Although the Lakers are only four games into the regular season, there’s quite a few blaring flaws in the team that I feel are such minor issues, that combine to cause major issues to the team as a whole.
Hey Nick Young. You know that guy that’s around your size, plays your position, wears a suit, and who’s game you’ve modeled yours after? You’re not him, just saying, so stop throwing up shots like you are. Young may have stepped it up a little bit tonight, taking smarter shots and being more of a team player, but in the Lakers first three games his shot selection was as reckless as his hair. And it showed, as he shot 27% from the field in the first four games.
2. The Pau Factor
Pau Gasol was vocal in the off-season about how excited he was to return to his natural position and the opportunity to play with his back to the basket more often. In the Lakers first four games hes done anything but that, he’s been settling for outside jumpers and even three pointers. Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but as a center and the focal point of the interior offense, he’s got to work harder in the paint to improve his shooting percentage. (its currently at 40.3%)
3. Defense, Defense, DEFENSE!!!!
The Lakers team defense has been terrible, if one man loses his assignment there’s been absolutely no help, which usually results in a wide open layup or 3 pointer. One of the ways the Hawks got back into the game tonight was through easy 3 pointers by Kyle Korver and Cartier Martin, along with easy layups by Jeff Teague. The Lakers need drastically improve their transition D, as well as their communication and defense as a team.
4. Focusing on the task at hand.
As a lifelong Laker fan, I believe maintaining their focus for 48 minutes has been a major flaw of the Lakers, especially the last year or two. Rarely ever do the Lakers go up by 15-20 points early in the first half, and maintain that lead throughout an entire game. I understand the current Lakers roster isn’t the same as the teams of yesteryear, but the team still needs to do a better job of staying focused and maintaining a lead throughout the whole game.
5. Where in the world is Jordan Hill?
You’ll hear it from the fans, you’ll hear it from the commentators, hell, I wouldn’t even be surprised if his teammates are thinking it too. Where the hell is Jordan Hill!? It seems like hes frequently playing the majority of his minutes in the 4th quarter, but barely playing before that. With the energy he provides on the boards, especially offensively, its ridiculous that he’s only getting playing time late in the game. It seems every time he enters the game, he makes an immediate impact and the momentum shifts back to the Lakers. Get him on the court D’Antoni!!
6. Steve Nash’s Performance
Now I understand Steve Nash is getting old. With Jason Kidd’s retirement after last season, he’s the oldest player in the NBA. That being said, I can understand a limit of 20-25 minutes in games, but I expect effectiveness during that time. Including his vastly improved shooting performance tonight, Nash is shooting an abysmal 31% from the field, a far cry from his lifetime percentage of 49%. Today Nash showed flashes of his old self by hitting floaters in the lane, scoop layups off the dribble, and three pointers. If the Lakers have any hope of being relevant this year, especially without Kobe, Nash has to show more of the same from here on out.
Tanking is a fairly simple concept. It’s as easy as a bad team being, for a lack of a better word, worse than they are in order to obtain a higher draft pick in the following years draft. Its just one of those things that we all know happens from time to time, but is difficult to prove. Most recently, an interview with a GM who wished to remain anonymous revealed that he wants his team to lose this season. While we may be able to identify teams in the past that have we believe have tanked a season, this may be the first time a GM has admitted to it while in the process.
In the interview, the GM stated “Our team isn’t good enough to win and we know it. So this season we want to develop and evaluate our young players and let them learn from their mistakes, and put us in the best position to grab a great player. The best way for us to do that is to lose a lot of games. This draft is loaded. There are potential all-stars at the top, maybe even franchise changers.”
For any GM to publicly say this, anonymous or not, is a huge shock and puts a negative light on not only the team it may be, but the league as a whole. With statements like this publicly released, the NBA might even go as far to pursue the team this GM belongs to, and punish them on behalf of the players and fans of the team, a la the NCAA. If any sort of investigation was to take place, finding undeniable proof of a GM’s true intentions would be nearly impossible.
Needless to say we’re all curious to know which team the GM was speaking on behalf of, but at this time all we can do is speculate. Could it be the 76’ers? Philadelphia has spent the last few years stuck in the bottom of Eastern Conference playoff teams, unable to make the strides that teams such as the Bulls, Knicks, and most recently, the Pacers have been making in the past few years. After all, they are just coming off a season where they missed the playoffs badly partially due to Andrew Bynums inability to play all season. To follow that disappointment, they traded their best player for the player everyone was scared to draft, Nerlens Noels, who was coming off serious knee surgery. Suspicious? Yes, but the anonymous GM referenced the 76er’s in his statement, comparing his team to theirs.
There are other teams that draw suspicion, but have reasons to show they are still trying. The Celtics traded away their two of their best players in the offseason, but if Danny Ainge truly was playing for the draft he’d have traded Rajon Rondo also. The Bobcats have been known for being terrible while simultaneously having a high payroll, before they cut their payroll by trading Jason Richardson, Stephen Jackson, and Gerald Wallace a few years back. They have, however, made their first commitment to a top free agent in a while, signing Al Jefferson this offseason.
The way I see it, only one team remains. The Phoenix Suns. We could trace their strategy back to last season, when they traded Steve Nash to the Lakers in a trade that was as head scratching as it was understandable as far as allowing Nash a chance to win in his final years. They earned a pass there, but continued to make questionable moves. Their newest set of moves this off season included trading Luis Scola for Gerald Green and a first round pick, along with an even more questionable deal, trading center Marcin Gortat to the Wizards for Emeka Okafor(who is injured and may be unable to play this season) in a 5 player deal. Despite trading a package of players for highly coveted Clippers backup Eric Bledsoe, Bledsoe is still a very young player with no history of running a team, let alone being the best player on a team which he very well may be with the Suns. Almost everything the Suns have done would coincide with the comments of the anonymous GM, and with 4 first rounders in next years draft, they may have a shot at being relevant this year. For this year however, it appears they’ve given up on the season before it has even began.
In case you haven’t heard yet, the internet exploded today after ESPN ranked Kobe Bryant as the 25th best player overall in the NBA. Unlike most people who heard about this, I’m here to pick a bone with all the people calling it blasphemous, ridiculous, and demanding an explanation. I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure any player coming off an injury that is possibly a career ender for certain human beings is going to have at least a LITTLE bit of a performance decrease. And this is coming from a lifelong Kobe and Laker fan. It may be hard for some of my fellow Laker fans to face the truth, but as tough as the Mamba is, we cannot discount the possibility that Kobe won’t be the same player after this injury. Obviously theres still the opposite side of the spectrum, where Kobe destroys the leagues expectations of him like he did last year at age 34, and continues to be the Kobe we know. We just have to keep our early expectations realistic…