The hype for the new look revamped Lakers was more anticipated than Godzilla hitting the streets of Japan. The Lakers have tons of pressure to not only make the 2013 NBA Finals but to win it. That is what happens when you sign Steve Nash and trade for Dwight Howard. Not only did the Lakers make a splash in the off-season with its new superstar acquisitions but they emptied out the whole Pacific Ocean. The Lakers now have the highest payroll in the NBA with 100 million and expectations are through the roof for this team.
Last night however the Lakers that we thought we would see did not show up. For the first 2 quarters we saw glimpses of the at times dominant high flying OOP universe Lakers, but that was merely a shadow. Am I saying that Lakers fans should already hit the panic button and jump ship? Hell no! I still believe that the Lakers are the most talented team and even the deepest team in the NBA. However there are many things that did concern me about the Lakers opening day lost to the Dirkless Mavs, led by the ancient Vince Carter, Elton Brand, and Shawn Marion (aka the 2006 allstar team).
The areas the Lakers need to tighten up and real quick are free throw shooting, defense, offensive tempo, Princeton offense, and running in transition. The Lakers were abysmal from the free throw line last night at 12-31 for 38%. 12 of 31 is completely unacceptable, it is called a free throw because that’s exactly what it is a FREE throw. This mostly has to do with Dwight Howard who was 3-14 from the line or 21%. The last Laker to shoot a lower free throw percentage (with a minimum of 10 attempts) was Shaq who in 2004 who went 2-13 for 15%. Jordan Hill was also horrendous from the free throw line at 1-6 for 16%. If Dwight Howard alone makes at least 75% of his free throws or better the Lakers win their home opener. I think that with proper coaching Dwight Howard’s free throw percentage will go up but we just have to be patient as fans. The focus for Dwight in practice should be 2-3 hours of repetitive free throw shooting. Once you practice something so long eventually you master it and it will become second nature to him. The reason why Dwight will improve his free throw shooting and not be the next Shaq all comes down to his release. Shaq had no follow through on his shot, he essentially pushed the ball like he was shot-putting a peach into the basket. I don’t think that was Dr Naismith’s original intent for the game of basketball by the way. If Dwight can improve his free throw percent to a mere 75% the Lakers will have a much easier time holding leads and closing out games because than you can’t hack a Dwight. So far it looks like Superman has found his kryptonite and that is Free throw shooting.
What is Mike Brown thinking with this so called Princeton Offense? I could coach this team to a perfect season with all that talent he has been given. Forget the Princeton offense and reacting to what the defense gives you and making your offensive reads off that. Instead keep it simple and run the pick and roll with Nash to Gasol and Howard. The Lakers have the best passing point guard in the game but yet he is limited to coming off ball screens and not handling the ball. I am baffled how Mike Brown thinks that Pau Gasol should run point forward and not Steve Nash. The Lakers should not be running a read and react offense but they should be running an attack pick and roll offense. When the Black Mamba Kobe Bryant is on your team you must know that you always need to attack. Attack the front of the rim and get easy oops and run on the fastbreak with Nash to Howard. I hope by June I am apologizing vehemently to Mike Brown regarding this Princeton offense but for now I think the Lakers should push the offensive tempo and get out on the run and use pick and roll often. For gosh sake even resurrect the Triangle at least Kobe, Metta, and Gasol know how to run that!
The biggest knock I have from last night’s game was the defense or lack of it. There was no ball pressure, no defensive tenacity at all. The Lakers seemed disinterested on that side of the ball and more concerned with trying to know where to be in the new Princeton offense. Defense leads to turnovers and fastbreaks. Mike Brown is acclaimed for being a defensive guru but he clearly hasn’t lived up to his acclaimed title. Last night the Lakers gave up 99 points to a Dirkless Mavs team who had 3 vintage stars in the Protozoa era. It is on the coach to mentally prepare the players to play and sustain defensive pressure and intensity for 48 minutes. Last year the Lakers gave up 95.9 ppg. That definitely does not sound like a defensive genius to me. The Lakers need to honker down on Defense and make sure they are protecting the rim, causing turnovers, and contesting jump shots. There was way too many easy layups and dunks that were just from a lack of defensive effort. Also the pick and roll defense was nonexistent as the Lakers need to do a better job of switching and covering the open man after the screen.
Do I still believe in my Lakers? Yes of course. This new Lakers squad has just been assembled and it will take awhile to gel. They are working out there kinks and it might take a while before there is complete chemistry happening. As Metta said “chemistry is a bad word because it blows things up, I like to use love or togetherness.” The only thing that matters is that the Lakers are clicking and firing on all cylinders in June. The postseason is when the real season begins, but that doesn’t mean you don’t try to perfect your craft in the regular season. Dwight also chimed in “just because we have a talented team it’s just not gonna click. It takes time. Just gotta continue to stay focused.”
The biggest focus for the Lakers is to improve on free throw shooting, make that a priority for Dwight and the bigs; also pick and roll frequently with Nash and the Towers, and to play with defensive intensity and create turnovers forcing bad shots, blocks and getting steals in the open court.
“We have 81 more games to play and Rome wasn’t built in a day. That’s what somebody told me.” –Superman