Balancing the Lakers from within
by: Warren Lim
Kobe Bryant has been the face of the Lakers for most of his 20-yr storied career. There is no question who the greatest Laker is, from start to finish. With 5 rings, an MVP and 2 Finals MVPs, 3rd all-time in scoring, 81-point game, among many others, it will be awhile when the next Laker great will ever smear that record.
The skeptics and the media will tell you to "suffer" through Kobe's 20th (and perhaps final) season... the truest of fan in me says I'll relish the time I still see the Black Mamba spew venom to the enemy. Even for just moments at a time, I'll enjoy the ride Kobe offers when I watched his career from start to finish. That skinny, petulant kid from Philly who will not be fazed to the stubborn old man of 37 who thinks he is still the world's best player, I declare it a blessing to have seen all these.
Paul Pierce's career wasn't necessarily as great. He has (only) 1 championship and he had multiple tanking years in Boston. Only in 2008 when Danny Ainge assembled the Evil Avengers by acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, added to young core of Rondo and Perkins. Since then he journeyed to Brookly, Washington and now LA Clippers. But in 2015, when the muscle aches more often than the heart is when he was actually right: "That will be tough on some guys in L.A. to take on that (reduced) role *cough* Kobe *cough* I mean, you know, we get older."
Being older means being wiser too. Jordan had this silly transition from being the star to a mental leader. Everyone who loves basketball and respects Jordan's achievements all forget that he ever suited up for those Wizards. That simply didn't happen along with Kevin Durant and Thunderstruck. So, years from now, we'll all simply say Kobe's 20th year simply didn't have to, or had to, or ever, happened.
As silly as this sounds after a 1-4 start, I declare all games from hereonin void and not counted if Byron Scott remains the coach. A person so outdated in his ways, he would actually have to damage the psyche of the kids that will be the future of the team. As a Laker fan I refuse to accept that his media-bashing ways of imposing himself is simply too cowardly. How I wish my problem right now was picking between Mark Jackson or Scott Brooks as the 2 people in the running for the Lakers job. I hope Brooklyn doesn't snag Brooks first, or decides to make Thibodeau the Prez + GM + coach ala Stan Van Gundy and Doc Rivers soon enough.
At any rate, these are the adjustments I would make in order to "balance" the Lakers. So that the past can relinquish itself gracefully into the future, so that the 2 events wouldn't necessarily have to clash, so that the 2 events can actually happen beautifully in the present. Here's how:
I run D'Angelo Russell at the point. This is where most of his skills are best-developed. He was used to doing this in HS and College and he will develop more if we played to his strengths. Run the PNR action with him and Randle with Hibbert providing brush screens on the weak side. If we're going to give him the keys to the city, we gotta make him drive the car.
Jordan Clarkson is my guy. I've seen a lot of Derrick Rose in him. We simply think of him less because he was a 2nd rounder. He wouldn't disappoint as a top 10 pick had we known this is how he would develop. After all he made the All-Rookie team last season, and this year, he's not stopping. If we thought his output of 15ppg was just "good-player-on-bad-team" stats, well think again w/ this year's showing. He IS, by far our best player beside...
Unleash Julius Randle. Make the team run more. Such a bull at PF with those crazy dribbling skills. Stop with those plays that cut and screen when our team doesn't have shooters. We need to widen the court and we need pace on our offense. How I wish Gentry was running this show instead of Scott. For many reasons, Russell and Clarkson may be the face of our franchise but Randle will be the most important player. He was, after all, touted as a very high prospect prior to the 2014 draft where many players' potential showed up and relegated him to 7th. Much to our luck, that is, if '14 draft would've been re-done, Randle would be guaranteed a top 3 pick.
Set up Roy Hibbert's mid-range. For all that you've seen and known of him, he is NOT a back-to-the-basket center. He defends the rim, and he sinks free throws like a guard. In order for him to be more involved rather than just a 17M shotblocker, give him opportunities of pick-and-pops. D'Antoni wouldn't be playing him 32mpg but in the 25mpg he'd give him, he would be a prolific mid-range shooter off the PNRs. Think Brad Miller.
Finally, start Swaggy P over Kobe. Yup, haven't lost my sanity just yet. Swaggy P resembles as our "only" proven shooter in the roster not named Russell or Kobe. Of course he has his Swaggy antics and that is not easy to handle, but in a lineup where Clarkson and Randle bull their way inside, with Hibbert and Russell securing mid-range, it wouldn't be too crazy to start a 6'7 guy who can shoot and create his own shot and wouldn't necessarily hog the ball in the lineup he's in.
So before we go any further, has Kobe retired, you ask?
No, for purposes of keeping his body in one piece, his strength and stamina to not dwindle as the game gets late, it would be a fireable offense in itself to be the coach to ask Kobe to come off the bench. But it has to be done. Kobe has to buy into the idea that we can win games with you dominating from the 4-minute mark of the 1st rather than from the 12. That he can dominate the younger players that are slotted to guard the other team's backup 2. So imagine if you're the backup 2 and you got news that you'd have to guard Kobe when you come in...
The idea is for balance, preservation and sneak attack. I believe its something Byron Scott isn't capable of thinking. Kobe would still finish games in lieu of Nick Young, which basically still doesn't really demote him. This way, we get to experience the best of both worlds - the past and the future, converge at present.