Los Angeles Lakers: Opinion

Bring Phil back and blame D'Antoni? It's not that easy

April, 4, 2013
4/04/13
11:11
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- It was easy to see coming.

Phil Jackson was at center court Tuesday. He had the microphone in his hand and was speaking at Shaquille O'Neal's jersey retirement ceremony in front of a sold-out arena full of fans who wanted to remember the glory days as they were in the midst of muddling through the disappointing haze that has permeated the current Los Angeles Lakers season.

"We want Phil! We want Phil! We want Phil!" the crowd cheered. The sound cascaded onto the court and might have even crept into the Lakers' locker room, where coach Mike D'Antoni was addressing the team at halftime.

[+] EnlargeMike D'Antoni
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsTo say Mike D'Antoni's first season as Lakers coach has been a challenge would be an understatement. With the season winding down, he finally seems to have them on the right path.
“He's only won 58 rings, why wouldn't they?" D'Antoni quipped after the game.

As enticing as it might be to wonder "What if?" when considering the team's decision to hire D'Antoni on that Sunday night back in November, instead of giving Jackson the weekend to think about his answer, even the winningest championship coach in NBA history would have faced serious challenges with the Lakers this season.

It might be easy to yearn for Jackson, but it's not so simple as placing the blame on D'Antoni for the fact that the Lakers are fighting just to get into the playoffs with two weeks left in the regular season rather than jockeying with the top seeds in the Western Conference for home-court advantage.

Here are four reasons D'Antoni shouldn't end up being the scapegoat should the Lakers ultimately stumble down the stretch, and one reason he should shoulder some of that responsibility:

WHY NOT TO BLAME D'ANTONI

1. He didn't have a training camp.

Think about it: The Lakers were in such shambles to start the season with new personnel and a new offensive system that even with a monthlong training camp, former coach Mike Brown directed the Lakers to an 0-8 preseason and a 1-4 mark in games that mattered before he lost his job. D'Antoni was thrust into a situation in which he had no familiarity with half the roster, and had to use games to figure out how to divide minutes among Earl Clark, Antawn Jamison, Jordan Hill and Devin Ebanks. Or among Ebanks and Jodie Meeks. Or among Meeks, Steve Blake, Chris Duhon and Darius Morris. He had to decide whether he liked Metta World Peace, Jamison and Clark better at the 4 or at the 3. He had to feel out Pau Gasol's game. He had to get to know Kobe Bryant's and Dwight Howard's contrasting personalities. And he had to do it all on the fly, under the microscope in one of the NBA's biggest media markets while not feeling physically up to par himself as he recovered from knee surgery.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Thunder 114, Lakers 108

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
10:02
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Los Angeles Lakers went into Friday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 9-10 record, nearly a quarter of a season's worth of frustration and disappointment already banked, and little hope for quick improvement. They've defeated very few good teams and none on the road. An already top-heavy roster is missing two of its four best players, not only lopping off half the elite talent, but forcing Mike D'Antoni into minutes for players who otherwise wouldn't take off their sweats.

Meanwhile, the Thunder entered the game at 15-4, winners of six straight, scorers of 100 or more in 10 straight and allowers of the second-lowest opponent's field goal percentage in the NBA. They feature two of the game's best young stars, including its best scorer in Kevin Durant.

The Thunder are always brutally tough at home.

Every night, the Lakers play toting incredibly high expectations, appropriate given the stakes of this season. They're supposed to win now. The title window lasts two years. Maybe. But there is a huge gap between what is expected of the Lakers this season and the capabilities of the actual team taking the floor for them right now.

Frankly, the players available to the Lakers on Friday had no business beating the Thunder. And they didn't. Not because they didn't try or weren't invested. The Lakers played hard long after it was pretty clear who would win and nearly caught the Thunder. But late rally notwithstanding, during the meat of the game, L.A. simply wasn't as good. The Lakers lacked the ability to attack consistently against a very stout OKC defense, and lacked the athleticism to stay with the Thunder during a second-quarter avalanche of transition scoring, outside shooting and Russell Westbrook.

Whether the Lakers can become elite when Steve Nash and Pau Gasol return remains to be seen. While it's easy to poke fun at D'Antoni's insistence that Nash's return makes everything -- your morning commute, your lower back pain, the fiscal cliff, everything -- better, there's certainly some truth to it. On Friday we all saw how much better Nash (and Gasol, and to a lesser extent Steve Blake) need to make the Lakers, because today they're a long way from catching Oklahoma City.

