It is sad and a little tragic when a dynamic organization falls on its knees, when everything they do fails, when they have an inability to see their frailties and flaws, when the despair of yesterday mirrors the reality of today and there is a depressive melancholy that circles tomorrow. This is the Lakers world.
Let’s start with their summer league team. Anticipatory enthusiasm had record breaking crowds flooding Las Vegas only to witness a tsunami like disaster, and inevitably, fans who made the trek from Los Angeles were so disgusted they treated the product like an opening night fiasco, booing whenever possible and as ridiculous at that is in the summer, it made all the sense in the world.
The Lakers summer league team was coached by Mark Madsen who at this point we can all agree has no business coaching anything; he was terribly awful and his presence on the sidelines made you wish for his goofy dancing days. It’s hard to take anything Madsen does seriously when his game plan was similar to what the style of play is on a nightly basis at the Drew League. Guard A dribbles the ball up court, dribbles the ball for 15 seconds, waits for someone to try to get free, sees the clock run out and does something desperate. Rare were the attempts to create freedom on the offense where each player touches the ball and then moves creating uncontested looks. It was isolation basketball at its worst. Madsen’s out of bounds play calls were seventh grade-ish, almost as if he just walked onto a NBA court yesterday and was not a teammate of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and coached by Phil Jackson.
So much hype but rookie sensation D’angelo Russell had 23 turnovers. In four games. He was just as awful shooting the ball, 27%. Either he looked like he was 19 years old or he looked like a replica of all the Lakers point guards that proceeded him. Rarely was there a glimpse of the savant scouts raved about, his ability to see plays before it happened. What was on dislplay was his average athleticism. Rare was the occasion when he drove the ball in the paint, through the defense and scored at the rim while the defenders watched one step behind him. Nor did he penetrate and dish to open shooters. Too many times it was dribble, pull up, shoot and miss. Of course he is a rookie who played his college ball in a talent-weak Big 10. His adjustment to this level of athleticism is going to be his learning curve, particularly understanding the lanes in which passes can be threaded.
A not in shape Julius Randle couldn’t finish at the rim on a consistent basis. He looked lost a lot of the time but had a good bounce back game on Wednesday night against the Mavericks that reminded everyone of his summer league play last year. After a year off he was more than rusty, his offensive game was morose, 39%. In his first game he only had 1 rebound. He had 4 and 6 rebounds in his next two games and there is a glimpse of light in the Randle tunnel or maybe that is one more Lakers illusion they are tricking us with.
Jordan Clarkson is the best thing the Lakers have going for them. He made 42% of his shots, but still is not going to do much from the three point line. He hit 26% of his threes which is the negative calculus of a three guard offense featuring Russell, Clarkson, Kobe Bryant. One of those guards is going to have to make a steady stream of three point shots. Still, Clarkson played with confidence and desire and experience. He was comfortable and poised even when things didn’t go well. He looked like someone who won Rookie of the Month and was featured on a bad team. Clarkson, not D’angelo Russell, looked like the Lakers star of the future once Kobe Bryant exits stage left.
Generally, summer league is summer league. The majority of the participants are on their way to Europe or the D-league. It’s not NBA basketball. But 8 of the Lakers summer league players will be on the opening day roster and in that sense their performance was a tantalizing display of wretchedness. In four games, they scored 80 points once. They shot the ball like the balls were made out of concrete. Of their 250 shots taken, they couldn’t even get 100 of them to fall. Three point shooting was just as knife in the heart injurious. They missed 52 threes in four games, making a total of 17, 25%. In four games- this is laughable- they had 32 assists, that would be 8 assists per game. They were underwater in nearly every category except rebounding.
And so here we are again, in this parallel universe with the Lakers wanting their fans to believe one thing and the eye-test saying something altogether different. These 8 summer league players will be paired with Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass, Nick Young and Lou Williams, not to mention and aged Kobe Bryant, and so optimism runs a little thin at this point. Whatever comfort remains lies in the premoniton of Lakers G.M. Mitch Kupchak, incapable of telling two lies in a row. He said of this very young team that an almost 37 year old Kobe Bryant will find some of these players very frustrating
Frustrating? Yes. So very, true. Kobe Bryant will find them frustrating and so will everyone else.
photo via somos.nba.com