What’s With The Lakers?
The Los Angeles Lakers entered the last few games of the regular season sitting extremely pretty, having suffered only one loss in 16 games—the best win percentage and record since the All-Star break. Not only that, but based on the misfortune of the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers were in contention for the number one spot in the Western conference even though it had seemed earlier that absolutely no one would catch Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and the boys from Texas.
However, over the past few games (the last four to be exact), the Lakers’ play sounds best described by an old Kanye West song.
How did we get here?
A couple of things have led Phil Jackson‘s team to such a dramatic turn of recent events. First of all, these guys—for the past few years now—have been all about “flipping switches.” They like to play lackluster, uninspired basketball until they figure it’s time to get postseason ready and then they go all out. It seems to work for them, but because they don’t show the discipline to handle the business on the court consistently, it’s easy for them to fall back into a rut.
Secondly, their loss to the Denver Nuggets (the loss which began this funk) all but dashed their dreams of catching the Spurs. That said, if we’re already talking about a team that likes to turn it on when they feel like it, the team probably felt there was no longer much of a need for them to play hard as their wins would not amount to home court advantage or better standings.
Finally, you have to blame Kobe Bryant. Don’t get me wrong, as a diehard Lakers fan for most of my life, I respect and admire Kobe’s game. The problem is he has a tendency to try to do too much. Over the past few games down the stretch, he’s tried to carry the team. While he’s perfectly capable of doing this on any given night, that doesn’t mean that he will pull it off every night. Furthermore, he doesn’t have to. He has Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher, all tried and true veterans who can handle the big, clutch moments. Instead of going to them, number 24 ends up throwing up a lot of horrible shots over multiple defenders (a la Allen Iverson back in the day). We praise Kobe for his basketball acumen, but he seems to be forgetting one of the most common sense principles of basketball. If two or more people are guarding you, someone’s open. Pass the ball.
Of course, we’ve seen the Lakers go into the playoffs on losing skids before, and they seem to come out on top more times than not. If they can do it again has yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure. The complacency has to go, as no one is going to bow gracefully to the defending champs. They’ll have to earn the championship to win it, or they’ll be watching the NBA Finals from their homes this year.