Posts Tagged ‘clippers’

Following the Trade Deadline, the Lakers are Right on Schedule

February 11, 2018
Isaiah-Thomas-wants-to-start-but-focused-on-winning

Isaiah Thomas chomping at the bit to get in and play with his new team. He scored 22 points and dished out 6 assists in his debut.

Since the headline-grabbing Lakers regime change midway through last season, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have not made too many head-scratching decisions if any. It seems that everything they’ve done has inched the Lakers closer to relevance. The Lakers under the coaching staff lead by Luke Walton stayed the course amid media and fan criticisms and now find their team in a position where LOSING is not the norm. Since early January, the Lakers have gone 12-5 which includes three 4-game winning streaks. The team is clearly a better defensive unit and are buying into ball movement, resulting in victories and an increasing confidence in this still young Lakers team.

Not to be outdone, Magic and Rob managed to pull off a blockbuster trade (eat your heart out Jerry West) by sending Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to Cleveland in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a 1st round draft pick. With all love to JC and Nance, this was a brilliant move. The Lakers freed up almost 44 million in cap space, which was one of their clear goals this season. They got a draft pick which was something they had all but given for nothing years ago in the Steve Nash trade. They picked up an All-Star point guard who helped lead the Celtics to the top of the East just a season ago. They also added shooters who are both on expiring contracts, leaving them with financial flexibility. Let’s not forget that in all this the Lakers are still competitive, have not surrendered their young core AND might have even gotten BETTER.

Did the Lakers get better? In IT’s debut against the Mavericks, he literally picked up where he left off last season scoring 22 points after barely averaging 15 in Cleveland. Luke’s offense? Possibly. The Lakers as a unit just all but gave that game away through lackluster defense and not giving a young and hungry Dallas team led by an All-Star veteran in Dirk Nowitski the respect they deserve. Loss notwithstanding, they showed flashes of what a knockdown shooter and elite playmaker like IT does for this team. The question is whether the Lakers can adjust to IT’s defensive shortcomings. Will they still continue to switch on defense which has worked so well for them up to this point? Dallas wisely exposed that last night. That is a moderate issue when you again consider the sample size in Boston who finished the season 53-29. Sounds like defense was not an issue.

Let’s be completely honest, Luke Walton and staff will have this team on the same page and they will have this much improved Lakers team competing at an even higher level and preparing for the return of Lonzo Ball. There is no denying that the Lakers got a major upgrade offensively. Lonzo Ball will also even the scales defensively upon his return.

There will obviously be a minor adjustment period for rotations and such, but it appears that Isaiah will eventually have to start alongside Lonzo Ball. Brandon Ingram and Juilus Randle are a lock to start as well as Brook Lopez. Is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope coming off the bench? That sounds like the best move. Look for Alex Caruso and Corey Brewer to scale back on minutes as KCP assumes the Jordan Clarkson role as 1st off the bench. The Lakers will have plenty of flexibility to go big should teams become successful exposing IT on defense. The Lakers brass has put this team in perfect position to fight for that 8th seed while preparing to make some noise in the off-season with their newfound cap space.

It’s a very exciting time in Tinseltown as the Lakers continue to get on the fast-track back to championship glory. Stay tuned, Lakers fans.

Lakers Optimist out!

 

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Fire D’antoni?

March 8, 2014

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Well if you’re a Lakers fan, in a basketball level, my heart goes out to you. This season the Lakers have broken records. However most of these records are not good records. This is historically the worst season ever. Pouring salt in the wounds, the Clippers gave them their worst beating ever en route to possibly being NBA champs this year (I think I threw up in my mouth a little).

Easy answer. Blame D’antoni. Fire D’antoni. We should have hired Phil. Let me be the first to say I was thoroughly upset when they chose him. Why? Because I knew from past experience watching the Suns that HE DOESN’T COACH DEFENSE. Phoenix’s plan was to run, attack, hit threes and layups and make every opponent pay for every missed shot, every turnover.

Here’s why it worked.

First of it’s kind. Small ball took every other team by surprise because outside of maybe the Sonics, everybody else was old school balling. Run and gun was not the norm. And no team in those years were equipped to compete without running out of gas.

Great players. Nash, Stoudemire, Marion, Barbosa. D’antoni had the right pieces at the right time to pull this of. He had bonafide athletes who can shoot lights out and finish at the rim. With the opposing teams on their heels and not able set defense, they would literally get run out if the building!

Defense was not emphasized because offense was clicking and the pace of the game left offenses out of sorts. But D’antoni also had defensive minded players with active hands like Raja Bell who didn’t need defensive coaching.

During the season.

We all knew what beats this team. What their Achilles heel was. What kept him from ever getting a ring. Phil knew even when his team was the lowly eighth seed.

Slow it down. Force halfcourt ball. Utilize your big men. Make them play real defense. Lakers almost pulled an upset this way but didn’t have the skillset or discipline to completely pull it of. Poppovich and those Spurs did. Tim Duncan. Paint dweller. Small ball loses.

In a seven game series defense wins rings.

After a few years the rest of the league caught up. Now they were all running some hybrid of Mike’s system. These teams have true athletes. Thunder, Heat, Nuggets, Warriors. Now you can’t just out score them. You can’t out run then. You also have to stop them.

D’antoni never coached defense. That doesn’t mean he didn’t think it necessary. What coach is that foolish? D’antoni never needed to. So that isn’t his strong suit.

Fast forward. The current team he has are not great athletes who are dead eye shooters. Furthermore they are not defensive minded. They compete with other teams with the same or better shooting ability and the outcome is the Lakers score about 103 and allow the opponent to score 110.

Now he must coach defense. Not energy. Defense. Defensive strategy. X’s and O’s. Problem.

But the train wreck of 2013-2014 can’t all be blamed on coach D (pun intended). 

We have one main reason the jury is still out on firing D’antoni.

Injuries.

It’s impossible to say even the great Zen master can guide a team missing this many players for such a long time to any kind of success. No Kobe, no Nash, at times no Gasol. Down to where your bench starts the game. The most starting lineup changes I’ve ever seen. This leaves Lakers with a sloppy roster mashup and chemistry issues that make it hard to evaluate a coaching performance.

The elephant in the room is that the Lakers either cannot or do not play defense. The other elephant in the room is the injuries.

That loss to the clippers didn’t help D’antoni in any way. I don’t care how injured your team is.

The question is simple. Given the desired circumstances of having at least a healthy Kobe and company, keeping the young stars of tomorrow from this team, picking up some quality players in the draft and free agency, is D’antoni the proven guy?

I don’t have enough evidence to say yes. Although I can’t blame it on this season. That wouldn’t be fair. This season didn’t give D’antoni a fair opportunity to prove otherwise.

But here’s the issue. CAN HE COACH DEFENSE? Furthermore, does Lakers management have the patience to wait and run the D’antoni experiment again?

If Mitch decides that defense is the bigger elephant in the room than injuries and that he cannot wait, everybody in LakerNation will get their wish granted.

Fire D’antoni.