Wednesday, January 23, 2013

LA Lakers twistin' in the wind

Am I the only one that gets some sort of smug satisfaction seeing the LA Lakers twisting in the wind this year? It seems like they've been so good for so long, it's hard to remember when they weren't considered a force to be reckoned with in the NBA.

No, they didn't always win the championship, although they've won several, but nobody ever dared count out the Lakers until they had officially been eliminated in the playoffs. The Lakers were, and perhaps still are to a certain degree, what the NY Yankees are in major league baseball. Besides their own home town fans, there are thousands, maybe even millions of people around the country that root for them and buy their gear. When they come to town, stadiums and arenas sell out. People flock to see them live and in person.

Of course, that works both ways. For every Lakers/Yankees fan, there's probably 1 or 2 that hate them with an equal passion. Either way, it's always been almost impossible NOT to pay attention to what they're doing or where they are in the standings. It comes with being good for such a long time. When's the last time you heard of the Lakers or Yankees NOT being competitive? It just never seems to happen. Until maybe now.

At the midway point in the season, the Lakers currently find themselves 17-24, and about 5 games out of the 8th and final playoff spot in the NBA western conference. Forget about being the best in the west. They're 14 1/2 games back of being the best in their own building. The perennial bottom-feeding LA Clippers have risen to become a power, while making the Lakers the "little brothers" of the Staples Center. Who would have believed that possible just a couple years ago?

Sure, the Clips have super-star Blake Griffin and all-world point guard Chris Paul, but it wasn't like the Lakers were watching the scenery go by. They went out and got Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Though aging a bit, Nash can still handle and distribute the basketball with the best of them, and Howard was supposed to dominate around the basket with his height and strength. Coupled with Pao Gasol, who they obtained a couple years ago, the ever-present Kobe Bryant, and a pretty fair cast of supporting characters, the Lakers were supposed to roll themselves. Surprisingly, they seem to have collapsed.

After replacing legendary coach Phil Jackson, Mike Brown, formerly of the Cleveland Cavaliers when Lebron James was there putting on his one-man show, started off this season 1-4 and was promptly fired. Not good enough. After a brief transition period, which included interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff going 4-1, the Lakers hired Mike D'Antoni. He has since gone 12-19. Could his head be inching closer to the chopping block as well? Good grief, the Lakers are still paying Mike Brown millions to not coach. Would they do the same to D'Antoni and go out and get yet ANOTHER coach? If his name wasn't Phil Jackson, would it make a difference? For that matter, assuming he would even be interested after a perceived snub the last time around, could even the Zen master turn this mess around? Hard to say.

Recently, besides the Lakers appearing dysfunctional on the court, there have been hints of dissention amongst the troops. Kobe has sniped here and there at teammates trying to get them to pick up their play. Of course, it's never Kobe's fault. Just ask Kobe.

To boot, now rumors are swirling the Lakers might turn around and try to trade Dwight Howard. Well, good luck with that. He's got a monster contract and has so far shown himself to be a shell of the player he once was, plus he can't seem to stay healthy. What other team would gut themselves of the players and money necessarily to bring Howard to town?

Some knowledgeable basketball people have projected the Lakers will have to play at about a .700 clip for the second half of the season --- just to make the playoffs. Seeing as how they're now cruising along at .415, and appear to be getting worse if anything -- it would appear to be nothing short of miraculous if they could pull it off. It's not like all those other good teams in the west are going to lie down for these guys and let them catch back up.

And now we're treated to Kobe playing the piano. How quaint. It is said he was playing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. That's a beautiful piece of work. The song, not Kobe. He's just a piece of work -- period. Yours truly is a piano player that was taught in the classical style, and I've banged that tune out a few times myself over the years. Though I'm not at all sure how tickling the ebonies and ivories is relevant to improving the Lakers' plight, one way or the other, you just know Kobe's always going to find a way to get his mug on the cameras somehow.

Nevertheless, my rendition of Ludwig Von B's classic sounded different than Kobe's. When I saw him play that, somehow all I could hear was a cross between Dandy Don Meredith crooning about turning out the lights, and Leadbelly once again sorrowfully saying goodnight to his beloved Irene.

He can trash talk the piano too, but it's not going to play any better all by itself. Not many assists to be had there either.

But for now, I'm getting a perverse sense of satisfaction watching "showtime" morph into the Jerry Springer show.

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys.

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