Now, I’m not a big believer in the “throwing the switch” argument. I don’t believe there’s some magical button that a team can push to somehow start playing better. But as anyone who’s played sports competitively can tell you, some situations command your attention to detail and your complete and utter focus and some, quite simply, do not.
To this team the regular season, with the exception of a few key match-ups, falls into those that do not.
Take the Lakers recent game against the Minnesota Timberwolves for example. Just when we thought the team had “thrown the switch,” they again reverted back to playing down to their competition and barely squeaked out a win against a team with a 14-47 record.
For those of you that missed that last part, it was 14-47!
So, please…stop with all this ridiculous nonsense about throwing the switch.
There is no switch. It doesn’t exist. It never has!
What does exist is human nature. And playing to the level of your competition is as natural to the world of sports as are the cliché’s that are used to describe it. The Lakers are a perfect example of this.
In the last four years, this team has played in the most important, pressure filled games that professional basketball has to offer. They’ve beaten the best there is on their way to back to back NBA titles. They are attempting to go to a fourth NBA Finals in four years.
And yet, almost as incredibly, in that same stretch they’ve continually lost in cities such as the ones previously mentioned over and over again.
The reason being is human nature.
It’s a common argument, one that my cousin Ray and I engage in regularly. Every team gets up to play the Lakers. This means that every night the Lakers face their opponent’s best effort. Expecting the Lakers to match that effort, night in and night out, is not only unreasonable, it’s also impossible…at least that’s what my cousin says! And since the guy averaged more points per game than I ever did, I guess I’ll finally give him his due and proper; but I digress.
Put simply, on a cold winter night, playing against some team that’s had this game circled on their calendar for months, and who’s only motivation is a regular season win against the champs, the Lakers basically go through the motions. They show up, and they shoot, and they rebound and maybe they’ll even play a little defense.
But what they won’t do is play like it matters; and not because someone forgot to flip some imaginary switch.
It’s because these Lakers do not play for the regular season.
They play for championships.