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Forget 'Showtime,' struggling Lakers may need slow time

With a stable of aging stars, some unhappy with their roles, the Lakers are only 12-19 running Coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced offense. 'We're going to have to change something,' Kobe Bryant says.

January 23, 2013|By Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times
  • Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni isn't getting the 'Showtime' offense he hoped for; Kobe Bryant thinks a change is necessary.
Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni isn't getting the 'Showtime'… (Nathan Denette / Associated…)

CHICAGO — When Mike D'Antoni first arrived in Los Angeles, he hobbled to the table at his introductory news conference and uttered the words that gave every Lakers fan hope.

"We would love to be able to play 'Showtime' basketball," he said back in mid-November, a few weeks after his knee-replacement surgery and a few days after being hired instead of Phil Jackson as the Lakers' new coach.

After further review, it might be time to slow this offense down. Trying to run is making this team crawl.

Since D'Antoni's first game on their bench, the Lakers are 12-19 and averaging 103.3 points a game. Problem is they're giving up 103.4 points.

"We're going to have to change something . . . probably going to have to post the ball a lot more, slow the game down a lot more," Kobe Bryant said Monday after the Lakers lost to Chicago, 95-83. "I am a big history guy. Playing here in this arena with these incredible fans, you're in the house M.J., [Scottie] Pippen, P.J. built. To put this kind of brand of basketball on the floor is just not acceptable."

P.J. is, of course, the aforementioned Jackson. M.J. needs no introduction.

Bryant said things were "very, very tough … very, very frustrating," and that he was "trying to keep my cool" after another game in which he shot poorly (seven for 22) as the Lakers failed to get any semblance of rhythm on offense.

Bryant's point was obvious. He's 34 years old. Steve Nash will be 39 in a few weeks. Metta World Peace is 33. Pau Gasol is 32. Dwight Howard is 27 but not exactly a runner and slasher.

The average age of Oklahoma City's starting lineup is 25.4 years. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the straws that stir the Clippers, are 27 and 23, respectively.

D'Antoni hasn't shown much taste for the post-up game in his previous 10 years as an NBA coach, saying last month that "I just don't like the traditional, 'I'm going to run down and I'm going to post up and we're going to beat each other half to death.'"

D'Antoni was unavailable for comment Tuesday, with the Lakers deciding not to hold practice and instead calling it a travel day ahead of their Wednesday game in Memphis.

After losing to Chicago, Bryant approached Pippen and said a few brief words to him at his courtside seat. Maybe it was an apology.

A few hours after that, Bryant played some Beethoven on a piano at the team hotel. He said it relaxed him. "Moonlight Sonata," he said on Twitter, "calms me down when I reach my breaking point."

He also posted a photo of himself working out at the hotel gym, adding that if people "see me in a fight with a bear," they should "pray for the bear."

Bryant wasn't the only unhappy Laker. Howard wanted more touches after getting only five shots against Chicago. Gasol was thoroughly unenthusiastic about his brand new role as the Lakers' sixth man. His move to the bench came a month and a day after he met with D'Antoni for a talk-it-out dinner. Another one might be needed.

Then there was a melancholy late-night Twitter dispatch from Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers: "In my 40 years of being a laker fan, this is the single most disappointing season so far."

If Flea's not happy, who is?

The only favorable development is the nose dives taken by Houston and Portland, leaving the Lakers (17-24) only a handful of games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

That's the Lakers in a nutshell, taking solace only when other teams flop.

It's reality at the midpoint of their season. There are still 41 games to go, as if this season doesn't already feel like an eternity.

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