Posts Tagged ‘lakernation’

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.

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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 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.

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.