Los Angeles Lakers: Where Are All the Lakers Haters at Now?

Daniel SzewczykCorrespondent IMarch 22, 2011

As recently as the All-Star break, I remember reading copious amounts of articles and hearing a plethora of comments about how the Los Angeles Lakers are in trouble and how the Lakers are done as a championship contenders. I could probably go back to at least five different stretches during the season in which I saw an article about someone stating that "The Lakers are definitely in trouble with this current streak." And I wasn't only reading about it.

I was hearing it too. "Your Lakers aren't looking so hot anymore, are they Danny?" is what I heard from a few different people. As the Lakers would then go on a three or four-game winning streak, the doubters would quiet down a little. However, the Lakers would follow that winning streak up with another losing streak, and the articles and comments would start again.

I only had one response to those articles and comments: "I'm really not worried about it at all." The truth of the matter is, I never really was worried. There is one simple reason why I was never worried. The Lakers just weren't putting forth any effort into their games and were not playing with enough intensity to win some of those games.

As much as it kills me to say that, as I have always prided myself on giving 100 percent effort all day, every day, especially if I were getting paid millions of dollars to put forth that effort, I just wasn't seeing effort from the Lakers' players, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I heard comments from analysts that you can't expect a two-time defending champion to be motivated every single game, but the truth is that I do.

This lack of effort made it so much harder for me to watch the Lakers' games I barely get to watch, living in Chicago. I can't stand watching some of these players walk back on defense or stand in one place during an offensive set. It absolutely pisses me off. I wasn't starting to doubt the Lakers, however, I was wondering exactly when I would finally see these players put forth that effort.

That time came right when the second half of the season started. I don't know exactly what happened during that All-Star Weekend, but this Lakers team is a whole different team than we saw in the first half. They are different for one reason—they are putting forth effort every single game they play.

This has resulted in an almost perfect second half of the season recordwise, despite the fact that Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are not playing their best basketball. Andrew Bynum has stepped it up tremendously, and even though he acted like a two-year-old child during Friday's game at Minnesota, his presence on the defensive end is the biggest reason, in my opinion, for this Lakers turnaround. The play of the Lakers' bench has also been key, as they have stepped it up a lot since the All-Star break, led by Lamar Odom and the return of Matt Barnes.

With the playoffs just around the corner, the one player that I wish would get involved a little more is Gasol. Bryant has stated it many times, and I couldn't agree with him more. His post play during the playoffs will be crucial to the success of the Lakers. If he steps it up just a bit and everyone continues to play like they have been playing over the last 13 games, putting forth the effort they have been putting in over the last 13 games, then this team should make the NBA Finals fairly easily and contend for a championship with whoever comes out of the East.

Until then, I'm going to enjoy not having to read any articles or hearing from anyone about how the Lakers are in trouble as a team, because the truth of the matter is, they never were in trouble. What I'm going to enjoy even more is the Lakers playing with intensity and passion every time they step on the court. They knew exactly what they were doing in the first half of the season, and to my enjoyment, and even to my surprise, they have flipped that switch all the analysts keep talking about earlier this season then they did last season.

The Lakers didn't start putting forth 100 percent effort into their games last year until the first game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the opening round of the playoffs. This was evident by the seven games they lost out of the last 11 they played, which was followed up by a championship run.

I wish there was an explanation as to why they just don't put forth all their effort into every game. Maybe it's because they are tired. Maybe it's because they are old. Maybe it's because this behavior is all too common in the NBA. Who knows? I'm just happy I don't have to ponder this though for the time being.

I seriously hope I won't have to ponder it anymore this season!


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.