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4 Ways for the Lakers to make up for a limited Kobe Bryant

56900806Phil Jackson's revelation after practice Wednesday that he's planning to limit Kobe Bryant's minutes at the beginning of the regular season serves two purposes.

Obviously it reveals Bryant still hasn't fully recovered from his surgically repaired right knee. The news shows another example of Jackson preparing the Lakers to get ready to to shoulder the load as Bryant continues rehabbing.

That process has already started in the preseason as Jackson has monitored Bryant's minutes, stressed that Pau Gasol needs to become more of a leader and proclaimed that the entire team lacked the basketball conditioning to open up training camp, except for Lamar Odom. Jackson's observations go beyond wanting to motivate his players. They're actually true. And Bryant's limitations might have a profound effect Thursday, as Jackson has said he's considering sitting Bryant out against Golden State in San Diego, and then putting him back in the lineup Friday against the Warriors.

"I'm not that concerned about his shot as I am just about just having an overall ability to play with the kind of energy he wants to play with," Jackson said of Bryant, who has shot 27.3%, averaged 11 points in six exhibition games, practiced Wednesday and didn't speak to reporters afterward.

"That shot will come as soon as that happens. He's the best caretaker I've seen in his own personal physique. So I anticipate he's got it measured on how he wants to do it. I don't anticipate he'll play heavy-minute games to start the season. So we'll have to find a pattern out there so he has the greatest influence in the amount of minutes he can play."

After the jump I explain four ways the Lakers can better compensate for Bryant's limitations.

1.Gasol needs to play more aggressively -- Jackson has been prodding Gasol all preseason to show a willingness to take over the games and become the team's leader. In return, Gasol has been  pacing himself back into form after taking the summer off to nurse his left and right hamstrings and rest up. Gasol's approach will eventually pay off, but there is a fine line between pacing and just not showing any energy. There have been instances of brilliance that showcase Gasol's amazing footwork and comfort level with teammates. But they're sporadic. Gasol has mostly looked robotic on the floor, with very little energy, as indicated by his shooting percentage (29.5%) and slow reactions on defense.

During Bryant's five-game absence last season because of a sprained left ankle, Gasol took charge with a team-leading 18.4 points and 13.4 rebounds per game, a jump from the 17.2 points and 11 rebounds he posted before Bryant's injury. That was possible because Gasol received more looks in the paint and appeared more aggressive in creating his own shot.

2. Play as a team -- Though it's hard to divine anything definitive in preseason, it's an encouraging sign that the Lakers have played team-oriented basketball. Surely, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff, Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks are still learning the triangle, but the newcomers all seem genuinely interested in nailing down the concepts. Likewise, all the starters are looking for each other instead of just running isolation plays. Even with the inconsistency the Lakers have presented this preseason, many of the games have featured brilliant plays in which constant ball movement and cutting has led to easy shots for everyone.

When Bryant sat out last season, the team felt more involved. Remember, Bryant's injury coincided with the debate on whether his continuous shooting hindered both his fractured right index finger, and team chemistry. Was Bryant trying to do too much at the expense of his teammates and did his teammates not really give Bryant enough of an incentive to get them involved? No matter what you may think, one thing is indisputable: Everyone's production level went up. Consider the averages in the last five games compared to the regular season averages among Gasol (18.4 points and 13.4 rebounds, 17.2 points and 11 rebounds), Ron Artest (14.4 points, 11.7 points) Odom (14.6 points and a league-leading 15 rebounds, 10.2 points and 10.1 rebounds), Shannon Brown (14.6 points in 37.7 minutes, 8.2 points in 20.4 minutes per game), Jordan Farmar (11 points in 21.5 minutes per game, 7.6 points in 18.4 minutes per game) Derek Fisher (9.4 points, 7.3 points) and Sasha Vujacic (4.4 points in 14 minutes, 2.5 points in 7.9 minutes per game).

3. Sharpen up on defense -- Jackson said he's spent most of his practices emphasizing defensive concepts, partly because defense has remained so inconsistent during games. That shouldn't happen considering Bryant, Artest, Barnes and Ebanks are considered tough, lockdown defenders and the Lakers have the long wingspans of Odom, Ratliff and Caracter.

An improved defense can help infuse energy into a lifeless team. During Bryant's five-game absence last season, The Lakers held opponents to 86.6 points per game, second-best in the league and nearly a  10-point improvement from their regular season average of 96.2 points. So even if the team's offense dropped from 102.1 points per game to 97.2, total defense improved by 10, meaning the Lakers benefited. That improvement wouldn't have been possible had the Lakers not felt involved with the offense, because the energy wouldn't have carried over to the defensive side.

