After an uninspiring defeat against the Celtics which saw the opposition execute showboat lobs and control the action pretty much all night, the Lakers are back in action against the Pelicans tonight at Staples. The Lakers will get an up close look at the remade NOLA team, who swapped Buddy Hield, additional backcourt depth, and a 1st round pick for DeMarcus Cousins on All-Star Sunday night.
Despite the addition of the All-NBA big man, however, the Pelicans — like the Lakers — have struggled since the trade deadline only posting a single win in that period. Of course the Lakers are winless in that same period so both teams are looking for answers, though in different ways…
This game intrigues, then, for a variety of reasons. The Pelicans are 4 games out of the 8th seed with only 20 games left to play. They would need to hurdle 5 teams to get into the post-season, so they are pretty much out unless they go on the unlikeliest of runs down the stretch. The pick they owe the Kings as part of the Cousins deal is top-3 protected, but they are four games up in the loss column over the currently 3rd worst Suns, making keeping their pick reliant on lottery luck than any sort of “tank” job they can pull over their remaining games.
The Lakers too are watching the standings. After back to back wins by the Suns, the Lakers are alone in “2nd” which is about as good as it’s going to get from a positioning standpoint. No one is catching the Nets for worst record overall. The Lakers, then, would benefit from staying exactly where they are which also means carrying that burden of playing just well enough to see “progress” in the ways they measure such things without actually getting any victories to show for their efforts. As a fan, being in this place for the 4th straight season isn’t ideal, but as the old saying of ambivalence goes it is what it is.
So, who wants to actually win this game? The answer might really be no one, though I’d bet the Pelicans really want to see their twin-towers experiment start to pay dividends sooner than later. Cousins is a free agent in 15 months and while the price they paid to get him wasn’t high, you’d think keeping him to pair with Davis is a priority for them. So, even though they’re an incomplete team right now — lacking the guard and wing depth necessary to really maximize their bigs — they need to play hard and find a path towards being competitive.
How this translates to the floor tonight intrigues me quite a bit. The Lakers should have the advantage on the wing, but should struggle to contain Davis and Boogie. The latter has given them issues all season regardless of who they’ve thrown at him. Black has proven too foul prone and Zubac too inexperienced and young. Based on the current rotation, that leaves only Nance and Randle to deal with the former King and we haven’t even talked about Davis and all the issues he presents yet.
I am interested, then, in seeing whether the Lakers’ guards/wings can make hay against their Pels’ counterparts at a level to neutralize the advantage NOLA’s bigs will have. If Russell, Clarkson, Young, and Ingram cannot hit shots, I see Boogie Brow Productions causing too many issues for the Lakers to win the game.
Maybe that’s a good thing in the long run. But we’re getting to the point where I again worry about the team’s young players putting in the work and trying to establish winning habits only to not see any rewards for those efforts. In the long run maybe that matters little if the reward is a Fultz, Ball, or Josh Jackson level talent. But I also think it takes a specific sort of optimism to continue framing these L’s as a positive. An optimism that can be hard to muster certain days.
Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.
Craig W. says
My guess is that Brow and Boogie are starting to learn how to play together. However, Young/Clarkson/Russell should be able to get some relatively uncontested 3s up. The only real defense is likely to be played inside, by NOLA. Clarkson and Ingram better be prepared to do a lot of drive-and-dish tonight, or we will see any number of blocked shots.
It’s not just learning how to win, but learning how to win in different ways that the youngsters need practice on. Since tonight is not likely to be a highly productive ‘drive to the hoop’ night, I suspect Randle will have a down game and we will see how long Luke stays with him. If all this works out, I suspect Nance Jr will play more minutes than Randle. That is the sort of thing I will be looking for.
Great bigs should always best mediocre mediums.
A Horse With No Name says
PG watch: He played 3 great quarters against the Hawks today, but disappeared in the fourth when the Hawks defense stiffened. As was the case in when the Pacers played the Spurs a few days ago, PG’s teammates did not look for him to lead nor did PG show any desire to step up and lead. As I’ve sharpened my focus on him, I am now seeing why many Pacer fans (and bloggers) don’t consider PG a go-to, lead the team, player. Pursue him for the right price. Caveat Emptor!