Here are four other takeaways:

Bryant needs Nash back sooner rather than later

There are plenty of things for the Lakers to dislike about losing, particularly given how often they've done it this season. There's a real chance they're playing themselves into the bottom half of the playoff bracket, meaning they would have to beat three elite teams to escape the Western Conference. But among the bigger negatives is the effort required of Kobe Bryant as he tries to keep the game close. Playing primary ball handler and primary scorer just isn't an option against a good defensive team such as the Thunder, who can sic five pairs of eyes on him when he's playing the point ... and dare someone else to beat them when he doesn't. The lack of playmakers around him forced Bryant into some very difficult shots, many of which he managed to make. But there was some serious effort going on, including some of his most attentive defensive work of the season.

He finished with 35 points on 11-of-24 shooting, dishing out seven assists (against five turnovers), along with three steals and two blocks over 43:30 of playing time. There are nights Kobe might be on the floor for more than 40 minutes without having to use that much gas from his tank. This wasn't one of them. Every game Kobe spends working so hard to keep his team in it -- particularly those games in which the Lakers lose -- threatens his energy level at the end of the season.

(Read full post)

PodKast: On Howard and Kobe's moment, Pau's future, and 30,000 points for Bryant

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
1:31
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Lakers may be short on wins relative to expectations, but they've certainly not disappointed in the "things to talk about" category. This week has been no exception. Pau Gasol's future in Los Angeles is again being called into question, a future made a little tougher to predict thanks to the knee tendinitis putting him on the shelf for a still unknown stretch of time. Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant got into it during the first half of Wednesday's win over the Hornets in New Orleans. Is it a sign of an impending starpocalypse?

And, of course, Bryant became only the fifth player in league history to crack 30,000 points over his career. A remarkable achievement.

These are the three big issues on the docket in the newest edition of the Kamenetzky Brothers Lakers PodKast. Click on the module below to hear the show.



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The Lakers bench shows signs of life

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
2:54
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Last week's road trip wasn't exactly a rousing success (a horrendous effort in Sacramento followed by a frustrating one in Memphis before Saturday's thumping of Dallas), but it provided the first glimpses of real hope for this season's bench crew.

After scoring a total of 45 points in the first 12 games of the season, Antawn Jamison went for 16 against Memphis on Friday night, then added 19 in Dallas on Saturday. In each, he hoisted 11 shots, a veritable explosion relative to the four a night he'd put up to that point. He was productive on the boards as well, grabbing 22 in total. Basically, Jamison looked like the guy Lakers fans (and Lakers management) expected when he was signed over the summer, but hadn't yet seen.

He wasn't the only member of the bench coming alive. Jodie Meeks was a man in exile under Mike Brown, playing only 22 minutes through the first five games. While his playing time increased under Bernie Bickerstaff, Meeks' production didn't. He hit only three of his 15 3-point attempts in the season's second five games and struggled with turnovers. In Sacramento, though, he broke through with a 12-point fourth quarter, and 15 overall. In Memphis, he hit a pair of second half triples, and in Dallas made 3-of-5 from downtown.

For both guys, a big key was a change in how they were deployed. Brown had played Jamison almost exclusively at small forward, in part to utilize his shooting skills but mostly to make room for Jordan Hill, who was among the team's best players in camp. The impulse to play Hill made plenty of sense, but in the process Jamison was pulled out of his comfort zone.

"It was difficult to get into a rhythm when my first three or four shots are three pointers. You’re going to hit one here or there, but it was just tough for me to get into a rhythm. And I’ve always been a guy who can get it from anywhere," he said Monday following practice. "Whether it’s driving to the basket, a put-back, or something off the dribble. Pick and pop. Those are the things that kind of get me into a rhythm, and honestly it was tough getting into one coming in, trying to come in and knock down three’s after sitting down for eight or nine minutes."

In Memphis, Jamison entered the game as a power forward with only one other big on the court, and was almost instantly more productive, able to use the entire floor. In Dallas, he started at the 3, quickly scoring twice with excellent off-ball movement, but again spent plenty of time at the 4 and again produced a good looking shot chart.

