Role-playing is working out for Lakers

Dr. David Levy, you've done a fine job giving the Lakers a mental lube job, but we need you again. The end of the regular season draws near, expectations are on the rise, there's talk of a title -- and we're worried.

We don't want the Lakers getting ahead of themselves, we want them basking in the now. We want to keep hearing that calming chant emanate from the locker room on game nights: ohhhmmm! It's time for Kobe Bryant and his brothers to get back on the couch, just to make sure the good vibes keep flowing.

Who would have thought we'd be here? Back when the season started, the Lakers were mental mushrooms. Bryant wanted out. Andrew Bynum was a nobody. When Mitch Kupchak spoke, everyone smirked.

Then I found Levy, a Pepperdine psychology professor who happens to have a basketball jones and a Westside practice treating celebrities lost in dysfunction.

The Lakers and Levy, this was a match made in heaven.

Previous columns in this series

  • In this space in October, Levy explained that if they came to him he would treat the Lakers like a dysfunctional family. Everyone would be assigned a familial role: from Old Man Jerry Buss, the wise and sometimes crotchety grandfather, to consigliere Phil Jackson, the trusted family counselor. Nobody would be more important than the Golden Child: Kobe Bryant, the big brother whose good looks and genius had so overshadowed his kid brothers that they'd come to love and loath him, all at once.

    The Lakers would be fine, Levy assured, as long as Bryant became a good big brother, taking Baby Brother Bynum and the others under his wing. If this were to occur the Lakers would be able find their balance point -- or, as Levy put it, their "homeostasis."

    Levy's advice must have sunk in because when Bynum hurt his knee, step-dad Kupchak stepped up. He'd found his voice. He shook the family and surprised us all by aggressively trading for Pau Gasol, the crafty Spaniard whom Levy likens to a foreign exchange student.

    We all know the Lakers have just kept on winning. The bum knee has hardly derailed them. But when I drove to the Westside to pay him a visit the other day, Levy told me not to take that seamless transition for granted. It was, as he put it, "diagnostic."

    Diagnostic? Please explain.

    "If a family does not have its footing, its equilibrium, an outsider can be perceived as a threat," Levy said. Sometimes, an exchange student walks in and suddenly the house is splintered by jealousy, backstabbing and hurt feelings. But cool, lanky Gasol walked in and everyone wrapped their arms around his pale shoulders.

    Doc, how'd they pull it off?

    "The months before, that winning, the way Kobe was being a good big brother, they had found that homeostasis we talked about."

    Levy rubbed his chin, contemplative. I figured he was wondering why Britney Spears couldn't be this easy to treat.

    What the boys in purple and gold seem to have now is synergy, he said, before continuing. They've also got good gestalt. Wholeness. Superb social chemistry. They now can tell a coherent narrative about themselves. Having taken a stranger in, they've become a near-perfect "blended family."

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