Imagine if the Lakers lost Kobe, Gasol and Bynum. What would their record be at this point in the season? Seeing as to how much trouble they have teams of the Sacramento Queen’s King’s caliber, I’d wager they’d be below .500 if their starting lineup was Fisher, Odom, Artest, Brown and Mbenga.

So how have the Rockets (20 – 15) performed at such a high level missing both of their superstars with no one filling the void?

The Rockets give the Lakers non-stop trouble every time they play despite missing Yao and McGrady, despite lacking anyone close to seven feet tall, despite lacking a go-to guy anywhere near Kobe’s skill level, and despite lacking anyone of Lamar’s versatility coming off the bench.

The Lakers are more talented and deeper at almost every position than the Rockets. Yet the Rockets manage to fight the Lakers to a virtual draw every game. But how?

The Rockets play textbook perfect basketball and squeeze the value and talent out of every player on the roster. The mercurial Lakers could learn much from the-little-red-team-that-could.

A few lessons the Lakers would do well to learn…

1. You don’t need seven-footers to play big – Players like Scola and Landry play tough as nails and are extremely effective post players. They know their game and play within their limitations. They hustle, they play hard, aren’t afraid of contact and fight hard for position. The whole team crashes the boards every time a shot goes up.They’ve outboarded the Lakers in previous games this season without a single seven footer.

That’s playing big.

2. You don’t need superstars to stay competitive – I have trouble thinking of anyone on the Rockets roster going to the All-Star Game this year, let alone anyone who’d be considered a “superstar.”

Basketball purists must squeal with glee watching the Rockets play pure, unadulterated team basketball. The team’s collective conscious probably has the highest basketball I.Q. I’ve seen in years. They move the ball effectively, make few mistakes, find the open man and all play their positions intelligently. Foolish mistakes and bad decisions are rare.

No one on that team is particularly physically gifted, but they all know their strengths and play to them.

3. You shouldn’t need to have a Kobe Bryant bail you out – As much as I enjoy watch Kobe put up 44 points, dish out 11 assists and drop game-winning 3’s, the Rockets don’t have the luxury (and it is a luxury) to have someone come in, put the team on his back and carry them to a W. They come in and play hard every single possession. Out of all these lessons, the Lakers need to take this to heart.

The Rockets never take a possession off.

They hustle on every play, no matter if they’re on offense, defense, up by 20 or down by 20. As a result, everyone gets points. Everyone gets rebounds. Everyone gets assists. And no one needs to get bailed out.

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Yes, the Lakers are the better team and can beat the Rockets. They’re more talented at every position, have all kinds of skilled players and every weapon a Championship team could possibly want. And then some. Yet, they struggle against mediocre teams and need Kobe’s heroics to save the day.

Imagine what the Lakers would look like if they played like the Rockets — fighting for every rebound, hustling down the floor after every shot, moving the ball well, finding the open man and knocking down open looks. Imagine if they challenged every shot, rotated quickly and played focused defense on every play. Imagine if they never gave up, never stopped playing and never gave up large leads.

They’d probably be undefeated with a point margin well into the double digits. They’d probably be on their way to 80 wins and another ring. Instead, they’ve taught the rest of the league that with some hustle and grit, they can be beaten.

Other spotlights…

  • I still hate Scola.
  • Is there anyone more inconsistent than Odom?
  • The Lakers recent slump should tell you how valuable Artest really is. It not just about his defense. It’s his attitude. He’s the only player not name Kobe who plays hard every possession and never gives up on a play.
  • It’s been beaten to death, I know, but I have to say it: what Kobe is doing with TWO broken fingers is nothing short of messianic.
  • The Lakers are most dangerous when they play patiently and exploit the innumerable mismatches they have every game.
  • Memo to Mark Cuban: The NFL does not factor in the Maverick’s schedule when choosing what days to hold the NFL playoffs. They’re always on Saturdays and Sundays. The world does not revolve around you. Even in Dallas.
  • H1/N1

    In case you forgot, the Lakers are the CHAMPIONS.
    They’ve earned it by fighting through injuries and tough 7 game series. What exactly do they need to learn? What can non-champion who just got out of the first round last season in years going to teach a team that has been to the NBA Finals in consecutive years? There is nothing the Rockets can teach the Lakers.

    • http://www.facebook.com/paulcamantigue Whatsa

      Well I guess it’s not that they need to learn it.. but that they need to use their talent consistently well(aka twin towers and the versatile Odom).

      Oh and that just because Artest is injured does not give them the excuse to slack off their defense just cause he’s the defensive specialist.