4. Brown and Vujacic can compete for backup guard role -- Jackson made it clear last week that he hasn't fully determined Bryant's definitive backup. But the numbers seem to point to Brown, considering his 11.2 points per game on 45.3% shooting and because Vujacic has missed the last two games because of a concussion. Jackson said Vujacic might play Thursday against Golden State, so if that happens the last two preseason games would be a good opportunity for them to showcase themselves.

Of course, Brown and Vujacic might feel tempted to see this opportunity as their only audition, leading them to selfish tendencies. But that would actually help Jackson determine the pecking order. So if Bryant is limited for an extended time at the start of the regular season, Jackson would have a better idea which reserve would try to fit within the team concept and which reserve would try to pad his stats. My hunch is that Brown would fit the former and Vujacic would fit the latter.

--Mark Medina

[email protected]

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant retrieves a loose ball during the first half of the Lakers' 82-74 exhibition loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday. Credit: Jae C. Hong.

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I think Ron's going to pick up the slack a bit (and is capable of). I hope Pau does, but we'll see. I can see Lamar and Ron turning up the heat defensively.

Mark Medina,
I have a request for a thread.
There has been A LOT of talk over the years since Phil Jackson came to the Lakers about players having to learn (and "get") the Triangle.
I don't know how many times I've heard Phil Jackson talk about how "it's a feeling." Or players obliquely discuss the Triangle like it's some strange Chinese riddle or ancient Norse rune or something like that.
I mean, as I understand it, the Triangle basically means passing the ball around the perimeter until you see an opening inside which collapses the opponent's defense providing the opportunity to pass the ball back out to open players for a clear shot.
How much more is there to it?
What is the deep mystery that is "The Triangle?"
A very technical thread just breaking down the basic principles of The Triangle and explaining why so many players have a long arcing adjustment period to understanding and internalizing The Triangle would be really cool.
{Request complete}
What do we play for? RINGS!!!
Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

Jon K - please tell me you're not gonna end up back in Cleveland.... that would be horrifying.

I agree with Jon K- I said something similar on the K Bros blog- I've been watching basketball for a long time, and I don't really pretend to understand the triangle.

either it really is that hard, or it is really really simple and all these guys have to be dumber than a bag of hammers not to get it.

or something.

I'm still trying to understand what cruel twist of fate lands any native Californian in Cleveland.


"4 Ways for the Lakers to make up for a limited Kobe Bryant"

i'm not humble, but i will be humble and i will add another one: so, 5 ways.

1.Gasol needs to play with more aggression

indeed from 1-7 he will have to go 1-14.

2. Play as a team

ohhhh, that magic word again: TEAM. passes, passes, more passes until the 24 clock BANG.

3. Sharpen up on defense

i did not look up the schedule yet to know what teams we play in the first few weeks, what PG will burn out Fish and there is no Kobe to save his behind. anyway it's not playoffs yet, so does not matter.

i remembered. first game Houston. that pesky Brooks will run circles around Fish. and Yao is back. and if LO was pretty good at the Worlds during the summer and got LOTS of experience, what can we say about Scola who was absolutely brilliant. and the best scorer of the tournament. so how much did he got experienced and how much confidence will he have. not that he was missing it.

it will be sad to have the Lakers losing the game after the RING ceremony.

but lets be fair. if they lose, Rockets leave with the WIN and the Lakers get as consolation price (sarcasm font inserted) with the RINGS.

4. Brown and Vujacic can compete for backup guard role

will that be dunks, clutch FT's, 3's or Girl Friends?


and last but not least, for #5 i will choose the one and only solution that will solve all 4 of the above:


Nice Thread. It capsulizes all of my concerns after last nights zombie-fest.

I kind of disagree with all of the criticism being shoved onto Pau's plate. He still is not the focus of the offense when Kobe has been sitting. It's hard to ask a post guy to be more aggressive if his guards aren't getting him the ball.

I really like all of things Shannon brown has obviously worked on over the summer (mid-range game, dribbling in traffic, foot work) but am quite distressed that he didn't take my suggestion of working on his post entry passes. He is the most gun shy on the team as far as getting the rock into the post. He telegraphs his passes, hesitates, looks for an open guard on the perimeter or calls for a screen. Anything but dump it in. Fake high and bounce, fake bounce and throw it in over your head. These are two pretty simple ways to get 'er done.

