HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West made the initial suggestion. Lakers coach Phil Jackson agreed, albeit through a somewhat sarcastic smile.
But the point is one worthy of debate, especially when the Logo and the Zen Master are in agreement on something of this magnitude.
Are the Lakers too old to play defense, and thus too old to dominate in the fashion they have become accustomed to in recent years? West and Jackson suggested that the Lakers are too “long in the tooth” to play defense the way they are used to. That second part, the domination aspect of the equation, was a little deductive reasoning on our part.
But it all works in concert.
If the Lakers don’t have the energy and bounce to overwhelm the opposition with stifling defense, how could they be expected to dominate teams the way the have during their current four-year run as the class of the Western Conference and the league (for the past two seasons)?
We’ll ignore the fact that the Lakers’ defensive metrics this season actually refute the point West made and Jackson supported, mainly because they are 100 percent correct about one thing, the Lakers are getting old. As Broderick “BT” Turner of the LA Times points out, the Lakers don’t have to worry about being carded at the club anytime soon:
The Lakers do have 10 players on their roster who are 30 or older.
Again, Jackson was asked whether in fact his team’s age plays a part in this.
“There’s some,” he said. “There’s something about just speed, just outright speed. We’re not the fastest team on the board here in the NBA. But we do it if we control things the right way.”
Interestingly enough, the Lakers actually rank as one of the better defensive teams in the NBA. They allow 96.4 points per game, 10th best in the league.
They allow opponents to shoot 43.8% from the field, tied for third best in the NBA, and 33.9% from three-point range, fifth in the league.
They are fourth in point differential, at plus-7.04.
In the last 10 games, the Lakers have allowed 93.3 points per game, fifth best in the league, and allowed opponents to make 43.8% of their field goals, fourth best. Their point differential during that span is plus-10.3.
The Lakers are 8-2 in their last 10 games, a full recovery from the drama of that late December mini-tailspin that sent their critics and tepid supporters to Twitter and the blogs complaining of the team’s lack of focus.
We’ve held strong to our belief that the Lakers have the team to beat in the Western Conference come playoff time, even with the way the San Antonio Spurs have set the pace during the regular season. Now that Andrew Bynum is back and appears to be rounding into form, the Lakers have the pieces that no other team in the West will be able to match in a best-of-seven series.
Is it worth putting to a vote? We think so.