Throughout the L.A. Lakers' struggles, the key theme seems to revolve around their offensive schemes, defensive deficiencies and the competency of their coaching staff.
After going through an ill-fated attempt at conforming to the Princeton offense without Steve Nash, the Lakers have shown inconsistency under Mike D'Antoni and his system with or without Nash.
Despite their apparent struggles on offense, statistics show that the Lakers haven't had a problem scoring.
They are fifth in the league in points per game, averaging 102.9 points per contest. However, they are also giving up 100.6 points per game, which is 24th-worst in the league.
Such a small margin between the two numbers is a good barometer of their performance overall. The fact that they are hovering around .500 shouldn't be a surprise.
While the Lakers played well under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who led the team to a 4-1 record during his brief tenure, they have been mediocre at best under Mike Brown and D'Antoni.
Playing under Brown, the Lakers struggled on both ends of the floor.
With perhaps the slowest pace in the NBA, the Lakers struggled getting fast-break points and were lethargic on defense.
Though Brown had a sterling reputation on the defensive end, the personnel he had at his disposal were vastly different. His schemes did not translate.
Previously coaching players such as Anderson Varejao, LeBron James and Delonte West, Brown had young and athletic perimeter and interior defenders that could rotate quickly and defend multiple positions.
During his tenure with the Lakers, Brown's schemes did not translate well with two defensive anchors in Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, who were both dealing with different injuries.
Furthermore, although Kobe Bryant is still an excellent perimeter defender, he is no longer the dynamic stopper he once was.
With his only consistent defenders being Metta World Peace and Jodie Meeks, who he played in very limited minutes, Brown could not establish the defensive philosophy his former teams were remembered for.
Furthermore, Brown always had a bad reputation on the defensive end. He used to allow LeBron James and his crew free reign on offense as long as they conformed to his schemes on defense.
Thus, his decision to match the talents of his versatile squad with the limitations of the Princeton offense caused a disconnect that mitigated their talents on both ends of the floor.
After D'Antoni's hiring, the offense still seemed disconnected.
Despite the fact that they were putting up good offensive numbers, they were severely ineffective in crunch-time situations.
Although they do average 25.6 points per game in the fourth quarter, which is fourth-best in the league, this is a little misleading.
D'Antoni forces the Lakers to play at a faster pace. Thus, they will definitely score more points but will also allow their opponents more chances as well.
The Lakers allow 24.8 points per game in the fourth quarter, which is 25th in the league.
These numbers show that the team as a whole hasn't been able to create distance and close out games in the fourth quarter.
Either games have to be won before the fourth quarter, or the Lakers will struggle.
According to www.teamrankings.com, the Lakers have won only 50.0 percent of close games. Although this may be alright for a team contending for the playoffs, this is a bad percentage for a team vying for a championship.
This number can be attributed to a multitude of reasons.
Obviously the players hold the onus of the blame. However, Brown and D'Antoni both have to take responsibility for not being able to calm their teams down and lead them through clutch situations.
Under Mike Woodson, the New York Knicks have won 75.0 percent of their close games despite missing Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert for the season, as well as missing Rasheed Wallace, Raymond Felton and Carmelo Anthony for short stretches.
Although both teams are comparable in terms of raw talent, Woodson has been able to mold his teams into a more cohesive unit.
Brown and D'Antoni have both struggled to do so. Although the Knicks have a roster loaded with veterans to help hold the chemistry, the Lakers also have players such as Gasol, Bryant and Nash. The three of them have proven championship and/or MVP pedigrees that the coaches could have utilized to help build chemistry.
The unique quality the Lakers possess is their versatility. However, it has been clear that both Brown and D'Antoni thus far in his tenure haven't been able to cohesively mesh the talent.
Furthermore, D'Antoni is doing an especially terrible job at building a positive relationship with his players.
He alienated Gasol early in his tenure, and his benching of Antawn Jamison despite playing him heavy minutes in earlier games have left both players unsettled and unsure.
In addition, D'Antoni's unwillingness to publicly acknowledge the weaknesses of players such as Howard and his willingness to criticize players that he deems less important, like Gasol, indicates favoritism.
Although the evidence presented doesn't truly show it, both D'Antoni and Brown are good X's and O's coaches in different facets of the game. However, what this team needs is someone to manage the unique personalities and skill sets on the team.
The best coach at maximizing talent despite the difficult dynamics of a locker room is Phil Jackson. However, without the "Zen Master," the Lakers will have to make do with D'Antoni, who has two-thirds of the season to turn the ship around.
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