Long read, hope you sit down and look it over, though.
Well, eventually, my confidence in this team collapsed. I've been spitting the same thing about D'Antoni and Nash since September or October (mostly Nash, until D'Antoni arrived, and then I was in full panic mode). When this happens, you can always expect a write-up from me, right?
Took me a bit, but I figured it would be great to go in and see just how each of these coaches have done. I realize the first two played just five games each, but if that bothers you, ignore that and just take a glance at D'Antoni's numbers.
The team is 12-12 without Nash
Our original starting five (Kobe, Howard, Nash, Gasol, Artest) is 0-5 together
Mike Brown Era (1-4, Nash for two games, both L's)
Lakers: 47.0% FG, 34.8% 3PT (18.4 3PTA/G), 66.3% FT, 44.6 RPG, 19.6 APG, 8.0 SPG, 5.0 BPG, 18.2 TO, 21.4 PF, 97.2 PPG
Opponent: 44.7% FG, 35.6% 3PT, 22.8 FTA/G, 35.4 RPG, 21.0 APG, 9.6 SPG, 5.2 BPG, 12.4 TO, 24.2 PF, 98.8 PPG
Bernie Bickerstaff Era (4-1, no Nash)
Lakers: 45.6% FG, 34.2% 3PT (22.8 3PTA/G), 72.1% FT, 49.0 RPG, 23.0 APG, 7.4 SPG, 6.8 BPG, 14.8 TO, 14.2 PF, 103.8 PPG
Opponent: 42.2% FG, 33.3% 3PT, 15.6 FTA/G, 40.8 RPG, 22.2 APG, 8.8 SPG, 4.4 BPG, 13.4 TO, 22.6 PF, 92.2 PPG
Mike D'Antoni Era (12-20, Nash for 16 games, 11 L's)
Lakers: 45.0% FG
, 35.7% 3PT (26.2 3PTA/G
), 69.8% FT, 44.3 RPG
, 21.8 APG, 7.1 SPG
, 5.6 BPG, 14.5 TO, 19.3 PF, 102.9 PPG
Opponent: 45.8% FG
, 35.9% 3PT
, 21.4 FTA/G, 44.0 RPG
, 24.2 APG
, 8.1 SPG, 5.2 BPG, 12.9 TO, 23.1 PF, 103.4 PPG
I've highlighted the concerning numbers in red...all being the lowest among the three coaches.
It's clear we are a worse defensive team with D'Antoni...by quite a bit. We allow teams to play at a faster pace, and PART of that is us launching more threes every night, and taking shots early in the clock.
Our Pace Factor (number of possessions in 48 minutes) is second in the NBA, at a staggering 94.7. For a team that has four of five original starters in their thirties (Kobe, Nash, Gasol, Artest are all out of their ultimate primes), that's a super-fast pace. But what do you expect with a D'Antoni/Nash-led offense?
Well, unfortunately, when we run...the opposing team runs. That's how it goes. D'Antoni was quoted saying that the Memphis Grizzlies outran us tonight.
Do you want to know what the Grizzlies' Pace Factor is? It's 28th in the league.
Steve Nash is a major defensive liability. Because he can't defend his man, Kobe Bryant is having to spend more energy defending PG's. That means less help defense by the best help defender on our team, other than Dwight Howard. And with less help defense comes more defensive exposing, all directed at Pau Gasol and Antawn Jamison...who are awful defenders.
Pau Gasol can't post up with Dwight? Yes he can. Run a double-post motion offense. It doesn't work? Gasol doesn't need to be two feet from the rim...he can take short jumpers off the block, or make passes out of the low post, all while Dwight maintains his position. Ah, and that gives us two offensive rebounders near the rim.
We don't have shooters? We would have a lethal shooter, if Nash (who is a 50/40/90 shooter and arguably the greatest shooter we've ever seen at the PG position) would take just a few more shots a night, playing off of two superstars (Kobe and Howard). He could settle for a 5-8 assist night, correct? I'm appalled to find out that this offensive genius can't adjust accordingly.
So with two threats from outside (Nash and Artest), how does that help our pick and roll? Significantly, especially if Nash establishes himself as a shooting threat. Why? Well, why would any player, in their right mind, leave him open to follow Howard to the rim? Why would any player leave Howard for a split second? Confusion is best generated by two scoring threats in that particular P&R situation. If Nash doesn't solidify himself as a threat, it's an easier decision for the opponent.
Where can Kobe play once one of our bigs take a seat? In the post. Can't do that in a D'Antoni offense, though, because he's not a ball-handler UNLESS he's in ISO on the perimeter.
Meanwhile, what is Nash doing when Kobe engages? Nothing. He doesn't cut to and through to the corner, he doesn't use a screen, he doesn't curl...so we basically play one half of the court, and weak side play ceases to exist (Kobe's perspective).
