What is the identity of this Los Angeles Lakers team? What kind of team are they?
You don’t know. I don’t know. It’s pretty clear the players don’t know. With the roster and coaching and system changes, they have not found their footing yet.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak doesn’t know either. He doesn’t like the record but he told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News he doesn’t yet know what he’s got.
“I can’t sit here and say I’m happy with our record. I don’t think that’s a stretch for me or any Laker fan to say that. That’s just stating the obvious. But I’m not sure how you assess this team until you get key players back.”
Well, fans are assessing it by wins and losses. That’s the problem.
But Medina wisely was more direct — do you plan to keep Pau Gasol?
“That has always been the plan,” Kupchak said. “Nothing has happened to change the plan.”
Kupchak seconded reports that it will be weeks before Steve Nash returns to the lineup. Which means a couple different tests are on tap for the squad.
“I’m curious to see how the team gets through the next two or three weeks until Steve gets back,” Kupchak said. “Once he gets back, then I’m curious to see how he fits in with everybody.”
The goal for the Lakers has not changed — they see themselves as title contenders. But even if the Lakers do get it together when Nash and Gasol get back and start to blend in, this start has made their path harder. At this point the Lakers are not going to catch Oklahoma City, San Antonio or Memphis in the standings, and likely not the Clippers (the Lakers are 5.5 games back). Which would have them as a five seed at best, playing every round of the playoffs on the road.
But that is the price for this start. And we haven’t seen enough of the Lakers to assess if they could climb that mountain or not.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.