NBA Unscripted details Lakers' quest to three-peat
Inside Staples Center, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant stood with a beaming smile.
He had just gone through his fifth Laker championship parade and he was soaking everything in, ranging from the nostalgia he expressed in securing the 2010 NBA championship through a grueling seven-game series against the Boston Celtics, breaking down the World Cup tournament and reveling in the fact he could finally rest his assorted knee, ankle and finger injuries.
Only three months later, Bryant stood among a throng of reporters at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo at the beginning of training camp, marking another quest to a championship.
"It seems like yesterday that we were just at the victory parade," Bryant said in NBA Unscripted, an hour-long show slated to air on NBA TV Monday at 3 p.m. "You blink and the next season is beginning. Here we are having to regenerate that momentum again."
It's a theme the Lakers (35-16) and their fans know well, what with the team's quest to three-peat from the 1999-2002 seasons, the recent string of back-to-back championships and the team's entering Monday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies (27-25) in hopes to rectify two earlier regular-season losses to a barely .500 team. It was also the subject of The Association, an hour-long special that aired on ESPN last season as the Lakers went through uncertainties on whether they could defend their title. And it's also the focus of NBA Unscripted, which producer Steve Weintraub and vice president of original production for NBA Entertainment Dion Cocoros say involved archived material from their library including the Lakers' 2009-10 champion run and 8-0 start to this season, interviews with the entire Lakers roster and coaching staff and exclusive footage before-and-after games during the Lakers' contests against the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics.
"It's similar in style to some degree [to HBO's Hard Knocks] in that it's behind the scenes and telling the story of the team through exclusive footage and access," Weintraub said. "But it's just catering to the NBA fan."
In other words, don't expect this show to feature Lakers Coach Phil Jackson or Bryant dropping profanity-laced tirades. But the show will detail plenty of other areas that proves the Lakers' quest to three-peat to be even more challenging. NBA Unscripted also featured shows on the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat leading up to their season opener as well as the resurgence of the New York Knicks, tangible proof that the outside competition alone makes the task more daunting. But there are also other variables at play, with the Lakers assembling a new bench in off-season signings to Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter. And though most of the Lakers' core lineup remains intact in Bryant, Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Jackson's coaching staff, the documentary shows how the simple repetition in striving for another title proves daunting.
"There is so much that has to happen for a season to go right," Jackson said on NBA Unscripted. "There has to be enough attention to it to get your team to a place where they’re building energy when they are heading into the playoffs."
The mere selection of games during which the show compiled behind-the-scenes footage perfectly juxtaposes the Lakers' current standing. The Lakers' 109-87 victory Jan 9 over the New York Knicks reflected progress in the team's new defensive scheme in shutting off drivers into the lane, the frontline remaining close to the basket and the backcourt extending out on the perimeter. The Lakers' 112-57 victory Jan. 11 over the Cleveland Cavaliers revealed the defending champions' dominance, how Cleveland has struggled without LeBron James and how the Lakers took pleasure in mastering the various nuances in every statistical category. But the Lakers' split in a two-game trip against Dallas and Denver shows their consistency remains an issue. And the Lakers' 109-96 loss Jan. 30 to Boston further revealed the team's struggles in beating elite teams and how there's plenty of areas to sharpen before possibly squaring off again in the NBA Finals. Those sequence of games, Cocoros said, provides "a good example of what their season is like."
That's why NBA Unscripted makes for a compelling documentary, even if the ending remains incomplete.
"It's hard. We know the team so well and we've followed them other years. They've always seemed to have their troubles getting going and then they'd somehow pull it off," Cocoros said. "So now it's like, 'Can they do it once again?' The players and coaches are very open about why they think they can." At this point of the season, they're the world champs and I think the show shows that when they're the the champs, they have the experience to get themselves out of what they're going through right now."
"When you're watching the show, you're wondering at what point will this end?" Cocoros added. "They're a team that doesn't want it to end. It's magnified, the stakes are higher and they're one year older. They're a very hard working team. Every practice we've been at and every game we've been at, it's a pleasure to watch a team that are champions go about their business so hard."
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