The Los Angeles Lakers have played more like the “Lost” Angeles Lakers recently. They lost four games in row, something that has never happened in Phil Jackson’s 11 championship seasons. So is there reason to panic in LA, or will Kobe Bryant and Co. get things turned around and be playing their best ball in April and May?
The Lakers started off the season on fire, winning their first eight games and leading the league in scoring and 3-point shooting. The killer B’s, Shannon Brown, Steve Blake and Matt Barnes, were getting the job done off the bench, while Lamar Odom was off to a career best start and Andrew Bynum was recovering from off-season surgery. However, losing back-up Theo Ratliff to injury forced Pau Gasol to play more minutes than the coaching staff was comfortable with, and now Gasol has re-injured the hamstring that gave him problems off and on last season.
The Lakers currently sit in fourth place in the West, but are only three games behind the Spurs, who are off to one of the best starts in franchise history.
So is it time to panic in Tinsel Town? The short answer is no, of course not.
The Lakers are known to coast through the regular season and save their best basketball for May and June. However, Bynum has yet to get through an entire season injury free, and many are wondering if he is the new Yao Ming. If Bynum can get fully healthy and play the rest of the season and post-season injury free for LA, the Lakers will have to be favored to win their third straight title. However, if Bynum cannot stay on the court, forcing more minutes from Odom and Gasol, it will be a much tougher road for the Purple and Gold.
Nonetheless, despite the record, the Lakers are still the best team in the NBA. They have more playoff experience as a team than any team in the league. They have arguably the best power forward in the game in Gasol. They have perhaps the most versatile player in the game in Odom. They have one of the best 3-point shooting benches in the league in Barnes, Brown, Blake and Sasha Vujacic. They have one of the best on-ball defenders in the league in Ron Artest. They have one of the most clutch shooters in the league in Derek Fisher. They have the greatest coach in NBA history and oh yes, they still have No. 24.
Bryant, despite the miles he’s logged in his career, is still one of the premier players in the league and is still the best closer in the game. Sure, Lebron James might be more explosive, Kevin Durant might be a more consistent shooter, and Dwayne Wade might get to the free throw line more, but there still isn’t a player in the league that is more determined or motivated than the Black Mamba. Bryant works harder every day than any player in the league and seeing as he is one ring shy from tying Michael Jordan, it would seem as if nothing will stop him from preparing his teammates for another championship run.
The Lakers may be sitting in fourth in the West, and may have come off their longest losing streak in four seasons, and may lose Gasol for some time to injury, but none of that will derail the two-time defending champions. As long as No. 24 is donning the purple and gold uniform, the Lakers will continue to be the favorites to win the 2010-2011 NBA Championship.