Archive for the ‘Kobe Bryant’ Category

The Unfair Expectations of the Young Lakers

May 3, 2017

The Los Angeles Lakers have finished their first official rebuild season with Luke Walton at the helm. They cleaned house and brought in Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka in place of Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak. After a marginal improvement of 9 wins from last year and another lottery season, the question now looms whether or not these current Lakers can bring the purple and gold back to the NBA supremacy we’ve grown accustomed to.

Expectations were pretty decent for Julius Randle before he broke his leg in his Laker debut 2 seasons ago. They really skyrocketed for the highly touted number 2 pick D’Angelo Russell. They are definitely up there for their next number 2 pick the following season, Brandon Ingram. Sprinkle that with very wise picks (can’t hate on Mitch too much) Larry Nance Jr, Jordan Clarkson and Ivica Zubac and undrafted big man Tarik Black and you’ve got a young and talented squad.

But not talented enough to win championships. So can the Lakers faithful wait? Are they screaming, “superstar or bust”? 

Well let’s be honest, if the Lakers can manage to keep much of their core and bring in a superstar, we’re all for it. Paul George is obviously in the discussion. Free agents coming up include Gordon Hayward, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Kyle Lowry. Of course, you run the risk of getting a highly paid albatross contract that eats up your young core’s minutes and still can’t get the Lakers to be championship contenders.

So what about this young core? If they are not what they should be, and the perennial superstar doesn’t come waltzing through the door this off-season, then what? We wait. 

I believe this team is worth the wait and that expectations are unfair. Kobe Bryant did not become the Kobe we know and love for a few years. In his first three years he averaged less than 20 points. Furthermore he was surrounded by the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Eddie Jones, Nick Van Excel, Robert Horry– to name a few. He was also on a winning team, even winning 61 games at one point under Del Harris. Therefore, while Kobe was becoming Kobe, he was not counted on to lead the Lakers. Lastly, these Lakers were not rebuilding. This new group lacks any dominant veterans, is rebuilding and the pressure to become great lies squarely on the shoulders of Russell and company. Russell is entering his third year, Randle is technically entering his 3rd year and Ingram his 2nd. Using the Kobe logic, they should be doing some major damage in maybe a year or two. Or not. Either way, now is too early to expect greatness from this team.

Having said that, a healthy injection of veteran talent via a Kyle Lowry or Paul George can be great for a young core. That would propel this young team closer to the squads that Kobe played on as he became the official Black Mamba. As I’ve said before, this team is filling seats so the fans know they have something special. We also know that great players are created in the off-season. Magic said he expects his players to be in top shape coming into training camp. Perhaps they jump the learning curve going into next season. 

This Lakers team needs to see a vast improvement this year and next year as a collective. Individually, Clarkson is the “vet” going into his fourth year and should breakout. Russell and Ingram appear on the cusp of breaking out as well. Randle has addressed what he wants to work on. Bottom line is, the fans need to understand where this team is and be patient. Expectations will need to be tempered as they inch closer and closer back to basketball royalty.

Lakers Optimism? Of Course!

April 16, 2017

Brandon Ingram flushes the dunk on Pau Gasol

At the beginning of this Lakers season, promising a fresh start and a new culture, nobody thought we’d be back here again. Where is here? Pulling out the tanks and cheering the Lakers on openly, while quietly (well not so quietly. Have you SEEN Twitter?) praying for losses in order to keep their draft pick. 

Lakers finished the season 26-56, winning 9 games more than last year. However, as we tend to look at the present, that’s just AWFUL. The Lakers yet again will miss the playoffs for 4 straight years. So we can’t overlook the obvious. The Lakers still stink from a record and competing standpoint. 

So where’s the optimism?

Assuming the Lakers increase by 9 wins each year.

Let’s first look at trends. Am I reaching? Perhaps. The Lakers finished the season under Luke’s first year +9 in wins. If this trend was to continue, logically the Lakers would be official contenders by 2019. Even before then they would start to reach that playoff bubble by 2018 and be much more fun, competitive and tolerable by next season. 

We know that late in the season there were some very pivotal changes that took place which could very well increase that +9 win total.

1. New Regime: Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss were both unceremoniously booted from leadership and replaced with former sports agent Rob Pelinka and Lakers legend and saavy buinessman Magic Johnson. Immediately after Magic took the reins as head of basketball operations, he traded 6th man Lou Williams to Houston for a 1st round pick. They have gotten behind Luke Walton as the coach for many years to come and touted Brandon Ingram as their future superstar. Evidence of that is their refusal to trade him even for Demarcus Cousins.

