Basketball is a funny thing. Talent and discipline make a team a title contender. But without the drive, the heart, the desire, everything good about a team won't matter when it comes to winning games and earning the ultimate prize.
The Lakers love to point at the new offensive system as the reason for all of the discord on both ends of the hardwood. They want team chemistry yet fail to help one another on defense. They express the desire to win but rarely show any effort in something as simple and as fundamental as boxing out.
I've seen basketball played in every level under the sun. And the game has yet to prove that a package of talent, experience, intelligence and personal awards is guaranteed to bring home the gold. Playing the game in the NBA alone requires a huge amount of preparation and sacrifices for every player. So if we're talking about championships, a team also better have that attitude to do absolutely anything and everything to win a game no matter what the opposition throws at them.
Right now, the Lakers are playing like the entire league should wait for them to get better before the other teams are allowed to be competitive. They let the opposition to take instead of being the ones who pillage. They watch the opposition dictate the flow of the game rather than impose their will unto them.
The only thing learning a new offense does is raise the unpredictability on offense. It doesn't make guys like Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard any less capable or less intelligent players. It doesn't erase how the game is supposed to be played. And it doesn't take away the commitment to make an effort to play defense or to hustle back to contest a fastbreak.
Come to think of it, having a good or bad coach also doesn't lead to a team not having the fire to win. If that's the case, then Phil Jackson wouldn't have gone on early retirement because Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle got in his way.
I have no doubt this Lakers team will get it together and become that team the rest of the NBA hope they don't become.
But the Lakers have to want to be that team.