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Kurt Rambis on the Lakers team defense

Posted by on Sep 29, 2013 in Lakers Analysis, Lakers News, Opinion, Pau Gasol | 1 comment

The Lakers were for large stretches of the 2012-13 season a train wreck defensively, leading the league in none of the happy categories but dusting the competition in post-basket finger pointing, angry glares, confused stares, and upward facing palms. And as bad as things were overall, they were.

If you missed the memo, Howard has since moved on to Houston. Metta World Peace, the team”s best perimeter defender, is gone to New York.

While they”ve made themselves younger and more athletic by adding Nick Young, Jordan Farmar, Wes Johnson, and more, the Lakers will still have real liabilities on the perimeter (Steve Nash, and certainly until he”s healthy, Kobe Bryant) and lack intimidating paint protectors inside. Moreover, getting younger and more athletic doesn”t automatically mean improving defensively. Young, for example, has never wowed folks with his commitment to defensive excellence, and doesn”t exactly speak .

“I gave [the Lakers] my word I”m going to try (defensively).” he told ESPNLA 710 this summer, “But, they”re not bringing me here for what I don”t do — they brought me here for what I do.”

Bird”s gotta fly, right?

Johnson is built like someone who ought to play good defense, but his numbers with and say otherwise. These were the guys Kobe suggested Saturday at Media Day could take up the baton for MWP on the perimeter, something I can only attribute to lingering effects from Bryant”s post-op narcotics.

Point being, believing the Lakers can improve on last year”s defensive showing requires a fairly vivid imagination. Far more likely, it”s a matter of limiting the downside by maximizing what they have. The guy asked to make proverbial chicken salad from proverbial chicken poop is Kurt Rambis, returning to the Lakers staff after a disastrous head coaching stint in Minnesota followed by some solid work as a TV analyst. I spoke to him Saturday, and even given the natural optimism always present at the start of the year, Rambis seems very aware of what he”s got. Or more specifically, what he hasn”t got, and how they”ll have to compensate.

A portion of the conversation:

Q: Media types like me believe there is only so good this team can be defensively, given the personnel. How fair is that? Is there a ceiling here? 

Rambis: ”It all comes down to communication, and it all comes down to guys being in sync in what they want to do, and adhere philosophically to what we want our guys to do. If we can get guys doing that, we could be pretty good. Everybody looks at defense, and you look at basket protectors, you look at individual defensive players. But even if you have individual defensive players and this guy might be denying this guy all over the court — well, that guy that”s denying somebody, he should have been part of the rotation. So yeah, this guy didn”t score but (the opposition) still got a layup out of it. So you still need all five guys functioning together out there on the court, so they understand who is responsible for what, who is covering who”s back, and who is supposed to be in help position all over the court. I think when you have players who are competitive and willing to work hard and you have intelligent ballplayers — because you have to read, you have to react, you have to anticipate — if we can get them in a system that they feel comfortable with and understand and the communication is there, and the work ethic is there, we can be ok.

The combination has to be what we can do offensively, and then what we can do defensively, too. Do we have to be a drop dead, stop-everybody-on-every-sequence down the floor? It may be hard to do that. But if we can force teams to take the shots we want them to take and function really well at the other end, we”re going to give ourselves a great chance to win games.”

Q: So you”re thinking of this in a holistic way, not necessarily looking to individual talent. It”s going to have to be the group. 

Rambis: ”Absolutely. It even works well if you have great individual defenders when everyone is functioning well together.”

Q: But you don”t have that here. At least by reputation.

Rambis: “No, I think we have some really good, sometime-great-defenders. But if you”re talking about doing it individually all the time, we don”t have that kind of thing here. But I do think we have guys that understand basketball and have guys that will be willing to do the things we ask them to do. That”s going to be important. We”ve already worked a little bit with guys before training camp opened, and guys understand what we want them to do. It”s about getting them to be consistent with it, so they”re doing it all the time.”

