As the Lakers enter into tonight’s game at Madison Square Garden in New York, they are facing major questions. The questions, ranging from what’s wrong with the team to was Mike D’Antoni the right hire, have boosted the pressure to find solutions right now. It’s hard to argue against the urgency to improve now as their standing in the West cannot go too low before a comeback is too late. Additionally, performing at a high level year in and year out is the norm with the Lakers and what the fans have come to expect for decades now.
With all the embarrassing losses, the changing of coaches and systems and the questionable effort level shown by the players, could it be that their frustrating loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers was rock bottom? I hope so, and I know the rest of Lakers Nation hopes so. Yes, things will settle down once Steve Nash returns, but we have been hearing that for over a month now. The fact is that the Lakers, even without Nash, have the talent to win games in the meantime. We have seen it in the nine wins this season.
It seems to me that the Lakers have been rolling with the punches a little too much since October 30th. I am getting a feeling that everyone in Lakerland, whether it be the players, fans or organization is getting fed up with losing. It gets to a point where you run dry of excuses to explain a loss. Call it a system problem, call it the absence of Nash and Gasol, call it Kobe shooting too much. The Lakers are “playing terrible” as Kobe put it. The Lakers are at rock bottom, which was something I honestly didn’t believe would happen prior to the season.
So now it is up to the coaching staff and the players to start playing to their potential. They simply cannot wait any longer to turn it around, as the season isn’t timeless. It must begin tonight against the best team in basketball, the New York Knicks. Now, I’m not naive and don’t believe that the Lakers will have an easy time out there. However, this game has the potential of being the time and place where things started to turn around for the Lakers.
D’Antoni is returning to the Garden after his much talked about exit from New York. D’Antoni is not a favorite among Knicks fans to say the least. His time there was unsuccessful and as a fan a another team that expects the best each season, I can understand their perspective. Los Angeles represents a completely different scenario for D’Antoni and has a much higher level of individual talent to work with. I absolutely agree with Magic Johnson who said that D’Antoni needs to adjust his system in order to get the best out of everyone, especially Pau Gasol.
Tonight’s game will be full of emotion as both sides want to prove their point. Of course, every team in the league has a goal to beat the Lakers. For some teams, that is there Finals. However, the Knicks will be playing to prove something to D’Antoni, especially Carmelo Anthony whose trade to New York reportedly wasn’t well received by D’Antoni. D’Antoni is searching for answers and so far is coming up empty. If he can implement a change, regardless of what it is, that works and does it against the red hot Knicks at the Garden in New York, he may begin to win some fans back.
They don’t even have to win to do this, although a win would shock everyone at this point. If the Lakers perform at a level that shows urgency, passion, aggressiveness and effort on both ends of the floor, defensively especially, it can be a mental win for the Lakers that carry on to later games. When asked about how the “old” Lakers can win a championship by Stephen A. Smith, Kobe replied how speed and athleticism doesn’t win championships. “Togetherness” wins championships, and he’s absolutely right. Who do you believe, a five-time champion or Stephen A. Smith?
The Lakers are missing teamwork and effort this season. That may be the root cause of their struggles because in games where they have shown teamwork and effort, they have won. In fact, eight of their nine wins have been big wins (won by double digits). Their only single digit win came against the Brooklyn Nets on November 20th in Los Angeles. Therefore, the stats prove that when teamwork and effort is at a high level, the team performs on another level, and it shows on their offense and defense.
The Lakers have their backs against the wall. I can’t predict if the Lakers will make a move to temporarily cover up the bleeding going on at the point guard spot. I can’t tell you where the Lakers will end up in the standings. What I can tell you is that tonight’s game is a statement game for the Lakers. However, it’s not a statement game in the normal setting.
Win, lose or draw, tonight will challenge the Lakers’ mentality and will. It will challenge how they respond as a team to all the talk of pure negativity (some is credible). The spotlight of Madison Square Garden brings out the best of you or the worst of you. Tonight is a chance for the Lakers to come together as a team and change the course of the season.