Sasha will probably play more PG this season as Blake's back-up. He executes simple guard tasks better than Shannon Brown and he's a better rebounder (despite the fact that Brown can jump over guys, he simply doesn't try). If Fisher is injured or struggles as mightily as he has in the pre-season (what the hell was that 3 minutes of Fisher shooting in the first 6 seconds of the shot clock? There's aplace you can go to work on your jumper, Derek, it's called the gym-anywhere but in the game) I trust Sasha more than Brown. I haven't been too impressed with whomever that other training camp invitee is, Trey something or other.

Up until last night I hadn't been too concerned with our play. The bench had dominated the 4th, we played OK in the 3rd quarters of all of our games and I basically thought that when we hadn't had our best team on the floor during crunch time. The last two games against a team just drooling to beat us changed my perception a bit. We didn't really ever show up, that is a bad pre-season habit to develop. Our 1st quarters have been terrible and we look like we're already expecting someone to 'throw the switch'.

Even though it's pre-season we should have had more fire for our second game against the Jazz and we looked even worse than we did in the game on Sunday. I'm not talking about Kobe, it's the rest of the team that I'm more concerned with at this time.

If, as it sounds, Kobe isn't playing at his customary level until, say, early December I am beginning to wonder how far down the playoff ladder we will be at that time. Remember our late season swoon? That was partially mitigated by our early schedule of plentiful home games. We beefed up for a lean winter and emerged from hibernation for spring as the third best team in basketball.

But we won't have that luxury this year. Nor will we have Bynum to off set our extremely poor perimeter D or to help get easy post buckets. Now we're looking at a less than nominal Kobe Bryant. Uh oh, says I. It's more than stepping up your individual contributions but looking for ways to make it easier on your teammates, too. Just saying we need Pau to score more is disingenious.

I would say we need to better manage the clock (Derek Fisher of the 6 second possession I'm talking to you) so as to limit our opponents possessions. We need everyone to do a better job of rebounding the ball. We need to stop shooting 3 pointers at +20/game clip. Long shots = long rebounds which means now our aging guard core has to try and stop a younger, more proficient fast break. not exactly a recipe for success in my mind.

I expect some folks to say, 'Rings are won in June, not October.' to which I say, 'Doy.'. But last year we had a group of players that had played together for a significant amount of time. They knew what each other would bring and what to expect in a given situation. We no longer have that security blanket of familiararity. We need to establish good habits in this pre season more than ever. Simply saying, 'We're the champs until someone beats us' is almost openly inviting disaster.

You're not the champs again until you win it again, how's that?

Jon K - I won't get into the specifics (check out the NBA Coaches' Playbook - Phil & Tex have a nice chapter in there that gives a summation), but I've played the Triangle a bit here and there. It's somewhat simple at heart, the problem is there are a myriad of subtle things you can do once you start it in motion that all depend on both what the defense is throwing at you and how your teammates are reacting.

In essence, Chess is a fairly simple game to understand (a pawn moves this way, a bishop that way, etc.), but the permutations are monstrous. The Triangles is not quite Chess, but it has a lot of subtle permutations, and so a "feel" is essential, or just a lot of minutes logged in it with your teammates. At times there are no "right" or "wrongs," just correct spacings... which are constantly changing from moment to moment.

Oh, and there are a couple of thing that are almost counter-intuitive, like a drive and kick is waaaay different than in the Princeton, or a pick-and-roll offense - that's way you see a lot of guys starting out in the Triangle bunching up to one side, paralleling the guy driving, which in the Triangle isn't quite the way it's run.

Oops: that's "why" not that's "way"

1. Run the offense.

2. Play with energy.

3. Keep the games close.

4. Make sure Kobe's in the game down the stretch.

I vote for KobeMVP888 as the next coach of the Lakers after Phil steps down (after four more championships, of course - sorry, man - you gotta wait your turn).

63- I think I see what you mean. It would be cool to watch a few specific plays with someone who knows the triangle and could break them down individually, but I get how that would be difficult to explain.

Jon K - That's a really good idea. I'll try to see what I can do. The triangle offense is an offense that's based on movement and balance. It's called triangle because the ball side is always supposed to have a player in the post and two players up top, whether it's one on the corner and another at the top of the key or closer together. There's usually two people on the weak side. So the principles are that as long as there is that balance, it works out fine. The things that gets confusing is the terminology. I don't know the terminology (the team doesn't want to give their secrets away) but a lot of the newcomers have said they're confused by that because that causes them to pause for a few seconds and as soon as that happens they're already clogging the offense.

