Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw would like to see the team play more physical… (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles…)
Are the Lakers too kind, too nice, too accommodating?
Brian Shaw would be a good place to start with that question.
He earned three championship rings last decade with the Lakers, showing up at clutch times and often acting as a coach during games — in huddles, on the court, whatever it took.
The Lakers have won three consecutive titles only once since moving to Los Angeles, and Shaw was there, his three-point shooting in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals bringing the Lakers back from the brink of elimination.
Now in his seventh season as a Lakers assistant coach, and a leading candidate to become head coach if Phil Jackson follows through on his "last stand" proclamation, Shaw sometimes doesn't like what he sees from the current-day Lakers.
Their defense has improved in recent weeks, though Shaw would like to see a more physical presence. Some anger would even be welcomed, along with more efforts like their determined 120-91 rout of Utah on Tuesday night.
"There's a lot more nice guys on this team than there were on those [2000-02] teams," Shaw said before Tuesday's game. "It wasn't just me. Robert [Horry] would mess somebody up, Rick [Fox] would mess somebody up. A.C. Green was on one of those teams. Horace Grant. Whoever. Guys would take a hard foul.
"Now you see little guards get in our lane. I think our team may give up the most 'and-ones,' the old conventional three-point plays, than any other team in the league. That never happened before. Shaq [Shaquille O'Neal] would come across the lane and you hit his body, you end up on the ground and you're definitely not going to make the basket.
"Our team has a lot of nice guys on it so [opposing] guys who are driving into the lane, they feel comfortable getting in there in the paint, they lay it up, they get fouled, they make the basket and have an opportunity to make a three-point play instead of just giving a hard foul and putting the guy on his back. Nothing dirty, but just a hard play to make him think about coming back in there again.
"We have a couple of ruthless guys on the team but we also have a lot of very nice guys too. When your big guys are your nice guys, then it makes it tough sometimes."
Shaw also doesn't like how the Lakers sometimes fail to bounce back after a loss.
The 1999-2000 champions never lost more than two consecutive games. Same for the 2000-01 team. The 2001-02 team, the bookend of that Lakers championship run, lost three games in a row once.
"When our teams lost, we were actually mad and you could see that when we came out the next game, especially if it was a game where we felt there was no way we should have lost," Shaw said. "This team, there's been times when we got whooped and then you expected them to come out the next night and really get it going, and it's like, 'Oh, well.'"
Shaw isn't close to panicking about this season. It's a long one, after all. Lessons can be learned. The best is yet to come?
"This team has been to the pinnacle, so there's a point where the regular season kind of becomes boring and monotonous," he said. "As a coaching staff, we don't want them to fall into that, but it's a natural thing that happens to a team that has been as successful as this team's been the last two or three years."