- Bradford Doolittle
It's complicated being a Laker these days, a statement that isn't often true when evaluating one of the most-storied franchises in NBA annals. The team's franchise player, Kobe Bryant, is on the shelf with a season-ending Achilles injury, and focusing his energies on a second career as a Twitter analyst. Metta World Peace is less than a month removed from knee surgery, and Steve Nash's battle with hamstring and hip issues has left him looking his age for the first time in his career.
Meanwhile, twin posts Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard are working together as well as they have since Howard joined the Lakers, but they still operate in a Mike D'Antoni offense that is not really designed for a pair of classic big men. At the moment, however -- after a Game 1 shellacking at the hands of a San Antonio Spurs team that appears to be rounding back into form -- D'Antoni is severely limited in terms of possible player combinations.
While Gasol and Howard are finally clicking, their strengths are to a certain extent neutralized by San Antonio's big-man duo of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Case in point: Gasol and Howard grabbed a combined 31 rebounds in the first game, but the Spurs missed 53 shots, and someone has to retrieve them. The story of the glass was told at the other end, where L.A.'s starting frontcourt combined for a single offensive rebound.
That's one thing that has to change for the Lakers, because the chances for D'Antoni to craft an efficient attack are limited without a true creator on the perimeter, especially with Nash ailing. Los Angeles ranked 13th in offensive rebounding percentage during the regular season -- which, while not great, isn't indicative of a philosophy of ignoring the offensive glass -- so crashing the boards shouldn't be out of character.
The problem is that San Antonio ranked as the league's third-best defensive rebounding team, so if the Lakers over-commit to the offensive glass, their returns may be limited. Also, with the Spurs able to collapse their defense in the paint in lieu of the Lakers' problems on the perimeter, San Antonio still will be in excellent block-out position, and L.A.'s lack of second-chance shots may become a running theme.
So what can D'Antoni do?
Bradford Doolittle takes an in-depth look at the Lakers' Game 1 playoff loss to the Spurs. He writes that coach Mike D'Antoni would be wise to spread out Pau Gasol's and Dwight Howard's playing time, and to play Metta World Peace as a stretch 4.