How Bout dem SUNS!! Taking down the Smeltics!!!
We play em Thursday……..
Chris J says
Happy in the sense it may help the Lakers to keep the draft pick in some small way, but bothered by the fact that Phoenix is doing the things we’d hoped the Lakers and their young players would be doing by this point in the season.
The Lakers have lost six straight while the Suns have won three in a row. L.A. couldn’t beat Charlotte at home, or Oklahoma City, but the Suns just did. L.A. played the role of new guy in prison vs. Boston, whereas the Suns fought enough to tie the game and win it when a ball broke their way at the buzzer…
When I look at the Suns roster it doesn’t jump out as the sum of its parts should exceed those of the Lakers, but for whatever reason things are clicking there and they aren’t in L.A. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d like to see more progress from the Lakers by this point in the season than we have seen. To see a similarly constituted Suns team finding ways to convert Ws, it’s a bit frustrating.
Bledsoe is a better two-way player than anyone the Lakers have, inclusive of Williams; and Chandler, even at 34, probably does more for you on D than Mozgov or any other Laker big. But yes, the teams are similar. Phoenix is better than the Lakers are right now in part because the Lakers are actually a little worse without Williams.
As to tonight, this game was a like a lot of losses have been this year to mediocre teams that have an All-Star. Davis is simply far, far better than anyone on the Lakers, and so is Cousins. As I said earlier, that being the case, the Lakers need several guys to play well to win. It simply won’t happen all that often.
The Suns have Devon Booker. He is a better Clarkson and a better Russell. They, just like Boston, didn’t make free angry mistakes and coaching misfires. We have to live with the aftermath of the Jimbo years. Until his mistakes ride off into the sunset, we’re stuck here.
Clay Bertrand says
FWIW, YES the Suns DID beat the Celtics—The Celtics were without Al Horford and Avery Bradley. So there was some additional factors that made this game more winnable for PHX.
I agree they SEEM to be ahead of the Lakers group. BUT they have been focused on PLAYING their young guys for awhile now too. Booker has regularly clocked over 30 min a game for 2 seasons now and they LONG AGO went away from overly relying on their Vets. We JUST started to go ALL IN with the young guys’ minutes and no Vets 3 games ago.
The Lakers also, UNLIKE NEARLY EVERY OTHER TEAM, have a pronounced and specific reason to have to TANK this year. The ONLY team with any true incentive to Tank this season is the Lakers. It does the Nets no good as Foston has their pick. PHX is gonna keep their pick wherever it falls. There is no generational #1 pick coming out this year so tanking for the #1 pick is not motivating anyone.
ONLY the Lakers have a true motive for having to Tank this season. NEXT year, I expect to see plenty of MOZGOV and DENG as we try to win games………UGHHHHHH!!
I’m not saying we Tanked against Boston. I’m just saying our team agenda isn’t what some other teams are playing for right now IMO.
Good to see PHX win, given the now-annual race-to-the-bottom that LA are in! Plus nice to see Boston go down any time (just a bummer that it wasn’t at Staples the other night).
I really don’t know how much longer I can watch D’Angelo drag these Lakers down. Bad shooter, good passer but half of his passes are behind or at the feet. Can’t-or won’t-attack the rim. Turnover after turnover. Laker fan since 1969. I hope he has some value on the market so Magic can get him out of here. The next James Harden he ain’t. Rather watch Tyler Ennis at this point. Come back Kendall Marshall, all is forgiven.
One problem that I think people are having with Russell is that he, more than than any of the other young guys, carries the burden of the team’s history. From 1960-2013, the Lakers have almost always had a HOF-level outside/inside combo:
Paul/Howard was supposed to continue that lineage. So, Russell as a flashy guard picked 2nd in the draft, is the guy people hoped was the next name on that list, but at the moment, he looks more like a pretty good player with a somewhat casual style of play.
Tonight the Lakers had an astounding 25 TOs; NO had 13. Also NO had 2 more offensive rebounds than the Lakers. Together those 2 statistics mean that NO had 14 more possessions, in effect, than the Lakers. DAR, by himself, had 6 TOs.
