Chemistry, continuity, and cohesion are three elements, if possessed by a talented team, that are capable of thrusting them into the throes of destiny. The three words are familiar to the Los Angeles Lakers because they are the primary reason for the Lakers' championship march of 2009.
Two of them, continuity and chemistry, are threatened by various factors which have materialized as the season has progressed. The addition of forward Ron Artest pushes the continuity issue, as he is the newest piece to a team that benefited from having the same roster in 2009 as it did in 2008.
Having a roster fully in tune to the complexities of the triangle offense was a definite contributing factor in the Lakers' success in 2009, but, to be honest, Artest has assimilated into the Laker scheme quite well, although there is room for adjustment.
More worrisome are the twin hamstring injuries suffered by Pau Gasol before the season is even half-way done. Fatigue appears to be the culprit due to Gasol's time spent spent competing for his native Spanish team this summer.
The situation presents some challenges to the Lakers' chemistry, because at times they have been the definition of precision, seemingly comfortable within the confines and rhythms of the Laker flow.
Their post combination of Gasol and center Andrew Bynum were perceived as one of the strengths of the team, but there have been signals that their union may not be as stable as once thought.
On offense they have struggled for space and positioning, as Bynum has attempted to discover his identity while Gasol is in the game.
On the defensive end they have both failed to communicate with each other and this has led to numerous oppositional attacks on an unprotected rim.
Adding to the dilemma, Bynum has often looked confused on defensive rotations, clueless to his own responsibilities when the defense shifts.
In fact, Bynum has performed much better during the time Gasol has been felled by injury, and, in this, the Laker conundrum is found because Bynum is nowhere near as consistent as Gasol.
It may be true the Laker attack would operate more efficiently with Lamar Odom as a starter, minus one of the seven footers, but the minus should be Bynum.
Gasol is much more advanced in his game and better versed in the technical and instinctual aspects which are so important.
This is not an indictment of Bynum, as he possesses a wide range of skills in the post, but he is still learning the position and is prone to periods of inconsistency and a tendency to get lost in the flow of the game.
The answer may lie in bringing Bynum off the bench; he is capable of having a similar effect to Odom's in terms of boost, and it may turn out to be the best solution for the team.
Coach Phil Jackson very well could devise a strategy that allows Bynum and Gasol to coexist efficiently in the paint, but in order for that to happen Gasol has to be present and accounted for, and his injury prevents this from happening.
This strain is not considered as serious as his previous injury and his status is currently day to day, but the repeat problem begs to question the stamina and endurance of Gasol, and his ability to remain healthy down the crucial end-season stretch.
Hopefully Gasol can weather the storm because these Lakers have the cohesion element that was missing from the teams of 2000-2004 that was illustrated by the friction between Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal which ripped the team apart from the seams.
This team has demonstrated that it accepts Bryant as their general and facilitator and they seem extremely comfortable within the confines of the team concept.