Laker fans strongly dissatisfied with the team's play
The Lakers (23-11) have lost four of their last six games by double-digit margins and have gone 3-5 against playoff-caliber teams. Now, going into Tuesday's game against the Detroit Pistons at Staples Center, fans are uncertain and more than a little ticked.
In a recent unscientific survey I conducted, a significant number of those who responded (from about 800 to 1,000 people responded to each of the poll questions) felt confident the Lakers could turn it around but wondered when that would start (39.15%). Nearly a quarter of fans said they were more angry than concerned about the Lakers' poor play (24.4%).
But no Laker championship team has been immune to shortcomings, poor execution and boredom with the regular season. The Lakers' championship teams from 1999-2001 went through early-season struggles, with a 24-10 start in the 1999-2000 season and a 23-11 mark in the 2000-01 campaign. So it makes sense that only 28.35% of those surveyed worried that the Lakers would have trouble three-peating. Only a few people aren't sweating their recent troubles at all (8%).
Whether you're among the world-is-coming-to-an-end crowd or are just upset at watching bad basketball, there are plenty of things bothering Laker fans right now about the team. The two-time defending champions earned a D from 34.95% of those polled and an F from 37.48%, with 49.68% of them ticking off numerous problems ailing the team, including, in order of importance, poor defense, inconsistent offensive chemistry, Kobe Bryant's high volume of shots, Pau Gasol's inconsistency, Ron Artest's discomfort with a reduced role and never-ending confusion with the triangle offense, Phil Jackson's coaching, Derek Fisher's streaky shooting, poor leadership, Andrew Bynum's acclimation with the team after recovering from offseason surgery on his right knee and inconsistent bench support.
That's a lot of ground to cover. But most Laker fans aren't saying that the organization needs to reinvent the wheel, although 11.65% argue that a trade wouldn't hurt. They just want the Lakers to begin changing their habits. Plenty of fans (28.19%) want the Lakers to establish more of a defensive identity, after yielding so many points in transition, drives off screen-and-rolls and open perimeter shots that have resulted in the Lakers giving up a 16th-ranked 97.68 points per game. Of those surveyed, 14.87% say the Lakers need to utilize their size more in 7-footers Bynum and Gasol, as well as versatile 6-foot-10 forward Lamar Odom, who's considered by most fans to be the team's best player. And there are 12.99% of fans who believe it'd be nice if the Lakers actually ran the triangle instead of isolation sets.
Some fans supported having Jackson scale back minutes for players who didn't perform (5.88%). Others advocated more practice time (4.66%); Jackson traditionally has given the team plenty of rest so that the veteran group remains fresh and healthy, but Thursday he had a 2 1/2-hour practice with plenty of running drills. And some believe a team meeting to air out all the grievances would help the Lakers collectively problem solve (4.66%). But there are more Laker fans who believe the team's simply not playing up to its capability and just needs to change its habits (13.54%). Most say that begins with Lakers forward Ron Artest, who apparently has lost some of his luster gained from his Game 7 performance in the 32010 NBA Finals, his advocacy for mental-health issues and his overall good-natured goofiness. Lately, more fans are just simply agitated with him because he's averaging a career-low 7.5 points per game, including a scoreless performance Sunday against Memphis.
With the Lakers reaching three consecutive NBA Finals, plenty believe the Lakers are simply bored. But Laker fans aren't taking that for an excuse. Ask Laker fans if there's anything that could be done to motivate the team, and they simply don't buy it. The vast majority (82.79%) say the team should just feel compelled to play better, period. After all, they're the Lakers and the defending champs. Their motivation should just be the desire to win, which is something the Lakers aren't doing enough of these days.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: The Lakers' starting unit sits on the bench as the Grizzlies pull away for a 104-85 victory Sunday at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / January 2, 2011