LA gory

Posted: January 9, 2013 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

On Tuesday night — with Dwight Howard on the bench cracking bad jokes while sitting out with a bad shoulder, and Pau Gasol back in LA suffering the effects of a concussion, and Phil Jackson back in Montana sitting cross-legged in a haze of smoke while wondering how, exactly, he lost out on a job to Mike D’Antoni — the Lakers jumped out to an 18-4 lead at Houston. They employed crisp ball movement, started hot and played scrappy defense, all while someone named Robert Sacre played center.

At no point did I think they’d actually win the game. Two and a half hours later, Kevin McHale removed the Rockets starters early as they put the finishing touches on a 125-112 victory. The Lakers didn’t lose because of a lack of hustle or because of too much Kobe ball or because Steve Nash is too old. They lost because they’re not a good basketball team. That’s one harsh truth I’ve already accepted this year. The other? There’s a decent chance the Lakers don’t make the playoffs.

This would obviously be something of a shock for the Lakers, who have missed the playoffs twice since 1977. If it happens — with this roster, can you imagine? — it would be shocking but not as shocking as it would have seemed in October. Howard’s back obviously isn’t fully healed and his limits in the post — where it sometimes looks as if he’s been tutored by Kwame Brown in the finer points of dropping the ball and was taught by Darko the best way to not finish around the rim — make the inevitable comparisons to Shaq laughable.

Kobe is enjoying one his best statistical seasons, shooting a career best 48 percent while leading the league in scoring, but he still, even after 17 seasons, manages to enrage Lakers fans with his insistence on shooting 25 times a game, no matter who’s out there on the court with him. Nash is still working his way back from the broken leg and he is still really good, but not MVP good. Metta World Peace has been pretty consistent, always gives a great effort and has gone the whole season without knocking anyone out with an elbow. And Pau Gasol? Pau is struggling, the same struggles he’s had since midway through the 2011 season. People want Pau traded, folks who love him and those who are sick of him. Those who are sick of him think he’s finished, and spends too much time pouting on the court, worn down by circumstances, the Olympics or Kobe. Those who love him want him traded because they’re convinced a change of scenery will turn him into the guy who came to LA in 2008 and played a key role in three straight Finals appearances and two titles. Gasol remains one of my all-time favorite players, a joy to watch. But he simply physically is not what he once was, weighed down by bad knees, sore feet and the worries of the world. He doesn’t fit Mike D’Antoni’s system and D’Antoni has failed to figure out how to use him, but guess what? Mike Brown couldn’t get enough out of Gasol last year. And the greatest coach of them all — Phil Jackson — failed to get anything out of him at the end of the 2011 season, which ended with Jackson drilling Gasol in the chest in an attempt to fire him up.

The Lakers also have the worst bench in the league.

The parts don’t fit and when they occasionally do, they’re just not good enough.

Now, there is hope. The 2003 Lakers started 15-20 as Shaq missed early games, but eventually won 50 games, eliminated the Wolves in the opening round of the playoffs and then lost in six against the Spurs, although they might have won in six if Robert Horry’s game-winning 3 at the end of Game 5 had fallen. Then again, that team had won three straight titles. They had set roles — Kobe and Shaq dominated, the role players did their jobs, Phil smirked on the bench.

Phil’s always lurking, even when his shadow originates from the northwestern United States. I originally wanted the Lakers to rehire him but when they didn’t I was happy with the D’Antoni hire. I still think he can make it work, even as he looks more and more befuddled with each defeat. None of the other options — Dunleavy? — impressed me much. No, seven seconds or less doesn’t work with this roster but neither did the Princeton offense and the Triangle might not either, nor would the flex or even the West Coast offense. Nothing might, because the parts might not fit.

And that’s okay. Lakers fans aren’t quite tortured. They talk with deep pain about the Smush Parker era, as if that lasted two decades instead of two years and as if it wasn’t followed by two titles. There’s concern that Jim Buss is a bit too much like Jim Dolan and maybe the Lakers are starting on a decade-long trek into futility, but we won’t know that for a few more years.

In the meantime, the Lakers at least entertain, even if it’s not on the court. The two most amusing — if bizarre – parts to the season have been Magic Johnson’s Twitter rants and Kobe’s Twitter debut. Magic takes to Twitter a few times a week to complain about D’Antoni or the defense or the individual players and it’s become the 140-character equivalent of when he used to yell at a young Vlade Divac. No retired player criticizes his former team like Magic does. I don’t even know who’d be close. Maybe Joe Namath, although the Jets haven’t win five titles since his retirement.

Kobe joined Twitter last week and sent out this first message: “The antisocial has become social. #mambatweets.” Since then he’s joked about the alleged fight between him and Dwight Howard (which has been denied and pretty much debunked), and retweeted Bryce Harper, while finding time to congratulate Alabama on its national championship. And he quoted Gandhi.

So I’ll keep following the Lakers as they try to rescue their season and I’ll keep following Kobe on Twitter and waiting for more inspirational quotes from long-dead world leaders who if they were alive today would probably have an opinion about the Lakers’ porous defense. The Lakers can still turn the season around. But if they don’t? It can no longer be called a surprise.

  1. Rich Jensen says:

    I’d like to see you chronicle how you went through the five stages of grief, finally achieving ‘acceptance’… Where were ‘denial’, ‘anger’, ‘bargaining’ and ‘depression’?

  2. shawnfury says:

    That’s what’s been weird, acceptance came quite early. Preseason is meaningless…unless you go winless like the Lakers. Then it’s a little weird and disconcerting. But still, yeah, I think they’ll turn it around. Then they’re going to hire Phil! Exciting! D’Antoni? Okay, not the greatest, but he could still be good. That was probably the bargaining. I don’t think there was any denial and really hardly any anger. I’ve hardly thrown anything all year while watching. It’s just been weird all around. If they do turn it around and make it to the playoffs and then play terrible, the anger will probably return.

  3. Mike says:

    If Shawn was a grieving giraffe . . .

  4. Mark says:

    I agree with Shawn.

    Acceptance has come quick, and easily for me with this group.

    Not sure why… probably because this group wasn’t built “from the ground up”… just a mismash of superstars thrown together…

    I’ll continue to follow, but I won’t get upset.

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