Some positive messaging helped as well, helping Jamison push past hesitation that had been dogging him.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 115, Dallas 89

November, 24, 2012
11/24/12
9:26
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Referring to the 14th game of the season as a "must-win," even for a 6-7 team falling well short of massive expectations, is hyperbolic even by sports media standards. Still, after dropping the first two games of their three-game road set, the Lakers definitely were in "must play better" territory ... if not for the value of a victory, then for the value to their psyche.

To say the least, the Lakers leaped that bar, and more, on Saturday night, blitzing the Dallas Mavericks early and coasting from there to a 115-89 win.

It was the first road victory of the season for the purple and gold, one earned in fine style. Here are five takeaways:

World Peace hit his quota early

Last season particularly, it wasn't unusual to see the Lakers run their first play to Metta World Peace in an effort to quickly get him engaged in the game. On Saturday, MWP wasn't necessarily the focus of the offensive game plan, but in the first quarter, he found himself open frequently on the perimeter, where he took advantage and matched up against a much smaller O.J. Mayo in the paint. In all, MWP scored his team's first 10 points, on the strength of two triples and a pair of driving layups. He finished with 16 points in the first quarter. And while from there he didn't exactly drop the mic and head back to the locker room, any visions of him taking a run at franchise scoring records ended quickly, as he barely shot the rest of the game.

Still, the damage (from Dallas' perspective) was done. World Peace finished with 19 points. On the other end, he did good work gumming up Mayo, the Mavs' leading scorer. Mayo finished with 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting from the floor.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Kings 113, Lakers 97

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
10:02
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Said Mike D'Antoni after his first loss as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Wednesday night in Sacramento:

"I thought we were very lethargic. From the opening tap, the first half might have been the worst basketball I've seen in 10 years. We just didn't play well. But mostly because of the energy level, we're not running the floor, or anything. There was a little bit of defense early, but then that caved in toward the end."

Pretty much sums things up. One night after their best win of the season, the Lakers put out one of their worst efforts, certainly the weakest since Mike Brown was fired after five games.

Here are five takeaways.

Kobe doin' (way too much) work.

It's not just the 40 minutes of burn on the second night of a back-to-back after playing 39 on the front end and nursing a bad ankle -- though ain't none of that good -- but the amount of effort Bryant expended in an effort to keep the Lakers in it. As it has been throughout the season, he was outstanding. His 38 points included a dazzling display of outside shooting in the third quarter. Bryant started with a circus 3-pointer in the left corner, bailing the Lakers out of a bad possession. Then he stroked another off a pin down, and a third while spinning at the top of the key before firing. Bryant continually attacked off the screen, and as the game wore on got himself to the line.

Overall, those 38 points required only 20 shots from the floor. The Prius in your driveway isn't that efficient.

But all that performance required way too much work. The Lakers can't ask Bryant to play like this for long without a real threat of diminishing returns. Trip after trip, Bryant was made into both the main scoring threat and the primary ball distributor. He performed a similar function Tuesday against Brooklyn, but the level of engagement from his teammates was light years better, making his burden that much smaller. Given how long it might be before Steve Nash returns, they can't ask him to do it until he comes back, either.

Bringing me to ...

The bigs don't have their D'Antoni legs yet.

Dwight Howard had only two points in the first half. He finished the night with four shots and was a non-factor on that side of the ball. Howard was slow up and down the floor, and in the half court his mobility was way down. As a result he wasn't much of a threat as a roll man in high-screen sets. Because Sacramento didn't have to pay him much attention, they could focus it everywhere else, whether on Bryant or Gasol as a ball mover. To some degree, Wednesday night's performance was predictable. This is only Howard's second back-to-back since coming back from surgery. He played big minutes Tuesday and, like his teammates, is adjusting to the special sort of fitness required to play in D'Antoni's system. He'll get there eventually, but Howard was basically stuck in the mud on Wednesday.

At least he had company. Pau Gasol was a little more active but no more effective. He had only three (one a dunk in garbage time) makes in 10 tries. And while there were a few good passes and some nice defensive plays early, Gasol's impact wore away as the game wore on. This is something the Lakers can't afford, particularly while Nash is out and Howard isn't quite there. While the style of the new system might suit his skill set, Gasol has some physical adjustments to make.

"Dwight’s used to running. He’s not in tip-top shape like he will be. Pau is used to kind of laboring up the floor," Bryant said after the game. "Kind of coasting a little. In this offense, you’ve really got to put the motor on the first few steps and get up the court."

