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Poll results reveal cautious optimism among Lakers fans

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Whether it's good, bad, indifferent, overly critical, overly optimistic, completely on point, wildly speculative or just plain absurd, every comment posted on the L.A. Times Lakers blog reveals an interesting snap shot about a fan's perspective over the course of the season. I have noticed in amusement that the volume of comments seem to increase after a Lakers loss, a Kobe Bryant clutch performance or an issue involving Bryant that leaves fans split, such as his shot selection, his want to play through injuries, etc. Though the reactions can fluctuate through the ebb and flow over the course of an 82-game season, there are evolving storylines that remain consistent within that daily conversation.

Of course, that will always be the case during a long season, and coaches, players and fans alike, constantly provide reminders that it's way too long of a stretch to derive anything definitive off the latest snapshot. Nonetheless, most big picture assessments come after each month, after 41 games, after the All-Star break and heading into the playoffs. 

There's no particular date right now that serves as that kind of benchmark. But I thought this week was a perfect time to provide a litany of polls highlighting various issues for three reasons. One, the Lakers just recently came off a three-game losing streak, a feat they kept intact ever since Feb. 2008 when they acquired Pau Gasol from Memphis. Two, the Lakers are in the middle of a road-heavy schedule, as eight of their remaining 10 games in March will be away from Staples Center, including tonight's game at Phoenix. And three, the Western Conference standings are tightening up with the Lakers (47-18) currently ahead by two-and-a-half games over Dallas (45-21), three-and-a-half games over Denver (43-21) and four-and-a-half games over Utah (42-22) for first place in the Western Conference standings. Meanwhile, the Lakers are three games behind Cleveland (50-15) for the league's best record.

And after parsing through the results this morning, it appears that Lakers fans who voted feel cautiously optimistic about the the rest of the season.

Lakers fans revealed their conflicted feelings about the team most noticeably in the following polls: While 51% of voters graded the Lakers' season thus far with a B and 37% gave them a C, the team's play this month has earned a C from 42% of voters and a D from 39% of voters. The effort so far has resulted in a 2-3 record. The Lakers' points per game average (103.8) this month are higher than in February (98.3) and January (102.9), but lower than in December (104.1) and November (105.9). But the team's averages in field-goal percentage (44.4%), three-point field goal percentage (28.1%) and rebounding (40.4) mark the worst performances in a month this season, not counting the two games the Lakers played in October. 

With the team's drop in play, there is a majority opinion this expresses worrisome but not enough to think the problems would derail any championship hopes. For example, 52% of voters predicted the Lakers would win the title, 26% said they'd at least make the Finals and 86% said they'd be the top seed in the Western Conference. And though fans acknowledge many problems, most think they won't derail the Lakers from making a title run. Consider this: 51% of fans are worried about the Lakers' road record (17-13), 48% are worried about the team's recent three-game losing streak and 34% are worried that most of the Lakers' losses have come against .500 teams. But all of those leading votes were in some relation to the answer that said they're confident the Lakers can change those habits in the remaining 17 games in the regular season and in the playoffs.  Only 24% of fans think the Lakers' road record will hurt them in the playoffs.

That long-term optimism doesn't mean fans are satisfied with how the Lakers are playing, however. And the reasons for it reveal something troublesome. Though 29% of voters pinned the inconsistent offense on teammates playing too passively with Kobe Bryant, 34% of voters think all the problems listed in the poll question have equally contributed to the Lakers' sluggish offense. Those issues include Bryant shooting too much, teammates forcing Bryant to take over games, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum playing inconsistently in the post, Ron Artest's poor shooting, the team's sluggish backcourt and bench as well as numerous injuries. Fans reached a similar assessment about the Lakers' defense. Though 28% of voters pin the Lakers' inconsistent D on the team's  lack of urgency, 40% of voters allude the defensive breakdowns to all the variables listed. That includes a slow backcourt, poor interior D, Bryant playing too much at center field and the team's inability to defend the pick-and-roll.

