Lakers Identity Changes Dramatically As Season Nears

Chuck Klosterman, one of the preeminent writers and contributors to the newly created Grantland website, recently published an article on the demise of the triple post offense (more commonly known as the triangle offense) and what that means for the NBA.

With Phil Jackson’s retirement at the close of the 2010-11 season, the last vestige of the triple post offense endured only in the minds of those who cared to implement its use, and it is unlikely that any NBA team will use it again in the foreseeable future. For the few avid Lakers fans who embraced the triangle as a source of identity, our pinnacle of pride from which we towered above the rest, the loss of the triangle was indeed an unsettling thing. While the nation marveled at the jaw-dropping dunks of LeBron and Dwyane Wade, we consoled ourselves with the knowledge that “our coach was smarter than yours.” Our coach was the Zen Master, and our coach used the triangle. And now he is gone.

When Phil left, we knew what we had lost. We lost our source of offensive creativity and flow; our ability to make the most of what we had. The triangle is designed to keep players moving, and to utilize the positives of a player while concealing the negatives. After years of criticism by both fans and outsiders alike for example, Derek Fisher remained a starter within Phil Jackson’s offense. Despite Phil’s well renowned preference for established veterans over untested rookies, his decision to keep Derek in the starting lineup was not based on ill-advised patterns or biases: his decision was based on logic.

The triangle, as Klosterman adequately describes, demands different responsibilities of starting point guards: shoot the ball and keep the flow going by reading the defense. The triangle actually helped the Lakers overcome their many glaring weaknesses (in ball handling depth and three point shooting) and exploit their greatest strengths (multiple players with above average post play). The Lakers as a team within the triangle offense was exponentially better than the Lakers as anything else.

It is for this reason that I was quite excited about the Jason Kapono signing when it happened. Imagine if Bynum, Gasol, and Lamar Odom had freedom in the paint to operate? Pau wouldn’t be labeled “soft” because he wouldn’t have to be a bruiser in the first place: space in the paint opens up Pau’s gifts as a scorer as well as a passer.

Teams lacking true centers, like the Miami Heat, wouldn’t be able to crowd the box because, quite simply, they couldn’t afford to. Not if you have Kapono in the corner, waiting to drop bombs on you; his weaknesses as a ball handler and passer painted over by the triangle’s graciousness for three point shooters. Draft pick up Andrew Goudelock was another shooter who could keep wing players honest, and help Bynum avoid bumping his knees too many times against too many bodies.

The stage was set for the Lakers’ comeback, but then I woke up. I remembered that Phil has long since hid himself in the mountains. I remembered that Lamar Odom was shipped out so ungraciously that the pain of his departure could only be surpassed by the fact that he went to the Mavericks. I remembered that Kobe isn’t getting any younger, that Bynum will always sport a question mark on his knee brace, and that Pau’s future with the Lakers itself is still in doubt. Whatever identity we used to have, it was long gone by now.

Next Page: Reason to Panic?

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