The Los Angeles Lakers keep talking about patience, keep asking for it. But when a team signs the best Center in the NBA (Dwight Howard), a two time MVP (Steve Nash) and adding them to one of the greatest players of all time (Kobe Bryant) and still one of the best big men in the league (Pau Gasol), they can’t be surprised with some overreaction from the media after their 0-2 start.
The Lakers opened their Galacticos season (what they would call this team in Europe) with a home loss to the Dallas Mavericks and a road loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. The new Princeton offense, as opposed to the previous triangle mixed in with a little “Kobe shoots, everybody looks” offense isn’t settling in. And while everyone keeps talking about the Lakers’ offensive woes, with Steve Nash, who has built a career on his excellent pick n’ roll ability, suffering the most.
The man who was supposed to be the missing ingredient in what held back the Lakers in the last couple of years is averaging only 4.5 points and 4 assists in 25 minutes per game. He is doubtful for the Friday night game against the Clippers. Still, it feels to me that all the criticism and the automatic defense mechanism from the Lakers and especially Kobe Bryant, feeling he’s the one who needs to be answering all the questions, is directed at the wrong thing.
While the Lakers offense hasn’t been perfect, their defense and bench play is the bigger problem. They are averaging 98.5 points through the first two games, shooting 49.7% from the field. That isn’t exactly terrible, and is in fact the 7th best scoring average in the NBA. But their defense, conceding 99 points at home and 116 on the road from the Blazers is a much bigger mess.
Mike Brown is more of a defensive specialist than anything else, and last season the Lakers, at home, were one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. The addition of Steve Nash, a terrible defender should have been balanced by the arrival of Dwight Howard, arguably the most influential defensive presence in the NBA.
So far, it hasn’t been working. Maybe all of the concentration on getting the free-for-all, equal opportunity offense is getting a huge chunk of the focus, but maybe Brown and the players themselves haven’t made the right kind of adjustments to the weaknesses that Nash brings with him, and Bryant’s decline on the defensive end, while Gasol and Howard are still far from compatible and coordinated in the paint. The Blazers scored 44 points against them in the paint, getting to the basket way too easily.
Give us time, be patient, this offense is complicated, it’ll be OK in the end. Same meaning, different variations coming out of all the mouths of Lakers personnel. Bryant is actually telling critics to shut up. A five time NBA champion, he feels he can afford to. The offense isn’t perfect, but the problem of the second unit and the defense in general seems bigger in my opinion, just a bit out of the spotlight.
When a team is off to a disappointing start and has this much star power and blinding salary figures on its payroll, they can’t expect to be given time and patience from the blood hungry media, even if it’s the right thing to do. All they can do is stay the course and hope that taking this direction, trying to teach players who have over a decade in the NBA, a completely new offense, wasn’t the wrong way to approach this project.