I would also suspect that given the Laker's tendency to selectively abandon the triangle fairly often, when and when not to play the triangle is probably also hard to keep track of.

ok, i think i just spammed the heck out of everybody on my email list, but the invites have hopefully gone out on the 2nd fantasy basketball league.

if you haven't gotten yours and if you are interested, email me at

[email protected]

and please put 'LAKERS BLOG' or something like that in the subject headline.

this is sort of interesting. don't know if it is completely accurate, seems like a pretty low rent site, but it was linked to on wikipedia under their article on the triangle. which is itself not terribly illuminating.

was it just last year when Mark Cuban posted the email addresses of people who had sent him hate mail?

I think if you are a public figure you get a tiny percentage of people who will send you hate mail or tweets or whatever. Heck, nobody who has been on this blog for more than twenty seconds is surprised by that.

I think the only thing we can learn from this isn't that Lebron has a slight victim mentality or that Lebron is isolated enough from reality that he is surprised by any of this, oh, and we can learn not to be one of those people and don't send hate mails or tweets or blog posts, cause it reflects badly on the sender, not the recipient.

Of course, i have never been entirely sure what it meant to 'play the race card,' but if there is a time to play the race card, logically if you get racist hate mail that would be it.
Posted by: phred | October 20, 2010 at 05:21 PM
phred - I agree on all counts. The only thing missing was your handle!

Triangle Offense:

An old diagram, but easy to understand...

A more detailed explanation...

Something on the innovator...Tex Winters

And the coup de grace...

Lakers Dynastry - The Next Generation...

#17 Coming Up!!!

WOW..that was strange...I had to do one of those copy the numbers and letters in continue...huh!

MM - are you guys rebooting your servers or switching to a new system...

LEWSTRS - I didn't reboot anything. Let me know if you continue to have problems

I am of the opinion that we have to play him in the first, third, and down the stretch of the fourth until he fully recovers. The minutes really need to go to Sasha over Brown, just because he can spread the floor better and open up the lanes for our front line. Sprinkle in some energy from Brown and heads-up play-making from Blake, and the Lake Show will be just fine!

You guys that want to better understand the technical details of the triangle need to read forumblueandgold. The guys there really know a great deal about it. A google search for triangle would probably yield some good results.

I seriously can't wait for the season to start. 2 lakers blog fantasy teams and possibly a third on the way and I get to watch my lakers get it going again. Yay!

Hello fans that understand the triangle offense!

So why is a drive the rim and dish so rarely used in the regular season? Is is becuase we have Fish and Kobe saves that part of the repetoire for the moneygames? or is dishing the sugar non-triangular?

Some say drive and dish is not part of the triagle offense, to which I say, huh? IS it better to shoot a 15 open jumper or drive and dish for a (maybe) contested 4 footer?

Why do some say drive and dish (like Parker or Nash) is incongruent with the Triangle offense?

Is it? or have we just not had the personnel? Fish drives maybe 10 times per year.

Jon K. -

Here's a link for Tex Winter's book called "The triple post offense":

Just wanted to help with that if you didn't see it.

Heat & Celtics have sights on a 65 plus win season to gain home court advantage over Lakers. Celtics play hard team defense every quarter. That gives them unmatched mental toughness & suffocating coordinated team defense. Lakers will not 3-peat if the team feels pacing themselves means on and off defensive intensity. It should only mean less than 36 minutes for starters. Sasha(& Steve B.) must avg. 40-45% on 3pt. shots & get the triangle initiated within 6-10 secs. Shannon can be a more effective cutter, rebounder & shot blocker with his skills. Without Bynum all should make a greater rebounding effort ! Lamar needs to score on more drives to the basket without charging. Artest is doing great & Steve Blake is a fast learner. Lakers improved bench will help the starters. Kobe would make it easier on himself by noting MJ got his shot off before being trapped. Kobe relishes forcing shots through 2/3-man traps. That is hard on his body and creates T/Os!!

i trust kobe. And I'm sure he will be fine.. And he will work things up for the 3peat! Go lakers!!

i have a concern about the perception that the "real" season begins after the all-star game , with the playoffs being the second season. i believe that this way of thinking the lakers can just switch it on leads to more suffering than anything else. this year in particular all the potential beasts in the east are going to be in the right mindset FROM DAY ONE.if the lakers are able to achieve their goals for the season (RINGS! of course!) the season needs to begin oct 26

Yeah... the notion of having to potentially go back to Cleveland is somewhat terrifying for me right now. I was hired out here on a contract gig with the potential of my contract being extended (which it has, a little), but with this economy I see the money coming in and it seems like its not enough to extend my contract permenenatly. So, I've been trying to find something new, but everything's up in the air.
I've put together a proposal with an old partner of mine to co-produce a Western-style awards gala for Hong Kong. I'm praying that comes through.
It would be a long drive back to Cleveland just in time for winter.
What do we play for? RINGS!!!
Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.



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