It’s clear that the Los Angeles Lakers take every team in the NBA’s best shot. In the end, that will help LA.
The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled in recent weeks, but this will benefit them in the long run. A quick story to get to the end point.
Around ten years ago I met a former NBA head coach’s oldest son at a random party south of LA. When I found out who he was I went up to him and said, “Sorry to bother you, I’m sure you get asked a bunch of annoying questions about your dad all the time, but could I ask you one question?”
He smiled and said, “Sure.”
I asked, “What did your dad think was the most difficult part of coaching in the NBA?”
I thought he’d give me a short perfunctory answer, but instead, he gave me a really well articulated and thoughtful response.
He said, “My dad always said the hardest part about coaching in the NBA was keeping his players motivated. Just think about some normal dude who works in a company. If he’s got a project that’s important to his company and he knows his boss is watching what he does, then, of course, he’ll work extra hard. But, if he’s doing some routine project that’s not very important, then he’s not going to care as much. The NBA is no different. Players get up for certain types of games and other games they don’t care as much about. The best coach’s find different ways to keep their players motivated no matter what.”
This coach’s son’s answer has always stuck with me, because I rarely hear people who are around the NBA talk about player motivation, but this former coach thought it was very difficult and highly important.
Most people like to pretend that NBA players compete in every game as hard as they can, but that’s simply not true. NBA players are people, not robots.
Professional basketball player’s get mentally tired and they can find themselves craving for a break, just like every other person in the world. It can be hard for even the best basketball players in the world to get up for every game on the schedule, especially if the contest is in a small city, in front of a small crowd, and against a bad team.
The Lakers play 43 nationally televised games this season. Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington, and a bunch of other really famous people attend almost every one of their home games. Also, the Lakers have LeBron James and Lonzo “My daddy hyped me up beyond belief last year” Ball on the team. These three factors mean that when a team plays the Lakers their coach doesn’t need to stay up all night writing out a motivational speech, the players are ready to go.
Let’s use Cleveland and New York as an example. This year both teams play very few nationally televised games, and it was very clear that they knew they were playing in front of a large American audience when they took on the Lakers a couple of weeks ago.
The Cavaliers and the Knicks were going 110% against the purple and gold because they wanted to show everyone in the U.S. what they could do. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that when Cleveland and New York played in Sacramento with a small local audience watching, they didn’t care quite as much as when they played the Lakers.
Speaking of Sacramento, (I’m going to go on a quick tangent here, sorry about that) they’ve been one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this season with a record of 24-24, but to me, that record is meaningless, because the Kings aren’t very good.
They simply get to feast on teams that aren’t inspired to beat them, because they’re the Kings and they play in Sacramento. They don’t have an All-Star on their roster, and they’ve haven’t made the playoffs in what seems like forever. They play in a small city, and they traded DeMarcus Cousins for Buddy Hield. I could keep going, but I’ll stop.
I have no way to prove this, but I bet if the current Lakers roster was on the Kings and played the same amount of nationally televised games in front of the same crowd that Sacramento does this year, they’d have 33 wins. And if the same Kings roster played down in LA they’d have 12 wins. Every team that faces the Lakers is that much more motivated to beat them versus teams that play the Kings.
I mentioned earlier that the Lakers play in 43 nationally televised games this season and that’s the most in the NBA. The Warriors, 76ers, Celtics, Rockets, and Thunder follow the Lakers in descending order for the 2nd through 6th most games in front of all of America.
Do you notice a difference between the Lakers and the other teams that lead the NBA in nationally televised games? The other teams all made it to the playoffs last year and they should take every team’s best shot.
The Lakers haven’t made the playoffs in five years, so they should get at least a few uninspired efforts from their opponents, but that’s not the case. Every team that faces the Lakers doesn’t just want to beat them, they want to embarrass the purple and gold in front of all of America, and in front Jack Nicholson, and in front of Lonzo’s dad. That’s life for the young Lakers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The Lakers play in a playoff type atmosphere in virtually every one of their contests and sometimes that leads to embarrassing losses to awful teams, but there are also many benefits as well. The biggest advantage for the Lakers is that taking every team’s best effort is the optimum type of preparation for the playoffs.
If the Lakers want to win a game, even against a bad team, they have to play inspired basketball during every single play of the game, because every team that plays against LA has them circled on their calendar. That type of game action is priceless for the playoffs because in April, contests often hinge on one play.
It’s almost of the question to simulate game-like intensity in practice and it’s entirely impossible to practice for playoff intensity. That can be a problem for small-market teams like Utah, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, and Toronto, but the Lakers get 82 games to get ready for the post-season, which is a good thing.
Every team that faces the Lakers is highly motivated to win, but that incentive pushes the Lakers to be the best team they can be. Come April, the Lakers will be more than ready for the playoffs.
Source: “Los Angeles” – Google News