Lakers head coach Mike Brown (right) did not play small forward Matt Barnes much in the first few games of the season, but giving Barnes a chance over Devin Ebanks has a great move. Photo by Jeff Lewis
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
The Los Angeles Lakers started the season way off course. After blowing a double digit Christmas Day lead against the Chicago Bulls, and then losing by double digits at the Sacramento Kings the next night, the city was nearly in panic mode, but since then the Lakers have strung together some victories.
They hit a bump in the road in Denver in the second night of back-to-back games, and as usual, they lost at Portland, but other than that they have been winning more than losing. that will not make any Lakers fan drive down Crenshaw Blvd flying a Lakers flag, but they have worked themselves back into the mix.
But this team has not totally righted the ship.
Kobe Bryant’s wrist injury has been a major concern, but the pain has not hurt his game at all. Actually he has been playing better, as he scored over 30 points in three straight games a week ago while shooting 49 percent from the floor.
Bryant continued to light it up last night against the Phoenix Suns, when he scored 48 points (most in the league this season) on 18-of-31 shooting.
There has been talk of Bryant taking some time off, and possibly making a return trip to Germany to see the doctor who helped him with his knee. That treatment would put Bryant on the shelf for about two weeks, but the Lakers have said that at this point there are no plans to sit Bryant.
Center Andrew Bynum has quieted the Dwight Howard trade talks with his impressive play. Through his first six games of the season he has averaged 18.8 points per game with 15.7 rebounds and five double doubles, and he had one 20-20 game.
When Bynum is at the top of his game he is actually a better center than Howard, who does not have a great offensive game. But the big difference between the two is that Howard brings his A game every single night, and he has rarely missed a game due to injury over the course of his career, which has been a major problem for Bynum.
Bynum on the other hand is not always there to give his A game, whether it is due to injury, or due to him being tired. After his first game back from serving a four game suspension, Bynum said that he was exhausted early in the game and had to fight through it. After the loss at Portland, Bynum said that it felt like he had dead legs. The Lakers did not play a game the night before their trip to Portland.
Howard’s game is not as polished as Bynum’s is, but Howard is always there to give what ever he has, which has made him a better player than Bynum. Bynum’s ceiling may be higher, but Howard gives his team more.
If Bynum wants to be considered the best center in the league, he simply has to be consistent.
One player who was nowhere near consistent, which has not only led him to the bench, but also to the Did Not Play (DNP) list is Devin Ebanks. Over the first two games of the season he hit 7-of-9 shots and looked pretty good. But his rebounding came into question, and then his shooting went south.
After the first few games of the season there have been a number of games where he did not see the court, and head coach Mike Brown may have reached a boiling point in the Portland game, where Ebanks had an early traveling call, then missed two shots from right under the basketball on the same possession, then later in the game he missed a wide open dunk.
Ebanks’ pour play made people wonder why Brown gave him the starting position at small forward over veteran Matt Barnes, who rarely got off the bench in the first few games of the season.
Since Brown put Ebanks on the bench and gave Barnes a lot more playing time, Barnes has been money for the Lakers. He has brought energy on both sides of the court to an older team, and since their victory over Golden State, where he scored 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting, he is now on the court for over 30 minutes a game. The next night Barnes posted a double double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Barnes appears to have the work ethic that Brown likes, which makes it surprising that Brown went with Ebanks at the beginning of the season. The Lakers as a whole have bought into Brown’s plan, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Through the first 10 games of the season the Lakers have allowed 90.7 points per game, which is 5th best in the league.
The Lakers do have one major issue, which good defense may have an issue overcoming, and that is turnovers. The Lakers are turning over the ball over 16.7 times a game, third worst in the league, and they turned the ball over 27 times against Memphis (and somehow won the game.)
If the turnover problem persists, the Lakers may have some problems, especially on the road, where they have been bad so far this season. The Lakers lost their first three road games of the season, and heading into tonight’s game at Utah, they still have not won on the road.
Another issue for the Lakers is the three point shot, which they should not be shooting anymore. As a team they are shooting 24.1 percent from three-point range, which is second worst in the league.
At this point of the season the Lakers are doing more good than bad, but they have a lot of work to do if they want to make a run at the title this year.
This coming week they will host the Cleveland Cavilers on Friday, and then they will be the road team against the Clippers, and then host the Dallas Mavericks on Monday.
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