It’s pretty depressing to be a Lakers and Lin fan at the moment. Two games in and things look very ugly. Nothing is working and the lists of concerns go on and on. Among my many concerns, here are just a few big ones for me.
My main concern is whether or not BS (“Byron Scott”) will incorporate PnRs for Lin. That’s the MOST important thing for me. Because without PnRs, Lin is less effective. I wonder if Lin is being very vocal about the fact that he needs PnRs and screens from his teammates. Part of me is not sure, because I think PnRs reminds Lin of “Linsanity” and part of me feels like he’s trying to get away from playing too much PnRs, because it reminds him too much of “Linsanity”. Just a crazy hunch. In my Open Letter to Lin, I told Lin he needs to embrace “Linsanity”, rather than keep trying to distance himself from it:
“I don’t think you’ve come to terms with the impact that Linsanity has had on you, yet, and there’s a big part of you now that wants to leave that all behind, as if it’s something that happened to someone else. And I don’t think that’s healthy. You need to own Linsanity! Because of your humility, I don’t think you’ve fully embraced Linsanity, even telling your friends not to say “Linsanity” around you. Linsanity could be seen as a punchline, but what Linsanity really is is your Consciousness (with a capital “C”) or your real self. That’s why you’ve said in interviews that it felt like an out-of-body experience (especially that spin around Derek Fisher). You see Linsanity as a gift from God, so don’t be embarrassed by it!”
I get why he would try to distance himself from it, because he doesn’t always want to be known for ONLY Linsanity by the media and wants to move forward. I think THAT is healthy. But I hope this doesn’t mean he forgets how he played during those magical weeks–especially after being suffocated for two years by a coach who, we find out from his most recent remarks on Lin after the season opener between Lakers and Rockets, is actually a Lin Hater.
Kobe, in a recent article by Kevin Ding, told Lin to stop walking on eggshells around him. He is quoted as saying the following: “Go run the offense—aggressively. This is your job. You run the show. You’re good at it. You don’t have to look over your shoulder anymore like with other teams. Grab the bull by the horns. Enough with your talk about fitting in or facilitating for me. Play like you played when you were in high school.”
I was very heartened to hear Kobe say this for several reasons. For one, Kobe is basically calling out Melo, Harden, McHale, etc. when he says that Lin doesn’t have to look over his shoulder anymore like he had to with his other teams. This shows that Kobe understands what Lin has gone through with other teams Lin has been on and, hopefully, is trying to make it so that Kobe, himself, isn’t like Lin’s previous teammates. The comment about playing like he played when you were in high school is also interesting. I think Kobe just means to play and have fun and not take it too seriously and not be up in your head too much. But it could also mean that Kobe probably watched “Linsanity” the movie and is telling Lin to be a leader like he was for his team back in high school. It’s probably more about the general idea of playing with the joy that you had when you were a kid.
I’m hoping that after this conversation, it will really motivate Lin to be very vocal about what he needs to be successful. I know a lot of Lin fans are not happy with the way Kobe has played. As for me, I’m not ready to crucify Kobe, yet. Remember, I was the one who was very pessimistic about Lin joining the Lakers, initially. So I understand all the concerns some Lin fans are expressing about Kobe’s ball hogging in the last couple of games. But to me, it’s too early to tell. I think THIS Kobe knows he needs help in order to win. So he’s much more willing to share the ball and share leadership rolls if it means winning games. I think his ball hogging in these couple of games has more to do with the fact that Kobe feels like he HAS to ball hog to win, since it doesn’t seem like anyone else is stepping up. So I think if Lin steps up, Kobe will allow Lin to share the leadership roll with him.
The one concern I have is that Kobe rarely passes to Lin. And I’m not sure if that will change, because when Kobe has the ball, he’s more concerned about scoring or play making. And he doesn’t consider passing the ball to Lin at the perimeter to be play making. He’s usually looking to either score or pass it to a big man inside. So THAT’S another reason why you don’t see Kobe passing the ball to Lin and I don’t think this is going to change. It’s not really about Kobe being selfish. It’s about Kobe feeling like he’s there to either score or make plays and he feels like Lin can make plays on Lin’s own and doesn’t need Kobe to make plays for Lin. So that’s more of the reason why we probably won’t see Kobe passing to Lin much at all. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t like Lin or anything. I think this is a mistake by Kobe, as well as the entire Lakers team. They’re not a team that naturally moves the ball. It’s usually just one pass and then a mid-range jumper. They need to do more perimeter passing to move the ball from side to side. But this is probably another discussion, because I don’t really want to get into all the concerns I have, since that will be a very long list.
The other big issue for me as a Lin fan, is that Lin’s teammates don’t understand his game, at all, apart from Ed Davis. Lin’s a PnR guy and he’s an inside-out guy, but his teammates don’t get this–especially the inside-out part. I’m hoping Lin is very vocal about the type of player he is and where his teammates need to be when he’s driving into the lane, etc.Lin is someone who likes to drive in and kick the ball out for an open shooter (preferably for a 3-pointer). But his teammates just end up crowding the lane and aren’t moving to get open for Lin to kick the ball out. I don’t think they expect Lin to kick the ball out when Lin drives. They’re just expecting him to score. So they just follow him in to see if they can get a rebound and, as a consequence, the defense follows him and Lin finds himself driving into heavy traffic. This is something that Lin needs to really talk to the guys about, because this might not be something that Scott has picked up on. Lin’s teammates need to give him options when he drives into the late. This is what makes Lin so dangerous and this is how he makes his teammates better. But right now, his teammates don’t get this at all. Understanding this will increase their 3-point attempts, as well.
Lakers, in general, have no understanding of the inside-out game on both the defensive and offensive side of the floor. This is why they were so atrocious at defending the 3-ball and this is why they don’t take many three’s. Lin is often wide open at the three-point line, but no one kicks it out to him. And this is the danger of Scott’s de-emphasis of the three. And I’m not sure if fixing this will mean Scott tossing out his playbook (which might not be a bad thing). As I’ve written in the past, the Lakers need to just feast on Lin PnRs and Kobe post ups and just toss in one or two simple plays, until they get more acclimated to one another.
The last big concern I have is when or if Scott is going to realize that he needs to start Ed Davis. I realized this back on October 18th. How long is it going to take for Scott to bring Ed Davis into the starting lineup, along with Lin. During these two season openers, Davis and Lin have hardly been on the floor together and that’s just insane. Having Davis in the starting lineup is not only because of the obvious chemistry Lin and Davis have. It will also improve on spacing (as I discussed in a previous article) and it will also improve on transition defense, since Davis is way faster than Hill. Having Hill and Boozer on the starting lineup really slows the team down.
So, the list of concern is very long. But I think right now, it’s best to just take a deep breath. This Lakers team has had to deal with so many injuries and that has really affected team chemistry and their familiarity with the plays. So I think that’s a big part of their struggle. They just need time to figure things out and I’m hoping that Scott figures out a way to give Lin what Lin needs to succeed. I’m concerned that Scott is just going to alienate Lin, because he doesn’t feel that Lin is an important part of their team, due to Lin’s poor performances in the season openers. He may just continue to force Lin to fit into his offensive schemes, rather than change his schemes to better fit Lin’s talents. We’ll see.