Posts Tagged ‘Darius Morris’

Tough Circumstances, But 76ers Push On

VIDEO: The GameTime crew discusses Evan Turner and the Sixers

DALLAS — This might be the worst season to be a Philadelphia 76er. One day, it might be looked upon by these players as the most meaningful of their careers.

Before it even started, they were blown off as losers, expected to pile up losses at potentially an historic rate. It is a roster in the early stages of long-term construction, patched together with veterans Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young, exciting No. 11 pick Michael Carter-Williams (and injured No. 6 pick Nerlens Noel) and undrafted rookies and grunts added from the end of other teams’ benches.

First-year coach Brett Brown‘s starting lineup in Monday’s 97-94 loss at Dallas, a hard-fought game lost during a faulty stretch late in the third quarter and into the fourth, did not include Carter-Williams (foot) for a fourth consecutive game. It did include Grizzlies’ castoff Tony Wroten going for 19 points with five steals, and James Anderson, the former Oklahoma State swingman who has swung in and out of San Antonio, Houston and the D-League, scoring 14 points with seven rebounds in 42 minutes.

Hollis Thompson, Lavoy Allen, Darius Morris and Brandon Davies combined to play 58 minutes off the bench. Ultimately the kind of mistakes — an unforced turnover, a rushed possession, a lost rebound — that doom young teams sabotaged their hard work and the Sixers lost a third consecutive game and fell to 5-7. But the fight was there.

“I kind of think it starts from the top and [Brown’s] attitude is pretty infectious in that regard,” Hawes said. “Coach has done a great job since Day 1 of being realistic and really letting us play and letting us all continue to improve. We all still have a lot to learn from what he’s bringing to the table and a lot to improve on, and I think when you look at it through that lens it keeps you motivated.”

Brown, his unmistakable New England accent ever-apparent despite more than a decade working in San Antonio under Gregg Popovich, pedals passion, genuine hard work, accountability and camaraderie.

“At the end of the day, we’re a hard-working team,” Young said. “So that should tell you a lot right there.”

Ask the Heat, Bulls and Rockets. Philly’s beaten all three. Ask the underachieving Nets and Knicks. Both are looking up at the Atlantic Division-leading Sixers.

Young, who once called Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday teammates, said this team’s daily goal is straightforward.

“To get better as a team, to help the growth of the young guys and to go out there and build something that in the future we can go out there and be ready to win basketball games or playoff series,” Young said. “That’s the biggest thing right now is the growth and development of what we’re trying to do here.”

Which, of course, begs the question: Why? On most nights the squad is severely undermanned. The veterans — Young, Evans and Hawes — could eventually be traded and each could be resentful of the franchise’s direction.

“All of us in this room, we plan to win games and we plan to keep on trying to win basketball games,” Young said. “I’m here, I’m ready to work, so are the rest of the guys. That’s the main focus. We’re just thinking about winning basketball games.”

The day after the Sixers’ worst loss of the season, a 37-point whipping Saturday at New Orleans, Brown, as is his custom, led a brutally candid film session, then transferred the discussion from the screen to the practice floor.

“I feel that by keeping it candid and by putting it all in perspective that we can inch along and continue to improve as a team, and keep our guys improving, either as a group or individually,” Brown said. “I hope that that’s the formula to keep all of us together over a long year [that] at times is going to be one where we experience some losses. We just have to go head-down and stay focused on continuing to try to get better.”

After returning to the hotel a worn-out unit, Brown called a team dinner.

“I like seeing our guys interact together, and the group is good. The group stays together,” Brown said. “The veterans have been doing what veterans should do in relation to keeping the young guys on track; the young guys are pliable, they listen, they want to get better. I’m proud of the camaraderie and the chemistry we’ve shown to date, albeit an early period of time, even when we’ve taken hits.”

The next night against Dallas, unbeaten at home, the Sixers jumped out to an 8-0 lead, played tough defense, but couldn’t contain Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Shawn Marion long enough to get to the finish line. Still, in a season where wins won’t always go in the win column, and hard truths will be gashed wide open, Brown could honestly say he got the positive response he hoped for in the aftermath of the New Orleans blowout.

