Los Angeles Lakers: Why Struggles and Trade Rumors Are Just What L.A Need
The Lakers are just 6-4 in their last 10 games and just 10-5 in the month of January.
They have yet to beat the leagues top teams and have suffered devastating losses to the some of the league's worse teams. They were crushed by Miami on Christmas day, and by Boston last Sunday. They have already lost as many games at home that they suffered all of last season.
Although the Lakers on-court struggles are evident for everyone to see, they are still the number two seed in the Western Conference.
An ongoing criticism of this team was their motivation, their lack of hustle, their age. Although the "Jekyl and Hyde" Lakers came up in discussions in years past, this team has never played so inconsistently in years past.
It seems they are finally getting the attention of ESPN and media sources alike after winning the championship last season, just not the type of attention the Lakers were aiming for.
Laker mastermind General Manager, Mitch Kupchak, went on record earlier this week stating that he would consider trade opportunities because the team was under-performing.
Laker greats Magic Johnson and Mr. Logo himself, Jerry West, took jabs at the Lakers, as they suggested that the Lakers looked unmotivated and did not have a chance at the title.
It's difficult to endure so much criticism from within your own organization, but it just might be necessary.
During the 2008-2009 Championship run, the Lakers looked motivated. Fresh off an epic crushing by the Boston Celtics, the Lakers were poised and focused in their pursuit, and crushed many opponents on their way to glory.
The 2009-2010 Championship run was no different, and an all-too-familiar foe sparked hunger and passion in the Lakers when it mattered the most, despite going just 3-8 in the final regular season games leading to the playoffs.
But what exactly is the motivation for the Lakers this season?
Phil Jackson getting an 12th ring and a fourth three-peat?
Kobe Bryant getting his 6th championship and tying Michael Jordan?
Proving that they are still the team to beat with the Miami Heat emerging?
Please, these are not strong enough motivating factors to spark interest in a 82 game schedule for an aging back-to-back defending champion.
Jackson has already cemented his place in basketball history as the greatest coach to ever live. Whether he gets an 12th championship or not, it really won't change much.
Bryant has proven that he is one of the top 10 players in NBA history, the greatest since Michael Jordan and the closest thing to him. Kobe knows he's not Jordan, and so do we, so a sixth ring really won't do much to change that, although sports-writers and columnists alike will bore us to death with more MJ and Kobe comparisons.
How many games will the Lakers win in their upcoming 7-game road trip?
The Miami Heat as a "rival"? Really? To any knowledgeable sports fan this is simply incomprehensible.
We all know that Bryant will never run short of motivation, and if you think he's old now, wait until he's in his mid to later 30's and watch him play. I have a strong feeling that he will be even more motivated at that point then he is now.
But the rest of the Lakers, though, look unmotivated, uninterested, entitled, and worse of all: bored.
Despite a few lapses in interviews and Artest-Jackson spats, Bryant and Co. have been fairly mild-mannered and optimistic regarding their championship hopes.
However, following the Houston game, it was apparent that the players had had enough of the criticisms.
"Don't know, don't care," Kobe Bryant said when asked about the teams criticisms thus far. "People that criticize, they can all kiss my a--. I don't give a s---. I really don't. I keep the train moving. We're gonna keep on moving and in June, they'll say nothing."
I don't think I have ever such a strong and confident statement from the Black Mamba. He threw his standard "we have to execute better and move the ball" response right out the window. He was not able to remain poised and focused. He didn't want to. He wanted to let everyone in on just how confident he feels about their chances.
Now correct me if I'm wrong, but stating "We're gonna keep on moving and in June, they'll say nothing". To get to June, and to the Finals, doesn't that mean they have to beat the San Antonio Spurs with the league best 40-8 record?
And to suggest that in the end no one will be able to say anything, doesn't that mean that they will win the title? Because anything short of another championship for this team will be considered a disappointment.
Derek Fisher provided a different perspective on the matter.
"It's borderline ungrateful, in a sense, the way -- not just you guys [in the media], but even ourselves -- to be one of the top three or four teams in the league in terms of best record, and to be second in the Western Conference behind only a team that has played the best of any team in recent memory through 47 games and still kind of feel like we're failures in a sense," Fisher said. "It says a lot about what we want to accomplish."
Fisher is right.
However, Fisher was right about one thing: the great potential of this team. The 2010-2011 Lakers are not far off from the 2009-2010 Lakers at this point in the season.
Although the Lakers have more losses than last year's squad, they are holding opponents to less points and scoring more on the offensive end. Bryant's numbers are down, but that's a good thing for the team.
But Fisher recognizes the potential of greatness for this squad, and is quick to point out their expectations.
So, if motivation is what the Lakers were looking for and boredom was the reason for their struggles, well, they've found it.
As it stands, the Lakers are sitting at the number two spot in the Western Conference just behind San Antonio.
Although they were seemingly fine with being robbed of the spotlight by the newly emerging Heat team early in the season, they find themselves with the spotlight pointed directly at them, but for all the wrong reasons.
Instead of being praised and commended for winning the championship, they are being criticized by not only the media, but also Laker greats.
Their heart, their age, their abilities, are all being called into question.
With San Antonio visiting the Lakers on Thursday and a 7-game road-trip following, this might be exactly what the Lakers need to recreate the hunger that was present during the last two championship runs.
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