I know it’s been tough for Laker fans to experience this season’s debacle. With so much anticipation due to the arrival of Nash and Howard, joining Kobe, Pau and Metta, it caused everyone to pick the Lakers to reemerge as a dominant team, at least in the West. Although a little older and not as quick, I said to myself: “still got the experience” and for the first time since Magic, a point guard that could enhance everyone around him, and I still feel that way.
Unfortunately, the Princeton offense, injuries and the hiring of a new coach set the team back a little. They had and still are learning on the fly, as coach D is having his training camp during the month of December/January with obstacles to overcome. I understand the challenges this team has and the time it takes to jell, totally get that. But I feel that what’s missing some of the time are the intangibles — passion every night, hustle and effort, defensive transition, rebounding, getting to loose balls, etc. — which really don’t require tons of talent, just the desire to “get it done.” They are not that old! The Knicks are the oldest team in the NBA!!!
Now with Nash back and the start of a new year, I still expect the Lakers to struggle a little. The schedule will get tougher and challenges will remain until season end. With younger, quicker teams wanting to run it down the Lakers' throats, they will be challenged on the defensive end of the court every night and will need more bench production (please play Jordan Hill more and somehow find minutes for the experienced Jamison). We had a saying in the 80’s, “No Defense and No Rebounds = No Championship.” That’s the attitude the Lakers must have going forward. Hell, they can score 110 points in their sleep. However, if a team is not connected on the defensive end and controlling the intangible department, I don’t care how much talent you have, your season will be short (see the 1985-1986 Lakers).
Having said all that, I know this to be true (and there’s big “ifs” involved here): “If” this team collectively decides to defend and rebound, “if” Kobe allows the ball to be in Steve Nash’s hand the last 3 minutes of the game (better shot selection and more unpredictable), this team will flourish. I think they are capable of capturing the 5th or 4th place spot in the Western Conference standings. “If” they can turn this around, and I’m sure they can and will … “No one will want to see the Lakers in the playoffs.” I may be one of the Lakers biggest critics (Chick Hearn style), but I also still believe a NBA championship awaits this team in June.
C’mon guys, time to get busy!
- Big Game
Big Game James Worthy is an NCAA champ, 3-time NBA champ and an MVP with the Los Angeles Lakers, a hall of famer, philanthropist and an Analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet. For more information or to contact Big Game for an appearance visit www.jamesworthy42.com.