Amidst the 3 win “streak” the Lakers are currently holding on to, Sam answers if this new look of the Lakers is here to stay or if it’s just another flash in the plan during a season where the only consistency has been their inconsistency.
Editor’s note: Sam wrote this on the day of the Suns game. He is working on a response to the collapse of the Lakers at the hands of the Suns, Michael Beasley and his hair like Sampson.
The title of this week’s Utterly Fascinating is a quote from my good friend and longtime Lakers fan, Ken. (Yes, I had trouble figuring out a headline for this week.) Monday morning, after the Lakers had a strong win against the Oklahoma City Thunder at home, it was the best I felt about the Lakers all season. After constant failures against good and bad teams (that the Lakers should have won) those bad losses may finally be in the rear view mirror. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s look at what we have so far in this little trend of winning.
Kobe Bryant has stepped up in both leadership and as the facilitator of the offense with 3 games in a row where he has assists in the double-digits. In two of those games (one being against OKC) Bryant had more assists than shot attempts. And against New Orleans just last night, he had 12 shot attempts and 11 assists. Clearly, Kobe Bryant has started accepting his role as a facilitator. But we’ll see if he keeps it up through the upcoming road trip and the rest of the season. After all, the Lakers got 2 wins when Kobe played lockdown D on the perimeter, but then regressed to a 6 game skid with Kobe even saying his legs felt tired. But again, we’ll see.
Dwight Howard has played with energy and heart in the low post on both sides of the floor. He is giving a great defensive energy in his role as captain of the defense and offensively he has been scoring consistently so far with 63% shooting (over the past 3 games). Not only that, he’s been passing out of bad situations. I saw a few touch passes from Howard out of the paint to an open man in the field. And cynics (who love to call themselves realists) will be quick to mention that his defensive performance is a result of getting over 10 touches a night. However, against OKC, he had 10 rebounds with only 3 of 7 shooting. Not only is that a low number of touches, it’s only about %42 shooting. But in that game Howard got 10 rebounds, 8 of those being defensive. So as far as I’m concerned, that’s 8 extra chances the Thunder didn’t get to win that game. But like the theme of the article suggests, we’ll see if Howard keeps this up.
The bench has been playing very well, and, even though Pau Gasol is not happy with it, Gasol coming off the bench is the smartest thing D’Antoni has done all season. Because up to this point, the bench didn’t have consistent players putting up at least 15 points a night. And with Gasol on the bench, the Lakers now have one of their best assets on the floor at all times: size. While I would love to see more of the “twin towers” offense with Gasol and Howard basically playing a game of “moneky-in-the-middle”, letting Gasol be an anchor on the defensive end and a great low post passer (and decent scoring) is something I’m very happy to see off of the bench.
And while the Lakers are finally stepping up offensively, people have to give D’Antoni credit for letting the offense slow down. Everyone loves saying how D’Antoni demands a quick system with shots in “seven seconds or less”, and while they’re right. D’Antoni has finally let the offense slow down. And that doesn’t just help in offense by letting the players feel a little more comfortable to be patient. It helps the Lakers get back on defense, because now a rapid-fire offense (like OKC) gets less possessions per game and less possessions for the Lakers to defend. At the end of the day, it’s a good adjustment to the players of the Lakers. And sure, when a coach comes in with a new system the players have to adapt to it. But if the system doesn’t fit the players, there is nothing the players can do about it. Of course, D’Antoni is still working with the rotation and I’m sure we’ll see more assists from Nash and less from Bryant as the season goes on, but for right now it’s working. I imagine that D’Antoni may try to speed up the offense a bit as the players get more used to passing to the open man, but the system is finally working for the Lakers. And sure, it’s only a little 3 game winning streak. It hasn’t even beaten their longest streak of the season (a shockingly low 5 games). But the players look happy, everyone is getting involved on both ends of the floor, and the shots are falling. But, again, we’ll see if this continues on the road.
But that’s what’s we’ve been saying all season: we’ll see. We’ll see if the Lakers make the playoffs. We’ll see if the Lakers play defense. We’ll see if Bryant passes the ball. We’ll see if Gasol returns back to his form during the back to back championships. We’ll see if D’Antoni adjusts to the players on his roster. We’ll see if the Lakers start winning games.
Sam Accardo is a writer for Hefferbrew and has finally gotten some real excitement for this Lakers team. Things like letting New Orleans get back in the game after leading by 18 does not bode well for the defense. But as long as the Lakers come out with a win, I’ll be feeling good. And so should the Lakers. Keep checking back in for your weekly Utterly Fascinating update, and make sure to follow @Hefferbrew on twitter and find us on Facebook.