Lakers: Russell Westbrook, Avery Bradley, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, DeAndre Jordan
Pacers: Malcom Brogdan, Justin Holiday, Caris LeVert, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner
Injuries & Suspensions
Lakers: LeBron James (questionable), Anthony Davis (questionable), Austin Reaves (doubtful), Trevor Ariza (out), Kendrick Nunn (out)
Pacers: Caris LeVert (questionable), TJ Warren (out)
First off, Happy Thanksgiving. I know the Lakers aren’t giving us much to be thankful about right now, but I’m hoping you’re taking the next couple of days to relax, connect with family/friends/loved ones, and eat well. I also know this can be a hard time for those of us who have lost family/friends/loved ones, so I’d also like to send you positive thoughts and good vibes as you remember them and try to celebrate them.
In getting back to the Lakers, I do not have much to say about them right now. They are, fundamentally, a bad team. Maybe they won’t be bad forever and, if I were a betting man, I’d wager they won’t be. But, right now they are. They’re not super organized on offense — though, this is improving! — and they struggle to consistently defend — though they’re trying new things that have some effectiveness! — which…makes you bad. If you’re not good on either side of the ball, you have no claim to actually being good.
Anyways, a way to improve is to play harder. When the Lakers came back to beat the Pistons after being down by 17, they did so by playing hard. When the Lakers came back to tie the game with the Knicks after being down by 25, they did so by playing hard. The problem was the part of the game when the Lakers were not playing hard and found themselves down 17 and 25 to begin with. This team has an effort problem and it needs to be resolved.
Resolving it, however, isn’t as straight forward as it might seem. First, these are human beings. Humans try harder when the thing they’re doing works. It is hard to give your all on every possession when trying that hard does not yield positive results. Humans get discouraged when the thing they’re trying to do does not work. When they get discouraged, they try less, which leads to more bad results, which begins the spiral downward towards being bad.
So, it’s on the coaches to help put the players in better positions to be successful and to employ strategies and schemes that help foster that success. I won’t get into the weeds on all these ideas right now, but finding more lineups that can switch defensively, playing more lineups that can run and play fast with Russ, and playing more lineups that care about playing hard in the first place will help. It won’t solve all the issues, but it will help.
Of course, it’s not just on the coaches here. The players, must show some pride in themselves and compete at a baseline level regardless of what they’re being asked to do. Nothing works when you don’t put in the requisite effort level. And that’s what happened in the first part of the game vs. the Knicks. The Lakers barely tried and the Knicks went up 10-0. The Lakers started to try some and then things stabilized, but that was fleeting and then the team sputtered its way to that massive deficit. The team did not show that requisite level of fight until they’d already been knocked down a couple of times. Honestly, that’s too late.
So, today, against the Pacers, both the players and the coaches need to show some good faith towards each other and all take a step towards the middle where they can find some common ground on certain things. And both need to understand a couple of truths:
First, nothing is going to be perfect. The Lakers do not have the roster — whether because of injuries or the limitations of the full group — who can execute the exact things Frank Vogel would want from his ideal team. They cannot play big for most of their minutes, they cannot play in drop coverages all the time, and they’re not even going to treat defense as the most important thing on every possession. Adjustments are needed, and need to be deployed with flexibility from shift to shift, lineup to lineup, quarter to quarter, and game to game.
Second, this head coach is not asking you to scale Everest. There’s a certain amount of commitment to scheme, to making the right decisions, and to playing hard that is needed regardless of whether it’s ideal for the players on the court or not. So, play hard and seek out the best decisions on any given possession, on both sides of the ball, and see where that gets you.
I don’t know if this will lead to more wins or not. There’s a chance this group of guys, as individually talented as they all might be, just aren’t the right mix. It might just be that some of their strengths have eroded, some of their weaknesses have worsened, and that the injuries and lack of time together has corroded things before it ever really got off the ground. But, before we can make that determination, I’d like to see this group meet in the middle. Coach with more urgency, play with more urgency, and see how that goes. This team owes it to themselves. And, honestly, they owe it to us too.
I hope to see it vs. the Pacers today.
Where you can watch: 4pm start time on Spectrum SportsNet.