Lakers hope to feature improved outside shooting
Off baseline screens, Lakers forward Jason Kapono penetrated and nailed an open three-point shot. Through off-ball movement, forward/guard Devin Ebanks received a pass and immediately sank an open jumper. After noticing the lax defense in front of him, forward Matt Barnes drilled an open midrange shot.
These developments from the intrasquad scrimmage Friday at USC hardly reflected the team's perimeter shooting last year. Any statistic reveals it all, including the Lakers' three-point shooting in the postseason (28.9%), in the regular season (35.7%) and shots from within 16-23 feet (37.5%).
"The one thing I thought they did lack last year," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said, "is a consistent threat from behind the three-point line."
The Lakers already have taken steps to address that problem, acquiring sharpshooters Jason Kapono and Troy Murphy. Looking at the numbers Kapono (43.7%) and Murphy (38.9%) have provided in their respective careers from three-point range gives Brown reason to think they'll immediately force defenses to take the Lakers' outside shooting more seriously.
"My skillset fits this team and it's a specific role that's needed here," Kapono said. "Being able to make shots and space the floor will be an asset for us."
The improvement at outside shooting goes beyond securing better shooters. Steve Blake, Barnes, Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock have all said their main off-season emphasis included shooting. Their work took different forms: Blake shot with more arc. Barnes, Ebanks and Goudelock simply stepped up the number of practice shots. Morris tinkered with his footwork, form and follow-through.
Add all that together and it's likely the Lakers will show at least some improvement.
"Everyone's taken an assertive effort to stretch their game out to the three-point line," Barnes said. "I expect that to carry over into the season."
If it does, the Lakers must not allow that to change their identity. The Lakers shot 41.2% from three-point range last November, only to see it dip the following month to 31% and remain around that mark for the rest of the season. After defenses adjusted, the Lakers didn't. That resulted in the Lakers deviating away from first running their offense through the paint and post areas. Meanwhile, Brown made it clear players such as Ebanks, Blake, Derek Fisher, Morris, Barnes, Murphy and Kapono have to create their own shots through proper spacing.
"Once they try to take that away, it will open everything up," forward Pau Gasol said. "That's why establishing an inside game is so important in basketball. If you have weapons, you have to utilize them."
And in the Lakers' case, that could include improved outside shooting. So long as the added talent, increased shooting and inside-outside presence mix well together.
"Our guys will command double teams. And when they do, if we move the ball like we're capable of moving the ball, guys will get their looks."
— Mark Medina
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