“The truth — in relation to ‘this is your rotation’ or ‘this is a problem that we have as a team’ — has to be our compass,” Brown said. “Anything short of that, I’m doing them a disservice. This group wants to be coached, it has to be coached. When it starts getting to the stage where people feel uncomfortable accepting that type of educating process — it’s not a personal thing — then we may have some problems or maybe this isn’t the program for them.

“And that’s the mission we’re all on, to keep this thing real, to keep it tight, to keep it candid, to be positive, to be down when people need to be told the truth, and life moves on.

“And that’s the only way I know how to do it, and I hope it’s the right way.”

Lakers Near The End As Spurs Get Started


LOS ANGELES — It’s still difficult to process the devastation, that these are the Los Angeles Lakers. The 16-time champs. The team that coulda-woulda won 70 this season, yet suffered a third consecutive playoff loss and their worst one ever at home Friday, 120-89, to the San Antonio Spurs.

The classic gold uniforms emblazoned with purple down the sides and LAKERS racing across the front looked the same as playoffs past. But who were those guys wearing them? Even Jack had to raise his shades.

Guys named Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris and Chris Duhon and Earl Clark were forced to play minutes better suited for a Vegas Summer League game. Meanwhile, $34.2 million of Laker payroll — or the club’s top four guards, including a cat named Kobe Bryant — watched from the bench, injured and dejected.

Actually, Black Mamba never even made it courtside. He probably knew what was ahead and knew he couldn’t stomach it, knew he couldn’t contain himself out in the open in front of restless fans, his fans, and grinding his teeth into talcum powder right there on the floor he’s so accustomed to dominating this time of year. Hidden from view, Bryant probably sent himself a thousand tweets.

After the game, being whirred away in a golf cart and wearing a gold Lakers t-shirt and a protective boot rising halfway up his left leg, Kobe was asked if it was hard to watch. “Of course,” he said, turning his palms up as if to say #WTH.

The game was uglier than even expected and the final result fit the description Mike D’Antoni used before the game for his state of mind considering the injuries and the crew he had left for a must-win Game 3: “As a coach you sleep like a baby and every 15 minutes you wake up crying.”

Then asked if his newly-christened backcourt of newbies Goudelock and Morris might actually improve the team’s perimeter defense from that of Steve Nash and Steve Blake, D’Antoni first laughed out loud, then said, “Uh, no.” He kept laughing.

Earlier in the day, the coach and his players tried to paint a scenario of success, talking of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol taking care of the paint and the NBA D-League MVP Goudelock, thrilled for his first NBA start, he said, so his parents back home in Atlanta could watch him on TV, would go off as if Friday night was just another D-League Showcase. At least the kid came strong, and at least the Lakers didn’t allow their first 18-point deficit in the second quarter to wipe them out without a fight. The second one in the third quarter did, and then came the cheap “We Want Phil” chants, first short-lived and then more robust during the Spurs’ runaway fourth.

And with that, this stink-o, injury-ravaged Lakers season is finally in the spin cycle and ready to drain.

The San Antonio Spurs, with five players scoring in double figures and 13 in all scoring, seek to wrap up this fraudulent first-round series Sunday back at Staples. If accomplished it would be the second broom taken to the proud Lakers in three seasons. The unceremonious end will officially begin the unceremonious “Where’s Dwight Going?” reality show. Get your popcorn.

Of course, there’s still basketball to be played in L.A. as soon as Tuesday night when the toast-of-the-town Clippers and the once-upon-a-time-Lakers-bound Chris Paul return home for Game 5 against the Grizzlies. The Spurs, assuming they do close this sack of a series on Sunday, will go home to begin an extended rest awaiting the high-speed winner between Denver and Golden State, two clubs themselves that aren’t whole.

The Warriors’ David Lee (torn hip flexor) and Denver’s Danilo Gallinari (torn ACL), two high-scoring, highly productive forwards instrumental to their teams’ success, are each out for the duration. Oklahoma City now feels their pain. Point guard Russell Westbrook will have surgery, the team announced Friday, to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee.

The Thunder and the Spurs, last season’s Western Conference foes, figured to be so again. OKC’s side of the bracket with the Clippers and Grizzlies has sprung wide open. And suddenly it’s the Spurs who look primed to make a real run at a fifth championship in the Gregg Popovich-Tim Duncan era, a number that would tie the 37-year-old wonder in rings with Kobe.

