Cross Court: Weathering Through


No, the Lakers aren’t unbecoming. They’re stumbling a bit, yes. But, two straight losses hardly qualify as signs of a dynasty crumbling. But it’s entertaining to see the people who think the Lakers’ days as champions are numbered because two superstars and one highly underrated and overpaid power forward from Toronto got together are the very same people who can offer so many angles of why the Lakers are on a two-game losing streak but simply can’t do the same as to why Miami are only two games above .500.

This shouldn’t be anything new to Laker fans. We’ve seen this many times before. The Lakers simply don’t play the regular season the way they approach the post-season. Some say it’s the work of their bad habit of sleeping through the season only to wake up in the playoffs while some argue that the Lakers are a great team but they are their own worst enemies. Same old clichés people use because quite frankly it’s easier to comprehend the Lakers this way than actually trying to, well, figure them out.

People like to talk about how ugly the Lakers have been losing, but neglect to see that they’ve been winning ugly since the start of the season. In fact, their victory over Portland last week was the first game they played as a whole so far in this young season.

As good as the Lakers are they still need some room to stretch out and time to get everybody caught up on the same page. Remember, the Laker bench has three new faces; Phil Jackson is still tinkering with his rotations; Kobe Bryant is still not his usual self even if his knee has never felt better; and Andrew Bynum’s absence is giving Pau Gasol extra time out of his position. Yes, as talented and as long as Pau is he is not a true center in this league. Don’t get me wrong. He can play the position but in smaller doses. He just doesn’t have the body and necessary strength to bang with the bulkier centers full-time an entire season and expect to maintain an All-Star level of production each quarter of every game. It won’t happen.

So what exactly is going on with the Lakers right now? Well, they lost two games. I hate to put it bluntly, but these things happen all the time in the NBA. No team, including the two-time defending champs, are immune to it. But it certainly make for some drama when certain members of the media try to sell the idea that there is something bigger in the works.

The Lakers are the champs, but they’re far from being perfect. What team is? The real issue here is if the Lakers will be able to do it all over again in June. No one, including the Lakers themselves, can answer that this early in the season, and I’m not about to speculate how many games they’ll win this season or if they’ll break that certain Bulls record set in 1996. That will just lead to unnecessary expectations and silly frustrations later down the road.

The last two games certainly made it look like the team is having trouble keeping up with a smaller lineup. But if you really watch how the Lakers went about their defense in those two losses, you’ll notice that they didn’t communicate, didn’t switch on screen-and-rolls, didn’t protect the areas on the court they really need to; and didn’t really pay attention to what the offense is doing until it was too late.

But look who they lost to and what those team had to do to beat the Lakers. The Nuggets at the Pepsi Center had always been tough playing against in the regular season. Nothing new there. But, Denver needed their bench to pick them up. Ty Lawson and rookie Gary Forbes looked unstoppable because they’re simply quicker on the open court than any Laker guard defending them. Add to the fact that the Laker interior defense was nowhere to be found in the 4th quarter, and any team probably would’ve done the same.

And how about that Phoenix game? The Suns had to make 22 three-pointers to beat the Lakers but still couldn’t guarantee a win because as good as they played on offense their lack of size against the Lakers never went away defensively. Hadn’t the Lakers focused sooner or if Lamar Odom hadn’t been called for that silly technical foul, maybe we’d be talking about something else right now.

However, let’s see how the Lakers prepare themselves in this short 3-game road trip through the east. Their mentality is usually sharper away from Staples Center because teams tend to play better against them in the comfort of their home. Let’s look at the adjustments the players and Phil will make and how they’ll apply those changes.

Personally, I’m more curious what happens after the Lakers come home for two straight games against the Warriors and the Bulls. Will they take the season a little more serious or will they continue with their disappearing act a little longer?