Culver City Observer -

New Season, New Issues For Lakers


November 4, 2009

In the Lakers’ first four games they won twice, were non-competitive in a home loss to Dallas and required overtime to defeat Oklahoma City

Reminded that the Lakers aren’t playing anywhere close to their championship form of last season. Kobe Bryant explained.

“We’re not at full strength,” he said. “We’re missing one of the best players in the world.”

The absence of Pau Gasol with a hamstring injury is a legitimate reason for the Lakers’ slow start. I just wonder if that’s the only major problem.

It takes most teams in a new season some time to develop their chemistry. But there are exceptions. The Boston Celtics, for instance, have looked great.

On opening night, when Boston won in Cleveland, its addition of Rasheed Wallace had a greater impact than the Cavaliers’ addition of Shaquille O’Neal.

The Lakers’ addition of Ron Artest is taking time to lift the team. Artest has struggled with his shooting, but he did a fine defensive job on Atlanta’s Joe Johnson Sundat and scored 20 points Tuesday. He seems more effective with the Lakers’ second unit, which needs his scoring. He’s been hesitant to assert himself offensively with the first unit.

It’s going to take Coach Phil Jackson awhile to figure out how to best utilize his personnel. He doesn’t have Trevor Ariza’s youth and speed anymore. Artest brings different qualities, like providing toughness. Lamar Odom is an important member of the second unit, but so far he’s been starting in place of Gasol. Too often the second unit gives up leads.

The Lakers lost only five home games last season. They’ve got one now but they expect Gasol to play this weekend, when the substitute rotation can be stabilized.

By the end of November the Lakers will have played 12 home games. Then they’ll have five more before embarking on their first extended trip.

A round town, folks expect another championship run. Expectations are so high and ticket prices are so high that after the loss to Dallas Jackson observed that fans might be entitled to a refund.

As far as I know, they didn’t get one.

The Lakers’ situation is far different than the Clippers’ plight. After prized rookie Blake Griffin became sidelined with a knee injury the Clippers lost their first four games.

On the telecast of the fifth game, which became a win over Minnesota, announcers Ralph Lawler and Mike Smith observed that after 20 games the team will likely be close to a .500 record and Griffin will begin playing.

Even if that happens the Clippers will struggle to merely qualify for the playoffs. Their goals, obviously, are less ambitious than the Lakers.


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