LakHer Blog: Thanksgiving Edition

Happy-ThanksgivingHello LakHer fans! I know that I have been radio silent for a while (sorry Zjelko), but I have a good reason for it. As you all know I try not to post negative blogs. I will give constructive criticism, but I will never just rant. I always try to offer a solution. However, I am not going to lie, things are pretty bad in Lakerland. Honestly, there is not much I can say to lift your spirits or suggestions I can give to improve our team. Our current roster is terrible. I was hopeful that Julius Randle would be a bright spot this year, but since he injured himself in the first game, we need to move on for the time being. Barring some big trade (which seems unlikely since all the owners around the league seem to have made their own agreement not give the Lakers any valuable players and since we have nothing to give in return) we are screwed.

Now, I hate making blanket statements like that, particularly ones that are so negative, so I will offer the one spot in which the Lakers can and must improve: defense. The Lakers have the worst defense in the league. They gave up 140 points to Dallas the other night; that is just pathetic. I can accept the fact that the Lakers have a less talented team. I can accept the fact that besides Kobe Bryant and Nick Young, the Lakers are going to struggle to score. However, I cannot accept poor defense. Defense does not require a lot of skill; it is all about effort. Anderson Varejao is a mediocre player at best, but he has stuck around in the league because he will harass any player he is told to defend. He makes simple plays difficult, and that’s the point of defense.

Byron Scott promised us premiere defense when he became our coach. He knew that fans like me were sick of the D’Antoni-no-defense style. However, we have yet to see him deliver on his promise. I will go easy on him, since the Lakers put together almost an entirely new group of people, and chemistry does take time (just ask the Cavs), but I do expect some major improvements on the defensive end. I am a bit of a stat junkie. I can spend hours on ESPN’s stat page going over every single detail. So I decided to give my loyal readers a little taste of the good stuff. I wanted to analyze this defensive problem that the Lakers are having. First, I want to rule out D’Antoni’s fear that we aren’t scoring enough. The Lakers are doing fine on the offensive end, as they are currently ranked at #12 averaging 101.4 points per game. Turnovers are also not the issue since the Lakers are only giving up 12.2 per game making them 6th best in the league. Now that we have ruled out offense as the issue (see D’Antoni), I will move on to the defense. The Lakers are simply giving up too many easy shots. Teams are averaging 110.8 points per game against us, making us the worst defense in the league. Additionally, the teams are scoring efficiently. Teams are shooting 48.9% from the field and 39.3% from 3-point land. Those numbers are unacceptable.

On a happier note, since we are in the Holiday season, and we are supposed to be saying what we are thankful for, I will point out the few bright spots of the season. This way we can at least get through the dog days without crying (too much).

Kobe Bryant and the ESPN #40 ranking

I have two words for ESPN, “Thank you.” Kobe uses lots of things to motivate him, but people doubting him comes in pretty high on the list. Honestly, it is probably right under winning championships.

He is a little less explosive but his footwork and moves are still there. Right now he is the scoring leader averaging 26.4 points per game. I do not think that is sustainable, but he is making a point. I believe that he will end up averaging about 20 points a game this year. I believe this for a few reasons. First, he will want to show ESPN that they were wrong and he is still relevant. Second, this Lakers team doesn’t have a lot of scoring weapons so he will need to score out of necessity, but with Scott admitting that Kobe’s minutes will go down (because now they are way too high at 35.2 per game making him sixth highest in the league) he will have less time to score. Lastly, and most importantly he will need to average 20 points a game in order to pass Michael Jordan on the All Time Scoring List in December. I think that spot on the list means more to Kobe than any other record. He has always been compared to Jordan and taking that spot from him will help his case. Kobe will probably not be able to acquire that sixth ring, but he can take Jordan’s scoring spot away from him.

Nick Young

Hallelujah! Swaggy P is back and healthy! Upon Nick’s return, the Lakers won their first 2 games in a row. It was a holiday miracle! He is the type of player that we need to get through this really tough season. We are going to lose a lot of games, but he is going to make some crazy shots that end up on ESPN’s top 10 plays. Before he was in the lineup, these games were depressing. The last couple of games have not been his best, but he is getting his swagger back, and I am excited to see him get back to his best form. I always speak highly of Nick because he is everything you want in a sixth man: burst of energy, loves his position, and an instant game changer. Sure, I make fun of his hair, and some the stupid decisions he makes, but overall I think he is wonderful and I am so happy we have him.

Jordan Hill

I remember being very skeptical when the Lakers gave Jordan such a massive contract in the off season, but so far he has proved his worth. He has been our only defensive anchor on a very crappy defensive team. He has had 8 double doubles this year while averaging about 10 rebounds per game. No matter how badly the rest of the team is playing, he is always putting in the effort.

