Even before the firing of Mike Brown, tonight's game between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers seemed like an almost complete role reversal compared to the last...well since a long time ago, as described by Ivan in today's preview of the game.
To provide us some insight not only on tonight's matchup but also the Lakers' season so far and why things simply were not working out with Mike Brown, I contacted SB Nation's Lakers' site Silver Screen and Roll to get some insight on how Lakers fans are feeling about the state of the team.
Since the exchange began before Brown was fired, we don't have any direct insight on that here but be sure to check out Mark Travis' post about the firing over at SS&R. But site editor Andrew Garrison has offered some great insight here on the team and some great detail about why Lakers fans have been so disappointed with Brown's performance thus far.
1. Let's cut to the chase: we've all heard various explanations for why the Lakers are currently last place in the Western Conference, but what is the most surprising or unexpected aspect of what's happened in these first five games?
Andrew Garrison: Just how terrible the Los Angeles Lakers have looked in their journey to the glorious 1-4 they tote.
While many people were projecting the Lakers to win 60+ games, I had them at about 54, citing chemistry both on and off the court, injuries, and a very tough conference as my determining factors; I fully expected a slower start and didn't believe this Lakers team would be bombing atomically until around January. So, it's safe to say the record isn't shocking or causing me to burn my Lakers memorabilia.
The issue I have with the 1-4 record, and what comes as most shocking to me, is how disinterested the team looks on the court on a nightly basis. A team with Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Kobe Bryant should still have enough gusto to hit the floor and take it to teams with or without Steve Nash. But no, the ambivalence is shining through and the product they've put out on the floor shows it.
It's frustrating to see the talent to seemingly not even bother for stretches at a time. Dwight Howard finally moved out of Disney World, Pau Gasol can feel safe as he no longer is trade bait (or is he. It never ends), Kobe Bryant has a dominant center that prepares rigorously off the court and is dedicated to the game of basketball, and Steve Nash has a chance to end his career with a few trips to the NBA Finals. Yet, none of these guys (Nash is injured and has only played 1.5 games in the season) seem to want to play together and with a sense of urgency.
It's been a frustrating season thus far and while the preseason is the PRESEASON, plenty of negative energy carried over from that as well.
2. There has been a lot about said about Mike Brown and his rotations, particularly the use of Antawn Jamison at the three (a dilemma that Warriors fans are familiar with). But aside from what's wrong, what lineup or rotation combinations did you expect to see more of entering the season?
AG: If you asked any Lakers fan right now you'd almost hear the exact same answer. Jodie Meeks in ANY kind of line-up.
I spent some time in the off-season combing over the roster and became very excited when I turned the corner on what Jodie Meeks meant to the things Mike Brown could do. Specifically, the lineup I thought that could do major damage to teams was Nash-Meeks-Bryant-Gasol-Howard. Obviously the Lakers starting five has talent on talent on talent, but the weak link offensively is Metta World Peace. Inserting Meeks and sliding Kobe up to the small forward gives the Lakers a true floor spreader to keep the defense honest while also having to account for the rest of the all star talent on the floor.
It didn't feel overly ambitious at the time, but clearly I had my wires crossed on this one. Meeks doesn't even see the floor at this point and without any reasoning from Mike Brown aside from "I want to stick with Ebanks and Jamison consistently".
As far as the Jamison thing goes, this is an issue that compounds EVERYTHING in Mike Brown's roster management. It seemed so simple when the roster was finally on paper. There are one to one reserves for every starting position: Steve Blake at the 1, Jodie Meeks at the 2, Devin Ebanks at the 3, Antawn Jamison at the 4, and Jordan Hill at the 5. If need be almost all of those guys can slide down a position. But no, that would be too easy. Forcing Jamison into the small forward role has been a failure of an experiment thus far and is one of the factors in why Meeks has had his minutes dashed since Ebanks becomes the backup shooting guard with Jamison at the 3. It's a huge point of contention in all of the Lakers communities right now.
3. How much of the early struggles are just a matter of building chemistry vs. a fundamental flaw with the composition of the team?
AG: It's hard to tell from this distance because the Lakers aren't putting forth acceptable levels of effort and it all looks terrible.
The chemistry is still FAR from being where it needs to be, without question. The composition of the team isn't necessarily perfect considering how weak the bench is and the rotations/line-ups that are being trotted out on the floor, but there is still the possibility that the roles of the role players actually clear up once Mike Brown settles down. The Lakers offense has been analyzed and discussed down to the smallest detail, but the defense is the issue that needs to be highlighted.
If I had to pick between composition and chemistry being the biggest issue, chemistry would win in a land-slide. Whether that's better than composition being the issue remains to be seen, however. Composition you can still try and change. Different line-ups, different rotations, and the chances of the GM finding trades to change the logistics. Chemistry comes from within and is one of those intangibles that not every team can find. It will be interesting to see how this team grows together.
4. This seems like a bizarre question to even ask given the last...four decades...of history, but what worries you most about tonight's matchup with the Warriors?
AG: Outside shooting: the Lakers absolutely LOVE sagging away from the perimeter and giving the opposing team open looks, and the Golden State Warriors will surely feast on that with the likes of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry who can and will shoot the lights out.
Jarrett Jack is a player who always seems to play well against the Lakers, so there's that. Steve Blake is the starting point guard while Nash is out and having to spend the entire night chasing not just Curry, but also Jack, is going to be a frustrating endeavor. Carl Landry is also in the "plays well against the Lakers" wagon so I fully expect him to make a handful of hustle plays while the Lakers watch nonchalantly.
Yes, as you can see I'm very worried about this game. Golden State can get up and down the floor and space it out with shooters which will be a HUGE problem for the Lakers. It's very unfortunate that Andrew Bogut is out as watching him battle with Dwight Howard down low would have made for good basketball, but that definitely improved the Lakers' chances tonight.
Hey, with the worst record in the Western Conference, the Lakers will take any movement of the needle at this point.
5. Given sample size and all, to what extent do you think people are just overreacting about the Lakers' start to the season (or just taking the opportunity to kick them while they're down)?
AG: It's both and rightfully so.
When the Lakers stockpiled on "top-end" talent I don't think anyone could have envisioned the 1-4 record to start the season. If they did, I doubt anyone saw it happening with the Lakers going out with whimpers to a Dirk-less Mavericks team, a rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers, and the youthful Utah Jazz. The Clippers are a serious team this year, so that's one loss that was definitely projectable. The Lakers, honestly, do look as bad as people are playing up. So, all things considered, this is a PRIME opportunity to pull the purple and gold jerseys over the Lakes' heads and kick them to the floor while they're flailing their arms.
The question now is how long this "kick them while they're down" period going to last? The Lakers have a big home-stand right now which can help steady the ship. But, with Steve Nash being out with a non-displaced fracture that has been estimated from anywhere between 7 days to a month of recovery, this may last beyond Christmas, at which point the city of Los Angeles may be nothing but rubble. Yes, it's only five games, but there haven't been many signs that that a change is a' coming.
For more on the Lakers and Mike Brown's firing, visit SB Nation's Silver Screen & Roll.