2. The Emergence of the Youth: Once the Lakers surrendered to the lack of playoff contention, the youth movement began. The guys got BUSY. Brandon Ingram’s scoring numbers shot up, D’Angelo Russell put up big numbers and career highs. Ivica Zubac put up career high numbers, David Nwaba made a name for himself defensively and the kids just got better. The Lakers ended the season 5-1 in their last six games and featured some of the best highlights you would ever see from a losing team. Kobe Bryant is expected to work with Brandon Ingram this summer, and it would appear that all of Lakers players intend to improve over the summer.

Tank talks now aside, the Lakers have the 3rd worst record in the league and the potential to get a top 3 pick in what has been considered by many experts and scouts to be a loaded draft class. They will either add another strong piece in the draft or at least add a promising young prospect later in the first round if they lose out on the lottery. Remember that their draft pick is top 3 protected and could go to the Sixers if it falls to 4th or lower.

Unknowns remain, such as what kind of free agent, if any, the Lakers can entice. Nick Young has a player option and has expressed that he’d like be on a playoff contender next season. Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng did not meet expectations. Are they still a part of the Lakers future? Can one of the young Lakers have a breakout year next season?

One thing for sure, the summer once again remains very exciting and expect the Lakers to be newsworthy all summer long. These Lakers impressed the league and have put them on notice. That early successful start before the injuries was no fluke. Expectations will only rise. 

The question is will expectations be fulfilled.

Stay tuned.

Why These Tough Lakers Times are Very Different Than the Previous Years (@SpectrumSN @lakersreporter)

January 26, 2017

I know. The Lakers are 17 games under .500 and suffered the worst loss of the season to the worst team in the Western Conference a few days ago. They have one of the worst defenses in the league and can’t seem to string together consistent effort on the court. 

This may lead some of the Lakers faithful and experts to go, “How is this any different than last year? Or the year before that and the one before that? We still stink!”

I’ll give you that. At 16-33, there is good reason to consider this another awful lottery year with no hope in sight. However, there are plenty of reasons to see this much differently and even more reason to believe that this team will only get better AND faster than you think.

Here are the differences between this year and previous years:

 1. Not Trying to Win with Declining Stars: The Lakers in years past were working with a declining post-Achilles injury Kobe, an ailing Steve Nash and a mashup supporting cast that featured other declining stars including Carlos Boozer. They possessed vets that were not game-changing and young players that would warm the bench on other teams. Mike D’antoni faced this issue following Dwight’s dismissal of the Lakers brass along with that injury bug. Byron tried to build with Randle and Clarkson, but there was still the glaring Kobe effect, Boozer was a disappointment and he outright did not know how to coach Jeremy Lin. Kobe’s final year was unanimously considered a full on circus with the farewell hoopla to add insult to injury. Now the Lakers possess a group that is centered around rising stars who will only get better. Players like Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, to name a few, have high ceilings. Growing into contenders is a united focus from top to bottom and nothing else. Therefore losses are expected and almost welcome as they become learning opportunities. Nobody likes losing, but it makes more sense now. 

2. The Coach of the Future: Long before a promising and eye-catching 10-10 start, Coach Luke Walton said that he would not measure this team’s success by wins and losses. It would be more measured by whether or not they buy into and implement what the coaching staff is trying to accomplish on the court. Therefore, even as they deal with losses piling up, this is still the right coach for the job. The team has developed a respect for Luke and staff as evidenced by their effort early in the season and in spurts as of late. It is also reflected in their attitudes towards him. D’Angelo Russell has not complained when benched in the 4th quarter. He’s gotten Nick Young to play defense and has the team together even as they face these losses. The biggest blows to the team were injuries, youth and actually, success. 

3. Chemistry with the Young Core Has Improved and Will Continue to Improve: The team that loses together will win together. The Lakers’ young core have all made substantial improvements in their numbers from last year to this year, and Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac have moved up the learning curve quickly during their rookie years. We know some players can have a softmore jinx or start to plateau too early, but many of the players like Larry Nance Jr. and D’Angelo Russell have high ceilings and as a collective unit, they will become even stronger. You have to consider that the rookie and youthful mistakes will begin to dwindle as time progresses. One would hope this happens sooner than later. Examples of this are the OKC Thunder and Golden State Warriors’ recent core that became dominant over a few years after forgettable playoff-less seasons.

So even as they get pummeled by some teams, get close and then can’t hit shots at the end, and surprise the top contenders and pull upsets, we have to look at this season differently. We also look at it with the same cautious optimism. Certain shots that miss will start to go in. Defensive breakdowns will occur less and less and focus will remain for more than a few quarters.

Get used to it, fans. This is a rebuild and the foundation has been laid quite nicely.

Off-Season Decisions: Who To Keep?

June 5, 2016

Decisions, decisions! The Lakers brass have to know that they can’t keep everybody on this roster– nor would they WANT to.

