State of the Lakers: Year-end Wrap up

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Nba.com

The season is well underway and the Lakers have quickly plummeted to the Western conference cellar. The Lakers are 6-27. Need we say more? The team is just as horrible as their record indicates. They have lost the majority of their games by double digits to the top teams and the bottom-feeders.

Let’s not mince words as to what this season represents in order to temper expectations. This is the great Kobe Bryant’s last season, his farewell tour, as evidenced by the totally uncharacteristic cheers at every opposing building where they will see the Black Mamba play in the NBA for the last time. This is the dawn of a new era and features the development of a very young core, the youngest being 19 years of age. The talent is raw and we can’t expect domination just yet.

This season we saw Kobe officially announce his retirement, shoot awful and then recapture his game to a respectable and sometimes vintage Kobe level (see highlight dunks against Houston and clutch shots against Boston). Since then it’s been a task to manage Kobe’s minutes, deal with the hoopla of his tour, develop the youth and still try to squeeze in some victories.

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This season we saw D’angelo Russell and Julius Randle get demoted to the bench amid mixed reactions. Julius had a pretty dominant start before scouts learned that if you dare him to shoot you can stop him. He’s still a bully who can get to the basket anytime he wants, but he needs to hit jump shots in order for his inside attack to open up. He must also finish better and add his right hand. He’s started to really work on this already and has become somewhat of a three point shooter. Randle with a deadly jump shot can be virtually unstoppable. Russell still fights with turnovers and a low shooting percentage. After being benched and moved to the second unit, he seemed to have found his game. His swagger is what is going propel him. When the skill meets the swagger, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with. He’s already moving up the curve relatively quickly.

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This season saw Clarkson pick up right where he left off. Even with a few tweaked ankles and a brief shooting slump, Clarkson can get his shot anytime he wants. He’s shooting about 44% from the field and around 48% from three. He’s also shown glimpses of brilliance on defense. He’s my pick to be the first star for this team.

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Larry Nance Jr. is our human highlight reel and yet he has no desire to simply be a one trick pony or even an energy guy. He has been consistently hitting a mid-range jumper over the last few games and is a smart defender with a high basketball IQ. He is one that I hope will stay in the starting lineup. Unfortunately we will have to wait awhile to see Anthony Brown develop due to minutes. This may have to happen after Kobe retires, opening up the frontcourt. Also unfortunate is Tarik Black who’s become odd man out. Ryan Kelly was awesome is pre-season and just floundered early in the season leading to an early demotion out of the rotation.

We saw a shuffling of rotations that left Metta World Peace out of the loop over the last few games. Which has not kept him from making his mark. He has been mentoring players like Randle. Pickups Bass, Hibbert and Williams have done their share. Brandon Bass started slow but is a true energy guy who is effective when coupled with Randle in the frontcourt. He has no problem dunking when given the opportunity. Roy needs his own discussion section because you guys are being too mean to him. Lou Williams is Mr. Consistent with his shot, his willingness to run the offense and even his defense. However, the 6th man should be the 6th man. But I love his game and I hope he remains a core player for the future.

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Nba.com

Roy Hibbert is on the receiving end of some undeserved hate by Laker fans due to unrealistic expectations. The knock is on his rim protecting and offensive production. However Roy is not featured in this offense, a surpising thought considering Byron’s inside-out approach. So he cannot score a whole lot if he averages 5 shots a game. Defensively, if your perimeter defense is getting broken down, Roy will rotate to block the shot. If your team will not rotate to help the helper, you either have a rebound dunk or a pass to the man Hibbert had to leave to make the block. This is not a good defensive team and one shot blocker can’t fix that. That being said, I would consider the tough decision of bringing him off the bench in favor of Nance at the 5 with Randle and Kobe in the frontcourt with Russell and Clarkson in the backcourt. This gives the Lakers a much more athletic starting unit.

The reason the Lakers are so awful is because their defense allows over 100 points a game and thier offense doesn’t possess enough punch. They come out of the first quarter playing catch up. This team has to score and score consistently to compensate for their lack of defensive prowess. They need to share the ball. They need to make at least 3-4 passes before shooting.

In the Lakers’ recent win against Boston, which is ALWAYS a landmark win, the team showed glimpses of what they can do when they score, share the ball and play enough defense the right time. It took 112 points to down the Celts. This might be the standard. They have to score until their defense catches up. The rookies were agressive offensively. We saw the future big 3 of Randle, Clarkson and Russell at their best. Nance Jr. is ahead of the curve and could be the first to breakout ahead of Russ and Randle.

What I firmly believe is that once Kobe retires the real season begins. The hoopla will be over. The coach, whoever it is, can start fresh. The team will be one year older and there will be a renewed focus on success. What we need to do right now is enjoy the tough times of this season and stick with this team. This way the true purple Laker fans can say they remember when.

What I will say is to expect this team to win more frequently as this season progresses. The Lakers have a potential two game winning streak should they bring the same effort against an awful Philadelphia 76er team.

Let’s see this all unfold.

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