I’ve been trying to think how to explain to my non-basketball-obsessed friends and family why Laker Nation is freaking out right now. 1-4 and at the bottom of the Western Conference is not how Laker Nation, never mind the organization, likes to think about themselves. No one ever imagined this kind of start after the summer the Lakers had.
The problems are apparent to everyone paying attention. In no particular order: turnovers, poor three-point shooting, injuries, installing a new offense, getting chemistry issues worked out, turnovers, poor defensive effort, lack of production from the bench and also? Turnovers. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
The big minutes the starters are logging don’t help either and could really be trouble down the road.
But let’s not look too far ahead. Maybe that’s part of the problem. It’s a journey to win a title. You don’t get to automatically skip ahead to June.
When I watch the Lakers play this season, it’s like they’ve absorbed the workmanlike Mike Brown persona and lost the Lakeshow swagger.
When I watch them on offense, I see hesitancy. I know it’s a new system, but the Princeton offense isn’t that fundamentally different from the triangle the Lakers have run all these years. Recall, if you will, that Kobe Bryant was enthusiastic at the beginning of the summer about running the Princeton.
When I studied it a little further, it made sense. The two offenses are related. The Princeton starts with a basic few sets and then players read the defense and react based on what they see. Not so different from the triangle, and if you don’t believe me, here’s Kobe explaining it.
I always thought the move to the Princeton was a fig leaf, a face-saving way of saying Brown’s traditional offense was too slow and plodding—why not try this new system?
And then in practical on-the-court execution, players can basically just run a hybrid of the two. Whatever works in the moment and against the particular opponent they are playing. It’s smart because the assembled basketball IQ of the starters is staggering. To handcuff that is not smart.
I realize that the new players are getting acclimated to their roles. But there still doesn’t seem to be any flow. It’s hard to see progress.
And then Brown is constantly harping about the defensive failures. He’s not wrong, but when anyone scolds you over and over again, sometimes people tune out. This is not a group of 20-year-old rookies. Sometimes it is better not to micromanage elite players.
So now what?
I have this crazy theory that the Lakers need to quit focusing on defense (not quit playing defense) and start loosening up on offense. Instead of focusing so much on what they are doing, adopt the mindset of playground hoops: No way do those dudes from the other side of town come onto this court and beat us.
Lighten up on having to play the new offense perfectly. Get chippy and aggressive in defense of your home floor. Go hard and put points on the board.
If that seems like it is ignoring the defense, it’s not. A huge part of defense comes down to effort and hustle. Putting up points makes you want to protect those points.
Right now, the Lakers are slogging through. Mike Brown needs to loosen the reins and just let these guys take over. They’ll figure it out. His whole pregame speech next time should be: Fellas? Play your game. Keep the ball moving and hit the boards. Communicate. Freelance as needed.
In that sense, a six-game homestand couldn’t have come at a better time. The Lakers locker room mantra for the next six games should be, not in our house. Then just go out and ball. Quit overthinking it.
It’s not like these guys have magically forgotten how to play basketball; it’s just they’ve forgotten how to play Lakers basketball.
The talent is there. The players need to play and the coaching staff needs to facilitate and then get out of the way. That’s the only way to eradicate the frustration, reverse this poor starting streak and start building momentum.
The Laker players need to make it personal now. Forget the media and fan angst.
Protect. The. House. That’s how you get your swagger back.