After 10 games, The Los Angeles Lakers are currently 2-8 after picking up their second win vs Detroit Sunday night. L.A. already has two separate four game losing streaks, and are almost dead last in every NBA category. They are 21st in Points Scored per game, 25th in assist per game, and ranked 26th in Opponent points allowed per game. To sum it up, so far the Lakers can’t score, can’t defend, and have no type of fluid flowing offense. The ball constantly sticks, no more than three passes are made during offensive possessions majority of the time, the lack of communication on both ends is preposterous, and overall this Lakers team looks extremely unorganized only 10 games into the season.
After having such a rough start to the season, it’s pretty clear to most logical fans that this season is already a lost one in which the Lakers won’t even be battling for a playoff spot. Byron Scott and the front office have repeatedly said the goal every year is to ‘compete for a championship’, however reality is, there’s no chance of that happening this year in Laker Land. L.A. is currently 5 games out of the final playoff spot in the West, and if you know the Western Conference, you know how tough that would be to overcome. Especially with the schedule only getting tougher for the Lakers.
With all the bad currently going on with the Lakers this season, I believe if the team is willing and dedicated to switching the focus of this year, they could end it on a semi good note. That focus should be:
1. Keeping Kobe relatively healthy and fresh to play majority of the games in his final contract year.
2. Focus on the development of Randle, Clarkson, Russell, Nance JR, Tarik Black, and Anthony Brown. (If he’s still alive since he’s been buried on the bench.)
Kobe Bryant: Although Kobe hasn’t directly said this is his last season, everyone, including Kobe, is treating it like it’s his last dance. The desire for Kobe to play in every game in front of every sell out crowd is higher than ever. Constant “KOBE. KOBE” chants from opposing fans and the overwhelming love, respect, and appreciation opponents have shown him after games.
Strict minute management, constant treatment and a game plan focusing on a lighter workload for Kobe should be ideal. Especially since Bryant has already missed 2 games due to a sore back. However, in his game returning from injury, Scott played Bryant 32 minutes in the 82-90 loss to Dallas on Friday night. Bryant is currently shooting 33.9% from the field and 23.2% from three-point land, while averaging 29.6 minutes per game, the second highest average on the team behind Jordan Clarkson. Before this season even tipped off, it was said numerous times Bryant’s minutes would be heavily monitored and slimmed down, that obviously hasn’t been the case. Sunday night vs Detroit Kobe logged in another 37 minutes, which was a team high. Moments after the game ended Bryant told TWCS his back stiffed up and his legs don’t feel great, a clear sign of his body breaking down due to these heavy minutes. IF the Lakers have any hope of Bryant playing majority of the games this season, his minutes must be cut and monitored better.
Young Player Development: The Lakers have some tremendous young talented players in Randle, Clarkson, Russell, Nance, Jr, and even Anthony Brown. Lets highlight Russell for a second. D’Angelo was the #2 overall pick in the draft. Towns went first, then Russell, followed by Okafor, Mudiay, and Porzingis. Russell is 8th in minutes played among rookies, however 4th in points scored, 4th in assist per game, and 4th in steals per game. Russell is currently averaging 24.0 minutes per game, can you imagine the possible production and experience he could gain if he played 33 minutes like Okafor, or 30 minutes like Mudiay does?
With this season going south already, it would be ideal for D’Angelo to get as much on court playing time as possible. In the win Sunday night vs Detroit, Russell played only 21 minutes and again was on the bench watching as the clock ran out. We shouldn’t be too worried about Jordan Clarkson or Julius Randle, as they’ve solidified their role on the team, we have seen them as the odd man out, sitting on the bench late in games when struggling.
You must let your young players play through the mistakes, learn from then, and show you trust them to make the right play the next time down. Benching some of your key guys for the future due to a couple of bad possessions isn’t the answer. Going forward this season it’ll be interesting to see how Scott handles it. As for Larry Nance, Jr., Anthony Brown, and Tarik Black, when given the opportunity they have each shown flashes of potential; Nance, Jr. especially. His activity, smart decision-making, athleticism, flashy dunks, and mid range shooting have Lakers fans buzzing.
We’re only 10 games in, however I believe we already can see how this season will turn out. Another below .500, rebuilding, development year. Having the young pieces you do have, and with this being Kobe’s last year possibly, you must mesh them together and get the maximum result out of it. Benching your second overall pick while a 36-year old Kobe plays 37 minutes in a meaningless game vs Detroit isn’t a recipe for future success. Or even temporary success for that matter. It’s only a matter of time until Kobe completely breaks down and D’Angelo Russell stops believing in Coach Scott. I believe if the Lakers don’t change the direction and focus of this season, a bad record will be the least of our worries.