“We’re good. Health is good,” Popovich said prior to Game 3. “The last few weeks haven’t been great health-wise, but we’ve slowly gotten better and better. Considering how many people have problems around the league, and the Lakers having theirs, we’re feeling pretty fortunate in that regard.”

Only a few weeks ago, the Spurs were the walking wounded and now have their Big Three healthy and with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker returning to All-Star form.

Of course health this time of year is fleeting and that fact came crashing home as starting center Tiago Splitter, having his best season in the NBA, hopped off the floor with his left foot dangling in mid-air and left the arena on crutches.

X-rays were negative, but chances are slim that he can play Sunday. It will leave the Spurs a little light in the middle for one last stand from Dwight and Pau, one, if not both of whom might be playing their final game in Laker purple-and-gold.

–Series Hub: Spurs vs. Lakers

Lakers Need Goudelock To Back Up Talk


EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — As two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash walked away from Friday morning’s shootaround sharing very little confidence of being able to play in tonight’s Game 3 against the San Antonio Spurs, newly crowned D-League MVP Andrew Goudelock strode in high-stepping over his own swagger.

Goudelock said the plan is for him to start tonight at point guard if Nash is unable to go. Nash said he’s feeling better, but is a “long way from being NBA-ready.” With Steve Blake out indefinitely, Jodie Meeks doubtful and Kobe Bryant on crutches, L.A. will likely be without its top four guards. Goudelock and Darius Morris would run the backcourt.

That means the 6-foot-3 Goudelock will draw San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker on the defensive end. How does Goudelocke, with 425 minutes of NBA action under his belt, plan to do that?

“Just stay in front of him,” Goudelock said, matter-of-factly. “He’s a really quick guy, don’t let him get anything in transition, stay up on the pick-and-rolls. He’s got to guard me too, so I’m not really worried about Tony Parker.”

Goudelock averaged 21.4 ppg in the D-League and he has 175 total points in 41 career NBA games, or the amount Parker has scored in his last games — and that was playing through nagging injuries.

“I’ve always been a scorer, put the ball in the basket,” Goudelock said. “I lost a lot of weight so I’m a lot quicker. I just bring a lot of energy. Those guys don’t really know me, so I can bring something unexpected. With my scoring ability I think I can help a lot.”

The Lakers could certainly use it. They’ve scored 79 and 91 points and shot 43.2 percent in falling in a 2-0 hole

As the point guard, Goudelock said he can pass the ball, too, and find Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol for looks inside. He had never played the point until this season, but he says he’s a greatly improved passer. The Lakers players, although they haven’t seen much of him this season, expressed confidence in Goudelock’s game.

Kobe had already nicknamed him “Mini Mamba” for his scoring ability and attack mentality.

“People have to always honor my scoring, so it makes it easier to pass the ball because I get so much attention because they know that I can score and they probably don’t think I’m gonna pass it,” Goudelock said. “I’ve seen scouting reports from other teams that will be like ‘he’s not going to pass it.’ So it makes it that much easier for me to get 10 or 11 assists in the D-League because I’m getting double-teamed, getting so much attention, they know I can score, so it makes it easier for a guy like me, whether if I wasn’t a scorer as much it might be a little bit tougher because guys might be able to sag off me or do some other things.

“But being able to score and add that scoring punch takes a lot of load off my shoulders.”

That will be Parker’s problem, apparently. But one thing Goudelock will have to watch when he’s guarding the shifty Parker is the ticky-tack-type foul that he picked up during his brief appearance in Game 2.

“It’s going to happen. I’m a young guy, they don’t know me, they’re going to call that,” Goudelock said. “I’m ready for it. I’m ready for all of this. It doesn’t matter. I’ve been doing this since I was about 5 years old. It’s no different from if it’s Tony Parker or a guy in the D-League. They’re going to have to guard me, I’m going to have to guard them, it’s all basketball.”

Goudelock certainly talks the talk. The Lakers now need him to walk the walk.

L.A. Pressure Falls On Howard, Gasol


EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Dwight Howard believes.

No Kobe Bryant. No Steve Blake. Almost assuredly no Jodie Meeks. And most likely no Steve Nash.

