Or will Kobe translate his All-Star game MVP performance into the Lakers getting back into championship form?
The way LA has played this season, many fans and faithful feel the team is in real trouble, that they must make a trade or else risk not even getting out of the Western Conference.
Look. There is no denying that the Lakers have been up and down this year. At times, they’ve played spirited hoop, while in many other games LA appears to phone in the effort (see Cleveland Cavaliers game as the latest example.)
But some of the up-and-down play of the Lakers can be attributed to injuries and lack of cohesion.
LA began another NBA season without their starting center, Andrew Bynum, who missed 20-plus games to begin the year. His absence created an extra minute drain on LA’s frontcourt, especially Pau Gasol who, for the rest of the year so far, appears to be worn out and tired.
Kobe Bryant also started the season recovering from offseason knee surgery. He seemed to finally regain some lift and return to complete form midseason.
And Ron Artest, at the center of much of the trade speculation, hasn’t played to the level of last year. He’s lost some of that eye-of-the-tiger, never-won-a-ring hunger. Ron Ron’s been having fun off the court and maybe not brought it in on it.
But Artest will. This guy is another warrior, and when the time comes, he’ll be ready. Nothing’s changed with Artest physically. He hasn’t lost anything from last year. He’s vital for a playoff run, with his defense on the best threes in the league.
Also, what everyone forgets with all the doom and gloom surrounding the Lakers is that the team improved last offseason. Laker management brought in a quality bench including Steve Blake and Matt Barnes.
But Barnes went down with a knee injury and therefore messed up the Lakers depth. And his absence also put more minutes on starters and gave him less experience playing the triangle and being the new guy on the team.
That will change during this final 20-plus game stretch to the NBA playoffs as he is set to return, probably this week.
Look. Lakers head coach Phil Jackson knows what he is doing. He’s playing all of you. He’s done this before, countless times actually, over his entire head coaching career. He loves off-court drama. He loves the doom and gloom.
Do you know how hard it is to repeat as an NBA champion? I don’t think you really do.
The great Boston Celtic teams of the 1980s couldn’t even do it. And Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs, as great of a run as they’ve had, haven’t been able to repeat.
No, repeating is extremely difficult, in any sport.
Phil Jackson not only has his teams repeating, but three-peating. He’s done it three times and this season would mark a fourth.
So again, I ask you: Don’t you think Jackson knows what he is doing?
He calls the NBA season a “marathon.” Why do you think that is?
Jackson knows he has the same team or arguably better than last year. Sure, everyone wants to say the Lakers are older, and that might be true. But only one year. No one is injured now.
Kobe still scores. D-Fish still misses regular season shots but makes clutch ones. Opposing point guards still blow by Fisher, but somehow, when he matters, he comes up with a great steal. He always will.
The storyline is repeated season after season. It takes the pressure off the repeat or three-peat.
Lastly, the other big thing about the doom-and-gloom playbook that Jackson somehow seems to fuel through the media is that all this talk makes the Lakers appear vulnerable.
Remember last season? The Lakers looked like they were stumbling and not even going to get out the first round against Oklahoma Thunder.
Or the season before, when the Lakers played disinterested hoop (no, they never do that!) in the playoffs. Yes, in the playoffs versus the Houston Rockets. The Lakers played terribly and experts said it was embarrassing.
I remember TNT’s Kenny Smith even saying it was “disgraceful,” and he wouldn’t root for LA ever again because of how badly the team played in that series.
Well, Smith’s pick this year to win it is all...LA.
This is the wounded-animal playbook. This is when you tweak your ankle playing hoop and act like you’re really hurt. You might even give a good moan to your opponent. Then the ball comes your way and you blow by the guy for a superstar layup.
You’re not really hurt. Neither are the Lakers.
Hear me loud and clear. There is nothing, nothing, nothing to worry about in LA. All this doom-and-gloom talk will be long forgotten come April.
Don’t you think Jackson has a plan to end his last season coaching a final three-peat? Do you really doubt the great warrior Kobe Bryant, who is chasing Michael Jordan and history, won’t be at his best when the games matter most?
Stop the talk, sit back, and just be patient. The final stretch after the All-Star break is here. So will be the Lakers.
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