  • Kid Kaos 310

    The simple fact that Ariza is playing with Houston can account for some of the adjustments and reads that the Rockets have on the Lakers. Trevor knows his old squad inside and out – think of it like insider trading to a certain degree. Tag this on to Houston’s “hustle factor” and you have on competitive ball club

    • bc18

      well you cant really say that. cuz we have artest. if ur argument is true, than we should have reads and adjustments on them too. nice try.

  • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

    Love the Mark Cuban comment. That’s one guy who thinks money can get him everything…well, everything but a championship that is.

    • http://www.facebook.com/paulcamantigue Whatsa

      He’s an annoying degenerate, all I have to say.

  • LC09

    good article.. but come on lo has been pretty good last 3 or 4 games.. he cant give us a almost triple double every nite.. hahaha fu k cuban studid as s

    • 007

      what did cuban do? link anyone?

  • http://lil_jay78.blogspot.com/ j

    I agree, great article, but like H1/N1 said(btw – interesting name, he he he), the Lakers are the Champs.

    What NBA champion has won it all WITHOUT a big man, and without superstars? I’d have to contend that there hasn’t been one yet. So although seeing the Rockets play bigger than they are night in and night out is inspirational and what we should hope to see from our Lakers, it won’t win championships.

    Now of course, if these Lakers DID play with that same fervor and intensity, they would be completely dominant, so we can only hope that they DO take a lesson from them.

    • WifelovesLuke

      Uh….Jordan won 6 NBA titles without a big man down low. Just sayin!

  • nickp

    Just an FYI, kobe’s finger isn’t broken. It’s jammed.

    • WifelovesLuke

      A fracture is a break, Dr. Nick! NEXT!

  • 242LakerFan

    I like this article, but it would have been more appropriate a week ago. I honestly believe we’re coming out of the Christmas malaise we had been experiencing. The bench is stepping up their play, LO has been way better lately and Sasha is even looking more into the game.

  • justtheobviousfacts

    kobe’s finger is fractured, not jammed. it has been well discussed

  • justtheobviousfacts

    I have a problem with this article.

    The Rockets have a decent record. They aren’t the best team in the West or near the top. So what they don’t have big names, they have good shooters and a good coach. They are doing what is expected of them.

    I have a problem with the part that says if the Lakers played with the hustle the Rockets played with they’d be undefeated. Come on now. That is the most ridiculous statement I have heard.
    Call Kobe messianic all you want, but he is very human. Every player on the team is. When they have an off game it isn’t because they don’t care, it is because as humans, we make mistakes. Kobe is great, but he will not play perfect every game. Neither will the rest of the team.

    Stop expecting the Lakers to beat everyone by 40 like they’re God’s gift to basketball. They’re working to get better, and they #1 in the league. Sure, they can learn from a team with no 7 footers to hustle, but there’s always a little more to the story.

    • lakerman1

      Ditto.

      Just about every L.A. Blog i read there are always these types of comments. No team has the complete package. The lakers have the talent to contend for a few years’ why not comment on that instead of trying to continuosly find holes in their game. If the Lakers played the same way Houston does and did not win the Title who the hell in L.A. would enjoy that with all of the spoiled brat fans & writers that exist here, like one L.A sports writer said while he was complaing to a writer for another team’ just abot every NBA team would love to have the issues the Lakers have. They will probably never be all that they can be and that is fine with me because its who hoists the Trophy at the end of the season that counts, the journey is too long and tedious to play 100% every game. Just enjoy what we have or become a Clipper Fan already.

      DAMN

      • WifelovesLuke

        Well said…..I second

  • Laker4 Life

    Lakers don’t need to learn anything from the rockets. If the Lakers just play hard every game they are gone win.
    Lakers don’t need to blowout teams. They just need to focus and play defense evry game.
    Go Lakers!

  • KindSir

    C’mon guys, you can’t truly believe that if we played as hard and hustled as much as the Rockets did, that we wouldn’t be better for it. I too wish we worked hard like they do, we spend way too much time on cruise control.

  • KB24ForLife

    very well written article

  • scarface

    mark cuban needs a psychologist.?

  • Robert

    Lakers are pacing. They shouldn’t play as hard as the Rockets (who have no choice, if they want to make it to the playoffs). The Lakers are shooting for June, which is about 5 months away. The Rockets could finish in Mid-April. Yes, the Lakers need to take things more seriously, but they ‘can’ turn on a switch – just like in the Mavs game. They will play hard when it matters. (although, they do need to play with ‘some’ more intensity, if they want home court in Finals.