November 4, 2012 by shivusharma
After a 0-2 start, Laker Nation is in upheaval. Fans are ready to make Mike Brown walk the plank after the Lakers were embarrassed by the Dallas Mavericks (who played without Dirk Nowitzki) and the Portland Trailblazers. Some of the criticisms of the Laker’s play is valid, but now is really not a time to be freaking out. Let’s sift through the panic and hit the biggest issues the Lakers need to correct going forward.
Issue #1: The Princeton Offense
I’m not 100% against the implementation of the Princeton Offense. I just don’t agree with the way Mike Brown has decided to use it with his team. The Princeton is better suited for teams with inferior talent and athletic ability. It uses ball movement to find open three’s and backdoor cuts to score against teams with more individual talent. That is why it is a great college offense, because the talent disparity between two teams is often vast. The Princeton makes great sense for the Lakers bench unit, which struggles to score consistently and has no playmakers. The Lakers’ starters on the other hand,
are arguably the most talented group in the NBA, so it makes little sense to subject them to the Princeton offense.
Steve Nash needs the ball in his hands. It’s that simple. Let him run the offense when he is on the floor. Ever since he signed with the Phoenix Suns, a Nash-lead offense has never finished less than 2nd in the league. He has far more weapons on this Lakers’ roster than he ever had as a member of the Suns. Forcing Nash to run the Princeton offense is a major error. It’s equivalent to Mike McCarthy telling Aaron Rodgers to hand the ball off 40 times again, or telling a young Picasso to become an accountant instead of an artist. It is dumb-assery at its finest. Mike Brown needs to allow Nash to run pick & rolls when he is on the floor. Let Nash create offense for his teammates. Pick & rolls and pick & pops with Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, and Kobe Bryant are deadly. Here is a quick ranking of the offensive options the Lakers should be going through on every half-court possession:
- Nash pick & roll with Dwight or Pau
- Nash pick & roll/pop with Kobe
- Post-up Dwight
- High/low post Pau
- Iso Kobe
- Iso Nash
Iso Kobe is the 5th Option?? What?? Yes, this is the way it needs to be. Kobe can get his offense as defensive attention gets focused on the pick & rolls and post-ups. This will allow him to shoot high-percentage shots and find rhythm very quickly. When Kobe has a good matchup or starts to get into a good rhythm, he can be iso’d and rattle-off a string of buckets. When Kobe gets hot, he is probably the toughest player to guard in the league. Few people have mastered the “fade-away long two point jumper from the corner while being guarded by three defenders and ignoring your open teammates” quite like Kobe Bryant.
Issue #2: Defensive Scheme
Mike Brown’s claim to fame is supposed to be his defensive scheme, but thus far, that has not been the case. The Lakers look sluggish and uninterested while defending the basket. They are getting out-hustled on the defensive boards and seem to have a poor
understanding of their defensive rotations. Fortunately for Mike Brown, he has a built-in excuse for his defense’s poor play. Dwight Howard is not at 100% yet. His rotations have probably been the worst of all the Lakers’ starters. He is fouling far too often because he is late on help defense. Pau Gasol is to blame a bit as well. He looks softer than ever, getting pushed around down low by much smaller players. Both big men are horrendous in pick & roll defense as well. If Mike Brown can’t get the most out of his big men, don’t expect the Lakers defense to get any better. Implementing a successful defensive scheme centered around two big men should come easily to Mike Brown. He coordinated a successful defense as an assistant with the Spurs with Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Pau and Dwight are a significant downgrade from Duncan and Robinson, but the concepts of that defense should carry through to this Lakers’ team. It’s time Mike Brown starts validating his reputation as a defensive coach.
Issue #3: Bench Production
As I mentioned in Issue #1, the Lakers’ bench struggle to score. However, I think if the bench unit masters the Princeton offense, they could circumvent some of their scoring issues. Steve Blake, Antawn Jameson, and Jodie Meeks have the ability to hit three
pointers, and Jordan Hill is an athletic player that can score around the rim. The Lakers need to focus more on getting their reserves to master the Princeton offense, and spend less effort implementing the offense with their starters. This won’t solve all their bench issues though. It would behoove the Lakers to trade for a scorer off the bench as the trade deadline nears. Unfortunately, they have very few assets that another team would want. Then again, a lack of attractive assets has never stopped Mitch Kupchak from swinging some of the most one-sided trades in league history.