NBA Saturday: Lakers’ Offensive Struggles Continue
The Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the worst offensive teams in the league this season. Despite having Kobe Bryant, the league’s leading scorer at 30.4 points per game, the Lakers have averaged just 92.9 points and have reached 100 points only once in 17 games.
Over the last three games, ball movement has been an issue and players have been missing wide open shots. Overall, the group is lacking confidence and struggling to find a rhythm. Following the Lakers’ loss to the Orlando Magic on Friday night, Bryant was clearly frustrated.
“We’re struggling,” Bryant said. “There’s no question about it. We did a great job of getting open looks, a lot of them. We’ve just got to keep hitting the open man and those shots will fall. They’re much better shooters than the statistics are showing at the moment.”
When asked why the team has been struggling, Bryant sighed and shook his head.
“I’m not sure, I don’t know,” Bryant said. “I really don’t know. We just have to get ready for the next one, that’s all.”
The Lakers shot 38.2 percent from the field against the Magic and had a ten-point first quarter. Their offense has stalled regularly this year, but they were particularly bad against Orlando.
“We’ve had a couple of really bad quarters,” Pau Gasol said. “We had a seven point quarter against Dallas and we haven’t been clicking offensively. We have to continue to work on the things that we need to work on – continue to share the ball, make the right pass, get the ball to the open guy and trust that the open guy will shoot it. That’s the best we can do.”
“We just have to stay aggressive and make sure we continue to work,” Gasol added. “Sometimes our offensive struggles transfer to bad defensive possessions.”
The shortened season has made things more difficult for the Lakers. The team is trying to learn Mike Brown’s new system on the fly, with a shortened training camp and limited practice time. In a normal season, teams usually play an average of 12 games each month. However, this season, the Lakers have had to play 17 games in 27 days, which hasn’t helped their transition.
“It’s been tough lately, scoring the ball,” Andrew Bynum said. “I think we need more energy and ball movement on offense. Right now, we can’t score. Seventy points? Eighty points? You’re not going to win.”
Brown has helped the Lakers become one of the better defensive teams in the league, but they have plenty of room for improvement on the offensive end.
Howard Ignoring Trade Rumors: Dwight Howard is having one of the best years of his career and the Orlando Magic hold the fourth-best record in the NBA. The trade rumors and constant speculation hasn’t affected Howard or the Magic, who have been impressive during the opening month of the season.
“None of that matters when we step on the floor,” Howard said. “The only thing that we care about, as a team, is winning the game. We joke in the locker room about all of the rumors and stuff that goes on. When we step on the floor, we all have one objective and that’s to win night in and night out. We’re going to continue to grow as a team and we’re working on our consistency. One thing that we talked about when the season started, and also last year, is that we have to be consistent in what we do. That’s going to get us a title.”
Howard is tired of answering questions about his future. While his camp was given permission to talk with the New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, Howard still refuses to talk about the trade rumors.
“Right now, I’m in Orlando,” Howard said. “That’s the only thing that matters, being here and winning here. That’s my only objective. Despite everything that goes on outside the court, I’m just going to go out every night and do my job to help my team win. That’s the only thing that I’m concerned with. I don’t care about all of the trade talks or whatever. We’ll cross that bridge when it’s that time. But right now, I’m with the Magic and I want to give this city, our fans and my team 100 percent every night.”
However, Howard did admit that he has been in contact with Kobe Bryant recently. The two superstars communicate now and then, but Howard was adamant that he’s not being recruited.
“No, he hasn’t been recruiting me,” Howard said. “When we talk, we talk about basketball and how I can improve my game. I’ve watched the Kobe System, the commercial. There’s a lot of truth to that commercial. Once you get to the top, go over the top and keep going. That’s the message. For me, I want to get to the top and, when I get there, I’ll keep going. It’s a good system, funny commercial too.”
“What if you’re really successful?” Howard recited with a laugh.
The Magic are hoping that being really successful will persuade Howard to sign a long-term deal in Orlando and they’re right where they want to be at the quarter mark of the season.
Lakers’ Rookies Adjusting to NBA: Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock took different routes to the NBA, but they find themselves in the same position these days. Morris grew up in Los Angeles and was recruited by a number of college programs before landing at Michigan. Goudelock grew up in Georgia and received just one scholarship offer, from Charleston, but put together a stellar college career.
Now, Morris and Goudelock are living the dream as rookies for the Los Angeles Lakers. Neither expected to be picked by the Lakers on draft night, but both are thrilled to don purple and gold.
“I knew from the jump that they really liked me and that they were looking at me, but I didn’t know if I was going to be around for pick number 41,” Morris told HOOPSWORLD. “I didn’t really know where I was going to go on draft night. Looking back on it, I wouldn’t want to be any other place. I’m happy that they drafted me.”
