After an impressive start to the 2010-2011 season, the Los Angeles Lakers have, as of late, been left floundering. The Laker’s woes started after Thanksgiving, when they lost four in a row to the Jazz, Pacers, Grizzlies, and Rockets, and was compounded with an embarrass loss on Christmas Day to the Miami Heat. On Sunday, the Lakers were blown out by the Grizzlies at home, 104-85.
There is something different about this team now than there was at the start of the season, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think there may be several causes:
- Physical Fatigue – this Lakers nucleus has played in the NBA Finals four three seasons in a row – that’s playing from November through June, logging 100+ games on the odometer each season. Add to that Kobe’s playing time in the 2008 Olympics and Lamar Odom’s participation in Team USA basketball this past summer and the increased workload on Gasol without a healthy Bynum. Could the Lakers be running out of gas - too many games, too many minutes in too short a time period?
- Mental Fatigue – could the Lakers just be low of gas in the brain? With two championships under their belt, the boys in Purple and Gold may be feeling a bit invincible – “We’ll turn it on come the playoffs.”
- Artest – let’s be honest – on offense the Lakers are very often playing 4 on 5. For all his energy and defensive prowess, for everything that he brings to the game from his energy to his experience, he takes it away on the offensive side of the court. He is not a threat; his defender can sag and clog the lane. Heck, in December Artest himself said he didn’t understand the triangle offense: “See, I can't really understand the triangle [offense]. There's 1,000 plays in the triangle. It's such a challenge. I get so frustrated about it. . . . So I just stay in my one spot in the corner. If I leave my spot, I get yelled at. [Lakers Coach] Phil [Jackson's] gonna say, 'What are you doing over there!' So I just don't move." (Maybe Ron should watch this video explaining the Hi-Low Triangle Offense.)
Whatever it is that is ailing the Lakers, they need to identify it and arrive at a suitable workaround. The good news is that this slump is happening now, in mid-season, as opposed to April or May. There’s still plenty of time for the Lakers to turn it around and get back into tip-top shape.