Bob on 12 29, 2009
I feel like I’m pointing out the obvious here; but it’s clear the Lakers are over-hyped and lacking something, and a great deal of fans should refrain from jumping to these unreasonable back-to-back champion conclusions.
Los Angeles shouldn’t necessarily hit the panic button at this point in the season, but there is certainly reason for concern. LA’s NBA-best record looks good on paper, but stats are like a bikini; what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital (I found this out the hard way, and I’m not talking about numbers on paper). What exactly does the 24-6 record that the Lakers boast conceal? A cupcake schedule (19 home games, most of which were against mediocre-at-best ball clubs), and the reality that LA has struggled mightily both on the road as well as against almost any respectable team.
Let’s take a quick look at LA’s first 4 road games:
Kobe and crew squeaked by an up-and-coming OKC Thunder team in overtime, followed by another 1 point OT victory in Houston (whose go-to-guy is a 6 foot sophomore PG, might I add). The Lakers were then shellacked by Denver on the road and got a morale-boosting win against a team who usually doesn’t even know who’s in the starting lineup until the ball is tipped (Golden State. Get it together, Don Nelson). To the Lakers’ credit, Pau Gasol was injured for the duration of these road games.
Gasol is most definitely crucial to the Lakers’ success, so it would’ve been a fair assumption that the chief reason for their early struggles were due to the Spaniard’s absence. While I’m certain Pau out of the lineup didn’t help, it appears his nonexistence wasn’t the foremost reason for LA’s struggles.
With a healthy Gasol, LA followed those 4 road games with a loss in Utah, a David Stern/referee manipulated OT victory in Milwaukee (that was a blatant travel and charge by Kobe, and certainly not an and-one. If you don’t agree, well, you’re probably sporting a number 24 jersey while you read this), and a few easy road wins against struggling organizations (New Jersey, Detroit, Chicago).
In the game of the season so far, LA “laid an egg” (words of Lamar Odom) against Cleveland at home. The Lakers looked unimpressive to say the least, and it’s clear that Shaq had a large impact on the game, holding Gasol to 11 and 6 & Bynum to 4 and 6.
Most recently, the Lakers played in Phoenix last night and went on to lose their 2nd of their last 3 games. Don’t even give me the Ron Artest out with a concussion excuse (and while we’re on this topic, what are the odds he really tumbled down his stairs? My money’s on a domestic dispute). Really though, it must be awful having to resort to inserting Lamar Odom into the starting lineup.
On the whole, if you read between the lines instead of merely glancing at an impressive record, it’s clear the Lakers have legitimate reasons to be worried. It is still early (not even halfway through the regular season), but based on what we’ve seen so far from LA on the road and against above-average teams, they definitely have some issues that need to be addressed. What exactly is the explanation and solution for their struggles? I don’t know. It’s hard to put a finger on, but they better figure it out.
Everyone seems to be so concerned about who will emerge from the Eastern Conference to face the Lakers in the Finals, when in reality LA should be concerned about making it out of the West.