The Lakers know for sure that they have a young core that will receive a #2 draft pick to add to it. They intend to dip into that 60 million plus to pick up some quality free agents or a big fish (i.e. Durant, Whiteside). With all that in mind, the Lakers had some players that were bright spots in a dark season. They had some let-downs and some guys that simply felt the sting of an awkward Kobe-farewell riddled season. There are also guys that have overstayed their welcome wearing the purple and gold.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. We know that Anthony Brown is staying. Jordan Clarkson wants to stay. Kobe is gone. Nance, Randle and Russell are here for the long haul.

So we have for sure Brown, Clarkson, Russell, Nance and Randle.

So let’s talk about the remaining 9 Lakers on the fringe. Let’s discuss who the Lakers should try to keep and who they should trade, waive or just not resign.

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Brandon Bass was the most consistent player on this team. He was a bully in the post and cleaned the glass night in and night out. He also did a pretty decent job on defense. He probably had a career year and can be a perfect bench piece for a championship team. The problem with Brandon Bass is the Lakers have that in Tarik Black who just couldn’t find the minutes due to the logjam at that position.

Verdict: I don’t think Bass wants to return anyway. However, it might be better to make room for Tarik Black to fill that role with the rest of the young core. 

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Tarik Black was pretty efficient as an undersized center in Byron’s first year as Lakers head coach. However he somehow managed to get in Scott’s doghouse for much of the following season. He also lost minutes in favor of Brandon Bass and Julius Randle. Black showed much of the same offensive and defensive prowess as Bass. He is a terrific finisher off pick and rolls and has a great motor. The question with Black is can he pickup where he left of the season before last and add some outside shooting to his repertoire. Playing under Luke Walton in a more fast-paced offense can lead to many highlight dunks.

Verdict: Lakers should keep Black and hopefully Luke will find a way to work him into the rotation as a key component of this young core.

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Roy Hibbert was brought in to adress a dire need for a rim protector. Byron’s instructions were to rebound and defend. What he didn’t know was that he would be forced to make up for an awful perimeter defense that allowed consistent dribble penetration. Hibbert was forced to help while receiving no help himself. He was not asked to be a featured scoring option so we can’t blame him for that. Nor can we blame him for being just a few years past his prime as he got schooled consistently by the Whitesides and Deandres on a nightly basis.

Verdict: I’d let him go and either see what you can get on the free agent market or who on your roster can fill that role as center.

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Marcelo Huertas dazzled us with pretty passes and intelligent plays during the pre-season. Then he went into Scott’s doghouse in favor of defense, before returning to pre-season form and finishing the year strong. He has a calming and cerebral approach similar to the great Steve Nash. He definitely has a place in the NBA. Pop is probably waiting for Lakers to drop the ball on this guy. The problem with Marcelino is he can be somewhat of a liability on defense (Like Steve Nash). However, that can be trumped by how he can potentially feast in Luke’s system.

Verdict: Make sure you keep this kid. He can and will be a part of a competitive NBA team.

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Ryan Kelly had his best year under D’antoni as a stretch four. Byron took the reigns and tried the failed experiment of placing him at the five. In Byron’s last year Kelly started the pre-season attacking the basket and looking really good. Defensively challenged, he was forced out of the rotation and never really recovered. At his best he is a stretch four that can finish at the rim. At his worst he is a poor shooter and a so-so defender. The problem with Kelly is do we wish to play the game and see which one shows up?

Verdict: With the Lakers loading up on bigs through the draft and free agency, it’s time to move on from this kid and see if a change of scenery will do him some good (And let’s hope that doesn’t come back to bite us).

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Robert Sacre plays his heart out. He fights on defense, he has a decent jumpshot and uses all six of his fouls on defense. He’s a locker room guy. The problem is has he peaked? Is this all there is? What can Luke do with this kid to make him a solid contributor?

Verdict: I was surprised last year when he was still on the team. It’s time to let him try his luck with another team.

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Lou Williams is a beast.  He lit up OKC for over 40 points and shouldered much of the scoring load consistently throughout the year when healthy. The former 6th man of the year made a bid for future star of LA, post-Kobe. He has a killer jump shot and can create his own shot. He couldn’t truly be the man sharing the spotlight with Kobe. I see no downside with Lou, other than whether or not he wishes to be a part of a rebuild once more.

Verdict: Along with Marcelo Huertas, he can really light it up off the bench. Under Luke Walton and under normal circumstances, Lou can return to bid for 6th man of the year. Try to keep him.

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Metta World Peace was kept as an on the floor coach and locker room mentor. However, when he went in the game the complexion on defense changed. He still has it. Although offensively he’s seen better days. Of course I never could understand why Scott never just stuck him in the post to bully the smaller weaker 3’s on the opposing teams. Metta is defense and can be a locker room mentor for this young team. The problem is do you have space to keep him there?