No matter. Howard says he still believes.

“We have total confidence that we can come back and win this series, and we believe in each other,” Howard said following Friday’s workout when the Los Angeles Lakers learned of their worsening injury woes. “We worked too hard to get in the playoffs. We had to fight to get in and we’re not going to give up just because we’re down and have a lot of guys that are injured.”

The Lakers’ rickety season is once again on the brink Friday night as their first-round playoff series with the San Antonio Spurs moves to the Staples Center. With the Spurs up 2-0, it’s do-or-die for a limping Lakers team that could be forced to start a backcourt of two third-team, 2011 second-round draft picks in Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock.

While Nash told reporters Thursday that his fingers are crossed that two epidural shots to his back will work in time to allow him to play in Game 3 (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), Howard was working overtime with assistant coach Chuck Person with a helping hand from general manager Mitch Kupchak, a pretty good post player in his day with the Showtime Lakers.

It’ll be curtains for these slow-time Lakers unless the 6-foot-11, 265-pound Howard, once upon a time referred to as Superman, and his 7-foot frontcourt mate Pau Gasol, can assert their will on the Spurs and lift their less well-known teammates back into the series.

“Again, it is what it is,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said of the bleak injury situation. “It’s not what anybody wishes for, but at the same time we need to dominate inside and that’s Pau and Dwight. So it’s a big load for Pau and Dwight. At the same time, that’s how we’re going to have to do it.”

Howard, praised for his dominant play in the final two games of the regular season after Kobe went down to get the Lakers in the playoffs, has taken critical shots for not getting it done in the opening two games in San Antonio. He’s averaged 18.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg and five fouls per game.

Everybody wants to see Howard rise to the occasion, to be a force that takes games away from the opponent. He took criticism for not being that dominant force in Game 2, scoring 16 points — same as Blake as well as the Spurs’ Kahwi Leonard and Tim Duncan — with nine rebounds, four blocks and five fouls when the Lakers had chances to keep the game close.

For Gasol, just 5-for-14 from the floor in Game 2, these could be his final games as a Laker. Well into the luxury tax next season, the organization will have to decide what to do with the player who is due $19.3 million next season and was all but traded to New Orleans last offseason before the blockbuster deal for Chris Paul was vetoed by commissioner David Stern.

Of course, Howard’s future is just as unsettled, although his future is at least in his own hands. The Lakers are desperate to sign him to a max deal this summer and make him the cornerstone of the franchise upon Bryant’s eventual retirement.

For now, it’s all about Game 3 and if Howard, reduced to 14th in this season’s voting for Defensive Player of the Year, and Gasol can play like the superstars their salaries say they are, and get L.A. a win.

“We just got to play,” Howard said. “We can’t control anybody’s injuries. We can’t control nothing but how hard we go out there and play. Me and Pau are going to do the best we can for this team.”

Limping Nash Tells Lakers’ Youngsters To ‘Let It Rip’


EL SEGUNDO, Calif. —
 With the number of walking wounded around here it was half surprising that the Lakers’ training facility hadn’t been painted green with a giant red cross on the entry doors.

Or that Corporal Klinger wasn’t running Thursday’s light practice for the few Lakers left standing.

Of course Klinger, the old M*A*S*H* character, might still have more name recognition in this town than the two players that very well could make up L.A.’s starting backcourt Friday night in virtual must-win Game 3 against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center.

Get ready for Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock.

“Well, yeah,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said, accompanied by a hearty chuckle, when asked if those two 2011 second-round picks will likely be thrust into heavy minutes. “And [Chris] Duhon. Go look at the rest we’ve got there.”

It ain’t much. The Lakers received  more depressing news on Thursday that will make the task of clawing out of a 2-0 hole excruciatingly difficult. Guard Steve Blake, who has played so well since Kobe Bryant went down with an Achilles tear two games before the end of the regular season, got the results of his ultrasound back and he’s out indefinitely with a moderate strain of his right hamstring.

Point guard Steve Nash had two epidural injections in his back Thursday and his chances of playing Friday night have come to this: “I have fingers crossed.”

