The Lakers are in panic mode.
Their fans are worried as the team continues to lose losses despite having a world class point guard, one of the best shooting guards to ever play the game, a small forward who asks for the hardest defensive assignments, an All-Star power forward and a multiple Defensive-Player-of-the-Year winner.
If it weren’t for the fact that the Lakers had just fired Mike Brown, there’s a good chance people might be whispering that Mike D’Antoni needs to be fired because his team is losing. How could they be losing with such talent? Fellow Bleacher Report writer Dan Favale says that the Lakers are definitely in panic mode.
While the panic does make sense, there is precedence for this type of fluctuation. More importantly, that precedence doesn’t go back that far.
One can look at the Miami Heat when the Big Three came together and see where I’m going with this analogy. The Miami Heat definitely did not come out as powerfully as they should have: they were 13-9 through the first two months.
The Heat should have been 21-0. Instead, they were just above average through the first quarter of that season. The thing to remember is that those Miami Heat went on to win their division and go all the way to the NBA Finals where they lost to the Dallas Mavericks.
But they won it all the very next year.
The Los Angeles Lakers, while currently three games under .500, have something else in common with the Heat. There are a lot of talent individual players trying to play as a unit when they each used to be the star of their own team.
Dwight Howard was the All-Star center for the Orlando Magic, the go-to guy; Steve Nash orchestrated the Phoenix Suns offense; Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant played a type of basketball that didn’t require a point guard. When you bring that much talent together in one building, there are going to be growing pains. Each player has to adapt.
What this does, though, is remind me of a story that I actually mentioned in today’s morning newsletter over at Curave. Bill Simmons of Grantland asked legendary NBA center Bill Russell about the Kobe Question. Russell talked about how he used to scout his own Celtic teammates, so that he knew in what areas these players were lacking. He could then change his style of play to help them.
The reason the story is called the Kobe Question is because one player in particular bought Russell’s book and then talked to Russel about it. As Simmons says:
So when Russell mentioned a current star devouring his book and stealing that specific concept — then thanking Russell for the help — naturally, I expected the player to be LeBron James, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, maybe even Kevin Durant. Nope.Kobe Bryant.
Kobe Bryant, who wants to be known as the greatest basketball player of all time, who wants to win another championship—or two. To do that he’ll need to work with his teammates and encourage them to be better, something Russell used to do. Granted, they will do it two different ways, but the end goal is the same: to win.
That’s why the Lakers don’t have to panic yet. At the end of the day, the Lakers have a champion on their team who will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, players of all time. LeBron James possesses incredible athletic ability, but when it comes down to true basketball perfection, Kobe Bryant is one of the closest.
Because of that, they will right their ship.
When Steve Nash and Pau Gasol come back and the Lakers have their original starting five, the Lakers will start to win games again. Dwight Howard will start to step up on the offensive side. Mike D’Antoni will find a way for Gasol to get better shots. And finally, Kobe Bryant will start to play more aggressive defense.
At the end of the day, Kobe Bryant is a champion; he’ll do whatever it takes.
Now, if January and February roll around and the Lakers are still like this, then we can forget this article ever existed and conclude that this experiment obviously failed.
But that’s just not likely. There is too much talent and too much desire for the Lakers to fail. Besides, look at what the Heat did in December in 2010: They went 25-9. While the Lakers are off to a slow start, they’ve got 20 days to win. Perhaps that starts tomorrow.