Back when all the hype seemed exciting and fun, Metta World Peace amusingly described the Lakers’ stocked roster as a rock band.
But as the Lakers (15-16) enter tonight’s game against the Clippers (25-8) in a designated road game at Staples Center, the purple & gold haven’t exactly put out a lot of hit singles.
This isn’t just about the Lakers’ sluggish start or losing two of the last three games after cultivating a five-game winning streak. The Lakers also seem divided on how they exactly hit the right notes and making the offense hum.
The Lakers rank fifth overall in total offense (averaging 102.84 points per game). They’re fourth overall at a 107 points per game clip since guard Steve Nash returned to the court for the last five games after nursing a fractured left leg for most of the season. But in those games, the Lakers still remain merely average in field-goal shooting percentage (45.6 percent at 13th overall). In the Lakers’ two losses in the past three games, the team’s energy suddenly evaporated.
After the Lakers’ 104-99 loss Tuesday to the Philadelphia 76ers, Kobe Bryant chalked up the team’s inconsistent energy to this reality.
“We’re old as [expletive],” Bryant said.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni laughed it off.
“First of all, and I love Kobe to death, but I don’t think we’re slow and old,” D’Antoni said. “We’re a little slower and a little older, but we’re not slow and old. We won’t go there.”
Still, the latest setback prompted D’Antoni to wonder if he should scale back practice time even more after having two consecutive practices leading into the New Year’s Day game. Still, the Lakers practice on Wednesday involved a spirited five-on-five scrimmage mimicking a fast-paced style they’ll somehow try to match against the speedy Clippers, led by Chris Paul’s dazzling point guard play, Blake Griffin’s highlight reel dunks, DeAndre Jordan’s freakish athleticism and the NBA’s top-ranked bench that Bryant describes as “explosive.”
Still, Bryant threw extra caution into how the Lakers should run their offense.
“He wants to run on opportunity,” Bryant said of D’Antoni’s system. “When we have a chance to run, we’ll run. But we’ll be smart about it.”
“When you have numbers,” Bryant explained. “When you have a break and the numbers in transition, you take it. When you don’t, you slow it down.”
Nash, who’s run D’Antoni’s offense well enough to earn two league MVP awards in four seasons with Phoenix, argues, “we’re not trying to be a track team.” Instead he envisions a squad that plays at a quarter-mile to a miles pace.
But with Nash describing Thursday’s practice as “a training camp practice,” it’s still apparent the team remains off key.
“It’s trying to find a pace that suits our team where there’s a rhythm,” Nash said. “There’s a metronome to some extent out there. That way the ball can move and we can get penetration, kick out for 3’s, get inside and make the defense pay.”
Those plays all sound like hit singles the Lakers could release. But the team still remains in the studio trying to find the right notes and hitting the right pitches.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org