EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- If the Los Angeles Lakers' blowout loss to the Golden State Warrors coming just a day after their rousing victory against the Los Angeles Clippers taught the team anything, it was that this season promises to be anything but conventional.
"The biggest thing early is, we’re going to try to get to the top, (but) it’s not going to be a straight line," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said after shootaround Friday, before L.A.'s game against the San Antonio Spurs. "It’s going to be jagged as heck, there’s going to be some bumps and bruises along the way. They have to understand that we've just got to guard against letting down emotionally, or letting down what and how we need to play. We didn’t do that."
It wasn't the first time in this young season that the Lakers have looked vastly different from night to night. In the preseason finale, D'Antoni played his starters all 12 minutes of the third quarter. Come opening night, he was playing his bench unit all 12 minutes of the fourth.
Because of this, D'Antoni is not planning on scrapping the makeup of his starting lineup and will again include a stretch 4 in Shawne Williams rather than go with a traditional post-up player in Chris Kaman, even though Kaman's play off the bench has been far more productive than Williams' with the starters.
"If we would evaluate the team play by stats, yeah, but we don’t do that because everything is connected and everything has a purpose," D'Antoni said of Kaman's case to start after averaging 10.5 points and 6.0 rebounds on 52.6 percent shooting so far, compared to just 1.5 points and 2.5 rebounds on 16.7 percent shooting for Williams. "One of the reasons why, stat-wise, that [Kaman] is probably doing well is he plays a lot of 5. You got to have kind of a blueprint going in to the team you’re playing. We have to have other guys playing better, no doubt about it, but at the same time, I still like the floor being spread. I think it’s better for [Steve] Nash. I think it’s better for Steve Blake and everybody else. I think Chris will get his stats no matter what -- starting or not starting is not that big of a deal. But we have to be careful about that. And I’m not discounting it, we’ll have to be revisiting, but it’s a little early right now to say, ‘Yay,’ or ‘Nay.’"
Sticking with a smaller lineup, and making that lineup work, is L.A's best chance for success in D'Antoni's eyes.
"But, if we play like we did against Golden State, yeah, if we don’t have the activity we’re going to get killed inside," D'Antoni admitted. "So it’s one of those deals [where] a small team can rebound, but man, you better hustle and do it. You can’t be small, slow and un-energetic. That’s not a great formula."
Nash said that the problems against the Warriors were easy to spot.
"We see when the ball moves and bodies move and we play with energy offensively, good things happen," Nash said. "But when we’re stagnant and take things for granted, we’re very easy to guard and we become a completely predictable perimeter team. So, we need some sort of ball movement and penetration, whether it’s with the ball, on the dribble, on the pass or with bodies even. I think we didn’t see much of that against Golden State and we struggled to really break down the defense."
Right now, D'Antoni is just trying to break through to the Lakers' minds what is the right way for them to be playing.
"You have to play with smartness," D'Antoni said. "If you’re going to play small, the only way to get around it offensively and defensively is to play smart and with energy. We didn’t have that [against Golden State]. We’ll have to see where the problems come up, but there’s no reasons why guys can’t front the post and guys can’t clamp at the back, why the [slower] guys that they put on floor against Wesley [Johnson] that we can’t come in and attack it.
"There might be some nights that we got to match it up, but I want to get the Lakers to, ‘You know what? This is how we play. This is our identity. This is who we are.’ And then dare anybody to beat it."