It's both a positive and negative thing that the Lakers don't have a significantly weak link. That means there's not a player or facet of their game that overwhelmingly worsens the team. On that same note, it also suggests that it's going to be difficult and unpredictable to ensure improvement on all the aforementioned problems. It has appeared so far this season that each area of progress is never definitive or completely reflective of the team's play. For example, Artest, whom 35% of voters said is better than Trevor Ariza because of his physical toughness and tendency to neutralize the opponent's top scorers, has been lately praised for those qualities. But that presence hasn't really rubbed off on the rest of the team. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson recently praised Bynum's defense on pick-and-rolls after Tuesday's win against Toronto. But Jackson also has said the team's ability to do that has remained inconsistent.

With so many areas that need to sharpened, the Lakers' coaching staff is going to need to prioritize which areas are most important to address first. But the response from Lakers fans show that approach will be nuanced and complicated, given each problem seems small by itself, but magnifies in consequence when lumped with all the other problems. Case in point, 51% of voters graded Jackson's coaching a B, but only 10% said there's nothing Jackson should change in his approach. Meanwhile, there was no definitive answer on what problem to address first. 19% of voters want Shannon Brown or Jordan Farmar to replace Derek Fisher as the team's starting point guard. 17% of voters want Lamar Odom to start in place of Bynum, while the same percentage of voters hope Jackson will make more in-game adjustments. There's 12% of voters who say Jackson should get angrier at the team, 11% who think he needs to tell Bryant to stop shooting as much and 5% who think Jackson needs to tell Gasol to stop demanding touches. The wide-ranging opinions also serve as the latest case study that, for better or worse, every single scenario imaginable is heavily scrutinized. 

While there lacks consensus on some of the day-to-day and game-to-game adjustments, most Lakers fans agree on the larger picture. There's 65% of voters who believe the Lakers simply lack motivation because of an attitude that implies they can just turn on the switch whenever they feel like it. There's 49% of voters who wouldn't label the Lakers as soft, but acknowledge the team doesn't play aggressively enough. In some respects, these two problems will be easier for the Lakers to address because the changes involve an attitude and an approach to the game that mostly applies to the entire team. But it is troubling that something so egregious is present late in the season. 

In the end, these results show Lakers fans are aware of the team's potential, yet feel there's something lacking. Most feel confident the Lakers can defend their NBA title, yet are split on whether they'll do enough to secure it. And though most have a wide range of ideas to improve the team, they mostly agree that it's the team's attitude that will determine whether the Lakers head in a positive direction. It's fair to say most Lakers fans remain cautiously optimistic with 17 games remaining before postseason play. Even though uncertainty still lingers, it's without a doubt going to be one wild ride the rest of the way. 

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lamar Odom and Toronto's Amir Johnson battle for a loose ball during the Lakers' 109-107 victory Tuesday night at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times.

 
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Nice job...MM!

I really like the phrase "cautiously optimistic". To me, that is the appropriate attitude of a defending champion. To be aware of the pitfalls, but also to believe in their abilities and chance to repeat.

The solution is pretty simple: our role players need to step up in the playoffs. Our historic run in 2001 was largely due to role players like Fish and Fox playing out of their minds for 2 months (not to mention the incredible play of one Kobe Bryant. If Fish, Farmar, Drew, etc struggle, then we're in for a long playoffs. If they step it up, get ready for another historic run.

- Mark Medina, I've noticed that you mention Kobe's shot selection in about 80% of your posts, although in my opinion, Kobe's shot selection is the LEAST of the team's problems. That's a smart move, since criticizing such a polarizing figure as Kobe AKA your meal ticket will undoubtedly generate the most hits for you. If the team makes it to their THIRD finals in a row (not to mention his gold medal), and Kobe again leads the team to a championship along with his second finals MVP, I expect the percentage of your posts criticizing Kobe to go up to about 90% next season. Again, focusing on the negatives of a player (who most peers would agree is the most well-rounded player in the league)....day after day after day..... is a smart business decision on your behalf. It may take away from your integrity as an analyst, but hey, the NBA is a business after all, ain't it?

