los angeles lakers

The Lakers problem isn’t Kobe, it’s Gasol. And defense.

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It’s easy and maybe even trendy to say it was Kobe’s fault.

It wasn’t.

True, Sunday the Lakers offense against Boston Celtics was a heavy dose of Kobe Bryant. And way too much Kobe in isolation. It’s an easy storyline to say Kobe shot too much, but it’s not wholly accurate.

The reality is there is a much more symbiotic relationship between Kobe taking over and his teammates not stepping up. Kobe doesn’t need a lot of provocation to step into a vacuum and fill it up with shots (shots he was largely hitting against the Celtics Sunday, going 16 of 29). His teammates are fully capable of laying back, and, well, you’ve seen the result. It’s a spiral — as Kobe tries to fill in more his teammates tend to stand around more and the result is stagnant isolation. That’s what happened Sunday, and Phil Jackson for one backed Kobe saying it was more about his teammates.

The hard truth, it was more about Pau Gasol.

He all too often gets referred to as Kobe’s sidekick, but that’s not accurate. They are, if not equals, equally important to the Lakers winning. And Sunday Kevin Garnett took Gasol out of his game. Gasol was 5-of-13 shooting overall but just 1-6 from the midrange. His normally deadly elbow jumper ended up 0-3. He looked uncomfortable.

Darius Soriano at the Laker blog Forum Blue & Gold said that the Lakers have been inconsistent this season because Gasol has been inconsistent.

This year, we’ve seen a less consistent Gasol. In December, Pau had nearly as many games where he scored 10 or less points (3) as he did 20 or more (4). In January, if you raise that standard to the number of games he’s scored 13 or less points (6) and compare it to games of 20 or more points (8) you see a similar trend. And while his rebounding numbers have not fluctuated as much, the point still stands: I’m having trouble recalling a time during Pau’s stint as Laker where there’s been as much wonder surrounding what he’ll produce on a given night.

Gasol’s most recent 5 game stretch is a perfect example of this. Against the Mavs, Nuggets, and Jazz here are Pau’s numbers (points/rebounds): 23/5, 19/13, 20/7. However, in the two most recent contests versus the Kings and Celtics, Gasol gave the Lakers 9/11 and 12/7.

In looking at Lakers’ losses, you see a similar trend. In those 15 games that the Lakers trailed at the final buzzer, Gasol has had 13 or less points in 7 of them. Against the top 4 teams (Dallas, Miami, San Antonio, Boston) he’s scored 23, 17, 9, and 12 points respectively.

The question needs to be asked if the Gasol is the problem or a bellweather for the problem. But his inconsistencies mirror the team.

Gasol isn’t the only thing that has been inconsistent for the Lakers, so has their defensive effort.

The Lakers have had stretches of good defense, particularly since the return of Andrew Bynum to the lineup. That coincided with a change in defensive philosophy about wing defenders working to keep guys on the perimeter in front of them rather than just funneling to big men. It worked for a stretch.

But there are all sorts of problems, ones that lead to inconsistent play. Derek Fisher no longer can keep a guy in front of him on the perimeter, and his backup Steve Blake has ben just as bad. The Lakers Sunday went with the defense they used in the finals last year — Kobe on Rondo begging him to shoot the jumper and Fisher chasing Ray Allen off screens — but it didn’t work. Ray Allen shot 8-of-12 and had 21 points as he found gaps. Rondo has become much better at using that space he is given by defenders this year. The Celtics improved, the Lakers found out the hard way.

Speaking of inconsistent, meet Ron Artest. The guy who won the Lakers Game 7 of the NBA finals was an anchor on them Sunday. Call it an off game — letting Pierce put up 32 while shooting 1-of-10 himself — but there have been more of those games this season than last.

Because the Lakers have the last two NBA championship rings, there is still the feeling that at some point they will flip the switch again. And if they do the Spurs won’t be able to do anything about it.

Maybe. Maybe not. It’s not time to panic for Lakers fans, but it is time for them to be concerned. If the inconsistencies of the regular season carry over to the playoffs the Lakers will have problems. They are not so much more talented than other teams that they can just coast into the finals again. Maybe they are bored and come the playoffs that will be different.

But will the instant recognition and execution honed over playing 82 games be there to draw on? Or will the playoff Lakers be inconsistent too?

If so, they will be gone long before Jackson gets his chance to make a last stand in the finals.

