Wednesday, January 30, 2013

LA Lakers: Valiant Effort

Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
The LA Lakers look more formidable of late. Last night they beat the Hornets to bring their winning streak to three. While they nearly let the game slip to New Orleans late, is this push legit? Are the Lakers a team to look out for now?

It's too early to tell, but the changes in attitude and increased role definition mean something. The Lakers are carrying themselves differently from how they were earlier in the season. The team's more upbeat, the body language is better and that has as profound an impact on their play as any other factor.

When the LA Lakers believe, they can achieve! Basketball is more of a chess match in the mind than it is in the body. If the LA Lakers continue to hold each other up, to not let their emotions get the best of them, then they'll be a playoff team.

Just last night against the Hornets, Kobe Bryant lifted Earl Clark up. After Clark picked up a foul and hung his head, Kobe clapped it up, as if to say, "it's aight Earl!" Little emotional lifts are what make champions in basketball. The Lakes aren't near championship conversation right now, but they're in a much better place as a unit.

The role definition is begging to be more clear for this team. Kobe Bryant is being more of a facilitator, Steve Nash is healthy and taking on the role of the primary ball handler and Steve Blake is helping solidify the bench. Pau Gasol has been demoted to a bench role, but, if they continue to play the way they have been it could work out.

Pau Gasol, Jodie Meeks, Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake is a solid bench. Mike D'Antoni could go even deeper into the rotation with Robert Sacre or Devin Ebanks. Mike D'Antoni's rotation is great too because he really lets the starters rest when he gets the bench out there. No starter played more than 37 minutes against the Hornets last night and at this point in the season that's a good number.

That way the Lakers aren't going all out in the regular season and then gassed come playoff time. Mike D'Antoni deserves some credit too. He's spent enough time coaching the LA Lakers to begin understanding what they need to adjust in order to thrive.

Coach D'Antoni is listening to the players input too, or so it appears that way. The Lakers players and coaching staff are communicating more effectively. It shows when you watch them play. Coach D'Antoni knows the quirks of his guys now. He knows what buttons to push and when to push them, in order to get the most out of his squad.

The LA Lakers have a long ways to go. Despite coming from a low, they could still reach high if their effort level persists. Don't count the LA Lakers out just yet. The LA Lakers could surprise us all!