Last night’s first half against Memphis

I was so impressed watching the first half against Memphis. The Lakers were moving the ball, and playing great defense. Ronnie Price made some amazing plays. The whole Lakers team was playing together, and Kobe was able to rest and take very few shots. Everyone stepped up and it was impressive to watch us beating one of the best teams in the Western Conference. If the Lakers could sustain that effort and chemistry through an entire game, then they would actually be a bit dangerous, however we have yet to really see that happen. Since I am saying what I am thankful for, I will not go into what happened in the second half, needless to say there is a reason why I am not thankful for it.

Steve Nash is no longer a distraction (sort of)

Besides angering fans by playing golf, Steve Nash is out of sight and out of mind. It was announced earlier this season that he was officially done for the season. He said he was going to take his $9.7 million, because he would be an idiot not to. While it wasn’t the classiest move, I don’t necessarily disagree with him. It is hard to walk away from that much money, no matter how much you are worth. Additionally, this man has no loyalty to the Lakers, if anything, he has more reason than most to want to screw us over since we thwarted any chance of him ever getting a ring for a decade. When the announcement came that he was officially done, all I wanted to do was yell and scream, “I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!” Don’t worry fans, I will be adding the announcement to that blog as well.

The other night my parents were complaining that Nash wasn’t sitting on the bench. My mom asked, “Shouldn’t all injured players be in their suits on the bench? Where is he?” to which my dad replied, “Playing golf.” In theory, Nash should be sitting his ass on the bench watching every single home game. In reality, it is better to keep him far away. Fans hate him, and seeing his face only reminds them of the failed “big 3.”  When we are over the hate, we should have him return to the bench where he can assist. Luke Walton did the same thing whenever he had a back injury and it was very helpful. Jeremy Lin could really use some guidance from the future Hall of Fame point guard. Every time I watch Lin handle the ball I can feel him over thinking it. In the first half last night, he was back in Linsanity form, but in the second half (when everything else for the Lakers fell apart) he kept turning the ball over because he kept over thinking. Maybe Nash can help him learn how to read and react as opposed to getting stuck in the plays. If Nash could help resurrect Linsanity then Lakers fans would get over the amount of money we have paid Nash to sit on the bench (or at home).

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Why Lakers Fans Need to be Prepared for Another Tough Season

lakers-ship-sinking1A lot has happened since my last blog post: we acquired Carlos Boozer via amnesty (see I told you so Bulls!), we also officially signed multiple players, but most importantly, we finally hired Byron Scott.

After D’Antoni mercifully resigned (for roughly $2 million), I wrote a post discussing all of our coaching options and threw my support behind Scott. He is a good coach who bleeds purple and gold, and he was Jerry’s pick, not Jim’s. I only mention this fact because Jerry had a fantastic record when it comes to picking coaches, and we all know how Jimmy’s choices worked out.

Now that our roster is mostly full, it is time to analyze our team. For the purposes of this blog post I am only going to analyze the changes. We lost Pau Gasol but gained Julius Randle, Ed Davis, and Carlos Boozer. Additionally, we lost Kendall Marshall but gained Jeremy Lin.

Starting at the power forward position, I believe we may be slightly weaker. I love Pau and was devastated to see him go. Carlos Boozer is a solid power forward, but he has injury problems and he is not the same man who dominated in Utah. I am pretty unfamiliar with Davis, but based upon my research, he has the potential but has never seemed to break out, so hopefully he can have a Swaggy P type year. Lastly, I have always admitted that I am unfamiliar with the NCAA, therefore I only know what has been reported about Randle. I am always hesitant to trust a rookie since we have seen so many high draft picks flounder in the NBA. I believe that Randle will be a good power forward, however, I am not going to put all my eggs in that basket, not yet at least. The reason I am concerned about our power forwards, is that none of these players have Pau’s shooting or passing abilities. Also, Pau can play the 4 or the 5, whereas these players are going to be at the 4 or 3 position. Defensively, I am concerned about our size. We saw how Miami struggled against teams with true centers, and we need to be a better defensive team then last year.

