Playing the Blame Game with Lakers' Early-Season Woes
The Los Angeles Lakers are not where they were hoping to be right now. After six preseason games and two regular season games, the team has yet to win a single game.
Granted, this team is newly assembled. Two of its most important players are freshly acquired. It is introducing a new offense that virtually none of the players have any experience with. Also, it's hardly had any time with its different stars all healthy.
So it's easy to conclude that it's a rush to judgment to throw around the blame. After all, the Miami Heat struggled when their "Big Three" of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were first assembled too.
There are a couple of distinctions, though. First, Miami didn't start off this bad. It won three games in the preseason. It didn't lose all of them. No team has ever gone winless in the preseason and made it to the finals, according to SportsCenter.
It split its first two games; it didn't drop both of them. The game it lost was against the then-defending Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics. The last team to drop their first two games and win the title was the 1990-91 Bulls, again according to SportsCenter.
In short, in the effort to avoid blame, there might be some falling to eagerly into excuses. Not all the issues are just an issue of not having played together. There is blame to be had, and each of these men should shoulder their share.
Steve Nash has never been known for his defense. Check that. He has been known for it, but in a bad way. After all, this is the only NBA player to have been Bieberized, i.e. humiliated by getting crossed over by Justin Bieber.
Darren Collison and rookie Damien Lillard combined to score 40 points against the Lakers in their first two games, and that's with Dwight Howard backing him up.
No one expects Nash to shut down opposing point guards, but he could try do something more than just watching them run by.
On offense, one wishes he would just ignore Mike Brown and run the offense right.
All in all, he shoulders a tiny amount of the blame, but not much. He's doing what he's asked and not doing what he wasn't asked. Still, it would be nice to see him be more aggressive on defense and try and have a voice in terms of what kind of offense they should be running.
Dwight Howard gets a bit of blame too, but again, he doesn't deserve the bulk of it. The Lakers have drawn a lot of attention for their offensive struggles, but their defense has been just as dreadful, and part of that has to fall on the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
During the Lakers' first game ,Howard was lethargic on defense, occasionally throwing a defensive arm up to pretend to alter a shot. He was nothing like the monster that scared folks away from the lane in Orlando. Fortunately, the monster did show up on Halloween.
Howard also was horrid from the line in the first game, hitting on three of 14 in a game they lost by eight points. Literally, the difference in the game was Howard's missed three throws, and he didn't even have to be perfect.
A more interested Howard could have been the difference in the opener, but Howard made up for it in the second game. He played great defense. He scored 33 while grabbing 14 boards. He even hit 15 of 19 from the stripe.
He wasn't to blame for the second loss, but he deserves his share for the first.
If you're looking at the box scores you could be asking, "What on earth is wrong with Kobe?", and in the game, you have a fair question.
Bryant has averaged 26 points and shot .613 from the field through the first two games. That's efficient. Even LeBron James would call that efficient.
So why blame him?
Because the Princeton offense was his idea. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports,
Kobe Bryant has been searching for spacing and freedom and flow on offense, for a way to counter defenses bent on sagging and suffocating him on the floor. Even before the Los Angeles Lakers delivered him point guard Steve Nash, Bryant had raised an idea with coach Mike Brown about the possibility of employing a distant cousin to the triangle – the Princeton offense.
The operative word here is before as in before they got Steve Nash and certainly before they got Dwight Howard. Maybe this was a good idea when they didn't have the greatest pick-and-role combination in the whole, entire world but now they do!!!
So why are they still running it? Has Kobe given Brown permission to not run it, or is he trying to prove how smart he is by coming up with this turd of a brain child?
Yes, Mitch Kupchak did a great, great, great job of getting a starting lineup that includes a starting five where every single member has either won Defensive Player of the Year or MVP award. The starting five, should it gel together, has the potential to be one of the best ever.
The bench, though, is terrible. Not just terrible, though. Turrrible, in the most Charles Barkley sense of the word.
This bench is so bad it's a chair, nay a stool.
Granted, there's only so much one defense can do, but it seems that even in the D-League, it was the worst scoring bench in the league, according to hoopsstats.com, and this year, it might be even worse.
It's so bad that Antawn Jamison, the league's eighth-most inefficient shooter with at least 500 field-goal attempts last year, is the big-time offseason acquisition.
Overall, the starters are actually a collective plus-four through two games.
The bench bears a huge part of the reason for the loss, but the bench is on Kupchak.
I took a "How to Study Class" in college. The teacher said something interesting. If a student fails, it's their fault. If the whole class fails, it's the teacher's fault.
Well, the entire Lakers team is failing. Who bears the most blame for that? It has to be the teacher, or the coach so to speak.
The reason that you can't just dismiss the 0-2 start as knee-jerk is because the entire premise of the offense is wrong. The Princeton is designed for less athletic teams to overcome more athletic teams.
The Princeton slows the game down when the Lakers, with their starting five and Steve Nash, should be pushing the pace.
Say I'm beating myself in the head with a hammer and you ask me why I'm doing it. I tell you it's to make my headache go away. So you tell me to stop; that it's not going to work. Then I tell you "don't panic! Just because it hasn't worked yet doesn't mean it's not going to." Then I started to beat my head even harder.
That's about what the Lakers are doing right now. They are doing the exact thing, which is causing their pain and determining that they are just doing it hard enough yet. Beating themselves in the head harder with the hammer isn't going to make the headache go away.
In my best Ronald Reagan voice, "Mike Brown, put down that hammer."
It's time to get rid of his silly offense. Get permission from Bryant if you have to. This isn't working. It's never going to work because the premise is flawed.