And not to be forgotten is shooting guard Jodie Meeks. The Lakers’ best long-distance scoring threat is likely out, too, with a sprained ankle. D’Antoni, in fact, considers Meeks to be more doubtful than Nash, who said Thursday that he’s still in quite a bit of discomfort from both tweaking his hip-hamstring injury in the final seconds of the first half of Game 2 as well as “from getting a bunch of darts stuck in me” on Thursday.

He characterized his state of concern for not being ready to play Friday as “very concerned.”

“It’s really frustrating, very, very frustrating, especially because I was at the point where I was actually excited with the way I felt to start the last two games,” Nash said. “Even though I couldn’t sprint completely and I wasn’t moving as well as I’d like, I could still be effective and find a way to help the team and impact the game. And obviously, to tweak it before the half and for it to deteriorate set me back. So it’s another set of highs and lows.”

Metta World Peace, having coming back from knee surgery in record time, amazingly, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol — no strangers to pain this season — are the healthiest key cogs that the Lakers have got.

D’Antoni said his big men will have to get the job done in the post, but that means that Goudelock, named the D-League’s MVP on Thursday, and Morris, who at least started 17 games filling in for the two injured Steves early in the season, will have to get them ball.

Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs’ sensational guards that are just now feeling healthy themselves, and the rest of the Spurs will try to make sure they can’t and put a stranglehold on the series.

After Game 2, D’Antoni sought refuge in that old NBA playoff adage that a series doesn’t really begin until the road team wins. Well, if the Spurs win Game 3, it will all but end this series.

Nash, ever the optimist and always equipped with an encouraging word, had such a message for Goudelock and Morris, who’d be wise to listen to the limping two-time MVP as they approach the toughest spot of their young careers.

“I don’t think those guys should approach it as a tough spot,” Nash said. “I think they should approach it like they’ve got nothing to lose and they should go out there and let it rip. If they have a tough night, what would you expect in their first NBA start out of nowhere? So they should play free and loose and use their youth and energy and the skills that they possess to go out and have fun with it and take a free cut.”

Two More Weeks, At Least, For Nash

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Raise your hand if you thought you’d see Ricky Rubio and Derrick Rose on the practice court before Steve Nash returned from the broken left fibula he suffered Nov. 1.

No hands?

Didn’t think so.

There is an explanation for why two guys who suffered ACL injuries last season could be back in the mix at practice for their respective teams — the Wolves for Rubio and the Bulls for Rose — before the Los Angeles Lakers get the trigger man for Mike D’Antoni‘s offense back in their mix.

Nash’s fibula has healed properly, according to a Yahoo! Sports report from our main man Marc J. Spears. But there’s a nerve irritation, something that flared up during the rehabilitation process, that is causing him problems and delaying his return to the Lakers’ lineup.

If Nash has pain every time he puts any pressure on his leg, that would explain him missing 19 of the Lakers’ first 21 games and a few more. It also explains why Nash, 38, will have other hurdles to clear before he gets back to playing the way we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing him play the past few seasons.

The end of the month even seems a bit optimistic for a return to 100 percent capacity, provided that’s a realistic goal at all for a player his age who misses such a huge chunk of the season.

D’Antoni has spoken glowingly of his star point guard, playfully suggesting at one point that Nash will be able to solve many of the Lakers’ most glaring issues in 90 minutes or less. That’s either supreme confidence or plain foolish pride seeping out of the coach of a team that stands 9-12 heading into tonight’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Nash’s seems to be focused first and foremost on getting himself healthy and in shape before moving onto the larger problems of helping heal these Lakers, as he made clear to David Leon Moore of USA Today:

“I think it will be at least another two weeks,” Nash said. “I can move. I can shoot. I just can’t run full speed. And I’m not even in shape. I’ll probably need at least a week of practice once I start running.”

“I hope I can make a difference,” Nash says. “I think the team is close to doing well on their own. It’s hard. It’s like a second training camp. The guys haven’t had a lot of time to practice under Mike.

“We really haven’t had a chance to play together in a new system, and we’re trying to fight through that.”

Nash says when he watches the team, what he thinks is missing most is “just time together. It’s been a really difficult truncated season.”

With the losses mounting – four in the past five games, including the two most recent home games (against Orlando and Utah) – will there be enough time to turn things around when Nash returns?