- I hope Phil's decision to have Charles Oakley talk some toughness into Pau pays off. There are three possible outcomes from this:
1. Pau can absorb the advice that Oakley has to offer and start playing tougher (both physically and mentally).
2. He can see it as in insult and become even more tentative.
3. He can try to play tough, but this rugged style of play is counterintuitive for Pau, resulting in forced shots and bad decision making.
I'll be watching the Amare/Gasol match up closely for a hint at what the outcome might be.

- Fish cannot guard a safety cone, but for some odd reason, he has been able to play pretty solid defense against Nash the past few years. It is an unexplainable phenomena. Nash is not especially quick, but he is as crafty and as skilled (offensively) as they come. One theory is that Fish is too slow to react to Nash's initial fake/move, which confuses Nash. For example, Nash will fake right to set up his defender to go left, but Fish is unable to react to Nash's initial fake to the right. When Nash goes to his secondary move of going left, Fish is already there waiting for him, not because he anticipated correctly, but because he was too slow to react to Nash's initial fake. It's just a theory.

WUTTUP CRUE!!!

No time to read the poll results right now MM, but I just wanted to say thank you for the hard work you put into making this the best blog ANYWHERE!!! Yeah - I said it - it's the best BLOG period. Thank you.


Also - just a quick hello to my Laker fam! Hope all is well and I'll catch up with y'all on the chat tonight!


GO LAKERS!!!!!

Nothing but another title will suffice.

Laker Truth - While I agree on your observation that many of the posts have involved Kobe's shooting, to say that I've been critical of him is a huge overstatement.

Here's some posts where I'm defending Kobe. - http://lakersblog.latimes.com/lakersblog/2010/03/lakers-offense-lacks-balance-but-dont-blame-kobe-bryant.html


http://lakersblog.latimes.com/lakersblog/2010/02/lakers-defense-drops-off-upon-kobe-bryants-return.html

http://lakersblog.latimes.com/lakersblog/2010/03/lakers-guard-kobe-bryant-acknowledges-shooting-problems-but-presence-is-still-valued.html

The debate isn't though whether I'm critical of Kobe or not. It's whether I'm fair. I think you will see that those opinions were thought out and nuanced. I've never changed with the wind. I've maintained all along that Kobe shot too much in January when his finger was bad, leading to a horrible shooting month. I said he should still play and embrace a facilitating role, even though others said he should rest his finger. I said it was a good idea for him to rest his ankle, which he did. I said it wasn't that big of a deal his shooting was off upon his return because he was getting other people involved. I said that the inconsistent offense and defense upon his return had very little to do with him but more how the team responded to him. I wouldn't say that assessment shows my lack in integrity whatsoever. I would also say that it speaks to me thinking through my opinion rather than just saying something to say something. Kobe regardless will be heavily talked about because he has a significant impact on the team. That's not disputable. What's disputable is how people derive their opinion, and I would say if you read those stories, they're pretty well thought through.

MM

"The debate isn't though whether I'm critical of Kobe or not. It's whether I'm fair."

M/M is the Kobe stopper, playing defense against Laker Truth. Is there a defense against truth? huh.

If there is a Laker Truth, there should be a Laker Lie i.e. Eric Wright.

One comment I'd like to make concerns the lack of hoopla surrounding Kobe's latest game-winner vs. Toronto. I mean, that was a GREAT shot! Kobe eluded his defender, created space and when said defender caught up a little and contested the shot, Kobe was able to elevate and BURY the dagger.

I'm not so jaded that I'll ever take something like that shot for granted. But, I think a lot of the media, fans and even Kobe's own teammates are starting to do just that. I understand that the concern about the Lakers' current play left Laker Nation feeling a bit on edge about the Toronto win, but I still have to take my hat off to the Bean...great player and great closer.

