Doesn’t it feel good to have a head coach? Doesn’t it feel good to have a front office that doesn’t make knee jerk reactions based on fan and media scrutiny? Do you see what star power does to a team?
Friday, around mid-day, the Lakers fired head coach Mike Brown after the team posted a 1-4 record to start the season. They also went win-less in preseason, but preseason really doesn’t matter. It is, however, an indicator.
Five games are all Mitch Kupchak, the general manager of the Lakers, needed to assess Brown, his newly implemented Princeton offense (championed by Kobe Bryant), and the team’s play. Five games. Apparently, in Lakerland that is an eternity and a sign of the apocalypse. In that short time it was decided that the problem with the Lakers was Brown. He is the scapegoat.
Across television, pundits decry the Princeton offense as absurd and that it doesn’t work at the NBA level. Do not listen to these men. In five games the Lakers ran the sixth best offense in the NBA averaging 104.6 points per 100 possessions. Bryant is shooting 50 percent of his shots inside the restricted area because of the movement the Princeton employs. That figure should terrify opposing defenses. Forcing Kobe to shoot deep twos is where defenses are all smiles and happy thoughts about rainbows and horses. If it goes in, that’s fine. It was a low percentage shot, probably with the clock running down. Kobe getting layups (possibly even dunks)? RUN FOR THE HILLS!
So it’s not the Princeton. It isn’t. Period.
But, even if Kobe, and the rest of the Lakers, are getting plenty of shots at the rim, they cannot live on those shots alone. The Princeton offense opens up various shots through constant movement and high screens. Yet, the Lakers can’t seem to connect on any shot beyond the restricted area. They are dead last in field goal percentage from three to nine feet; connecting on only 18 percent of those shots. Second to last on shots within 10-15 feet. Here they shoot 16.7 percent. Luckily, they shoot better on low efficiency two-pointers (16-23 feet) with a clip of 37.1 percent. Their saving grace just may be the three-pointer. Here they connect 52.2 percent of the time. Not quite what the Mavericks are doing from behind the arc, 72.8 percent, but nothing to frown at.
Don’t let those numbers confuse you, though. The vast majority of the Lakers’ shots are high percentage ones, either at the rim or beyond the arc. Where the trouble lies in their inability to connect from within nine feet and the number of deep twos they take. However, this is a terribly small sample size. It is unlikely that these trends will continue. And with a new coach comes new trends.
The real issue with the Lakers is their sputtering defense. They are ranked 25rd in the league in defensive rating at 107.6. That’s bad, and it doesn’t help their defense when they have turned the ball over on offense almost 18 percent of the time.
Beyond the numbers, L.A.’s bench is bad. Really bad. Perhaps even historically bad (I have not done research to justify this claim). Jordan Hill has been their best player off the bench, scoring 5.4 points per game but is shooting just 39.1 percent. Steve Blake has been forced into starting duty with Steve Nash being out. One of these Steve’s is not like the other.
This is where I could discuss Antawn Jamison, but I won’t.
These are the real issues that the Lakers face. Not Mike Brown’s coaching. Not the Princeton. L.A. just isn’t that good beyond their four marquee players and Metta World Peace (I’m giving him credit because I like him). If they can solve their turnover woes and play some solid defense, which may be too much to ask at this point despite the presence of Dwight Howard, this team can turn it around.
This was an ill-advised move by the Lakers, predicated by fear mongering and impatience. Five game is a horrible metric to judge a team, let alone a coach. Brown will have a job in the NBA again. Maybe not as a head coach but he’ll be back. As for the Lakers, they have no coach and a lot of problems.
They really are a Hollywood drama.