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Lakers Looking for an Electric Current

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An NBA season is a long season. With eighty-two games, and when you're a team of championship caliber, sometimes you typically expect to play at least sixteen more...if you're lucky.

Last year, the Celtics and Lakers got to that level, and it wasn't because one player carried them there. It wasn't because a two-man tandem scored majority of the points - it was because each basketball club had a good, respectable team.

Thirty-six games into the season, the Lakers have the best record, second best home-record, the highest scoring team in the league, are nearly invincible in their division (8-1) and 9-1 in their last ten games. Things are good, right? As it turns out, not particularly, as today the Lakers embark on their biggest test of the year. With a back-to-back in Texas starting tonight against the Rockets and Spurs, and finishing the week off with Orlando on Friday, the Lakers have a lot of work to do. Let's also mention that the following Monday, Lebron comes to town.

The Lakers came into the season as one of the deepest teams in the league. They had a second string that played staggering defense, and numerous 15-0 runs to kill games. They were running on an unbelievable level of energy to show everyone that they aren't that team that folded in June motivation. Now...the Lakers are running on electric stimulation, and are being hindered by


This deep bench , the league has come to know has resulted in 12th man, Sun Yue getting run in the 2nd quarter at times because an older Derek Fisher does need his rest, and a pesky defending Sasha Vujacic picks up as many fouls in as many minutes on occasion.

But all this has been a result of a infectious injury bug sifting through the Lakers' locker room.

December 19: Back-up point guard Jordan Farmar was the first on the Lakers to take the injury bug, and tore his lateral meniscus. Having surgery to repair his knee, Jordan is still at least a month away.

January 5: Current starting small-forward, Luke Walton was examined and is known to be suffering from sesamoiditis in his right foot. With him at games in a protective boot, Walton is in the process of rehab and is expected to miss two weeks.

January 7: Sixth man, Lamar Odom's MRI revealed a bone bruise in his right knee suffered in a loss to the Hornets, their only loss in the past ten games. Being listed day-to-day, Lamar is traveling with the team, but doesn't expect to play during the quick two-part Texas road trip this week.

Yesterday: Guard Sasha Vujacic joined the broken team with back spasms that will force him to miss the trip to Houston. There's small speculation that Sasha could still play tonight against Houston, but speculation is all it is.

At the Lakers' practice facility yesterday, Vujacic left with an electronic stimulator strapped to his back, and of course a smile on his face as he joked that he had become a 90-year-old man for the day.

Like "the Machine," Odom has been prepped with an electronic stimulator for the flights to Texas, and continually ices his knee which has not stopped swelling since the injury. He just recently started playing three-on-three, but is nowhere near ready for full mobility for physical games that come with Houston and San Antonio in the next two days.

A quick look at the Lakers' depth chart may draw fear to some Laker followers.

Starting Lineup
G - Derek Fisher
G - Kobe Bryant
F - Vlade Radmanovic
F - Pau Gasol
C - Andrew Bynum

Bench:
F - Trevor Ariza
C - Josh Powell
G - Sun Yue
C - Chris Mihm
C - DJ Mbenga

After Derek and Kobe, who will be handling the ball? In games where Sun Yue has played, the nervousness is still evident as he still completely doesn't know how to run the offense or be effective on the court.

Do note, however, that Phil Jackson did believe that he will use Radmanovic at times to bring the ball up the court. Whether that will actually happens or not remains to be seen.

Josh Powell has taken advantage of Odom's injury and has played well in spurts as Bynum's back-up, but the concern comes not on the front court for the Lakers, but rather for the backcourt. Three games in four nights against top playoff teams could be tough on the knees of Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant, the oldest players on the team.

In Sunday's victory against the Heat, Jackson used an eight-man rotation (Ariza, Vujacic, & Powell) and was forced to have Fisher play 42 minutes. Gasol played 39 while Bryant played 36. On the first game of a back-to-back, I can't help but think that Jackson will make sure they don't play that many minutes tonight. Playing an injury depleted Rockets team tonight will definitely help the Lakers' odds in competing with energy Wednesday night in San Antonio.

One thing that has been clearly visible is the Lakers' defense, or rather the lack thereof. Be it the wide open three-pointers that most teams are finding the corners, or the wide open paths to the basket on pick-n-rolls, the Lakers are clearly stagnant in stopping teams as they were able to with ease in the early goings of the season.

With shooters like Aaron Brooks, and Rafer Alston on the Rockets, and Tony Parker on the Spurs, the Lakers have a tough tough two nights ahead of them.

At the end of these games, it isn't going to be how many points Bryant scores. After all, they are virtually unbeatable when he takes 20 or less shots. But their team defense is where these victories will come. On Wednesday, the Spurs will be looking for revenge from the Western Conference Finals. On Friday, Orlando will come to Los Angeles looking to tell the rest of the league that they are a legitimate contender. But are the Lakers only looking at Martin Luther King Jr. Monday when Lebron and the Cavaliers come to town?

Regardless, the Lakers have a tough stretch in the middle of January, and at their stagnant defense is what will get the team through this stretch.

And they are going to have their hands full for the next four games.

Sure, Lamar and Sasha are packed with electric stimulators. But the Laker defense is also behind held back, and to get through this stretch with such a small team, the Lakers will need to find an electric current within the team as a whole to jump-start and allow success the rest of January.



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116 Comments

They will fold in the playoffs

I think you are thinking like sukrat, but I think you should cover the other side of the topic in the post too...

Good afternoon. Cheerfulness, it would appear, is a matter which depends fully as much on the state of things within, as on the state of things without and around us.
I am from Nicaragua and also now'm speaking English, give true I wrote the following sentence: "It does so since there are loads of reasons for the potential outbreak of excessive sweating."

With respect ;), Dante.

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