Before his season-ending hip injury, Jordan Hill was one of the few brights spots in an otherwise miserable season. There were wins that would have been losses and losses that would have been blowouts if not for Hill’s willingness to do the dirty work. The good news for Lakers fans is that he’s under contract for one more season after this one. He might not have lived up to being the eighth-overall pick in the 2009 Draft but he has proven he belongs in the NBA and he deserves an everyday role. Hill adds his name to the list of Mitch Kupchak’s acquisitions who most of us just assumed was a throw-in.
In much the same way that a teacher deserves blame for a child’s inability to learn, it’s hard to give Jamison a D without at least assigning some of the blame to both he and Coach D’Antoni. Nobody expected Jamison to play any defense. He’s believed by many to be the league’s worst defender. But there’s no reason that he should have six “DNP-Coach’s Decisions” on his game log. The fact is, when he has played, he’s found a way to produce on offense. His professionalism and experience is something that this team has lacked far too often this season.
The only reason he got the minus was because he’s only been a part of the team’s rotation for a couple of weeks. The truth is that Clark has found a way to not only replace the energy the team lost when Jordan Hill got hurt but also provided them with the athleticism this team is sorely lacking. His energy and effort hasn’t translated into many wins but he has proven that he, like Hill, belongs in the NBA in spite of bouncing around so early in their respective careers.
It’s a coach’s job to put his players into positions where they can succeed. When Mike D’Antoni chose to insert Morris into the starting lineup so that he could guard Carmelo Anthony on Christmas, he did just the opposite of that. Morris might be one of the Lakers best defenders, but that doesn’t mean he’s a good defender. Of late, D’Antoni’s decided to make Morris the back-up shooting guard. Another move that seems to have weakened the Lakers and emboldened their opponents. The minutes that Morris received while Steve Nash was hurt may ultimately benefit the player he will become. But it’s done nothing to help the Lakers win basketball games at a time when they need to win, regardless of how.
Meeks was brought in to make open three-pointers and he’s done just that when asked. It’s everything else that he’s had trouble with. He can’t guard the stanchion, he can’t dribble, and he can’t seem to take care of the basketball when he’s doing anything except for shooting it. The fact that Meeks has lost his back-up shooting guard minutes to Darius Morris is both indicative of Mike D’Antoni’s failings and of Meeks’ inability to stake an outright claim to it. I still think Meeks can help this team if given the chance. I just don’t hope he’s run out of chances.
For a while there, Duhon was leading the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio. The problem is even though he wasn’t turning the ball over often, he was doing it at the most inopportune time. Take for instance, the Lakers game against the Nuggets in Denver back in December. The Lakers were trailing by 12 points with 3:53 left in the third quarter. Duhon’s jumper brought them to within four with 32 seconds left. Andre Igoudala’s lay-up pushed the lead back to six with 12 seconds left. With a chance to pull within four or even three to end the quarter, Duhon threw the ball away with three seconds left. The Nuggets got the ball to Corey Brewer who sank a 26-foot 3-pointer. What could have been a three-point deficit was now nine points heading into the fourth quarter. That pretty much sums up Chris Duhon.
It’s also hard to evaluate Sacre considering he didn’t get much run early in the season. What we do know is that his motor is always running and he’s a lot more intelligent than the average rookie. Sacre thrives in the pick and roll and has proven to be pretty good at both picking and rolling There’s a reason that the Lakers chose to hang onto Sacre and waive Darius Johnson-Odom. It wasn’t only because of their lack of bigs due to injuries. He has proven he will respond when given the opportunity. The problem with Sacre is his lack of range. He can’t make anything outside of three feet and his shot has an odd spin on it. He needs to figure out how to get that kink out or he won’t get a lot of love from the rim on shots that aren’t perfect. There’s no reason that Nash can’t turn Sacre into Marcin Gortat, Jr. with enough time together on the court.
It’s not just that Ebanks hasn’t been able to stay out of trouble. It mostly has to do with the fact that the Lakers chose to keep Ebanks instead of Matt Barnes. Perhaps it was because the Thunder had expressed interest in Ebanks last summer because of a few good minutes Ebanks had guarding Kevin Durant in the playoffs. The bottom line is that Ebanks can only get off the bench in garbage time while Barnes has already made 15 more three-pointers in 42 games for the Clippers this year than he made in 63 games for the Lakers last year.
It would be unfair to judge Blake based on only seven games played this season. He seems close to returning and playing in his first game for D’Antoni. Nobody can expect Blake to be the answer to what ails this team but if his return means no more Duhon or Morris, then it can’t come soon enough. In his introductory press conference, D’Antoni mentioned how he’d been wanting to see what Blake could do in his system for years. Hopefully he can provide valuable minutes backing up both guard positions before both Kobe and Nash kill themselves before season’s end.
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