To say the Los Angeles Lakers have had a rough year is a complete understatement. The team has underwhelmed and underperformed by everyone's standards.
Sure, they've had a ton of injuries, and they fired their coach in the beginning of the season, but so did the Los Angeles Kings last year, and they're the Stanley Cup Champions.
So how do the Lakers fix their issues and make it to the playoffs? They need to do these five things:
5. Use The Bench
One of the reasons that Gregg Popavich is such a great coach is because he has an ability to utilize and cultivate his benches into useful players who give his starters rest.
As evidenced in the Lakers' loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday night, Coach Mike D'Antoni does not either know how to or care to use his bench, since Kobe Bryant played the entire second half.
Earl Clark should have at least half of Pau Gasol's minutes, but for some reason he doesn't. Robert Sacre is an able, energetic presence at defense, but for some reason he rarely gets in as well. Devin Ebanks has only played in three games in 2013, totaling 10 minutes.
And remember when Darius Morris could keep up with the Lakers' younger opponents on defense? Which leads me to number three...
4. Play Defense & Rebound
Defense requires a lot of effort to be executed effectively. However, the Lakers seem to be lacking in this department. Sure, they've all developed very quick triggers, but how often do they chase their shots, looking for an offensive rebound?
The joke has been made that “Mike D'Antoni” is actually “Mike Antoni, no D” because his team either can not or will not play defense. It's probably about half and half. Players like Antawn Jamison are old, but he's also unwilling to play defense, often hoovering around players but not actively defending them.
It's as if the whole team has an “Oh well, we'll get him next time” attitude.
3. Take High Percentage Shots
This is very simple math. It's not even a matter of opinion. The closer a shot is taken to the basket, the higher percentage that it will be made. Shots from farther out are made less often.
So, why on a team of men too old, tired or unwilling to chase their shots, would you want them do be taken away from the hoop? That makes no sense.
Yet, D'Antoni continues to say that they need to shoot their way back into games.
Changing their shot selection will change their future game outcomes.
2. Learn What To Do With Pau Gasol
How is it that the man who gave the entire world hell in the Olympics this Summer can't fit in on a team of superstars?
Pau Gasol hasn't been able to find a groove within D'Antoni's system, and he's also been dealing with athleticism issues, which he's admitted.
So, if he's slower and can't jump like before, why is it a good idea to have him start taking outside shots?
For whatever reason, adjustment's can't be made in this system to accommodate two big men, like the triangle could.
Which leads us to the number one key to the Lakers winning:
1. Fire Mike D'Antoni
Okay, just kidding. No, but seriously.
I'm RARELY one to criticize a coach, because the main thing he can do in a game is rotate his players properly. He can't control who makes a shot and who gets called for weird fouls. All he can do is make sure the best players are in, and that his starter's aren't overworked.
Well that, and all of the rest of the keys to them winning rest in the hands of their coach, who has managed to make basketball look as difficult as a physics equation.
With this team, he just needs to let them play basketball, and give them all the tools to play defense effectively.