The Lakers are having a rough patch, have lost two games in a row while the Celtics are playing great basketball right now. So clearly, the NBA championship has been decided. The only hope the Lakers have is a major trade.
When things go wrong for the Lakers, and any team really, the first reaction of most fans is to pull up the ESPN trade machine and solve the problem as an armchair GM. Because, if the Lakers had a different point guard, who we could get by trading one of our three bigs who play significant minutes away, we could suddenly solve all our problems. Because there are all these lock-down point guards out there.
Do the last two paragraphs sound rational?
The problems with the Lakers right now are best solved internally, not externally. To put it simply, this is a championship roster, a deep roster loaded with talent at every position. The problem is not the makeup of the team. The problem with this team is mental — they are not playing hard every night, not playing smart for four quarters. It’s frustrating to watch because our coach likes to let his teams face adversity like this, likes to let them figure it out for themselves, to see that the roles he defined for them work if they just play them. That learning process can lead to painful lessons, but as you probably know from your own life those are the lessons that stick.
Two losses in a row and a stretch of mediocre play mean jack come May and June. People see the Celtics now and are amazed, and we should be because they are focused and playing great ball. They are also playing their old starters more minutes per game than they did last year. Will that come back to haunt them (remember those two impressive first rounds of the playoffs last year)? Who knows, But I don’t care how the Lakers match up with the Celtics in December, I care about June.
And right now, we know nothing about June. We don’t know how this team will weather the storm and come out on the other end. But if Phil Jackson’s history is any indication, maybe we should wait until he’s done cooking before we decide the meal is a failure.