Found January 29, 2013 on Sports Blog Net:
It's no secret I've been openly critical of the performance we've seen from the Los Angeles Lakers during the course of this season. Everything, from firing head coach Mike Brown five games into the season to hiring present coach Mike D'Antoni, has been in question from my perspective. A huge part of this is because I didn't (and still don't) think D'Antoni was the right guy to coach the Lakers as they are currently constructed. After the two games the Lakers played on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, there maybe a glimmer of hope the team, including D'Antoni, may be starting to turn the corner. The Lakers beat the upstart Utah Jazz 102-84 on Friday and defeated the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder 105-96 on Sunday, both games in Los Angeles. In these two games, you saw a team that was willing to play to their strengths, which is getting big men Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol involved in the offense and slowing the game down. As we all know, those two things are not in D'Antoni's DNA, but maybe he's learning he has to work to the strength of his players. We also might be witnessing the evolution of Kobe Bryant the passer, not the usual scorer. Bryant had 14 assists in each of the last two games, even coming close to having triple-doubles. Regardless of what people may want to say about Bryant being the "Black Mamba," what we saw in the last two games is the way he will have to play if he wants any shot of tying Michael Jordan in championship rings. We all know Bryant can score the basketball, but the days of jacking up 30 to 35 shots have to be fewer and farther between. It's time for him to play smarter, not harder, as he will force double teams to come towards him. There are plenty of people around him, such as Howard, Gasol, point guard Steve Nash and forward Metta World Peace, who can put the ball in the basket as well. There's no reason not to believe Bryant can put up number like the ones we've seen in the last two games every time the Lakers step on the court. It's just a matter of whether or not Bryant will continue to trust them. If he does, look out. Not only will it be easier on him during the course of games, it can help him save gas for a playoff run if the Lakers are able to get there (the Lakers are currently 4 1/2 games behind the Houston Rockets for the 8th and final playoff spot in the conference). Even though Bryant's play is very pivotal to the Lakers' success, not many people are talking about the team defense, which hasn't been able to stop anyone this season. They held the Jazz to 84 points and held the Thunder to 96. Anytime you can hold the Thunder to under 100 points, you're doing a pretty good job defensively. With all of the positive things I have said about the Lakers, let's remember it's only a two-game winning streak. The Lakers should be well ahead of the pace they are on right now, so winning the last two games shouldn't be celebrated like they've won a title, but you can look at it as a much needed step in the right direction. Maybe the win over the Thunder is what the Lakers need to get back on track, but it means nothing if they lose tonight to the New Orleans Hornets. Only time will tell, but the glimmer of hope maybe turning into a bright light. By Charles Taylor
THE BACKYARD
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