The Lakers closed out the first half of the season with five victories in seven games to improve to 20-14 despite Thursday’s loss at Oklahoma City, when L.A., playing its fourth game in five nights, appeared to run out of gas in the second half.
Afterwards, Derek Fisher reflected upon the first half of the season, discussed what the Lakers need to improve upon into the second half, explained the reasons he is optimistic about L.A.’s prospects and more:
On what the Lakers need to improve upon in the second half:
Fisher: How we can continue to make everyone better on our team. I think we’ve done a decent job at times, but right now, essentially Kobe (Bryant), Andrew (Bynum) and Pau (Gasol) are having to score (60)-plus points and everyone is pitching in here or there. I think if we can improve in our execution, ball movement and player movement where we can actually utilize the full capabilities of all the guys on our team, and put teams in a position where they have to defend everybody, I think we can put ourselves in a better (position). We’re asking those three guys to do too much when we just run a play to get them the ball so they can go 1-on-1 and hope that the other team comes and helps, and then you kick it out to somebody. We have to put them in better positions to be effective offensively by getting them the ball after we’ve moved the defense a certain way.
On his general reflections* about the first half of the season:
Fisher: Our record is obviously not something we’re accustomed to or comfortable with at the All-Star break, but I think we’re playing better basketball than what our record says, even if you are what your record says you are. I think we’ve had very few games, even with 14 losses, where we haven’t had a chance to win. The Phoenix game a few nights ago was one of those nights, tonight we weren’t close enough to really compete down the stretch, but by and large, we’ve been there. Our margin for error is small right now because we’re still offensively searching for better ways to be the most efficient team we can be. But we’re getting there. We can’t rest on that, but I think we’re feeling more comfortable with who we are and the identity of who this team is going to be this year. Although we’ve dropped some road games recently, we’ve improved on the road compared to our start and we’re going to be closer to who we need to be as this season goes on.
*Mike Brown also weighed in: “We’re not going to be the No. 1 defensive team and the No. 1 offensive team in the league after being together in a shortened season in a month and a half or two months,” he said after the OKC game. “Anybody that thinks that really doesn’t know what they’re thinking. It’s going to take some time. So with all the stuff that went on, the shortened season and so on and so forth, I’m OK with the progress that we’re making, because I feel like we still have room to grow.”
On being encouraged about where the team is after the shortened training camp, the new coaching staff and system and so on:
Fisher: Yeah. Obviously things could change with the trade deadline looming, personnel could change if that’s what ownership or management decides, but if this is our team, I think we’re getting a better feel for who we are and what we’re capable of doing. I think our coaches are continuing to feel us out and continuing to do a better job of putting us in a position to be successful, and we’re getting there. It’s frustrating, but at the same time, to be in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference (No. 5 seed) when we’ve had to adjust on the fly in terms of who we are with new coaches and new players, an entirely new way of playing basketball with a core that’s pretty much the same was tough early, but we’re settling in.
On looking around the West to see that few other teams are running away with anything, with the possible exception of Oklahoma City (seven losses):
Fisher: We’re not overly concerned with how everyone else is doing, but obviously when you look around the league and you look at standings, you’re trying to measure where you are as a team, we realize that we’re a middle of the pack kind of team, but we feel like we have the opportunity to improve. We have the pieces necessary to compete in this league, and compete against the best teams out there, and we’re going to remain confident in that. That’s not going to change. We’re going to continue to push to maximize what we’re capable of doing.
On getting a majority of the team’s toughest road games out of the way in the first half of the season:
Fisher: I was definitely conscious of teams that we have played on the road; it’s not like we’ve gone anywhere where winning games are easy. As always, in the Western Conference, there might be two nights or three where you are outmatched or you can outmatch your opponent just showing up. There aren’t a lot of teams out there where you can do that in the West, so we’ve done some good things, we’ve competed well, but we obviously want to do a better job in the second half of the season of turning competing well into more wins, in particular on the road.