Pau needs to get his D'Antoni sea legs under him pretty quickly, or 24 will find himself burning too much energy in December to dominate in May and (hopefully) beyond.

Gasol was too passive offensively, continuing to drift high on the floor even when Howard was on the bench. and even in those moments when he got aggressive, couldn't win. He missed a few chippies, and on one second-half dribble-drive, Gasol lost the ball off his leg. He finished with eight points, meaning he and Howard combined for 15. Not good enough.

This, by the way, is where better depth comes in handy.

(Read full post)

PodKast: D's Antoni, fence and Morris

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
4:02
PM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As we roll in to Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday, many Lakers fans are thankful for a team finally appearing to be on the right track. Four wins in five tries, including Tuesday's 95-90 victory over Brooklyn. The coach is in place, the system is getting installed, and a sense of normalcy is returning to El Segundo.

So what happens now? That's one of the topics kicked around in the newest Kamenetzky Brothers podcast.



Play Download

Click on the module to listen, and let the handy bullet points below guide your listening experience.
  • How legitimate are concerns the Lakers can't be a good defensive team long term under Mike D'Antoni? What do the Lakers have in common with your average college freshman? (4:00)
  • Why did D'Antoni's teams struggle on that end of the floor in New York, and what's different about L.A.? (7:15)
  • Darius Morris may have had a tough night Tuesday, but overall has shown some promise. (16:00)
  • Antawn Jamison has been a major disappointment thus far. We explain why Pau Gasol might want him to pick it up. (19:45)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

The Forum: Biggest surprise and biggest disappointment

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
11:56
AM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Which Lakers have been the season's most pleasant surprise, and who has disappointed?

We discuss in the newest edition of The Forum.

Lakers trends: 10 games of "Yeah, but ..." and "Maybe, except ..."

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
1:34
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The early stages of the NBA season are full of surprises and interesting numbers. Whatever happens now might be an indicator of what's coming, but it might not. Some early trends are more sustainable than others, and differentiating between the two becomes a sport onto itself.

I call it "Yeah, but" season. As in "Yeah, Player/Team X might be doing ____, but ..."

For the Lakers, you could start with "Yeah, the Lakers are 5-5, but Dwight Howard is still healing and Steve Nash has barely played. And so on. Not every construction affords that kind of naked optimism, but all are worth investigating.

Here are three more potential "Yeah, but" scenarios facing the team, and thoughts on how things will play out going forward.

1. The way Kobe Bryant is playing, the Lakers can't help but be contenders at the end.

Bryant, whose triple-double paced Sunday's 119-108 win over Houston, is playing next-level ball even relative to his own lofty standards: 26.4 points per game, 5.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 52.8 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from downtown. His metrics are stunning. Bryant is currently obliterating career highs in true and effective field goal percentages, has never posted a higher with assist rate, leads the league in win shares, and his PER (27.4) would be the second best of his 17-year run.

Basically, he's spent the last 10 games giving the death stare to Father Time.

Yeah, but...

The percentages will fall, because even Kobe eventually goes back to career norms. He's never been better than 47 percent from the floor, so expecting him to remain above 50 while playing 2-guard at 34 years old? Not realistic. Neither is 40 percent from the arc for a guy who hasn't been over 33 percent since '08-'09. Moreover, we've seen this, or something like it, before. Last season, Kobe was incredible over the first few weeks of the season, and hit a wall as it wore on, shooting 40 percent in February and 39 percent in March.

Maybe, except...

Sure, the numbers will level out, but overall his performance doesn't necessarily have to. As many (myself included) suggested might happen with Nash, Dwight Howard, and Pau Gasol around, Kobe is adopting a less-to-do-more philosophy this year. His shots per game are down from 23 last season to 17.8, and his usage has dropped from a league leading 35.7 percent to 29.1, his lowest figure since '03-'04 (not coincidentally, with the last Lakers SuperTeam). All of this has happened without Nash, the guy who will unquestionably make life easier for Kobe, removing giant chunks of ball handling duties while setting him up for clean looks around the floor, or the debut of D'Antoni, an offensive genius who will undoubtedly find creative ways to free Bryant up.

Bottom Line: Sure, Bryant won't finish the year with a true shooting percentage of 63.8, but as long as he stays healthy -- always the wild card -- and doesn't change his approach, the basic thesis remains in play: Kobe has an excellent chance of logging his most productive and efficient season in recent memory.

