Metta World Peace, Rodney Stuckey

Lakers players frustrated with Mike Brown’s offense, should be frustrated with themselves

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It’s not the offense, it’s the execution. It’s the players.

But that’s not the way everyone sees it. What everyone does agree on is Wednesday night’s ugly Laker loss to the Wizards — where Los Angeles was up 21 in the third quarter to one of the worst teams in the league and came from ahead to lose — encapsulated the problems.

It brought some frustrations among Lakers players back to the forefront — many don’t love Mike Brown’s more traditional NBA offense. And they are talking about, if not offensive mutiny, at least just running some old triangle offense sets, reports Ramona Shelburne at ESPNLosAngeles.com.

… sources told ESPNLosAngeles.com this week that there is growing concern among some Lakers players as to whether first-year coach Mike Brown and his staff have the X-and-O wherewithal to fix a Lakers offense that is averaging its lowest per-game point total (94) since before the advent of the 24-second shot clock in 1954-55.

Brown’s effect on the Lakers’ defense has been undeniable, but sources say the team’s ongoing struggles on the road — with L.A. dropping to 6-14 away from Staples Center following a loss in Detroit and blowing a 21-point lead to the undisciplined Wizards — have some veterans longing for a return to the trusty Triangle offense preferred by Brown’s predecessor, Phil Jackson.

Last season running the triangle, the Lakers averaged 111 points per 100 possessions, sixth best in the NBA (via Basketball-Reference). This season that is down to an offensive rating of 103.6, 15th in the NBA. An average NBA offense that contains Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. There are some serious issues here.

Let’s trace those back to the beginning.

Jim Buss and Lakers management made the first mistake last summer when, in replacing Phil Jackson, they decided to try and eradicate all traces of arguably the NBA’s greatest coach ever from the organization. Buss wanted change, wanted his own stamp on the organization. That meant the triangle offense was gone and lead assistant Brian Shaw had no real chance to move down to the big chair. The Lakers personnel, particularly their role players, were suited to run the triangle and not a traditional offense. Throw in a lockout that meant a condensed training camp and few practices, and you have a situation where installing and gaining trust in a new offense was going to be tough.

That said, the new offense can work. There are 29 other teams that run a whole lot of “floppy” and “horns” and live by the pick-and-roll — because when executed right they work. It’s about execution.

Which brings us to Wednesday and the Lakers loss. In the first half the Lakers executed the offense beautifully — they worked the ball inside out and took advantage of Gasol and Bynum in the post. There was fantastic ball movement. They ran when they could. They were up 21 points.

Then it looked like Kobe decided he could stick a dagger in the Wizards right there in the middle of the third quarter and forced some shots that missed. Bynum admitted he lost focus and just kind of loafed around. The Lakers bench turned the ball over and was sloppy. The Lakers played like they thought the Wizards would just roll over — at home teams do not roll over. Maybe on the road, but at home in front of their fans even bad teams do not like to be embarrassed. So the Wizards kept on fighting. And the Lakers never got around to executing well again. Kobe’s missed jumpers turned into long rebounds that got the Wizards out on the break.

That’s not on Mike Brown, that’s not on the offensive system. That is not about comfort level with the offense. The Lakers spent plenty of time in the triangle the past few years taking bad shots, not moving the ball and not getting it into the post where they had an advantage.

Maybe the Lakers should run a few triangle offensive sets (as much as you can isolate those from the triangle system), but that doesn’t solve the bigger issue. Not executing is not executing. Doesn’t matter the system. And on a veteran team it’s on the players, not the coach.

The Lakers need to shake things up at the trade deadline, they need to get a point guard that can both create his own shot and will snap them out of these lapses of execution. These Lakers are not contenders with this roster right now, but keep executing like this and a whole lot offensive talent will be going home in the first round.

Way too early look: Who could make up USA’s 2020 Tokyo Olympic basketball team?

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 21:  Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan and Kyle Lowry #7 of United States stand on the podium after defeating Serbia in the Men's Gold medal game on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Let’s start with the obvious: This is an exercise in futility. There is no way to predict accurately what the 2020 USA men’s basketball team headed to the Tokyo Olympics will look like. There will be injuries that sideline guys. There will be contract situations where key guys decide it’s in their best interest to sit out. Plus, there could be a guy just now entering his junior year of high school who we don’t know well yet but in four years will be a clear choice for the team.

Now that we’ve gotten through the tedious disclaimer, let’s have fun:

What will the 2020 USA Basketball team look like?

First, it will have a bit of a business attitude — Gregg Popovich is coaching now. Not that Mike Krzyzewski ran a college party Team USA, far from it, but with Popovich’s demeanor and the scare put into the 2016 team (and some improving world powers, such as Canada), expect the USA to be a little more focused next time around.