Next, I want to criticize the Lakers for waiving Kendall Marshall. I liked Kendall despite some of his deficiencies. Also, he was making less than $1 million this year, so I cannot comprehend why we decided to waive him for financial reasons instead of the injured 40-year-old point guard making $7 million. I am sorry but those numbers do not add up. Steve Nash will not play more than 30 games this year, and that number is extremely optimistic. I personally do not believe he will play that many. I would expect maybe 20 games at the most out of him, and he will be playing limited minutes. I do not understand why we did not waive Nash. We have no loyalty to him. He got injured almost immediately after we acquired him, and he has struggled to stay healthy since. I understand that we should respect him since he is a future Hall of Famer, but he had all of his accomplishments in Phoenix; we do not owe him anything. He has even admitted the only reason he isn’t retiring is because of the money. Therefore, we should have just paid him (via amnesty), and had the cap space to sign some other players.

I already discussed Jeremy Lin in my last post, so I am going to be brief. We did get an upgrade at the point guard position. I also said that we were only renting him for the year so we should not get too attached. However, Mitch came out at the press conference and admitted that this was the third time that he had gone after Lin. Apparently he wanted him since he played at Harvard. Therefore, we may actually try to resign him next summer.

In this post’s title I told fans to be prepared for another bad year. Basically it looks like our roster is slightly improved. However there is one big factor I have yet to mention, and I like to call it the “Mamba Factor.” Kobe only played a few games last year, hence our team only winning 27 games. Now, I want to believe more than anyone that Kobe will be back at full force next year. Unfortunately, if watching Steve Nash fall apart has taught me anything, it is that once a player suffers a serious injury, they may never be the same again. Kobe has now taken to huge breaks to rest up and heal. Both he and the Lakers organization say he will be ready next year, but it is important to not get too excited. We need to manage our expectations in case this blows up again.

If Kobe comes back and is still a great player, then the Lakers have a shot to be a decent team. However, that can only happen if he is able to score around 20 points per game. I know that the idea of Kobe not being able to put up 30 whenever he wants is a scary thought for Lakers fans, but we need to face reality. He is entering his 18th season and has suffered some career ending injuries. If he is able to play more than half the games and put up over 15 points, then we need to count our blessings.

I have decided to be optimistic and say that Kobe will make it through a decent amount of games and put up solid numbers, and I am basing that on our new coach. I have always blamed the plethora of injuries on D’Antoni and his crazy offensive system, but Scott is smarter and will take Kobe’s health into consideration. Scott is a defensive minded coach, but he did play for Showtime and understands the importance of having a good system. Scott may not slow down the game to “triangle speeds” but he won’t make the Lakers run around like D’Antoni.

If the stars line up perfectly, and the Lakers are healthy, and all the players exceed expectations, then the Lakers have a shot of making it into the playoffs and getting eliminated in the first round. However, I always feel that it is my job to tell my readers the truth and not fill you with false hope. As we currently stand, the Lakers will probably not make the playoffs this year unless the stars align for them and everything else goes to hell for the elite western conference teams.

Lastly, since this free agency cycle is coming to an end, I think it is good for the Lakers to learn from their mistakes so they can retool for next summer when the stakes are higher. First off, I think it was stupid that they let all these solid free agents get away because they played the waiting game with LeBron and Melo. They were never going to come to the Lakers, and that is fine that they wanted to give it a shot, but then you need to keep building as if they are not coming. If either one of those guys decided that they wanted to come play for the Lakers, then the Lakers would have figured out a way to move pieces around to sign them. You do not put everything on hold hoping for one of them to save the day. Remember my comment about putting all of your eggs in one basket?

Now I also think the Lakers need to work on damage control and get their publicist working over time. Whenever I watch ESPN or hear any of the analysts talking about the Lakers, they always say that it is no longer a premier destination. The more they say it, the more it becomes a reality. It does not matter that the Lakers were the most profitable team last year (by about $100 million) despite having one of the worst records. Ever since Jerry died people think that the culture died with him. Jim Buss needs to get his ego in check and start following in daddy’s footsteps. Jerry was famous for caring about his players without going overboard like Mark Cuban. He would invite the players over and constantly take them out to dinner.

Kobe came out a few months ago and criticized Jim Buss. It is not a secret that Jim has spent no time with his star player, and Kobe has not been happy about it. The reason why both Lakers fans and players like Jeannie more is because of Phil. Phil would take the players out and spend time with them, and of course he would bring his longtime girl friend with him. Jeannie has more of a voice in the organization because of Phil, not her father. Recently Kobe has been speaking very favorably about the wonder siblings because he realizes that the Lakers will keep missing out on free agents if they think the owners are a problem. If we have learned anything from the Sterling scandal, it is that the owners do matter to the players, even if it is not their first priority.

Per usual, I do not like to criticize the Lakers without offering up some suggestions. Jim Buss needs to get his face out there more, and it needs to be in a favorable light. He needs to take Kobe and maybe the entire team out to dinner at one of the paparazzi favorite restaurants (Mr. Chows?) and then make sure the story ends up in the media. If he starts giving off the impression that he cares about his players, then people will start to believe it. The more he acts like his beloved father, the more people will start to see him that way.

