7 Obstacles LA Lakers Have Overcome This Season
The Los Angeles Lakers have faced arguably as much adversity as any team in the NBA this season, yet in spite of it all, they are sitting atop the Pacific Division of the Western Conference, are coming fresh off a win against their crosstown rival Los Angeles Clippers and are a serious threat to be the Western Conference representatives.
Obstacles can be excuses. They can also be a list of things that a team overcomes to winning an NBA championship. The difference between the two is simple. Do you overcome them, or do they overcome you?
In the Lakers' case, with a pending division championship to add to the ridiculous list which is already in their history, it's the former.
Here, in chronological order, are the seven largest obstacles the Lakers have overcome.
The Trade Anullment
Almost immediately, there was a huge controversy in Los Angeles, as "for basketball reasons," David Stern annulled what could have been a defining trade that would have provided the Lakers with one of the greatest backcourts in the history of the game and made them a favorite to win the NBA title.
The obstacle here isn't so much that the trade didn't go through, but the fallout that came from it. The team was very upset, including three of their biggest stars, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, who was so upset that he demanded to be traded.
From the very beginning, there was an internal tension on the team that needed to be navigated by a brand-new coach thanks to the annulment.
The Lamar Odom Trade
Lamar Odom was so upset over the notion that the Lakers wanted to trade him that he demanded to be traded. Yeah, think about that one for a minute.
Again, it's not the trade itself that was the impact it had on the team. In particular, Kobe Bryant didn't like it. I know this for a fact because he said, ""To be honest, I don't like it."
It was a double whammy of a sort, with first the trade being vetoed, and then almost immediately, Odom getting shipped out. Odom's play may or may not have been affected by the trade, but the team chemistry took a hit at the start, as one of the keys to the two-time champions was one that had a impact on a team trying to get traction out of the gate.
Kobe Bryant's Injuries
As though the trade issues weren't enough, Kobe Bryant thought he'd add to the fun and party by tearing a ligament in his shooting wrist, which is in part responsible for Bryant shooting a career-low effective field-goal percentage of .463.
As though that weren't enough, Kobe Bryant got his nose broken midway through the season in the All-Star Game. Somehow, in spite of it all (and some might argue this is not a good thing), Bryant is still leading the NBA in scoring.
Not Having a Starting-Caliber Point Guard for Two-Thirds of the Season
For the bulk of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers were running Derek Fisher as their starting point guard. The argument can be made that Fisher is the single-worst rotation player in the entire NBA, and that's not an exaggeration. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 7.9 is tied for the lowest of any player with over 1,000 minutes played.
The other player, Wesley Johnson of the Minnesota Timberwolves, has an Opponent PER (OPER) of 15.3 compared to Fisher's OPER of 16.3. What that means is the Lakers were spotting their opponents an average of double the production on a nightly basis.
Mike Brown's Offense
Mike Brown's offense has all the imagination of a rock. Essentially, that offense for most of the season was Mike Brown calling the plays and the play being for Kobe Bryant to single handedly carry the offense. It was awful.
Two things have happened since. After a players'-only meeting, he's eased off the despotic tendency to micromanage the offense and allowed the players to do things like respond to reads and use their brains.
The other is that the Lakers acquired the services of a marginally-competent to good point guard in trading for Ramon Sessions. Before acquiring Sessions, the Lakers were averaging 94.8 points per game. Since then, they are averaging 101.8 points per game.
Clearly, the addition is helping the offense.
Ubiquitous Pau Gasol Trade Talks
The rumor mill gets a little silly around the trade deadline, but sometimes, the media latches on to a fascination with the notion of a certain player being dealt.
Perhaps it was because Gasol was involved in the original trade, but the media was circulating Gasol's name more frequently than anyone not named.
The Andrew Bynum 3-Point Miss
Finally, and most recently, there was the "Three-Point-Gate." This revolves around the ridiculous amount of overreaction to the fact that Andrew Bynum attempted a three-point shot in the game.
Was there a story here? Perhaps in the larger context of the game that it was in. Was it worth the week of discussion and criticism that it incurred? Not really. I'm not saying it wasn't a boneheaded play. I'm just saying the incredible amount of criticism that ensued from it.
It goes along with being with the Lakers where everything, either good or bad, is guaranteed to generate an overreaction, and the press can be a huge obstacle that the Lakers have to overcome in their day to day functioning as a team.