LAKER TRUTH

great point.

Edwin

"laker lie" should be only in lower case only.:-)

same like when there is a "Michael H or/and michael h" who is " I am a fairness supporter". which one is the fair one? the lower case one or the one that has capitals?

i think it's interesting how little mention there was of the effect of injuries. Perhaps it a factor over which the Lakers have little control. However, I don't think anybody thinks the Lakers are as healthy as they were last year, Bynum excepted.

I think that it's also very interesting how little mention there was of the competition. Have we been playing a static, control factor esque single opponent continuously for the last several years, or do other teams make changes in personnel, plays and practice to better prepare them to play us (possibly with perfect poise? (nah))?

[@SEGEBOY - THE SHERIFF, By god it's good to have you back Sheriff. now that you have become a big time entrenpeneur don't go forgetting about your Blog family now, you hear? LoL!
Mamba24(Larry)]

Never that dude ... if I strike gold, my reward 2 myself will be a sports museum dedicated to african atheletes, and to draw attention to the mamba that beats within me, only 1 athlete in there will not be african, Kobe ....

hell, maybe even some of us on the blog can partner up someday for a stake in the lakers even if it something like 5% among 100 of us ... it'd make the GM's job hell though, imagine all the ridiculous phone calls he'll be getting pertaining to trade suggestions

This blog feeds my mamba pride ... I'm at home when I come here ... which is why I detest haters, it's like seeing roaches on your fine carpet ... lol

I have been a Laker fan since Moses was a child. However, with the inconsistent play, poor defense, and the team counting way too much on Kobe to bail them out in games that should never be that close, I am not optimistic at all. I am steeling myself for a let down. These are the defending Champions? Really? They are playing pedestrian basketball and are vulnerable in the West, let alone against Cleveland, (if they even get that far in post season). I Love LA, however, I'm a realist too. If they do not get their defense going it will not matter how clutch Kobe can or cannot be, but rather how last season was wasted by beating the Magic, (no offense, the Celtics are the rivals), and not being able to beat LeBron and company this year. I always say, to be the best, you have to beat the best. When they can match what the 80's Lakers did in beating the best then this team will leave me optimistic. Until then, they better remember the words "DEFENSE, DEFENSE!" That is how they are going to win or lose. Otherwise, we will talking about why we did not trade Bynum for Bosch or sign Ron Artest in the first place. Good luck Lakers; I love you, but you had better start playing like Champions or you will be a footnote at season's end...

If there is a Laker Truth, there should be a Laker Lie i.e. Eric Wright.

Posted by: Edwin Gueco | March 12, 2010 at 02:48 PM

Edwin,

Did Eazy E come back from the dead?!!! City of Compton, Compton!!! LOL

bronxlakerfan,
[One comment I'd like to make concerns the lack of hoopla surrounding Kobe's latest game-winner vs. Toronto. I mean, that was a GREAT shot! Kobe eluded his defender, created space and when said defender caught up a little and contested the shot, Kobe was able to elevate and BURY the dagger.
I'm not so jaded that I'll ever take something like that shot for granted. But, I think a lot of the media, fans and even Kobe's own teammates are starting to do just that]

I don't think you can make a case for kobe not being appreciated based on that shot. Dude himself said he wasn't impressed. Simply put we're not the knicks, we're the defending champs and no matter how great a shot it was over toronto the fact remains it was toronto and we we're at home. We should have buried them.

However lets give Kobe kudos for being a leader and not being impressed with his own achievements. He understands that as a team we're struggling and as worried as the blog is, y'all know #24 is even more worried. That bodes well for us though. Some folks argue that kobe is too hard on his teammates but shoo the best manager I had at work was hard on me and I in turn was hard on the people below me. These dudes are getting paid millions of dollars, the playoffs are around the corner, now is the time for guys to just hit the gym hard, say bye-bye to the clubs, the music videos, the 412, and whatever other vices they have. So long as kobe supports them during practice and helps them work on their game they should be able to take the criticism and work harder.

