Archive for the ‘Kobe Bryant’ Category

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.

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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.

State of the Lakers: The Youth Movement

January 27, 2015

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We started off the season with Laker Optimist hopes. We had a rising star in Julius Randle– the face of the future. We had seasoned veterans Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash to lead. We had a gameplan implemented by coach Byron Scott to focus on defense. We added Jeremy Lin to bolster the backup point guard position. Swaggy P returned to provide scoring punch from the bench. I liked the Lakers to be a 6-8th seed and I was excited.

Then the season began. Then the injuries happened. Then the losses piled up. Lost Nash. Lost Randle.

We saw a team that couldn’t quite find a way to play defense. They have flashes of brilliance, but continued to falter in the 3rd and 4th quarters. There was a lot of Kobe watching at the beginning of the season and a whole bunch of Kobe shooting and scoring. We were losing, but Kobe was winning.

Byron made a lineup change in favor of defense. Booz and Lin go to the bench. They showed signs of improvement and then more injuries started to affect the team. The team, for whatever reason, still couldn’t get it going. More importantly, Kobe Bryant hit a wall. This wall caused inconsistency in lineup and rotation in order to preserve Kobe.

Inconsistency of lineup chemistry. Inability to fight over screens. Poor rotations. Inability to make shots in the 4th quarter. This team is the bad team that fights for 3 quarters and falls flat in the 4th. Sometimes this time starts flat and fights from behind for 3 quarters and then finally succcumbs in the 4th quarter.

So the Lakers are totally out of the playoff picture. Aside from a blockbuster trade involving a game changing point guard and a game changing center, or a complete turnaround by this team, things won’t get any better. This team has a defensive inconsistency that is only eclipsed by its inability to score at times. When they can’t defend, they can’t score and when they can score, they can’t defend. With this reality, including Kobe’s recent possibly season-ending injury, Coach Scott has gone to youth development.

I’m excited, I must say. The Lakers have a great recipe for future success. Jordan Clarkson’s poise, quickness and energy has made him easily one of my favorite rookies. Tarik Black’s defensive mind, Ed Davis’ shot blocking and paint shooting acurracy and Ryan Kelly’s shooting and ability to create off the dribble when given the opportunity present a bright future. Byron has gone with Clarkson, Ellington, Kelly, Hill and Sacre to start games. It’s important to start developing these guys as they figure out who will be added in the off-season to provide that competitive starting unit.

I haven’t given up! I’m the Laker’s Optimist! But I do see the writing on the wall. With the All-Star break around the corner, which is a great time to determine whether your team is a competitor, championship team, or bottom-feeder, we know what kind of team we are dealing with. Now we watch to scout players, see what works and what doesn’t, and see what improvements can be made towards the end of the year.

It’s a good time to see where some of these players fit in now and for the future. This includes Boozer and Lin. Lin is arguably the best PG on this team and has to at some point step up and prove it. Boozer has proven to be a very solid bench player as far as offensive production. I hope that after about 20 more games to give you another blog about this very topic.

So sit back, relax, get your popcorn and enjoy the glimpse into the future of the Purple and Gold.

Byron Scott to Make Lakers Starting Lineup Changes: Who’s In, Who’s Out?

December 7, 2014

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Coach Byron Scott ponders lineup changes.

Newsflash. Lakers still stink. They show quick glimpses of hope by way of a few wins and then they go back to losing. They have dry spells, 3rd quarter lapses and 4th quarter meltdowns. They have minimal help for Kobe on offense, their defense creates layup lines, players look disinterested at times and Byron Scott has had enough.

So guys gotta sit the bench.

But is this going to work? It’s certainly worth a try. The Lakers for the first time in a couple years has had the benefit of starting lineup consistency and have squandered it. This lineup is bad, real bad– Michael Jackson (#kanye)!

Let’s look at it this way. If Byron is truly in harmony with Lakers management, which I think is true, players should take note when coach benches you. This should create an urgency to earn your minutes or be benched, waived or traded. This is important because the concern with benching players is this drops morale and can create friction and negative energy. Management needs to back the coach. Because this is necessary. They are losing bad! You’d hope players are on board with doing anything for the team.

So how should Byron do this? Who’s benched? I’m on the edge of my seat and here’s what I hope for.

Lin is NOT the starting point guard. Everyone has said it. He and Kobe cannot coexist. Mainly because Lin can’t be alpha dog mentality with Kobe. He won’t. That’s not his persona on a consistent basis. So chemistry suffers. Defensively, he’s still not quite there either. He’s not that dude. So somebody has to replace him. In pre-season Price and Kobe did well because Price simply set Kobe up. Price doesn’t feel pressure and didn’t seem to cave in to it. Upgrade? Not really but it also gives Lin an opportunity to run the offense in that second unit.

Carlos Boozer is NOT the starting power forward! Mainly this is a defensive issue. The fouls, the getting beat on defense, it’s becoming an issue. Maybe he’s not working well with Kobe either. Something is lacking though. He needs to join the bench mob. I love the Lin – Davis connection, so perhaps it’s time to put Sacre at center and move Hill to power forward. I also am for Davis starting too. This actually helps Kobe and Hill with Davis being the big man down low and Hill and Kobe with the mid-range game. Either move will help defensively. How Booz will take it? I don’t know but it’s necessary that he finally take a seat. (Wish Randle was here).

