Mentally, Wednesday night in Memphis is a important game for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Pau Gasol returns to Memphis to face his former team, the Memphis Grizzlies, and his brother, Marc Gasol. On the eve of his return, the Spaniard talked about a lack of discipline in the squad and hinted at players gravitating towards playing as segmented units of individuals rather than as a team.
On Tuesday in Indiana, the Lakers fell apart. They were never entirely expected to be competitive against the best team in the NBA, but these guys were no longer playing for each other. The consistent “good group of guys” line was not being tossed around anymore.
On Wednesday in Memphis, coaches, players and fans will get an idea if that sort of individual over team mentality is here to stay for the remainder of the season, or if it was something that was handled by the coaching staff and team leadership.
The shift in mentality was spurred by the arrival of two hungry youngsters who had previously found difficulty getting off the end of the bench with their former teams. Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks have played well in their three games with the Lakers, but the aggressive nature of their play, Bazemore in particular, has rubbed a selection of the existing Lakers the wrong way. Bazemore, often successfully, enjoys putting his head down and attacking players.
However, one would be hard pressed to fault two kids with expiring contracts for trying to showcase their individual talents ahead of an uncertain future. Unlike the Lakers on the roster at the start of the season, these kids have not had a chance to properly play this season. Naturally, they are doing their best to make the most of their opportunity.
Although the arrival of Bazemore and Brooks may have signaled the shift, they are not the only players getting a bit selfish with the season 25 games from expiration. When a team of one-year contracts is constructed and subsequently fails, the end of that season will naturally segment into players hoping to display their talents for a chance at a job the following season. That is the reality the Lakers are quickly approaching.
Wednesday in Memphis is not about the win or the loss; Wednesday in Memphis is about whether the Lakers have quit on the team concept entirely.