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.

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.

 

Warriors’ Matt Barnes on facing Kings: ‘I’m trying to kill ’em’

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The Kings were very good to Matt Barnes.

They signed him to a two-year contract worth more than $12.5 million when it seemed he wouldn’t come close to that on the market. Then they waived him, allowing him to receive all his salary and escape basketball hell for the Warriors, who make him much happier.

Yet, he’s going into tonight’s Golden State-Sacramento game with an edge.

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip: CSN Bay Area):

Matt Barnes holding a grudge? Why, I never.

Surging Heat have playoffs in sight after dreadful start

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MIAMI (AP) — They have won 24 times in their last 31 games. They put together the NBA’s longest winning streak this season, a 13-game run that was beyond surprising. They are on the cusp of doing something never accomplished in NBA history.

This Miami Heat comeback tale has been an epic one.

And now comes the toughest part – finishing the job.

None of the other 125 teams in NBA history who started 11-30 or worse made the NBA playoffs. The Heat, with 10 games left on their regular-season schedule, are in position to change that. They held the second-worst record in the league in mid-January, are tied with San Antonio for the best record since, and hold a one-game lead over Chicago and Detroit for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot entering Friday’s games.

“These guys want this so bad,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra – a reluctant coach of the year candidate who cringes when players lobby on his behalf – said Thursday after a loss to the Toronto Raptors. “They want this opportunity to be in the playoffs. We’ve fought, scratched, done everything we possibly can to put ourselves into a position to fight for it.”

More fighting and scratching awaits.

Of Miami’s final 10 games, a stretch that starts Sunday in Boston, eight are against teams still battling for either a playoff spot or playoff positioning. The only two exceptions are a home-and-home next week with New York, which earlier this season was seven games ahead of the Heat in the standings and now are eight games behind Miami (35-37).

“We’ve dug ourselves out of a deep ditch,” Heat center and NBA rebounding leader Hassan Whiteside said.

True, but they’re not on firm playoff footing yet.

Under normal circumstances, Whiteside almost certainly would not have played Thursday. He needed 13 stitches to repair a cut in his right (shooting) hand on Tuesday, and a similar injury two years ago left him sidelined for three games.

Not only did he start Thursday, he led the Heat with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Afterward, he had icepacks strapped to both of his knees, covered his right hand in a clear plastic bag so the stitches wouldn’t get wet in the shower, and had his newly sprained left ankle wrapped.

“He’s a tough dude,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said.

He hasn’t been the only one.

Factoring in that Chris Bosh‘s on-court tenure with the Heat was declared over when he failed a physical in September, Miami has had at least two players unavailable to play in every game this season because of health reasons. Since Jan. 1, it’s been at least three every game – and often more.

A huge blow came last week when shooting guard Dion Waiters sprained his left ankle. He’s at three missed games and counting, and the Heat offense has struggled since.

“This is that time of the year,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody is feeling it, so this is the mental toughness we have to get to.”

The Heat have no practice Friday, though most players will be in the training room for treatments. Practice resumes Saturday, preceding the flight to Boston. And then Sunday, the 10-game sprint to the finish begins.

“I want our guys to enjoy this,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t feel that we’re putting any undue pressure, but everybody will feel like when they lose that the world is collapsing. This playoff race is still going on. And I think we need a day to get away from it, to decompress and to get back to work on Saturday.”