Last season, the Los Angeles Lakers won their second straight NBA Championship, defeating the Boston Celtics in seven games. Yesterday, in the first meeting between the two teams since the Finals, it was all Boston. The Celtics shot 60 percent from the floor in a 109-96 win at Staples Center.
Okay, it's just one game, and Lakers coach Phil Jackson still insists his team is fine, but I don't think anyone who follows the purple and gold is convinced. The Lakers have lost home games to several teams with losing records (Indiana, Milwaukee, Memphis, and Sacramento, and a "road" game at Staples Center against the Clippers), but you could say the team is unmotivated or tired, and it's not a concern. But what about the Lakers losing in that much-hyped Christmas Day game to Lebron James and the Miami Heat by 16 points? Jackson and the Lakers said the same thing, that no one should panic.
You know the Lakers wanted that game, and you know they also wanted to beat the Celtics yesterday, so the questions isn't "Is anything wrong with the Lakers?", the question has now become "What's wrong with the Lakers?"
There doesn't seem to be a simple answer. Former Laker player, coach, and executive Jerry West recently criticized the team for it's lack of defense. That was before the Celtic game, but those comments didn't seem to motivate the players to prove him wrong. The bench is supposed to be better this year with Steve Blake replacing Jordan Farmar, and Shannon Brown with another year of experience. The Lakers are supposedly completely healthy now with the return of Andrew Bynum from a knee operation. So again, we ask, what's the problem?
Kobe Bryant has been playing slightly fewer minutes because of a nagging knee injury, but is still averaging 25.5 points per game, tied for fourth in the league. Lamar Odom was sensational as a starter when Bynum was out, and has been stellar since as the first man off the bench.
The next big test for the Lakers comes on Thursday, when they host the team with the best record in the NBA--the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers are 1-5 against the top five teams in the league.
Could the problem actually be coaching? Jackson says this is likely his final season at the Lakers' helm. If he wants to go out a winner, it looks like he's got some work to do.
Other Stuff:The best sporting event of the weekend was the finals of the Australian Open tennis championships, where Kim Clijsters came from a set down to beat Li Na, and Novak Djokavic dismantled Andy Murray in straight sets...Still haven't made up my mind about the Super Bowl. If I were betting I'd probably take Pittsburgh and the 2½ points, but Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is from nearby Chico (I wonder if my cousin Taryn knows this). I also had three Steelers (Mendenhall, Ward, Wallace) and the Packers defense on my fantasy team...If you care about the Pro Bowl, you already know that the NFC beat the AFC 55-41. I fell asleep in the second quarter when it was 14-0, woke up just before halftime when the AFC scored to make it 42-7...I haven't followed a lot of hockey this year, but All-Star weekend was a fun event to watch. In a new format where team captains choose up sides, Team Lidstrom defeated Team Stahl 11-10. It was the fourth time in All-Star history that both sides scored double-digit goals...Missed the SAG Awards so I don't know who looked great and who looked hideous.