The Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the most storied franchises in professional sports history. From Jerry West to Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have always had star power along with the championship mettle. Thinking of all that history makes it hard to believe the Lakers have been relegated to what they currently are now. After their loss to the Golden State Warriors Tuesday, the Lakers are now sporting a record of 2-12. The team, which former Laker Byron Scott coaches, has stumbled out of the blocks yet again. And the worst part is there is no telling when they will stumble out of the darkness and back into the limelight. Under Scott, the Lakers have not made the playoffs nor have they looked close to making it. For a franchise that has been used to success, this is something that has to be troublesome for the team and their fans. After reviewing the game against the Warriors, there were a few things that struck me as interesting for a team that is constructed the way they are. It just seems like they are out of sync. They are a young team and they are not expected to make the playoffs, but some of the things they are doing is not making them any better on the court. With a few adjustments, the team could actually be a better product to watch and be more competitive on the court.
The offensive philosophy of this team seems very simple. It seems like they run the offense through Kobe Bryant still. In case Byron Scott has not been watching, Kobe is not the same Kobe he once was. For example, he went 1-14 against the Warriors and did not seem to have the same lift he once had. But Scott seems determined to run the offense through Bryant no matter what. One day he may want to realize that Bryant is not the future of this team. The future of the team lies in D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and power forward Julius Randle. These three young guys have a chance to be the future of the franchise and lead them back to relevance. But as long as the offense is run through Kobe, there is no room for them to grow. And as time goes on, these young players need time to mature and minutes to grow. The more they are put in situations where they have to lead and be the playmaker, the more you find out what you do or don’t have in them. You also find out what you need to surround them with. And once you are able to get a true evaluation of their skills, then you can start moving forward with more information and things to build on.
The adjustment in the offensive philosophy not only has to do with the change of the focus but the change of pace as well. Byron Scott is trying to run a Princeton-style offense with the young players that he has. If you are not aware of what kind of offense this is, it is predicated on movement and a series of cuts and off-the-ball movement. For a team that has veteran players that are in the NBA it takes time to learn. So imagine what it is doing to the youngsters playing with the Lakers. D’Angelo Russell looks tentative on the court at all times. It seems like he is thinking more than playing. Clarkson will be fine, but he even has moments where he does not get what’s going on too. And as far as Randle, he is a guy they want to take a rebound and push the basketball. But it seems like they are not really pushing the fact that they want him to push the basketball. The slower pace for the Lakers helps guys like Kobe and center Roy Hibbert but hurts the young guns. Since Hibbert and Kobe are not giving them much, why are they catering to these two? Why not get the most out of your young and entertaining pieces by pushing the basketball? And if Hibbert or Kobe cannot keep up, cut down their minutes and play more young guys that can pick up the slack. If that can happen, I can guarantee the Lakers would see more out of Russell than they currently are. They would also see Clarkson and Randle be better.
The Lakers do have some talented scorers off their bench in Nick Young and Lou Williams. The former 6th man of the Year with the Raptors last season, Williams came to LA this offseason to play for the Lakers. It was thought he would bring some firepower off their bench, but it has not worked out the way he has thought. His average is down three points from 15 points per game to 12 points per game. And when you watch the games, Byron Scott has him playing point guard. Lou Williams may not be the prototypical size for a shooting guard, but that is what he does and has done his whole career. Having him initiate the offense is not a good look at all. The best thing to do for him is put either Clarkson or Russell on the point and allow him to create as a scorer when Kobe goes to the bench. In doing that, you will get the best use out of Williams that can help this team. And if you combine the faster tempo with this move, then you get Lou Williams going in the right direction.
The Lakers could be better than what they currently are. But instead of being a team that is getting their young pups ready to take over, they are still letting the old guard run this team. Kobe is one of the greatest players of all-time, but his time has passed and he is holding back these youngsters. And if Byron Scott does not understand that, then maybe it is time for him to call it a career with the Lakers. The team has pieces to grow with, but Byron is not helping the situation at all. If these adjustments were made at least on the offensive end, the Lakers would be growing instead of looking like a team with no direction.