The end of the regular season is less than one month away. There are 16 games remaining on the Lakers schedule, in which they face teams that are above .500 ten times. The Lakers are third in the Western Conference, with a two and a half game lead over their hallway rivals, the Clippers. With concerns questions still lingering around the team at the late stage of the season, there is no room for error over the last stretch of the season.
In other words, they need to get it together and get it together fast.
The fact is things should be worked out by now. Yes, even the rotations with the addition of Ramon Sessions and the absence of Derek Fisher on the roster should have been answered by now. But then again, Mike Brown hasn’t seemed to figure out what rotation works and when it works, despite it being pretty clear to the fans watching the game. Brown needs to set firm rotations that give the team a chance to play at a consistent level.
There is still a level of hesitation and possible mistrust regarding Mike Brown, his system and some of his decisions. This feeling peaked, or hopefully peaked, when Brown made the call to bench Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter when the Lakers were trailing the Memphis Grizzles on Sunday night. Whether you agree with Brown or not for benching Bryant, we can agree that the talk of mistrust between the players, mainly Bryant, and Brown is the last thing the team needs heading into the postseason.
However, Bryant wouldn’t add fuel to the fire by stating, “I can’t sit here and criticize his decisions. In leading this ball club, that’s something I can’t afford to do. I’ve had his back the whole season; I can’t start doing something crazy now. It wouldn’t make no sense.”
The players aren’t innocent by any standards to this problem. They are playing like they are riding a roller coaster at Disneyland. One night they look unstoppable. The next night they look like they are a sub-par team. It is time to start playing with urgency, like they have something to prove. The time for immaturity and whining must end and yes, I am talking to Andrew Bynum. The players know their game and their strengths. It is time to showcase that on the court every night.
They need to show up mentally and physically to every remaining game. If they wait until the start of the post-season to flip the switch that the Laker fanbase is all too familiar with, it will be too late.
For example, below is the playoffs odds and predictions analysis released by ESPN on Tuesday using the current standings in the NBA. The first round series for the Lakers would feature a familiar opponent who has given them trouble during the regular season. At this point, there are still questions of what Laker team will show up in the postseason.
West first round: Lakers beat Grizzlies 55% to 45%.
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: Just right. What the computer doesn’t know is that the Lakers just found a not-terrible point guard in Ramon Sessions. The Lakers should get an extra boost for that. But the formula also doesn’t know that the Griz recently got Zach Randolph back. It all evens out.
Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: Too low. I don’t think this is a definite win for the Lakers by any means, but they are really hard to beat at home. They’re 20-4 at home, and the Grizzlies are a sub-.500 team on the road. I realize a lot of that came without Z-Bo, but the Lakers can match Memphis’ bulk on the inside. I’d say 65-35.
Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching: Just right. The Grizzlies have struggled all season against teams above .500, yet no team wants to face them in the first round. Know why? Because the Grizzlies are deep enough and good enough at every position to take down anybody. Any first-round matchup for Memphis in the West, save the Thunder, is basically a coin flip.
Danny Nowell, Magic Basketball: Just right. I would pick the Lakers in this series, but only just barely. And if Memphis has time to jell, this should be pretty much a coin flip. My tune will change, though, if Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo have some kind of vendetta with the Lakers, as it appeared Sunday.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, HoopSpeak: Too high. Do the odds know about Zach Randolph’s recent reintegration? Do the odds know about Mike Brown’s diffidence-inspiring, open-mouth squint?”
While this match-up is not set in stone and could easily change by the end of April, there remains one fact. The Lakers need to build momentum going into the playoffs, where competition, intensity and passion is at its highest. Brown and the players need to get on the same page and strengthen their chemistry as soon as possible. With only four and a half games separating the third and ninth seeds in the west, the Lakers must perform with no margin for error.