Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers identity crisis runs into confident Clippers, result is 0-3 Lakers


LOS ANGELES — The Clippers know who they are. They are Chris Paul’s team, Lob City, a lot of pick-and-roll, Jamal Crawford breaking guys ankles, Blake Griffin attacking the rim

The Lakers are… still trying to figure it out.

Through three games the Lakers have tried on more personalities than an 13-year-old girl. And none of them have fit.

The result of all that is when the Lakers met the Clippers Friday night that the Clippers won convincingly 105-95.

Another game, another night where after a loss everybody in the Lakers locker room was preaching patience — something the fans in Los Angeles are displaying little of.

“(Being patient) is particularly hard for me because I’m not the most patient individual in the world, but you have to be,” Kobe said after the game. “You have to stay persistent, you have to stay committed to what you’re doing and just keep on trucking.”

Lakers fans are ready to back that truck right over coach Mike Brown and his Princeton offense, but the issues are more complex than that. And they are all interconnected.

With Steve Nash out for the night and Steve Blake at the point, the Lakers actually seemed to run a better spaced offense early on because they knew it was going to be Princeton every time down (no wondering if Nash wants to do pick and roll). Still, they seem to think and not react, and often the result is odd floor balance and it seems to bring big men away from rebounding positions a lot.

That spacing didn’t slow the turnovers or bad decisions that have plagued the Lakers since training camp. And as they did against Portland the Lakers started to abandon their offense as they tried to climb back in. With Dwight Howard in foul trouble most of the first half the Lakers tried some other things on offense — Metta World Peace decided to be a three-point shooter and went 1-of-7 from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile, Chris Paul knew exactly what he wanted to do — he continually came off the high pick then when Gasol showed out to stop him he pulled Gasol away and isolated himself against the Laker big man 23 feet from the rim. Then he carved up Gasol (who started to look worn out) and the Lakers as a whole. CP3 finished with 18 points and 15 assists — he had more assists than the entire Lakers team.

Paul and the Clippers were playing with confidence, like a team that believes it can be a contender.

A few minutes into the first quarter the Clippers went on a 16-6 run, the Clippers led and their depth allowed them to keep a comfortable lead most of the game. Jamal Crawford had 21 off the bench to lead the Clippers.

With the Lakers needing points Princeton was kicked to the curb and it became the Kobe Bryant show — he had 40 points on just 24 shots and continues to be very efficient this season. But he had to overcome 20 team turnovers and a defense that continued to not get a lot of consecutive stops.

The Clippers were smart with their double-teaming, doing a good job of taking Howard and Kobe and making them give up the ball, only to find guys were not in the right space to get the pass.

“It’s hard when only a couple of guys really know the offense,” Lakers backup forward Antawn Jamison said after the game, although he seemed to be one of the culprits as he seemed to float through the game not looking for his shot.

Meanwhile, the Clippers have a bench that has been huge for them — Crawford, Erick Bledsoe, Matt Barnes and Lamar Odom all had quality nights. Odom may have had the shot of the night, a 30-foot three up against the shot clock.

“I think our bench, we had some timely shots,” Paul said. “We had some timely shots. L.O. hit a big one, Matt hit a big one off the glass. But once again, our bench stepped up for us.”

That bench is giving the Clippers confidence. Chris Paul is giving them confidence. The 2-0 start to the season is giving them confidence. The Clippers know they are good and are out to prove it.

The Lakers, they are still preaching patience while they try to figure out who they are.

Report: 76ers supporting, not blaming, Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor
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76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor fought a man in a Boston street.

The team has released a short, vague statement. CSN Philly:

“We are aware of the report and we are currently working to gather additional information. Until that time, we will have no further comment.”

But what do the 76ers really think?

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

I spoke with somebody close to him. They’ve talked to the 76ers. They’ve talked with the NBA.

The Sixers are very supportive of Okafor. They understand the situation, but they have to do their due diligence and look into it.

The Sixers are supporting him. They’re not blaming him. If they have to discipline, it still won’t sully him in their eyes.

Again, I’m told that they’re very supportive of him.

If the 76ers really support Okafor, they’ll do so publicly. Leaking their support anonymously doesn’t really move the needle.

I also find this report a little dubious, because Broussard only said he talked to someone close to Okafor. If the 76ers’ viewpoint came filtered through an Okafor rep, there could be a lot of spin – though it’s possible Broussard also spoke with someone from the team.

What choice do the 76ers have but to support Okafor, anyway? He’s a promising young player on a team that desperately needs hope. It seems he made a major mistake, but it’s not a career-ender. And as long as the 76ers are keeping him, they might as well stand by him.

However – based on what we’ve seen, which is obviously not everything – this incident should “sully him in their eyes.” He appeared to be the aggressor, and the team should be concerned by that. Perhaps, further investigation has provided extenuating circumstances, but absent new evidence, the 76ers should view him less favorably – and be proactive about helping him correct any underlying issues.

That’s the support Okafor needs from them.

Celtics president Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens: ‘He’s a keeper’

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.

But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?

Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.

You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.

Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.

I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.

But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.

That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.

Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.

Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.

I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.

Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.