EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Three-pointers are in. They’ve been in for a while, too. NBA teams are firing from long range more than ever – a record 21.5 3-point attempts per game last season, which broke the record set the season before that (20), which broke the record set the season before that (18.4). You get the picture.
That figure has steadily risen through the years since the NBA introduced the 3-point shot in the 1979-80 season, but it has skyrocketed of late, especially as advanced statistics have shown it to be a more efficient option on offense, particularly if taken from the corner.
But the Los Angeles Lakers are bucking that trend, at least so far in the preseason. Through four exhibition games, they’re averaging about seven 3-point attempts and have made just six of 29.
Worse: the Lakers have shot 1-for-19 from long range in their last three games, including going 0-for-8 in their last two.
Even worse: the Lakers haven’t made a 3-point shot since the first quarter of their second preseason game – an 11½-quarter drought.
ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh also found that there are 24 players who have made more 3-pointers this preseason than the entire Lakers team.
Though first-year Lakers head coach Byron Scott admitted that injuries to perimeter players such as Jeremy Lin, Steve Nash, Ryan Kelly and Nick Young have hindered their 3-point efforts, Scott didn’t hide how he felt about the league's steep rise in long-range attempts.
“You’ve got a lot of teams that just live and die by it,” Scott said after the team’s practice here Friday. “Teams, general managers, coaches, they kind of draft that way to try to space the floor as much as possible. But you have to have shooters like that; you also have to have guys that can penetrate and get to the basket, because that opens up the floor.”
But does Scott believe in that style?
“I don’t believe it wins championships,” he said. “(It) gets you to the playoffs.”
Seven of the last eight NBA champions led all playoff teams in 3-point attempts and makes.
And it’s not as though Scott isn’t familiar with the 3-point shot. During his second season with the Lakers as a player, he led the NBA in 3-point field-goal percentage in 1984-85 (43 percent) and was in the top-10 in that category in three other seasons. Scott also ranked sixth in the NBA in 3-point attempts (179) and ninth in makes (62) during the 1987-88 season.
But are the Lakers’ low 3-point attempts this preseason a reflection of injuries or of how the Lakers will really end up playing this coming season?
“I don’t think that’s an indication of what we’ll be when we’re fully healthy,” Scott said. “I think it will still be 12, 13, 14, 15 (attempts per game), somewhere in that area, when we’re fully healthy.”
Only two NBA teams averaged between 12-15 3-point attempts during the 2013-14 regular season: New Orleans (15.9) and Memphis (14). No team averaged fewer. Houston averaged the most 3-point attempts (26.6), and 20 teams averaged at least 20 attempts per game.
When asked if an NBA team could eschew the 3-point shot and still win, Lin paused.
“That’s a good question,” Lin said. “I don’t know. I’m new to this as well. And I don’t have that much experience in terms of the Princeton offense or things like that. I know that it can work. I know that it has worked. And I think our job is to figure out how to do it. I don’t think it makes sense for us to scrap everything.
"I think coach Scott is a great coach, and I don’t think he’d put in something just because he’s hoping it works. He must have seen that it worked before and we have to make sure that we make it work.”
Lin also wasn’t aware that he was the last Lakers player to make a 3-point shot.
“Me?” he said, looking puzzled and surprised.
Yes. And the team is one for its last 19 from long distance.
“Well, we are shooting them,” Lin said. “We’re just not making them, I guess. We’ve just got to hit shots. Just part of it is getting clean open looks….Sometimes it just clicks like that where it becomes more fluid. It becomes more natural. We’re flowing. And right now, it looks like everything is kind of tough and sticky.”