The Eiger mountain located in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland, rises to an elevation of 13,025 feet. The first ascent of the Eiger was made on August 11, 1858.
The north face of the Eiger (in German it is called Nordwand) was not climbed until 1938. It is one of the three great north faces of the Alps, rising 5,900 ft above the valley of Grindlewald. Since 1935, at least sixty-four climbers have died attempting to scale the north face, thus earning it the German nickname, Mordwand, or "death wall". It is the ultimate test of skill and endurance.
Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck, on February 13th, 2008, broke his own record , by soloing the north face in 2 hours, 47 minutes and 33 seconds.
Beginning the weekend of April 16th-18th, the defending NBA World Champion Los Angeles Lakers will embark on what some may characterize as a similar daunting mission. They will begin (along with 15 other teams) the arduous climb to reach the top of the league's 'mountain' and claim the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship trophy and the rings that go with it. To reach the summit, a team must win 16 games and navigate past four opponents, some far more challenging than others. Only one team will survive and be successful.
Before the Lakers depart on that trek, let's look at some interesting statistics:
In 19 of the last 20 games in which Kobe Bryant has taken FEWER than 20 shots, the Lakers record is 19-1. That lone loss came when Kobe took just 10 shot attempts.
The Lakers have seen 14 of their last 15 losses come in games in which Bryant has taken 20 or MORE shots. In 5 of those losses, he fired off 30 or more field goal attempts.
In Sunday night's 99-92 win over the visiting Wizards, the Lakers outscored Washington 35-15 in the second quarter to take a commanding 59-33 lead into halftime. In the fourth quarter, the Wizards outscored the Lakers 32-17, erasing what had been a 22 point lead by the Lakers (82-60) at the start of the quarter.
In the fourth quarter vs. Washington, the Lakers committed 7 turnovers, Washington had none.
Once again, the team failed to show a killer instinct, and continues to display a lack of intensity and desire. This is a team that truly believes that they can turn it on at will, and that everything will be just fine once the playoffs begin.
Just two weeks ago, they were facing the threat of losing home court advantage through the semi-finals. Both Denver and Dallas climbed to within 2 1/2 games of the Lakers lead in the Western Conference. Since then, the Lakers have gotten a bit of breathing room as that gap widened to 5 and 5 1/2 games respectively after Sunday's game.
This week begins a five game trek to San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Houston, New Orleans and Atlanta. It will afford the Lakers one more opportunity to demonstrate whether they have the inner desire to be ready for the rather arduous climb that awaits them in mid-April. They have to show an aggression that has been all too lacking thus far; not only at the start of games, but also in the second half, where they have been unable to put opponents away early.
The Laker bench, which has performed poorly through much of this season, is running out of time to prove that they have any desire to play up to the form required to win in the post-season. This season they have been known for their sloppy play, poor defense, dismal shooting, and an inability to maintain leads.
The effort to scale the highest summit on the NBA mountain will require the maximum from every player. Without that, the Lakers could find themselves stranded on the mountain, failing in their pursuit to repeat. Only the team demonstrating more skill, playing intelligent basketball, being more hungry and aggressive with a never-ending and burning desire, will traverse past the 15 other challengers and ascend to the peak. That is the team which will stand alone and claim the coveted prize that awaits the winner.