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.
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.
- 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.