Lakers In Review
The Lakers of 2010 aren't looking like the Lakers of 2008-09. While Kobe Bryant is still Kobe Bryant, the rest of the team seems to coasting, expecting that the Black Mamba will simply carry them to another championship. The Los Angeles Lakers, the defending NBA champs, have shown that nobody but Bryant is ready to defend last season's title.
The Lakers are considered one the most talented teams in the NBA, with forward Pau Gasol, center Andrew Bynum, versatile forward Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant.
The fans expect this team to perform at an elite level after winning the title simply because of all the talent they possess.
The Lakers have all but clinched the number one spot in the Western Conference, with the second best overall record at 53-18.
So what's there really to worry about, right?
The problem is the Lakers have not shown the mentality of an NBA champion this season. Looking at their schedule, the Lakers have lost games to teams that they should have comfortably beaten.
All these teams have little-to-no depth and most are either out of the playoffs or struggling just to make it.
They started off the year with one of the easiest schedules in the league, with 20 of their first 31 games at home. According to NBA.com, the Lakers went 25-6 through December, a record that could have easily been 28-3, had it not been for their lackluster play against teams like Phoenix, Houston and Utah.
Since January, the Lakers have gone 28-12, highlighting a substantial drop in their winning percentage. With losses to the Clippers, Portland, Toronto, Memphis, Miami, and Charlotte, fans in Lakerland have been left in confusion.
Had they won those 9 games, the Lakers would be at a league best of 62-9, on their way to matching the Chicago Bulls' record 72-10 season.
The Lakers are held back by a belief that they can outscore and outplay any team on any given night.
A recent game on the road against the Miami Heat is a prefect illustration. The Lakers had no business even letting Miami remain competitive in this game, not when the Heat's only talent consists of All Star and MVP candidate Dwayne Wade.
How in the world does one player carry a team with no talent past the Lakers? The purple and gold should've have buried them right at the outset of the game, but they let Miami hang around just long enough to steal the win.
Inside the NBA, a series on TNT starring Charles Barkley, Chris Webber, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson recently spotlighted a segment about the most annoying team in the NBA.
On March 5, Ernie Johnson started the show by asking the analysts whether the Lakers are still head and shoulders above the rest of the league.
"The Lakers are the most annoying team in the world," Barkley said. "They are the most talented team in the NBA. They [only] win because they have the most talent. They're not a dominating team."
Chris Webber stated that Bryant is the only player who has that killer instinct. He is the only one on the Lakers that actually wants to have the best record in the NBA.
In a recent home game against Toronto, Bryant hit the game-winning jumper to sneak past the Raptors.
When asked how satisfying the win was, Bryant wasn't pleased at all.
"We put a lot of points on the board, but that's not how you win championships by your offense being pretty," said Bryant "If that was the case, we would've won two years ago. We've got to get ugly, stop people, and that's how we'll win."
Michael Jordan had less talent on his team and yet still managed to have the Bulls ready to compete every single night, regardless of their opponent.
Nobody is questioning Bryant's competitiveness, but the supporting casts' mentality must change. Right now, it seems they are riding his coattails into the playoffs. Bryant has bailed the Lakers out at least seven times with game winners, and of the seven, six were against teams that had no business even being in the game at all.
Without Bryant, the Lakers are just a playoff team, not one capable of winning an NBA championship. And if the Lakers don't bring home the Larry O'Brien trophy this year, the supporting cast will be held responsible.
The other contending teams like Cleveland, Denver, Orlando, and Dallas play each game like it is their last because they are all hungry for that championship ring.
I don't see the Lakers winning the title this season solely because all of the players, save Kobe, lack that hunger. To me, even the tenth-seeded Houston Rockets deserve the championship more than L.A., simply because they play like they want it every night.
Lakers fans are crazy if they think Los Angeles will cruise to the Finals this year. With the standings getting tight, the Lakers will have to elevate their play if they even want to make it past the second round.
Lakers, every team believes they can beat you. I dare you to beat them.