“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Nash says. “I think anything is possible with this team. If we stick together and work hard, I think the sky’s the limit. But we’ve got a tall task ahead of us.”

Anything is possible with this team. They’ve already done the unthinkable by playing sub-.500 basketball thus far. Keep this up for another two weeks and they’ll have finished the first third of the season upside down, something no one expected from a team picked by many to be the class of the Western Conference and even the league when Nash and Dwight Howard were added to the superstar mix of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

But that was months, two coaches and two other point guards (Steve Blake, who is out for six to eight weeks after surgery to repair an abdominal injury, veteran Chris Duhon and youngster Darius Morris, who are doing their best to hold things down in the meantime) ago.

The Lakers have at least two weeks to see if they can’t fix some of their busted pipes without Nash.

Where they go from there is anyone’s guess …

Lakers’ Morris Trying to Capitalize On Unexpected Opportunity

The latest is that Steve Nash will be re-evaluated Monday, that coach Mike D’Antoni said Friday it is “possible” Nash and Steve Blake could play as soon as Tuesday, that Nash pretty much dismissed the idea, and that Darius Morris is somewhere in the middle of the uncertainties of health and calendar.

The strange, conflicted update could only be considered typical for Morris and his very unpredictable season. From being a third-stringer whose best hope was to push into the rotation to backup Blake when Nash fractured his left leg to surprise starter barely into his second season when Blake strained an abdominal muscle.

“It really did happen so fast,” Morris said.

A little less than a month ago, he was sitting on the bench in Portland’s Rose Garden just before the season opener, and telling another guard, Chris Duhon, the Lakers looked really stacked with backcourt depth and, Morris recalls, “I wonder if everybody will get an opportunity this year.” Fast forward. Nash has missed 10 games, Blake five, and Morris has received two emergency promotions to instantly go from interested observer most nights to important part of a team trying to find its footing and re-establish itself as a championship threat.

“That’s where you have to be strong,” Morris said. “You do have so many great options around you. But it’s your job as a point guard to go where you feel is best and what you see the defense is giving you. It does get a little tough at times because everybody wants the ball at once, but that’s where you’ve just got to try to stay strong.”

It helps to have Kobe Bryant healthy, playing very well and able to take some of the ball-handling responsibilities. In five games as the starter, after coming off the bench five other times, Morris is averaging 6.6 points and 3.4 assists in 27.4 minutes while shooting 40.7 percent. Duhon is his backup.

“It’s huge, especially if you’re trying to guide four or five Hall of Famers out there and you’re the point guard,” D’Antoni said of the mental side of a player in Morris’ place needing to handle the expectations that surround the Lakers. “It’s not easy. I think he’s doing a great job. Down the road, this is going to benefit us, the Lakers, for sure, and him personally.”

Nash has been ruled out for tonight in Memphis and Saturday in Dallas. The next game is Tuesday back in Los Angeles against the Pacers, the night D’Antoni considers a possibility for the return of his preferred point-guard tandem, although as Nash told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles News Group on Friday, “I don’t think so. I can’t jog yet. We’ll see. Maybe.”

D’Antoni A Confidence Builder? Or Just More Fun To Play For?

What’s being portrayed and psychoanalyzed as a difference in coaching temperaments in Los Angeles these days might, in fact, relate to something much simpler.

All the talk comparing and contrasting new Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni with predecessor Mike Brown and with gold standard Phil Jackson might be off the mark, as far it relates to personalities and the ability to lead and inspire men. It might be as basic as D’Antoni being seen as the relief valve from the early-season disappointments under Brown – and thus, having more in common with Jackson’s happy times, even if the new guy hasn’t coached in The Finals or won anyone even one ring.

As for the warm embrace D’Antoni has gotten from the Lakers players, it might be even more simple than that: offense vs. defense.

Coaching, teaching and playing defense, let’s face it, has a negative orientation to it. It’s all about avoiding bad results, rather than actively creating good ones. There hasn’t been a shutout yet in the NBA but that remains an ideal for a lot of defensive-minded coaches, who can nitpick a botched close-out or a bad route around a screen even when the shots don’t drop.

Offense is different. Players love scoring and coaches who craft their reputations there can stroll into a dysfunctional situation (such as the Lakers) and be welcomed with open arms. By definition, they’re preaching fun vs. hard work and active, positive rewards every time the ball goes through the net.

