The Lakers and their fans have endured sixteen games of the Mike D’Antoni experiment. The below average results have provided far more uncertainty than success. L.A.’s star-studded roster, built to win 16-playoff games, looks like a talented group of players that can make it to the playoffs, but experience an early exit.
Basketball fans worldwide are coming to grips with the fact that despite having one of his best years statistically the end of Kobe Bryant’s career is near and the window for him adding another championship to his trophy case is slowly closing.
Since the Lakers front office settled for Mike D’Antoni as their Head Coach the purple and gold have posted a 7-9 record since D’Antoni took over. Consequently, D’Antoni was 5-11 in his first 16 games with the Denver Nuggets, 4-12 with Phoenix Suns and 8-8 with the New York Knicks. The Lakers are currently riding a three game winning streak, but the first 16 best described in three parts.
Kobe Bryant is leading the league in scoring averaging 29.5 points per game. Bryant has scored 30-points in seven consecutive games which equals his longest such streak since the last nine games of the 2005-2006 campaign. Bryant has amassed 236 points during his current streak. The Lakers seem to have a better understanding of Mike D’Antoni’s system, the ball movement, effort and energy have increased.
The Lakers are the second best rebounding team in the NBA averaging 46 total rebounds, sixth in the league in offensive boards (13) and fifth in the NBA in defensive boards (33). The purple and gold are the sixth ranked scoring team in the NBA averaging 102 points per game. The Lakers ranked seventh in the NBA in three-point shooting averaging 37-percent from behind the arc.
The purple and gold rank eight in the league in field goal percentage shooting 45-percent from the field. By virtue of providing playing time to Chris Duhon, Jodie Meeks, Darius Morris, Devin Ebanks and Robert Sacre when the reserves take the fall they are playing with more confidence and producing more.
The Lakers are 3-2 against the Eastern Conference and 8-6 at home. The return of their starting power forward Pau Gasol. The Lakers have missed his size, unselfishness, rebounding and playmaking. Mike D’Antoni has tinkered with the rotation several times and has settled on one for the immediate future.
The projected rotation would consist of starters Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. The subs: Chris Duhon, Darius Morris and Metta World Peace.
The injuries to Steve Nash (Non-displaced fracture, left leg), Pau Gasol (Tendinitis in both knees), Steve Blake (Abdominal Surgery), Kobe Bryant (Back Spasms) and Jordan Hill (Back Spasms) have debilitated this team.
Neither of the Lakers two head coaches this season has had the projected starting five on the floor for more than two games. The new projected rotation puts Jordan Hill, Antawn, Jamison and Devin Ebanks on the outside looking in as far as playing time. Pau Gasol does not have a defined role. Howard and Gasol need more than 10 shots a piece.
Having your best defender Metta World Peace coming off the bench is peculiar, but playing him as Gasol’s back up at Power Forward is also interesting.
The Lakers free throw shooting has been atrocious, ranked 29th in the NBA at 69-percent. The Lakers are turning the ball over at an alarming rate, currently ranked 29th in the league averaging 16 turnovers a game. Said turnovers has resulted in Lakers opponents getting out in transition. The Lakers defense has been terrible.
The Lakers are not sprinting back in transition defense and have given up way too many easy baskets. At times the help defense, pick and roll and perimeter defense are non-existent and in need of immediate improvement. The Lakers are not on the same page defensively best described at times as the left hand having no idea what the right hand is doing.
Steps to solve the problems:
1. Steve Nash’s return. Nash can not solve the Lakers defensive problems, but having him back running the show will increase the efficiency of the offense and limit the turnovers. A decrease in Lakers turnovers will lower the amount of points opponents have scored off of them.
2. Team Defense. Coach D’Antoni and staff need to spend 75-percent of practice time on defense. The Lakers need to get back in transition; come up with a definitive game-plan for how they are going to defend the pick and roll play, stop dribble penetration, rotate out to open shooters and trust their teammates to move their feet, stay in front of their men and play defense without fouling.
3. Coach D’Antoni has to alter his four guys spread the floor with one interior guy guard-oriented offense to include Pau Gasol.
4. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol need to attempt more than 10 shots apiece. Howard and Gasol need more opportunities to score in the post.
5. Coach D’Antoni needs to find minutes for Antawn Jamison, Jordan Hill and Devin Ebanks.
The Lakers are riding a three-game winning streak after beating the Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Bobcats proving that they can beat the bottom-feeders of the league. The level of competition increases when the Lakers embark on a seven-game stretch that includes the Warriors, Knicks, Trailblazers, Nuggets (twice) and a date with the Los Angeles Clippers winners of 11 straight …and counting.
Jeff Little is the host of “The Locker Room” a daily sports talk radio show 6-8 pst www.sportsjourney.com Like the content? You can subscribe here, comment or Follow on twitter @JeffLittle32, Facebook or PinInterest.