Lakers remain unsure about team's identity
The Lakers enthusiastically enjoyed their time off, as Andrew Bynum slept in, Matt Barnes spent time with his twin sons and everyone on the team finally rested their tired legs.
But once the Lakers set foot in the team's practice facility in El Segundo on Tuesday morning, reality awaited them. The Lakers (10-8) enter Wednesday's game against the Clippers (9-5) with a three-game losing streak. They haven't scored 100 points for 11 consecutive games. And most important, the Lakers have no sense of their identity nearly a quarter of the way through a compacted 66-game season.
"The biggest thing is I'm still searching and looking on both ends of the floor," Coach Mike Brown said."I understand it's a process. The process has taken a little longer than you would hope. But this is a long-term thing for me. It's not a short-term thing."
But no one on the Lakers says he knows what the short term entails. Brown shot down any notion of making any lineup changes but said he "always has to keep that into consideration." Brown mostly lamented the team's inconsistent defense that allowed Indiana to rally Sunday from a double-digit deficit, but Bynum, Barnes and Pau Gasol alike argued the team's problems point more to their offense.
"It comes down to the little things and not just relying on our defense to win," Gasol said. "But also to do enough offensively with the weapons that we do have to win ballgames."
So far, the Lakers haven't done enough. They rank 20th in total offense (92.33 points per game). Despite adding more reserve shooters to the lineup in Jason Kapono and Troy Murphy, the Lakers remain last in three-point shooting (25.6%). Kobe Bryant leads the league, averaging 30.6 points per game, but his 38.7 minutes per contest hardly serves as a long-term strategy. Bynum has made slow improvement in countering double teams. Gasol has suddenly gone from the Lakers' No. 2 option to a facilitator. Guard Steve Blake, whom Brown called his "most productive bench player," has remained sidelined because of a fracture. And the remaining reserves have averaged an 11th-worst 27.7 points per game.
Brown said the team's having contact practice Tuesday for the first time since training camp will "help a lot" in reinforcing concepts. That includes how Bynum can adapt to double teams, improving their shooting and ball penetration. Put Barnes down as someone who feels skeptical.
"It has to happen in games," Barnes said about chemistry. "You need practice time, but you really can't go too hard in practice. We play nearly every other day, so we save ourselves."
Still, Bynum maintained that all of the Lakers' aforementioned problems are "fixable." But it remains to be seen how much the Lakers can fix before frustration with all the losing consumes them.
"They're still buying into what I'm trying to tell them, but I'm frustrated," Brown said. "The rest of the coaches are frustated. I think the players should be frustrated and deserve to be frustrated because we all expect to and want to win."
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