Team management has put a black shroud over the last two championship trophies in hope that no one has noticed the unattractive decline of the Lakers from the dispiriting loss to the Mavs in the playoffs last year to Jeanie Buss seemingly distancing herself from the way her brother has managed the team.
On a dark cold March night, the Lakers limped into Minnesota with their tails between their legs smarting from two straight losses to the Pistons, a .333 team, and the Wizards, a .237 team, the second- and fourth-worst teams in the league. These losses, when contrasted to Sunday’s big win against the Heat, are even more disheartening.
Although the weatherman predicts sunny skies for the city today, it is unlikely that the day will seem sunny to the Lakers or their coaches after these pathetic losses.
Sadly, the only meaningful comment from Brown about the loss in Washington was that he did not like the shot selection. It appears that Mike Brown is unwilling to accept responsibility for his contribution to those losses.
Bad offense means bad shots. Poor lineups mean poor shooters. An all-out commitment to defense means a lack of commitment to offense. No offensive plays mean no ball movement. Poorly distributed minutes mean poor bench play. Poorly defined roles mean players with poor attitudes.
And on and on goes the litany of Lakers weaknesses far too deep into a truncated season for fans to accept without assigning blame.
The Lakers are last in three-point shooting as the only team shooting .300 or less depending on the day you look at the stats. Only one Laker is listed in the NBA’s top 100, Steve Blake at 94th. Former Laker guard, Jordan Farmar, is fourth on the list shooting .466 for the Nets while four other former Lakers are listed above Blake.
The Lakers are 14th in the league in turnovers per game at 14.6. Kobe is fourth in the league in turnovers, averaging 3.8, behind only three point guards who handle the ball more frequently.
Andrew Bynum, who rarely gets the ball, is 38th on the list, averaging 2.8 turnovers a game, third among centers behind Dwight Howard and DeMarcus Cousins.
The Lakers are next to last in the league in fast-break points and are 25th in defending against fast breaks.
These statistics are clear indicators of the failures of the Lakers’ offense.
The team can’t score, bricking long three-point shots that lead to breakaway baskets for the opposition. If the team three-point percentage were to increase, there would be fewer fast-break points, resulting in at least five more wins this season.
The constant turnovers also lead to opposition fast-break points, sometimes as many as four in a row fueling opposition runs, as happened in both Detroit and Washington, where the Lakers blew double-digit leads.
While Brown attributes turnovers to poor passing, fans attribute it to Brown’s poor offense. Opposing teams can see the Lakers offensive weaknesses and are defending the passing lanes, knowing exactly where the ball will be going.
Neither Kobe nor Bynum, team leaders in turnovers, has been able to find other players when they have been double- and triple-teamed.
No player movement and a lack of plays are generally considered the cause, along with a lineup where only Barnes and McRoberts drive and cut to the basket.
Just how bad is it? The Lakers opened up against the Timberwolves with six turnovers in the first four minutes and ten seconds. Fisher had two, Kobe one, Pau one and Metta the other. I don’t recall that ever happening to a Phil Jackson team on which these five players were two-year starters.
An NBA axiom is that it is easier guarding a statue at the three-point line than a player moving off picks and driving to the basket. That holds true for Kobe who would also benefit from running his man off baseline screens. Assuming Kobe did, who is capable of passing the ball to him besides Gasol?
The mix-match of bastardized lineups only fuels inconsistency on offense and leads to poor shots and easy baskets at the other end for opponents. Sadly, this has occurred more often in the fourth quarter, when games are decided, than at other times.
It also shows evidence of the Lakers' problems at the point guard, where neither Fisher nor Blake are finishers. In fact, Blake went only 1 for the entire road trip.
It is especially noticeable when fans see Andrew Goudelock throw up his little floater in the lane so effectively. I don’t recall a time in Fisher’s career when he was effective in the lane as either a shooter or passer.
Fisher’s season can be summed up by the Lakers’ first two possessions against the Timberwolves Friday night.
On the first possession, the Lakers ran a pick-and-roll and Fisher was given a clear path to the basket and passed the ball out of bounds. On the Lakers second possession, Fisher drove to the basket and turned the ball over again.
The Lakers scored only six points in the first six minutes of the game, leading to a 12-point deficit at the end of the quarter. For the half, Kobe shot a miserable 4-for-13 and the Lakers turned the ball over 11 times, giving up 58 points to a Timberwolves team playing without Kevin Love and J.J. Barea.
Lakers announcer Mike Trudell reported at the start of the third quarter that the coaches felt the team came out flat to begin the game.
How can a team like the Lakers come out flat after two atrocious losses on the road without pointing the finger at the coaching staff? Either they have done a poor job coaching or they have lost the team.
Led by Bynum’s 26th double-double of the year, the Lakers won despite their turnovers and poor three-point shooting.
Gasol got caught grousing to Spanish television after an earlier loss that Kobe was not passing the ball enough and that other players were selfish.
At the All-Star break, Kobe complained that the coaching staff needed to "make our jobs a little easier," according to the Los Angeles Times. That was never more evident than this recent road trip, where only Bynum seemed to get easy baskets.
Kobe expressed the views of many Lakers fans when he noted that there needed to be more movement "so I don’t have to work against two guys all the time." He openly made comparisons to the Thunder’s offense, which provides Durant with so many uncontested opportunities.
The question many Lakers fans continue to ask is how many practices and how many games will it take to install Mike Brown’s phantom offense?
But even more Lakers fans ask how many come-from-behind victories by sub-.500 teams will it take for Mike Brown to be fired. Despite winning in Minneapolis, the Lakers were behind from 4-4 until they caught the Timberwolves in the fourth quarter.
Lakers management has historically been patient about everything except losses. The question becomes how long will it take for Jim Buss to admit his mistake in hiring Brown and consider his alternatives.
Likely, it will not be until the Lakers get swept in the playoffs again and the Lakers experience the loss of income attached to going out of the playoffs early.