2. The Lakers are now piling up points. Showtime is back!

Yeah, but...

They're giving them up by the bushel, as well. In their two most recent wins, Phoenix and Houston, two middle-third offensive teams, torched L.A. through three quarters, both shooting well over 50 percent from the floor while reaching 84 and 87 points respectively. They scored at will, the Lakers just scored at will-er. Real teams won't give up points like the Suns and Rockets and will feature plenty of offensive firepower, as well. The Lakers have to tighten up defensively or ultimately they'll be short some steak for all the sizzle.

(Read full post)

5 questions facing the Lakers under Mike D'Antoni

November, 13, 2012
11/13/12
9:43
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Nobody in the stands at Staples Center this weekend was chanting "We want Mike" -- and not just because doing so would potentially have sent mixed messages to management.

No, the locals wanted Phil Jackson, and thought they were getting him. (In fairness to them, Phil thought the same thing.)

Instead, the Lakers made the bold, less popular choice of bypassing Jackson for Mike D'Antoni, who would otherwise have been welcomed with open arms by most fans as a real upgrade over Mike Brown. At some point down the road, we'll all be treated to the definitive story of exactly what happened last weekend. Who said what, who asked for what, what promises were made, and so on. When it comes, I'll definitely read it.

But in the meantime, the Lakers have a new -- and very, very good -- head coach on the way, prompting a host of big-picture questions, the answers to which will have a major impact on the season going forward.

Here's a peek at five:

1. How do things work with Dwight Howard?

D'Antoni utilizes multiple pick-and-roll sets in his offense, and can trigger them with either (a) Steve Nash, perhaps the best p-and-r ballhandling point guard in recent memory, or (b) Kobe Bryant, who ain't bad either. Put Howard, statistically speaking the best roll man in the league on the other end, and big things can happen. Remember what Amar'e Stoudemire did with the Suns? Howard can do that sort of damage. Down low, D'Antoni hasn't really had much access to top-shelf low-post talent of Howard's quality, and the closest thing -- an ill-fitting, aging Shaquille O'Neal in '07-08 -- wasn't exactly a rousing success. Anchored down on the block, Shaq shot the ball efficiently but also got in Nash's way, trapping him -- in the words of TrueHoop's Kevin Arnovitz -- like "a hummingbird in a paper bag."

But while Shaq was by that point a massive, sedentary body, Howard is extremely mobile. He can enter and exit the lane in rhythm with Nash, and D'Antoni will come up with plenty of ways to get him traditional post touches, as well. This has the potential to be a wildly productive relationship, offensively.

But it's at the other end where Howard will be most empowered. As you may have heard, D'Antoni's teams have never been known for their defense. For the Lakers to be successful, he'll have to fix that. If it happens, the guy receiving the lion's share of the credit will be Howard.

2. How will D'Antoni use his bench?

Put kindly, D'Antoni has a (generally well-earned) reputation for employing a rotation so short that it seems inspired by that "Hoosiers" scene when the coach portrayed by Gene Hackman plays only four guys. In D'Antoni's final season with the Suns, for example, there was about a 1,000-minute gap between Steve Nash at No. 1 and Shawn Marion (who played only 47 games) at No. 8, then about 1,000 minutes between Marion (8) and Brian Skinner (9). Not a perfect measurement by any stretch, but you get the point. It's not all that hard to look at the Lakers' starters and their bench and decide not to go all that deep into the latter, but D'Antoni has little choice but to devise some sort of plan to squeeze as much from that group as possible.

(Read full post)

Why Mike D'Antoni was the right choice

November, 12, 2012
11/12/12
6:49
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Give the Lakers credit. They never run out of ways to keep the world guessing. One day after giving Mike Brown a public vote of confidence, they send the guy packing. And then upon prepping everyone for the “Godfather Part III” installment of Phil Jackson in L.A. (“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”), an audible is called for Mike D’Antoni, the man painted as the distant second choice. There’s a reason this franchise has flourished in Hollywood.

Given how “We want Phil” chants have echoed through Staples Center the past two days, I know this decision will leave many fans disappointed. Each of Jackson’s stints in L.A. have featured multiple championships, and this is a team built to immediately carry that tradition. In theory, what’s not to like?

