If I’ve learned one thing while in L.A., it’s that these people love their Lakers. Almost as much as many of them hate Mike Brown. So now that the purple & gold are off to an 0-3 start, following a 105-95 home loss to the Clippers earlier tonight, panic has set in … if it hadn’t after the team’s loss to Dallas on Tuesday or Portland on Wednesday.
But these things take time. Some fans on Twitter are quick to point out that the Miami Heat started the 2010-11 season 9-8. That team appeared in the NBA Finals seven months later and won a championship the following season. The Lakers, ala the Heat, are incorporating two core players into their rotation — PG Steve Nash and C Dwight Howard, to the Heat’s SF LeBron James and PF Chris Bosh. L.A. is installing a new (Princeton) offensive system, at the behest of assistant coach Eddie Jordan, and injuries to Kobe Bryant, Howard and now Nash mean the team’s had little time to gel.
So, Lakers fans, all will be OK. Your team will still make the playoffs, hold home court in the first round and probably wind up facing either San Antonio or Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals. But, I agree, there are reasons to be concerned in sunny Southern California.
Bench … what bench?
Outside of the Lakers’ superstar splash this summer, L.A. also committed to its bench, signing Antwan Jamison and Jodie Meeks in free agency, re-signing Jordan Hill, and trading for Earl Clark and Chris Duhon as part of the Howard mega-trade. But that bench has yet to deliver. In fact, the only Lakers bench player to make any meaningful contributions this year has been Steve Blake, largely because he’s been pressed into a heavier role with Nash’s injury.
In three games, Jamison has 11 points, Hill has 12, Meeks has 6, Devin Ebanks has 5, Duhon has 0, and Earl Clark has yet to play. Jodie Meeks, signed only so Kobe wouldn’t have to log the 38.5 minutes a night he averaged last season, was a DNP coach’s decision Friday; Kobe played 41 minutes and chucked up 23 shots.
If the Lakers are to challenge the league’s best this season, they need more from the bench. And they really, really need more buckets from Meeks and Jamison.
Forget the offense … where’s the D?
It’s the defense, not the offense, that should concern Lakers fans. Mike Brown, dating back to his days in Cleveland, has always been seen as a defensive specialist. But the Lakers defense has given up 99, 116 and 105 in three games. 99 surrendered to the Dallas Mavericks, missing leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman, 116 to the Portland Trail Blazers, with guys like Sasha Pavlovic (18 minutes) and Jared Jeffries (9) getting PT … and they have no business getting NBA PT, and 105 to the Clippers, sans Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups.
The offense, currently ranked No. 7, will get better as Nash & Co. become more familiar with one another, but nobody was really worrying about the defense, No. 22, especially with the addition of DH12, a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, to anchor the middle. So, where’s the D, coach?
The Lakers get a scheduling break when the Detroit Pistons come to Staples on Sunday night, with winnable games ensuing at Utah, home vs. Golden State and home against Sacramento before a Nov. 13 notable against the Spurs. Surely now is the time to get rolling.
Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.