Wesley Johnson was given ultimate trust by Byron Scott and we didn’t see that new Wesley. Wesley Johnson is NOT the starting small forward. Purely for that inconsistent play. With Lin going to the bench, you can either have Lin and Young on the wings on that bench, or bring Young in as starting small forward. The Lakers need energy in the starting lineup AND consistency. Now Swaggy P has been known to falter a bit as a starter, so I’m on the fence about this. Kobe can also move to small forward to replace Johnson, inserting Ellington to the 2. No matter what Johnson is going to join the bench mob.

The only two guys guaranteed a starting position are Kobe Bryant and Jordan Hill. I’d be shocked and disappointed if I didn’t see 3 new guys alongside them.

I’m also not opposed to Byron developing his youth. Maybe we bring Roscoe Smith and Jordan Clarkson from the D-league and give them some minutes. Also, sign Earl Clark immediately as another small forward option.

Chemistry and wins also develop faster with better players. Lakers are mum about trades but I’m sure there’s something on the horizon. It’s not like Byron has a plethora of options to choose from. Overall they don’t have players that would ever really start on a championship contender. Grant it, any player can shine given the opportunity. This is what we have left to hope for in the case of our beloved Lakers, that somebody steps up.

With the Lakers being this horrible right now, there is still nowhere else to go but up. Let’s start with the starting lineup and see if Byron can at least find a competitive combination and go from there becase you just don’t get killed by the Boston Celtics!

Are the Lakers Truly Better Than Their Record?

November 29, 2014

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3-13. That’s the current record for the Lakers this season so far. It’s wise that the Lakers keep a positive outlook by seeing improvements in losses and saying things like they are better than their record.

But are they better than their record?

Bad teams spend a season getting blown out on some nights (Golden State) and showing some fight on others (Memphis, Clippers). After the close losses one starts to think, “well if they put forth that type of effort every night… ”

But it never happens with bad teams. It didn’t happen against the cellar-dwelling Minnesota Timberwolves last night. They can never seem to put together the closing effort good enough pull out victories rather than moral victories. Good teams play with the bad teams and win at the end because they are that good. Lakers fans know that because we’ve been on the other end of that.

We are now 16 games into the season with the season with the question being which team is this Lakers team?

In most cases you are your record. But Oklahoma City is not their record because of obvious injuries to their star players. Do the Lakers have any excuses why they are dismally 10 games below .500?

No. Not really.

Their starting five is healthy and has had ample opportunities to build chemistry.

Right now we are witnessing a team that cannot play defense. When they do, they can’t score. They can lead but can’t close out. They blow big leads because they lack killer instinct. They look…well…like a bad team.

Against Minnesota they gave up 120 points. Byron is mad. He said the team lacks focus. What can possibly take away your focus? What could be more capable of creating a sense of urgency and focus than being 9 games under .500? And they didn’t have it? So is it focus or talent??

I have to believe that they are better than their record, but at the same time that record isn’t a mistake. They kinda stink right now. Really bad. The question is can they turn it around?

So where’s the optimism? They have about 30 games to figure it out. By all-star break, the team you are is the team you are.

The Lakers haters and the Lakers lovers are both watching. Let’s see what happens.

Lakers A Work in Progress?

November 7, 2014

Nope! It’s still not time to panic. The Lakers have jumped out to a historically bad start and even as we fans have reason to freak out, we have to keep things in perspective. Seriously, perhaps I’m only living up to my name. But remember, I’m the Lakers Optimist.

The Lakers hobbled into the season after a myriad on injuries robbed them of their time to gel. Lin did not play in the starting lineup until the last couple games on pre-season. Chemistry is still settling in.

The Lakers, ready or not, took on a well prepared Houston Rockets team. During that drubbing they lost Julius Randle and took a deflated effort to Phoenix where Phoenix fully took advantage. They then proceeded to take on the Clippers and Warriors in back to back games, really learning on the fly. 4 games in 5 nights against playoff contenders. Hey, they could have won those last two.

So it’s not the fairest sample size, is it?
The question is, should Lakers fans panic? Nah. Each game they are getting better at playing together. Defensively they need a lot of work, but notice an increased effort each game. The team isn’t incapable. It’s learning. The learning curve is extremely high being that it’s the season, but they will get better and hit their stride.

What must happen?

Lin and Boozer must help Kobe. Lin and Kobe must help Hill and Boozer on defense. Lin has to attack relentlessly and keep defenses on their heels. Boozer must run towards the basket and stop settling for that jumpshot.

Price needs to run the offense and lead the defense of the second unit. The bench mob has to back up the starters. They completely floundered against Phoenix when the starters actually did well!

They have an opportunity against the Hornets on Sunday to start the winning culture. I fully expect them to turn it around. Lakers fans are the most impatient fans in the league, but we’ll have to be.

Don’t panic yet. Byron, Kobe and company will get it right.

Stay tuned!