Special thanks to Justin Page for writing this take and giving us the privilege to add it to TheLakersNation.com. Again, if you write anything Lakers related and you think that it deserves to be put TLN please e-mail us at articles@TheLakersNation.com.

odom1.jpgThe winds appear to be changing from cold and blustery to warm and calm in Los Angeles. A 7-4 start with quality wins against what are expected to be top-tier playoff teams in the Suns, Rockets, Jazz, and Pistons have Laker fans optimistic about what was expected to be a tumultuous season just weeks ago.

Phil Jackson clearly has the attention of this team and although he hasn’t solved the Kobe Bryant trade demand; he’s done a great job at diffusing the situation. The entire team is making an effort on the defensive end of the floor despite having two poor games from a defensive rotation standpoint against the Spurs and Hornets. At this point, two poor outings out of 11 games is a major improvement over last season.

In addition, Phil also has Kobe playing defense similar to the way he played this summer with Team USA and Kobe’s still being very efficient on the offensive side of the ball (26.9 ppg; 46% from the field) while shooting less (19.5 field goal attempts per game compared to last year’s 22.8). What’s even more impressive is the fact that his supporting cast is stepping up offensively. In two double digit wins last week against the Pistons and Bulls, Bryant didn’t crack 20 points in either rout.

The make-up of this current team is really intriguing and if you were an outsider and didn’t follow the Lakers you’d most likely look at this roster and see a few nice pieces but not an entire entity. But look closely and you can see the personalities are a big reason for their early success. Kobe obviously is the fiercest competitor in the league and his intensity is unmatched. He called out Bynum who in turn vowed that “this is my year.”

Odom is coming off an injury plagued 2006-2007 season and stated in the off-season he wanted to be a “Laker for life” despite being thrown into numerous trade possibilities. He said after the post-season Suns loss last year that “he hoped THIS team would be given an opportunity to turn things around.” The opportunity was given to him and now he has something to prove.

Kwame Brown’s is in a contract year, enough said. What about Vlade? You can see it in his play that he has a real chip on his shoulder after the worst year of his career last season. The embarrassment and disappointment of last year have turned into consistent play and a quiet confidence.

Chris Mihm wants a big contract and is coming off sitting out last season with an injury.

Farmar is just a joy to watch, you can tell he loves the game of basketball and just wants to be out there competing. You could tell that last year when he asked to play in the developmental league game. The Lakers brought in Fisher and drafted Crittenton, so he knows he has to bring it day-in and day-out.

Fisher’s a productive veteran leader whose work ethic rubs off on this young team, and you just can find guys like that for how cheap we got him. Throw in guys like Turiaf, Walton, and Vujacic who know they need to play as hard as possible in order to compete at a high level, and you have an entire team that has something to prove.

Maybe Mitch Kupchak knew all along this was going to happen? I never thought I would say this, but I think he’s done an excellent job handling the big issues he faced this off-season. He’s clearly learned from the Shaquille O’Neal situation and has said all the right things (actually he hasn’t really said anything publicly, and that’s the way it should be). Buss gave him an out, in that Buss could have been labeled the bad guy and the one that forced a trade to be made; that’s an out that a lot of general managers in Kupchak’s position would have taken.

Kupchak also didn’t panic when all the pressure was on him to make a deal this off-season, after Bryant demanded that something to be done. Remember all of the potential trades floating around this past summer involving Bynum and Jermaine O’Neal? These early season averages are surprising…

Bynum: 24.7 minutes, 11.5 ppg, 80% free throw, 58% field goal, 10 rebounds.

O’Neal: 30.2 minutes, 13.2 ppg, 68% free throw, 38% field goal, 7 rebounds.

Couple those numbers with the fact that the Lakers would of thrown in other pieces to make the deal work financially (Kwame Brown’s 8+ million expiring contract and even possibly a young stud like Farmar) and I think we should really thank our lucky stars Indiana didn’t except that deal. As far as Indiana is concerned, they have to be kicking themselves for unrealistically requiring both Bynum and Odom this past summer. Bottom line: that deal is as good as dead. Bynum’s strong early season start and his outplaying O’Neal in that 134-114 Lakers victory on Tuesday night all but assures Bynum’s address won’t change even if Indiana management decides to be reasonable and not require Odom as part of the package.