Verdict: This is tough. Invite him to training camp and see what you have when it’s time to make cuts. He still has a couple good years in him in short bursts off the bench and provides a player with championship experience.

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Nick Young never could find his footing with coach Byron Scott to say the least. Not sure who’s fault that was. Then they were losing. Then D’Angelo Russell happened. Now the Lakers are faced with a few questions. One, is he and Russell going to be able to coexist? Two, can he clear the baggage from his head and return to Swaggy P form? Three, can his fire-at-will game fit Luke’s strategy? At his best, Nick can light it up. But will Luke have Nick and Lou work together off the bench or do they have to pick one or the other (hint: it would be Lou).

Verdict: If you can’t ship him out in a package deal with Kelly and Sacre, let’s see what Luke can conjure up to make him an integral part of this new era.

So there you have it. Most likely heading into training camp I see the following team:

Anthony Brown – SF
Jordan Clarkson – SG/PG
D’Angelo Russell – PG
Julius Randle – SF/PF
Larry Nance Jr. – PF/C
Tarik Black – PF/C
Marcelo Huertas – PG
Lou Williams – SG
*Metta World Peace – SF
*Nick Young – SF/SG

*tentative

The Lakers will not be done seeking deals and adding free agents. This will look much different before training camp begins. Stay tuned.

It’s an exciting off-season as the Los Angeles Lakers try to right the ship and return back to winning ways.

The Home Stretch

March 4, 2016

WARNING: I HAVE ALOT TO SAY!!!!

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Larrybrownsports.com

The Lakers have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and are on their way to breaking more dismal records as far as losing goes.

The focus as a team has been the same: Kobe’s retirement tour and develop the rookies. As the year winds down, coach Byron Scott has brought D’Angelo Russell back into the starting lineup and has given rookies like Anthony Brown and Tarik Black more meaningful minutes. He has also implemented a new offensive set that has not only given the players more freedom, but has created more ball movement. Much like last season, this is the time to truly figure out what your post-Kobe squad is made of. And I gotta say, the future looks bright.

D’Angelo Russell had his official breakout game in a win against the hapless Brooklyn Nets (who broke thier first losing streak early this season), dropping 39 points and raining 8 threes. We even saw some genuine swag from Dloading as he drained a Curry-esque deep three in the closing minutes.

Julius Randle is the official double-double machine and really is becoming potentially unstoppable in the post. Larry Nance Jr. is being cautiously used amid a knee situation, but has become a defensive force, contesting and blocking shots. Of course, we can’t forget the high flying dunks we are now growing accustomed to. Anthony Brown is comfortably stepping up to his 3 and D expectations when given the minutes.

Let’s give Jordan Clarkson his own paragraph. Jordan was given the team the latter part of last season where he emerged and made the All-Rookie team. This year he has continued to improve and has been very consistent. Am I a tad biased? Yes. I feel he has fallen by the wayside amid the Kobe retirement tour and the hoopla surrounding D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. The Lakers better be careful not to lose him in the shuffle. He is up for free agency next year and he knows that he is going to be a hot ticket next year. That being said, the potential for this team to be virtually unstoppable in a matter of a couple years is high.

If you are a veteran on this team, this is very tough position. The Lakers have seen a 44 point effort from Lou Williams who is now suffering a hamstring issue. I honestly felt like he could be thier star leader post-Kobe and then he became inconsistent. Now that remains to be seen. Brandon Bass has really come out this year offensively and defensively, which begs the question: do you keep him? Bass will surely be coveted by contenders looking for a solid bench player. Right now, Bass shares the same skill set as the seldom used Tarik Black.

Swaggy P is in a funny place. His minutes are inconsistent and his shooting percentage and scoring average is way down. Is he being misused? Of course! His value has diminished greatly, but teams would be foolish to not consider him as a come off the bench gunner. See: Cavs, Grizzlies, etc. Roy Hibbert is one person I can see the Lakers holding onto, yet I can also see them letting him go. The days of him starting may be behind him though. Let’s not overlook the fact that a contending team wouldn’t mind having a defensive gem like Hibbert anchoring thier defense. See: Spurs, Thunder.

The Laker fans are looking at two major things in the off-season. The first one is the draft. The Lakers are off and running in the Ben Simmons sweepstakes second only to those horrible Sixers who have made losing and getting draft picks and losing a franchise staple. Having said that, fans and front office alike are looking to see which additional piece they can add from the draft. They will no doubt need to look for a center.

No matter who they get in the draft, none of these guys are going to be game-changers. This is where free agency (once again) becomes paramount. Kevin Durant and Demar Derozan are two key players the Lakers will be coveting this off-season. Both players are on teams competing for rings, but following what may be a conference semi or conference finals result at best, both players may seek a change of scenery. Kobe is leaving a gaping hole that only a select few will want to fill. Regardless of what anybody says, being the star on the Lakers is a HUGE honor that sells itself…if anyone is willing to buy.

