The up and down ride called the Los Angeles Lakers continue their march (or is it stumble) toward destiny and a three-peat NBA title in June. The way January went for LA, many are questioning the Lakers ability to even make the Finals.
While January proved to be a better month for LA than December, it didn’t turn out as well as everyone hoped, nor as well as I predicted.
I had said the Lakers would go 13-2 but LA ended the month with two straight losses, including the loss to bitter rival Boston. So, the Lakers ended January 10-5.
January did display center Andrew Bynum’s return to near hundred percent after off-season knee surgery. The Lakers are much improved since Drew returned to the Laker starting lineup and LA’s record is indicative of his presence.
The other area that the Lakers got back some semblance of their former selves was on the defensive side of things. After the Christmas Day debacle against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh of the newly formed Miami Heat, the Lakers Kobe Bryant practiced in late December into early January for the first time this season.
Along with coach Phil Jackson, Kobe had decided it was best for his surgically repaired knee to limit practice time. Until Christmas and the Miami Thrice. Kobe practiced two straight weeks with the team, beating up and challenging teammates to up their game.
The results speak for themselves as the Lakers improved in all areas in January. But, they did this against inferior teams, ones with poor records. We know those, the teams the Lakers are supposed to beat.
Oops. Except they lost to the Los Angeles Clippers and then the doggy downer of all year (so far), the loss this past Friday night to the Sacramento Kings at home. I repeat, at Staples.
February is a new month. But, these are the dog days of an NBA season and the marathon known as the 2010-2011 NBA season continues. LA will be the site of this year’s All-Star game in late February, so maybe the Lakers will flip the switch and remind everyone that they are still a championship caliber team.
However, the Lakers play only four games at home during the month. LA will go out on their longest road trip of the year with an East Coast swing where they'll run into quality teams like Boston, Orlando & Memphis. They do get to host the All-Star game at the end of February but then finish off the month with another tough road game in Oklahoma.
Can the swagger return and will the Lakers get back fully on track in February, sending a message to the rest of the NBA that LA is still the league’s most dangerous team?