The Lakers made a great move in getting Trevor Ariza for Brian Cook and Mo Evans. On the court, they’ll be losing a nice bench contributor in Evans, but Cook was an overpaid lazy defender and his offensive productivity from the three-point line is disposable with Radmanovic playing the way he is. With the makeup of this team, a young future lockdown defender like Ariza is the right direction to go. It seems that he also has something to prove coming back to his hometown and just looking for an opportunity to get on the court. This trade also saves the Lakers $6 million over the next two years, and if Ariza happens to opt-out after this season, it will save them $9.1 million.

  • http://LAL Jonas Joseph

    GREAT ARTICLE, AND YOU ARE RIGHT, ONEAL IS NOT THE SAME PLAYER HE WAS, HES A INJURY PRONE JUST LIKE KIDD, I UNDERSTAND THAT IN THE SUMMER YOU MIGHT HATED KUPCHACK (WHITCH I DID TOO) HES DID A BETTER JOB THEN WE THOUGHT. LOOK HE GOT DEREK, TREVER ARIZA, VLADIMIR, DRAFTED RONNY, BYNUM, JAVARIS, LUKE, AND FARMAR. THE ONLY MISTAKE HE MADE IS NONTHING. HE DIDNT REALLY MEAN TO TRADE SHAQ, BUSS MADE HIM. NOW ARE TEAM IS DOING WELL. AND HE DID TRY TO GET GARNETT. IT JUST CELTICS HAD THE UPPER HAND IN THE DEAL. MAYBE WE SHOULD KIND OF BE HAPPY FOR MITCH. NOW I STILL WANT A STAR CALIBER PLAYER, BUT SINCE WE AINT TRADING BYNUM, LAMAR IS THE ONLY ONE. AND ONE BIG PLUSS HE GOT RIDD OF BRIAN COOK….SO HES DOING A GOOD JOB

  • http://www.friendster.com lakerfan101

    I agree with you Jonas Joseph!!!!
    Go lakers Go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • n8

    wow, nice breakdown

  • 24allup inya

    Was’nt Phil’s decision on signing or not supposed to come on this weekend???

  • sunjeep

    yea i agree….but he still traded shaq for nothing….theres nothing to do but sit back and hope good comes from the roster in place

  • sK

    Tonight figures to be a tough game as everyone sees it …. I am hopeful that the Lakers can and will prevail. But I would like to see Bynum really step up tonight and throw some down with aggression and let KG hear him. I think we all have a sense (as hardcore Laker fans) of Kobes competetiveness and pride (almost to a fault)… and what we have come to know about KB24 is that he doesnt like it when others are getting more attention than he is…. which the celtics, (kg, pierce, and allen) have gotten in the off-season and this early season… top it off with the Lakers attempt to land KG this past summer…… I believe Kobe will come tonight with something, not so much to prove, but something say. Im anxious… im excited… id be scared if i was celtic fan tonight.

    Lakeshow in Boston tonight. Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

    P.S Tape delays are so 80′s – 90′s. Cmon KCAL , people are actually gonna be home tonight. geeeeeez.

  • 24allup inya

    [Comment ID #17773 Will Be Quoted Here]

    K-CAL suck’s, after this game im boycotting any delayed games they air.I’ll just keep up with the score thru the net f-u-c-k ch9!!!

  • Billy Kupchak

    [Comment ID #17772 Will Be Quoted Here]

    yes, PJ did say that he’ll have his mind made up by Thanksgiving weekend.

  • PHANTOM

    wow people are excited about a 7-4 start soon to be 7-5? Lakers are better than last year but there still going to be a bottom seed and one round and out. looks like teams are figuring out the lakers and run zone at them and make lamar shoot 3′s now thats an ugly sight.

  • http://bestplayerontheplanet.com Chase

    Great article! This team has improved greatly. It will be interesting to see if they can stay healthy. You know Kobe will! I think the biggest effect on this season is of course Kobe and his defensive effort every night. Those players have got to be feeding off that. The to other huge factor I think is the Point Guard play. You go from Smush Parker and Shammond Williams to Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar. Enough said!

  • sK

    [Comment ID #17777 Will Be Quoted Here]

    yea phantom your right.. whats the point of watching basketball anyways… we should just be pessimistic and not cheer or be hopeful… bro this is a Lakers fan forum.. errrrrrr. Considering their schedule this year which is day/night from the home heavy easy start last year. 7-4 is looking great. Dont be surprised if Lakers win by a blowout tonight (15+ points.) im telling you… KObes pisssed.