Having said that, the Lakers may come away with nothing but small but valuable complimentary pieces. The Lakers can very well give the team keys to…Russell? Clarkson? Randle? (note: last franchise guy was a SG. The one before that? PG.) The Lakers will have to decide who. I honestly don’t think that missing out on a big ticket star would necessarily be a bad thing.

As we head into the close of the season, our last point of focus is the coach. Byron Scott. Is he the coach to weather the storm or your coach to return them to glory? At this point, I think he was the best for the situation. I don’t agree with the way he has used his players or rotated them. I don’t think he’s had the easiest of situations. Part of me says give him a clean slate like the 2016-2017 Kobe-less season and see how he does. He deserves a good team minus the drama. Part of me says he had a team perfectly capable of winning 30-40 games and screwed that up. His players aren’t buying what he’s selling. His coaching style does not work with THIS team. Then again look at the progress of the rookies. Metta World Peace isn’t complaining about minutes which could speak to his team management.

I’ll leave that alone and let the Lakers brass decide. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the Kobe show, watch the young guys gel and look to another pivotal off-season.

Stick with your team, Lakers faithful.

Low End Theory: Lakers At 9-41

February 1, 2016

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The Lakers continue to reach new lows, hence my play on words— Low End Theory. The Lakers are 9-41. They have lost 10 straight games en route to making history again. The longest streak in franchise history is 10 games. The fans are booing. The players are frustrated or confused or both. The interviews are depressing.

I’ve seen enough. The only optimism at this point is that the season is halfway over. Ben Simmons here we come!

But seriously.

There has to be two theories to consider. Either this team lacks talent or this team is not playing well. I’ve said time and time again that this team is not playing well. This means that there are fixes that can take place. First there needs to be a problem determined. I have a couple.

1. They don’t score enough. The Lakers are I think the worst scoring team in the league. Is it because of bad shots or are they missing good looks? I’d say it’s both. The Lakers started to embrace the three point shot, for better or worse. The problem is they don’t make enough. They force quite a few. They sometimes make plays toward the basket in spurts and they do not post anybody enough. They also hardly move the ball. However, the Lakers biggest issue is they have no defined roles. They have 4 one on one players in the starting lineup and have not determined who the head of the snake is. They have nobody expected to score consistently if not guarded. NO LAKER DESERVES A DOUBLE TEAM. Ball movement is effective when you have scoring threats. The defense will move to respect a scoring threat. If there are none, forget about whether or not you move the ball. Right now no Laker commands that attention. I blame that on strategy. When Kobe was Kobe, the plan was for either Kobe to get his and then get others involved or vice versa depending on the flow of the game. Now who is the guy for that job now? Lou? Jordan? Julius? If every other play a different guy is trying to be the man it just makes an unorganized mess on the offensive end.  They need to decide who’s going to be the offensive number 1, 2 and 3.

Lakers don’t score enough because they don’t ever go into the low post consistently. How many times have we seen Julius Randle have his way with his defensive man? However, whereas most teams would milk a match-up until the other team figures it out or throws a double team, the Lakers do NOTHING with consistency. Clarkson will get to the basket and create and then never do it again for the next 7 minutes. Nance Jr had a mismatch when the Clippers went small recently and this was NEVER exploited. These are offensive strategies that are purely an indictment on not putting your personnel in a position to be successful. When entering the post they should do it early in the shot clock.

Lakers don’t score enough because they wait way too long to get into their offense. I’ll add to that the fact that they do not push the ball off of a defensive rebound. Observe how many times this Laker team is walking the ball up the court. As a young, athletic team that lacks dominant halfcourt ability, they should be keeping opposing defenses on their heels and getting into their offensive strategies before the defense sets up. Typically time is wasted on the shot clock because the ball sticks or moves to slowly, starting with the trot into halfcourt and the meaningless 5 seconds of dribbling.

2. Lakers don’t rebound well. How many times have you just about pulled your hair out after the Lakers have surrendered yet another offensive put-back or rebound? Part of the issue is pure effort. The other is perimeter breakdowns. Bigs leave their man to collapse on the the scorer. However, the Lakers usually fail to help the helper. This is a huge issue for a team who’s defense is lacking. Whenever they do make a stop, they give the team a second and third chance.

3. The Lakers have awful rotations. I can’t speak to why Metta World Peace hasn’t seen the court or why Tarik Black doesn’t play. Nick Young sits for about 7 games and then plays the next 4. The Lakers have changed their starting lineup only a few times, not including the Kobe situation when he sits a game out. But the bottom line is there are players playing that should be playing and then vice versa. There are not enough minutes for everyone, but it would help knowing what to expect as a player. This doesn’t include players being sat down when they are hot or benching certain players in the 4th quarter. Consistency builds chemistry.

