The Lakers’ problems on the court are evident: they are old and slow, have trouble defending most teams, the bench is awful, and some of the key players (Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol) are hurt and/or don’t know what their roles truly are. According to Howard, the team also has issues off the court, when it comes to basic things such as liking one another. Per the OC Register and LA Daily News: “Jordan Hill lay on the court Friday night for several moments after injuring his right ankle. Alone. None of his teammates came over to check on him. Dwight Howard said it’s that kind of chemistry, or lack of, the Lakers seem to be missing. It’s the kind of team chemistry he witnessed up close on the Clippers bench. ‘Those guys on the Clippers team, they really enjoy each other off the court and it shows,’ he said after the game. On Saturday, Howard said the Lakers need to play ‘like we like each other. Even if we don’t want to be friends off the court, whatever that may be, when we step in between the lines or we step in the locker room or the gym, we have to respect each other and what we bring to the table. It really starts off the court. I think you have to have that relationship and that chemistry off the court for it to really blossom on the court. It takes time to develop that. You just don’t come together and then expect to be best friends right away. It just doesn’t happen like that.’ Mike D’Antoni, who called the Hill incident ‘a lapse’ said he didn’t like all his teammates over the years, but learned to respect them on the court. ‘I don’t think you have to love each other, but you have to respect each other with what they do on the court,’ D’Antoni said.
Plenty point to the Lakers three-peat years during the 2000-2002 seasons as evidence that chemistry can be overblown. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal won such titles despite having an ongoing adversarial relationship. [...] And how did Bryant and O’Neal manage to make it work? ‘We did. We won three straight,’ Bryant said. ‘One of them has to sacrifice. I sacrificed quite a bit with individual numbers and MVPs and NBA Finals and all this other stuff. Phil (Jackson) used to come to us as a team and let me take over in the march to the Finals. Then in the Finals against Eastern Conference teams that didn’t have any centers, we went through Shaq. Those are things I was willing to sacrifice. You have to have that sacrifice to make that dynamic work.’ But Bryant doesn’t see similarities between his dynamic with O’Neal and Howard. ‘It’s not the same thing. On that team, it was me and Shaq and role players, who were excellent role players. Here, it’s me, Dwight, Steve (Nash) and Pau (Gasol). We play to each other’s strengths. Steve is the best facilitating guard. Pau is the best facilitating big man. The ball goes through those guys, and it allows them to make everybody better. It’s really that simple.’”