My business professors at Tulane always stressed to me the importance of relationships; I even took a Relationship Marketing Class. Jim needs to develop relationships with his players, staff, and the media. Until we retool the image problem around the Lakers, we will not be able to get back to an elite competitive status.

 

Ding Dong D’Antoni is Gone

1797503_10152467886367223_1578149390540710542_nI am not writing this post to celebrate the departure of Mike D’Antoni. The man had many faults, but I have always maintained that his biggest fault was being chosen over Phil Jackson.

Honestly, D’Antoni resigning was the best possible outcome for all parties involved. The Lakers did not want to have him next year, and they did not want to have to fire another coach. Additionally, both Kobe and Pau have maintained their lack of desire to play for him. Lastly, D’Antoni has felt the wrath of LA fans for the last 2 years. He has even been booed at games. Fans did not want him, and more importantly Kobe did not want him.

He had been facing rumors for months about his ultimate demise, so he finally took action. He decided to ask for the Lakers to pick up his option for the 2015-2016 season. I was initially surprised to hear that he made this move. The Lakers just faced their worst record since moving to LA, and D’Antoni wants the Lakers to guarantee him for an additional year? What is his bargaining tool?

I have already mentioned all the negatives of having D’Antoni, and I could not think of any possible reason why the Lakers would guarantee him for an additional year. The stars appeared to be lined up for the Lakers to get rid of him next year, and use the empty coaching position as a negotiating tool with free agents.

D’Antoni said that he did not want to be a lame duck coach. He claimed it was too distracting. This argument is silly. Tons of coaches and players are in this position and they work through it. Instead, I think D’Antoni was looking for an excuse to resign. He must have been miserable in LA, and I think he went into negotiations knowing that he would be turned down, so that he could use that as his excuse to walk away. I will reiterate, this was the best possible outcome. Now he can pursue the Golden State Warriors, since that position just became open.

The Lakers can now focus on the future. The rumor mill has been swirling with possible candidates (this is how we knock the Clippers off the front page). Time for me to break down the possible candidates for the Lakers next head coach:

Byron Scott

I am a huge fan of this possibility. He is young, a former Laker, has won “Coach of the Year,” and can help lure Kyrie Irving. Byron has a good mix of experience and youth that I think would be very beneficial to this rebuilding process. Additionally, he is a former Laker and understands the pressure that comes with this position. He should pass the Kobe Bryant test, and would be great in recruiting the former “Rookie of the Year” since he coached him in Cleveland. I think there is a very good chance that he will be the next coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Derek Fisher

He is the dark horse in the race to claim Phil Jackson’s throne. He is a very interesting choice. We know that he and Kobe were teammates and remain close friends. It is no secret that Derek Fisher is one of the only people that Kobe allows to be completely honest with him. They were co-captains for the Lakers, and Derek took on the leadership role. Kobe is only good at inspiring fear, so Derek would step up and encourage his teammates in times of adversity. They often crediting him with inspiring them with his speeches, and he has a bit of a reputation for relishing in crunch time. Since Derek played in LA for years, he is very aware of the pressure that comes with this position, and is beloved by Lakers fans. These qualities are admirable in a coach.

Despite all of Derek’s great qualities, there are some risks in making him the head coach. Currently, Derek is in his final playoffs with OKC. This means that Derek has zero coaching experience. The Nets made a similar move last year by making Jason Kidd their head coach. That move has worked out quite nicely since he just won his first game 7 and is currently taking on the Miami Heat in round two. While it did work out for the Nets, hiring a coach without any coaching experience is a risk. The Lakers are probably unwilling to take such a risk since their last two coaches did not work out.

Secondly, Derek’s relationship with Kobe might actually be a problem. However, Kobe could end up turning on Derek, or Derek could decide to let Kobe be Kobe in order to avoid hurting their relationship. As players and co-captains they were on equal footing, but if Fisher became the coach then he would have the ability to pull Kobe out of games and tell him to pass the damn ball. When Derek Fisher delivered some harsh truths to Kobe, Kobe could decide whether or not to listen, but as his coach Kobe would be forced to “obey.” I say “obey” because Kobe has always on some level ignored or overruled his coaches over the years. Needless to say, the Kobe/Derek dynamic could prove to be extremely beneficial or terribly detrimental.

