Lakers must make changes going forward
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 22:01
Along with the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers are the most historic and beloved team in basketball. The Lakers have won 16 world championships in their proud history. They have only missed the playoffs five times; only twice since Kobe Bryant was born.
So when the Lakers start a season 17-24 and are five games out the eight seed position, you can imagine that the shock meter bolted to a 10. At the start of the season the Laker’s picked up Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, two future hall-of-famers. Their starting lineup became Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard.
Looks pretty good, doesn’t it? You have individual scoring, playmaking, assist and defensive experts all on the same team. But, can they play as a team and make one another better on the court with their individual skills?
The answer is no. The Lakers have three “shoo in” Hall of Famers on their team, but the puzzle pieces do not fit. Lets break the three main pieces:
Kobe Bryant, the five time world champion and leader of the team, works best when he is in isolation. He demands the ball along the perimeter and he creates his own shot. He will dribble and call for picks until he gets the look he wants. He is not a Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, or a “Rip” Hamilton type of player. He creates his own shot and he doesn’t wait for someone to make a play while he runs through picks to get open. In basic terms, Kobe is his own offense.
This puzzle piece overlaps Steve Nash’s piece because Nash is all about handling the ball and feeding it to players for open looks. Nash is a very similar player to Kobe in that he demands the ball; however, unlike Kobe, Nash specializes in assists and getting people open jumpers. On numerous occasions, Nash has taken to acting like a shooting guard, thus allowing Kobe to take over the game. Nash is far too talented a player to just dribble down the court and immediately pass it to Kobe.
The third conflicting puzzle piece is the big man, Dwight Howard. What is there to say about Superman? Not much, actually. As a three time Defensive Player of the Year, Howard is charged with leading the defense and guarding the paint. However, all we have seen is technical fouls and missed free throws. His Laker defense is ranked 26th, giving up an inexcusable 101 points per game. The first thing Mike D’Antoni should do is show Dwight Howard clips of the 2008 Boston Celtics and how Kevin Garnett turned a team 180 degrees defensively. The Celtics became a spectacular defensive team overnight due to one man. Do you think the word defense ever entered the minds of Ray Allen or Paul Pierce before Garnett came? One man can change the locker room, and believe it or not the Lakers have three men that can do it.
Overall, the Lakers’ problem is not what we initially thought it was. We thought it was the chemistry and that they would struggle in the beginning just like the Heat. We are all learning that is not the problem. As Kobe said, “We are just old and slow.” They need to make a move. Dwight Howard is a free agent after this season and he will most likely leave if they do not make the playoffs. Am I saying Dwight is the sole problem? No. But the Lakers could secure valuable players for him if they were to trade him before he ditches like LeBron James did. Logically, Dwight Howard would want to be the man on a winning team, perhaps on his first choice, the Brooklyn Nets.
The bottom line is that the Lakers just cannot play with just anyone. Kobe is a great defender for his size but he is not a LeBron James, who on defense who can match up against anyone no matter their size. Kobe needs help. He proved he can shut down top-notch players like Kyrie Irving and Brandon Jennings but his legs gave out in the next three games and he could not throw a ball in the ocean if he was standing in a boat.
Kobe and Nash struggle against young, fast, and talented back courts like OKC, Clippers, Bucks and even the Heat. Their big men struggle as well in that they are too slow to play in the modern day offense with small, quick lineups. Teams like the Heat have their best line up with no true center. The game has evolved to a quick transition game and the Lakers have to evolve with it. They need to make a coaching change and a trade to pick up some young and talented players in exchange for their old and slow ones.