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Meet the new Lakers, same as the old Lakers

Mar 12, 2010, 1:37 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for Bryant_miss.jpgThe Lakers lost three games in a row in March and needed a Kobe Bryant buzzer beater to beat Toronto.

In Los Angeles, this gets a bigger reaction than a 5.5 Richter Scale earthquake (I personally won’t move for anything less than a 6). The Lakers fan base is much like an elementary school bully — pushing around anyone who dares challenge them on the Web, but deep down insecure. And this recent spat of play has them skittish like those little dogs women in LA carry around in their purses.

Fueling that we get big Los Angeles Times columns hyping up the fear factor. Cue Bill Plaschke.

They all know. The NBA knows. If we’re going to be honest with ourselves, all of Los Angeles should know.

Based on their current attitude and work ethic, the Lakers are not a championship team. If they can’t summon the consistent urgency of last season, they are not even a Finals team.

When I asked Coach Phil Jackson whether this team had the same consistent urgency of last season, he said, “I don’t think so. … We don’t have that. … Not that we can’t reclaim it at some point. … That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Jackson later added, simply, “The urgency of playing well has not struck us yet.”

Yes, we’ve never seen anything like this in Los Angeles. The Lakers have never looked bored and lost to inferior teams then suddenly looking like world-beaters when their backs are against the wall.

Well, except for last year when they won the title. And through the last two years of the last three-pete era under Jackson.

This is who the Lakers are, people. The players like Derek Fisher get that. Last season not only did they have stretches like this leading into the playoffs, they had them in the playoffs. Remember the Houston series — they gave the Lakers matchup problems and combined with LA’s indifference it went seven games. Then there was the Denver series, when the Lakers mentally coasted through much of the first four, then turned it on and won in six.

The only seven consecutive focused games the champion Lakers played were the last two games of the Denver series then the five in the Finals.

There are things to worry about Lakers fans. Like the offense (check out Forum Blue & Gold and Land O’Lakers and Ball Don’t Lie for the details.) Everyone is not on the same page on offense right now. Kobe is playing a lot of minutes. The Lakers need an entire practice just on throwing entry passes to the post. The Lakers have gotten by because of their talent on offense, but they have not meshed as an offensive unit like they did last season.

But that’s separate from the focus issue. The focus will come back around. It did against Orlando — even Kobe was happy with the effort. And he’s never happy. What let the Lakers down there was the offense, against a good defensive team.

The Lakers can throw the focus switch. Just don’t bet on the offense one.

  1. Lara - Mar 12, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    thank you for writing this. It astounds me that less than a year ago we were saying the same things about the team. Oh and one other thing that doesn’t seem to be as big a problem this year as it was last year: getting down big and having to comeback to win. But I’m sure they’ve all forgotten that too

  2. michael - Mar 12, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    as long as derek fisher is on the floor,the lakers won’t win a championship.he’s done.he can’t cover or shoot.all he does is foul.

  3. iLAKERS - Mar 12, 2010 at 8:22 PM

    Please do not make moronic comments like you just did. The Lakers won their last 4 championships WITH Derek Fisher!

  4. Bob - Mar 12, 2010 at 9:32 PM

    You clearly have no understanding of how a B-Ball team functions. It is very similar to a business team, there have to be people who can calm things down, and set the pace for goals. Derek Fisher, more than anything else, brings a locker presence, and is a very valuable piece to the current veteran roster.
    Yes, he is no D-Wade or (insert younger PG here). However that is how it is. As Fisher nears retirement, we’ve got guys like Farmar and Brown that are slowly maturing into the person(s) that the Lakers will need once Fish has left the building.
    People need to realize, that (I’m not too keen on my history…so this may not be completely correct) the Lakers didn’t even SEED #1 in their 2nd run to a championship!!! I’m unsure whether this was true for their 3rd in the three-peat.
    All these people having second-thoughts about this team really are “Fakers”, go support some other team and leave the rest of us who know that this team has pushed through worse, alone with our spectacular team.

  5. G_lish61 - Mar 12, 2010 at 9:41 PM

    Bob, I couldn’t have stated it better than you did. Amen!

  6. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Mar 13, 2010 at 1:12 AM

    Three consecutive losses and all of a sudden people are questioning the integrity and capability of this championship team.
    Sure, and I agree, that there is some cause of concern as far as consistency is concerned. Cut these guys some slack. They EARNED the right to have some losing spiel. Last I check, they are still on top of the Western heap despite the Mavs’ 13 winning streak
    The thing is, the Lakers ARE LEARNING from each defeat that they get, so much like the X-Men’s nemesis, the Sentinels. You know, after each loss they become a much better team by learning from their mistakes.
    As a Laker fan, I just KEEP THE FAITH. Mind, this is not about complacency. I rather see these drawbacks as opportunities to learn and be better. What’s a step back if it would mean a flea-leap forward?
    LA all the way.
    @Michael: Yup the others have said it and I will reinforce that as well. There is more to Fish than just what the stat sheet has to say.

  7. olbuzz - Mar 13, 2010 at 2:16 AM

    Is this your first season as a reporter my friend. The NBA as sad is it may be bores the hell out of the participants… and some fans mid season.
    If there isn’t a new record to set or a hated rival to excite you. Like it or not teams and players coast. Hopefully maintaining their seed if at all possible. This can be fatal if not closely monitored. Sometimes you can’t turn it back on. In this league the goal is to keep all the piece’s healthy.
    This edition with a gentle Ron Artest and contributing Andy Bynuum merely need to be threatened. The Lakers have been my team since(yawn)Patti Hurst was militant… its the way it is. Concerning yourself with fans that have been there done that is a waste of both of our time.
    I’m sure about late April some one will whip out one of those red buttons…. That say Easy. If someone stubs their toe. Congrats to Melo and the Nuggets in 2010…Wake me up in six weeks

  8. ocgunslinger - Mar 13, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    My friend the “Second Season” is where the focus will come into factor and you will see this current team rise to the occasion.

  9. Bob - Mar 13, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    The only thing the Lakers got to worry about is the powerhouse in Dallas.

  10. WI - Mar 13, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    I agree. For those w/ short term memory problems, I think it is now consensus that the turning point in the NBA finals last year was when Fisher flattened Scola to turn the series around. Championship B-ball is not all @ stats. It is @ character. If the Lakers “man-up”, they w/b fine.

  11. Twin - Mar 13, 2010 at 10:17 PM

    look at how everyone is playing on the other teams, with all power and might to win a game, but the lakers just relaxing, come playoff time, all others will be weary and the lakers will take it again………..

  12. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Mar 13, 2010 at 11:02 PM

    As mentioned in another column, the Lakers are coasting… because they can.
    I would expect them to rev up a bit in the final games of the season — a sort of tune up for the coming playoffs. Almost surely, LA will get the number one seed. The only question is whether they get home advantage should they face the Cavs in the Finals.
    Getting your A-game night in night out can have its toll, both physically and mentally, not to mention the risk of getting unnecessary injuries.
    LA can still afford a couple of losses but they would certainly go on turbo boost when the need arises. Afterall, you don’t turn on your nitrous and rev up when the finish line is within sight and the nearest opposition isn’t seen in the rear-view mirror.

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