When the floundering Lakers lost back to back winnable road games (if there is such a thing) Sunday and Monday one of the many obvious truths to take away from the panic was this Lakers maxim–opposing point guards torch the Lakers.
Jose Calderon is a nice point guard. He is a pass first guard who shoots a good percentage, 48% for his career. He is big enough to get off his own shot, and not be a liability defensively. But since his habit is to defer rather than force his offense, he is not one of the primary ball handlers you consider when listing the league’s dominant point guards. Now the Bulls point guard is a former league MVP. Only thing is Derrick Rose is still rehabbing his ACL. Kirk Hinrich in his stead and his whole 10 year NBA career has been a nice complimentary guard at the 1 or the 2 spot. He averaged almost 17 points and 7 assists in the ’06 NBA season with the Bulls.
But on Sunday and Monday when they played the Lakers, they performed like every guard in the NBA has over the last decade when they ran by their defense like a raging river. The Lakers defense looked more like the LA River. The problem is not that Russell Westbrook went off, leaving the Lakers in disarray after 2 straight losses. This was Jose Calderon and Kirk Hinrich who scored 22 points (9-15 and 9-11 FG) and had 9 and 8 assists respectively.
Players have made a career out of carving up the Lakers. Back during the era of Phil and the Lakers 3-peat, Damon Stoudemire was a nightmare to play against. Mike Bibby and Bobby Jackson looked like Isiah Thomas twice over against the Purple and Gold. Or more recently, JJ Barea was the best player on the court 2 years ago in the playoffs with the Mavericks. Of course Tony Parker has done it to everyone, so the Lakers are no exception there. The pick and roll is not new, but the Lakers are continually mystified by it.
And now for a partial list of players who have stuck it to the Lakers 17-24 season already: Kyrie Irving, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday. Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, Mo Williams, and now Jose Claderon, and Kirk Hinrich added to the list.
In this season’s analysis of the cause of this perennial problem we examine Steve Nash on the defensive end. The same Steve Nash who made a Hall of Fame career out of dismantling the Lakers team with his movement and quickness. Even if Nash knows how to break down a defense, translating that into a defensive strategy and executing it are two separate problems. The Lakers coaching staff has experimented with very unconventional matchups on defense of late. Nash often doesn’t guard the opponents number one option at guard, and has found himself guarding small forwards like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Earl Clark, who may be the Lakers starting power forward but that’s uncertain since World Peace and Gasol see time there, was chasing Rip Hamilton all night against the Bulls. He is the one with the fresh legs after all.
The Lakers have not bought in or executed well on either end of the floor. They scored 83 points against the tough Bulls defense on Monday. In more encouraging news they have been allowing fewer points. But thus far the adjustments on either end of the floor by the coaching staff haven’t panned out either. But how many different coaching staffs can be blamed before the players are held responsible? Probably at least one more staff.
Granted it’s a long list, but which other current and former NBA players constantly give the Lakers headaches?