Okay, now that we’ve aired out all of the negatives, let’s talk about some positive stuff and see what the Lakers need to do to moving forward.
Positives – Well the biggest positives from Monday night were the Lakers’ big men. For most of the game they did their jobs and dominated the paint. Bynum and Gasol combined for 31 rebounds, 14 of which were offensive, allowing the Lakers to out rebound the 76ers 55-30, and 21-8 on the offensive glass. This had been a problem for the Lakers, as they were giving up too many offensive rebounds and not dominating the defensive glass the way they should.
The two only had five assists between them, but they connected on several exciting and effective plays, either resulting in dunks or trips to the foul line. They seem to have developed the type of chemistry that Mike Brown had envisioned before the start of the season. In the past we have seen Gasol look for Bynum and throw fancy passes his way, but now we are beginning to see Bynum attempt to make those plays.
Bynum’s post passing has improved significantly, and he appears intent on returning the favor and dishing assists to his front court mate. He is even attempting some flashy passes himself. He just needs to work on passing to cutters and teammates outside of the key.
Bynum’s overall post presence was also a huge positive for the Lakers last night. He was altering shots, blocking shots, crashing the offensive glass, and making up for teammates’ missed shots with second chance points for much of the second half. He has proven he can be a big factor at the end of games on both ends of the floor, but he must be more assertive offensively by getting in position and demanding the ball down low.
Another positive for the Lakers has been Andrew Goudelock, who continues to be aggressive and shoot efficiently for the Lakers. The rest of the bench remains inconsistent, but the “Mini Mamba” is proving he can be a constant for the Lakers. His most successful move is driving into the heart of the defense, and flipping up a running floater over the opposing team’s bigs. He is still a rookie, and can’t be truly relied upon in big moment situations, but he is definitely a bright spot for the Lakers right now.
Goudelock doesn’t appear to be a consistent playmaker, and doesn’t seem quick enough to even get past his defender most of the time, but he can create some offense for himself. Hopefully Steve Blake will be back soon so there will be less pressure on Goudelock to stop those lightning-quick guards.
What needs to be done – Not speaking in terms of personnel, the Lakers must continue to work hard and hustle on the road. They have three more games on the road before they come home, and must develop some kind of identity. Given the fact that they have had limited practices and are still learning the offensive and defensive systems on the fly, the Lakers aren’t doing that bad. That is likely why in late game situations we see Kobe Bryant dominating the ball so much.
However, the coaching staff and the players must address the execution and figure something out. It appears to be a combination of unfamiliarity with the offense and defense as well as bouts of mental lapses that end up hurting the Lakers in the end.
If they can stick to their original game plan and not rely on Kobe too much, they should be okay. Conversely, Kobe must either try not to force things too much, or if his teammates are not stepping up, must demand that they do. Overall, they need to develop some sort of chemistry and trust each other.
When Kobe is on point and hitting his shots the Lakers are usually in good shape. Just like in the first half, when his shots were falling the Lakers had the lead. However, in the second half, we all saw what happened. For the game he hoisted 26 shots compared to Bynum and Gasol’s combined 27. It’s hard to criticize a man who has accomplished practically everything in his career, but sometimes one must learn to defer to his teammates more.
We have seen Bryant play brilliantly in the past, but he seems more intent on creating offense for his team by himself. Part of this is the learning curve associated with the new offense, but he must also realize that his two big men have figured out their own offensive system and chemistry. We still want the “Black Mamba” to do his thing at the end of games, but we all know he’s much better when he has a capable player at his disposal for a 1-2 punch. With Gasol and Bynum available, he can give help deliver a 1-2-3 combination and knock teams out.
Bryant has not gotten where he is without studying the game extensively and making adjustments. If there is one thing he knows how to do, it is figuring out ways to win. There is little doubt he will make the correct adjustments and help his team win going forward.
Additionally, the role players must be aggressive, look to make the right play when they are in the game and not just watch the “Big Three” go to work. It’s definitely a process at this point in the season, but there is a lot of room for improvement.
The Lakers are half way through an east coast road trip and the next three games will tell them, as well as us, what kind of team they really are. It will tell us their identity.