this team was built to at least compete in the day-to-day hellscape that is the Western Conference, adding competent rotation players like Lou Williams, Roy Hibbert, and Brandon Bass to the team’s young core and the looming presence of Kobe Bryant.The 2015-16 Los Angeles Lakers were never supposed to contend for a playoff berth, but they weren’t supposed to tank either. Unlike last season,
[Follow Dunks Don’t Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
While a 0-4 start isn’t out of the norm for a pretty bad team, the form that the Lakers have shown in working toward that ohfer record is rather troubling. The Lakers are losing by an average of 10 points per game, Byron Scott seems more concerned with talking up his draft day defense as opposed to coaching his own young men, Kobe thinks he sucks, and now Dr. Bryant is advising fans that a good batch of primal scream therapy would be a healthy response to the first week woes:
(It should be noted that Kobe wasn’t exactly freaking out himself when offering this suggestion, rather just employing a good strain of dry humor.)
According to head coach Byron Scott, a few Lakers did a bit of freaking out on their own accord, prior to Kobe’s comments, on the Laker bench late in the team’s loss to Denver on Tuesday evening:
The Lakers don’t rank as the league’s top disappointment thus far, as the similarly winless New Orleans Pelicans would top that list. The team doesn’t rank as the NBA’s top embarrassment, either, as the winless Brooklyn Nets (working without a lottery pick in next June’s draft) run the table in that regard.
The combination of compelling figures on this Laker squad – in direct opposition to the banged-up Pelicans and moribund Nets – makes this Laker team a must-watch, however. When you have one of the top players of all time telling media that he’s the 200th-best player in the league and that fans should freak out, that’s something worth noting. Even if Kobe was clearly speaking with tongue placed firmly in cheek.
Bryant is shooting 32 percent from the floor, and the career 33 percent three-point shooter has taken an inexcusable 34 three-pointers over his team’s first four games. Worse, he’s badly missing. It doesn’t look good for the legend, so much so that you’d probably conclude that were this anyone other than Kobe Bryant he’d probably hang things up in the face of having to slither through winter as a cold-blooded Mamba.
The Lakers are just barely ahead in the race for 29th out of 30 teams in defensive efficiency, and even the addition of Hibbert hasn’t changed much on that end – Los Angeles has played terrible defense so far this season even with the lumbering center on the court.
As our Dan Devine noted earlier on Wednesday, rookie D’Angelo Russell is confused with coach Scott’s rotation choices – y’know, the whole part about a lottery pick and franchise cornerstone being benched in the fourth quarter. All is not lost: Jordan Clarkson is having a terrific year, and Bryant’s Player Efficiency Rating is somehow at the average mark (because, well, PER overrates usage), but this hasn’t been an ideal start. Lacking Western teams like Minnesota, Sacramento and Denver weren’t supposed to contend either, and they’ve made the Lakers look terrible thus far.
And, somehow, it always tends to come back to Scott saying something rather remarkable:
(Because attempting to come back against a crummy Nuggets team by handing fourth quarter minutes to Marcelo Huertes is ideal. Talk the talk, Byron.)
It’s worth revisiting the idea that the Lakers are putting in a sneaky tank job, as leaving the keys to Scott and the ball to Kobe seems like the surest way toward a trip to the cellar. The Lakers spent money and assets in picking up Hibbert, Williams, and Bass, however, and even an 0-82 run only guarantees a 25 percent chance at the top overall pick in next year’s draft.
The issue here is that it was presumed that the Lakers were never going to get that 2016 draft pick. That they’d be competent enough to pull themselves out of the high lottery, as the 76ers own the rights to the pick if the Lakers do as expected and fall out of the top three picks in the draft. If this sustains and the Lakers somehow back into keeping their selection, this team’s front office, coaching staff, and legendary shooting guard can’t pretend like this was how the plan was set to work all along.
It was never going to be good for the Lakers in 2015-16. Nobody thought it would be this bad, this soon, however.
– – – – – – –