Wednesday, January 23, 2013

AN IDIOT'S GUIDE TO THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS' SEASON: Part I



Dan Plotsky


The Los Angeles Lakers are a big steamy pile of dog poop on your Mayan, calendar, type of mess.  As a Chicago Bulls’ fan I couldn't have been more delighted with their win over Los Angeles.  However, as a basketball fan, it left something to be desired.  Instead of the gold and purple powerhouse, we saw a team, that only weeks ago, Kobe Bryant eloquently quipped as "an old damn team." 

It was reminiscent of the 2008 fantasy baseball season when I took Vlad Guerrero/Magglio Ordonez/and Ichiro and was initially ecstatic only to, eventually, find out that the studs of my youth had left their talents in South Beach.  That's what Kobe/Steve Nash/Dwight Howard (bad back) reminded me of in their game against the Bulls.  

Normally, I wouldn't take one game as a cross-section of the season and bury a proven franchise. Except that they just got torched by the Toronto Raptors on Sunday as well!  Any time DeMar DeRozan gets the best of you, it’s time to sound the panic alarms.  It only raises questions like:
·         How in the world is Pau Gasol getting benched on this squad?  
o   Let's jump back 6 months ago to the Summer Olympics and look at the gold medal game again.  Gasol was terrifying and required a double team all game long, especially down low, on his way to posting the following numbers:
§  (9-17 from the field) 24 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists in 33 minutes of play.
o    I sat there thinking, "Wow! Gasol is back!" and that he was going to be re-engaged for the upcoming season after his almost trade to the Houston Rockets in the failed attempt to land Chris Paul.  
o   The irony of it was that he dominated Team USA down low on the blocks next to...??? That's right, his brother Marc Gasol who also plays center in the NBA.
o   Marc managed to post 17 points in only 17 minutes against the Americans. 
o   Since they are brothers they probably have that weird telepathic link but there was an example of two centers playing on the blocks together and thriving against the best talent in the world.  

Let’s jump forward to the Lakers and the circus that Mike D'Antoni has made it to be.  "Coach" D'Antoni is so obsessed with his gimmick offense, he can't even tweak it slightly to adjust to the roster talent he has and instead opts to bench Gasol who would start at center for at least 22 NBA teams right now.  

To clear room for Nash to dribble drive, Gasol will come up from the block to set a screen for the ball handler and roll to the free throw line or slightly above and bunker down. This is where Gasol sat all night which makes as much sense as a poop-flavored lollipop.  Much credit is deserved to 82games.com as I have to mention that they are the finest source of real-time statistics to back up what I see on the floor.  According to the shot chart, Gasol is currently taking a whopping 65% of his shots as "jumpers" this year, which is just wreaking havoc on his overall effectiveness.  Take a look at Gasol’s best year with the Lakers and the season he currently is having:

PER=Player Efficiency Rating  /  TS%=True shooting(fg%+3pt%+FT% divided by 3)
·         2010-11 Gasol: 55% of shots on jumpers- 22.3 PER/ .589TS%     18pts  10 reb  3ast
·         2012-13 Gasol: 65% of shots on jumpers-  15.5PER/ .494TS%     12.7pts 8 reb  3ast      
The change in floor spacing and offensive responsibility has resulted in Gasol's worst PER since his rookie year and easily his worst TS% ever (career .574%).  This is completely unacceptable by any standards for a player of this caliber and only compounds the problem by destroying his trade value in the process.  D'Antoni could not have been a worse candidate for the roster on hand and I do believe two centers can coexist on the same team just like the Gasol brothers did in the Gold Medal game.  

Don't believe me? (The nerve!—Ed) Take a look at this 5-man rotation:
·         From 82games.comSteve Blake-Bryant-Metta World Peace (or as I like to call him, Ron Artest—Ed)-Gasol-Howard 
o   This is statistically the best 5-man rotation by plus/minus and defensive pointst/possession (+33, .94/possession, respectively) the Lakers have run out all season long (4th most minutes logged).  
o   The caveat is Blake/Nash endured injuries and Nash hasn't played enough minutes to get a more reliable statistical comparison.  
o   But what do we notice by looking at that rotation?  Feel free to sub in Nash for Blake!  It's the very lineup that anyone who didn't know basketball would assemble, duh!  

Which brings us full circle: D'Antoni values his offensive principles to such an extreme, it is detrimental to the success of the Lakers (I feel your pain Magic Johnson!).  Then there is this tidbit-- no stats needed:
·         Gasol won TWO rings with Andrew Bynum as his frontcourt partner.
o   Why has the NBA community gone crazy and think Gasol-Howard can't work?  
o   The numbers say they are relatively effective together and we know chemistry takes time to develop, but nonetheless they should be beasts on the boards if all else fails. 

Simply put, Pau Gasol is not the problem and the numbers show that he could possibly be the solution.  Just depends whether D’Antoni wants to switch up his game to save the Lakers.  

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