Van Gundy Brothers

I am combining the Jeff and Stan because I think the likelihood of the Lakers signing either brother is slim. They are both admirable coaches and are well respected, but I do not see them fitting in with the Lakers or the LA fans. I think their personality will be a turn off for the fans, and I think Kobe will be too much for either of them to handle. Stan could not handle Dwight, does he really want to take a crack at the Black Mamba? Additionally, the Lakers front office is looking to do two things with this coaching vacancy: make a splash, and attract free agents.

Signing either Van Gundy is not a sexy choice (on every single level), and they do not have the same lure to bring in free agents as some of the other choices. All in all, I do not think either one will end up as the next coach.

Tom Thibodeau

This name has gotten the most attention during the media circus. It is unfortunate that his name got leaked. Before we started considering him as the next coach, the Bulls were on their way to getting knocked out of the first round. Rumors were starting to swirl that the Bulls were going to fire him. Now the Bulls have taken a firm stance, and despite giving the Lakers permission to talk to Tom, they have reminded us that he is under contract. Unfortunately, now if we want to steal him from the Bulls, we will have to give up something massive. Rumor has it that the Bulls either want our first round pick or for us to take Boozer and his massive contract.

Let me clear, I have said in the past that I am strongly against us trading our draft pick for Kevin Love. If Kevin Love is not worth it, neither is Tom. However, I would be open to taking on Boozer. He does have a big contract, but it expires in 2015. We are going to have a mediocre year anyway, so we might as well spend some money on him and then let him walk away while we go after the big free agents.

I took a bit of a detour, so let me get back to discussing Tom as the Lakers future coach. He is Kobe’s first choice and I have a lot of respect for him. While D’Antoni was all about offense, Tom is all about defense. Remember that crushing Celtic defense that destroyed us in the 2008 finals? Tom was the architect.

I think he could be a great coach for the Lakers, if we do not have to give up too much to bring him here.

George Karl

I have already discussed my opinion of George Karl, so I will keep this short. While I think he has a lot of great qualities, I do not think he will be the next coach. I doubt he wants to deal with LA or the rebuilding process.

Kevin Ollie

I have always admitted that my NCAA knowledge is limited. However, I have done a little research on Ollie and I think he has a lot of potential. This LA native has achieved a lot, and has done so very quickly. He won the NCAA tournament only 2 years after being named UCONN’s head coach. He played 13 season in the NBA and retired only 4 years ago. He might be itching to come back. Kevin Durant has spoken highly of him and explained that Ollie was his mentor in Oklahoma. Ollie would be the best person to lure Durant away from OKC in 2016 if we still have the cap space for him.

Ollie just won a national championship, so it is hard to say how he feels about staying. He may want to stay to defend the title. Maybe he now has enough credibility so he wants to take the next step to the NBA? I think we are in a good position to steal him from Connecticut.

All these coaches pose a risk to the Lakers, and Ollie is no exception. Ollie has been very successful in coaching college students, but the NCAA coaching style does not always translate well to NBA coaching. I think Ollie will be a very successful NBA coach since he spent so much time as a player and has gained amazing experience at the college level. However, we won’t know unless he takes the job.

John Calipari

His name started swirling the day of his championship game. I failed to talk about it because I knew it was a bogus rumor. I am convinced that someone started that rumor just to mess with Kentucky players’ heads. He has already come out twice and said he is not interested in the job. I know some people think he is playing hard ball for future negotiations, but I truly believe he is not interested. Again, my knowledge of him is limited, but based on all the reporting, it sounds like the Lakers situation is not a good fit for him.

Jerry Sloan

Like Karl, I already gave my Sloan assessment. I have a great deal of respect for Sloan, but I think his personality will not mesh well with the Lakers or the city.

Roy Williams

He is not pictured because he is a new coach to hit the rumor mill. Apparently we have targeted him before, but to no avail. He seems pretty dead set on staying in the NCAA, so I am not expecting to see him in next season.

Mark Jackson

I know I have already gone through all the men in the photograph, but while writing this post Mark Jackson was fired from Golden State (not surprising but still horribly disappointing). The Lakers should definitely take a look at him. He is a great coach who should not have been fired. He improved Golden State each year that he coached, and the Lakers are in some dire need of improvement. His style might be a bit fast paced, but he is still worth considering. The former Clipper knows all about the LA lifestyle and I think he could be a great addition.

 

I know this has been a long post, and I appreciate you all for staying with me. A lot will change in the coming months. Since the Lakers are not expecting to sign a coach before the draft, you can be sure this list will be changing. I know that Jim Buss has made bad coaching decisions in the past, but I will remain hopeful, since I am thus far thoroughly impressed with the current list. I told my fans, things will get better, and now we are on our way.