The hope is that with a cohesive system to which everyone commits — something clearly lacking last season, even as things improved defensively over the second half — the team can be better than the sum of its parts. But Rambis essentially admits the Lakers don”t have the requisite physical talent (while promoting their basketball intangibles) and hope to be good enough to allow offense to carry the day. Maybe Rambis is just under-promising with the hope to over-deliver.

More likely, he”s just being realistic.

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More on Jim Buss, Jeanie Buss, and the present/future of the Lakers

Posted by on Aug 15, 2013 in Jerry Buss, Jim Buss, Lakers Analysis, Lakers News, Mitch Kupchak, Opinion | 2 comments

Last week, Jeanie Buss appeared on ESPNLA 710, sitting in studio for an hour and covering a ton of ground, including Dwight Howard, her relationship with Jim Buss, and how Phil Jackson impacts the franchise.

My big takeaway: The Lakers have a serious adjustment period coming, not just in the roster but in the way the front office operates as they attempt to fill the massive hole created by the death of Dr. Buss. It’s analogous to what Apple faced when Steve Jobs died. Dr. Buss was that level figure, and while alive, even if in a diminished capacity, the franchise had its anchor. Now they don’t, and the resulting power structure is far less stable. That the NBA world in which Jim and Jeanie operate is far more hostile to the Lakers than the one Dr. Buss bought into only makes things tougher.

That’s the dominant theme of this week’s piece on the state of the Lakers from Ric Bucher in the Hollywood Reporter.

Those following the day-to-day ebb and flow of the Lakers front office over the last few seasons will find Bucher’s story familiar, but there are still some interesting nuggets: 

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An encouraging statistic to improve your weekend

Posted by on Apr 6, 2013 in Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis, Pau Gasol |

It”s still far too early to put away your umbrella, but for the Lakers it can at least be said the sun is poking through the clouds in a few important areas.

Pau Gasol, who went for a More Classic Pau 19/9/3 against Memphis in , is averaging 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and five assists over his last five games. Solid numbers for a guy who isn”t the primary option offensively, has a dominant glass eater beside him, and to use the parlance of Kobe Bryant is still working with a pair of these. Earl Clark, who followed Tuesday”s strong effort against Dallas with 13 points, five boards, and this completely absurd block on Quincy Pondexter in Friday”s win, apparently has rediscovered his legs.

But the most encouraging numbers belong to the Lakers defense.

After giving up 37 points in the opening quarter to Sacramento last weekend, a sham-mockery if there ever was one, the Lakers have grown substantially less generous on their own end, allowing an average of 20.72 points over their next 11 quarters. The Kings have been among the better offensive teams in the league over the second half of the season, Dallas is a top 10 crew in offensive efficiency, and while Memphis will never be mistaken for the Showtime Lakers, L.A. still held them almost 10 points below their 93.4 season average for points per game.

These are very good numbers, fueled in large part by some dominant play from Dwight Howard, Gasol”s increased mobility, and more attention to detail off the ball from Kobe Bryant. For the Lakers to have any shot of competing in a first round matchup against the Thunder (currently with the momentum in terms of taking the West”s top seed), the improvement can”t be a temporary.

It”s too early to call it a trend, but if the Lakers turn in another solid game defensively Sunday afternoon against the Clippers — currently the NBA”s fifth most efficient offense — fans might once again be able to dip a toe in the water without worrying it”ll get bitten off by a shark.

(Assuming, of course, fans have any toes left to dip.)

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Podcast: Metta World Peace out (sorry), Lakers unraveling, beards and the first-est world problems ever

Posted by on Mar 29, 2013 in Dwight Howard, Kamenetzky Brothers Land O'Lakers Podcast, Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis, Lakers Audio, Metta World Peace, Opinion, Podcast | 1 comment

NOTE: Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here, find us on TuneIn.com here.

The Lakers have dropped four of five following Thursday”s 113-103 loss in Milwaukee. Their hold on the eighth seed in the Western Conference is thin, as is — in a major change of pace — . It”s a tough moment in a tough season for the purple and gold. But while adversity might keep the Lakers from the playoffs, it can”t keep us from recording the newest edition of the Land O”Lakers Podcast.

