It’s too strong. The will to win takes over any rational thought of trying to work through the process of making the new Princeton offense work, even at the cost of an 0-3 start. Kobe Bryant had one of his “F^%& everyone, I’m doing this on my own” moments, leading to another Los Angeles Lakers loss and more calls to push the imaginary panic button.
Even Bryant, half joking, half pissed off, said it’s time panic. These losses, mean nothing, as we’re only in the first week of the season. Maybe some expected this team to be the 1996 Chicago Bulls, but Kobe Bryant isn’t Michael Jordan, and there are no Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Toni Kukoc at their prime on this team. Mike Brown isn’t the coach Phil Jackson is (or was) either.
So the Princeton offense thing collapsed as the Lakers saw their best player decide to forget the whole thing about sharing the offense equally, patient ball movement, cuts to the basket while a player waits on the high post and a big emphasis on off the ball screens and back door passing. Just vintage Kobe Bryant, with 14-23 from the field and a big 40 points game, but also another loss, 105-95 to the Los Angeles Clippers.
We’ve said it before – the Lakers problems are bigger on defense. Dwight Howard might have arrived, but he’s not 100%. There’s something off about the timing and switches on pick n’ rolls, uncertainty about who comes out on who and when to challenge penetrating guards and when to lay off. Again, time usually takes care of chemistry problems, but pressure to succeed right off the bat has been hindering that transition. Having Steve Nash injured didn’t help as well; Steve Blake has his advantages, but he’s not the point guard these Lakers need.
And then there’s the bench. The moments Jordan Hill is on the floor have been terrible for the Lakers so far, having a fantastic big man duo, combining for 22 rebounds and 5 blocks on the night, but no one to back them up, as the team’s second unit looks like one of the worst in the NBA despite the upgrades of Antawn Jamison, Chris Duhon and Jodie Meeks (the two guards didn’t even play).
And then there’s the messages Bryant is sending his teammates through the media and on the court. Once again, he makes it feel like it’s his burden alone, and like he doesn’t believe in anyone else to get this team out of this mess. Not his head coach and not the best Center in the NBA, completely ignored by Bryant, who took 23 shots, while Gasol and Howard combined took only 16.
The turnovers were killers once again – 20, with Bryant having six and Howard adding four. When someone decided to make this team work on the Princeton offense, they forgot a few things that stand at the basis of that scheme: It’s meant to be for teams who are inferior when it comes to talent, unlike the Lakers. It needs five players who can shoot the ball, unlike the Lakers. It usually works well with teams playing small ball, instead of teams who are much better fitted to play exceptional pick n’ roll basketball.
So is this the end of the attempt to teach old dogs new tricks? Probably not. The Lakers will give it another go, maybe two or three more. When the wins start coming, this will blow over and something new will be criticized. But there’s always the Kobe Bryant factor, which makes this so vulnerable. With one quick decision after something irks him, he can decide he’s going to be the only one shooting the ball for a few minutes, while no one has the ability, or the guts, to do something about it.