For some impossible reason the biggest story in LA continues to be the severe underachieving coming from the Lakers and their seemingly dynamic roster, when it should be on the level of play being exhibited by there co-inhabitors of the Staples Center. As for the Lakers let me just say the grass isn’t always greener and too many big names doesn’t necessarily spell NBA CHAMPIONSHIP. So, why are the Clippers having such a breakout season while their neighbors continue to struggle? It all boils down to 5 reasons for each. We’ll start with the Clippers.
5. Ball control – The Clippers have shown they respect every possession as evidenced by a 1.63 assist to turnover team ratio good for 5th in the league with 23.7 assists per game against just 14.6 turnovers.
3. Veteran leadership – CP3, Matt Barnes, Lamar Kardashian/Odom, Billups, Grant Hill, and Caron Butler give the Clips viable sources of leadership at virtually every position and an invaluable amount of in game wisdom to along with incredible athleticism and talent.
2. Defensive intensity – The main reason the Clips are playing light-years better than the Lakers and why they have become a highlight factory on a nightly basis is their defense. The Clippers force a league leading 16.7 turnovers per game which often leads to the plays that have many calling them “Lob Angeles.” So while the final result may look all glamorous, it’s the hard work on the defensive end that allows the Clips to strut and be able to showoff a bit for the fans.
1. CP3 – The engine that drives the Clippermobile isn’t Blake Griffin or the high-flying dunks, it’s Chris Paul aka CP3. He’s the main reason the Clips are considered title contenders and it’s his leadership even more than his production that has this organization looking like someone switched the heart and soul of the Clips with that of the Lakers, who many thought would be the ones in this position at this point of the season.
So why then are the Lakers sucking so incredibly with all the talent they have assembled, in what was supposed to be the quest for six rings for Kobe and a first for both Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Well I have composed a similar but not-so-flattering list as to what’s wrong with the other LA team.
5. No CP3 – When the league pulled the plug on the deal that was to send CP3 to the Lakers from the Hornets there was a ripple effect that many have failed to realize. The obvious portion was missing out on the best overall point guard in the game along with his leadership and tenacity. The part most forget is that Odom and Gasol were both trade pieces that were being dealt for CP3 which led to Odom being given away for a bag of skittles (not literally but you tell me what the Lakers got back for the former 6th Man of the Year) and Pau still never returning to his once very productive self.
4. Little Big Men – Last year and most every year since 2000, the Lakers boasted an inside presence that struck fear into the hearts of most of their opponents. Whether it was Shaq by himself or Bynum and Gasol, the Lakers inside game was a force to be reckoned with and most crumbled even those who seemingly had the size to compete. Usher in the 2012/13 version with Howard and Gasol and usher out the fear that kept opposing guards out of the paint and kept Laker haters worried about the imminent threat of Championships in Lakerland. I hate to admit it cause I do like Dwight, but Shaq is right about him. Howard is not the most dominant big man in the game and he’s not the best center right now. Howard needs to work on his low-post moves a lot in the off season along with his freethrows and mental approach to the game. Some people look at raw stats and think a player is having a decent or even great season, but what I see from Howard is a lack of focus and intensity and zero dominance from the player who was to be the next savior for this proud franchise. As far as Pau is concerned, he really hasn’t returned from the land of the lost since the playoffs a couple years back where his off the court issues with the wifey to be took him into a tailspin the likes of which I haven’t seen since Nick Anderson missed those two freethrows in the Finals for Orlando back in ’95.
3. Too much Kobe – After 17 years in the league, not-so-young Kobe is leading the league in scoring at 30.1 ppg while logging heavy minutes and basically doing it all himself night in and night out. The addition of one Dwight Howard was supposed to take some of the pressure off Mr Bryant while providing the Lakeshow with their building block for years to come. Whether it’s Kobe not playing nice or Dwight just not showing up, there is something that’s not clicking with these two Mega Stars and if the Lakers are even going to make the playoffs much less make a title run these two had better learn to coexist and learn fast or else start making summer vacation plans and in turn wave goodbye to Dwight who is a freeagent at season’s end.
2. Defensive intensity – Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Well, definitely not the Laker opponents this season, as the Lakers rank 26th out of 30 teams in points allowed at 101.7 ppg and allowing teams to shoot over 45% from the field and almost 37% from behind the arc. With 3 potential Defensive Player of the Year nominees in Kobe, Dwight, and Meta World Peace who have been fixtures on the all defensive team over the last decade, there is absolutely no reason why the Lakers suck in such a catastrophic manner on that end of the court, but that of course leads to the number one reason why the Lakers are so severely underachieving at this point of the season.
1. Coaching – Whether it’s Phil Jackson or Dr Phil, the Lakers need a mental boost that the current set of brain-trust simply has no clue as to what words or emotions are needed to fix this trainwreck. Mike check one two….Mike check. Mike Brown gone and Mike D’Antoni in for now but for how long? The lack of leadership on the Lakers hasn’t been this bad since Kurt Rambis was at the helm prior to the Zen Master who was able to come in and right the ship even with two superstar players in Kobe and Shaq who at times could barely stand the sight of each other. Many people may undersell the importance of coaching but talent alone does not win championships otherwise both Portland and Sacramento would have hoisted banners in the early 2000’s as would have many of the Blazer teams of the 90’s. Mike D’Antoni has yet to prove that he is a championship caliber coach given his track record in both NY and Phoenix where he had no shortage of talent but at no point was either team considered a serious threat and for that matter neither is his current team given the present state of affairs.
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