Among construction management
construction careers
platelet rich plasma
ankle injury
outpatient drug treatment
boombox
drug addiction
wireless tv speakers
the big talking points…

  • We”ve now seen two games without Metta World Peace out thanks to a meniscus tear in his left knee, and what it means for the Lakers on both sides of the ball. Thus far, it”s fair to say the team has become even more porous defensively. Any shot they patch the holes? Has MWP played his final game with the Lakers? 
  • Was Metta”s injury the straw that breaks the camel”s back? That last bit of adversity the Lakers can”t overcome?
  • If you”re a fan, do you really want the Lakers to make the playoffs, given what appears to be the inevitable pasting they”ll endure in the first round? Would it be more humane for the year to quietly end in mid-April? Andy, the resident Lakers die-hard, weighs in.
  • Tuesday”s game against Dallas won”t just have huge implications for the playoffs, but for facial hair as well. We discuss.
  • Finally  Jon Hamm and Mark Zuckerberg officially have two of the first-est first world problems in human history.
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Pau Gasol returning: Four things to watch

Posted by on Mar 21, 2013 in Dwight Howard, Lakers Analysis, Opinion, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash | 7 comments

Pau Gasol said Wednesday afternoon at practice (Lakers practice, for those needing more specificity) in El Segundo he felt “confident” about suiting up for Friday night”s game against the Wizards at Staples, but “we don”t want to get too ahead of ourselves.”

So whether it”s Friday or Monday night in Oakland, it looks like Gasol will be back on the floor sooner rather than later, meaning the whole “What happens when Pau comes back?” question finally gets an answer.

Here are a few things to consider…

1. Earl Clark”s return to Earth has made diffused the issue of whether or not Pau starts. 

Over the last couple weeks, our in-game timeline has featured a lot of “Earl Clark sucks!” Not fair. Earl Clark doesn”t suck, it just turns out he is, in fact, Earl Clark. The good news is it turns out Earl Clark is a useful NBA player, the type of guy who can be a solid addition to a team”s rotation. If he”s your seventh or eighth best player, it could be a good thing. If he”s your starting power forward, it”s probably not.

Clark”s high-end production wasn”t going to be sustainable, even if he didn”t get dinged up with injuries or the league, which had for into four seasons ignored Clark completely, didn”t start paying attention while he was on the floor. Both happened, and his performance suffered. In March, Clark”s, his 3-point numbers below 29 percent. His defense hasn”t been particularly good, either.

Still, lay off Clark, or at the least maintain a little perspective. The idea the Lakers were going to stumble upon a cheap, double-double machine who would lead their resurgence was a little far-fetched. Be happy they found a high end athlete who works hard, is coachable, has some utility, and will likely be affordable in the offseason.

At any rate, removing Clark from the starting lineup is hardly a controversial proposition.

2. Just because Gasol can start doesn”t make him a shoe-in to finish. 

Based on plus/minus numbers, features Kobe Bryant with Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Jodie Meeks, and Metta World Peace. Not coincidentally, that group — or a similar lineup swapping Meeks for Antawn Jamison — has finished most games, lately. In 101 minutes, the four-starters-plus-Meeks fivesome is a plus-58. The Jamison edition is plus-34 in 94 minutes.

The Lakers look like a good bet to finish no worse than eighth in the West — the Jazz are quickly devolving into  a quivering bowl of Jell-O – but still can”t be screwing around. Moreover, as AK pointed out during a podcast last week, the Lakers have very little time to find whatever rhythm they can going into the playoffs. I”m sure they”ll try, and still think the team”s best shot at playing to full capacity is with its best players on the floor as much as possible. Still, if it doesn”t work with Gasol closing games the Lakers really don”t have the luxury of forcing the issue, particularly to keep the peace. While he won”t rock the boat, Gasol won”t like it (and I”ll sympathize because Gasol is a Player Whose Talent Says He Should Finish Games) and some fans will howl, but in fairness to Mike D”Antoni the Lakers can”t be experimenting this late in the game.

That which works now needs to be the priority.

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