Phoenix game 2nite ... espn africa is showing it so whoopdee woo ... hopefully things start turning around real soon. Root for your lakers yo ... these are turbulent times but this is how we've always done it in LA ... it's a testament to our greatness that we fear ourselves more than we fear the opposition ... this is a good problem to have, the smush parker days are a constant reminder of that.

i love the new "phantom" injuries on this team

Faux Pas - hurt left hand - my hand will hurt too if kobe will drive through 3-4 players and will give me a pass to make a bank layup. and the ball will hit the backboard on the other side of the rim. nothing but plastic. ouchhhhhhhhh

my hand just started hurting typing that.

Ear Farm - he hurt his left pinkie. how will he hold his teacup? no cookie for him.

did these new injuries happened to explain bad plays? Farmy still dribbles for 20 sec followed by an extra pass to nowhere, a post pass deflected or turn over, bad shots. and at home, not even on the road. the "left pinkie excuse".

the pharma comp. should develop a new pill that players have to take mandatory before the game. for each bad play the level of headache will go up. i'm wondering how many players will run/cruise around with continuous migraines.

Regarding the lack of hoopla with Bryant's game winner, i don't think it was a matter of the media being jaded with it rather than putting it in the proper perspective. With exception to the Lakers' win against Dallas, none of Bryant's game winners really came on good performances. Yet, there was more attention cast in his game winner against Miami (how do you bank that), his game winner against Sacramento (how does he shoot with a broken finger?) and his game winner against Dallas (how does he play with a broken finger AND with back spasms?) The reason why there wasn't as much hoopla, as you guys put it, is for three reasons. One, this is so late in the season and the fact that Bryant is still having to bail out the team with game winning shots is troublesome. It's nice for highlight reels, but it's like barely surviving a bad stunt. Do you really praise averting disaster when the disaster could've been prevented? Second, the team had just gone off a three-game losing streak, where the team was universally unhappy with their effort, which led to an air-it-out meeting that involved lots of cursing and contentious discussion. It shows that the problems haven't really been solved. And third, Bryant wasn't all that crazy about it. Believe me, there were some reporters who gave the opportunity to Bryant to rehash his game winner, wax nostalgic on how he's a clutch shooter, yada, yada, yada. Bryant didn't bit. He clearly described the last shot in a matter of fact manner and then made it abundantly clear he thought the game was horribly played.

MM

also, a new post is up


MM

taliq

a museum for DJ and Dike? on a serious note sounds like a great adventure. even if it is at dream state right now.

because u r considering the Balck Mamba into i have something for you and also Zaira.

Kobe should request an Italian citizenship. i'm sure they will approve it. as a dual citizen he would qualify to play for Italy and they will be able to dethrone Spain in the next European Championships. :-)

i just realized that Zaira could start a campaign for Italy to offer Kobe an honorary citizenship!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mark Medina,

First off big ups for joining in the conversation as opposed to just posting threads ... not sure if you do this regularly but this is the first time i've seen that and if there's 1 thing this blog misses since the K brothers left is participation from the moderator ... you can be critical all you want, and yes will come back hard at you, but we appreciate the fact that you care enough to jump into the conversation ... but umm you can't talk s**t bout kobe without the sheriff talking back

LoL so I'm with lakertruth yo ... kobe's shot selection has always been what it is ... the victor gets to write history they say, when it's all said and done and we've got 8 rings under kobe's name some mamba faithful will tell it like it is ...

