January 2, 2012
By Oliver Layco
December 25th – 31st
The Lakers have been an integral part of my life. My very first memories of the National Basketball Association are of the Lakers. I remember mini-fro Kobe all the way until no hair Kobe. During this lockout, I didn’t think about how much the lack of basketball in my life would impact me. As cheesy as this may sound, I didn’t know what to do with myself a lot of the time. With time that would usually be spent watching games I found myself lazing around and just wasting away. I didn’t work out as much and I noticed I didn’t care as much for my school work. Maybe Laker basketball was a cheap cop out for not doing so well in certain areas this past semester, but I really think it affected me. I feel the emotions that the Lakers go through. Needless to say, when Laker basketball came back on Christmas, it was a welcome present indeed.
Christmas day came and thus began the post-Phil Jackson era. I wasn’t sure what kind of system Mike Brown would use offensively since he’s only had one other coaching position; and that one didn’t really have any offense besides give the ball to the star. However, I did know that our defense would increase. As the ball went up for the tip, I got all giddy like a child on Christmas morning. The game commenced and I can say I was quite pleased with how it was going.
Our offense looked like it was a mixture between the Triangle and Coach Brown’s new system. This seemed like it was working for the most part as it gave players the chance to learn the new system on the fly. Kobe would be Kobe and do the unthinkable; Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, became the new leader of the bench. Everything seemed right as we challenged the Bulls throughout most of the game and even had an eleven point lead at one time. However, our defense started to lag in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, which eventually led to a Kobe turnover and Derrick Rose scoring the go ahead bucket with only a few seconds to spare. With more than one second left on the clock, Laker fans have become accustomed to seeing Kobe save the team at the last second. However, this time it didn’t turn out so good. Kobe drove to the basket where he saw a sea of red jerseys and his last second shot was swatted out of his hands. Lakers 87 Bulls 88; although this was a heartbreaking loss, this was a far greater beginning to the Mike Brown era than I thought it would be. The Lakers played without their starting center, Kobe had a torn ligament in his right wrist, and the team had a complete makeover. So all in all, it was a good showing for the first game of the season.
The Lakers played again the following day in Sacramento. I knew this game wasn’t going to be easy because Sacramento is a young and athletic team. They could run up and down the court faster than the Lakers could; and unfortunately this is exactly what happened. The Kings could have been playing in Anaheim for this season, but the city rallied together to save this team and on opening day the energy was electrifying. From the beginning the Lakers seemed disjointed and they never established themselves offensively. Again, we would show our defensive resolve and tightened down halfway through the third quarter. The Lakers were even able to cut the lead down to two with about four minutes left in the fourth, but again everything fell apart; players were slow on defense, poor shot selection, and the rest of the team relied on Kobe to bail them out again. Lakers 91-Kings 100; the Lakers could’ve chocked this one up to the same excuses as the other game, but the truth is the Kings outplayed them.
The Lakers played again the following day in their lone back-to-back-to-back of the season. Utah came to the Staples Center and this would be a game the Lakers needed to win. The Jazz were even faster than the Kings so they could’ve easily played an up-tempo pace to take the Lakers out of their rhythm. However, it looked like it was the Lakers who had more energy as their defense limited the Jazz to 32% shooting. Lakers 96 Jazz 71; this was the first game the Lakers played with consistency for 48 minutes.
The Purple and Gold got a day of rest before going back to work against the Knicks that Thursday. The Knicks presented a good challenge because of their all-star frontline of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler. Since Andrew Bynum was still serving his 4-game suspension the Laker frontline was looking thin. Surprisingly, the Lakers were the ones who would have the advantage in the paint; even holding the Knicks to zero points in the paint at one point. The Laker defense was spot on again against the Knicks front court, frustrating them enough so that the refs gave them a couple of technicals. It also helped that the Lakers shot just above 50% while their defense limited the Knicks to just over 30%. Lakers 99 Knicks 82; surprisingly, the Knicks attempted 41 free throws while the Lakers only attempted 22.
Kobe and Co. capped off the week on Saturday against the Denver Nuggets. The big bonus of this game was that the Lakers got Andrew Bynum back from his suspension. He received a loud ovation as he was introduced into the starting lineup. This game was closely contested for the most part. Andrew played a big role and was really aggressive throughout. He led the team in scoring with 29 points and 13 boards. In a night with Kobe in foul trouble, Bynum really came through. The game really got close and it came down to a hustle play by the 37 year old Derek Fisher. He shot a desperation shot to beat the shot clock, and ran the ball down to gain possession and call a timeout. From here, the Lakers regrouped and they setup Bynum for what ended up being the winning layup. Denver had a chance to tie it in the final seconds, but Danilo Gallinari blew a wide open layup. Lakers 92 Nuggets 89
The Lakers closed the week with a 3-2 record. While it is early in the season, things aren’t looking as bleak as I originally thought. I am confident in saying that the Lakers will be a top 3 team in the West and could seriously contend for title 17 with the current roster. There’s always room for improvement in a team so I don’t doubt that there will be roster moves through the course of this season. But as of right now, I’m not bitter anymore about the league cancelled Chris Paul trade. Here’s to another fruitful season in Laker town.