Lakers Woes Continue As Team Heads in Wrong Direction


After three consecutive losses to start the season, it is hard not to feel a sense of dread already if you are a Lakers fan.

There was hope that this squad, with its combination of youth and experience,  would be an improvement over the past two years, but shockingly, the team has never looked this disorganized and hapless. Things appear to be getting worse and worse for this once-storied franchise.

No one wants to be overly negative a mere three games into a new season. It is true that some teams take time to mesh and young players need time to get their bearings. But after witnessing last night’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks in person, one gets a sense that things really are as bad as they look.

What has caused yet another terrible start to the regular season?

To begin with, whatever Bryon Scott is selling, the players are not buying. He keeps preaching defense over and over, but rather than improving, the defense is worse than ever. How is this even possible with so much emphasis placed on that end of the court?

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Every night Laker opponents put on a virtual lay-up clinic. The team fares no better on the perimeter, where open three point shots are the norm.

It is conventional wisdom that good defense goes hand in hand with maximum effort, which any player can control even if his shot is not falling that night. If effort is the key, for some reason little effort is being exerted.

We keep hearing that if the team plays hard on defense the offense will flow naturally. Poor defense is only part of the reason the team looks so bad on offense, however.

The players do not appear to know what they are supposed to be doing on offense. There are few set plays, little ball movement, and no penetration into the lane (if you exclude Julius Randle).

A typical offensive series is as follows: the ball reaches the front court, there is one pass to a wing player, maybe two, and then the player with the ball in his hands dribbles and dribbles before hurling a long-distance shot towards the basket. There is no cohesiveness, no organized attack.

In the most recent contest against the Mavericks the opponent jumped out to a 15 to zero lead and the game was pretty much over after the first few minutes. The game before, against the Sacramento Kings, it was even worse, as the team was down by 20 points in the blink of an eye.  This raises the question, why are the Lakers coming out every night with so little energy and intensity?

Aren’t players supposed to be excited and energized at the start of a new season? If so, the Laker players haven’t shown it. We have been told it is a matter of fatigue, but the team has lots of young talent who should not be tired two or three games into the season. If they are, whose fault is that, after we heard the same thing last year after a tough training camp?

The Lakers need to play with a sense of urgency and that is not happening. They look listless and emotionless, as though they are just going through the motions. Again, a player can control how hard he plays, so what does it say when the team is playing with so little energy especially to start the game or at the beginning of every second half?

The starters have been mostly awful. It is painful to admit, and hard to accept, but Kobe Bryant appears to be on his very last legs, posting yet another woeful shooting performance. He appears a step slower than last year, and he has little elevation left in his legs. He cannot attack the rim so he settles for outside shot after outside shot, with few finding their mark.

Even more painful than watching Bryant play these days is knowing that in the final days of his illustrious career he is stuck on a horrendous team that is certain to be an embarrassment. This is not how fans wanted to see Bryant in his last days as a player.

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The problem is not just Bryant, however.

Heralded rookie D’Angelo Russell is also off to a slow start.  On defense he has been beyond hopeless, and on offense he is not quick enough to penetrate into the lane or finish at the rim, which is a real problem for a point guard.

Further, while we were told he is a great playmaker, he had a whopping one assist last night which he did not get until the game was nearly over.

Roy Hibbert, who looked good in the preseason, has struggled so far. He was supposed to be the last line of defense, but opposing players are going under, around, and through him to score easy buckets.  The fault is not all his, however, as often times Hibbert seems to be the lone force against a sea of invaders as no one on his team is offering much help.

Jordan Clarkson had an uncharacteristic, poor game against the Mavericks, so much so that he didn’t play in the fourth quarter while the team was trying to make a come-back. One has to speculate that his shoulder is hurting worse than the Lakers are reporting.

Randle was the Lakers’ best player against Dallas, after being nearly invisible in the loss to the Kings the game before. He scored 22 points and had 15 rebounds, and he even led the team in assists with four. That stat speaks for itself, as Russell has proven not to be the play-maker fans were told. The Lakers are making very few assists each night which is a big part of the reason the offense is struggling.

Randle was also the Lakers’ best player on defense against the Mavericks. At this point, as a very young player, he will struggle to be consistent from contest to contest but Randle is one player who seems to be unafraid of his surroundings. He desperately needs to learn to finish with his right hand at the rim, but when he does, he may prove to be an emerging star.

The second unit has been even worse than the starters. When is Scott going to learn what the fans already know, that a front court of Ryan Kelly and Brandon Bass is not going to work? It is one thing to play “small ball,” but you have to have the right personnel to do it effectively. Kelly and Bass are not the right personnel.

Scott is inexplicably in love with Kelly’s game. He has played a lot already and was even on the court in the final minutes of the first contest against Minnesota when the game was on the line. If the Lakers are going to rely on Kelly to play significant minutes each night, the season really is lost already.

When the front court consists of Kelly, Bass, and Nick Young, there is no one capable of protecting the rim or clogging the middle and the other team has scored at will from the inside. The Lakers need a center to anchor the second unit, pure and simple. They jettisoned Robert Upshaw who, raw as he is, is the kind of presence they need (could it get any worse with a completely inexperienced Upshaw in the line-up?)

Oct 11, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers player Tarik Black (28) dunks against Maccabi Haifa during a preseason exhibition basketball game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Tarik Black is a possibility, and he usually has plenty of energy which is sorely missed at the moment, but he is undersized in playing center and Scott seems reluctant to use him.

The only other option is Robert Sacre, who is not the answer and did not even suit up for the game against Dallas. This enormous hole in the second unit is going to continue to cause major problems for the Lakers whenever Hibbert is out.

Unfortunately, while Young has been a pleasant surprise so far, Lou Williams has not.

While he looked strong and confident in the preseason, he started missing most of his shots once the regular season started and is playing more tentatively than before.

With a second unit consisting of Williams, Young, Huertas, Kelly, and Bass, the team has virtually no defense.  It may be time to give Metta World Peace a shot, as he would bring welcomed toughness that is missing at the moment. Likewise, Larry Nance, Jr. has not even suited up yet in the regular season, but when and if he returns, they could desperately use his energy.

In the end, responsibility for this troubling start falls on Scott’s shoulders. Perhaps more than at any time in his career, he needs to find answers, take some bold chances, motivate his players, and make astute adjustments in his line up, his rotation, and in his whole approach to the game of basketball.

Next: Julius Randle Could Be A Jumpshot Away From Stardom

It is a tall order, but if he does not pull a rabbit out of a hat this season could get so ugly so fast that it will make the last two years look like a day at the beach.

What did you think of the Lakers’ recent struggles? Let us know in the comments below.