SALT LAKE CITY — The Lakers’ most glaring issue through five games has nothing to do with the Princeton offense, their high level of turnovers, their poor free-throw shooting, ongoing injuries or a poor bench.
Oh, these are all problems all right and they were evident to see in the Lakers’ 95-86 loss Wednesday to the Utah Jazz at Energy Solutions Arena. The Lakers (1-4) only shot 33.8 percent from the field. They committed 18 turnovers. They only made 32 of 46 foul shots. With Steve Nash sidelined because of a fracture in his left leg, the Lakers’ original starting lineup has played one preseason game and two regular-season games together. The Lakers’ bench rank 29th out of 30 NBA teams in points per game (18.8) and was outscored against the Jazz, 36-20.
But what’s the most egregious problem simply involves how the Lakers handle all the adversity. They’ve regurgitated a million times how this is a “process” and how the public has to stay “patient.” The Lakers say these words with an element of calmness. As much as it’s necessary to keep in perspective this is the beginning of a long season, the Lakers don’t really seem to buy their own spin.
Just watching the game makes it that obvious.
As soon as the game ended, Kobe Bryant trudged off the court by himself while chewing his jersey. He repeatedly jawed at officials over missed calls. Dwight Howard did the same at the expense of getting back on defense. Pau Gasol wasn’t as vocal, but Coach Mike Brown chewed him out at the most during an early first-quarter timeout for not sprinting back on defense fast enough.
“I think he said he wanted me to sprint back, wall the ball and help the point guard because Mo Williams crossed over and I was relying on my teammate to be there and stop him,” Gasol said. “I could’ve ran harder on that particular play and stop the ball. But it’s tough to stop a point guard in transition at full speed for a seven footer.”
The Lakers are a more mature group and will likely regroup once they have more games to iron out the various issues. But the team’s own frustration is delaying the process. Howard wasn’t afraid to take issue with Bryant’s demonstrative on-court behavior. Then, again, Howard fell victim to the same problem.
“Sometimes as a team we have to be able to not show our frustrations that much,” Howard said. “A lot of the guys look at me and Kobe and feed off of us. We have to do a better job of keeping our frustrations on the inside and just playing through it so our teammates don’t look down on themselves.”
Meanwhile, Brown has showed his frustration in various ways. He’s getting in his players’ ear, such as Gasol during timeouts. Brown’s shuffling the bench rotation, lately giving Metta World Peace extended minutes as the second unit’s shooting guard.
So how do the Lakers break out of this vicious cycle? Easy. They should simply follow what they preach.
“Just by getting up in the morning and doing our job,” Bryant said. “That’s all. We just have to stay in the moment and work what’s right in front of you and not think too much. You just have to focus on the next thing.”
That hasn’t happened yet. Hence, why the Lakers are 1-4.
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