Jan 5, 2011, 1:04 PM EDT
Doesn’t it seem like every January we need to have some discussion about how the Lakers are struggling, and this time it’s serious, that the omens are bad, that they can’t win a title playing like this, yada yada yada…
It’s true, even after last night’s Lakers thumping of the hapless Pistons, if Los Angeles does not at some point start playing better than they are now they will not make the finals, let alone get Phil Jackson ring number 12. But we had this discussion last season and the Lakers figured it out. Same with the year before that and for a long stretch back to the early 2000s.
After Tuesday’s Lakers game, Kobe compared these Lakers to the last Lakers three-peat team of the 2001-02 season.
“We were awful,” Bryant said. “People here forget about that stuff. We were awful and dysfunctional. Here, right now, we’re just awful. It’s much better now than it was. People forget that three-peat that we had to get to, we were [expletive]. We had to go on the road in San Antonio and thank God the Eastern Conference was terrible. We winded up having home court advantage in the Finals but we were awful.”
Just to be clear, the Lakers did have home court over the Spurs that season, they did not over the Kings in the Western Conference finals. And the Nets would like you to remember them as something other than terrible that year.
But the point about dysfunction is dead on.
Those Shaquille O’Neal/Kobe Lakers were a genuine soap opera. Not manufactured drama. Back then the tension in the locker room was palpable. Jackson struggled to keep his two stars on the same page long enough to win games (and he sided more with Shaq because he was the dominant locker room personality at the time).
Derek Fisher said that those teams helped today because he and Kobe learned and matured from those experiences. They now don’t get too high or too low during the season — or listen to the talk around them — something Jackson has helped teach them.
Which is why the news about a Ron Artest/Jackson tiff or rumors of problems between Kobe and Pau Gasol are overblown — this is a really professional locker room. A veteran team. Talk to them and it’s clear this stuff doesn’t really bother them. And it doesn’t seep on to the court like it did in 2002.
That’s not to say these Lakers are three-peat bound — the Eastern Conference is anything but terrible this year at the top, plus the Spurs are serious. But a little history helps us remember that things are just not so dire now, no matter how some try to paint them.
- Cavaliers coach David Blatt: ‘LeBron James is our MVP’ 20
- No Durant, what does that mean for Thunder in these playoffs? Trouble. 13
- Kevin Durant to have third foot surgery; is done for season, playoffs 36
- Goran Dragic leading feisty Heat’s playoff push 26
- NBA Draft prospect matchups to watch in NCAA Tourament this weekend 2
- Report: LeBron James frustrated with Kevin Love for not fitting in 85
- Five Things We Learned in NBA Wednesday: Kevin Love seems to be fitting in just fine suddenly 4
- It’s official: Dwight Howard will return to Rockets’ lineup Wednesday 2