From the inside, Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register focuses more on confidence and leader-of-men stuff:

Kobe Bryant put all three coaches in context recently by saying there is one broad commonality between D’Antoni and Jackson (and, by implication, not Brown):

Bryant said both D’Antoni and Jackson are skilled in their ways of “not micro-managing the team.”

Brown believed just as strongly in his basic defensive blueprint as D’Antoni does in his offensive one, but Brown’s overall confidence in what he knew just didn’t translate into trust in him from his players. D’Antoni might sound like a slick salesman at times, but you know that he totally believes in his product.

It’s just the latest demonstration of how the most important thing about coaching a professional sports team is being able to inspire.

The Lakers, even before [Steve] Nash unveils his magic act, believe in what D’Antoni believes. Carmelo Anthony aside, it’s the way it has always been for D’Antoni and all the past players he has empowered.

That is because he empowers by trusting. There is nothing freer than a basketball bird with a license to shoot and unafraid of getting benched for a mistake — two of D’Antoni’s core principles.

We already see it just in the way Metta World Peace is more certain of himself, Pau Gasol is more decisive than in years, Jodie Meeks is more comfortable in his own skin and [Darius] Morris is more youthful-energy infusion than Devin Ebanks ever was despite all that playing time Brown gave him.

From the outside, though, this might be as simple as being freed up from Mom or Dad and their incessant demands to eat vegetables. It’s always more fun to have a sleepover at Uncle Mike’s, where the fridge is stocked with ice cream and pop and no one says a word about bedtime.

Lakers Say No Rush On Nash, Team’s Depth Will Be Tested In His Absence

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — A small fracture to his left leg will force us to admire more of Steve Nash‘s colorful wardrobe than is necessary. But with the Los Angeles Lakers announcing that there will be no rush on Nash’s return (which makes their timetable of him missing for a week seem a bit sketchy), we’ll spend the next few games familiarizing ourselves with Steve Blake and Darius Morris.

With those two backups playing the bulk of the minutes at point guard, the Lakers’ already questionable depth will be tested ever more. For a team that doesn’t need any more hurdles to clear to start the season, this might be the one that gives us the best gauge of their championship timber.

Surviving the preseason with both Dwight Howard (recovering from back surgery) and Kobe Bryant (nursing a sore foot) at less than full strength is one thing. But an extended period without Nash in the lineup at all … that’s the one injury hiccup the Lakers weren’t exactly prepared for.

Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times told us yesterday on The Beat on NBA TV that Nash could very well be out for a month. A MONTH!

“You obviously hope he’s back as soon as possible,” Lakers coach Mike Brown told reporters Sunday before the Lakers trounced the Detroit Pistons Sunday. “But the one thing you don’t want to do, you don’t want to compromise his long-term health for him coming back quicker than he should. So, (trainer) Gary Vitti and the staff are on top of it. We’ll just wait and play it out from there.”

We knew it would take them a while to get it together. But spending the next four weeks without Nash in the mix as they try and perfect their Princeton offense (and doing so seemingly against the wishes of anyone that knows anything about the Lakers’ personnel) is a challenge they didn’t need.


Keeping Up With The Clippers Only Worsens Lakers’ Woes

Folks in sunny southern California tend to notice when the neighbors get a snazzy new ride. Or some husband-and-wife domestic help. Or a 5-karat anything.

Bentley and Tiffany salesmen plan their kids’ college educations on it. Not just a pervasive mindset of conspicuous consumption but an avid, keeping-up-with-the-Beverly-Hills-Clampetts zeal for stuff.

But keeping up with the Clippers? This could really start to mess with minds at and around Staples Center.

If fans of the Los Angeles Lakers could, in a vacuum, resist the urge to panic over their team’s 0-3 start, fending that off when the other team in the building is unbeaten might be too much to expect. Last season, the Lakers eked out the Pacific Division crown by one game, their 41-25 just atop the Clippers’ 40-26 finish.

Finishing in front of the Clippers has been a virtual birthright – it hasn’t gone the other way since 2005-06 – but here we are with a 2012-13 schedule that’s only five days old and the “other” L.A. team is 2.5 games ahead in the standings. (more…)