The stagnation was bothering Lakers Coach Byron Scott.
The losses, the nonexistent defense and also the lack of ball movement.
The losing continued Friday, as did a supremely yielding defense, but the Lakers zipped the ball around more often.
Scott installed a new offensive set before Friday’s 128-119 loss to Memphis, the eighth in a row for the moribund Lakers (11-49).
It’s meant to decrease emphasis on isolation plays for a team that was dead last in the NBA in assists per game (18).
In the scheme, rookie D’Angelo Russell gives the ball up more rapidly as he sets up the offense but also gets it back fairly quickly after that, assuming he moves well off the ball and picks up a few well-set screens.
He was an immediate beneficiary of the new set, scoring 22 points Friday on six-for-nine shooting. He was able to slip past defenders and also was able to draw fouls, making eight of 12 free throws.
It was one of the best games the Lakers have charted on ball movement this season.
“I think it’s a great set. I like it,” Russell said. “For players that are really iso-oriented, they won’t really play their best in this set because it’s forcing it to be kind of crowded when you’re trying to go one-on-one.”
Kobe Bryant did not play Friday, likely a large part of the improved ball movement. It was unclear if he would return Monday against Golden State, but the presence of his shoot-first mind-set could slow the ball movement.
The offense was “absolutely” put in place knowing Bryant was retiring in a little more than six weeks, Scott said.
“It’s something that I think will help us in the long run. I was going to wait until next year to do it and then I said, ‘Why wait? Let’s implement it now,’” Scott said. “It’s something we’ll continue to do during the summer.”
Scott said 30 offensive sets already were in place, and this was the 31st.
Maybe he could insert a 31st defensive scheme to help the team on that side of the ball.
“No, I’m trying to get the first one first. I’m still working on that one,” he said jokingly.
The Lakers allow 107.2 points a game, third-worst in the league.
Bryant’s shooting woes
Bryant is still last in the league in three-point accuracy but now has pretty good company: Cleveland forward LeBron James dropped down to his level.
Bryant is at .273 while James is at .280, making them 110th and 109th among 110 eligible players for the category. Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook is 106th at 30.5%.
San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard leads the league with 48.3% success from three-point range.
Bryant’s woeful accuracy could have been worse; he hovered near 20% from long distance earlier this season.
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