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.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

Associated Press
2 Comments

Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.

Veteran NBA official Monty McCutchen to be head of referee development, training

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After 25 seasons running up and down the NBA hardwood and refereeing more than 1,400 games, NBA official Monty McCutchen got a promotion.

He officiated his last game Thursday night in Minnesota and will move to a desk at the league office where his new title is Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training.

“Monty has earned the respect of players, coaches and his peers during an exemplary career as an NBA official,” said Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Operations Michelle D. Johnson (who started on the job in October).  “He understands as well as anyone what it takes to be an outstanding referee and how the league can best support its officials.  With his wealth of insight and experience, Monty is uniquely suited for a leadership role in our officiating program.”

“I’m excited for the opportunity to channel my passion for the officiating profession in a new way,” McCutchen said.  “While I’ll miss officiating games, I’m grateful to continue working with our incredibly talented referee staff as part of an organization so dedicated to excellence and innovation.”

Despite what some fans like to blast on Twitter (especially during the playoffs), NBA officials are the best trained and flat-out best basketball referees in the world (if you don’t think so, watch the college/scab referees from the last lockout of the refs, it was painful). Could they improve? Sure. Hopefully, McCutchen can help do that in his new position.

Kristaps Porzingis officially day-to-day, questionable vs. OKC

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Knicks fans can exhale now.

There was understandable concern after face of the franchise Kritaps Porzingis had to leave the game in Brooklyn Thursday night following a non-contact injury.

Turns out there is nothing to worry about. After the game, Porzingis spoke to the media and was standing on the leg, a good sign. By Friday, after a day of treatment, he was doing well. Officially Porzingis is day-to-day and may sit out Carmelo Anthony‘s return to Madison Square Garden Saturday, but the injury is nothing serious. Ian Begley of ESPN has the details.

Porzingis’ knee was “worked on” on Friday and the discomfort in his knee decreased, league sources told ESPN. It is unclear if Porzingis underwent an MRI or had X-rays to further determine the extent of the injury but sources say he did not undergo significant testing because it wasn’t warranted based on the state of the injury.

Good. We don’t need another star down with a major injury this season.

Especially Porzingis, who has led the Knicks to a 15-13 record (sixth in the East, in the playoffs) while putting up All-Star numbers: 25.5 points per game, shooting 39.5 percent from three, plus grabbing 6.6 rebounds a game. Maybe more impressive is how he has anchored a solid Knicks defense this season with his rim protection. Stay healthy and he should make his first All-Star team this season.