“McHaled” is a term coined by @drbrucehirsch on Twitter. I use it as a shorthand to describe a broad range of “ailments” so I hesitate to define it. I think it’s one of those terms that you basically get what it means if you’re a Jeremy Lin fan. In this particular context, I’m using it to mean that Kobe Bryant knows that Lin has developed a habit of deferring to others and being fearful of making mistakes.
Here’s an excerpt from an after practice interview of Kobe on November 6th, starting at the 1:57 minute mark:
Interviewer: You mentioned the other week that you wanted Lin to be aggressive and play his game. To make his stand. Have you seen improvement in that area?
Kobe: He’s getting there. As I said, these are habits that are tough to break. Because when you’re used to playing a certain way and looking over your shoulder all the time. It’s tough to get comfortable and say, “Okay. I don’t have to worry about that here.”
Kobe has said something similar to this a number of times in previous interviews, basically calling out Lin’s past teammates and coaches for not allowing Lin to play Lin’s game. I think it’s awesome that Kobe keeps doing this.
I wanted to highlight this one in particular, because Kobe used the term “habit”, which I thought was particularly perceptive and is something that I’ve pointed out about Lin in my previous posts. After being forced to play a certain way by Woodson and then to an even greater extent by McHale, you can’t help but develop a habit of playing that way. I think it’s awesome that Kobe recognizes this and I know it’s because Lin has been confiding in Kobe about all the shit he had to go through in Houston. Lin would never publicly call anyone out, but we all know how Lin really feels about his time in Houston, even though Lin would always try to spin it in a positive way as to not make anyone look bad. It’s just great to know that Kobe understands all of this, because that means that Kobe will be patient with Lin. I just hope that coach Scott also gets it. We’ll see.
The Lakers finally have had a lot of much needed practice time and I think they’re in a good place now. Scott said a lot of good things in his latest practice interview about how he wants guys to not defer to Kobe. So we’ll see how it all translates on the court–especially in the 4th quarter.
I think the time off has really allowed Lin to take a step back to deal with having been McHaled. He hasn’t really had any time off since the first game versus the Rockets to really do much about it. So that’s why I didn’t expect Lin to really turn things around in a big way–even after his excellent performance in the Clippers game. But I think now Lin is ready to play his game again. So I do expect Lin to play his game on Sunday when they face the Hornets and I do expect the Lakers to finally get their first win.
I’m sure Lin will still have games where he falls back to playing the way he did in Houston, but I expect that to be fewer and farther between. I think with all of the encouragement from Kobe, Lin is ready to get back to playing the way he knows how. The key now is for Lin to get screens and for Lin’s teammates to give the ball back to him. I think now if Lin isn’t able to play his game, it likely won’t be because of Lin being McHaled. It will be because Scott is not drawing up plays to make Lin effective or Lin’s teammates are still not willing to keep the ball moving, because they’re way too happy to settle for mid-range jumpers. So we’ll see.
My biggest concern about the Lakers offensively is that they are way too happy with settling for jumpers, since a lot of the guys on the team love shooting mid-range jumpers. And I don’t think it helps that Scott keeps telling guys to take the shot if they see it. So I think that’s why there are so many possessions where it’s just one pass followed by a mid-range jumper. I don’t see this changing, unless they make Lin the focus of their offense. And if this doesn’t change, the Lakers are going to continue to suffer offensively.
What Scott should tell his guys is to let the ball find the best shot. I think a big mistake that Kobe makes is that he’s always either trying to score or make big plays, because he thinks that’s what he needs to do as the best player on the team. Because of this, he puts up highly contested shots if he doesn’t see anyone he can pass the ball to that is in position to score. I sent a bunch of tweets to Kobe about this the other day. Kobe would help his team so much more if he would just get rid of the ball to any of his teammates in a lot of instances in which he’s double-teamed and then let his teammates find the one who’s in the best position to score. If Kobe makes a habit of doing this, and if Scott tells his players to let the ball find the best shot, then the Lakers would have excellent ball movement and their field goal percentage would increase significantly. To me, this is the key to their offense.
Other key things that I would incorporate if I was a coach is the give-and-go and the “give back”. The give-and-go is so rarely used in the NBA, but every time it is used, it leads to easy buckets. I have no idea why coaches don’t use this more. It’s so simple to run and surprises the defense every time, because defenders don’t expect the guy who passed the ball to get the ball back immediately. The broad term I’m using to describe this is the “give back”. In basketball, you rarely see a player pass the ball and then get it right back. In the Lakers’s case, players rarely touch the ball more than once per possession. And I think this is a huge mistake, because the defense can just key in on the guy with the ball. This is why the Lakers have been shooting so poorly.
The Lakers need to make a point of giving the ball back to Lin after he gives the ball up. I see so many situations where Lin is completely wide open or has wide-open driving lanes right after Lin passes the ball–especially when he passes the ball to Kobe. Lin is the guy who can really take full advantage of the “give back” play, because he has such a quick first step. There has only been one play I have seen so far when Lin gave the ball up to Kobe and Kobe got it right back to him. I discussed this play in a previous post. But I have no confidence that the Lakers have figured this out, unfortunately. If they did, then Lin would be deadly and the Lakers would win more games.