If I were Phil Jackson…

Phil JacksonIf I were Phil Jackson and didn’t want to end my coaching career with a sweep, I would consider ideas like these.

— #1: Subject Pau Gasol to intensive video highlight sessions

If there is anything more obvious than the fact that Pau Gasol has been ineffective lately, it is that all the flogging the sports media and coach  Phil Jackson has been giving Pau has been ineffective in helping Pau snap out of it.

Phil, it is time to try something new, something more effective. After all, ineffective play + ineffective coaching does NOT equal success.

Pau doesn’t need more scolding; Pau needs to see himself successful again.

Besides, blaming these 3 losses on Pau is so simplistic it is more scapegoating than analysis. The Lakers are killing the Mavericks in points in the paint. Also, the Lakers have grabbed 51.4% of all the rebounds this series… for all their woes, the Lakers bigs are still outperforming the Mavericks bigs.

And especially in game 3, the Lakers were failing the team from the 3 point line — both offensively and defensively. For example, so far this series the Lakers are 1 of 10 on corners 3s, and 9 of 42 everywhere else behind the arc.

That’s not Pau’s fault.

The Lakers bench is a let down too — perhaps more so than Pau, so let’s keep it real and not make Pau the sole scapegoat.

If I were Phil Jackson, I would have Lakers staff prepare DVDs of Pau Gasol highlights, such as:

o Pau’s sparkling scoring moments
o Pau’s monster rebounding highlights
o Pau’s brilliant defensive performances
o Pau scoring from movement without the ball
o Pau’s past performances scoring on Dirk

Let Pau see himself again and again as effective, including effective against the Mavericks. Make him watch the videos again and again to drive home the realization of the fact that Pau Gasol is a great player.

As Pau Gasol becomes effective again, Dirk’s offensive game will likely suffer some collateral damage as, for the first time this series, Dirk will actually have to expend energy on defense.

— #2: Don’t push the team, lead it.

Sometimes criticism sparks a player or a team, but if it is overused, it just sucks the life out them.

If you have access to video of game 3, watch the fourth quarter again. I was amazed that even when the Lakers had an 8 point lead, their body language looked as if they were getting spanked. They were just minutes away from (presumably) beating the Mavericks in Dallas, yet the Lakers had no swagger. There was no joy in their faces, no bounce in their step over having a late advantage on the Mavs.

Instead, even with a lead, the Lakers in the 4th quarter constantly hung their heads over every Maverick basket, and just trotted down the court… their body language said anything but “we are winners.”

It seriously looked as if the life had been sucked out of Lakers due to their being so intensely negative all game long, leaving them mentally weary and defeated long before the score said they were.

— #3: Tweak Kobe Bryant’s minute pattern

Television analysts keep pointing out that Mavericks are killing the Lakers in the 4th quarter, however the Lakers have yet to win a 1st quarter as well in this series. And strangely, the Lakers own the Mavericks in the 2nd quarter. Check it out:

Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Total
Lakers Q4 Scoring -9 -6 -12 27
Lakers Q3 Scoring -2 -4 +2 -4
Lakers Q2 Scoring +11 +4 +6 +21
Lakers Q1 Scoring -2 -6 -2 -10
Margin of Loss -2 -12 -6 -20

 

Isn’t it striking that the Lakers’ have basically the same pattern for every game this series against the Mavericks:

Q1: Start slowly
Q2: Get a strong advantage
Q3: Play on cruise control
Q4: Run out of gas and lose

What contributes to this pattern?

Well, in game 1 I’m sure it was because the Lakers took the Mavericks for granted and started playing blas√© ball.

However, with 3 straight games in this pattern, here is another here is another intriguing tidbit: in every game this series Kobe Bryant sits more in the 4th quarter than any other quarter.

Coincidence?

Seeing as the Lakers struggle mightily to score in the 4th quarters, scoring just 16, 19 and 20 points in the 4th quarters of each of the games so far, I’d consider sitting Kobe at the end of the 3rd rather than the beginning of the 4th.

It might not matter at all, but bringing Kobe in cold when all other players have been running for the last 6 minutes may not be the best way to get his rhythm going again in crunch time, which has been another problem in this series.

— #4: Change the bench player rotation a bit

Television analysts have been making a big deal about the Mavericks bench outscoring the Lakers bench 112-52 in these 3 games, however that is misleading.

First, the Mavs bench has played 81 more minutes than the Lakers bench, so of course they are going to have more points. (Of course, the reason they may be playing more is because they are more productive — the classic chicken or egg conundrum.)