However, something about hiring Jackson always struck me as overly familiar. Predictable. A bit too convenient. You could hear the wheels turning inside the heads of fans, media and players alike. "Phil is available. ... He lives in the South Bay. ... Eleven titles. ... Zen Master. ... Of course he's the guy."

Except, of course, most complex situations typically don't resolve in ready-made, neat solutions. And I wasn’t entirely convinced another go-round with Phil was quite the slam dunk most people thought.

To begin with, the seamless-return narrative was exaggerated. Only five current Lakers players have played under Jackson, and three had relatively short stints. A few notable highs notwithstanding, Metta World Peace’s time in PJ's system was, to say the least, turbulent. Steve Blake played one year under Jackson and was visibly uncomfortable in the triangle. During Devin Ebanks' lone campaign with Phil, the then-rookie rarely removed his warm-ups. Only Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol have truly flourished in the triangle. As Bryant noted after Friday's win, the 1999-2000 squad won a title in its first triangular season, but it was also loaded with veterans who spent years playing against Jackson's Chicago Bulls, which created some degree of familiarity. This 2012-13 roster wouldn't figure to benefit from that luxury.

There was also the issue of Steve Nash, who remains the same odd fit in the triangle as he was in the Princeton. Either the Hall of Fame point guard would have endured another learning curve in a system that doesn't cater to his style, or Jackson would have been forced to tweak his offense to accommodate a type of player he's never coached. Both approaches could have meant more heads bumping, and at least one reason Brown was fired was to avoid such a scenario.

It's also worth remembering that Jackson's last season with the Lakers didn't end particularly well, beyond just the second-round sweep at the hands of Dallas. As I wrote at the time, 2010-11 wasn't a strong season for Jackson. He had to be cajoled into returning, then throughout the season often seemed disconnected with players, unable to reach and motivate them. The team appeared less prepared than it should have been at key moments, and that lack of poise reared its ugly head during a playoff run that went from wobbly to disastrous. Too often Jackson relied too heavily on his established approach rather than venturing out of his comfort zone to address what clearly wasn’t working with the team. Truth be told, he appeared tired of the NBA grind, like a man who realized he might have made a mistake in returning.

(Read full post)

5-on-5: Brown out, what's next?

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
2:01
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Mike Brown is out. What's next for the Lakers?

Andy and I participated in a 5-on-5 roundtable discussion on the subject, along with TrueHoop's Henry Abbott, Darius Soriano of Forum Blue and Gold, and ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst.

The five questions on the docket:

1. Firing Mike Brown after five games: Good move or bad move.
2. Kobe Bryant publicly expressed support for Brown. Do you think he and his teammates played a role in Brown's firing?
3. Who should be the next permanent coach of the Lakers?
4. What other changes should the Lakers make to return to glory?
5. Will the Lakers turn it around this year and become a contender?

 

The dreaded vote of confidence for Mike Brown?

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
6:32
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Approach me on the street and accuse me of being an alcoholic, and I'll deny it.

"Of course," you might say. "Denial is the first sign of being an alcoholic."

True enough (according to the literature, at least), but it's also the first sign of not being an alcoholic.

In many ways, that's the dynamic at play whenever management is asked for a vote of confidence on the head coach. The answer is almost never "I hope he's renting" and encouraging words no matter how flowery are often followed by the axe. The powers that be express support because doing anything else is counterproductive. Denial plays like denial, even if it's genuine.

In Los Angeles, the hot seat questions have already arrived in earnest. Judging by our Twitter feed and comments left on the blog after Wednesday's 96-85 loss in Utah dropped the Lakers to 1-4, a healthy dose of purple-and-gold faithful are ready to cut ties with coach Mike Brown.

They hope, then, the (vote of) confidence and patience shown him by Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss, via ESPNLA's Ramona Shelburne, is merely a misdirection designed to distract while he dusts off his coaching Rolodex. It doesn't sound that way:
"I have no problems with Mike Brown at all," Buss said. "He just works too hard and he's too knowledgeable for this to be happening.

"So either the system is flawed or something's going on. Or, like the Triangle, it's very hard to pick up and understand. I'm not a basketball mind like he is or the players are, and the players are fine with it, so I just have to be patient."

Buss says he has been gauging player reaction to the Lakers' new Princeton offense, Brown and how they're dealing with the slow start by reading their public comments and talking to them directly. On Tuesday afternoon, he went down from his office to the court during practice to take their temperature, and he said he found things to be rather calm.