  • LakersFirst (Change) (Close)

    [Comment ID #17777 Will Be Quoted Here]

    F PHANTOM…I’m not sure why he’s even here at a Laker web site when he’s clearly not a Laker fan (maybe a bandwagon fan at most). Phantom go away, True Laker fans don’t want you here. In your past posts, you have contribued nothing but negativity (although it was enjoyable making fun of you in the chat room – that entertained me).

  • rejaun

    u guys are all the worst fans ever right just jump on the bandwagon
    u were all blaming mitch when the lakers were playig poorly and now you say hes done a good job?! am i the only one who knew he only couldn’t get good trades done because j buss was using him as a puppet to take he blame during the summer

  • http://thelakersnation.com Tyler

    great aritcle way to break it down
    hope we’ll dominate the celtics tonight we know bynum can compete with o’neal but well see about kevin garnett im hopin
    GO LAKERS!!

  • PHANTOM

    I’m sorry does the truth hurt? i want the lakers to win more than anyone, i just don’t see it this year. our weeknesses are exposed and will hurt us in the first round. I’m not a raw raw girl like lakers first is so sorry, and you keep on thinking the FO did a great job…

  • http://LAL Jonas Joseph

    UMMM REJOIN…WE WERE FUSTRATED LIKE KOBE WAS IN THIS SUMMER, WE WERE TO BUSY OF FOCUSING ON WHAT MITCH DIDN’T DOD THEN WHAT HE DID DO. WE WERE FOOLS, BUT TO CALL US THE WORST FANS IS STUPID, THE WORST FANS ARE NOT BACKING UP THERE STAR PLAYER WHEN HE WAS DEGRATED BY THE WORLD FOR HIS MISTAKE, THE WORST FANS WOULD’VE LEFT THE LAKER CORE WHEN SHAQ GOT TRADED OR IF KOBE DID GET TRADED, THE WORST FANS WOULD SAY THERE TEAM IS NOW 7-4 AND AFTER TONIGHT GAME SAY WERE GOING TO BE 7-5 (IM REFERING TO PHANTOM) EVERY FRANCHISE HAS THAT MOMENT WHERE THERE FANS LOSE HOPES AND START BLAMING PEOPLE, BUT THE LAKER FANS HAVE THE MOST HEART THEN ANY OTHER FAN CORE IN THE NBA…SO YOU COULD NEVER TAKE FROM US, SO YEAH WE BLAMED MITCH KUPCHACK FOR KOBE BEING ANGRY, BUT WE SHOUL’VE STOP POINTING FINGERS AND JUS PUT OUR HEADS HIGH AND SHOUT THE SKY IS THE LIMIT, NOW WE HAVE FAITH IN OUR LAKER SQAUD. EVERYBODY MAKES MISTAKES BUT IT IS ALWAYS GOOD TO MAKE MISTAKES CAUSE YOU LEARN FORM THEM, LIKE WHEN KOBE CAME OUT AND TOLD THE WORLD ABOUT HIS FUSTRATIONS, NOW HE KNOWS HE SHOULD KEEP IT BEHIND DOORS, AND WHEN HE THOUGHT HE COULD DOIT BY HIMSELF, NOW HE KONWS HE NEEDS HELP IN ORDER TO WIN, AND WHEN WE TRADED SHAQ FOR NOT EQUAL TALENT, NOW WE KNOW IF WE TRADE A SUPERSTAR THAT THEY MUST BE ALMOST THE SAME TALENT. AND A MISTAKE WE WONT MAKE IS GIVING UP A 20 YEAR CENTER THAT WILL BE THE NEXT GREAT CENTER FOR IA INJURY PRONE PLAYER LIKE KIDD AND O’NEAL. SO YEAH WE MADE MISTAKES BUT WE LEARNED AND HAD ENOUGH KNOWLEDGE TO STEP FOWARD WITH A STRONG STEP. SO THATS ALL I HAVE TO SAY BUDDY…….GO LAKERS

