After Monday's practice in El Segundo, I asked Phil Jackson if opposing teams had enough respect for the Lakers' perimeter shooting, instead choosing to pack bodies into the paint and minimize L.A.'s size advantage. (Not that I've won any coach of the year awards, but it would be my strategy.) Jackson downplayed the problem, saying ball and player movement are more important than deadeye shooters for creating good looks. I agree to a point, but think it's pretty clear bad jumpshooting is having a serious impact on the offense as a whole.
Forcing teams to respect their shooters certainly wouldn't hurt the post game, at the very least.
Kobe Bryant believes the Lakers are missing a lot of shots they'd normally make. (Season stats argue a different case, but that's another story.) A few of his teammates, though, said in one form or another the Lakers are simply making things harder than they need to be on that end of the floor. Speaking to the media before Tuesday's game against Toronto Jackson agreed, but pointed to physical problems as well.
The Lakers don't have enough healthy hands on deck. Literally. "We had a practice (Monday) about basically we have five guys with hand injuries and what's happening is our fumbles, poor execution and dribbling simply because of that," PJ said.
For the record, the list includes Bryant (right index), Lamar Odom (middle fingers on right hand), Ron Artest (left thumb), Shannon Brown (right thumb) and Jordan Farmar (left pinkie). And Pau Gasol is playing with tape on his left hand as well.
Because of the injuries, Jackson said they tried going back to basics at Monday's practice. "A lot of it has to do with adjusting to injuries in this game. Hand injuries are debilitating a lot of times in this game. You play with your hands, and shoot the ball with touch," he said. "But because of those hand injuries I thought we've really suffered (in) execution skills, so we went through some basic things about picking the basketball up and making passes and just doing some things like our ABC's of basketball."
Over the course of the season, Kobe, Artest, and Gasol have all missed time, as have reserves Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic. Continuity has been hard to come by, but even with guys "healthy," the rhythm has been thrown off by injuries not forcing players to the sidelines. As we've talked about through the season, these are the type of little, nagging things making it hard for teams- any team, not just the Lakers- to repeat.
The problems are hardly all injury induced, though. Mechanically, the Lakers just aren't executing well, Jackson said.
"What we really talked about besides that is we're holding the ball too long. (Artest) is a little bit indecisive. Kobe's looking for opportunities. Our centers sometimes aren't kicking the ball out when they're getting double teamed in the post and they're creating turnovers. Everybody's a little bit guilty of that aspect, of not moving the ball when it's time to move the ball. So we talked about that as a sequence offensively."
Nor does Jackson believe they're pushing enough. "The other thing we emphasized on is we're not getting enough open floor opportunities and fast breaks," he said. "We outscored Orlando four to two in fast breaks. I like to see eight to ten points coming off fast breaks coming in the course of a game."