Towards the end of December the Lakers were arguably playing their worst basketball during the Pau Gasol era.
During the stretch they lost four of six, by an average of 17 points.
Including a 19-point loss against the Milwaukee Bucks who were playing without their best player (Brandon Jennings), and a 16-point embarrassment on Christmas Day against the Heat, in what was marketed as the NBA’s “Game of the Year”.
Pau Gasol looked wore down, the three point shots weren’t falling like they were early in the season, Bynum’s return created more problems then positives, the bench was non-existent, and the panic set in.
Lamar Odom, although a lot of his post-game comments contain “Umm, (long sigh), we….(pause)…have to….umm…(long sigh)” Said something to me in the locker room last season that resonated.
“A NBA season is a marathon, not a sprint”
Sure, its been said before, and its not the most brilliant statement ever made, but its something Lakers fans often forget.
A six game stretch doesn’t decide a championship, a loss to the Bucks isn’t all that bad, and a four game losing streak is nothing more then a bump in the road to a championship caliber team.
Take the 104-85 loss to the Memphis Grizzles back on January 2nd. After the game, Phil Jackson said, “Kobe has to screw up the game and start energizing the team by going one-on-one and that takes the rest of the guys out as a consequence.”
It was the 4th loss in the aforementioned 6 game stretch, Kobe Bryant “screwed” the game up by going 10-22 from the field, including forcing multiple three pointers going one for seven from beyond the arc.
Reports then start to come out that Kobe Bryant has not been practicing due to swelling in his knees, then he makes the following statement after passing Dominique Wilkins for 10th all time scoring.
“Even in my prime I couldn’t dunk like Dominique”. Bryant Said.
Does, Kobe think he’s out of his prime?
Then one starts to think, well, his scoring average is down, he has finger injuries that have been deemed un-fixable, heck he can’t even practice with the team because his knees are so bad.
Then you may come to two conclusions, the Lakers aren’t looking so hot these days, and Kobe may be deteriorating before our very eyes.
Then two things happened.
Four wins later, the Lakers put together the 3rd biggest win in franchise history by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers by 55 points, 112-57. Showing what a two-time champion is suppose to do to a team that came in losing 19 of their last 20.
The following night the Lakers go up to Golden State. A few misses here and a few there, and Kobe may be labeled with the “screwed up the game” tag again.
He did screw up the game plan that was for sure, but I think Phil was O.K. with it.
30 Of Kobe Bryant’s 39 points came in the second half, including 17-points in the final 5:39 of the fourth quarter.
“It don’t matter who’s on me. When it’s go time, it’s go time,” Bryant said. “You have the responsibility to come through for your team and make the right play. Tonight, I did that.”
Doesn’t sound like someone out of his prime.
As you watch Kobe stick his bottom jaw out, exposing an under-bite when he is in Black Mamba mode, ask yourself. Is that guy going to let this opportunity pass him by?
The Lakers understand the pace, and the ups and downs of an NBA season, they then know once the 82 games are in the books…
All they have to do is sprint pass the finish line.