7 Things the Lakers Must Do to Unlock Winning Chemistry
The Los Angeles Lakers have missed the chance to live up to their lofty preseason predictions, and just finishing with a respectable record might be an achievement in itself.
No one expected that the Lakers would be below .500 after the All-Star break, but most pundits and fans agree most of the team's problems this season are a result of poor chemistry.
To be fair, the Lakers have begun to scratch the parameters of what it takes to be a good team, but in order to qualify for the postseason and possibly beyond each player on the roster has to be comfortable with each other first.
Familiarity might solve some of the Lakers' issues and there are other steps the team could take to unlock the potential that is hiding inside.
Don't get it twisted.
The Lakers have the talent and experience to be a factor when the NBA's second season begins, but first they may need to check out this script.
7. Forget the Playoffs
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Everyone wants to know whether or not the Lakers will qualify for the playoffs, but all the players should really concentrate on right now is winning the next game.
Los Angeles is less than three games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth seed in the Western Conference with 24 games left to play.
The Lakers can overcome a two-and-a-half game margin with 24 games left to play but not if their sole purpose is reaching the postseason.
That type of goal creates unnecessary pressure at the very time the Lakers should be loose and playing with almost reckless abandon.
Right now the future of the franchise only extends to the next game and if the Lakers place a premium on taking care of their next opponent, the rest will take care of itself.
6. Ignore Mike D'Antoni to an Extent
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Mike D'Antoni was supposed to bring Showtime back to Los Angeles but none of Pat Riley's memorable Lakers teams looked quite like this.
Most Lakers fans would have been satisfied with a three-peat of the less glamorous but equally effective era of Phil Jackson, but inexplicably the franchise rolled the dice on D'Antoni's seven seconds or less offense, and so far it looks like the Lakers have crapped out.
It would be an understatement to say D'Antoni's offense is ill suited for his personnel, but the thing that should trouble fans and management more is either D'Antoni is just too stubborn to adjust his philosophy or he really is as clueless as he looked in New York.
D'Antoni's contrasting success in Phoenix and failure in the Big Apple illustrated that there was little substance beyond the system, and it's doubtful if he can adapt his style this late in his career.
And since D'Antoni seems to have no concept on how to move forward, Bryant and Nash have decided to take matters into their own hands.
They do adhere somewhat to D'Antoni's pick-and-roll philosophy while running the offense but the style is much more deliberate, and the pace is much slower.
However, Nash and Bryant understand this is the brand of basketball that allows the Lakers to stay competitive, and it's too bad that D'Antoni can't seem to understand that to.
5. Focus on Defense
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One of the Lakers' glaring issues has been the inconsistency of their defense, and ironically a commitment on that end of the floor is something that the team can draw strength from.
In order to be a strong defensive team communication and trust is key, and those two qualities also help to forge bonds and foster chemistry.
It's much harder to build chemistry on the offensive end, especially with a group of superstars, because everyone wants their fair share of touches and shot attempts.
But on defense it's easier to rally around a singular focus where each player's efforts are equally important to the ultimate goal.
The Lakers will never be a top tier defensive team as long as D'Antoni is at the helm but to be honest. they really don't need to be.
The Lakers offense can score with anyone and if the defense ever manages to catch up, how dangerous could they be?
4. Emphasize Steve Nash's Jumper
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Steve Nash will be remembered as one of the greatest playmakers of his generation, but more importantly to the Lakers, Nash is also one of the game's greatest shooters as well.
Nash is one of only two players who is averaging more than 50 percent shooting from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the charity stripe this season, and those numbers nearly mirror his career average of 49-42-90.
With accuracy like that you would think that the Lakers would look to get Nash as many open looks from the perimeter as possible, but so far this season Nash is only attempting 8.8 shots per game, which is nearly two less shots per game than his career average.
I'm sure most people would argue that Nash's attempts per game have fallen because of the new company he keeps, but actually the opposite should be true.
Every pass in the paint or penetration to the rim that doesn't end with a shot attempt should be kicked back out to Nash, who most likely would be wide open considering all the attention paid to Howard and Bryant.
Nash's outside shot might be the x-factor the Lakers need going forward, and while the Lakers have been looking for Nash lurking around the perimeter recently, a few more shots certainly wouldn't hurt.
3. Inform Dwight Howard That He's Not a Back-to-the-Basket Player
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Dwight Howard would love to get the ball more in the post on offense the only problem is he usually doesn't have much of an idea what to do with the ball once he does get it.
Howard's offensive post game consists of a running hook, a sweeping hook and a baby hook all while moving laterally across the lane.
Although Howard can be effective with his limited repertoire, it's not exactly difficult for the opposition to prepare for and contain him. And things get even more complicated when Howard tries to post up.
Howard has no true go-to move with his back to the basket so most possessions end with Howard passing the ball back out to the perimeter with the shot clock running down, or more likely turning the ball over.
It may be in the Lakers' best interest to end their experiment with Howard as a low post center but that doesn't mean he can't be a valuable offensive weapon.
Howard's greatest attributes are his strength, speed and athleticism, so why not take advantage of those physical gifts by constantly moving Howard around in the paint?
2. Bond Around Adversity
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Name another NBA team that has dealt with three coaching changes, internal friction, debilitating injuries and the death of a legendary owner all before the mid-point of the season.
Sorry LeBron, but the self-imposed scrutiny the Miami Heat faced in 2011 is nothing compared to what the Lakers have gone through.
Any of those circumstances could destroy a team and the Lakers may implode still, but they haven't yet.
Sometimes adversity forces a team to bond with each other and form an us-against-the-world mentality and the Lakers may be in the beginning stages of that change and the next few weeks will tell.
1. The Name on the Front of the Jersey Means More Than the Name on the Back
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Contrary to some people's opinion, the name Lakers is much more important than Bryant, Howard, Nash, Gasol or any other player who has ever donned the purple and gold uniform.
The Lakers are arguably the greatest franchise in the history of sports because the players who have graced the rosters through the years understand they are playing for something that is much bigger than themselves.
It may be hard to put team before self, especially in this me-first world, but that attitude is what built the Lakers into a legendary franchise, and that same mentality will ensure that they remain relevant in the future.
The single best way for the 2013 Lakers to unlock team chemistry might be remembering what has made the franchise great throughout the years.
Pride may go before a fall, but at this moment it may be the most dangerous weapon the Lakers have.