Are the Lakers a Dirty Team?

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2013

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 24:  Metta World Peace #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers at American Airlines Center on February 24, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

A bit of ire has been directed at the Los Angeles Lakers as of late with some accusations about their arguably dirty style of play.

Metta World Peace had a foul retroactively upgraded to a flagrant-2, giving him the league lead in flagrant foul "points" with five. It's fine that he's leading the league, the only problem is that he shares the lead with Dwight Howard.

World Peace has picked up a single flagrant-1 and two flagrant-2 fouls, while Howard is up to three flagrant-1 fouls and one flagrant-2.

On top of that, they also boast the league-leader in technical fouls, as Kobe Bryant is two ahead of the next closest player with 13 technicals so far this season.

All three must be careful, as any player with five flagrant points will be up for suspension if he gets another, and any player who passes the 15-technical threshold will be suspended as well, with an additional suspension for every second technical following.

With the Lakers in dire need of every win possible, losing a player to a silly overreaction leading to a technical or a flagrant foul could mean the difference between the playoffs and starting the summer a wee bit early.

So with Los Angeles racking up so many slaps on the wrist over the past few months, is it safe to say that they're a dirty team, or is there something beyond that must be taken into account?

World Peace does his best to make a bit of an excuse for what's led to his on-court troubles as far as fouling goes this season:

As I get older, I'm learning how to just play hard. It's not like I brought this aggression to the league. I didn't invent this. This is what we watched, this is what we saw. The Bill Laimbeers and the [Dennis] Rodmans, they play hard and they wasn't trying to hurt anybody. They played hard. They played with passion.

We grew up wanting to play with passion. So, when the guys say we're dirty, we're just playing hard. We're not playing dirty. We're just playing. We're reacting. We're going hard. We want to win.

He also goes into what could be making Howard a bit jumpy this season, leading to a few more rough incidents involving him as well:

If you try to block it, most likely he's going to get an and-1. He's that strong. So, you have to push him. You have to push him. With that being said, sometimes he gets hurt. So, those are intentional fouls.

Those are intentional when he's getting hurt. He got hurt when he got pushed in Orlando and that's why he had the back surgery. These guys are coming down on his back and he had to get surgery as a result of that.

Whether or not it was actually the intentional fouls that took Howard out is very much up for debate, but there's no doubt that Howard, along with LeBron James, is perhaps the most beat-up player in the league once he gets into the post.

Going beyond that, there's an obvious excuse for what has put the Lakers in such a foul mood throughout this season. They're frustrated.

This is a team that was supposed to come in and walk their way through the regular season on their way to challenging for a title. They struggled early on, continued to struggle, and the turnaround happened much later than anyone would have expected.

It's the same thing we see when the Lakers go into a slump. They start blaming each other on defense, pointing fingers and just getting grumpy with each other in general.

There's been a general sense of frustration from this group of players all season long, and in nearly every instance of rage, it's because of a long run without scoring, or just a bad game in general.

I wouldn't say they're any bit dirtier than any other team in the league (although they may have an individual or two who qualify as dirty players), but they're collectively the most frustrated team in the NBA.