For all the stats etc, you can't deny how kobe's shot selection puts incredible pressure on the opposition, you could throw 3 men at him and there's still no gurantee that he will give up the ball and if you think it's a guranteed miss then you haven't been paying enough attention ... even PJ said MJ had a knack for getting open and finding the shot he wants, and as for kobe he just makes incredible shots ... most guys take whatever the defense gives them, kobe does that too, but more often than not he'll take it even when it isn't there, he's the ultimate shot creator

This is not to say he never passes to teammates, this is not to say he's simply another allen iverson ... there's numerous footage in history showing him setting up teammates for shots within the last minutes and as for being the next iverson I once attacked kblitz for making the comparision, the argument being their work ethic sets them worlds apart ... and really the most impressive part about kobe's game is work ethic ... most societies value the hardest worker, most societies feel the hardest worker should be rewarded the most, and when we write #24's history we shall make sure that quality is placed much higher than any other trait, placed higher than even the incredible shots and definitely placed much higher than whatever emotional trauma he inflicts on his teammates by not passing to them more often

Dude is a legend and we're tired of the media saying "oh he finaly gets it, he's a better teammate" every time he wins another championship. Either kobe is the ultimate schizophrenic switching back and forth between good kobe and selfish kobe, or the media doesn't do what you claim to do "never changed with the wind"

Purple and gold nation ... be eager for the playoffs, the good times are here again but it's not for the faint of heart

24 + 16 + [3|1]7 = The Purple Tinted Golden Age

As I said, the Laker centers, Pau and Bynum, play with their feet too close together, tiptoeing arond, they should be spread wide and taking up space, easie to get explosive jump when alreadry crouched than when staying flat footed and almost off balanced....Shaq, why don't you retire and come back and coach our bigs...

"also, a new post is up


MM

Posted by: Mark Medina | March 12, 2010 at 04:25 PM"

Do you get paid by piece rate???? Let us know your Ritalin dosage so we can keep up with your multi-posting. You obviously are in favor of mutlti-tasking vs non-multi-tasking in a work environment, We debated that one at a party one X-Mas, all the engineer, techie types were for it, all the medical, science types were against it, all teach types didn't understand what we were talking about.

segeboy - thanks a lot. it is much appreciated. i would like to interact more just as much as i'd like to post more. it's just trying to figure out what time i have left to do all id like to do. a second part of that is i really want this to be something that's user driven in the sense that i dont want to give the impression that im bullying everyone with my opinion and everyone should sort of step in line. there's no doubt i provide analysis and opinion on most of the posts, but i dont want to beat up or argue with someone that has a different take.

i'll often step in and interact if there are any questions or if i need to clarify something factually. for example, i'm not just criticizing kobe for the sake of getting hits. and as i mentioned before, my overall assessment has been a mixed bag. a look through my posts makes it pretty clear that i've also been critical at times of the team for not helping him out. i dont mind when people say to me that i'm wrong and that they disagree with me on kobe. its just that the previous post suggested that i was just maliciously attacking him for the sake of generating a response. also he suggested that hurt my credibility and integrity because i was just spewing criticism, a charge that i dont take lightly. sports fans inevitably disagree on many things, but i never arrive to any conclusion without thinking it through. in all my pieces i always present and consider varying points of view to help solidify my argument so I can tackle and explain the nuance and context that is needed in every debate.

MM

humanomaly - lol i dont get paid by post. i'm just trying to keep the blog active with content, and provide a buffet of sorts if you will. and dont worry this isn't coming as a result of overdosing on ritalin.

MM

segeboy and MM...

I'm a big picture type of guy and I realize the points you guys are making as to the reasons for the media's blase attitude have a lot of truth to them. All I'm saying is that it seems too easy to take excellence for granted when Kobe is involved. Any other player in the league who had 7 game winners in less than a season would be glorified to no end. Even if Kobe himself downplayed it, that doesn't change the fact that what he did was a super effort. Even if it shouldn't have been necessary, it was and Kobe saved the day. Again.

I compare it to driving a fine luxury car on an everyday basis. After a while, you become accustomed to the excellence of that experience. But you should never take it for granted. There are plenty of clunkers on the road.

M/M has no time to post, he would rather spend the time composing a thread. I finally got it, he's paid by the thread not by the post. lol!

Go Lakers, let the ball do the talking against the Suns.

Edwin - You can never resist taking digs at me huh lol

MM


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