Diagnosing What Ails the Lakers
There was much pundit mockery made of L.A.'s "Princeton Offense," and the NBA on TNT crew took much delight in lampooning the Ivy League innovation. People are obsessed with decrying the spacing in the Laker offense, and they have higher expectations than what it has yielded so far.
Fair enough, but if you're ripping the offense, you're missing the point. The Nash-less Lakers (he went out early in the game with a shin injury) managed to hit half their shots and reaped a healthy 32 free throws, of which they made 81.3 percent. The Princeton was at its scholarly best at the Rose Garden Wednesday night.
So what are the issues? Why is Mike Brown perpetually squinting with his mouth open?
The Defense is Terrible
The Lakers ceded 47 percent shooting to a Mavericks team that was without Dirk Nowitzki. In Portland, against a rookie point guard, the Lakers gave up 50.6 percent shooting. It's been a collective, chaotic failure, and I barely fault Mike Brown.
They got Dwight's services late into training camp, and the roster as a whole is slow and old. Metta World Peace is playing some capable D, but most everyone else is absent.
Dwight Howard is not Dwight Howard
This guy was supposed to fix a defensively mediocre team. The Lakers were tied for 14th in defensive efficiency last season, and badly needed a player to come in and compensate for some of the older, slower guys.
Unfortunately, Dwight Howard looks a step slow, despite the offensive production. As an aside, it's amazing that Dwight can slap up 33 points and 14 rebounds while physically compromised; he doesn't have quite the bounce and force that we became accustomed to in Orlando, especially on the defensive end.
On one particular play, Nic Batum got all the way from the three-point line to a slam dunk—right in Dwight's face. You just did not see many opponents crushing on Howard out of half-court sets in Orlando. As he returns to full strength, opponents will take full advantage.
Antawn Jamison is a Problem
He's the Sixth Man of the...other team. Whenever 'Tawn is on your defense, it's a bit like you're going against an extra offensive player (Bad joke: Explained).
Plus-minus is a flawed stat that seems to always nail Antawn Jamison. In Portland, it had him at minus-21 in merely 13 minutes of work. I know the Laker bench is incredibly weak, but I would suggest not Jamison off it. Defense matters, as the Lakers are demonstrating. While playing Antawn at SF mitigates some of his disastrous pick-and-roll work, I'm not sure it's worth it to have him out there.
Mike Brown has some serious challenges ahead. Defense is heavily dependent on coaching and scheme, and L.A. initially looks to be a long ways from being cohesive. Howard could return to health at any moment, and save Brown's job, but it's a precarious position for the coach to be in.
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