Things Fall Apart? The Lakers Deal With Adversity of Historic Proportions

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Things have gone from bad to worst in Lakerland. The Lakers have not competed. They have been killed in the paint. They have been killed on the glass. They have their worst start in history. They are the worst defensive team in the league. They are 1-9.

How does one be an optimist about this?

What’s going on? Following their beating against Golden State, you can hear frustration and disharmony in the locker room from the coach on down. Let’s break down what’s being said. This is very telling.

Lin says as safely as possible amid pauses, no trust and no communication. He shot the ball twice. TWICE. The point guard.

Boozer says not enough trust, not enough guys involved. He says they gotta find a balance between Kobe taking over and Kobe sharing the ball.

Kobe speaks about guys not getting back on defense in transition. He then says he starts off trying to get guys involved and then at some point he’s got to keep them in the game. Basically, if I don’t trust you, I’m not giving you the ball. And so he didn’t.

Byron said simply he’s very close to making lineup changes in search of effort.

At the start of the season I said this was a playoff team. My view hasn’t changed.

The Lakers are struggling with the age-old issue of the Kobe effect. Kobe trusts you, the ball moves, everybody wins, i.e. Charlotte. Kobe doesn’t trust you, the ball sticks, might win, might not. Many times you lose. In the glory days, not so long ago, there was Shaq, Pau, Horry, Odom, Fox, Harper, Ariza, Bynum and the list goes on and on. In the dog days there was Smush, Mihm, Adkins, Kwame…etc. With Lin, Boozer, Hill, Young, Johnson…the question is which group is this one??

They obviously take issue with the Kobe takeover effect. There are valid complaints. Players are out of rhythm. They lose interest defensively. They don’t feel a part of the game. Okay… Here’s the thing. Can Kobe force-feed initiative? How patient should Kobe be? Kobe takes on a “if you want something right you gotta do it yourself” mentality once things seem out of hand. Problem is, the game is typically out of hand already. Picture a company where you don’t empower your subordinates by entrusting them with tasks because they make a few mistakes. What kind of motivation do you create and what kind of morale do you create? How do they learn? But as with any team leader, this is the balance challenge you have. It can be done. See Spurs.

Kobe, like everyone else needs to trust the system. I’m not so sure what we saw against Golden State was what Byron drew up in practice. That certainly was not the Princeton offense. When it’s Kobe vs. the world on offense, there is no flow and no rhythm. He needs to empower his teammates.

However… There’s more than one way to contribute. When Kobe’s got it going like that, the rest of the team can expend energy on the defensive end. Get stops. Don’t be selfish. It’s not always scoring. But guys give up on both ends. It gets ugly. Guys need to also take power and empower themselves!

But offense isn’t the problem. Lakers scored 115 points and gave up way more. 90 has always been my magic number for a successful defensive team. They cannot or will not do it. Byron Scott said that he will make lineup changes starting Tuesday. He simply has to follow through or he loses credibility.

What changes can be expected?

I would like to see him take a defense and youth development approach. We tried the veteran offensive approach. Place guys alongside Kobe that, one will give maximum effort, two, will play defense hard and three, won’t be so high and mighty that they get butt-hurt when they don’t get the ball. Definitely expect Ed Davis to start over Boozer.

Here are changes that I would like to see. Nick Young needs to start at small forward, giving Kobe a break with scoring and giving Lakers two offensive threats. Kobe also gets freed up to expend energy on defense. Price needs to start over Lin. Sorry Lin. Price is a better defender. Also he feels no pressure to run the offense. He and Kobe looked comfortable together in the backcourt during pre-season while Lin was hurt. Lin will be much more assertive running the second unit. I’m on the fence with this but Sacre needs to be in at center. He is the only true center Lakers have. He’s not perfect but he works hard and has really developed that jumpshot. He can spread the floor while Davis handles the inside scoring. Right now it stands, nobody on the Lakers is getting in the paint and they are allowing way to many paint points. It’s paintball out there.

So here’s my lineup:

Sacre
Davis
Young
Bryant
Price

I know they are 1-9. It’s horrible right now. But it’s still 10 games into the season and plenty of time to turn around. They won’t play top 4 playoff teams all season. Let’s see if these guys truly can respond to adversity. One adversity added would have to be players being forced to come of the bench. If Byron is true to his word, this will happen. The next would be to keep it together because they are publicly NOT on the same page. Byron’s got his work cut out for him. We will also see how Byron can lead Kobe Bryant and reign in the mamba when he wants to takeover like against Golden State.

No better time to work it all out than now. Time isn’t running out, but it is running. Perhaps, things turn up in the A.T.L.

I gotta expect that. I’m the Lakers Optimist.

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