Like all teams in the NBA, players on the Los Angeles Lakers are making significant adjustments during the 2011-12 season. They are playing for a new coach, playing within a new system with new teammates and adjusting to new lives off the court as well. That can be overwhelming to some, but two of the newest Lakers are moving through the mess with an open mind.
“It’s been a quick adjustment with the shortened season and hardly any training camp, so it’s been a different adjustment in that respect than normal,” Troy Murphy told HOOPSWORLD. “Every day is a learning process and I feel more comfortable each day.”
Sometimes fans and media alike forget that NBA players have lives outside of the team and any change to that life can affect their play on the court. With all the change that comes with starting a new life on a team across the country, some players are able to make due and find a way to contribute as professionals are expected to do.
“The time I had to get ready to move there because it wasn’t like a traditional free agency period,” Josh McRoberts told HOOPSWORLD. “It was almost like you got traded because of the time. That’s the biggest thing because I don’t have a lot of my stuff still out there after moving across the country in four hours or whatever I had. That’s the toughest part.”
Yet, with all the obstacles to overcome, Murphy and McRoberts realize they have absolutely no time to put their heads down or feel sorry for themselves. Their new team needs and expects them to contribute to the cause immediately and they know there are players in similar situations across the NBA landscape.
“For me personally, I came in and had one day of practice,” said Murphy. “We played a preseason game, had another practice, played a preseason game and then the season was here. I’m just trying to get better, but I know there are a lot of guys like that around the league and there are a lot of guys learning on the fly.”
As they find somewhat of a comfort zone, they now must recognize what areas need to improve.
“It’s been up and down,” said McRoberts. “I think like any season is going to be, but especially when you come to a new situation and a new team, everybody’s trying to learn new things, including myself obviously. I think I have a lot of room for improvement and I’ll continue to get better as I feel more comfortable.”
“I can get better defensively, obviously, because everybody can always get better defensively,” added McRoberts. “Also, finding my opportunities within the offense. Not just opportunities to score, but to make plays for other people and to find ways to attack the glass out of the positions I’ll be in out on the court.”
“I’m still just going day-by-day,” adds Murphy. “Coach is messing with the lineups, rotations and things like that, trying to find what works best. I think just spacing the floor and being in the right spot is what I’m most focusing on, so I can give our bigs, as well as Kobe, the space to play one-on-one.”
Another reason they know the heat is on to contribute greatly to the Lakers is because they are well aware that someone is watching closely, a guy named Kobe Bryant. However, even though that pressure has crippled former Lakers, the two approaches from McRoberts and Murphy to playing with a historic level teammate such as Bryant are quite different
“I try not to think about it on those terms because you still have to go out there and do your job,” said McRoberts. “If you start thinking about that, you might get caught up in it. He’s such a competitive guy and such a winner, it’s like you want to step it up so you don’t let him down. I mean, you don’t want to let any of your teammates down, but to have a guy of that caliber that works so hard and sets the tone, you have to pick up your level of intensity every day.”
McRoberts may not try to think about it, but Murphy thinks about it constantly.
“You have to think about it because you have to take into account when he gets double-teamed, a lot of times he scores over the double-team,” said Murphy. “You’re trying to give him the space to operate and trying to read what he’s doing, which in this shortened season is a learning process. He takes shots that are difficult shots for everybody else in this league, but he makes them look easy. Helping him by spacing the court is a process, but with each day you get more comfortable with where to be and what to do.”
Obviously, Murphy and McRoberts do not share many qualities with Bryant outside of the jerseys they wear. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t utilizing their time with their team’s star to learn and hone some qualities that could help their adjustments.
“We’re a lot different and if I went out there and did some of the moves he has, I don’t think I’d be on the court much longer,” said McRoberts. “I think what I’ve learned is watching how hard he works and how he has such focus. He takes everybody else to a new level because if that guy is one of the best players in the game, the best player in the game, and he’s that focused and locked in on trying to get the job done, everybody else better follow that.”
The Los Angeles Lakers are consistently one of the NBA’s shining teams, but standing currently at 12-9 is unacceptable to everyone within the organization. While you don’t have to be a Laker insider to know that fact, the message becomes even clearer when you put on the purple and gold.
“There are different expectations,” said Murphy. “This is a franchise that expects to be in the mix for a championship every year. There are a lot of teams in the league that are either rebuilding or competing and the Lakers don’t ever fall out of that category of competing for a championship. In that respect it’s different, but I wouldn’t say there’s more pressure because of the fact that’s what you want to play for. You want to play for an organization that plans to compete for a championship every year.”
There is still a lot of work to do if the Lakers are to achieve their grand goals for this season, but all of their players are doing everything they can to improve to turn the goals into reality.