The Blame Game

Someone is at fault for this. This is a storied franchise, the Lakers. Since Kobe Bryant’s joined the team, never have they been as futile as they have been so far this season. Currently at 7 games under .500 and falling quicker and quicker with each game, the Lakers are destined for their highest pick in the draft in decades.

 

Jan 5, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D

This isn’t the norm. Coddled Lakers fans are used to championship aspirations, not draft projections. With 35 games gone in this season (just over 42%), the consensus is this is a lost season for L.A.. But for a team that started so well sans Bryant, when did things go so terribly wrong? And who can we blame?

 

The answer isn’t as simple as blaming one figure. In fact, there isn’t one figure TO blame. Unfairly so, Mike D’Antoni seems to be the Lakers’ fans scapegoat. Message boards, tweets, and comments are filling up more and more with the sentiment of firing D’Antoni.

 

News flash Lakers Nation: D’Antoni isn’t the problem and is here to stay. Hell, he may even be back next year. There are a couple of conclusions we must come to, as a fanbase, in accordance with this.

 

1. This season is done. If the Lakers are smart, they start a firesale on players like Pau Gasol, Steve Blake, Chris Kaman, and anyone else they can get a nice return from. With no second round pick, it makes too much sense to not swap someone like Kaman or Blake for a second rounder or two. And if you can pull off a trade with Gasol involving a first rounder? More kudos to Mitch.

 

2. Injuries derailed this season. Any rational Laker fan could tell you this season was always going to be an uphill struggle. The team formed in the off-season was a huge defensive liability, with too many x-factors on the offensive end. As players started dropping off one by one, it was too much for the remaining Lakers to make up. Kobe’s return was supposed to right the ship, but that plan sank when he went down six games into his return with fractured bone in his leg. Bryant’s return to the lineup was always seen as a benchmark early in the season. If the Lakers could just survive until he came back, then he could help lead the team to the promised land….err playoffs. When he went down with an injury again, the morale of the Lakers went down with him.

When everyone was healthy and playing well at the start of this season (minus Kobe and Nash), we saw the best version of the 2013-14 Lakers. They were deep, outlasted opponents, and were fun to watch. But as the season wore on, they began regressing to the mean, which brings me to my next point…

 

3. The Lakers level of play early in the season was unsustainable. Opening night will go down as likely the highlight of this season. The Lakers come out motivated, determined, and fired on all cylinders. In reality, their first 19 games couldn’t have went better, leading up to Bryant’s return. Steve Blake was playing arguably the best basketball of his career, with the same going for Jodie Meeks. Nick Young was unfathomably efficient, and even Wesley Johnson was throwing in a random 27-point outburst in a game.

 

But Bryant’s return marked a new chapter for the Lakers. In their attempts to adapt to Bryant, they regressed to the mean sharply. Johnson has scored in double figures four times since his 27-point game. While averagine 15.3 points a game, Meeks is shooting just 41% from the field. Xavier Henry’s shooting percentage has dropped. Only the beloved Swaggy P has maintained the level of play all season long, and even that involves shooting just 41% from the field.

 

Notice that none of these factors include the blame of D’Antoni. In fact, it should be the opposite. D’Antoni should be praised for his coaching job this year. Do detractors realize he has had SIX different starting point guards this year, all changes having come following injury? Do they forget how he’s revitalized the careers of Henry, Johnson, and most recently Kendall Marshall? Is it a coincidence that Meeks is playing the best basketball of his life as well under D’Antoni? And it can’t be stated enough the horrific hand he’s been dealt with injuries.
As it stands after last night’s game in Dallas, with Young battling a bad back, the Lakers have one healthy point guard (Marshall), one healthy shooting guard (Meeks), one healthy small forward (Johnson), one healthy power forward (Kelly), and four healthy centers (Gasol, Sacre, Hill, Kaman). Can you blame the man for not producing wins?

 

Without D’Antoni, the Lakers don’t have the revitalized careers of X, Wes, or Marshall. They don’t have the fast-paced, free-flowing offense that has suited Swaggy or Meeks so well. And without him, they aren’t in any better position. This team was doomed from the start. There’s no more Phil. He’s not saving us anymore. No one in the free agent market who is open for a return to coaching is better than what we have in D’Antoni. Blaming him is like blaming Mitch Kupchak for all this. Neither could have predicted the injuries, but both are making due with what’s available.

 

So buckle up Lakers fans. We aren’t even halfway home.

Topics: Jodie Meeks, Kendall Marshall, Los Angeles Lakers, Mike D'antoni, NBA, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry

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  • Fengxiaohan

    BS..why do you need to revitalized Marshall and Meeks when Gasol, Kaman are in this team. Why can’t you let Howard plays a best season last year? ….Do you really think the injuries of all point guards are a coincidence but not a mistake that the wrong strategy putting too much pressure on the player at this position?….let me put in this way, no one would appreciate if you can escalate a Camery or Corolla to 200 mph but don’t how to use your Ferrari

    • hookedonnews

      You are buying into an idea that I’ve heard parroted that makes no sense. The injuries to both Nash & Kobe are due to collisions that resulted in broken bones. Nash has nerve problems that are the result of the broken leg. I know you’d probably like to blame the Achilles injury on Kobe’s minutes, but his 17 seasons on the court are more likely the cause of that plus the fact that Kobe chose to play that number of minutes over the objections of both MDA & Mitch Kupchak. Blake’s elbow injury has nothing to do with running up and down the court. Same goes for Henry’s knee injury (he had a knee problem before coming to the Lakers). Hamstring injuries are common in the league. If you want to blame Farmar’s injury on someone, blame it on Gary Vitti for letting him back on the court too soon. Before the injuries started piling up, no one on the team was playing heavy minutes because they were using an 11-man rotation.

      As for Howard, he wasn’t 100% last season and he refused to run pick and rolls until after the All-Star break when he finally decided to start playing. Gasol has not been healthy all season, and Kaman had similar problems with playing time at the end of his stint in Dallas. Sometimes the player is at fault. Once you’re out there on the court, all you have to do is play well. I don’t think Chris Kaman’s minutes are a crucial factor in what has gone on with this team. They were playing good basketball until they started dropping like flies and 3 of the 5 starters were gone plus 2 of the best bench players.

      This article was on target for the most part. I don’t care who is coaching this team. No one is going to win a lot of games under these circumstances.

  • Jim213

    Agree and disagree, can’t blame the coach for the injuries and lack of team depth but bad rotations have cost the team some games. ex. S Williams kept getting starting minutes while contributing mostly on the defensive end as the team struggled offensively but turning the page now. However, it’s the FO’s product on the court so most of the blame goes to their bad moves that started a year and a half ago.

  • hookedonnews

    One of the better articles I’ve read. Injuries just seem to keep on coming. I don’t know what this team could have done if everyone had stayed healthy, but we’ll never know now. I don’t know if we can salvage the season because it’s impossible to know when we’ll have all our players healthy and for how long. I know everyone is down because of the chain of losses, but having 5 of your best players out just can’t be overcome. Hope Nash & Kobe can come back at the end of the month. That would at least provide the leadership this team needs.

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