The Los Angeles Lakers enter their six-game Grammy’s road trip riding a two-game win streak thanks to a dominating 106-73 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday.
As much as the Lakers will have the natural motivation of wanting to improve upon their 2-7 record away from Staples Center so far this season and the desire to test themselves against tough opponents -- the first three teams on the trip in Denver, Utah and Philadelphia all have better records than the 13-9 Lakers -- there is another factor weighing on their minds:
Win or risk the team being changed.
"These are big games for us coming up,” said Lakers center Andrew Bynum after putting up 20 points and 11 rebounds against the Bobcats. “We need to prove that we’re able to win, or else they’re going to start doing things."
By “they,” Bynum was referring to the Lakers’ management team of owner Dr. Jerry Buss, executive Jim Buss (the owner’s son) and general manager Mitch Kupchak. The Lakers have a payroll north of $88 million and with that money comes the expectation to compete for the championship. Los Angeles figured to be a player on the market moving forward regardless if they were winning or not, as they have an $8.9 million trade exception to work with that they acquired in the deal that sent Lamar Odom to Dallas. Plus, they have not been shy about completely reworking the roster after they tried to move Pau Gasol, a four-time All-Star, along with Odom to acquire Chris Paul from the Hornets in a three-team trade.
Kobe Bryant called the Bobcats game a “much-needed win” because the 33-point victory allowed coach Mike Brown to rest the starters in the fourth quarter after playing Bryant for 42 minutes in each of the Lakers two games in a road back-to-back against Milwaukee and Minnesota.
But it was also needed because a loss to 3-19 Charlotte, a team with the worst record in the NBA, would have surely put even more pressure on Buss and Kupchak to “start doing things,” as Bynum put it, even before the road trip began on Friday against the Nuggets.
It’s not an easy proposition as the Lakers start out with a back-to-back in Denver (7-3 at home) and Utah (10-3 at home), but maybe a bit of pressure could be good for L.A. as they clearly didn’t enter their road game against Milwaukee with enough focus after coming off their most impressive win of the year against the Clippers.
“We just got to do our job, that’s all,” Bryant said of the formula for road success. “Go out, play hard, play physical and rebound the ball. That’s the big thing for us is giving them so many second-chance points. That’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel so far.”
Despite beating Minnesota and Charlotte, the Wolves and Bobcats combined to average 18 offensive rebounds and 23 second-chance points against Los Angeles.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.