"Kobe [Bryant] and I have a relationship where he can just look at me and say, 'Everything's cool,' " Buss said. "So yesterday during practice, I gave Kobe a quick glance, and everything was cool." ...

... In Buss' own words, "this team was built to win now." So just how patient can he be?

"You have to give it time to understand [what's going on]," Buss said. "I don't know if there's an actual game total that would make me impatient. I know if we're 1-15, I don't think that would be very good. I'm sure that would be a panic button. But at this time, I'm fine with what's going on. It's a learning process for the players. As long as everybody is on the same page, I think we're fine."

For the record, Brown won't survive a 1-15 start, but the reality is a) should it happen I won't be around to report the news for I will already have taken the family into the K-Bros Blog Bunker (or "Blonker"), and b) the Lakers won't be 1-15 after 16 games. They won't be 12-4, either, but somewhere in the middle. By every indication, Jim Buss likes Brown and believes he's a good coach. Moreover, philosophically, the Lakers aren't a knee-jerk group. They don't make reactionary choices. Should something catastrophic occur -- the horrible record extends near Thanksgiving or clear indications Brown has totally lost the team -- any decision on Brown becomes easy.

More likely, though, it won't be that cut and dried. In a season with so much on the line, Buss and Mitch Kupchak could face some extremely tough decisions.

(Read full post)

The Forum: First week impressions

November, 7, 2012
11/07/12
7:48
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The Lakers' season has, to put it mildly, gotten off to a rocky start. Has this changed our perception of a team penciled in by many -- us included -- as potential champions in 2013? We discuss.

 

Why the Princeton makes sense

November, 2, 2012
11/02/12
1:58
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Thursday afternoon in El Segundo, Mike Brown explained in clear terms why he believes the Princeton offense is a key to success for the Lakers this season:
"We don't want to be so one-dimensional where when you play good teams, they say 'OK, Steve Nash is going to play pick and roll 75 percent of the time. Let's figure out how to defend that. And once we take that away, they ain't going to know how to play the game. I'm not going to allow my team to do that. Good teams will figure that out. Not only good teams. When you get somebody in the playoffs and you've got to play them seven games, they'll stop that one thing you're good at. So you've got to be good at a few things on the offensive end of the floor and not just the pick and roll."

I agree, particularly against teams like Miami and Oklahoma City, capable of playing extremely high-end defense. According to Synergy, both were effective against the P & R last season, the Heat being particularly dominant. Given the incredible versatility and basketball acumen of L.A.'s core players, limiting them to one form of offense seems like a waste. As Kobe Bryant noted Thursday, the point isn't to keep the ball from Steve Nash or cover for the relative lack of athleticism on the team.

"The reality is, when you have talented players that are willing to sacrifice their game and to play within a structure, it makes you unstoppable," he said.

No question Nash is uncomfortable (now literally, not just figuratively, following Wednesday's shin injury). He's putting enormous pressure on himself to keep the Lakers inside the Princeton structure, knowing the choice to do otherwise -- despite Brown's approval -- only prolongs the team's learning process. As I noted in Thursday's edition of The Forum, I firmly believe once the Lakers have a healthy grasp of the system, they won't run it nearly as much. Go back to the days of the triangle. Yes, it was the foundation, but in the fourth quarter the Lakers basically ran a series of Kobe/Pau Gasol pick and rolls.

They'll do it again this year, only this time will have Nash and Kobe and Dwight Howard (the NBA's best roll man) and Gasol to utilize, and the ability to keep teams honest at the same time thanks to a sound offensive structure.

That's the theory, at least. Obviously there are no guarantees any of this will work, that Brown is fully capable of organizing and implementing this type of plan, or the growing pains won't come back to haunt the Lakers, whether through a lesser seed or stunted development in other areas. But it's a calculated risk worth taking.

Wednesday night in Portland, the Lakers scored 106 points and shot 50 percent from the floor, despite turning the ball over 24 times. While the TO's are definitely a function of offensive confusion, they shouldn't last forever. In Tuesday's opener, the Lakers had 10 assists on their first 13 buckets. There are plenty of positive signs regarding the offense, and reasons to believe in the long run the Lakers will be better off.

Now, about that defense...

 

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
25.0 2.5 1.5 28.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 10.5
AssistsR. Price 4.0
StealsR. Price 2.0
BlocksE. Davis 2.0