In a close game that can be devastating.
Having said that, I thought that Ingram bounced back nicely and had a good game. I was glad to see it. Clarkson played OK (not great but OK) and probably could have played more minutes. He seems to be playing much more freely now that Lou is gone.
I’m not into tanking. Another loss. Ho-hum.
Craig W. says
Julius did better than I thought, but he certainly was impacted by Boogie & the Brow. I agree that D’Angelo really had a stinker tonight. Ball looks better and better. Perhaps we should be thinking about Clarkson & D’Angelo on the 2nd team.
Both Brewer & Nwaba showed why we need a defensive presence on the wing. I certainly understand why Luke played one of the two of them for most of the game.
Analysis of our young players is coming into the final turn this year – and we are getting a reading of what we have. Maybe less for the top of the draft and more for the bottom and the undrafted.
The only good news is the possibility of a solid bargaining framework of draft picks for Magic–as we watch Phoenix win three.
Say, “I must be patient” ten times.
Craig W. says
A lot of clubs strike out in the draft. At lot hit singles. We have been hitting doubles, so we are better than average, but we need at least one home run.
Clay Bertrand says
But what if its NOT Magic who is doing the “bargaining” ?????
What if its JIM AND JOHNNY BUSS instead of Magic and Rob Pelinka????
The Lakers Court Hearing on WHO CONTROLS THE TEAM is reportedly, May 15th…….which is the day AFTER the closing of the NBA DRAFT COMBINE and the day BEFORE the DRAFT LOTTERY.
IF this case drags on OR ends badly for Jeannie (though it appears it can’t) it could the hiring and structure of the FO in the short term at least.
Is Pelinka still plowing forward in divesting himself of his Agency to take this job that he COULD POTENTIALLY, NOT even be hired to do should Jim and Johnny prevail???
Will Magic and the Current FO be able to operate effectively to evaluate the draft given the circumstances and this PREGNANT PAUSE in the transition???
There are foreseeable problems that I have yet to see discussed anywhere relating to this Legal fight for power.
Travis Y. says
What I find disconcerting is the continual lack of urgency from the first unit. We have continued to get blown out of third quarters in the last couple games. To the point where Luke has subbed out the starters early in the third quarter. What this signals is a lack of hunger, killer instinct, and pride for not only being a Laker, but also a professional basketball player.
It’s sad that a 10-day contract player (Nwaba) cares more then players who are about to get paid 100X+ more once they are due for an extension (Randle & Russell). Russell is concerned with getting his shot going (evidenced by his 20 shots) and it appears that Randle is getting frustrated with his lack of offensive touches. You can see him yelling at early shots from Russell as well as the lack of solid screens.
The problem is Randle isn’t talented enough offensively to warrant more shots. He needs to develop his 20 foot jumper with confidence. He only takes the shot when the shot clock is running down.
Combine this negativity with a lack of effort on defense and you can see why we have been bottom dwellers for the last four years.
Best case scenario we get Ball. Then what? What are we going to do on defense to instill that these guys give a *(&^? This is getting old and we are running out of people to blame (Mike Brown, D’Antoni, Scott, Mitch, and Jim Buss). Sooner or later we either need to get our guys to share the ball, play defense, ship them out, or not renew their contracts.
My recommendation is for them to get more ball penetration, share the ball, and then the effort and buy in will grow as will defensive effort. If guys are getting touches and points, that translates to better defensive efforts.
Problem is Russell is more concerned with getting his than getting everyone going.
darius: it’s difficult to believe lakers will not win another game the remainder of this season. seriously, we look pretty sad and if another opponent is willing to lay down for a loss the possibility of attaining 20 wins seems bleak…..today that is.
When Ingram shortens his shooting motion like he has a couple of times this past month, the results are telling. not sure if he realizes it or the coaches; but last night’s abbreviated shooting motion is more precise and self contained; result: he shoots, he scores.
the latest buss fiasco intiated by older brothers john and jim is a reminder to all younger sisters, do not let older brothers ever bully you. get magic to punch them in the eye!!!
back to the young core: do not waste this remaining season’s opportunity for self improvement. someone’s looking over your shoulder…..laker fans notwithstanding.