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Category: Lakers Analysis

What if Brian Shaw became the Lakers' head coach?

The date of July 13 marks a definitive time in Brian Shaw's life. It's the moment he accepted an offer to become the Indiana Pacers' associate coach under Frank Vogel. The date also marks when Shaw immediately stopped harboring frustration over the Lakers' failure to immediately communicate with him that he wouldn't succeed Phil Jackson as coach.

So as he moved out of his Manhattan Beach residence and relocated his family, Shaw says he's hardly replayed the what-if scenarios. But Lakers fans surely have wondered what would have happened had he been hired instead of Mike Brown.

Many wonder if he would've succeeded Jackson had the Lakers avoided a four-game sweep to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals. With the Lakers (10-8) in the midst of a three-game losing streak, they wonder if the purple and gold would've gone through similar adversity.  Below are five things I envisioned happening had Shaw stayed on board.

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Metta World Peace's success points to post-up work

Amid a three-game losing streak, offensive inconsistency and a compacted schedule, there was one thing out of the Lakers' 98-96 loss Sunday to the Indiana Pacers that shed a glimmer of hope.

That was the prospect of World Peace.

After a 10-game double-digit drought, the player formerly known as Ron Artest, scored 11 points on five of nine shooting, made his only three-point attempt and created turnovers. 

"I'm coming back to life, finally," he said.

As with anything regarding Metta World Peace, it's presumptuous to make any conclusions on how he'll follow up on that. But there's one predictable variable that will heighten his success.

The Lakers will maximize World Peace's abilities as a bench reserve only if they mostly utilize him in the post. In all five of his double-digit performances this season, the bulk of his offense came in that area. According to Synergy Sports Technology, World Peace is the 11th-most efficient scorer in post-ups, going 15 for 33 from the field (45.5%). That's a stark difference between, say, his work in isolation sets (21.1%) or from three-point range (14.7%)

"Being a problem in the post isn't really much new," World Peace said. "I haven't had great stats. But when Kobe [Bryant] is averaging 30 [points], Pau [Gasol] and Andrew [Bynum] are other good players. On top of that, with not getting a lot of time, you aren't going to see that much. When I get out there, you will see glimpses."

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Pau Gasol wants more work in the low post

The timely behind-the-head pass that earned Andrew Bynum a trip to the free-throw line epitomized Pau Gasol's strong chemistry with his fellow 7-footer. His constant passes to Kobe Bryant as he cut toward the elbow epitomized Gasol recognizing Bryant's sweet spots. Finding Matt Barnes penetrating across the lane for a one-handed slam showcased Gasol's strong court awareness.

Gasol was happy with his season-high 10 assists and zero turnovers Sunday against Indiana. The only problem: Gasol isn't happy for reasons beyond the Lakers' 98-96 loss Sunday to the Pacers, current three-game losing streak and 10-8 record.

Gasol's stat line of eight points on four for 12 shooting against Indiana represented an ongoing trend where he's struggling with his midrange jumper and establishing post position. It also reflects the Lakers' tendency of making him more of a facilitator and less of a post threat.

"I would like to get a little more inside myself," Gasol said. "I always like to get different looks and be able to attack from different angles."

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Five things to take away from Lakers' 98-96 loss to Indiana Pacers

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1. The Lakers suffered late-game miscues in their 98-96 loss Sunday to the Indiana Pacers. There's lot of plays that the Lakers could've executed better at the end of the game. Matt Barnes' missed three-pointer could've given the Lakers a definitive lead in the final minute. Pacers center Roy Hibbert grabbed a late-game rebound and made a shot over Andrew Bynum. Derek Fisher air-balled a floater and Bynum let the loose ball slip through his hands. Lakers Coach Mike Brown didn't call a timeout on that sequence. Kobe Bryant missed a long three-pointer that would've tied the score with 2.4 seconds left.

2. Pau Gasol is playing too much of a facilitator. Credit Gasol's versatility and ability to adapt. With Bynum an increased role in the post, Gasol has relied on his his play-making abilities and mid-range jumper to remain relevant. The former quality proved to be magnificant as Gasol dropped 10 assists, and could've had 11 if his Bynum converted off his one-timed behind-the-head pass. But his eight points on four for 12 shooting left a lot to be desired because most of them came off mid-range jumpers. It appears Gasol's losing his aggressiveness to score, while relying too heavily on his ability to facilitate. 

3. Where's the Lakers' perimeter defense? This game wouldn't be close if the Lakers defended the perimeter. The Pacers stayed in contention, thanks to a 10-of-18 mark from three-point range. That included Indiana scoring 35 points in the second quarter and going on an 18-12 run after most of the starters entered the lineup at the 6:13 mark. While the Lakers' defensive communication and help looked sharp in the paint, they remained inconsistent on closing out. 

