Despite the losses stacking up before them, higher than almost any team in franchise history, a loss for a storyline doesn't seem to be amongst them. The season is just more than a third over with, and yet the basement-dwelling Lakers are still making headlines day to day. Let's take a quick look at the checklist:
- Kobe Bryant's Archaic Shooting Dooms Lakers
- Veteran Megaphone Carlos Boozer Sent To Bench
- Steve Nash Misses Season, No One Is Surprised
- Byron Scott Only Wants Lakers To Shoot Long 2s, Hates Scientific Proof Otherwise
- Nick Young Makes 3s But Eschews Passing
- Lakers Rumored To Be In Talks To Trade For Overrated Veteran Free Agent X
- Is It Okay For Kobe To Play More Minutes Than He's Had Years On Earth? My Essay.
All of those are justified headlines, many of them probably near perfect replicas of already published pieces. The Lakers have been tumbling along this season, and some of those storylines are primary reasons why. However, what's been puzzling to me is how, time after time, post after post and tweet after tweet, we're wasting time discussing everything we think ails the Lakers, when the real root of the problem lies elsewhere. Hell, we're arguing about the wrong things with so much intensity that two guys almost got in a fight over it. In Temecula. Well, one guy; the other one was laughing his ass off in Arizona.
The real root of the 2014-2015 Lake Show downfall isn't getting enough burn. And that's the fact that they absolutely cannot stop anyone.
Let me flash some statistics:
- Even the basic numbers will tell you the Lakers are horrible at defending. They're currently 29th in opponent's FG%, FGA, 3PM, 3P%, FTA and assists.
- In regard to the points they're yielding per contest, the Lakers are dead last in points per game allowed, as well as defensive efficiency.
- LA has given up 100 points or more in 24 of their 31 games thus far this season.
- In 13 of those games, they've given up at least 110.
- Even more impressively, they've given up 130 twice already. For context, the San Antonio Spurs have done this twice in the last four seasons.
- The Lakers are 24th in FGM at the rim and 27th in FG% at the rim, according to NBA.com
...and those are the numbers that are easily accessible. The Lakers are horrendously terrible defensively in almost every single way, from their inability to stop easy lay-ins to their ineptitude with opponents at the three-point line. Their attempts at defending often go awry, demonstrated by the incredibly high rate of their opposition's free throw attempts and their 21st rank in personal fouls. The Lakers give up a tremendous amount of sheer possessions per game, which is merely a side effect of the quick pace at which they play their offense, but conversely allowing a high efficiency offense is no way to win.
Moving away from the stats, the same questions run through my mind every time I watch a Lakers game. How many unimpeded runs to the rim are they going to give up tonight? Can the Lakers stop the ball, ever? How many open three-pointers will they yield, let alone how many will go in? How difficult or tiring is it to keep on producing a high level offense when their opponents are regularly crossing the 100-point threshold in the third quarter?
None of these questions have yet to be answered this young season. In many regards, this Lakers team is flabbergasting defensively. With young athletes like Ed Davis, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson and Robert Sacre, as well as wily veterans like Ronnie Price, this squad should be adequate on the defensive end or at the very least, not embarrassingly awful. Alas, here we are, watching the Lakers scramble on a nightly basis, easily losing their defensive assignments on fast-break possessions and consistently choosing the wrong avenue when deciding to go under or over picks.
I'm not sure what makes a team so inept when it comes to hedging accordingly on help defense or rotating quick enough on possessions. Is it coaching? Is it natural instincts? Is it a lack of physical skill? Whatever the case may be, the Lakers are not receiving nearly enough salve to what ails them defensively. These are the questions we should be asking. This is what the discourse of the team should be about.
Each and every game, LA is a travesty "guarding" the other team, routinely allowing the most points in the easiest manner possible. This is the reason they're losing games. This is the reason why the '14-'15 squad is headed for their worst season in Los Angeles franchise history and possibly Lakers franchise history. They cannot stop anyone.
It doesn't matter that Kobe is taking however many shots a game. It matters that he isn't at an age where he can adequately guard his position. It doesn't matter that Carlos Boozer starts or comes off the bench, because no matter what the occasion, he still won't be able to stop a single damn player on the other team. It doesn't matter how much Nick Young's shot spaces the floor, because an efficient offense is clearly not leading to an efficient defense. Don't misunderstand me--I get it. Defense isn't a sexy conversation piece. Kobe Bryant, and anything related to him, is. Controversy of highly paid veterans being sent to the bench makes for great headlines, as does the daily NBA trade rumor mill. Discussing the still somewhat unquantifiable mysteries around defense? It's difficult. Writing about Kobe's aching knees is easy.
We keep on asking questions regarding why this Lakers team is in the shape it's in now. However, if it's related to the on-the-court product, the only relevant question is why is LA's capacity to get consistent stops so incredibly putrid.
That is where the conversation starts and ends as it pertains to the 2014-2015 Lakers and their inability to win games. Until they learn how to be anything besides disgraceful on that end of the floor, I'm afraid the conversation regarding what happens on the purple & gold STAPLES Center floor will be quite boring.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino