The Los Angeles Lakers have had a rough stretch of late, losing some games against great teams (like the San Antonio Spurs) and some against slightly less-tested playoff teams (like the Atlanta Hawks and Oklahoma City Thunder) and then against teams they have no business losing to (like the 2009/10 version of the New Orleans Hornets).
Naturally, this is cause for concern amongst the team and the Laker faithful. Coming so close to the playoffs, tough questions are being asked as to the form that the team is carrying and what this means for their title hopes. All season long the Lakers have been seen as a certainty for the Finals, if not a repeat championship. Now that certainty is not so certain.
I believe that this is nothing more than a slump for a great team full of experienced, highly talented players. Sure, losing Andrew Bynum to injury is a setback (he is scheduled to return later this week) and their apparent lack of athleticism and youth in the key rotation may be seen as an issue. However, the wins that this team has put together in the past and the two remarkable leaders that they have in Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol means that they will recover. And they will do it in time for their playoff run.
Last night’s 101-80 loss to the Spurs could be viewed as a barometer of sorts for the type of result the team could expect in a tense playoff battle against a top team. The Spurs, behind the inspired recent play of Manu Ginobili, tore the Lakers apart as Bryant struggled to shoot well from the field. It is interesting to hear the views of coach Phil Jackson and the players in their postgame interviews, as to what they think the causes of the malaise are. Obviously these are the types of interviews that professional athletes hate to deal with after a tough loss.
Here are the post-game interviews as the team explains their thoughts on their problems.
Kobe Bryant — tempo and making shots
Phil Jackson — on all aspects of the team
Ron Artest — “we just didn’t score the ball.”
Luke Walton — defensive rotations
Pau Gasol — continue to work hard and improve toughness
What will turn the team’s fortunes around? It’s hard to say, however if any team can make the necessary adjustments, it’s one led by Jackson, Bryant and Gasol.