“I didn’t see it coming either,” Goudelock said. “Just like him, I didn’t know if I would be around for pick number 46, but my window was a little bit bigger than his. I could’ve gone anywhere from the 20’s to the 50’s so I didn’t really know. I was just waiting around to see what was going to happen, but luckily I got picked by one of the best organizations in the game. They’re first class. They do everything first class. This is about business here, it’s all about winning. You can really see that is the focus of every guy through his work ethic. You can just tell that the tradition around here is winning. It’s win or go home for us every day and I like the situation.”
This isn’t an easy year to be a rookie. While most young players have the summer league and preseason to ease their transition to the NBA, this year’s draft class has been forced to learn on the fly.
“With the compressed season, everything is moving so fast,” Morris said. “It’s tough, but all of the rookies have to go through it so you can’t make any excuses. Not having much time with the veteran players and the coaching staff has probably affected all of the rookies. It’s affected me personally. Also, I didn’t play in the first 11 games and now I’m starting to play a lot due to the opportunity so I’ve had to learn on the fly a lot. Everybody else has to go through it too and it’s just something I’ve had to adjust to.”
“I’m assuming it’s more difficult, but we haven’t done any of the summer leagues or any of that other stuff before to even know better,” Goudelock said. “I’ve definitely heard that those things help you out. There are so many concepts and terminology and things that, when you get to the league, you don’t really know. It’s a fast paced thing. The coaches, especially with the compressed season, throw a lot at you really quick. You have to get up to speed seemingly overnight so I’m pretty sure that we could have learned a lot playing in those summer leagues and just getting to know the game – the speed of the game, the pacing and everything else – but everything happens for a reason. It is what it is and I think we’re doing pretty well with the opportunity we’ve been given.”
The Lakers are one of the most popular franchises in all of sports and players, even rookies, are in the spotlight the moment they put on that jersey. Morris and Goudelock admit that their lives have changed since landing in Los Angeles.
“It definitely has changed a little bit,” Morris said. “When I walk down the street or walk in my apartment complex, people recognize me. At the same time, it’s just more motivation to keep pursuing the dream and becoming the best basketball player I can be. You don’t get complacent with that stuff because you know that stuff can disappear if you don’t stay on top of your job. It’s definitely more motivation.”
“It isn’t that bad to be completely honest with you,” Goudelock said with a laugh. “I’m not that tall of a guy so I kind of blend in. It helps a lot. I might a get a few things here and there from a person or two but, for the most part, I still live a peaceful life. I don’t have to watch myself when I’m going out or anything like that because there aren’t really many people that come up to me. They might be like, ‘Is that him?’ but it isn’t too bad for me.”
Goudelock and Morris have enjoyed learning from veterans like Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, who they’ve been watched since they were young kids.
“It’s definitely an advantage for me and Darius,” Goudelock said. “We’re behind a bunch of veterans who have been around this league since we were four or five years old and they know more about basketball than we could ever imagine. We’re just learning from those guys, learning how to be professionals every day from Derek Fisher. With Kobe, you just watch him on the court and how his demeanor is all the time and how his pace is. You really learn a lot from these guys and I feel blessed that I’m in the situation to be behind guys like this, especially as a rookie. I think it’s a blessing in disguise and it will help me moving forward.”
“It’s pretty cool,” Morris said. “All of our veterans are great and they help us out whenever we ask. They offer their advice and, together, they have a lot of years in the league. They’ve been to the playoffs and won championships so it’s just a great experience to be able to learn from these guys.”
Goudelock was one of the top scorers in the nation last season, averaging 23.4 points for Charleston. As a result, opposing teams would often send multiple defenders at Goudelock. In fact, he was triple-teamed on more than one occasion. He understands how difficult that is as a scorer, and he has been amazed watching Bryant torch multiple defenders at this level.
“I don’t understand how Kobe does it at this level because guys are so much bigger, faster and stronger,” Goudelock said. “It seems like it would be impossible if they did that to me right now, but he’s one of the greatest ever so that’s a different story. I’m definitely glad I don’t have to go through that anymore.”
What has been the biggest surprise for each rookie?
“The biggest shock is probably just how good everybody is out there on that floor,” Morris said. “Not just offensively, but in terms of defense and being able to cover spots so quickly with their length and athletic ability. It’s a little bit different than college.”
“Guys are way taller, way longer, way faster and the pace of the game is different,” Goudelock said. “Also, I’m still getting used to the three seconds in the key. The game is totally different from college, just about every aspect of the game – defensively, offensively, the concepts – everything is different. I kind of knew what to expect, but once you start going through it, it still catches you by surprise. Everything is a learning process.”
Goudelock and Morris have already learned a lot in less than a month, and they’ll only continue to adjust and develop in Los Angeles.
HOOPSWORLD Chats: There are two chats on today’s schedule. Susan Bible’s weekly chat will get underway at 11 p.m. ET. Make sure to submit your questions early because these chats fills up fast. To view HOOPSWORLD”s upcoming chat schedule, click here.