Author: Yaseen Manan | Twitter: @Seenamatic
Topic: The Penta-Cursed Lakers
When this team was put together, no one thought that the Lakers would be fighting for just the 8th seed. Kobe would see single coverage and blow his defenders out of the water. Nash was going to salivate at playing pick-and-roll basketball with Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. The weakest link was going to be Mike Brown and Metta World Peace. Too much talent to not get to the finals, at least.
“Big Three” in Miami? Let’s talk “Big Four” in L.A.!
Oh what a season it has been. Instead of rejoicing over the Lakers, we are praying they capture the 8th seed, which should be simple enough if the team hadn’t lost to a depleted Hawks team, Wizards, Suns and the Bucks in the last two weeks! Additionally in this nightmare season, each of the Lakers’ pieces have taken turns being a curse.
Let’s start with the top dog Kobe Bryant. You can’t be a Laker fan and not be a Kobe Bryant fan (it just doesn’t exists folks). Kobe has been spectacular this season, and is having one of his best offensive seasons individually. But Kobe has been a liability on defense. Liability is putting it nice as his inconsistency usually cost the Lakers an easy three points. He doesn’t help in the lane, leaves his man wide open (Oh you didn’t see Ariza hit seven threes or Klay Thompson the next game hit six?) and his patented one-man zone in no man’s land is seen more often. He also complains to referees about calls constantly rather than getting back in transition for floor balance.
Adding to his defense, he went from gunslinging to Kobe-Johnson and now back to gunslinging on the offensive end. The sad thing is that Kobe should know better; he has five championships and they all came with him playing defense.
Moving on from Kobe Bryant to the Spaniard. I really do feel sorry for Pau. He was nearly traded last year and then supplanted so Bynum could be the second option. But I can’t understand why he would whine about coming offthe bench. Manu Ginobli comes off the bench and let’s face it, Pau has been a liability and atrocious this season. As skilled as he is, he’s settled for the long jumper on too many nights. His conditioning clearly needs work as he’s usually the last Laker to make it down the court and back.
Defensively, he cannot guard the pick-and-roll, and is easily beat by his man in isolations. Pau wants his touches and to be featured, but refuses to come off the bench. Dear Pau, if you want to make an impact, then come off the bench. There is just too many mouths to feed in the starting lineup.
And now we get to Steve Nash, the first domino to fall in the summer. I really love Nash as I believe he’s made the most sacrifice out of all the players to make it work. He’s always been atrocious defensively, but he is fine guarding guys off the ball and chasing them through screens. He has blended in nicely as a secondary perimeter threat in the Kobe offense. But there is no magic in his game. Kobe is a great closer, but he is not a point guard who can control the offense for 48 minutes. This is where Nash needs to step in and dictate the flow of the offense. The high pick-and-roll with Dwight Howard should be a staple of the Lakers’ offense but we barely see it.
The biggest domino to fall in the summer was Dwight Howard. I’d rather have Howard then Bynum only because Bynum hasn’t played a single game yet. Dwight’s attitude and pouting really cost the team. He came back from his injury too early and should have taken time off. While I agree with him and his lack of touches, handling it like a child wasn’t the answer. His impact defensively is seen when he wants to but he lets his offense dictate what happens too often. Howard needs to get more touches in pick-and-roll situations and duck-ins, but never in isolation post-ups. His running left handing hook is atrocious to see.
Is it possible a coach could sabotage the career of the best center and the most skilled big man in the game? I could write a thesis on all the things Mike D’antoni has done wrong but it troubles me that he has not gotten on the same page with his two prized seven-footers. The team relies too much on Kobe offensively and is less organized than a high school team defensively.
D’antoni is an underrated coach because he did revolutionize the game with his stretch-four concept. Miami won a ring with Lebron at the four, OKC is better with Durant at the four and Ibaka at the five and the Knicks run his system with Carmelo at the four spot. What happened then? All these coaches adapted his system to suit their personnel, while D’antoni is too stubborn to change.
Everybody knows how the Lakers should be running. Nash needs to run multiple pick-and-rolls with Dwight Howard. Pau Gasol needs to come of the bench. Nash and Dwight should be paired with the bench unit and Kobe and Gasol with the other bench unit. Clark should play with Gasol to offset his quickness and provide a good cutter for Pau’s passing. Jamison works wonderful as a stretch with Nash and Dwight, while Dwight is able to cover up for them defensively.
The Lakers need to take away the three-point option if they want to funnel guards into Dwight. You cannot give up points at the rim and not defend the three-point line at the same time. Make it a slow, grind-out game, and allow your superstars to close out offensively for you.
It’s seems so easy to figure out, just makes you wonder why these guys haven’t yet?
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