Heading into the All-Star break, the Los Angeles Lakers had lost three consecutive games, including a debacle in Cleveland. Coming out of the All-Star break, they've beaten the Hawks by 24 points, then came from behind on the second end of a back-to-back to beat the Trail Blazers in Portland, a city providing fits over the years.
The common refrain from fans and media will be that the Lakers, famously prone to bouts of coasting through the regular season, decided to "flip the switch" and start playing championship-caliber basketball.
There's only one problem with that theory. The principles involved says "switch-flipping" is impossible.
"I don't think there's such a thing as a switch," said Kobe Bryant with a laugh. "I think it's gradual improvement. It's an evolution as the season goes on and some seasons are different than others, just because of the fatigue we've been through for the last three years. It's different. It's a gradual process.
"All of a sudden, you look up and we're playing extremely well now. We must have 'flipped the switch.' That's not it. It's been a process of steps. Some steps are bigger than others. Some steps are more noticeable than others. But they're there."
Asked the same question, head coach Phil Jackson echoed Bryant's sentiment after the win over Atlanta.
"No," Jackson explained. "You have opponents. You have travel. You have foreign arenas that you have to play in. There's all sorts of things that go into it. It's not just, 'OK, now we're back 100 percent.' We've done this before. We know the next game can be a game that we're not proud of if we don't play as well. It's about consistently building a game and having that ability to be purposeful in what we're trying to do."
If Bryant's and Jackson's insistence about adhering to process are taken at face value, the recent turn -- seemingly on a dime -- can be tough for those on the outside to understand. Then again, the inconsistent two-time defending champions often have a hard time understanding themselves.
"For us, this team, this whole season so far has just been a mind f---," said Bryant. "That's all it is. Just trying to get these guys to think about the things we want them to think about."
Andy Kamenetzky is a regular contributor to ESPNLosAngeles.com.