The Athletic Reporter
September 12, 2005 Sports News the Way You Want It. Completely Made Up. Issue 127
Lakers Finally Trying
Originally posted 4/14/2003

Shaq and Kobe, trying
LOS ANGELES - Sources close to the team reported this week that the three-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, who at press time occupied the fifth spot in the Western Conference standings, have finally started trying and will therefore win their fourth consecutive title in June.

On New Year's Day the Lakers stood at 13-19, good only for fifth place in the Pacific Division and well out of the playoff picture. Their poor start prompted many observers to say that the team had grown complacent after three straight NBA championships and had little left to prove. Since then they have gone 35-13 and, despite a loss in Portland on Sunday, have an outside chance at gaining home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

"It's no mystery, really," said Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal. "We weren't trying earlier. Now we are."

Basketball experts have long disputed the notion that the Lakers -- or any other team -- can "flick a switch" when they need to and start winning games on command. "No, that's pretty much what we did," said Lakers forward Kobe Bryant. "We just flicked the switch, started trying, so now of course we're doing a whole lot better."

Western Conference rivals were not happy to hear the news. "We're screwed," said Sacramento Kings center Vlade Divac. "I was hoping that they'd be sick of winning titles by now, and we might squeeze in and get one. I guess we'll just have to lose to them in the playoffs again, like we always do. We'll try our best to beat them, of course, but it sounds like they'll be trying too. Unfortunately for us."

"We beat them by 26 in November," said Dallas Mavericks guard Steve Nash. "I remember asking Shaq, 'Why are you guys playing so bad tonight?' And he said, 'Because we're not trying. Not one bit. See that shot I just missed, just now while I was talking to you? I wasn't even trying to make it. I had my eyes closed.' It was weird." Earlier this month the Lakers, having begun to try, beat the Mavericks twice in one week.

"This was all part of the plan," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "The whole 'not trying' thing, I mean. When you're as good as we are, you have to make your own fun."

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