The Lakers lost three games in a row in March and needed a Kobe Bryant buzzer beater to beat Toronto.
In Los Angeles, this gets a bigger reaction than a 5.5 Richter Scale earthquake (I personally won’t move for anything less than a 6). The Lakers fan base is much like an elementary school bully — pushing around anyone who dares challenge them on the Web, but deep down insecure. And this recent spat of play has them skittish like those little dogs women in LA carry around in their purses.
Fueling that we get big Los Angeles Times columns hyping up the fear factor. Cue Bill Plaschke.
They all know. The NBA knows. If we’re going to be honest with ourselves, all of Los Angeles should know.
Based on their current attitude and work ethic, the Lakers are not a championship team. If they can’t summon the consistent urgency of last season, they are not even a Finals team.
When I asked Coach Phil Jackson whether this team had the same consistent urgency of last season, he said, “I don’t think so. … We don’t have that. … Not that we can’t reclaim it at some point. … That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Jackson later added, simply, “The urgency of playing well has not struck us yet.”
Yes, we’ve never seen anything like this in Los Angeles. The Lakers have never looked bored and lost to inferior teams then suddenly looking like world-beaters when their backs are against the wall.
Well, except for last year when they won the title. And through the last two years of the last three-pete era under Jackson.
This is who the Lakers are, people. The players like Derek Fisher get that. Last season not only did they have stretches like this leading into the playoffs, they had them in the playoffs. Remember the Houston series — they gave the Lakers matchup problems and combined with LA’s indifference it went seven games. Then there was the Denver series, when the Lakers mentally coasted through much of the first four, then turned it on and won in six.
The only seven consecutive focused games the champion Lakers played were the last two games of the Denver series then the five in the Finals.
There are things to worry about Lakers fans. Like the offense (check out Forum Blue & Gold and Land O’Lakers and Ball Don’t Lie for the details.) Everyone is not on the same page on offense right now. Kobe is playing a lot of minutes. The Lakers need an entire practice just on throwing entry passes to the post. The Lakers have gotten by because of their talent on offense, but they have not meshed as an offensive unit like they did last season.
But that’s separate from the focus issue. The focus will come back around. It did against Orlando — even Kobe was happy with the effort. And he’s never happy. What let the Lakers down there was the offense, against a good defensive team.
The Lakers can throw the focus switch. Just don’t bet on the offense one.