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Five ways to improve the Lakers' offense

The numbers tell one story.

The Lakers have been held below 100 points in nine consecutive games. They've failed to reach 90 points for three consecutive games. They've averaged 86.9 points a game in their last five contests. The Lakers remain second-to-last in the NBA from three-point range (25.7%). And they've shot 45.1% overall.

The explanations tell another story. At least that's the version Lakers Coach Mike Brown touted after rewatching the team's 92-80 loss Friday to the Orlando Magic during Saturday's practice.

"If we execute the same way with our starters, I know those shots will go down eventually," Brown said. "I'll live with that."

Until that happens, there are other solutions. Sorry, but waiting to learn the offense won't cut it. No matter how many plays Brown is throwing at the players, they can compensate in other ways.

"We can't expect that just because days on the calendar will go by that we'll continue to get better," said Lakers guard Derek Fisher. "We have to continue to do things necessary as a group to improve as a team. We're trying to do those things, but things are coming at us fast right now."

Below the jump are a few other solutions to jump-start the offense. 

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Five things to take from Lakers' 92-80 loss to Orlando Magic

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1. The Lakers hardly had any energy in their 92-80 loss Friday to the Orlando Magic. Mike Brown should seriously reassess whether it was a good idea to ignore his coaching staff and play his starters heavy fourth-quarter minutes in a blowout loss Thursday to Miami. Right when the ball tipped off, the Lakers lacked energy. Say what you want about the compacted NBA schedule, lack of practice time or a cross-country flight before back-to-back games. Yes, all that contributes to any team's fatigue. But Brown needlessly playing the starters heavy minutes against Miami seriously hurt their chances against Orlando.

2. Pau Gasol displayed a tale of two halves. Part of Gasol's listless first-half energy can be attributed to Brown playing him late in the fourth quarter against Miami. The other part of his zero-for-five mark in the first half points to Gasol's disinterest in the game. He settled on too many mid-range jumpers. Gasol normally makes those. But when he's matched up against Ryan Anderson, he has to pound it relentlessly inside. Fortunately for Gasol, he changed his tune in the second half. The Lakers improved their ball movement. He cut more down the lane and into the post. And he remained aggressive enough to post 13 second-half points on four-for-seven shooting. Too bad it came too late.

PHOTOS: Lakers vs. Magic

3. Andrew Bynum vs. Dwight Howard was a disappointment. This was supposed to be an intriguing matchup between the Lakers' rising center and the Lakers' trade prospect. Instead, Bynum fell into early foul trouble for the second consecutive game. With 6:11 left in the first quarter, Bynum was called for his second foul and sat out the rest of the quarter. When he was in the game, Bynum played without much post presence, which partly contributed to Howard finishing with 21 points and 23 rebounds.

Bynum's 10 points on four-for-six shooting and 12 rebounds might have proven to be enough in other seasons. But not now. Instead, Bynum's virtual no-show severely hurts his market value as the Lakers try to explore deals within the next month. 

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Things to watch in Lakers-Magic game

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Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (10-6) visit the Orlando Magic (10-4) on Friday at Amway Center:

1. How will the Lakers' energy hold up? The Lakers have looked tired in their last three games -- against the Clippers, the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat -- and it remains to be seen whether that will change. The Lakers are coming off the second night of a back-to-back. Even though they entered the fourth quarter trailing Miami 77-56, Coach Mike Brown played his starters most of the final period in hopes they could compensate for lost practices. Considering how slow and unathletic the Lakers are to begin with, their execution could drop significantly should fatigue remain an issue. 

2. Andrew Bynum versus Dwight Howard. Eager to learn and grow, Bynum always uses his matchups with Howard and Tim Duncan as measuring sticks for where he stands. This time around, Lakers officials will surely be viewing the matchup with an eye toward determining how intently they should pursue Howard. If Bynum holds his own, it's possible his market value increases. That could prompt the Lakers to be more restrictive in packaging a deal with Bynum as the centerpiece. In turn, Orlando may be more inclined to demand less in a trade involving Bynum. 

3. Will Kobe Bryant find his sweet spots again? After scoring at least 40 points in four consecutive games, Bryant has shot 15 of 43 (34.8%) from the field in the last two games. It's pretty easy to explain why. In the four games in which he scored at least 40 points, 77 of his 172 points came from either within 10 feet or at the free-throw line.

