Sometimes, when you’re a veteran-laden team in the NBA, you go through rough stretches, particularly in the middle of the season, when it’s difficult to keep your focus. Here in Boston, Celtics fans can attest to that. The mid-winter dip for the C’s has almost been a rite of passage since the organization went through the overhaul that was directly responsible for a 2008-09 NBA title run.
On the other side of the country, Lakers fans are getting a taste of that dip right now. The Lakers are marred in the middle of a stretch where they’ve lost four of their last six games, punctuated by an embarrassing 104-85 loss — which could have been a lot worse — on Sunday night to a last-place Grizzlies squad. That loss was the worst of the bunch, a stretch in which the four losses have come by an average of over 17 points per contest.
To make matters worse, there appears to be a little in-house bickering between two of the league’s marquee divas — Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant.
Jackson spoke very candidly about Bryant and his style of play following the loss to the Grizzlies.
“Kobe had to screw up the game and start energizing the team by going one-on-one,” Jackson said. “That takes the rest of the guys out and as a consequence, that didn’t bring us back in.”
Whether or not Jackson meant the words to cut deep, or whether he was just making an observation, the message was clear. The Lakers need to play better as a team.
But before Celtics fans go crossing off the Lakers on their list of potential roadblocks for an 18th world title, they must remember that this is just a bump in the road for the Lake Show.
The Lakers, like the Celtics, are a veteran club. They know that while it would be nice to secure things like home-court advantage (like last year’s NBA Finals), they are still dangerous enough to make noise in the playoffs just by getting there.
When it comes down to it, it’s all about weathering the storm. The Lakers know that better than anyone. There’s a reason they’ve won back-to-back NBA titles. There’s a reason they’ve been to the finals the last three years.
And there’s a reason that Jackson and Bryant are widely considered as the best or one of the best at what they do.
They both know how to win. Not only that, they’ve feuded before, and they’ve been able to put things behind them.
When the Lakers get to the playoffs, they’ll be among the favorites again. No team can match up with their playoff experience. Their offense, a grind-it-out half-court system centered around the famed triangle offense is at its best when the Lakers can wear down teams in long series.
Teams with athletic point guards will still give them fits (Rajon Rondo, anyone?), but it will be easier for the Lakers to grind out wins, utilizing the killer touch of Bryant along with one of the better frontcourts in the game.
Whether or not Celtics fans want to admit it or not, the Lakers are a lot like the C’s. They’ll go through midseason swoons, but they’ll be among the big boys standing in the end when it’s all said and done. With both teams, the peaks of success will continue to tower over the relatively meaningless valleys of failure that try and trip them up during the grind that is the NBA regular season.
Does the spat between Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, paired with the Lakers’ recent struggles, mean they’re in trouble? Share your thoughts below.