The Lakers are all fouled up


Kurt Rambis, former NBA coach and Lakers player and now an on-air analyst with ESPN and Time Warner Cable SportsNet, spoke to Times reporter Lisa Dillman about the team’s poor 9-11 record.

A less-than-ideal start

“You can just see the weight on everybody. When the losses mounted and then in typical L.A. fashion, there were a multitude of stories that went out. It just adds to all the drama around here. But it also adds to the exposure that everybody has to live under and it all comes back to the expectation level of this team.

All of these things would go under the radar if this was a team in a smaller market and they were less talented players. All of this disruptiveness would virtually go unnoticed or just get mentioned casually. Because of the microscope and because of the high expectations and the team and the media market, it all gets magnified.”

Adjustment bureau

“I still think this team has the talent to contend for a championship. There has to be a decent amount of patience that’s involved because of all of the transitional things the Lakers have gone through.

You don’t move from one direction to another direction to another direction. And, ultimately, it’s going to be a fourth direction whenever Steve Nash comes back. There are all the lineup changes and different points of view from different coaches.

I think there’s a lot of adjustment that all the players and coaches have to make. The players are trying to figure out exactly what Mike [D’Antoni] wants them to do and Mike is trying to figure out how to best use all of the players, in different lineups and rotations.

Mike is going through stuff now he should have been going through in training camp and preseason and with one of his key components being injured. Right now, it’s trying to get everybody connected at both ends of the floor. Their issues are not only at the offensive end but they’ve got issues at the defensive end too.”

Dwight Howard’s world

“He’s clearly used to playing a more focal point of involvement in terms of the offense....

He’s trying to figure out where to get involved. Mike’s trying to figure out how to involve him. He still has strength in being able to post up and Mike trying to figure out how to use him and Pau and Kobe [Bryant] and Metta World Peace as part of all of that. There’s just a lot of things they’re trying to figure out right now.

When you go back to Howard, he’s used to running an offense where he ran to the low post and they used him a lot. He got a lot of touches. It’s the same sort of thing when you’re talking about defending pick-and-rolls — if I want to, as a defensive coach — I can make Howard not shoot the ball, ever. If he catches the ball in the post, I just send two other guys to him and triple-team him and make him throw the ball away.

Now he may get a rebound, he may get the ball back again after it rotates or after somebody penetrates. But on the initial kind of thing, if I take that first option away it’s upon the team to decide what happens next.”

Pau Gasol’s place on the Lakers

There’s no doubt in my mind there’s a place for him. And I said this from the very beginning, when you look at Kobe and Dwight and Nash and Pau [Gasol], those pieces fit together. Now it’s about utilizing those pieces properly.

An easy example that’s applicable out there right now is Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol [in Memphis]. That’s as good as an example because you have very similar kind of characteristics. The only difference might be, in Zach and Marc you have components where both of those players can shoot outside. Whereas in the Lakers’ situation, you have an inside player and an outside player, so they’re not necessarily interchangeable.

There’s no reason those two players and those four players and the other pieces around them cannot work very cohesively offensively. Everybody talked about the Lakers’ bench being poor, and I’m going, ‘It’s not a bad bench.’ Is it the greatest bench I’ve ever seen? No. But it’s not a poor bench.”

Constant state of alarm

“The panic button is being pushed because people are expecting a championship. That’s one thing. And they’re not playing at a championship level. So that’s part of the trigger. So you have some players that are playing really well and some players aren’t playing really well. So that’s part of it.

And is this going to get resolved so that we have everybody back and healthy?

You also have a time element that adds some pressure on it. These guys are not all 22 and 26 years old. Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant are obviously at the tail end of their careers. It’s not like well, ‘We’ve got 10 or 15 years to figure this all out and they can work together like Oklahoma City.’ There’s just a limited number of years that these guys are going to be playing so it has to happen quickly.

Then you’ve got the Dwight Howard contract issues that add some pressure. That’s where all this panic comes from, and ultimately it just comes down to they haven’t won the number of games everybody expected them to win.

If it doesn’t work out, he [Howard] can leave. It just adds already to the already exorbitant pressure and expectation the team has to live under.”