Last week I wrote on how the Lakers need to play to their strengths and get back to basics offensively in order to get back on track. In the two games that the Lakers seemed to do just this, against the Los Angeles Clippers and the Minnesota Timberwolves, the result was two hard fought victories, but victories none the less.
The game in between the Clippers and Wolves matchup was against the Milwaukee Bucks, which resulted in an embarrassing loss, especially due to the fact that the Bucks’ were without their two best players. Last week, the Lakers seemed to take two steps forward and one big step back.
Kobe Bryant told reporters after the Milwaukee loss, “I don’t know if it’s adversity, but a short season, not having any practice time is the biggest challenge. We have a lot of guys we need to get on the same page. We have so much youth, particularly coming off the bench. We’ve got to shorten that learning curve.”*
With the schedule this NBA season being jammed packed, especially for aging teams like the Lakers, the entire team needs to make adjustments. The Lakers bench has had a reputation for being a little weak for the past few years, even when they had Lamar Odom. This season, unlike the past, the Lakers can’t rely on Kobe Bryant or the rest of the starting lineup to account for all of the offense.
But what is also influencing the Lakers’ struggles this season, especially in road games, is the play coming from the starting lineup. Besides the stellar season that Kobe Bryant is having, the Lakers frequently appear to be lost on both sides on the floor, but primarily on the offensive end. So, what is the key for the Lakers to take only forward steps this season? Consistency.
Potential trades are great for the fans and the media to speculate about, and of course would most likely solve a lot of problems currently facing the Lakers. Yet the fact of the matter is that the Lakers cannot depend on a bailout trade. They need to work with what they have and work with it now. When each player performs to his strengths on a consistent level, the truth is the Lakers look so much better than they have in unnecessary losses this season.
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A shortened season, an aging starting lineup and a new head coach are all daily threats to prevent the Lakers to become consistent. The bench is full of fresh faces, still unfamiliar with how each other works. The entire team is still uncomfortable with Mike Brown’s offense and defense philosophy, which is perhaps the biggest basketball problem, other than personnel or position problem. When they focus on defense, their offense is erratic. When they focus on offense, they forget to defend. There is no consistency or balance.
Laker newcomer Troy Murphy stated, “[Mike Brown] is messing with the lineups, rotations and things like that, trying to find what works best. I think just spacing the floor and being in the right spot is what I’m most focusing on, so I can give our bigs, as well as Kobe, the space to play one-on-one.”** Brown’s experimenting with rotations is just another threat to gaining consistency.
A part of achieving consistency is playing with a sense of urgency. Play every game like it’s the last. By doing so, the players and Mike Brown will begin to understand what works and what doesn’t. There is a reason why the best basketball tends to occur in the playoffs. It is because the teams play with a sense of urgency. The level of teamwork increases. The team becomes consistent.
Last week I wrote how the Laker fans expect more from their team year in and year out. Troy Murphy echoed this sentiment by saying, “This is a franchise that expects to be in the mix for a championship every year. There are a lot of teams in the league that are either rebuilding or competing and the Lakers don’t ever fall out of that category of competing for a championship. You want to play for an organization that plans to compete for a championship every year.” Consistency and urgency is a must for the Lakers and there is no reason the Lakers can’t achieve this.
*Source: LATimes.com | Mike Bresnahan
**Source: Hoopsworld.com | Stephen Litel