According to Hoopsdata, Bryant went three for 12 from shots within 16 to 23 feet and zero for three from three-point range against Dallas. According to NBA Statscube, Bryant then shot five for 15 on mid-range jumpers and zero for three from three-point range against Miami. Credit Miami's LeBron James and Shane Battier as well as Dallas' Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry for forcing Bryant out of his sweet spots. But it's clear that the Lakers deviated from setting up Bryant where he has been so effective. 

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Lakers showing cracks in flimsy foundation

 

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Several of his players joked about Mike Brown's famously long practices. But in due time, Brown's nickname, "All Day, Every Day," could evoke more frustration than laughter.

Brown admits his bench currently lacks an identity, causing him to shuffle various combinations in hopes something will work. His approach very well could just involve a rearranging of chairs without any resolution.

Kobe Bryant has remained supportive of Brown for his work ethic and attention to detail. Yet even the consummate student of the game openly wondered after the Lakers' 98-87 loss Thursday to the Miami Heat why Brown is throwing out new plays when the team has yet to grasp the original ones.

Brown has admitted some mistakes. He's conducted too many long practices. Bryant, who played 41 minutes in a blowout to Miami, has averaged 37.9 minutes this season when Brown has hoped to play him between 33 and 35. Brown has tried out too many different rosters. It's all part of a genuine effort in hopes of maximizing the Lakers' aging roster. But the Lakers' loss to Miami may mark a turning point in whether the players truly buy into what Brown is selling.

The Lakers have embraced his defensive principles, his welcome personality and his passion for the job. But their loss to Miami shows he's been trying too hard to a fault.

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Five things to watch in Lakers-Heat game

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Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (10-5) take their talents to South Beach and vist the Miami Heat (9-4) on Thursday evening at at American Airlines Arena:

1. LeBron James might be sick one way or another: James technically remains a game-time decision after leaving morning shoot-around because of flu-like symptoms. Go ahead. Throw your punch lines about James disappearing before the game even starts. But he'll likely play. Considering that he followed a listless first half against San Antonio with a dominant second half while feeling under the weather, the Lakers shouldn't exactly bank on James being ineffective.

Normally this matchup would go to Metta World Peace, but he's assumed a bench role and hasn't shown much with his speed. Matt Barnes could disrupt James' comfort zone. Or he might just commit silly fouls. It's all dependant if Barnes can channel that aggressiveness appropriately. Either way, Mike Brown is kind of familiar with James and probably has a good defensive game plan for him.

2. Kobe Bryant vs. Shane Battier: Without Dwyane Wade (left ankle sprain) and James' possible limitations, the Heat should feel fortunate that Battier will be there to defend Bryant. It's possible Bryant may go on a scoring tear, but Battier has always managed to force Bryant to work for his shots in the most undesirable locations. Considering that Brown wants to decrease Bryant's minutes and have a more balanced offense, Battier can surely disrupt that game plan.

3. Can the Lakers spread the wealth?Short-term, Bryant's scoring bursts have secured wins and entertained Laker fans every step of the way. But just because it's fun and effective to drive a sports car at 110 miles an hour doesn't mean it's always a good idea. Long-term, the Lakers have to feature a more balanced effort. As always, this macro issue falls equally on Bryant and his teammates. Kobe has taken some horrible shots during his scoring tear, while Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum haven't always remained aggressive-minded.

It's unrealistic for Brown's wishful thinking that the reserves can suddenly blossom to actually happen. That's why Bryant, Bynum and Gasol need to collectively operate as their own Big Three, where they're constantly feeding off one another. No better way to do that than against Miami's Big Three, or Big Two since Wade will be out.

 

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What if Lamar Odom hadn't been traded by the Lakers?

The moment Lamar Odom checked in at the scorer's table, Lakers guard Derek Fisher hugged him, General Manager Mitch Kupchak clapped for him and the crowd of 18,997 fans all but embraced him. 

Moments later, a 45-second video montage played on the Staples Center scoreboard showcasing numerous highlights and community appearances, ending with the message: "THANKS for the memories, LAMAR."

It's fair to presume many Laker fans still can't help but wonder why the Lakers traded Odom to the Dallas Mavericks. Fisher acknowledged the team's difficulty in absorbing Odom's loss but argued that "we've probably moved past the woulda-shoulda-coulda aspect of it."

But based on the comments sections, Laker fans are having a harder time letting go. Why did Kupchak have to follow through on Odom's trade request? Why couldn't Odom have emulated Pau Gasol's reaction that involved reiterating his desire to remain with the Lakers?

"Our situations are completely different," Odom said. "You can't compare the two. They were different. Especially when things didn't happen, they were completely different."

This much is certain: If the Lakers had kept Odom, it would have changed things in a number of areas. 

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