Time for Lakers to trust Steve Nash to get offense working

21 Comments

That wasn’t pretty.

The Lakers offense in their opening night loss really wasn’t much of anything. It wasn’t very Princeton with its reads and spacing (only in flashes). It wasn’t up-tempo. It wasn’t much pick-and-roll despite some deadly combos on the floor. It really just wasn’t much of anything except making a point to get the ball inside a lot. Which didn’t really work that well.

What it’s going to take most to fix this is time on the court together for the Lakers stars — Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. They looked like a bunch of guys who haven’t played much together. Because that’s exactly what they are. They looked like they were thinking and not just reacting in the offense, that takes time to fix.

But there is one other thing the Lakers could start doing as soon as Wednesday in Portland — start trusting Steve Nash. Fully trust him. And he needs to start trusting himself and not deferring.

Watch the first game and you didn’t see a Lakers offense doing what it was designed to do — figure out the opponent’s weakness then exploit it with superior talent. They went inside, which was supposed to be their advantage, but when it wasn’t working there was no Plan B. Nash is the guy who is supposed to make that determination on the court and get the ball where it needs to go.

Instead, he deferred t0o much, just getting the ball to someone in a Princeton set and then seeming to float around the perimeter. Don’t take my word for it, here is what he told Sports Illustrated.

“I’m caught trying to get the ball moving and get us into different sets,” Nash said. “Tonight I didn’t get a lot of pick-and-roll. There are growing pains and there will probably be more.”

The Lakers need Nash to be aggressive and attack on pick-and-rolls, especially if Howard is his roll man. He needs to push the tempo, get up the floor and get the team some buckets in transition (which needs to start with better defense). He needs to attack more quickly against pressure up the court like the Mavs used. If they do run a Princeton set, the Lakers bigs need to remember that Nash is the best three point shooter on the team and a kick-out to him is a good thing. There were flashes of what could be, like some nice passing from Gasol to Howard. But it was not enough.

The Lakers need Steve Nash to be Steve Nash. To take charge of the offense. The other Lakers need to trust him to be that guy and to space the floor, to know if they do that they will get the ball back and open looks.

It’s too early to blame the Princeton offense right now (you can start to discuss if it was wise to put in a complex new offense this year). Or the players — Kobe wasn’t attacking in quite the same way, Howard was not finishing dunks he normally crushes, the Lakers were not healthy. And of course, there were the free throws.

Marcus Smart responds to Jimmy Butler: ‘It ain’t hard to find me’ (video)

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Leave a comment

Jimmy Butler said Marcus Smart is “not about that life.”

Smart, via MassLive:

Laugh at that. This about the Celtics versus Chicago Bulls, not Marcus Smart versus Jimmy. I ain’t got to sit here and say this and that. I’m this. I’m that. I ain’t that type of guy. My actions speak louder than words. It ain’t hard to find me. But, right now, I’m focused on my teammates and this series.

That led to a few excellent follow-up questions:

Are you about that life?

Like I said before, I ain’t got to talk about what I am about. I just show you. I can show you, but I’m not going to tell you. Like I said, it ain’t hard to find me. You heard him. He said, “I don’t think Marcus Smart is about that life.” Last time I checked, if you’re going to say somebody ain’t about that life, you should know, right? But like I said, we’re going to keep this Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics, not Marcus vs. Jimmy.

Has anyone accused you not being tough before?

Never.

What was your reaction to that?

Haha.

Smart flops too much. He gets overly emotional.

But he’s way too tough to let Butler’s comments pass without rebuttal.

The real test will come on the court in Game 5 tomorrow.

Damian Lillard ‘obsessed’ with beating Warriors

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Warriors just eliminated the Trail Blazers for the second straight year.

Portland star Damian Lillard sounds hardened by the experience.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

After the Portland Trail Blazers were swept by the Golden State Warriors on Monday, point guard Damian Lillard told ESPN he’s developed a newfound obsession with trying to take down the Warriors.

“You have to be obsessed with that because you know that they’re so good that they’re going to be there,” Lillard said after a 128-103 loss in Game 4. “That’s who you’re going to have to get through to get to where you want to get to. That’s what it is.”

I have no doubt this will drive Lillard. He just finds way to lift himself.

But will the rest of the Trail Blazers keep up with a team that features Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson?

C.J. McCollum is a solid co-star, but it gets dicey beyond that with several players locked into expensive long-term contracts. Portland will have to pry enough production from Jusuf Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe, Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard and the Nos. 15, 20 and 26 picks in the upcoming draft.

The Trail Blazers have a path upward, but needing to climb as high as Golden State, the road is narrow.

Pat Riley says he wishes he gave Chris Bosh’s max contract to Dwyane Wade

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
2 Comments

Heat president Pat Riley has said he should’ve given Dwyane Wade a max contract in 2014 after LeBron James left Miami.

Instead, Wade stayed with the Heat on what became two one-year contracts. That lack of long-term security bothered Wade, who took discounts in prior years, and contributed to his exit to the Bulls.

But paying Wade and Chris Bosh, who got a max contract from Miami two years ago, so much into their late 30s likely would have cost the Heat dearly. It’s nearly impossible to build around two declining max players.

Riley apparently has a retroactive plan for that – re-signing only Wade, not Bosh.

Wright Thompson of ESPN:

But of course, Riley says, almost immediately after LeBron left, Bosh’s camp wanted to reopen a deal they’d just finished, knowing the Heat had money and felt vulnerable. Bosh threatened to sign with the Rockets. In the end, Riley gave Bosh what he wanted. Now he wishes he’d said no to Bosh’s max deal and given all that money to Wade.

Riley says that Wade’s agent asked to deal directly with the owners instead of Pat, so he merely honored that request. Mostly, he just wishes the whole thing had gone differently. “I know he feels I didn’t fight hard enough for him,” he says. “I was very, very sad when Dwyane said no. I wish I could have been there and told him why I didn’t really fight for him at the end. … I fought for the team. The one thing I wanted to do for him, and maybe this is what obscured my vision, but I wanted to get him another player so he could end his career competitive.”

When he describes his reaction to Wade’s leaving, it’s always in terms of how sad it makes him feel

Riley has done a much better job explaining to the public how sad he is about Wade leaving rather than actually doing something while he had the chance or even expressing his regret to Wade after the fact.

It’s almost as if Riley knew excommunicating a Heat Lifer would be both good for the franchise long-term and a terrible look in the short term and is trying to mitigate the damage. Wade might even realize that, too.

To a certain degree, Riley could be speaking in hindsight. Bosh’s deal has not worked out, with Riley believing the big man’s career is over due to blood-clot issues. But hindsight also says giving Wade, now 35, a five-year contract two years ago would’ve been disastrous.

There’s sentimentality at work here. Wade is the greatest player in Heat history. Riley drafted him, groomed him and built three championship teams in two eras around him.

I just can’t figure out how much Riley is exploiting that sentimentality to warm Miami fans after coldly letting Wade walk and how much Riley genuinely regrets contract negotiations with Wade. This is almost certainly shades of both.

Raptors’ Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wear same outfit to Game 5 (photo)

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
1 Comment

I can’t verify Raptors forwards Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wearing the same outfit to last night’s Game 5 against the Bucks is the happenstance Patterson presents it as. But there’s a saying in journalism: It’s too good to check out.

Whatever led to this, Toronto ought to keep doing it. The Raptors smashed Milwaukee.

Patterson: