Currently sitting at 17-24, yet only four games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers still have a chance to turn their dreadful season around. A team that was supposed to compete for the NBA title with their star-studded offseason acquisitions is now struggling to stay competitive in a weaker Western Conference.
All hope is not lost for Los Angeles though.
They still deploy one of the most talented starting fives in the league and are capable of righting the ship at any time.
In a stretch that has seen them lose nine out of their past 11 games, the Lakers are reeling and need to make some changes if they hope to avoid losing a fourth straight game.
Put Pau Back in the Starting Lineup
If your team is playing well in the absence of one of your starters (the Knicks with Amar'e), then I understand if you bring that player off the bench not to ruin chemistry.
But if your team is in the midst of a terrible losing streak, then you don't substitute Earl Clark for your four-time All-Star.
Yes, Pau has struggled while being on the floor with Dwight Howard, but they really haven't had much time to work with one another. Dwight was still recovering from back surgery this offseason, so they didn't have any practice time to work with one another prior to the season. Even during the season, one or the other has been hurt for the majority of the year, so they are unfamiliar with each other's style of play.
When Pau is in the game, he must also be on the low block rather than standing on the perimeter. For most of the year he has looked like a spot-up shooter, and that's unacceptable for a seven-footer. Los Angeles should look no further than their opponent tonight, Memphis, to see how to use two big men in unison.
Which brings me to my next point...
Mike D'Antoni Must Change His Strategy
For some reason D'Antoni believes that this Lakers team is similar to his Phoenix teams of old. Steve Nash is half a decade older, the Lakers are old and slow and he has no bench (Pau is not a bench player). This depth chart is scary. A second unit of Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Devin Ebanks, Earl Clark and Robert Sacre is striking fear into the hearts of nobody.
D'Antoni was dealt a bad hand with this shallow roster, but he has failed to adjust to it.
The Lakers cannot run up and down the court with teams the way Phoenix used to and are going to have to play a half-court oriented style of play if they want to beat teams.
The half-court offense is a lost art in the NBA today, as teams have moved towards a more up-and-down style of game play (in big part thanks to D'Antoni). D'Antoni is going to have to move back to a grind-it-out style, something he is not used to, if he wants to turn this around.
If they are able to slow the game down, they must also...
Remember when Dwight Howard was the most intimidating defender in the game?
I don't know if back surgery has caused him to lose some lift, or if he is still recovering, but Dwight hasn't been his usual self on defense.
Dwight was supposed to be the perfect complement to Steve Nash, one of the worst defenders in the league, by protecting the rim when opposing ball-handlers inevitably got past Nash. It's not all Dwight's fault, though. The main reason his defense has looked so poor is because everyone around him has been such a bad defender.
Allowing opponents to score 101.4 points per game, 26th in the league, the Lakers have struggled to slow anyone down this year. Yes, they are getting old and have trouble staying in front of younger, more athletic opponents, but defense is about effort, not age.
The Lakers' effort has been horrendous this year. They don't get back on defense, drift away from their men when they do get back, don't rotate over to help and commit just about any other defensive miscue you can think of.
If they can just improve their effort on the defensive side of the ball, they'll have a chance to get back in the postseason conversation.
There's no denying they've disappointed this year, but there is still a lot of basketball to be played. As bad as they've been, they're only four games out of the playoffs. If they can make some minor adjustments, with their talent level, they'll be fine.
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