Hang Time CEO Sekou Smith, during NBA TV’s midseason review that aired last week, took issue with my call to give the Lakers a C-minus for the first half of the season. That’s fine. I will defend his right to have an opinion. However wrong it may be.
The grade is fair, with the understanding that one person’s C-minus can be another person’s D-plus and another’s C. There is also the explanation that marks were given on the actual performance, not based on any preseason expectations. (What? The Bobcats, Hornets, Magic and Kings should have gotten Cs or even Bs because they are playing as well as most predicted?)
On expectations, the Lakers obviously get an F. They might get the biggest F in league history. Heck, make it a G.
But on play, putting them somewhere between below average and poor is accurate. Bad play, to be sure, not even average. But certainly not the total breakdown of a team-wide failure.
- The Lakers were sixth in the league in offensive rating through Jan. 22, the stop date for statistics on the grades for all 30 teams. They are far ahead of the curve, even with the starting point guard (Steve Nash) and the backup (Steve Blake) out for long stretches with injury. Even with Dwight Howard playing at less than 100 percent while dealing with injuries. Even with the change of gears in the coaching move from Mike Brown to Mike D’Antoni.
- Howard has not played at a Howard-esque level and he has brought out the Dwightmare memories, before apologizing and saying he would be all about the team. But he could finish in the top five in the league in rebounds, blocks and shooting while averaging 16 and 12. Any center not named Dwight Howard would be rolling toward first-team All-NBA by acclimation. This is about his past, in behavior and the high standards that turn good numbers into a letdown.
- Kobe Bryant is still a star. Nash has played well on offense in limited time. The backcourt raises the grade.
The bench has been bad and D’Antoni as coach has been a bad fit, and both got Ds. (My explanation under the Coaching category: “D’Antoni can coach. He just can’t coach this team with this up-tempo system. That’s on management – Jerry Buss, Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak – more than D’Antoni, who obviously wasn’t going to turn the job down. But the grade for a bad fit falls on D’Antoni.”) The defense has been bad and got a C-minus, saved by the fact that the Lakers are about average on defensive rebounding. If there was one place to hit them harder in retrospect, it would have been with a D on defense.