We go without multiple shooting threats, we lose spacing. We lose spacing, our two superstars are much, much easier to defend. Howard becomes easier to front in the post with multiple players...not so hard to slide 5-10 feet over and cover him with backside help. Kobe has a man on him AND one within two steps of a charge. In pick and roll, the opposing team can come out and push Nash 30 feet from the rim, simply because Dwight Howard is not a shooting threat, Nash doesn't establish himself as one, and Gasol is too slow to roll to the rim, as well as him being passive and choosing not to score.
The result? Ron Artest becomes our secondary scoring option...and to no one's surprise (maybe), he's shooting threes, not in the post. Kobe is strictly in ISO most of the game, once the ball comes to him. Dwight is being fronted, and because he has lost a bit of jumping ability, and because the spacing is horrible, he can't get the ball over the top. Once that ball reaches its peak elevation, and headed towards Dwight's fingertips, the opposing defenders are taught to lead him close to the baseline OR pack around him in the paint, then go "hands out" to cause the strip and prevent him from bringing the ball over his head.
We are scoring buckets on the offensive end, and our Offensive Rating is in the top 10. That doesn't mean we're a good offensive team, it means we're relying on Kobe far too much. Bryant should not have to play 40 minutes, score 30 points, and throw 5-6 assists for us to be within reach in some of these games. Our offense is not good if Ron Artest is our second scoring option, and he is shooting more shots per game (11.1) than Dwight (10.3) and Nash (8.3), and as many as Gasol (11.3). Yes, no joke...this is happening.
Why so bad on defense? Long misses cause fast breaks we can't defend. Turnovers do the same thing. We complain about fouls, and don't get back in time. We have absolutely no defensive strategy for guard penetration (leading guards to the paint or baseline, into Dwight) or for pick and roll situations (over/under, knowing when to switch, etc). We have two weak links in our starting five (Nash, Gasol...basically, Pau is a starter, since he plays big minutes) and multiple from our bench (Jamison and Meeks notably horrible).
We are old, but we TRY to play like we're young. In 2008 and 2010, the Boston Celtics were old...and played that way. Strategically. In 2011, the Dallas Mavericks did the same thing, and won it all. The following year (just last year), the Miami Heat were old compared to a fresh, young Oklahoma City Thunder team...and, yet, they realized that LeBron's post game, spreading the floor with three-point shooters, and not allowing the Thunder to ignite breaks, was going to put a ring on their fingers.
If we're playing without an identity, we are playing without effort. Rotations are broken. How many minutes will Jodie Meeks log next game? Will Jamison play the three or four? Will Darius Morris or Chris Duhon be our backup point guard? The 2010-11 Miami Heat ran through this, head first, for 17 games...and then they decided to change their offense. Once they adjusted, they went 21-1 over their next 22 games.
What would 21-1 do for us at this point? Do the math...38-26...64 games, 6th in the Western Conference.
Unfortunately, the Lakers don't give us any indication that they are going to change, and it could be this way for the next three seasons. If we lose Dwight this year, we go into the 2013-14 season with roughly $59 million dedicated to JUST Kobe, Gasol and Nash. That's the salary cap, ladies and gents. No free agents for us. If our plan is to let Gasol expire after next season (which will be an unforgettable one, for all the wrong reasons), we will have a Kobe/Nash squad...and that's if Kobe decides to extend (and with how these next 1 1/2 seasons could go, he'd consider retirement). Nash will be months away from 41 years old in the fall of 2014. Think about that.
We have made multiple mistakes over the years, from giving away large contracts to a couple of coaches (who clearly didn't fit here) and trading away draft picks (and making bad picks), to keeping Pau Gasol until his knees rust away and playing four entirely different offenses from May 2012 to January 2013. Instead of building a solid team around our two superstars, we have asked our two superstars to adjust to a 39-year old point guard that is playing like he's 39 years old (imagine that). Do the Knicks center their offense around Jason Kidd, or Sheed in the post? Boston is under .500 because three of their best are 35-36 years old, and the offense runs through them (especially Pierce and Garnett). If it wasn't for Rondo, and the fact that they are familiar with each other, they would be a disaster. The Spurs have stacked young players around their two oldest (Duncan and Manu), and Duncan is having an incredible season, regardless.
Dark times are ahead of us, if we don't play our cards right. As of now, our record in April isn't the biggest concern. Someone, whether it's Jerry or Jim, Mitch, or Jeanie reading from a hand-written note from one of them, needs to speak up and admit there have been crucial mistakes made to rebound from our preseason blunder, and with that recognition should come major changes as soon as possible. If not, we're heading in the same direction Boston is...but without a Rajon Rondo...and with the Clippers having the potential to rip away all of our free agent prospects, rebuilding may not be a pretty sight.