Cleat Geeks

The Lakeshow Weekly; Navigating 2nd Half of the Season

kobe-bryant-2009Did I think that there was a possibility at the beginning of the season for the Lakers to make the playoffs? Yes, I did. I’ll be the first one to admit my hopes were high. Dreams of Kobe hoisting up the Larry O’Brien trophy into the air as I celebrated the Lakers 17th championship filled my mind. Enthusiasm was at an all time high, Julius Randle was back, Clarkson understands the concept of defense and D’Angelo had a unibrow (So does AD, has to count for something right?). All of this to me was hope for the future. Of course I may be embellishing a slight amount, but in all honesty I thought the 8th seed wasn’t completely out of the question.

Then the season started and everything went downhill from there. Kobe started popping everything that even slightly resembled a good shot. D’Angelo didn’t tie his shoe laces the way Byron liked to see it done and was benched, and for some odd reason Byron developed an infatuation with Sacre first, and now Kelly. Couple those things with watching Hibbert’s box score at the end of the game with 2 rebounds and I saw that my dream was nothing but that, a dream. Then whispers of D’Angelo being a bust started to surface followed by his name in trade talks. “Lakers willing to trade young guys now for a run at a championship”, the headlines read. The thoughts in my head began to swirl. The one positive: Kobe made the All-Star game. Did he deserve to be there statistically? Probably not, but that discussion is for another time. Now here we are. A short history of the Lakers 2015-2016 NBA season, and even that being a micro chasm of the incredibly rough season it has been for Lakers fans. But yet, there is hope! Let me suggest two ways the Lakers can save a season which has been an absolute disaster.

1: Play D’Angelo

D'AngeloDoes this take a rocket scientist? Byron has done nothing to grow the young players he has, in particular Russell. He coaches as if he has a stacked team and his rookies are waiting in the wings to one day, maybe, succeed the hardened cast of all star veterans he is currently fielding. No Mr. Scott you don’t have an all star cast.  You have Kobe – not half the player he once was, and a few role players. But still Russell’s Minutes per game at first glance are not bad (27.1) which is good enough for 5th among current rookies according to ESPN. The problem is, when those minutes are played. Anyone who has watched Lakers basketball can tell you that Russell has been benched in the 4th quarter time and time again. Are turnovers bad in basketball? Yes, but Byron you do understand he is a 19 year old basketball player right? This kid can’t even drink alcohol, I’m not sure what your expectations are, but turnover free basketball shouldn’t be at the top of the list.

Scott&RussellAside from that Byron has gone on record bashing the rookie time and time again, going as far as to state that “Kyrie was just so much more advanced”. I don’t understand Scott’s point or logic. Even if the comparison is to compare Michael Jordan to Sasha Vujacic you simply don’t take shots at your own team, especially, at a 19 year old trying to learn the game. Remember this kid is 2 years removed from high school basketball. Byron has mishandled this team so many times in his tenure as head coach but his handling of Russell is by far his most egregious error. Russell should be a starter and short of that he should be in every single 4th quarter possible. I don’t care if he turns the ball over 40 times a game. Jordan averaged 3.4 turnovers per games as a rookie with a total of 291 according to basketball reference; Russell currently has 128 (not even half as many as Jordan) and averages 2.4 a game. Not to be misunderstood I am not saying Russell will be Jordan. I am simply making the point that turnovers shouldn’t be the deciding factor.

Russell has however, shown occasional flashes of brilliance. Give him time; he is far from a bust right now. I do honestly believe he will be an All-Star. That’s hard to do when it seems your coach is never pleased with what you do on the court and you aren’t allowed to play the 4th quarter. Even with Russell on the floor though, the Lakers look out of sorts on both ends of the floor.

2: Develop an offensive scheme

I’m not sure what scheme Byron Scott is pretending to run but in all honesty all I see is isolation and Kobe. Introducing some type of scheme for all the young talent we have is important. Running ineffective high screen and rolls and Isolation offensive is the biggest stunt in growth to the young core of the Lakers. Rookies need an NBA style of offense to grasp onto and attempt to learn. Give them structure and a goal and they will thrive. If you take young kids with little to no experience at an NBA level and give them nothing to even work towards as an offensive goal they won’t learn anything.

LakersTeamYes Kobe does take a lot of shots and at this point in his career he is a black hole. That isn’t an excuse for the pathetic play at the offensive end by the whole team. I blame it entirely on the coach. To some extent Kobe is running the show. But I doubt Kobe disagrees with letting the young kids learn (he sat himself in the 4th against MIN). Understanding the farewell tour and letting Kobe have the green light is fine. Using that as an excuse to do nothing on the offensive end is not. As a Lakers and Kobe diehard I’m all for letting him shoot, but we need to think about the future. This young core has a chance in my opinion to be something.  The future is Russell, Clarkson, Randle and Hield (don’t worry more on that topic in the future).

For now yes it has been a hard year for us Lakers fans who know nothing but winning. We are a bit spoiled if you ask me (we know that right Laker fans?). But the Lakers will be back to where they once were. It takes time, understanding and patience. No teams go from a dominant era right into another dominant era except by pure luck. We need to keep our high draft pick for the next few years. So tank, tank right along Mr. Jimmy Bus, just please find another coach to do it with.

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