Second, the Lakers own the Mavericks in the 2nd period: precisely the period when the Lakers are playing their bench. That makes sense when you consider Phil Jackson like to mix bench players with starters, and there is some deferring happening.

Add those two together and you get the feeling that rather than continuing to use the substitution pattern the Lakers have been using in the 2nd half, they would be better off doing something closer to what they do in the 1st half, when the Lakers dominate the 2nd quarter.

In game 2, Steve Blake’s 2nd half play was a disaster for the Lakers. As announcer Steve Kerr pointed out during the game with 2:50 left in the 3rd quarter, in one possession Blake almost turned the ball over twice, and missed two 3-pointers. Before the quarter ended Blake did turn over the ball, while letting JJ Barea and Jason Terry have their way on the other end of the court.

Had Jackson played Blake more 1st half minutes, he would have more easily seen that was not Blake’s day.

So I would like to see the bench log a few more minutes in the first half and prove themselves for 2nd half minute consideration.

Additionally, I would definitely think about starting Lamar Odom and bringing Pau off the bench. Thanks to all of Andrew Bynum‘s injuries these last few years, Pau has had to play center so often that he seems to easily lost anyway when he is on the floor with Bynum.

Plus, I think Pau would benefit by starting the game on the bench and observing Dirk and the Dallas game plan.

Kevin McHale once said that he loved coming off the bench. He would come in fresh and post up players just as they were winded and beginning to play defense with their hands instead of their feet, and what is better, the team would be in the penalty so McHale would be going to the foul line.

Pau, assuming his confidence could take the role change in stride, could really benefit from a sixth man role, and less time playing on the floor with Andrew Bynum.

In conclusion…

The great philosopher, Kobe Bryant, once said, “To make history, you have to do historic things.”

Certainly coming back from a 0-3 deficit would be historic. The problem is, getting swept after winning back to back championships would also be historic.

  1. ismael mendozaismael mendoza05-08-2011

    I’ve watched this entire season of Laker basketball and I’m not surprised LA was looking at elimination in the second round. What is surprising is that it was a sweep. But this was a warning I gave to Laker fans after the ring ceremony presentation on Oct 26th. A fan was running around chanting,” Threepeat.”
    I hate premature celebration, especially after 1 game that was won in the final seconds by a Steve Blake 3 pt shot.
    I uttered that the Lakers just made 3 straight trips to the Finals. Never mind the difficulty of 3 championships in a row, which has been done 3 times since 1990, your asking a team with all those miles on them to go 4 straight times? I support my Lakers, but I put rationality first. 4 Finals trips has not been done since the ’84-’87 Boston Celtics. The last Laker team to do that was the ’82-85 show time teams. It’s a monumental task considering the fact that the time between seasons in much shorter now than it was for those 80’s teams. There’s more rounds now and now that extra 1st round is a best 7 games instead of 5.
    Another component to this is Lakers looked very tired throughout this season. They had some mad dashes here and there, but a great deal of it was marred by inconsistent D, reckless turnovers, and a loss of that hunger to finish off teams they would destroy 3 years ago. Much of that may have to do with giving up too much in the off season( Powell, Mbenga, Farmar, and seat warmer from Gonzaga), much improved competition in the West, and having to wait for Bynum for a third of the season. Again.
    They also never really addressed their weakness against speedy point guards.
    And honestly, I really thought Jackson and LA were pushing their luck in returning for the 3peat. NBA fans have been so spoiled with 3peats it almost seems they just grow on trees now a days.

  2. Tom7Tom705-08-2011

    Ismael,

    As always I appreciate your intelligent, thoughtful comments.

    While the world fixated on “3 peat,” in reality the task was 4 straight trips to the Finals. It is hard to imagine that ever happening in the modern era, much less this year.

    As for speedy point guards, I think Mitch thought Shannon Brown and Steve Blake would be up for it. However, Brown’s offensive highlights seem to have lessened his desire to expend as much effort on defense. And Blake was Payton-esque in that he never did materialize as a critical asset in the Lakers’ system.

    When I watch the Grizzlies and the Hawks, the very hungry teams, and see the effort they expend on every play, then watch the Lakers, I can see how the Lakers were swept. These hungry teams make big mistakes, and they make them frequently… but their effort covers a multitude of sins. The Lakers haven’t similar heart, so their shortcomings remain exposed.

    The Lakers could have and should have won games 1 and 3, and were just minute adjustments from doing so, meaning Dallas would have just barely evened the series tonight. But they couldn’t be bothered to do the little things.

    But the older I get, the more I wonder: is there really any such thing as a little thing?

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