Sam goes over what the Lakers need to do to actually start winning games consecutively. But, spoiler alert, it means actually playing for a full 48 minutes and not just trying to sign random free agents that are sitting on the couch. *COUGH*delontewest*COUGH* Funny how that works.
Every Lakers fan and probably most NBA fans in general have witnessed the meteoric fall to 3rd in the (now) potent Western Conference Pacific division. At 10-13, the Lakers, with your superstars of Kobe Bryant and Dwight “Hack-a” Howard and the rest of the ‘role players’ on the team, just aren’t getting it done consistently. The motley crew of Jodie Meeks, Antawn Jamison, Darius Morris, and Devin Eabanks are not playing with energy night in and night out. So where do the Lakers go from here? Statistically the Lakers lose most of the time when their main man, number 24, decides to go off and get anywhere above 27 points. So in any given game, Kobe can’t be the only offensive leader and the defense, resembling a block of Swiss cheese, would have a better chance of guarding teams in the NBA. So what should the Lakers do? Simply, they step their game up. And that’s exactly what they did against the Washington Wizards on the road.
What is the problem with the Lakers: their mental health. And on top of that fact, it’s scary to realize that this problem with the players’ mentality has been happening since Phil Jackson coached his last season with the Lakers that ended with a blow out in the playoffs against the Dallas Mavs. Bynum was a child (and continues to be one in Philadelphia), and the players who are wearing the purple and gold this season are languishing about on the floor just watching Kobe go off for 40 points and then watch guards run past them into the paint for an easy layup (or a pass for an easy layup when Howard rotates) or watch shooters stand at the line, wide open, and knock down threes.
But, Sam, you idiot! If the players aren’t playing then blow the team up!
And, I’m not going to lie; part of me wants to agree with that. But that won’t do anything, and no one wants anything to do with the damaged goods of the Lakers “bench” (quotes for the bench players getting starting positions) anyways so they can’t make trades.
Jamison and Meeks have both had amazing nights, (I sure I’m not the only Lakers fan who fondly remembers that game against Denver where the 3 point shooting was so much hot-fire that even the big D-How himself got the last 3 point shot of the game), and Duhon has had games where he passes for 10 or more assists and scores more than just a measly 4 points. But overall he is playing fine for a backup, backup point guard that got thrown into the deep end of the Lakers pool. But prior to the game in Washington, Meeks had combined for a miserable 19 points over 49 minutes and 3 of 13 shooting from behind the line. What was he brought in for? Shooting that 3-ball. But in must-win games (and they’re all must-win at this point) he just hadn’t been stepping it up on the defensive end. But he changed that against Washington. He got 3 steals and 5 rebounds. He gave an aggressive defensive effort that was refreshing to see from someone other than MWP, Bryant, or Howard. And he had 24 big points coming off the bench with 9 and 14 shooting, four of those being three pointers.
Jamison has just disappeared. I mean, Meeks was playing bad and he should’ve felt bad, but he finally played a game like he played against Denver proving that some part of him understands how to play a good game. But Jamison has averaged 6 PPG on the current losing streak and has shot a despicable 3 of 16 from behind the line. Devin Eabanks and Darius Morris have been sucking and, again, play almost no defense. But they apparently realized they’re playing in the NBA on the Los Angeles Lakers and actually gave some effort. And while Eabanks only had 8 points, which isn’t great (unless it’s compared to his season average of 3.8 PPG), they were good shots and one came from an alley-oop in transition from Duhon, which is something I hope to see from the Lakers a lot more. Darius Morris still underwhelmed me with a TO and only 5 points. He did have a 3 off the bench. So that’s something, I guess.
So would adding someone else to the lineup really solve those problems? Nope. Even if they find some defensively-minded free agent, (good luck signing someone without enough cap space to even sign a high schooler) that just wouldn’t solve the main issue with the Lakers. Any elite team (Miami, OKC, Memphis, San Antonio, LA Clips, NYK…) will have plenty of offensive options so that 1 more defender won’t make a difference. And that’s of course assuming that he doesn’t decide to let his energy run free after he sees 80% of the team not giving a shit on the floor.
So what do they do to make sure this season doesn’t go off the rails for good? What do the 16-time-championship-team-that-made-every-fan-salivate-over-the-starting-lineup-and-every-sports-pundit-and-personality-talk-with-love-or-hate-about-how-the-Lakers-would-run-the-table this-season do? They start playing some gorram b-ball. And they do it against teams that have winning records. And not just teams with really, really bad losing records (Sorry Wizards fans… just stating the facts.)
And that’s what all it comes down to. Their backs are so far up against the wall, they’re at the ceiling now, and the water is still flooding. But I’m no idiot, and I’m a fan first and foremost (and while I will be first to admit I’m a Lakers homer, I’ve got enough realists around me to keep me grounded). But when Steve Nash gets back and Gasol’s knees are feeling better, the Lakers are going to blow the doors off the league and we’ll truly see what the Lakers were meant to be. But until then, can the Lakers keep enough around .500 so that they actually have a chance at even making the playoffs? If they can’t build on the win in Washington, I just don’t see it working out. The Lakers need wins and the players besides Kobe, MWP, and D-12 are just not getting it done to, at least, string a few wins together. Maybe someone in that locker room stepped up and said “Okay. What’s goin’ on up there? What are you thinking? How are you not giving 110% every night?” And I don’t know who did it, or who that will be in the future. But players other than the big 3 of this current unit (sans Nash and Gasol) finally gave some effort and made sure the Lakers finally got a win.
But it should have been happening a lot more often, and not this far into the season. There are enough players on the Lakers who are making plenty of examples, and up until the win against the Wizards, the statistics show that when Kobe goes over 27 points the Lakers lose. That should not be the case. I mean, look at Carmelo Anthony. He has been averaging 27.9 PPG and has only had 3 games where he scored under 20 points. Two of those were wins and one was a loss. (Two of those were also because he didn’t play.) So this whole Kobe needs to get out of the way argument just seems pointless to me. You know what the Lakers need to do? EVERYONE on the team needs to play AS A TEAM. When the bench combines for more than 22 points they are 9 and 3. When the bench scores under 21 points the Lakers are 1 and 11. And that completely factors in the game against Washington. The bench scored 33 points, 24 of them from Meeks. And guess what, Kobe Bryant dropped 30 points on the Wizards as well. Clearly a team can win with Kobe leading scoring, as long as the bench does their part. (Credit goes to Donovan Strain for coming up with those numbers.)
It’s just bewildering to see the Lakers go through the same problems they had last year (not exactly if you want to nitpick). There are problems in the locker room, an offensive identity still has yet to be found, and the bench blows dogs for quarters, man! I was watching the Lakers give up 41 points in the first quarter against Melo and the Knicks when I finally found the perfect term to describe the Lakers team this season: utterly fascinating. The Lakers finally snapped the 4 loss skid they’ve been going through in, what I’ve taken to consider, a statement game against the now 3-17 Washington Wizards on the road. The Lakers finally get 10 wins on the season. Let’s hope the Lakers keep it up.
Sam Accardo is a writer for Hefferbrew who took a really long hiatus from writing that he is blaming on his favorite teams sucking and school getting tough at the end of the semester. He is happy to write again, he just wishes it was about the Lakers blowing the roof off of the Staples center instead of just plain blowing. Oh well, it’s not too late to root for Golden State, right? Follow @samcar455 on twitter and find him on facebook and so you can share in the misery or laugh at his misfortunes.