Lakers’ Jodie Meeks Lost in Los Angeles
Shooting guard Jodie Meeks was the Philadelphia 76ers’ leading three-point shooter over the past two seasons with 1.7 made three-pointers per game, but this summer he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent. While the 25-year-old Meeks has picked things up pretty much where he left off last season, the big difference has been he was a starter in Philadelphia and now comes off the bench in L.A. At least that was the case until recently when head coach Mike D’Antoni cut his minutes, including a couple of games where he didn’t play at all.
“It’s frustrating, but there is really nothing I can do about it,” Meeks said. “I just try to stay positive and when my opportunity comes again, just be ready. The coach said I wasn’t really doing anything wrong and just stay positive. He is going with the guys he is playing right now, but it could change at any minute, so I have to be ready.”
D’Antoni has been tinkering around the edges of his rotation trying to find something, anything that can break the talent-laden Lakers out of their funk. Lately it has been the 25-year-old forward Earl Clark who been getting additional minutes as D’Antoni searches for answers, but the end result hasn’t shown any improvement. The Lakers have only won two of their past 12 games and are 0-4 when Meeks hasn’t played.
“We have gone a little bit bigger and we have found Earl [Clark] who has taken up the minutes and that’s the way it goes,” D’Antoni said. “It doesn’t mean it is written in stone, but we will keep working and keep looking and when we have an opportunity to get [Meeks] some minutes we will.
“It’s not personal. It is who you play better with and what the team needs at this point and we are going more with length and defense than we are with shooting and one of our worst problems with not winning is defense, so it kind of made sense to go with a longer guy who has a live body who helps you rebound the long rebounds than with shooting. That’s the thought behind it whether it’s right or wrong.”
The move to give Clark a steadily increasing role in the rotation is easy to understand. The team was 15-18 when Clark first played over 20 minutes in a game on January 8 and Clark has provided a refreshing level of activity to go with his solid production in points, rebounds and blocked shots, but it is also obvious this move wasn’t enough. The Lakers have just two wins during this period and their defense has not noticeably improved.
“It is hard to pinpoint that to one specific area,” Meeks said. “We are just not playing good defense as a team right now for whatever reason. We have to figure that out in a hurry. Time is kind of running out on us and the games don’t get much easier. We just have to find a way to win.”
For Meeks, playing for the Lakers has undoubtedly proved to be a bigger challenge than he anticipated back in August when he signed his two-year deal. Moving from being a starter to playing behind veterans who can literally dictate how much playing time is available to you takes time to adjust to and then there’s the spotlight that always seems to shine brighter in Los Angeles. There are no nights off or easy games for a storied franchise.
“Last two years I was starting, so it is a little different because I had more freedom. This year my role is to come in and make shots and play hard,” Meeks said. “I am not one to make excuses. It is not like it’s the same as being out there. It might be a little tougher [to make shots], but you have to deal with the situation and do the best you can with the cards that you are dealt.
“It’s a little different because we get everybody’s best shot. We have a lot of championships, so everybody wants to beat us no matter who is on the court for that particular night. They want to beat us just because we are the Lakers.”
At this point Meeks has lost his spot in the Lakers’ rotation as D’Antoni searches for answers, even though it is pretty hard to place any of the team’s problems at the feet of the young shooting guard. The Lakers will continue to get other teams’ best shot, likely with an even greater effort now that they have proven to be so vulnerable. Perhaps what the Lakers need is more youthful enthusiasm on the court, D’Antoni’s team certainly couldn’t be doing any worse.