The Los Angeles Lakers have hit the ground hard various times throughout their 2012-2013 season. The team went 0-8 during the preseason. Early in the season, the Lakers fired their head coach Mike Brown for lack of team production and progress? Many fans were then upset when the Lakers’ management appeared to have snubbed fan favorite Phil Jackson. Jackson had given some indication that he would consider returning to the Lakers. No returned phone call to Phil Jackson and the rest is history. Basketball fans observed as the Lakers hit the ground hard when they passed on their former head coach Phil Jackson. Mike D’Antoni was selected as the Lakers new head coach. “Bah Humbug” many Lakers fans cried.
Early into Coach D’Antoni’s reign, playing “style wars” and bad chemistry plagued the Lakers as they lost games they needed to win. The Lakers’ injured reserve players list was a who’s who of Lakers stars. Before the All-Star break and after the break Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Steve Blake all had multiple stints on the injured reserve list. Eventually, Metta World Peace and most recently Kobe Bryant would join the who’s who list down the home stretch of the injured , knocking the Lakers team to the ground putting the gripe of their NBA playoff’s life or death in the balance.
Initially, the Laker’s new head Coach Mike D’Antoni could not get this group to buy into his fast pace, open offense that was designed to keep the driving lanes open for penetration for layups or kick outs for threes. The big men in Coach D’Antoni’s system are best suited as a stretch four and five. Not a good style for one named Dwight Howard or a team whose make-up is totally juxtaposed to the D’Antoni system. There were flare ups with Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, rumors of trades and things were sinking in “Lakers’ Land”.
Through the bad timing of injuries and unrest the Lakers did discover a gem in Earl Clark. The 6’10 wing man added some youth to the bench and at times to the starting unit as Clark began to show what he could do.
Kobe Bryant never gave up during the count down games and continued through it all willing the team forward into a position to secure a playoff birth despite their record and the doom naysayers were projecting for the playoff fate of the Lakers.
The Lakers had some wins and made some runs after the All-Star break those wins did not utilize Coach D’Antoni’s normal system style of play. Over time, as the season progressed Coach D’Antoni adjusted and took the wins his team generated. It did not matter that the inside out style, with the big men in the post and heavy doses of Kobe Bryant were generating the victories. During this stretch, Kobe played a slightly different role as scorer and distributor as Steve Nash and for a while Steve Blake was out of commission. Despite it all the Lakers, behind the will of Kobe Bryant and the resurgence of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, positioned themselves to challenge for a final playoff spot in the NBA’s Western Conference playoffs.
It is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 count down, representing the five remaining games the Lakers had to win to off set the Utah Jazz’s challenge for the final playoff spot. During this stretch run, Kobe Bryant played nearly every minute after beating the New Orleans Hornets 104-96 in the count down # 5 of the five games remaining.
For count down # 4, the Lakers went into the home of one of their greatest nemesis’ the Portland Trailblazers, defeating them 113-106, despite their hot shooting and winning record against the Lakers. Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Steve Blake stepped up as each one of these critical games were team effort wins with Kobe Bryant who was in high performance, big time.
Next, count down # 3 the Lakers would face the Golden State Warriors a team fighting for a better position in the playoffs. Kobe was once again not allowing his team to lose playing literally every minute to secure the victory 118-116, but the Lakers lost Kobe in the process. Lakers Nation fell like a ton of bricks hitting the ground hard. Oh so close but, yet so far away, a very much doubted playoff birth was almost in hand.
The count down # 2 win against the San Antonio Spurs 91-86 was a great team effort with multiple players stepping up. The Lakers beat a gamed Spurs team without Kobe Bryant who was now officially out for the season and headed for surgery. There would be no miracles of Kobe returning to save the day.
Tonight, the Lakers will control their own playoff destiny as they face the Houston Rockets at the Staples Center; it will be a tough game. Feast or Famine, the Lakers must come up swinging on the count of one.