Will the Real Los Angeles Lakers Please Stand Up?

It was recently announced that Kobe Bryant’s jersey is the top-seller in all of the NBA.  Further, the Lakers sell more merchandise than any other team.  Pau Gasol’s jersey is in the top 15 sellers as well.

What does this mean?  There are a lot of confused Laker fans out there.

You have to be confused if you are a Laker fan.  You have to wonder what team will show up each game.  You’re curious to see if Kobe plays like Michael Jordan, Steve Nash, or Kwame Brown.  You look at the Thunder and see an easy first-round opponent.  Then you look at the Thunder and see a menacing team with two unstoppable stars that should be feared.

The regular season proved one major fact about this year’s Laker team: They DO have a switch, and they CAN turn it on.  Can they turn it on at will?  That remains the question.

With the switch off, the Lakers can lose to sub .500 teams in the blink of an eye.  Kobe can shoot under 30% and the bench can get out-scored by 40 points.  With the switch off, the Lakers are a first-round playoff exit at best, and a lottery team at worst.

With the switch on, however, the Lakers are unstoppable.  They can hand teams embarrassing defeats that see games essentially over at halftime.  They share the ball, constantly hustle, and thrive collectively.  Bynum and Gasol dominate games with the switch on.  It’s simply too much for any other team to handle.

But how do you flip that switch?

It appears that one way to cause the switch to flip is to suffer a humiliating defeat.  Many analysts argue that there are no moral victories in basketball.  It appears that there are motivational defeats, however.  Chalk up game four against Oklahoma as one of those.

Those of us who have watched Kobe Bryant over the years have seen him personally flip his own switch multiple times.  You see a certain “black mamba” glint in his eye and you know the opposing team is in for it.  It almost seems like anger is the best way to motivate him to flip it- you get the jaw-jutting Kobe who drains jumpers on streaks and drives to the basket on pure adrenaline alone.

So why isn’t that switch flipped more frequently?

One theory is that the Lakers simply have too much talent.  It’s just too easy to win and they get bored.  Then they rely on the switch to come into play in games that “really matter.”  Everyone thought they’d flip the switch for the playoffs.  A 30-point deficit in game 4 against the Thunder says otherwise.

Laker fans really don’t know how the switch gets flipped.  We are just left here to hope the team doesn’t forget to flip it when it really matters.

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