It’s always amusing to me when fans hit the panic button after the first game of the season. Well, for supporters like that, the Lakers just forced a major run on panic buttons. The only thing about that is this time, it might just be the proper move to make.
It’s widely known the Lakers went 0-8 in the preseason. LA coach Mike Brown even said his team might go winless in the preseason. The staff was trying to put in the Princeton offense. Ding! Ding! Ding! There is the problem. Pete Carril, the inventor of the Princeton offense when he was head coach at - duh - did so for a couple of reasons. One was, being at Princeton, he had guys who were extraordinarily bright. This isn’t always a formula for success in athletics as book smart doesn’t necessarily equate to ball smart. But Pete’s guys were both. Secondly, Pete knew that when his teams played the “big boys,” the only chance he had was to slow the game down and frustrate better players.
Certainly, running the Princeton offense wasn’t going to be done because the Lakers were smarter than their opponents (even though their starting five might just be). The Lakers have better players than their opponents (maybe not all of them) and need to be doing exactly what Pete Carril was doing at Princeton, i.e. taking advantage of his players’ abilities. Like pushing the ball first and foremost, then running pick and rolls with Steve Nash, pounding the ball inside to Dwight Howard, isolating Kobe Bryant - putting all their guys in positions to do what they do best - exactly what Carril’s offense did.
Defensively, one issue they have is that they have to doubleteam every pick and roll because of Nash. They obviously can’t switch. He also has a tough time staying in front of quicker guards and as he gets older, there are A LOT of quicker guards (while attacking him wears him down, so has Father Time).
One question lingers: did Brown really not care if they went 0-8 in the preseason because, as Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is a habit; so is losing” and we all know basketball (as are most sports) is a game of habits. Sure, all the guys weren’t playing in preseason games so it’s tough to get in sync. But this was a home loss, to a Mavs team without Chris Kaman. And, oh yeah, Dirk Nowitzki. Charles Barkley wasn’t even commenting on the Lakers’ loss when he said post game, “You can’t judge the Mavs without their two best players - Dirk and Kaman.” Ouch.
So is it time to panic? Hey, it’s only 1 game out of 82 (at least they get in a whole season this year). Can they come back? Sure. Although I am truly an admirer of the Princeton offense, Los Angeles is not the time nor the place to run it. Except for maybe Cal Tech.
Mike Brown comes off as a pretty cool customer and is certainly an intelligent man but he ought to consider this one stat. Last night was the only game in Steve Nash’s career in which he scored less than ten points and had fewer than five assists when playing at least 20 minutes. There are many learned people who will tell you that stubbornness is an admirable quality. Mike Brown seems to come off that way. He would be wise to keep in mind Alexander Herzen’s thought on being stubborn, considering how many coaches’ careers have ended because of it:
“There is nothing in the world more stubborn than a corpse: you can hit it, you can knock it to pieces, but you cannot convince it.”