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NBA Report: Have The Los Angeles Lakers Finally Found Their "Rhythm?"

Joe VecchioContributor IFebruary 14, 2011

Phil Collins Courtside At A New York Knicks Game
Phil Collins Courtside At A New York Knicks GameChris McGrath/Getty Images

THE VECCHIO FACTOR SAYS...

"I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord
I've been waiting for this moment, all my life, Oh Lord
Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord, Oh Lord"

These lyrics from Phil Collins' song, "In The Air Tonight," speak loudly as to how well the Los Angeles Lakers have finally started to play. 

Currently, on their seven game, "Grammy roadie," the Lakers are four and one after handily beating New Orleans, Memphis, and Boston and New York on back-to-back nights, while losing Sunday at Orlando, playing their third game in four nights. 

I'm sure many of you felt this would be a "make or break" road trip that would tell the basketball world if this year's Laker version was still the storied, championship Lakers, or a facsimile thereof, to be more aptly called the "LA Fakers."  

With two games remaining, Monday night at Charlotte (their fourth game in five nights), and Wednesday at Cleveland, THE VECCHIO FACTOR had predicted a six and one record prior to the road trip.

Having played an inconsistent, see-saw season to date, folks are wondering if the real Los Angeles Lakers are going to, once and for all, stand up and be counted as worthy defenders of their back-to-back NBA titles.  

But, even after their blowout loss to the Magic, watching them play so far on this seven game trip has shown us signs that they are finally gearing up to the task of defending their title, and it's the closest they've been to finding the "rhythm" that Phil Jackson had hoped they would find.

Amidst the pressure of trying to three-peat, up until the past week, the Lakers have played an uneven, up and down, inglorious brand of basketball, and with all the trade talk, (THE VECCHIO FACTOR is still in favor of trading Bynum & Brown for Carmelo & Lawson), Laker fans have been dangerously close to hitting the panic button.

During the 2000-2010, five-time Laker championship decade, did any of you ever hear or feel so much consternation related to a Laker team's performance prior to the All-Star mark?

The fact is, every NBA team experiences their highs and lows during the season, but where the religion that is the Lakers is concerned, nothing short of reaching the Finals and winning another NBA championship is acceptable.

Having lived in Brazil, I saw and felt this love, a passionate, religious love the Brazilian people have for their futbol, known as soccer in other parts of the world. 

Losing a futbol match is traumatic to Brazilians, in the city and state leagues, and more so when  Brazil's national team is playing on a world championship or World Cup level.

Anything short of winning it all is considered to be a failure, a disaster to the point that Brazilian fans actually go into deep depression during the off-season.

And the same can be said for Laker fans! 

Can you imagine how bad your summer would have been had the Lakers lost to Boston last June?

But never fear, Laker Nation, Phil is here to bring you salvation...once again. 

Having won 11 NBA titles in 19 years of coaching should comfort you, and reassure you that PJ will have the Lakers there, at the end, when it counts.

Someone closely associated to the Chicago Bulls, when Jackson was the Bulls' head coach, once told me that Phil had "an uncanny ability" to psychologically get his team through the regular season, and have them peaking at play-off time.

Certainly, with a record 11 NBA titles, you can't argue with his "uncanny ability." coaching methods. 

Whether it's the Triangle offense, meditation exercises, books to read, sports psychologist George Mumford addressing the team, or burning incense in the locker room, the "Zen Master" uses distinctive techniques, unlike any other coach, to prepare and pace his teams, so well that he has been able to win six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, and five with the Los Angeles Lakers. 

Most of us that have played on a college and professional level, know that to play sports successfully, you MUST have it together "from the neck up." 

The confidence necessary to perform at the highest level comes when an athlete's physical, emotional, and mental state are all fused together at his core level. 

Since most professional athletes are gifted physically, what separates the good ones from the great ones is their emotional and mental approach to playing their respective sports.

A great example of an athlete who has his physical, emotional, and mental state in sync, is Kobe Bryant

As gifted as he is physically, he is constantly working on his game, and his "neck up" approach to each game, with the ultimate goal each year to win an NBA title. 

It must be working because in his previous 14 seasons with LA, he has been to the Finals seven times!

Have you ever known Kobe to lack confidence or hear him say things in a way that would sound like he was coming from a negative mental attitude?

Perhaps, he was "cloned" from Michael Jordan because everything I have said about Kobe can be applied to MJ. 

What's interesting is that BOTH were coached and, more importantly, mentored by Phil Jackson. 

Let's not forget that both players, incredibly gifted physically, had NOT won an NBA championship before being coached by Phil Jackson.

The result of Jackson's coaching methods has resulted in both players winning three-peats, Jordan twice, and Bryant on the verge of doing it twice.

Phil Jackson is in his 20th year as an NBA head coach.  As mentioned, in his first 19 seasons, he has won 11 NBA titles, and might have won more if Michael Jordan hadn't "retired" for two years to play pro baseball.

After all these years, coaching NBA basketball players at the highest level, he has an amazing 70% win percentage in the regular season and the playoffs. 

And while so much talk has centered on how badly this year's Laker team has played, losing to the elite teams as well as sub-500 teams, they are still on pace to win 60 games, a win percentage exceeding his 70 percent average.

Known for his calm, "centered" demeanor, Jackson was quoted recently as saying:  

"Just be patient with us,"  We'll get it back in order. We'll be fine. We'll measure this season and come out where we want to be, I think, at the end."

What most do not grasp is the fact that Phil Jackson is a WEAPON, as important and effective as a Superstar player! 

His effectiveness as a coach, and more so as a teacher, is not fully grasped by the sports public who look mostly at a player's physical performance, and not at what lies in his "head," which, if in the right place emotionally and mentally, helps him enormously to excel physically on the court.

Simply stated, Phil Jackson is someone who KNOWS what it will take, physically, emotionally, and mentally for him to get the maximum out of his players, on all levels, to win NBA championships!!

His mind, body, and soul, coaching technique is, in THE VECCHIO FACTOR'S opinion, the most unique of ANY coach in ANY sport, in the history of sports!.

So, DO NOT FEAR LAKER NATION!  Not one team in the NBA has the PJ Factor, Mos' Def'' needed to win, except your Los Angeles Lakers.

Take notice of the fact that Phil Jackson has calmly and patiently waited for his team to establish it's rhythm, and finally it seemingly is playing like it has. 

And just as he believes the Lakers will be where they want to be at the end, Laker fans must also exhibit Phil's power of positive thinking, and believe they will also.

Destiny calls for Phil Jackson to have his "Last Dance" by winning his fourth three-peat, and riding off into the Montana sunset! 

Can you feel it coming, Laker fans?

JOE VECCHIO

THE VECCHIO FACTOR

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