Phil Jackson told us not to worry. Kobe said that while disappointing we shouldn't overreact. Derek said that the veterans know what to do. While alot of us were running around yelling to trade Andrew Bynum for Melo and try to find a way to unload Ron Ron (Artest), we underestimated the fact that Phil, Kobe, and Derek know this team better than anyone and, oh yeah, they know how to win.
16 games after the All Star game, we are watching the injury and losing bug hit San Antonio and Boston. Inconsistency hits Miami, Orlando, Dallas, OKC, and New York. Atlanta, Portland and Dallas are playing a wee bit over their heads when they win and show their true colors when they lose. And, just when you want to anoint Chicago as the heir apparent, they lose to Philadelphia on a bad shooting nite by Lou Williams. What is this, the NCAA tourney? Shades of Butler and VCU...are Atlanta and Portland going to make their conference finals? I doubt it. Still a few games to go and I don't hesitate when I say that the Lakers and Spurs should battle it out for supremacy in the West. While in the East, Boston and somebody else will battle for their conference crown. I say Chicago because they are somewhat consistent and play that suffocating defense that wins championships (see Detroit and Boston in this decade). No matter how you slice it, it should Boston and LA again one more time.
Why did we doubt the Lakers? Let's be honest, we are die hard LA fans-which goes against popular opinion-it actually means we live and die with this team. Yet, we still overhype their wins and winning streaks and become ultra depressed when they lose. Why? First, Kobe and Phil demand perfection in their own way and set the expectations and the bar high. So when Pau Gasol just misses meeting those expectations or has one bad game, we jump to the conclusion that he is tired. If D-Fish has an off night, he is too old or too slow. If Barnes doesn't hit a 3, it is his injury or his attitude-same can be said for Artest with one difference. We sometimes think Ron Ron is complaining or doesn't like Kobe. Really, I don't think Kobe is winning any teammate of the year contests. What he is winning and wants to win again is a championship. We think Shannon Brown is still immature if he doesn't constantly drive to the basket. Steve Blake is a bust when he misses one three point shot. Bynum doesn't look like he is running on one play and we immediately think he is lazy or hurt.
Looking at the Celtics, Spurs, and other teams facing losing streaks or inconsistency, all I can say is the Lakers may have been inconsistent and had some injuries, but at least they were smart enough to do it earlier in the year. Now, as noted, Kobe demands perfection and often when it doesn't happen he tries to take over, which lately looks like a great strategy. Note to Kobe, just don't do that too often as your friends Pau, Lamar, and Andrew all have scoring capabilities and your team is at their best when the "bigs" touch the ball on both ends of the court. Again though, we or I cannot be shortsighted...we or I need to trust Kobe to lead us to 3 in a row. Kobe leads by example and understands that he will make some mistakes but his successes outweigh his mistakes by a wide margin.
Phil, while demanding perfection and setting that expectation, doesn't just want it physically, he wants it mentally. He emphasizes decision making-he wants the right choices being made AND in the last 16 games these decisions are looking terrific. Bynum's positioning on the glass is text book. Ron Ron seems to know when to shoot, when to drive, and thankfully when to pass. Pau and D Fish seem to be getting stronger and becoming a bigger part of the offense. Lamar has been the steadying influence on this team. His calmness is only overshadowed by his decision making-when to bring the ball down court, when to post up, when to drive, when to shoot the three-pretty much all year, he has been making the right decisions.
For Phil, the pain has to be the bench, mainly Matt Barnes and Steve Blake. They have been so inconsistent this year that they are consistently inconsistent. Barnes due to injury and Blake due to the fact that in this offense there is no need for a dominating point guard. Shannon Brown is having a steady year and there is hope he will continue to grow. Luke Walton is a fan favorite who seems to be getting less and less quality time and it may be about time to move on. Overall, I give the bench a C+ and Phil may grade it lower. All we really need the bench to do is come in and pick the pace of the game. Hustle, Hustle!
Why are we short sighted, well we want the view of what have you done for me lately and we overreact to every piece of bad news or loss that comes are way. Playoffs are around the corner, so we can be short sighted because a series usually lasts only 7 games...so shortsightedness is probably a good thing. Anyway, here is Kobe and Phil as they work towards 3 in a row. When we feel like we want to complain, let's just not say anything at all and go talk either one of them. They are both honest. One in a gritty, intense way and another in a humorous, transcendent way. Either or, as long as Kobe and/or Phil around, we are good hands and should get our eyes check for shortsightedness.