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This article was initially published in the “Lakers Insider” on March 15. Please sign up for the “Lakers Insider” at under Lakers E-News.

Lakers Synergy
By: Josh Tucker

While instability is visible throughout all levels of the NBA right now, the Los Angeles Lakers have managed to remain intact in Los Angeles for over 50 years and under the same ownership for over 30 years. Playing near Hollywood, the Lakers always keep basketball fans entertained. Once again this season, they have been able to put the drama aside and produce championship caliber basketball on the court.

The 2010-2011 season has been a model of personal achievement and team realization. Five years removed from his record setting 81-point performance, Kobe Bryant has assaulted the NBA’s all-time scoring list, catapulting past Hall of Kobe BryantFamers Moses Malone (27,409), Elvin Hayes (27,313) Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946), Oscar Robertson (26,710), Dominique Wilkins (26,668) and John Havlicek (26,395). The only remaining players ahead of Bryant on the all-time list are Shaquille O’Neal (5th/28,590), Wilt Chamberlain (4th/31,419), Michael Jordan (3rd/32,292), Karl Malone (2nd/36,928) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1st/38,387). Among the top six scorers in NBA history, all but Michael Jordan have sported Lakers purple and gold.

Despite spraining his elbow against the Charlotte Bobcats on March 4, Lakers “Iron Man” Derek Fisher, has played in 481 consecutive regular season games, the longest consecutive games streak among all active NBA players. In addition, this Lakers team has quietly amassed a league-leading nine wire-to-wire victories, bettering last season’s regular season total of seven in only 39 games. The most striking of those victories came against the Cavaliers, when the Lakers came within a basket of doubling Cleveland’s point total in a 112-57 win. The 55-point margin of victory was the third largest in Lakers franchise history as well as the largest league-wide since 1998.

After a turbulent first half of the season — which saw the Lakers open 8-0, their third best start in franchise history, and concluded with a three-game losing streak in Orlando, Charlotte and Cleveland – the team has looked recharged since Kobe Phil Jackson and Derek FisherBryant’s 37-point, 14-rebound MVP performance in the All-Star Game. With a new focus and dedication to defense, the Lakers won eight straight games after the All-Star break against some of the league’s premier teams — including San Antonio, Atlanta (twice), Oklahoma City, and Portland. Their statement victory against the league leading San Antonio Spurs proved to be one of their best performances of the season. Sparked by a complete team effort, the Lakers handed the Spurs their worst home halftime deficit in franchise history (28 points).

In what is likely the final season before Phil Jackson abdicates his throne over Laker Land, the team will look to send the “Zen Master” off in an appropriate manner. Every time Phil Jackson has won two championships he has reclaimed his crown atop the basketball “court” by winning a third straight championship (with the Bulls in 1991-93 and 1996-98 and with the Lakers in 2000-02). A championship in 2011 will not only further solidify Phil Jackson’s mythical legacy, but it will also fuel the Michael Jordan – Kobe Bryant comparison. Jordan won six championships under Coach Jackson, a number Bryant will try to equal in June. The Lakers leader on the court has continued his scoring consistency, now scoring over 1,500 points in 11 Andrew Bynumconsecutive seasons, marking the longest such streak by an NBA player since Karl Malone reached that milestone in 12 straight seasons (1986-87 to 1997-98).

With Andrew Bynum healthy, the team has finally found its stride. In eleven games since the All-Star break, Bynum has averaged 11.9 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks, while shooting a team best 62% from the field. Bynum’s biggest impact on the game, however, is not completely visible when staring at the stat sheet. He has anchored the Lakers defense, not just clogging the middle, but also challenging outside jump shots with his dominant wingspan. In eleven games since the All-Star break, only once have the opponents passed the 100-point mark, while the opposition has been kept near 40% shooting from the field. The Lakers’ strength relies on synergy, and when five or more Lakers players score in double-figures the team is a staggering 26-3. The whole is unquestionably greater than the sum of its parts.

With the Lakers firing on all cylinders, the team once again seems primed for a deep playoff push. With a healthy roster, experienced leadership and a renewed focus on defense, the Lakers faithful once again hope to see a celebration in Downtown Los Angeles this June.


