If the beginning of the 2009-10 season for the Los Angeles Lakers was a school exam, it would be a take-home quiz comprised of multiple choice and true-false questions.
Up to this point, eight of the Lakers' first 14 opponents currently have losing records, and two of them are just one game above .500. To put dressing on the salad, they've won their last six games by almost 18 points per contest (and by “contest” I mean cake walk).
But like a take-home quiz counts toward the final grade, the Lakers’ 13-3 start counts toward their record at season’s end, a record that could determine home court advantage throughout the playoffs for them (see: last season’s championship run) or for their potential Finals opponent (see: their 2007 title tailspin) should they reach that round for the third straight year.
While some of their true tests don’t begin until a few weeks from now – when the team embarks on a five-game road trip – the Lakers are wisely taking advantage of their favorable schedule, much like most students utilize a take-home quiz to improve their grade.
For one thing, Phil Jackson can straighten out his crooked bench, which has struggled to maintain large leads and keep Mr. Momentum in purple and gold. Furthermore, Jackson has time to establish a consistent rotation now that Pau Gasol is back from injury.
What’s more, Lamar Odom – who is averaging just six points, six rebounds and three assists since retreating to his sixth-man role in wake of Gasol’s return – can use the next handful of games to figure out how he can be more effective as the second unit’s go-to guy.
But perhaps the greatest advantage of playing inferior opponents at the start of the season – not to mention hosting 17 of the first 21 games – is the ability to rest veterans like Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Ron Artest during most of the fourth quarter (if and when the Lakers are handily defeating teams late in the game), thereby preserving their legs and limiting injuries for the second half of the season, which features an eight-game roadie at the end of January and 11 of 15 games in March away from Staples Center.
Sure it’s hard to accurately assess the Lakers as it pertains to the long-run, just like it’s hard to assess a student’s overall performance based on a take-home quiz, even if that student achieves an A on it.
But as far as I’m concerned, an A is an A – and that’s exactly what the Lakers have earned thus far.
Josh Hoffman is a college junior working to become a sports journalist. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Written by Josh Hoffman