Here’s a little secret about the Lakers — look at just their point differential this season (points scored minus points allowed) and they should be a 31-26 team. They lost a lot of games early in the season they could and should have won.
Now they are hot again — win Monday night in Denver and they are a .500 team. Even before that game they have won 11 of their last 15 and are just 2.5 games back of Houston for the eighth playoff spot. They seem to have found a sense of identity and who they are in the new system, and that is letting them win these close games.
But don’t be fooled that the Lakers are suddenly a much better team, argues Tom Ziller at SB Nation.
According to NBA.com/stats, over the last 15 games (11-4 record) the Lakers are scoring 1.04 points per possession and allowing 1.02. Over the entire season (59 games, 24-25 record) the Lakers are scoring 1.05 points per possession and allowing 1.03. The team’s efficiency differential for the season is +1.9; over the last 15 games it is +2.3. The Lakers are barely different. It’s hard to look at the data and ascertain that anything has clicked into place. This is essentially the same team that it has been: a slightly above average club. But the Lakers’ unlucky record from the first half of the season is now regressing to the mean, which the data indicates is still far short of expectations.
He’s not wrong, although he later admits what shows up when you watch the games — the Lakers are still inconsistent. They have a lot more good games than bad now as they start to figure things out, but they still have some ugly losses (by 24 to the Clippers on Valentines day, for example). The Lakers numbers have always been a little hard to read and value this season because they are so up and down.
Really that’s been about Dwight Howard, who has been up and down on the defensive end. With Kobe Bryant leading the way — shooting or passing — the Lakers offense has been good this season, it is the defense that has been the issue.
Now the Lakers are finding their stride, particularly on defense, and there are more up games. They are going to have to go catch the Rockets (who have an easy schedule the rest of the way) or Utah (hard schedule but still have Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap) if they are going to make the playoffs. Those teams are not coming back to them.
With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.
There were a couple of good ones, however.
Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.
One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.
The NBA, at the Pacers’ request, is investigating whether the Lakers tampered by making impressible contact with Paul George.
Bob Kravitz of WTHR
In fact, there’s word that other small- and mid-market team officials have reached out to the Pacers and told them, “Good for you. Fight the good fight.”
Small-market teams whine too much about the disadvantages they face, but tampering isn’t really a market-size issue. Remember, under Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers were known as the only team that didn’t tamper.
The Lakers have advantages because George is from the area, and Los Angeles offers immense marketability. That’d be true whether or not they contacted George or his agent before he officially became a free agent.
I understand the desire to take down the big, bad Lakers – especially now that they appear poised to become truly big and bad again. But it’s hard to find a team that can cast a stone at them from anywhere other than a glass house.
The power dynamics within the Clippers are shifting, and the ground apparently hasn’t settled yet.
Doc Rivers has been stripped of his presidency. Jerry West became a consultant. Lawrence Frank now holds the most prestigious title in the front office, and newly hired Michael Winger will report to him. Also falling under Frank in the organizational chart? Trent Redden.
Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:
Longtime Cleveland Cavaliers executive Trent Redden will join the LA Clippers’ front-office staff as assistant general manager, league sources said on Monday.
Redden was ousted in Cleveland with David Griffin. He’ll help the Clippers simply by providing another capable executive. They’ve long needed to add front-office employees (and pay for them).
But Redden also exacerbates the issue of Frank’s underlings having far more front-office experience than him. As the Clippers try to establish their new setup, we’ll see whether that creates complications.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has missed significant time the last two seasons due to complications from back surgery.
Could those issues derail his career?
Kerr, via Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle:
“I fully expect to coach all year,” Kerr says in a no-nonsense tone. “That’s my expectation. And for many years to come.”
On the most basic level, it’d be good if Kerr feels well enough to coach. The headaches sound miserable, regardless of his job.
But it’d also be ideal if the NBA didn’t lose one of its best coaches just as he’s getting started. The 51-year-old Kerr might wind up the greatest coach of all time. Obviously that’s a long way off, but he has that potential – health permitting.