As a huge Byron Scott fan, I still don’t know what the game plan is. During this Kobe farewell, the players should be urged to give him the proper send off. This isn’t it. The plan to develop the youth should be balanced with the desire to win games. This Lakers team doesn’t look like they know how to win. The effort reeks of confusion and they bottomed out by losing by 20 plus points to an average Charlotte Hornets team that was INJURED.

They have a right to be frustrated and fans have a right to boo. But until a change in strategy happens or a game changing superstar comes on board, we can expect more of this. When the Lakers win, they are sharing the ball and their big three, Clarkson, Russell and Randle have big games. They get out in transition and they hit 3’s. This has only happened 9 times. Something has to be done.

Until then we will be wondering what kind of team Kobe has left behind to carry the torch.

New Year…New Team? A Lakers Optimist Quickie-Blog

January 9, 2016
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Nba.com

Have the Lakers developed an identity? I think what the Lakers have embraced is a halfcourt slow tempo offense with plays and attacks toward the basket…an inside out team. This team is developing into a team that defends and then effectively scores in transition. IF they accept and run with this identity and stick to the script they will be dangerous. The reason they almost beat OKC last night is because they contested shots, effectively got in lanes and forced turnovers and created transition opportunities. Players like Bass and Nance are not afraid to dunk and contest shots. Stay tuned to see if this consistent identity becomes the face of Lakeshow 2016.

Now don’t get mad, Laker fans, but the picture up top could very well be the face of your Los Angeles Lakers. Unless you’ve been under a rock, the Lakers backcourt has been Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson with Kobe and Nance in the front and Hibbert in the middle. Sometimes a star might be right under your nose. Lou Williams has been one of the most consistent scorers on this team. He has also ramped up his defense. As Kobe rides off into the sunset the Lakers will be left with Lou Williams, who has showed that he can take over games. Let’s consider that he poured 44 on OKC. With nobody to share “run the team” duties with, he could propel into the stratosphere on a GOOD Lakers team. Yes, expect Lakers to court a superstar like Durant (he ain’t coming over here.) but please oh please don’t let Lou Will go ANYWHERE.

As this Laker team looks toward the future and continues to improve, we can easily spot our consistent players. Larry Nance Jr. has quickly become a high fly act, offensive paint weapon, decent and improving perimeter shooter and good defender with brimming confidence. He has all but solidified his place in that starting lineup. Jordan Clarkson is my poor man’s Russell Westbrook and has been consistent as a shooter, attacker, finisher and passer. He’s developing on defense as well. He’s quickly establishing his own identity and stardom.

So your big three might actually be Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. But let’s consider that D’angelo Russell is quickly developing into a little monster…so big 4? Randle for me needs to come off the bench a little longer because of his inconsistent offense, but you have to have strong bench players anyway. Randle shares frontcourt duties with another consistent bench guy in Brandon Bass. This guy plays HARD. He’s an active body on defense and is also an energy guy.

I know I said that Lou should come off the bench, but I can change my mind. Perhaps Randle will return to early season form and change my mind as well. Either way, Mitch Kupchak has his core. Hibbert might be up for debate but your post-Kobe starters might be Clarkson, Russell, Williams, Nance and Hibbert.

Let’s watch as the season unfolds and look for the Lakers to either embrace this identity and start winning games or resume searching for one while losing.

The Curious Case of Byron Scott

November 24, 2015

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The Lakers fans were nothing short of jubilant when they heard that Mike D’antoni was no longer the head coach. Even Magic Johnson voiced his satisfaction. Following a “coaching search” they brought in Laker legend Byron Scott. There was an air of excitement and a sense that winning would begin. More importantly, there was a sense that defense would return. D’antoni represented that offensive mastermind where defense took a backseat. Defense was energy rather than X’s and O’s. The best defense was a good offense. Byron represented that old-fashioned basketball where defense wins championships and threes help, but don’t win it for you. We saw the sideline commentary about how Mike misused his bigs and the jury was always out on whether or not he coached defense and, if nothing else, Byron had us all salivating for his hire and this return to the winning ways Laker fans were used to.

And now?

Lakers finished last season 21-61. Ok. We’ll not beat a dead horse. The team was horrible on paper and injuries and blah blah. Now we are at the first 13 games of the young 2015-2016 season and the Lakers, revamped, healthy and brimming with talented raw youth are 2-11. 2 wins and 11 LOSSES. The winning culture can only be proven by winning and these Lakers are not doing so. Kobe is an average player now who cannot hit his patented fall away and hovers around the three point line where he misses badly. Not his fault. He’s probably playing his last year. The young core of Russell, Clarkson and Randle have yet to gel. The vets are playing hard but none are dominant. And yes, the defense still stinks. When the defense does do decent job, the offense sputters.