  • http://LAL Jonas Joseph

    UMMM REJAUN…WE WERE FUSTRATED LIKE KOBE WAS IN THIS SUMMER, WE WERE TO BUSY OF FOCUSING ON WHAT MITCH DIDN’T DOD THEN WHAT HE DID DO. WE WERE FOOLS, BUT TO CALL US THE WORST FANS IS STUPID, THE WORST FANS ARE NOT BACKING UP THERE STAR PLAYER WHEN HE WAS DEGRATED BY THE WORLD FOR HIS MISTAKE, THE WORST FANS WOULD’VE LEFT THE LAKER CORE WHEN SHAQ GOT TRADED OR IF KOBE DID GET TRADED, THE WORST FANS WOULD SAY THERE TEAM IS NOW 7-4 AND AFTER TONIGHT GAME SAY WERE GOING TO BE 7-5 (IM REFERING TO PHANTOM) EVERY FRANCHISE HAS THAT MOMENT WHERE THERE FANS LOSE HOPES AND START BLAMING PEOPLE, BUT THE LAKER FANS HAVE THE MOST HEART THEN ANY OTHER FAN CORE IN THE NBA…SO YOU COULD NEVER TAKE FROM US, SO YEAH WE BLAMED MITCH KUPCHACK FOR KOBE BEING ANGRY, BUT WE SHOUL’VE STOP POINTING FINGERS AND JUS PUT OUR HEADS HIGH AND SHOUT THE SKY IS THE LIMIT, NOW WE HAVE FAITH IN OUR LAKER SQAUD. EVERYBODY MAKES MISTAKES BUT IT IS ALWAYS GOOD TO MAKE MISTAKES CAUSE YOU LEARN FORM THEM, LIKE WHEN KOBE CAME OUT AND TOLD THE WORLD ABOUT HIS FUSTRATIONS, NOW HE KNOWS HE SHOULD KEEP IT BEHIND DOORS, AND WHEN HE THOUGHT HE COULD DOIT BY HIMSELF, NOW HE KONWS HE NEEDS HELP IN ORDER TO WIN, AND WHEN WE TRADED SHAQ FOR NOT EQUAL TALENT, NOW WE KNOW IF WE TRADE A SUPERSTAR THAT THEY MUST BE ALMOST THE SAME TALENT. AND A MISTAKE WE WONT MAKE IS GIVING UP A 20 YEAR CENTER THAT WILL BE THE NEXT GREAT CENTER FOR IA INJURY PRONE PLAYER LIKE KIDD AND O’NEAL. SO YEAH WE MADE MISTAKES BUT WE LEARNED AND HAD ENOUGH KNOWLEDGE TO STEP FOWARD WITH A STRONG STEP. SO THATS ALL I HAVE TO SAY BUDDY…….GO LAKERS

  • http://thelakernation.com faran

    lakers by 8 tonight, kobe’s first 40 pt with triple double, bynum 18-14

  • http://LAL Jonas Joseph

    yeah kobe has to get 35-40 points, andrew has to get 18 points and 10+rebounds, lamar the same, the bench mob must be supurb this game

  • LakersFirst (Change) (Close)

    [Comment ID #17784 Will Be Quoted Here]

    You’re a bandwagon fan with NO FAITH. Change your name “Bandwagon Fan” or “No Faith”. I support my team in good times and bad, unlike you who talks sh*t about them. YOU ARE NOT A REAL LAKER FAN!! I guess your name, Phantom, really defines who you really are …a Phantom Fan.

  • 24allup inya

    Lamar le gusta la verga!!!

  • PHANTOM

    Let me help you out Avery,

    The smush of the day goes to useless lamar odom…
    It really can go to multiple players except kobe and vlad, but as lamar is supposed to be our number 2 make sure you give it to him.

  • n8

    Wow, what a bunch of bandwagon Boston fans.

  • lakrfan4life

    People r forgetting this is a site for the article, not arguing for the sake of arguing, and definitely not discussing the game.
    In any case, Justin is totally right. I’m sorta glad we didnt trade bynum for JO, however we could have possibly traded LO.
    It’s too late to get J Kidd considering how we signed Fish and Farmar is playing like a beast.
    However, LO really needs to step his game up. I mean, at least get consistent double-doubles every night. And stop taking 3s LO. He need to play in the post. I get nervous when he shoots 3s.
    And Mihm??? We resign him so he can take horrible hook shots at pivotal times in the games. WOW.
    Good news though, we got Trevor Ariza for 2 sub-par players. Hes a monster on D and he loves to dunk on people.
    But good job Kobe for not saying anything on the trade situation, I hope u changed ur mined permanently, wanting to stay and all.

    Great article, way to stir up some controversy.

  • domidomdomz

    [Comment ID #17781 Will Be Quoted Here]

    yeah ur right..please go away phantom

    HAYOP KA!