Any basketball fans out there are well aware of how terrible the Lakers have been doing this season. It’s true that all teams have their ups and downs, but just what’s been going wrong for the Lakers lately?
Let’s take a look at five factors that are negatively impacting their performance:
1. Ownership philosophy has changed.
The legacy of a team can only stay the same if the new owner (in this case, Jim Buss) continues building on the legacy that the former owner left behind. Consider the case of the New York Yankees: In 2008, brothers Hank and Hal Steinbrenner were left with the ownership of the team after the death of their legendary father, George Steinbrenner. They didn’t use their new power and ego to come in and change the direction of the team, though; instead, they listened to the team’s leaders and continued their father’s legacy. This strategy brought a World Series win to the city of New York, which had gone nine years without one.
The Lakers have a totally opposite story. When placed in the same situation, Jim Buss has decided to emphasize spending money on players while disregarding the importance of spending money on coaching. When it comes to managing a team with as much ego as the Yankees or the Lakers, coaching is a vital aspect. But instead of taking a run at getting Phil Jackson, Buss fears that Jackson would have more influence over the team than he himself and therefore goes with Mike D’Antoni. I firmly believe that if anyone would’ve had a chance at pulling this team together, it would’ve been Jackson. Let’s not forget that Jackson knew how to deal with Rodman, Shaq, Kobe, and Jordan, all players with big egos.
That’s why I put the new ownership as the biggest problem the Lakers have had to deal with in 2013: Ultimately, Jim Buss is the final decision maker for the Lakers. His insecurity has gotten the best of him, which has kept him from making the best decisions for his team.
2. Three philosophies in three years.
It’s very difficult to get a group of players to rally around one philosophy of playing, let alone to rally around three different philosophies in as many years. Talk about annoying! From a triangle offense to the defensive mindset of Coach Brown to D’Antoni’s completely opposite offensive philosophy, the Lakers have had the rug pulled out from beneath them time and again. That’s like your parents changing their religion three times in three years! It’s a very confusing situation, one that makes it tough to create any kind of momentum.
3. What does Howard need?
I remember clearly saying that what LeBron needed was a strong mentor, as well as the desire to strengthen his emotional and mental abilities. His emotional and mental toughness have definitely increased ever since he began to be mentored by Pat Riley, who encouraged him to start reading. That not only developed his mind but also got him to realize that he had to both focus on his game on the floor and (more importantly) learn to control his imagination; if he allowed his imagination to run wild, he would develop anxiety, which would in turn impact his performance. Once he learned these lessons, he started handling himself better under pressure.
That’s exactly what Howard needs. He needs a strong mentor who won’t take his crying and won’t just feel sorry for him, someone who will encourage him to learn to ignore the noise (as Bill Belichik used to say).
As far as Howard’s fundamental game is concerned, he has four areas that need attention:
- For a guy his size, he sure has some of the worst hands I’ve ever seen. I’m flabbergasted when I see him mishandle as many passes as he does. The problem is a lack of focus, and that’s something that can be worked on.
- He needs to make his move faster when he gets down low in the post. He takes too much time when he gets the ball in the post, which negatively impacts his performance. He’s got the right footwork to develop into something really special, if he puts his mind to it.
- Free throws are an issue for Howard. I don’t expect his accuracy to get to 80%, but he needs to work on getting it to at least 70%.
- There’s nothing wrong with being silly off the court like Shaq or Jordan, but it’s not acceptable during the game. When you’re a professional, you need to learn the difference between being on the court and off the court. It’s quite annoying when someone doesn’t take their profession seriously, especially someone who has the capacity to become one of the greatest centers of all time.
4. Kobe’s leadership.
This year, Kobe showed more leadership than he has in his whole career. Although we caught glimpses of his ability to run the offense and although he averaged ten assists per game, his natural desire to shoot didn’t allow him to perform like this consistently. Another great one is coming to the end of his career. I’m just really curious to see how Jim Buss will handle this situation. His treatment of the end of Kobe’s career could hugely impact the fans.
5. Believing the worst.
A positive mental attitude is a huge factor in life and sports alike. The Lakers unfortunately allowed their imaginations to run wild: They believed they were far worse than they actually were this season, which meant their performance suffered.
Let’s not forget that Howard got to the finals without any major players on the Orlando Magic team. But when the Lakers started really believing they were terrible, despite their talent, they lost the game before it even began.
Get ready for a potentially whole new look in 2014!
In the 2014 season, the Lakers will no longer be predictable because their ownership philosophy has changed. It’ll be interesting to see if Jeanie Buss and the family will be able to knock some sense into Jim over the summer; that’ll be the deciding factor when it comes to the fate of the Lakers. Hopefully the team will recapture its excitement, or else they’ll probably be losing Mitch Kupchak to another team because of Jim’s attitude and behavior.
Fortunately, I don’t yet hold any ownership over the Lakers. So while all this is fascinating—and while I love basketball—so far none of this will directly influence me and my loved ones. Still, I hope to see these issues addressed so the team can get back to being great.