat-line functions. That’s where Lou Williams does a lot more consistently than Russell. Not better, when Russell is on, but more consistently. Russell’s on-ball defense and PnR D are better than Williams, and he has more active and quicker hands with better ability to contest shots. However, Russell is prone to give up cheap fouls and ball watch for minutes at a time totally flubbing secondary rotations regularly, and under no circumstances should that be allowed to persist. There isn’t a system alive that can cure you of just electing to float to the paint and stand upright for no reason rather than guard your assignment.
Russell has to beat, not tie, Lou to get playing time, especially with getting absolutely lost on defense after preaching defense. I think this conversation is moot in seven games because he’s coming on fast.
I agree with you on Upshaw. He looked a day late and a dollar short in preseason, but with some playing time to get his timing back, the Lakers should cut Sacre, Kelly, or Huertas (my vote: Kelly) and get Upshaw up to the big team. But with Bass getting minutes at the 5 instead of Black, how much would he play?
There was a blatant example last night of another problem the Lakers face in developing their young talent: the double-standard for Kobe vs. everyone else.
At one point, Kobe took an off-balance corner 3-pointer in front of the Dallas bench. It missed an the ball went the other way. Rather than get back on defense, Kobe spent 4-5 seconds chatting with the Dallas bench and then finally ran back to play defense.
As I recall, the Mavs slowed their offense long enough for Kobe to get back in the play, and they missed their subsequent shot.
But Kobe was not, so far as I could tell, disciplined or even criticized in any way for his selfish behavior. Maybe that’s why B-Scott doesn’t give Russell any explanations for why he’s not playing: because they boil down to “Shut up, rookie!”
I don’t think that dynamic is healthy and I hope it goes away when Kobe retires.
lil pau says
Temple of 42: there were a couple of abhorrent Kobe defensive possessions in this game. there was one where he just stood there while a player attacked the rim on a breakaway (not taking one step towards the paint to contest). Hibbert looked around – who was supposed to rotate? – saw it was Kobe, and looked away.
Actually, I wouldn’t mind a DS-post on Kobe’s defense this season. It looks me to me pretty much like he’s not even trying. Fear of injury?
I’m more of Kobe defender than most – I don’t object to the big contract or the team essentially using him as a marketing ploy while they rebuild – but I do expect him to try when he’s out there. This is all about setting an example for JC, JR, and DR.
– Oh how the mighty have fallen. Lakers were suppose to be an improved team this year. Some even dared to speak of play-offs. Truth is, as many are beginning to realize, this version of the Lakers are an extremely flawed team. While that is hard enough to swallow, it’s even worse. This franchise is in an ALL TIME RUT. And it’s going to be on everyones resume who’s involved.
– Once again, this year’s version of a professional basketball team is competing with “Lakers all time worst start” and “Lakers all time worst record”.
– With the Lakers soft schedule thru the 1st nine games (only one playoff shoe-in), I felt they had a very good chance to be over .500. Instead they are 1-8. Instead they’ve tied last season for worst start thru nine games. This franchise has only won less than 30 games in a season FOUR times in their 68 year history…so far. Unfortunately it’s happened TWICE in the last two years…with a real possibility of three years straight…ouch! Some feel they can justify this…I’m not one of them.
This is the bottom line:
2015-2016 thru nine games: 1-8 (?? win season/ 82 game season, ???)
2014-2015 thru nine games: 1-8 (21 win/ 82 game season, .256)
2013-2014 thru nine games: 3-5 (27 win/ 82 game season, .329)
1959-1960 thru nine games: 3-6 (25 wins/ 75 game season, .333)
1957-1958 thru nine games: 2-7 (19 wins/ 73 game season, .264)
Pretty good explanation as to why Russell isn’t performing as well as the other top 5 rookies.
Mikey K. says
good article, rubenowski ! It’s hard to find a pro who can articulate the problem exactly, but that article does , and it’s spot on.
Kobe and nick will be gone or phased partly out by next year. Randle and nance should have their spot up shooting in progress. And Lou can survive as a bench player, while clarkson can play off ball some, and feed Russell as the handler in pick and roll, n occasion.
It’s more a problem today than just a problem.
Thanks for the article.
BigCitySid, this time it’s different; it’s a rebuild.
Ditto, Ruben, excellent article!
I read the article. I don’t see how anyone can defend this FO. Randle, Clarkson and Russell are nice pieces although they may not fit well together. Certainly the balance of the roster, including theirs summer’s acquisitions don’t. Roster development requires more than grabbing two guards, two forwards and a center.
