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Laker fans grade team's play a 'C' but remain optimistic about a three-peat

April 26, 2011 |  1:58 pm

Photo: Kobe Bryant and Coach Phil Jackson during a game against Golden State earlier this month. Credit: Kyle Terada / US Presswire / April 6, 2011. So much for the supposed panic in Lakerland.

It's a full-blown commentary that often becomes more exaggerated than the Lakers' struggles themselves. There's usually a belief that Laker fans fluctuate between being delusional to a fault about the team's success to then stepping out on the ledge anytime the team loses. In fact, it's the exact opposite. Sure, Laker fans are upset about L.A. entering Game 5 Tuesday against the New Orleans Hornets with a 2-2 series tie.

After all, an unscientific survey showed 50.79% of fans grading the team's performance a "C" and 31.24% of them giving the Lakers a "D." But that's not causing them to waver on who will win the first-round series, with 80.52% saying the Lakers will still win either in six (52.2%) or seven (31.32%). Laker fans may lack a majority vote on their three-peat chances, but 47% still say the Lakers will do it while 20.43% believe they will fall in the Western Conference Finals, presumably against an Oklahoma City Thunder team that features Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins.

To get to that championship level, however, there are many areas Laker fans want to see the team fix. For starters, 72.37% believe Pau Gasol has been the worst player in the series thus far, as indicated by his inconsistent aggressiveness, 6.3 rebounds per game and overall struggles against a team he averaged 22.2 points on 70.5% shooting through four regular-season games this season. For the reserves, 43.81% are pinning Shannon Brown as the least reliable player, a troubling sign considering possible limitations surrounding Kobe Bryant's sprained left ankle. And for the overall state of the organization, 43.36% are putting equal blame on the Lakers' struggles with defending Hornets guard Chris Paul and the pick-and-roll, the inconsistent inside game, the bench's play and the overall effort. 

This doesn't suggest Laker fans are just naming every variable imaginable to gripe about surrounding the team's play. But it's a tad difficult assessing how to fix it. A 32.93% plurality  believe a combination between better communication, matching up Bryant on Paul, less switching and overall effort will help stop the Hornets' pick-and-roll. A 55.08% majority assigns equal blame to the Lakers' front line of Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom lacking aggressiveness in both post position and rebounding, as well as the Lakers' inconsistency in giving them touches. And a 25.73% plurality predicts the bench will play better if the players worry more about playing defense than looking impressive on offense.  

But how to accomplish those goals? That's where Laker fans remain divisive. Few (20.1%) find value in having longer practice and film sessions, believing there is such a thing as over-training and information overload, but there are plenty (39.71%) who believe Coach Phil Jackson needs to hold players more accountable by reducing minutes if their effort doesn't improve. There are, however, many who have seen the Lakers experience this scenario before, with 40.19% believing they should just let the team be. Whether it's aggravating to see or not, this is just how the Lakers are, displaying their championship-caliber play on a situational basis only when it's required.

Perhaps that's the thrill of it all, knowing the numbing frustration only makes things more exciting when things work out in the end.

-- Mark Medina

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Photo: Kobe Bryant and Coach Phil Jackson during a game against Golden State earlier this month. Credit: Kyle Terada / US Presswire / April 6, 2011.