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Kobe needs to start kicking the Lakers a– right now

Jan 3, 2011, 10:00 AM EDT

Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

There may not have been a malaise like this since the Carter administration. Or at least it feels like it in Los Angeles.

Lakers fans at Staples Center were booing the two-time defending NBA champs Sunday night because they were getting out hustled completely by the Memphis Grizzlies. Just like the Bucks a couple of weeks ago and a host of other teams in the last couple months. Go ahead and credit the Grizzlies for their hustle, they earned it, but the Lakers showed nothing to combat it. Kobe Bryant admitted as much to Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.

“We’re looking too far down the road,” Bryant said after the loss to Memphis on Sunday night, “instead of looking just at the game that’s right in front. You start skipping steps if you look too far down the line.”

The Lakers realize that in a sense the important games don’t start until late April, when the playoffs start.

However, the regular season is for developing good team habits and building the foundation on which playoff success can be built. Sure the Lakers have the framework of that foundation laid by the core of the team having been together and won titles before. But this is still a team, a new year, and a new foundation that has to be poured and let set.

You can tell Kobe Bryant is working to motivate his guys with actions — he came out firing last Tuesday against the Spurs trying to pull his team up with him. But then he went cold shooting and his teammates had fallen into bad habits quickly because this looked like a game Kobe would just take over. The energy was there but the team looked like a chicken with its head cut off, just running around aimlessly. It looked like the same thing Sunday with Kobe having a 17-point quarter but the rest of the team not able to help or capitalize on it. It looked like the 2006 Smush Paker/Kwame Brown Lakers in that way.

As Ding points out, this is Kobe’s team. Still. He motivates it, they don’t have the back-to-back titles without his will. He may be coming off summer knee surgery and have arthritic and injured fingers that slowed his start, but he has to start taking charge.

He needs to start kicking his team’s a– right now.

While the playoffs may not start for months, the motivation to start playing hard and doing things right cannot wait. The good habits have to start being developed now — not just energy but good execution to go with it. Otherwise the Lakers will get to the playoffs and step up their energy and it will look like the Spurs game. And games like the ugly loss to Memphis in early January will be part of the reason why.

  1. thestudiokida - Jan 3, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    I’ll never count out the Lakers. We all counted the Celtics out last year after they went 27-27 over the last several months of the season.

    Great teams are great in the playoffs. Also, isn’t it better or the Lakers to have issues early…with time to fix it? The Heat certainly didn’t lose anything by going 9-8.

  2. hnirobert3 - Jan 3, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    The regular season literally means nothing in terms of who’s good and who’s not. We know the Lakers are good and we know they’re going to be in the playoffs. What we saw last year with game 7 being in LA is that the one thing the elite teams need to do during the regular season is play for home court advantage.

  3. leearmon - Jan 3, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    hnirobert3 is exactly right. Of course the Lakers will be in the postseason. And probably make it to atleast the conference finals. But the regular season does mean something when it comes to late April and July. Homecourt advantage. Do I think the Lakers can win in Dallas and San Antonio, sure, but do I think they will have a much tougher task away from Staples, especially with the Spurs? Absolutely. And this is just to go the Finals. Im sure the Lakers would much rather deal with the Celtics and Heat in LA than on the road, which is why Kobe and the Lakers need to get their acts together right now. However im not certain Kobe needs to become the ultimate taskmaster again. Yes he needs to let his guys know they’d better get back on track, but how he does it is almost as important as whether he does it or not. Kobe is the leader of this team, so he must lead by his words and his actions, which means he needs to get back to running the offense as designed and limit his shots, especially his bad, contested shots.

    • borderline1988 - Jan 3, 2011 at 5:18 PM

      Couldn’t agree with you more.
      You think the Lakers would’ve won the NBA championship last year if the last 2 games were played in Boston rather than LA?
      I think Doc Rivers realizes that, which is why the Celtics are going all out for the #1 seed (they do not seem to be taking any games easy). The Lakers better realize that homecourt advantage is huge in the playoffs against any of the championship contending teams.
      A 3rd or 4th seed in the West basically means the Lakers will most likely be relinquishing homecourt advantage for 3 out of the 4 playoff series (on the way to the finals). I don’t care how well the Lakers are playing – I’d bet against them winning the NBA championship.

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