By Josh Tucker

What does it take in the offseason in order to complete a three-peat? For any other organization, coaching staff or team this would be a unique experience, but Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, and Derek Fisher have been here before. In fact, this is the fourth time that Phil Jackson will attempt this implausible “three-feat” and whenever Phil Jackson wins two championships he unequivocally turns it into three. They have grown accustomed to short offseasons after playing well into June for three consecutive seasons. Long seasons with a short recovery period can place a lot of wear and tear on athletes’ bodies. Naturally, the importance of physical fitness in the offseason is paramount to this Lakers team’s chances of three-peating.

Some Lakers spent this summer touring the world. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum took time to heal from a grueling post season by watching the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Over in Europe, Pau Gasol acted as an ambassador for UNICEF and Lamar Odom played a pivotal role in the US national team’s Gold medal win in Turkey. To manage the truncated offseason, Lakers forward Ron Artest was in the gym early and often.

Artest, former Defensive Player of the Year, said he balanced weeks where he rested with weeks where he was going to the gym four times a day. “You need to rest but still push yourself during the summer. I work harder and prepare my body for physical activity even tougher than an NBA game,” said Artest. Artest is the Renaissance man of fitness, partaking in yoga, swimming, weightlifting, and running. “I couldn’t take as many trips this offseason. I had to refocus sooner,” said Artest when asked about the sacrifices of getting back into shape.

Balancing rest and relaxation with focus and fitness was a sentiment echoed by other Lakers. Shannon Brown, who re-signed with the back-to-back champions this offseason sounds like a seasoned veteran.

“I let my body rest a little bit. I was lifting weights, but nothing with a basketball. I always focus on basketball, and on the task at hand. I don’t let too many outside influences get involved in what I’m trying to do on the basketball court. I’m a little bit older, a little bit smarter, a little bit wiser, not only in life but in the game of basketball. I’m trying to tune in to what is really going on, on the court.”

With the quiet additions of rookies Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks, and free agent signings Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff, the Lakers have revamped their roster and are focused on the season ahead.

The rookies are also dedicated to making an immediate impact this year. They aim to contribute whether it is minutes in games or hustle in practice. Rookie forward, Caracter, said that he changed his college lifestyle to prepare for the NBA.

“I’m grinding, working, working. I got with a nutritionist and cut down on what I was eating and dropped my college diet,” Caracter said. “I’m eating more efficient meals and found out through different research the proper way to train. I’m doing sprints instead of longer runs. Shorter, harder, and increasing the intensity of my workouts. It is a whole different type of conditioning to get ready for this level; physically and mentally preparing for the new situation, while keeping my confidence up. I’m leaner and meaner than ever before.”

Caracter has already cut down from almost 315 pounds to around 270. Devin Ebanks shared a similar sentiment.

“I’m doing a lot of running, calisthenics, and ab workouts, along with eating right,” Ebanks said. “I’m eating a lot of pastas and potatoes, and have cut down on fast foods. The coaches have me trying to keep my body fat count down.”

Ebanks, who turns 21 at the end of this month, has great admiration for the Lakers veterans.

“It’s amazing how they keep their work ethic. They are in their early 30s, yet continue to work. The way they still work and the drive they have keeps me motivated.”

Steve Blake and Matt Barnes find themselves in new colors, and in new cities, but neither have found the transition to be too difficult. Blake, whose last championship came with the University of Maryland Terrapins in 2002, spent the summer doing a variety of workouts. “I worked as hard this summer as I have always worked. I started my mornings in the weight room doing plyometrics. Then I would take a break, eat lunch then get back to basketball; two-a-days pretty much every day.”

Blake said it has not taken him long to adapt the triangle offense or Los Angeles lifestyle.

“It has been a pretty smooth transition. I appreciate the focus on the team and the offense rather than individual skills,” he said.

Matt Barnes, who is notorious for his passion, saw his 2009-2010 season extend longer than ever before. “I went to the Eastern Conference Finals [with the Magic] last year, which went to the end of May. This year I took a little more time off to let my body heal. In years past I got to work a little sooner. I’m thrilled to be part of great team that has won two championships in a row, so I’m just trying to fit in.”

While Pat Riley patented the term three-peat, Phil Jackson owns it. This year the Lakers embark on a journey to make history and reclaim their title with a rejuvenated roster and a focus on fitness.