Lakers responded to last season's loss to Charlotte with more inconsistency
The Lakers responded in various ways following their double-digit loss to Charlotte.
Coach Phil Jackson maintained an even-keel attitude, as did Lamar Odom. Kobe Bryant vowed he'd meet with the team to discuss the state of the Lakers. And center Andrew Bynum complained about a lack of opportunities in the post.
Just to clarify: This is the response the Lakers showed after their loss to Charlotte in the 2009-10 season. As far as their most recent loss to the Bobcats, the team appeared equally frustrated and calm. Bynum again complained about a lack of touches and minutes. Jackson appeared so disgusted that he talked to reporters for about 10 seconds but was kind enough to give the team Monday off. Bryant, meanwhile, avoided talking to the media altogether.
The Lakers have clearly been down this path before, with poor regular-season performances adding frustration to a fan base expecting at least a reasonable effort and at most leaving some questioning whether L.A. is championship caliber. The Lakers' 2009-10 season featured a happy ending, but the way the team responded to its 98-83 loss March 5 to the Bobcats wasn't exactly a model concept to follow. Instead, it just illustrates how the maddening unpredictably and inconsistency the Lakers provide are neither a definitive answer on whether they're locked in at a championship level or if they're doomed to unravel.
The Lakers (38-18) have an easy chance to rebound Wednesday against Cleveland (9-46), which owns the league's worst record. But last year's performance following the loss to the Bobcats brings up some points to ponder. First here are some differences. The Lakers owned the West's best record by a comfortable margin last season even through their inconsistency. The Lakers this season are currently 8½ games behind the San Antonio Spurs (46-9) and one game behind the Dallas Mavericks (38-16) for the top spots in the West. The loss to the Bobcats came in March last year instead of just before the All-Star break. And the Lakers' 4-7 record in their last 11 games partly pointed to the sidelining of Bynum for his strained left Achilles and limiting Bryant because of a sprained right knee, two concerns that trumped needing wins considering that the Lakers owned the Western Conference's best record.
But the way the Lakers responded after their loss to Charlotte last year showed the same maddening consistency as they demonstrated on their seven-day trip, with a 4-0 start followed by double-digit losses. On paper, the Lakers won their next seven games, perhaps signifying things had turned around. Far from it. The Lakers needed Bryant to make a game-winner against Toronto. They displayed improved effort but had inconsistent execution against Phoenix. They committed 24 turnovers against Golden State. They had a second-quarter letdown that featured one point from the bench against Sacramento. And they also blew third- and fourth-quarter leads to Minnesota and Washington, respectively. All in all it was an effort that entailed only one victory against an above-.500 opponent, leading Jackson to challenge the team to go undefeated on its five-game trip.
They instead responded with a 2-3 trip for all the same reasons. It appeared the Lakers had turned things around with a balanced effort against Utah, but the Lakers laid an Easter egg two days later against San Antonio because of poor team chemistry. The Lakers may have improved their urgency, most notably in the past three games. By the time the Lakers reached that point, they threw away their goal in compiling 60 wins and worried solely about staying healthy.
So as the Lakers move forward, don't be surprised if they follow the same path. This by no means excuses their attitude. They frankly roll the dice too often and feel further validated when things work out. But for better and worse, this is how the Lakers operate, leaving fans split with frustration, concern and optimism on what the end result looks like.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant works in the post against Bobcats forward Stephen Jackson in the first half Monday night. Credit: Sam Sharpe / US Presswire