Game On: Hornets @ Lakers
The Hornets took on the Lakers two weeks ago and lost in overtime. For this game, we’ve turned to Andy Kamentzky of ESPN’s Land O’ Lakers Blog to answer three burning questions about the Sessions Trade at the deadline, Kobe, and the last game.
1. What has been the biggest change on the court for the Lakers since the Ramon Sessions trade?
His arrival added dimensions otherwise completely missing. The Lakers are a faster team. They have a point guard who can attack the rim and collapse defenses. They have a perimeter player not named “Kobe” or “Bryant” who can break down a defense or create a shot for himself. With the ball in his hands enough, Sessions is capable of making good decisions and easy looks for teammates. It’s no coincidence the Lakers haven’t scored less than 96 points since acquiring him.
Having said that, Sessions’ integration remains a work in progress. In particular, he and Kobe still haven’t established a consistent rhythm. When one sees the ball, the other tends not to be involved, and lately, the balance has tilted towards Sessions spectating. It’s understandable to some degree, as the adjustments required from both are pretty dramatic. But it’s nonetheless critical they develop chemistry heading into the playoffs, and every possession counts towards that goal. It must be prioritized, and the clock is ticking.
2. Is it still Kobe-time in the final minutes of close games or has Mike Brown demanded that Kobe listen to TrueHoop Godfather Henry Abbott and focus on team ball instead?
On the whole, it’s a Mamba-centric look.There are exceptions to that rule. Bynum sometimes is a featured component, and Sessions controlled the late-offense against the Blazers. (Pau Gasol, on the other hand, goes inexplicably underutilized.) But we still see a lot of iso-Kobe, which reflects a lack of creativity, considering this team’s scoring options. It’s also not terribly effective. Kobe’s shooting has been erratic all season, and in the fourth quarter, sometimes downright brutal. That’s not to say Bryant never comes through. Against the Warriors last Tuesday, he was 3-11 in the second half before canning two critical buckets to secure the win. But playing the percentages, opposing coaches would much rather see Kobe operate as a solo artist. Whenever he looks to take over as a pure scorer, he’s doing defenses a huge favor.
3. The last time these two teams met, the Lakers trailed practically the entire game and needed overtime to beat the Hornets. Do the Lakers have a tough time getting up for bad teams, or are they just not good enough to run away from teams?
The Lakers play down to the level of their competition. And as was the case in last Sunday’s loss to the Grizzlies at Staples, the Lakers occasionally don’t get up for high-end opponents, either. All season long, the Lakers have battled focus issues. They allow bad teams to hang around and make games unnecessarily interesting, particularly at home. Unless they truly hate an opponent, staying dialed in is a struggle.
Ironically, the game you cited is an occasion where a free pass could be offered. The Lakers were playing directly after a double overtime win in Memphis, and fatigue was understandably a factor against the Hornets. Were there an eventual decision to concede the game for the sake of preserving gas in the tank — Mike Brown did coach under Pop, after all — I wouldn’t have been surprised nor even upset. To see the Lakers insist on clawing their way towards victory was actually quite impressive. But that type of resolve isn’t a given with this team.
Enjoy the game everyone. Oh, and why did everyone consent to Kobe Bryant stealing the nickname “Black Mamba” from Kill Bill?