L.A. Malaise: Despite Struggles, Lakers Right Where They Want To Be

It's an easy pitfall when following sports leagues closely. 

The temptation to generalize, exaggerate and overreact is subtle.  

When a player comes out of nowhere to hit nine home runs in 13 games, he's an All-Star and MVP candidate suddenly.  

When a backup center averages 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds over two weeks, he's immediately worth $30 million.  

When a proven team hits cruise control and only gets as high as the No. 4 seed in the playoffs, they're all of a sudden too old and unreliable to contend.  

Remember the names Chris Shelton, Jerome James and the washed-up 2009-2010 Boston Celtics? None of them turned out even remotely like anyone in the mainstream thought, and they are just a few of the examples of this idea.  

All were judged rashly and prematurely, which leads us to today's ever-present lesson in sports: Over a long season, never judge a team/player/trend/statistic too early.

The subject of today's lesson is the '10-'11 Lakers.  If you're keeping track at home, you can probably count at least two times already this season where judging the team too early would have gotten you in trouble and set you up for surprises later.  

First, the veteran team was predicted to cruise a la last year's Celtics, get as healthy as possible, forget what happens during the season and step on the gas in the playoffs.  

Instead, they roared to an 8-0 and then 13-2 start, in which they really looked like they were playing hard.  

If you were judging too early (like I did), you'd have been sure that the Lakers were going to steamroll every foe without struggle on their way to the three-peat.  

Pau Gasol started the season in playoff form, and Kobe Bryant looked content with deferring to Gasol and a scorching hot bench.  But right around Thanksgiving, the Lakers hit a rough patch ...

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