Normally, I try and go into depth in my articles, analyze statistics and come up with interesting numbers and tidbits that seem to be helping or hurting the Lakers.
However, aside from the X’s and O’s and the the adjustments the Lakers have made, the seemingly “night and day” type of chemistry shift the team has seen and the collective team energy level have been major contributors to the Lakers’ recent success.
Obviously, playing a different style with Kobe Bryant being the main facilitator, Pau Gasol playing closer to the basket off the bench, and the “clear the air” meeting the team had in Memphis each have a lot to do with that.
I recently wrote an article during the Lakers’ doldrums about how the Lakers were seemingly stuck in a “Catch-22” and had to somehow get out mentally–and it appears they have done just that.
The team looked as if it were ready to implode, and as if a few more negative incidents could have pushed the Lakers to the point of no return.
However, despite outside and internal turmoil, the Lakers somehow banded together and turned all the negativity into something positive.
It perhaps started with Kobe Bryant’s role shift from relentless scorer to team distributor, but some of it probably wouldn’t be possible without the emergence of Earl Clark and how he drastically affects the Lakers’ lineup.
It probably wouldn’t be possible if Antawn Jamison hadn’t remained ready despite a lack of playing time, and Pau Gasol didn’t channel his disapproval of his newly appointed “bench” role into playing the way he has in the past.
It wouldn’t be possible if Steve Nash didn’t accept playing off of Kobe Bryant and playing as more of a scorer, and less of a facilitator.
It also wouldn’t be possible if Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant didn’t transform their relationship from unsteady to powerful.
Additionally, it certainly wouldn’t be possible if Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss hadn’t picked specific talent they thought would add to the Lakers’ depth, or Mike D’Antoni hadn’t given in to coaching a different style of basketball than he normally prefers.
All of those factors have culminated into the Lakers finally turning the corner, and becoming the team everyone envisioned them being while discussing their favorite team with a random fellow Lakers fan while walking down the Venice Beach boardwalk over one of the most transformational summers for the Lakers, ever.
No, these Lakers haven’t won a championship yet, and are actually still currently hovering around four games out of the playoffs.
However, the team is finally showing glimpses of what it can potentially be, and exhibiting a style of play it can consistently sustain.
Over the last three games–starting with the win over Utah last Friday–the Lakers have averaged 106.0 points on 29.6 assists per game compared with a season average of 102.6 points on 22.0 assists per game. Additionally, they’re holding their opponents to 95.3 points as opposed to a season average of 101. points per game.
That is something the whole team can truly be proud of, despite individual sacrifices from the players and even the coaches.
The most important thing, however, is that the Lakers are 3-0 during that stretch–including a victory over the aforementioned Utah Jazz, an extremely explosive Oklahoma City Thunder team, and a stiff-arm to a New Orleans Hornets’ legitimate fourth quarter comeback.
The team is passing, the team is defending with a purpose, and the team is genuinely having fun!
I truly believed the Lakers would make the playoffs and once there, would be able to accomplish anything, but the manner in which they have played over the past three games has only increased my confidence in that.
Maybe Mike D’Antoni was on to something when he said “the ball finds energy” when passed around.
In either event, the Lakers are playing with a renewed energy, passion, fire, or whatever you want to call it, and playing with that for 48 minutes each game on both ends of the floor. They’re also doing it with the belief and trust that they can win with each other.
The team finally managed to get out of the rut they were in, and the manner in which they have done so is truly encouraging; it’s been a complete turnaround!
Now, hopefully the Lakers can somehow sustain that energy and team chemistry as they embark on their annual seven-game “Grammy trip,” commencing tonight against the Suns in Phoenix.