But this isn’t about the players. This is about Byron. A coach who has to process multiple storylines: A superstar in his last year who is struggling to find his game. A 1st round number 2 pick finding his footing and his way to superstardom. A young core that is intended to be the future big 3. A group of talented veterans looking to support this core. A desire to win at all costs and return to championship contention. A desire to patiently develop the youth into winners. Then you have to coach under these circunstances and WIN under the scrutiny that comes with being a Los Angeles Laker.

Perhaps the only thing that stops the questions and the scrutiny is winning. Nobody questions a winning coach. Nobody really complained about Phil. Nobody hated on D’antoni in Phoenix’s dominant days. But Byron is not winning. Unfair? Yes. But when you are losing, then the question becomes why? Perhaps Byron loves defense. What NBA player or coach doesn’t know defense wins championships? But coaching defense is another ballgame. Can he coach defense? There is an art to this that Poppovich, Phil and Thibideau among others know. Does he know it? Why are we so hung up on the Princeton offense? This offense got Mike Brown canned a few years ago. Perhaps at it’s best execution it’s not what this team needs right now.

I look at this roster and I fail to see how this team is not at least 5-6. There is too much talent even for a rebuilding squad. Perhaps like Jeremy Lin once did as a Laker, Byron is thinking too much on this. He should just coach. Forget about all the talk and storylines. Play to win. The rookies will develop. They don’t need 40 plus minutes to do so. Stop being nice to Kobe. If he’s cold, sit him down. Leave that Princeton offense alone and let them play and move the ball.

Media won’t say that Byron is on the hotseat. My view is to give him the talent. If he still can’t win, this might not work. I think he has the talent. Now it’s time to see some wins. Anything less than 40 wins is a failure.

Byron, you’re on.

Great Lake-spectations

August 22, 2015

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Alright folks we are on the verge of training camp, pre-season the 2015-2016 NBA season. The Los Angeles Lakers have once again retooled and yet again, nobody expects anything out of purple and gold.

The funny thing is, they are not necessarilly basing thier opinion on how bad the Lakers are, as opposed to how good the West is. Okay, but let’s look at it differently. Let’s actually take a look at these Lakers.

The pundits, stars-or-bust fans and Lakershaters can confidently say before every season that the Lakers will suck because there are “too many questions.” How illogical is that? If there are too many questions then how does that lead you to make a definitive answer? Secondly, they continue to overlook the fact that the Lakers have not been fully healthy since the year they were eliminated by Dallas in the second round! My favorite part is where they say even if healthy they would have still been just as bad. Based on what facts or sample size? Much like any other team in the league, your success is banked on the fact that a large percentage of your key players are HEALTHY enough to make a substantial contribution (see OKC and Pacers) The healthiest team wins the ring.

I just had to get that off my chest for what it’s worth. So what do the Lakers have this year? Lakers have a combination of untapped youth potential, budding stars, recent all-stars and effective veterans— and Kobe.

Looking at their potential starting five, let’s just assume that this team can develop chemistry quick enough to eek out some wins as they are learning to gel. In the middle at the 5 is Roy Hibbert. Roy is an elite defender and is chiefly responsible for the defensive prowess in Indiana. Roy’s expectation is to defend and to remove the swiss cheese defense plaguing the Lakers over the last few years. Byron will have him on the block to rebound and catch and dunk as needed. For the first time since the botched Dwight experiment, they have a true center. Major upgrade.

Hibbert will share the frontcourt with our number 4, Julius Randle. Julius is now back. Julius posseses mini-LeBron capabilities as a one man fast break. He creates contact and can get to the paint in a hurry. Offensively he is expected to control that area just around that free throw line and below. He is also a decent passer out of double-teams. His deciding factor is finishing consistently at the rim and hitting that mid-range jumper. His brand of bully ball should help him grab plenty of rebounds as well.

Small forward, the 3, has been a questionable area for Lakers. I like that Kobe will be manning that wing spot. Kobe will find himself in the post and on the recieving end of some passes to hit some open threes as well. From that vantage point he can still create closer to the basket rather than bringing the ball upcourt. We know Kobe, so expect great. Period. Defensively this will be a concern and a question of matchups from night to night. However the Lakers have shored up this position to give Kobe a break with Nick Young, Lou Williams, Anthony Brown and Johnathan Holmes, all possibilities to fill this spot.

