This Season Has Been the Best and Worst of Lakers Basketball

Since suffering from basketball withdrawals for two and a half months due to the lockout, all the unbearable ebbs and flows of watching the Lakers go through the motions during regular season games is less painful to accept.

After every road loss the Lakers endure, I like to remind myself that at the very least there is Lakers basketball to watch this year. Because that’s what fans do, find the needle of optimism in a haystack of negatives.

Being a Lakers fan has never been a difficult task. Success at success at success has always been presumed ever since Kobe Bryant was traded to the franchise 16 years ago. But this season has been different.

It’s as if the Lakers have gone from a Hollywood production to a straight-to-DVD movie.

I’ve never been the type of guy to dissect advanced statistics to see what’s wrong with my favorite team, but I do have a gut feeling that tells me the Lakers are a good team, but not a great one.

Back when Phil Jackson coached the team, even when the Lakers dropped easy games, it was never a cause for concern as history had proven the Zen Master would always have the Lakers ready for the playoffs.

This year every single loss has sparked a new trade rumor, mainly involving Pau Gasol.

Fact, the Lakers are under-performing. Fact, the Lakers also desperately need production from their point guards, their small forwards and most importantly, the bench.

Call me crazy, but I think the Lakers should stay put this trade deadline and make a final run with the core that won two championships. The big three have won together as a group, an asset that is undervalued. It’s something the Lakers’ boast that OKC, Miami and Chicago can’t match, yet. But, if they fall flat in the playoffs it may be time to consider blowing the roster up.

It’s interesting how quickly things change in professional sports. Riding the high of the 2010 championship run, the additions of Steve Blake and Matt Barnes was supposed to remedy the Lakers’ Achilles’ heel. Two years later, everyone is claiming the Lakers need to make a major move in order to contend. ESPN’s Ric Bucher even suggested the Lakers should look into trading Kobe Bryant.

Personally I’m not sold on the current roster the Lakers have constructed, but I also don’t think it’s time to have a fire sale just yet.

Last night’s game in Memphis was a microcosm of the Lakers’ season thus far: during the run the Grizzlies made to stretch their lead to 17, the Lakers looked old and slow defensively; however when the Lakers came roaring back, suddenly the Purple and Gold trumped youth with execution. Many times during the game I would think the Lakers have it all figured out on both sides on the floor, only to be disappointed a couple possessions later.

What’s even more frustrating is how the Lakers can look like the Lakers of old during back to back nationally televised Sunday broadcasts but the rest of the week they are struggling to beat the Timberwolves.

The Lakers’ curious case of Jekyll and Hyde isn’t completely new. Remember in the 2009 Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Houston Rockets, when the Lakers couldn’t buy a win on the road yet looked completely dominant at home? The entire season thus far has been an extension of that series.

Los Angeles went on to win the championship that year after they figured out of how to win on the road. Currently the Lakers sit at 18-2 at Staples Center, which means that if they can somehow secure home-court advantage for a couple rounds in the playoffs, they’ll be nearly unbeatable if they protect home court. And you know if worse comes to worse, Kobe Bryant is destined to steal a game or two on the road.

The problems on the road are temporary, or at least so I hope. But if the Lakers pull the trigger prematurely on a trade, their problems could be permanent (see: Lamar Odom). It’d be wise for the Lakers to let this trade deadline pass quietly to allow this roster to continue to mold under Mike Brown.

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