Mike D’Antoni has stated numerous times this season that a specific “identity” will have to be developed for this team, with and without superstar Kobe Bryant. What do we mean exactly by developing an identity?
In today’s NBA, each team tends to create their own reputation, as well as primary game plan to winning basketball games. Taking a look around the league, it’s becoming quite easy to sense where each team’s point of emphasis stays throughout a season.
In Indiana, holding opponents to just 84.5 points per game through eight games has truly told the Pacers’ story of the last few years. Defensive pressure, particularly in the paint, has allowed Indiana to have so much success in the playoffs, where every possession is valued greater than in the regular season.
Down in Houston, leading the league in 3-pointers last season was no accident. Their tendency to move the ball allows them to fire up a large amount of perimeter shots each and every night, which tends to be a good thing with the personnel of Chandler Parsons, James Harden, Fransisco Garcia, Jeremy Lin, Omri Casspi, and Patrick Beverley surrounding the wings. Just on Wednesday night at Philadelphia (without Harden), the Rockets put up 41 3-pointers. While it isn’t always a great strategy with the best center in the league on your roster, it’s going to allow Houston to be one of the highest scoring teams all season.
What can/will be the identity for D’Antoni’s Lakers from now until April?
Cross out the thought of them being a threatening defensive team. Eliminate the possibility of Los Angeles being a team with a dominant frontcourt.
Instead, when Bryant returns, the Lakers are simply going to have to look like the New York Knicks. For better or worse, whether fans will be happy or not, it’s unavoidable.
Much like New York, Los Angeles has proven their desire to shoot from the perimeter. We are all aware of Nick Young, Jodie Meeks, and even Jordan Farmar‘s ability to shoot from beyond the arc. Never forget, the clutchest player in Los Angeles at the moment, Steve Blake. All year, this young group is going to resemble the Knicks’ Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Then, there is the positive/negative effect of the superstar. Carmelo Anthony gives the Knicks the ideal star power and the ability to say they have a go-to guy down the stretch of games. With that being said, the ball doesn’t seem to move a lot on the offensive end in late-game situations. Instead, “clearing out” for Anthony to do his work seems to be Mike Woodson‘s approach in close battles. Much can be the same with Kobe Bryant for these Lakers. Without a dominant big to throw the ball to in the post, we know Bryant is going to be more trigger happy than ever upon his return. Is it a bad thing for this team? Probably not. They’re going to need every bit of scoring they can get to make up for the ungodly amount of points they surrender each night.
The 2013-14 Lakers’ identity is simply not more than what we have already seen. When Bryant steps back into the rotation, their success is still going to be dependent upon their bench production, perimeter shooting, and energy level. We can praise Pau Gasol all we want about what he has accomplished through the years (I’m certainly guilty). But when it comes down to it, he’s not filling the hole that Dwight Howard left when he took his talents to Houston. Howard gave the Lakers the added athleticism and defensive assurance in the middle, while Gasol just wasn’t made for being a defensive anchor.
Inconsistency This Week
It’s extremely difficult to get excited about a Lakers’ win now-a-days, when you aren’t sure just what type of team will show up the next night.
Sunday, Nov. 10th against Minnesota, a team the Lakers have had no problem beating 22 straight times (dating back to the Kevin Garnett days), one of the most disgusting defensive performances was on display at Staples Center. Minnesota scorched Los Angeles for 47 points in the FIRST QUARTER, with Kevin Love scoring 18 of them. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kevin Love, LeBron James, or Kevin Durant, this team can’t afford having a superstar get that hot and take them out of the game within the first 12 minutes of action. The Timberwolves finished with 113 points, which is going to beat these Lakers almost every time. Without Bryant and Nash, it’s not reasonable to expect a 115 point offensive performance every night from this team. Even if it is what D’Antoni wants every team he coaches to do.
Tuesday, Nov. 12th against New Orleans, a completely different chapter was written. Coming off an embarrassing loss to Anthony Davis and the Pelicans last week, Los Angeles stood their ground and collected a 116-95 victory in a game where Jordan Hill decided to step up and score the ball with confidence. Finishing with 21 points, Hill emerged as the potential starter for this team at the center position throughout the rest of the year. This marked just the third game all season that the Lakers held their opponent below 100 points. To put this into perspective, 10 games have been played thus far.
Wednesday, Nov. 13th at Denver proved to be one of their “honeymoon games.” These are the games that the Lakers always prove just how disappointing they can be directly after a statement win. Not sure if you can call a win against New Orleans a “statement” win, but it came in dominating fashion. Nevertheless, the Lakers were outplayed and out-hustled by the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center, a place they haven’t been successful at in the last three years. This served as proof that if D’Antoni’s group doesn’t shoot the ball well, it’s only a prayer to win a basketball game. They shot just 39.4 percent from the field, made just 8-of-21 3-pointers, and made 65.4 percent of their free throws. On the road against the athletic duo of Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried, you can’t get nearly DOUBLED in points in the paint (DEN – 60, LAL – 32). Gasol gave it his all, taking 27 shot attempts and coming up with a 25-point, 12 rebound night, but the lack of interior defense becomes more apparent each and every game.
Expect D’Antoni to go to the film room during Thursday’s practice and ask his team exactly why Timofey Mozgov scored 23 points off the bench and shot 66.7 percent from the field.
A lot of work is needed before the anticipated match-up on Friday vs. the Memphis Grizzlies. The defense is going to have to be stronger, because we know one thing; the Grizzlies’ frontcourt won’t hesitate to attack and have a field day.