There are usually very few positive takeaways from the type of 39 point loss the Lakers had to the Rockets on Wednesday night. After the Lakers trailed big early and found themselves down 18 points heading into the 4th quarter, the Rockets poured it on, nailing 8 of their 13 shots from behind the arc and scoring 46 points in the process. That offensive explosion led to frustration and anger from players and head coach Luke Walton following the defeat. More than one person implied the team just sort of quit.
While that macro view is more than justified, there were some positives in the micro. One, in particular, was the play of Julius Randle who scored a career high 32 points while grabbing 8 rebounds and dishing out two assists. It was a well rounded night by Randle, who was able to bully his way to the rim and finish through contact and over length — especially when playing C and in match ups against Clint Capela.
While Randle had several really nice plays en route to his career night, one play in particular stood out to me. It was early in the game and came out of an action the Lakers like to run a lot — a dribble handoff with Julius initiating. To set up this play, Clarkson has already brought the ball up the court, pitched the ball to Randle, and then gone to the corner:
As you can see, from there, Randle initiates a dribble towards Clarkson who works his way back up towards the ball. Randle will typically execute a handoff here, simultaneously giving the ball back to the guard and setting a screen to free up his teammate who would then turn the corner looking to get into the paint. Instead, though, Randle uses a nice hesitation move to feint the handoff, then turns on the jets to get to the paint and finish with his strong hand. And-one.
This isn’t the most complex play, but it is smart and instinctive. It plays against the scouting report and builds a counter into a pet play the Lakers run often. I know fans can get frustrated with how Randle, as a ball handler, often runs towards a teammate in order to initiate handoffs to free up his guard/wing. It’s unorthodox, can lead to him drawing fouls, and can sometimes be too limiting a play since it often just leads to a long jumper from Russell or Clarkson or Young.
Here, though, you can see how running simple counters out of that action can lead to good shots. If Randle does this more often, he might not just get more looks like the one he got above, but he may also free up his guard/wing more to actually take the handoff and do more with it than just step back and shoot a three or pound the ball in place while looking for a different action to develop on the weak side.
Again, this isn’t crazy sophisticated. But one of my chief complaints with the Lakers’ offense this season has been how often the team “runs plays” rather than “just playing”. It’s the latter which often leads to counters and improvisation within the scheme that can catch the defense off guard and create good looks. The above play from Randle is a simple, yet nice, example of that. I hope to see more of this in the future.
Would be great if Randle played well enough to garner us a good pick back in return on draft day.
Rick in Seattle says
Walton again mentioned yesterday that the team lacks an Alpha player. if I were Russell, I just might take that a bit personally.. As we know, Walton has mentioned previously that Russell is his leader on the floor. Magic has also talked to Russell about his leadership.
Unless this franchise wants to wait another 3 to 5 years to fully develop this young core (which is not happening with this new front office), you can bet your paycheck that the FO will be searching for that Alpha player sooner rather than later.
Since last summer the three most discussed players that the Lakers have supposedly had interest in are Butler, Cousins & George. However, of those three, Butler is the only one that really projects great leadership. And, of the three, he will likely be the most difficult to acquire.
In looking around the league, most players who are strong leaders are integral parts of their existing teams–and therefore not likely to be traded.
And most young players, draft picks included, have not had the time to develop those leadership skills.
So my question would be, where does Magic, Pelinka & Walton think they can find that Alpha male? Magic and Kobe were obviously Alpha’s. But those kinds of players are generational. Good luck Magic, finding someone during the next two summers!
Chris J says
To all the other Lakers fans who refuse to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day — respect.
That play also shows the confidence Randle has in his legs now. He was not willing to make the jump when he first came back from the fracture.
Some people are starting to look to the Lakers again as an example of a good organisation:
I think adding Paul George would add the needed veteran knowledge, experience and talent for the young leaders to develop. Leading a disjointed ragtag bunch is hard.
George Best says
Darius has to be one of the most upbeat bloggers of a sports team out there. Considering their storied history and what has gone on the past five years I don’t see how anyone can show much positivity about the Lakers. Props to you.
He’s one of the ones that understands; it’s easier to be a pessimist, and they usually appear smarter, just because the law of averages in human endeavors, fall to the negative.
Seems he also knows, that optimism can have positive effects to outcome, and that when events ramp up to beat the odds, they feed us all for years to come.
Rick in Seattle says
Sorry to disagree with a couple of you. Regarding the pessimism, Darious and those of us who have been with the Lakers for awhile are mostly optimistic–particularly with the new regime change.
Lakers history (like Celtic history) has been all about winning titles. The few interludes where where rebuilding or reloading takes place, have been rare. If anything, Lakers Nation has been spoiled by the amount of success over the years.
Its well past the time that we resume our rightful spot annually contending near the top of the Western Conference. San Antonio’s coach said as much last week that the league needs a strong LA (and he wasnt referring to the Clippers)!
If Johnson & Pelinka can bring the team along more quickly into contention, I’m all in! The Lakers have historically been all about winning, and that should be their sole focus. The Lakers are not the Milwaukee Bucks or the Sacramento Kings who have a good team about once every twenty years. The Lakers are supposed to win every year, and its time they resume course!