Lakers With No One To Blame But Themselves For Early Struggles
While attempting to find a clever or different way to sum up the Lakers’ performance at home vs. the Pacers, I couldn’t come up with anything less generic than ugly. That’s about the only way to describe a game that featured 20 missed free throws and another 19 turnovers. In case you were wondering, the Lakers are currently dead last (30th) in the league in terms of total turnovers committed. I know many folks are looking to place responsibility in one general direction, but the team would openly acknowledge there being plenty of blame to go around. Every issue we thought they were in the process of correcting once they played Dallas seemed to find a way back to being a major concern.
Rather than sticking to the free-flowing ball movement and high intensity/effort that permitted them to rest their starters for a majority of the 4th quarter vs. Dallas, the Lakers reverted to playing a majority of isolation sets. There may not be an “official” number that would denote proper ball movement, but with all the weapons on this roster, there should be no reason this team should ever fall beneath 20 assists per night. For the record, the Lakers had 13 assists vs the Pacers. Again, there’s no guarantee the Lakers win with 20 (or more) assists, but they are 7-2 on the year when they accomplish this feat.
Of course, stuff like this didn’t help…
That said, neither the questionable calls (and there were several) nor even the fact that Indiana played some stifling defense can be blamed for Tuesday night’s loss.
I promised myself not to pull punches while analyzing this season, so (full disclosure) I’m going to have to say a few things that may not be popular amongst Lakers Nation. Pau Gasol is simply going to have to play better. System or not, Gasol’s effort/energy and level of assertiveness often determine his productivity. I’ve been the captain of the “keep Pau and play him properly” brigade, but you can’t completely ignore the signs and what Coach D’Antoni has repeatedly said about the “parts” needing to fit his system.
The bench is going to have to provide some consistency. Of course, shooting comes and goes, but the level of energy and aggression should always remain the same. Far too often, players were left deferring to Kobe Bryant on offense. Believe me, I’m thankful when Bryant has the hot (and willing) hand, but it is simply too much to expect Bryant to bail the team out so routinely. On the flip side, for the Lakers to ever reach the heights/goals they aspire to attain, Bryant will have to feel comfortable trusting his teammates to come through…even in the midst of a terrible (team) shooting performance (31.6 percent FG). While we can make every excuse we’d like, the fact remains you have to be able to find a way to win the games you’re supposed to win. Whether Nash is available or not, the Lakers have enough talent on the roster to compete with most teams.
If we’re all being honest with each other, Dwight Howard is going to have to make his free throws. I
lived through endured the Shaquille O’Neal free throw shooting years in Los Angeles, so I remember quite well how frustrating certain nights can get. That said, if Howard were to have even hit 50 percent of his foul shots Tuesday night, the Lakers would have probably squeaked out a victory. I know Howard would prefer not to be compared to O’Neal (which I can respect), but I would prefer if he would at least “make ‘em when they count”…just like O’Neal. All kidding aside, Howard must be able to at least split his shots down the stretch so that he can remain a viable offensive weapon during close games. I can assure you, I’m far from nitpicking. Howard has been working through his conditioning, but this is a career-long concern that seems to be heading in the wrong direction rather than improving. It will certainly be something worth monitoring throughout the season, as Howard has plenty of time to settle himself down between now and April.
Since I can already hear some of the murmurings from the back of the room (and on Twitter), let’s end the discussion about replacing Mike D’Antoni here and now. Not only would that all but write off any chance of salvaging what has already been a frustrating season, but it simply isn’t a decision the Buss family will come to. When the decision was made to go with D’Antoni over Phil Jackson, that told us all we needed to know. Lakers’ management wants to see an uptempo style of play that isn’t likely to be seen until Steve Nash returns from injury. In the interim, these Lakers are simply going to have to pick up the slack by maintaining a maximum effort. In a game where so much is unpredictable, that’s the one thing they can control.