The Los Angeles Lakers 10-10 start skewed expectations for the team considerably. The early success showed just how good the team can be when everything is clicking, but no team plays their best basketball for an entire season.
Nowhere was this demonstrated better than by the Lakers’ regression to the mean since then, going 6-21 over their last 27 games since that serendipitous 20-game start. However, the Lakers’ young talent should never have offered much expectation of early success. Young teams simply don’t win games in the NBA outside of the most extraordinary circumstances.
Disagree? Well, you might just change your mind when you hear what the patron saint of winning at every single thing all the time, Kobe Bryant, had to say during a recent appearance on Stephen A. Smith’s radio show (as transcribed by Ryan Ward of Lakers Nation). It turns out even Bryant thinks the Lakers are right about where they should be given the circumstances:
“I think Luke is doing a fine job,” Bryant said of the first-year head coach. “It’s tough because you have to teach players how to play within a structure. Within that structure, you have a myriad of options that you must be able to recognize and take advantage of, and one player is taking advantage the other player on the floor must understand what that opportunity is and then they can read and react accordingly.
“It is very difficult to teach that to a group of young guys so fast,” Bryant told Smith. “So, I think patience is the key word here.”
Of course the Lakers’ bouts of inconsistency have been frustrating for fans of the team, especially after watching them play so well to start the year. And yes, it’s easier for Kobe to preach patience now that he’s no longer on the team.
Those caveats aside, the perspective Bryant is offering here is a worthwhile one. The Lakers are a long way from playing as well as they did to start the season with any consistency. As both Bryant (and Lakers head coach Luke Walton) makes clear, more important to watch is how the team is playing, rather than how successful they are at it.