The Lakers face the Clippers (again) on Wednesday, a night after getting crushed by them to the point the entire 4th quarter of the game was garbage time. While the Lakers have had a few successful games against their Staples Center co-tenants in the last few seasons, most games have mirrored Tuesday’s onslaught. The Clippers get up to play the Lakers and when you have a difference in quality between teams that’s been present the last few years, it’s not hard to predict the results.
After the game, Byron Scott offered similar critiques to ones he has leveled for most of the season — and especially recently. He lamented the lack of his young players’ intensity in comparison to Kobe and Metta World Peace, mentioned when you play “soft” and are not the aggressor games like this happen, and said they will need to learn to play with the appropriate level of intensity every night if they are going to “survive in this league”.
Another thing Scott mentioned was that he has run out of tactics and approaches to jumpstart his team. This was an interesting admission, since it not only implicates his players as (seemingly) non-responsive to his attempts to get them to play better, but also himself since he’s essentially admitting he’s no longer reaching his team (or at least a part of them). Whether he meant it that way or not, it’s also how that statement can be interpreted.
There could be a variety of reasons for this, but it’s a worthwhile discussion that is worrisome on multiple fronts.
One, it ties into the broader questions about player readiness — especially the young players. Randle’s motor is almost always running high, so on some levels he can be excused from his conversation. Ditto for Nance. But Clarkson and Russell have been playing quite lax lately and it’s showing not only in their statistics, but in their body language and inconsistent effort on both ends of the floor.
On the other end of the spectrum, one has to truly question if Scott’s (public) approach of leveling sharp critiques, his rotation management, and his general message delivery has simply worn thin to the point it’s affecting player effort. This wouldn’t be the first time this has happened to Scott, so it wouldn’t necessarily surprise if this were the case. I don’t expect anyone to go on record and admit as much — at least not while Scott is still the coach — but it is something worth monitoring.
This could also simply be the product of a simple equation: young players + a long season they are not used to (even Clarkson only really played half a year last season) + all the losing = a certain level of indifference and half-spirited play. Young players can be especially susceptible to this type of late season burnout, but veterans can also start to go through the motions when the losses pile up and the games are nearly over.
As for what this means for the remaining games, your guess is as good as mine. I’d imagine there’s still a game or two where things click, guys play well, and the Lakers win. Despite all the issues, the Lakers have some talent, have Kobe’s final games as a potential rallying point, and have shown they can play well. I also wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more of the same and they lose out, as disappointing as it would be to end the season with a whimper.
With that, here’s hoping for a competitive game that is worth watching through the end of the game. Tuesday’s stinker certainly did not provide that, but hopefully today’s will. If it doesn’t though, you can at least watch this clip of some of Kobe’s best plays against the Clippers over the course of his career.
— NBA (@NBA) April 6, 2016
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.