Alternating most likely at the 4 and 5 are 2nd pick D’angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. D’angelo has already been touted for his playmaking ability and shooting. He is going to make several mistakes which is why it’s great that 2nd year softmore Jordan “Fearless” Clarkson will share point guard duties. Clarkson has become a deadly paint attacker and pretty effective from outside. He also is a very good finisher and rebounder. Your wings can pretty much be Clarkson and Bryant. As a backcourt, expect glimpses of a dangerous duo in Clarkson and Russell. Defense will be a question, but the instant youth injection can boost Lakers perimeter defense on athleticism alone and allow them to stay in front of the ball much better to keep Hibbert from doing too much bailing out.

The defense will get better, how much better will remain to be seen. However, offensively, there will be two guards essentially able to get to the basket and hit the open three. Also they can set the table for each other, as well as Kobe, Randle and Hibbert down low. Kobe will have that post and will feast in that area. Randle will also be a bully on the block and in that mid-range. Hopefully Russell and Clarkson can effectively space the floor by hitting open threes. Spacing within Bryon’s offense is key so defenses will have to remain honest. Lakers potentially can have quite a few weapons.

Oh yeah that bench! Potential gunners working side by side are newly signed Lou Williams and Swaggy P himself, Nick Young. Brandon Bass will bring toughness on defense and a good jumpshot. Lakers also have another potential standout guard in Jabari Brown who showed flashes of point guard brilliance. Tarik Black is almost a shoe-in for backup center for Hibbert and is just tenacious on both ends. Lakers have also picked up big man Jeremy Tyler and guard Michael Frazier. Lakers have shored up their three point shooting this year.

It’s funny nowadays that to assume health and chemistry for the Lakers is to assume alot, but to assume doom gloom and 26 wins before the first tip-off isn’t.

Well this team right here, regardless of the way the West looks, is a very solid team that will only get better. I do expect no less than 40 wins– MINIMUM. In April they will compete for 7th or 8th. That’s honestly in my opinion being modest.

So I guess I’m saying ESPN doesn’t know what they are talking about.

But remember, I’m The Lakers Optimist.

All Eyes On Lakers

April 13, 2015

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Well there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The 2014-2015 NBA season is mercifully drawing to a close and the Los Angeles Lakers are closing in on making history– in a bad way. They have the most losses by any Lakers team EVER.

There are no playoffs aspirations or preparations this year. Lakers fans have the painstaking task of deciding who to root for in the playoffs if not the purple and gold. Lakers brass are rather testing out the youth, sitting down veterans (what’s left of them after injury) and seeing who is written in the future plans of this team which is unmistakably in a rebuilding mode.

How does one be an optimist about this?

Make no mistake, as bad as the Lakers are and as close to rock bottom things look, the Lakers will be one of the most trending teams this summer.

All eyes will be on Purple and Gold.

The reason being is that both Lakers lovers and Lakers haters alike know that this team doesn’t stay down for too long, although this is definitely one of hardest stretches in Lakers history. I can’t recall back to back seasons being at the bottom of the West. But there is reason to believe that this team can turn things around very quickly.

The Lakers are in need of only a few pieces. It seems like they need a complete team overhaul, but when you consider all the close losses they’ve had this season, it shows the lack of a dominant go-to guy or two, and a closer. Even if Kobe returns anywhere near his former self, he will not be enough. Look at teams like Cleveland, Miami and OKC to see how missing only a couple key players can change the complexion of a team. Miami lost LeBron. Cleveland gained LeBron and Kevin Love. The Thunder played much of the early season without Westbrook and KD and looked awful. Understanding this logic, we can see how a couple of star quality players can transforms this team. The Lakers need only 2.

This season saw the Lakers completely outplayed on the glass and in the paint. They were simply undersized. By forcing 4’s to play the 5, they have had players like Jordan Hill and Ed Davis play out of position all season long. This is the most glaring issue to address.

That is not to say that they couldn’t benefit from a great player at almost every position. But this team has draft picks and the money to pick up a big ticket free agent. With names like Gasol, Munroe, Rondo and Dragic available, the Lakers can make a huge splash if they do it right. Declaring for the draft you have Karl Townes and Jahlil Okafor among others that can also make a big splash and contribute quickly.

The Lakers have a solid bench and a budding star point guard in Jordan Clarkson. They have Julius Randle poised to make strong return next year and the Black Mamba expects to go out on a high note. They grabbed solid bigs in Ed Davis, Tarik Black and Jordan Hill. Wayne Ellington has just about guaranteed his place as the back-up 2 guard. Can’t forget about Swaggy P.

It’s important for Lakers to address the Center and Small Forward position. We know that the players on the fringe such as Jeremy Lin, who has made a case for his return the latter part of this season, must be considered after the draft and free agent attempts. I would be disappointed if they didn’t address those two positions.

Needless to say, we as Laker fans will be watching intently to see if the Lakers will come up big or come up empty this off-season.

So next season may be “epic”, if the Lakers OFF-SEASON is epic.