Steve Blake, Steve Nash, and Pau Gasol meet for an exchange of support (photo credit: Lakers.com)
After the first week of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves sitting with a 2-2 record that is neither surprising, nor encouraging.
The season kicked off with the Lakers “upsetting” the Los Angeles Clippers behind 41 bench points in the fourth quarter. A Laker starter didn’t see any playing time in the final 12 minutes of the game.
The win was an indication of how versatile and tough the Lakers can be, but it certainly should not be viewed as the benchmark of what to expect.
That couldn’t have been more clear than the next night, when the Golden State Warriors ran away with a 125-94 victory.
The Lakers followed that up with collapsing late in a 91-85 home loss to the San Antonio Spurs, who were playing without Tim Duncan.
On Sunday, the Lakers once again nearly lost another home game. This time it was the Atlanta Hawks who almost pulled out a win despite once trailing by 21 points.
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Last season, a fair criticism of Mike D’Antoni was that he ran his starters into the ground with the amount of minutes he played them. Thus far, D’Antoni has been more liberal with spreading the minutes across his roster.
At least 11 Laker players have seen playing time in every game. However, that same strategy has also lent itself to questionable rotation decisions.
Jordan Hill, an energetic power forward who provides the Lakers with a strong rebounding presence, only saw 11 minutes of action against the Spurs.
It isn’t as though the play from the other options available, Wesley Johnson and Shaw Williams, is keeping Hill out of the lineup.
D’Antoni’s affection for a “stretch four” is well known, but the Lakers don’t exactly have a player that fits the mold. Johnson and Williams both fail to consistently make an outside jump shot.
One decision that broke in D’Antoni’s favor, at least for one game, was replacing Nick Young in the starting lineup on Sunday with Xavier Henry.
Through three games off the bench, Henry averaged 13 points. Meanwhile, Young struggled to find any sort of rhythm.
On Sunday night, that changed.
Henry continued his productive play, and Young chipped in with 13 points on 5-for-9 from the field, to go along with four points and four rebounds.
Another point of contention dating back to last season, was Pau Gasol’s tendency to position himself out on the perimeter. With Dwight Howard departing for Houston, the expectation was for Gasol to return to the low-block.
Gasol has been more active near the paint, but he has also attempted two 3-pointers in three of the Lakers’ four games. He has made 50% of his 3-point attempts. However, that may develop into a case of fool’s gold.
Until Kobe Bryant returns, the Lakers need to find a way to tread water, and ideally above a .500 record.
The Lakers next game comes on Tuesday as they embark on a three-game road trip that will take them to Dallas (Tuesday), Houston (Thursday), and New Orleans (Friday).