For the roster, who from the 2016 gold medal team in Rio returns for more gold? At the top of the list: A 31-year-old Kevin Durant will be back for one more run (and to climb on top of the USA Olympic scoring list). He will be the unquestioned team leader. The alpha. It will be his team.

After that? Young stars who want one more go at it such as Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, and Klay Thompson will seriously consider a return. Maybe Jimmy Butler. Those guys will have a leg up having Olympic experience and a commitment to the program.

After that, some big names that passed on Rio are going to suit up in Japan. There will be far less defection of top talent this time around — the fears around Brazil will be gone, and NBA players wanting to sell more shoes in Asia will be eager to sign up. I expect you will see Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, and maybe James Harden decide they are in for the next round. LeBron James said he felt left out and may consider a return, but he will be 35 years old with 17 NBA seasons on his body by that point, does he want to put his body through an international curtain call? Probably not.

Rounding out the roster, expect a few guys from this year’s USA Select Team — the team the Olympic squad practiced against in Las Vegas at the start of camp — to make the leap up (as Kyrie Irving and others did this year).

Who? That’s the hardest thing to predict, it depends on development. Guys to watch include Victor Olidipo, Justise Winslow, Devin Booker, Brandon Ingram, and Jabari Parker — some of them will be ready to make the leap.

One clue to the 2020 roster: Players that you see in China for the 2019 FIBA World Cup will be more likely to make the 2020 team. (Yes, the World Championships are now the year before the Olympics, welcome to more of FIBA’s wisdom, as is the fact the Cup qualifiers fall during the NBA/Euroleague seasons.) Guys from the select team now that head to China in three years and perform well in that setting will likely have the USA across their chest in Japan.

Whatever team we send will have the most talent in those games. The question is will that be enough?

Check out the Cleveland Cavaliers Top 10 plays from last season

AUBURN HILLS, MI - APRIL 24: Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers prepare for tip off against the Detroit Pistons in game four of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Palace of Auburn Hills on April 24, 2016 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. 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 Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With athletes such as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on the team, you know the Cleveland Cavaliers Top 10 plays of last season were going to have some special moments.

Yes, the block by LeBron and the stepback three by Irving that sealed the first Cleveland title in 52 years are on top of the list.

But there are some other ridiculous Irving handles and even a Timofey Mozgov dunk in there (a $64 million dunk, apparently).

Watch Spurs’ Dejounte Murray throw off-the-backboard alley-oop to himself in pickup game

Washington guard Dejounte Murray, center, dribbles the ball past Mount St. Mary's center Taylor Danaher (50) as Washington forward Marquese Chriss, right, watches duirng the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Just a suggestion for rookie Dejounte Murray: Don’t do this in front of Gregg Popovich. You may not like his reaction.

That said, the Spurs needed to get more athletic this off-season — landing Pau Gasol certainly didn’t help that cause — so enter first-round pick Murray, who pulled this off in a recent pickup game.

Murray is going to be brought along slowly in a backcourt where Tony Parker and Patty Mills will be splitting time at the point. Murray is more of a combo guard and is going to have to shoot a lot better than he did in college (28.8 percent from three) to get some run. But this is a situation where the Spurs can groom him, bring him along slowly, and see if they have another draft steal.

He’s certainly got the athleticism.

Corey Brewer: “James (Harden) is going to play defense this year”

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 18:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets walks across the court during their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Toyota Center on March 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  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 Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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James Harden‘s defense is not as bad as its reputation.

Well, at least it wasn’t two seasons ago — his near MVP season he was in good enough shape that he could put in a respectable effort on that end and still handle his massive offensive load. There were still some mental lapses, but his focus was better and his improvement lifted the team defense. Last season, he regressed back to youtube “highlight” defense Harden — his conditioning was not where it needed to be, he didn’t expend as much effort on that end, and it showed.

Harden got a massive contract extension this summer, and Dwight Howard is Atlanta’s problem — now Harden has to lead the Rockets. By example. Corey Brewer told ESPN you’re going to see that on defense.

“I think this year he’s going to play better defense, We’re going to let the past be in the past. It’s the future of the Rockets, man. James is going to play defense this year.”

We’re all Missourians on this one: Show me.

Remember that the Rockets will be out and running — Mike D’Antoni is the coach now, and Daryl Morey is going to get the up tempo ball he wants (which Kevin McHale had them doing, but Harden didn’t like him so…). D’Antoni’s teams in Phoenix played better defense than their reputation — points per possession they were middle of the pack — but that has never been his focus.

Will Harden be able to run like he needs to on offense and still defend at a reasonable level?

If he can, it’s a big step toward the Rockets being a dangerous team in the West because if he does it others will follow. Otherwise, every Rockets game will be a shootout, which is entertaining but not going to get a team deep into the playoffs.