Think about what the article said. Russell is a ball dominant guard who the Lakers drafted to play with Clarkson — who is also a ball dominant guard. Russell needs space to maneuver, which our other lottery pick, Randle, doesn’t provide.
Yes, they are young and their games may evolve. But how on earth can Jim and Mitch be counted on to build a team when they don’t know how to make the pieces fit?
I hit to thinking about what Todd said about getting assets for our players instead of letting them leave. I thought that elite free agents, like Howard, just sign with a new team and leave. Then I did some research about Lebron moving to Miami — he was actually traded:
– LeBron James, who signs a 6-year, $110 million contract
– Two first-round picks, that must be used starting in 2013 and ending by 2017
– 2012 second-round pick Miami received from New Orleans
– Future second-round pick Heat acquired from Oklahoma City
– Cleveland can also swap first round picks with the Heat in 2012
– A large trade exception($15 million or so) that the Cavs must use in trades for one calendar year.
Can someone explain how we got zilch for Howard? I’m hoping it was the new CBA that prevented a sign and trade because what the Lakers got (nothing) has not helped our rebuild.
lil pau says
why don’t you look at houston’s roster from that offseason and figure out precisely which 20-25M worth of contracts you would have liked the Lakers to have absorbed? And don’t say Harden, because we weren’t going to get him.
Sometimes the best deal is no deal at all. The Lakers were absolutely better off letting DH walk than trading him, although I know this doesn’t fit neatly into the incompetent FO narrative (‘something’s better than nothing, right? any idiot knows that..’).
Baylor Fan says
The Lakers got zilch for Howard because they never thought he would leave. There were trade opportunities but it would have meant giving up on the Howard experiment.
In response to Concerned, I don’t know where your FO comment came from, but we all have different opinions about just what it means to defend someone. I never mentioned the FO in my comment so maybe you are directing your comment at someone else; I don’t like talking about the FO cos I just don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, but I feel the need to respond to your comment by saying that I can actually defend the FO’s draft choices. We got some nice players. I really like Clarkson, Randle, Russell, Nance and Brown (let Brown loose!). I am very excited about the potential of these five players. We drafted two of the best sharpshooters of the draft in Russell and Brown, and we took a shot at a third in Frazier (http://www.sbnation.com/2015/5/8/8563829/nba-draft-2015-rankings-shooters-dangelo-russell). This points to a pattern/agenda. They want to surround Russell with shooters. This shows that they know what it will take for Russell to succeed. We drafted Clarkson and Randle before Russell and there was no way we could know we would get the 2nd pick in the draft, so the fact that Randle’s and Clarkson’s games don’t mesh well with Russell shouldn’t be an indictment of the FO. They went with the best player they thought was available instead of picking a player that would fit in better. Let’s remember that Jordan was passed up because the Blazers thought Bowie fit better with their team. (I’m not saying Russell is gonna be anywhere near Jordan’s status; I’m just saying one should probably not draft for need over talent). I really believe that Russell, along with Towns and Porzingis are the top three players of this class. I don’t like having a player that we can’t play in the last minute or two of games because of his free throws (Okafor) and I don’t like Mudiay’s shot (and for all the talk of Russell’s turnovers, he’s averaging less than 2 per game compared to Mudiay’s 4.7, though I agree with Darius here and would like to see him take more risk.)
I really really like Nance and I’m very high on Brown. I really don’t understand why Brown is not getting any time. He’s one of our best defenders and shooters. I’m hoping he gets some steady minutes in the second half of the season. I can really see this team gel in the second half of the season and us losing our chance at keeping our pick. I’d rather see our young 5 grow instead of just having a chance at keeping our pick. I also wouldn’t mind a nice trade that brings us a late 1st rounder or early 2nd rounder.
Anyway, long story short, we got 5 very nice young players, and I have a reason to be excited about the potential of our team. If this means I’m defending the FO so be it, though I really don’t care to have the FO debate. It’s gotten very boring.
Ruben, with you 99% !
Appreciate your logic brother, and your optimism.
We only differ with regards to D’Angelo, as I do predict that he will surpass Clarkson by leaps and bounds and take the torch from Kobe.
Correction to above: I see you meant MJ, not JC.
As to the comment: So true !
Calvin James says
Darius I’m with you 100% on your analysis of B. Scott’s approach to closing games. We’re not going anywhere this year so let the young players, especially our point guard of the future, learn how to manage a game in the closing minutes.