Grizzlies officially name David Fizdale as their next head coach

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Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the Memphis Grizzlies had reached an agreement with longtime Miami Heat assistant David Fizdale to be their next head coach, replacing Dave Joerger. On Sunday, the Grizzlies made it official, announcing the move in a press release.

Here’s the official statement from Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace:

“We are pleased to welcome David to Memphis. After a comprehensive search process, and talking with a number of very bright basketball minds, we focused in on David and we are confident that he is the right person for the job. David’s achievements throughout his career, his reputation as a strong tactician, his leadership with player development, and his ability to communicate and build strong relationships with his players make him the clear choice to guide the Grizzlies on and off the court, as we move forward and collectively build on the consistent success we have attained over the last several years.”

Fizdale offered his own comments as part of the announcement:

“I am extremely excited to be in Memphis and really looking forward to building a legacy with this talented group of players. In my career, I have been fortunate to have worked with some of the greatest coaches and players in the NBA and am ready for this challenge. I am not only here to contribute to an organization that has built a history of winning, I am here to win it all and bring the wonderful people of Memphis their first Championship Parade down Beale Street. I am truly honored that Robert Pera, Chris Wallace and the organization felt that I am the right man to lead us forward and I would like to thank them for their confidence and this great opportunity.”

Fizdale had served as an assistant on Erik Spoelstra’s bench in Miami since 2008, and his now-former team offered their congratulations via Twitter:

Antetokounmpo brothers, Porzingis play streetball in Athens

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 16:  Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks stands for the National Anthem before their game against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on March 16, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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ATHENS, Greece (AP) NBA stars Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks battled it out in Athens in a game of streetball Sunday, watched by a crowd of 5,000.

Played in an open court in Greece’s largest public high school, the “Antetokounbros Streetball Event” ended 123-123. No overtime was played.

Porzingis scored 21 points but was overshadowed by team member Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ older brother, who scored 69. The two had played for a few games together last season, when Thanasis was signed by the Knicks on a 10-day contract. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the other team with 64 points. The other players were a mixture of veteran pros and amateurs.

On Saturday, Porzingis and the Antetonkoumpo brothers were given a private tour of the Acropolis Museum.

Klay Thompson credits Yoda socks for Game 6 performance

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 16:  Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors drives with the ball against Andre Roberson #21 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during game one of the NBA Western Conference Final at ORACLE Arena on May 16, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Warriors’ most important adjustment in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals didn’t occur on the court — it occurred on Klay Thompson‘s feet. Thompson scored a playoff career-high 41 points against the Thunder on Saturday to force a Game 7, and afterwards, he credited it all to a pair of Yoda socks from Stance’s Star Wars lineup.

From The Vertical‘s Michael Lee:

As he quietly got dressed, Thompson rolled up a pair of Stance socks with a cartoonish image of the green, pointy-eared Jedi master from Star Wars, Yoda. Thompson packed his lucky socks especially for Game 6, knowing he’d need something a little extra to fend off the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I brought my Yoda socks to bring out my Jedi powers,” Thompson told The Vertical after a performance in which the least heralded, but no less important, member of the Splash Brothers saved Golden State’s season.

Here’s a picture of Thompson wearing the socks, which are pretty sweet:

Thompson will need whatever special powers the socks gave him again on Monday, if the Warriors hope to overcome what was once a 3-1 deficit and advance to the Finals.

NBA’s official Facebook page prematurely lists Warriors in the Finals

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shakes hands with Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors after the Warriors defeated the Cavs 105 to 97 to win Game Six of the 2015 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The NBA Finals schedule will not be determined until Monday, when the Warriors and Thunder play Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals in Oakland. The Cavaliers already advanced to the Finals out of the Eastern Conference, but the dates of their home games are not set in stone: they’d have home-court advantage over the Thunder but not the Warriors.

On Sunday, the NBA’s official Facebook page jumped the gun slightly, listing the seven Finals games under their “Events” tab under the assumption the Warriors won Game 7. They later took the listings down.

Via SB Nation:

The mistake occurred when Ticketmaster, which controls that section of the league’s Facebook page, accidentally posted listings for Finals games under the premature assumption that the Warriors would win Game 7, and those listings were pushed to Facebook. Ticketmaster removed the listings when the error was discovered.

It was obviously an honest mistake, but if the Warriors win on Monday, this will do nothing to quiet the crowd that believes in some sort of conspiracy theory, however ridiculous that notion is.

For what it’s worth, ESPN also accidentally aired a commercial for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Cavs and Raptors, even though Cleveland has already closed out that series:

These things happen.