NBA@2: Mike Brown’s Message Reaching Lakers
The world of video games and fantasy basketball probably do more to harm the reality of the NBA than they do to help it. In a video game you can make all the roster moves you want and still win games right away and coaching changes make no difference whatsoever. That’s not how it works in the NBA, and it certainly doesn’t work that way on a team that absolutely expects to win a championship every season.
The fact that some are calling for Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike Brown’s head after half a season given all of the changes that took place before the lockout lifted is really just silly, and now that the second half of the season is moving along we’re starting to see his system set in. The wins are coming as a result. The Lakers are 8-4 in March and are finally starting to get some wins on the road, notching four wins in their last fives tries away from Staples Center. They had a mental lapse in Houston, aided by an Andrew Bynum ejection, but responded in a big way last night as they blew out the Dallas Mavericks.
“Obviously, offensively, we had a big night against a very good defensive team,” Brown said after the game. “We had a lot of production from a lot of guys. I thought Pau (Gasol) was very aggressive, going 13-for-16 from the floor with 27 points and nine rebounds. Obviously, Kobe was Kobe. He was very efficient for us tonight, especially in the 35 minutes he played. We got a lot of bench production. I thought Matt Barnes shot the ball well. Not only did he shoot the ball well but he rebounded and defended. Our bench scoring 36 points was fun to watch. The kid, (Ramon) Sessions, made the game easy for everybody. He had a very good all around game. You can see how his speed can help us, and his ability to play pick and roll and turn the corner and get in the teeth of the defense, and set guys up for easy what I call HORSE shots. That’s where they’ve got their feet set and its like when you’re in seventh grade and you’re playing HORSE with somebody and nobody shoots shots off the dribble, they just stood there and waited until they got the ball in their hands and you shoot it in a comfortable environment. He did a great job with 17 points and nine assists, and the five rebounds too, he stuck his nose in there and got after it.”
As impressive and Kobe was, scoring 30 points on 11-for-18 shooting against a Mavs team that was missing their Kobe stopper in Shawn Marion, it was “the kid” who put the Mavs on their heels. From the moment he stepped on the court he transformed the Lakers’ attack with his passing, his scoring and his general disruption. He led the team in +/- with +28. Compare that to Bryant (+9), Pau Gasol (+9) and Andrew Bynum (+16) and you see who the real catalyst was.
“I’ve been extremely impressed,” Bryant told HOOPSWORLD. “He takes a lot of pressure off of me. I can be a legitimate two-guard now. He can play-make for others, before, I had to score and play-make for others, as well. I don’t have to do that; I can be on the receiving end of those plays.”
As the NBA trade deadline approached last week, the Lakers knew they had to have a better option at point guard going forward. Unlike the triangle offense utilized by Phil Jackson, Brown uses a more traditional offense, which requires a more traditional floor leader. As clutch as Derek Fisher was, his days of running a quick and efficient offense are largely behind him. Sessions bring the youth and energy the Lakers needed at the position, and the fact that he’s surrounded by a full cast of very talented players for the first time in his NBA career means we’re about to see the real Ramon Sessions.
That’s a scary thought for opposing teams, especially considering the strong play we’ve already seen from Sessions comes without his having the benefit of a single practice with his new team.
“(His grasp of the offense) is good, but I think he’s been with us maybe three, four days and we haven’t had a practice so we’ve just kind of walked through everything,” said Brown. “I think it’s got to be tough to walk through it and then go out and face a defense trying to stop you and remember the calls and tendencies for all the players around you and so on and so forth. It’s not an easy task for him out there, but he’s an intelligent player that I think will pick up on it rather quickly.”
For the record, in the Lakers’ loss to Houston Sessions logged 29 minutes, going 6-for-9 from the field and recording 14 points and four assists. The team was +3 with him on the floor, though they lost 104-107. They were -6 with Steve Blake, who played 19 minutes and had two points and three turnovers to go with three assists. Perhaps a little more Sessions would have changed LA’s fortunes in that game, as well.
It’s never easy to change head coaches, and doing so in a lockout year where training camp and preseason are all but removed and a 66-game schedule claims the vast majority of practice time is ridiculously tough. Mike Brown has taken plenty of heat through some early struggles for the Lakers, who have been lottery-team-bad on the road, but as further along the team gets through the schedule the better they get. The addition of Sessions has helped tremendously, as Brown now has the right kind of point guard to run his offense.
Patience is a virtue, and it’s hard to come by in the sports world. Fans want results, and they want them yesterday. That’s even more true when it comes to the Los Angeles Lakers, who seem to be the world’s favorite team. Nonetheless, patience is required, and Brown’s patience with the process is starting to pay off. His players believe in him, they’re listening to him, and slowly but surely the wins are coming.
Count the Lakers out at your peril – they are going to be an extremely hard out come playoff time.
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Ramon Sessions: Ready to Start
Ramon Sessions didn’t want to be traded away from the Cleveland Cavaliers, but now that he’s a Los Angeles Laker he couldn’t be happier with the situation. He talks with HOOPSWORLD about what he left behind in Cleveland, how Kobe Bryant elevates his game, finally being a full-time starting point guard and more in this exclusive interview:
When the Los Angeles Clippers acquired Chris Paul from the New Orleans prior to the start of the 2011-12 NBA season, it seemed the Western Conference might have a new champion. The Clippers didn’t get crazy and celebrate a championship, like the Miami HEAT did after they added LeBron James and Chris Bosh, but there was a strong feeling around the NBA that the stakes had been raised on the Clippers’ side of Staples Center.
Despite having one of the best playmakers in the NBA in Paul, the Clippers are just 13th in the NBA in scoring at 96.7 points per game. Paul is also one of the best defenders in the NBA, and he has solid front line defenders around him in DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, yet the Clippers are 17th in the NBA is opponent’s scoring at 95.7 points per game.
Paul is one of the best floor leaders in the game and has one of the best finishers in the league in Blake Griffin, yet the Clippers score just 11.5% of their points in transition, which puts them at 24th in the NBA. Part of the reason for that is that the Clippers rank 21st in the NBA in defending the half court set, where opponents score a field goal 47.4% of the time and shoot free throws 11.2% of the time, meaning a team running a half court set against the Clippers is going to score 58.6% of the time. It’s hard to get out in transition when you’re taking the ball out of bounds nearly 59% of the time in half court sets.
Small wonder that the Clippers are dropping through the ranks of the Western Conference, now sitting in the sixth seed after losing six of their last ten games, or that Vinny Del Negro is reportedly on the verge of being fired.
“I’m big into how you approach games and how you compete,” Del Negro said after the Clippers suffered a 91-114 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night. “We have to get the mentality of we have to play a certain way to win right now. … And it has to be through our defense because we lack certain things. In order for us to score enough points to take pressure off of us, we have to be able to guard better. … But our overall approach and everything to the game has to be better. That’s what is disappointing to me. We have to do a better job of being in the moment from the get-go and not waiting to get into the game.”
“We’ve got to be better,” Paul agreed. “We’ve got to figure out ways to score easier. Most of all, we’ve got to defend. They scored on basic plays against us and we’ve got to be willing to defend better in order to give ourselves a chance.”
The players have to defend, obviously, but it’s up to the coaching staff to instill a defensive philosophy. Vinny Del Negro has failed to do that, and it seems that shortfall will very likely cost him his job.
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