After watching the Lakers get dismantled by the Jazz and Rockets, I found myself sitting down with my head in my hands in utter exasperation. That sick feeling was beginning to inundate my mind, which was the creeping thought that perhaps this Laker team that was assembled is just not capable of meeting the insanely lofty expectations that were placed on them once Superman headed over to Hollywood. After dropping four out of the first five games and getting blown out in a big matchup against the Thunder, my Laker spirits have taken a beating but is still standing upright.
The Lakers continue to all but ignore Dwight Howard, the best post player in the NBA. As Jeff Van Gundy succinctly summed it up, “Dwight Howard is the best center in the NBA, and it’s not even close.” In the tilt against Utah, former Jazz player Matt Harpring was amazed at how often the Lakers would ignore Howard in the point. Often times, the play would break down and would result in an extremely ill-advised three pointer from Metta World Peace or Kobe Bryant.
I’m as optimistic as any Laker fan, so I’m not even close to jump off what many are already referring to as a ship that is destined to sink. However, I’m not delusional and realize that the return of Steve Nash will not solve our defensive deficiencies. He will space the floor and find openings, as well as ensure that turnovers are kept to a minimum. Another bonus is the fact that he will have the ball in his sole control most of the time, which will also prevent Kobe from taking too many hero shots and a still potent stubbornness to pass the ball at times that drives me absolutely bonkers.
On a brighter note, it’s great to see Meeks finally filling in the role I thought he’d be ideal for. His ball handling still needs some work, but as a spot up shooter with decent slashing skills he fits the role quite well. Jamison is also coming into his own, bombing it from outside and using his traditional awkward offensive repertoire to baffle opponents and fill up the stat sheet.
Against the Thunder, the purple and gold were missing Gasol and Nash, who are two of the best players at their positions when healthy. It seems that Nash has suffered a setback, and I know I’m not alone when I say that I can’t wait for him to pair up with Gasol on the court and reassess the team at full strength. I wish Steve Blake a speedy recovery, but quite honestly I feel like Duhon can actually be a better backup at this point. He is hitting the three at a higher clip and seems to be more comfortable handling the rock as opposed to Blake.
It’s old news now, but congratulations to Kobe Bryant for cracking the 30,000 point plateau. He joins Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, and Wilt Chamberlain as the only 5 players to ever reach that milestone. That’s a hell of an accomplishment for one of the greatest Lakers and flat out ballers to ever grace the hardwood. That being said, although his fg% has been superb this year, there are times when he still reverts into #8 “I’m going to save the team on my own mode” and takes ridiculous shots that have me pulling out my hair.
I see a lot of Kobe fans defend him to the very end, and while I respect that you’re blind if you don’t realize that he is also hurting the team with his play. Not to mention that he plays absolutely no defense, although he never really did the last few years in my honest opinion. I think his All-Defensive 1st team choices were more based on reputation than actual lock down and gritty defense. Some of you may think I’m being harsh, but that’s just my honest take on the Black Mamba. Don’t get me wrong, he is still by far and away my favorite player of all time. It’s just that I recognize his flaws and shortcomings whereas others blindly follow him like sheep to a slaughter. I am so tired of watching him drive in on the whole team, completely ignoring the rest of his mates only to toss up some pathetic shot and holler about how he was hacked. What makes it worse is that he jumps up and smacks his hands in irritation just about every time, as opposed to the right move of hustling your ass back on defense to make up for your mistake.
The question that most are intrigued about is whether to keep Gasol and see if his chemistry with Nash can right the ship, or trade him and his $19 million contract away for other pieces or another competent power forward. Some of the rumors have included Josh Smith, Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, and Ryan Anderson. Anderson intrigues me, as he played with Howard before and his outside game and rebounding are outstanding. However, some reports have indicated that Anderson may be untouchable. I wouldn’t blame the Hornets at all, as he is a stellar player and am glad to have him on my fantasy squad.
Personally, I am willing to give Gasol a shot when Nash gets back. D’Antoni recently stated that Pau will be inserted into the starting lineup once he gets back. Hopefully he has recovered from the tendonitis and can find a way to get this show on the road with Nash. Otherwise, the Laker fans panicking now will be calling for D’Antoni’s head. I was never on board with his signing as the coach, and it is quite obvious that there are tons of fans still clamoring for Phil’s return as evidenced by fans wearing t-shirts adorned with that sentiment. It sickens me to watch the game and see him playing second fiddle to Kobe. If he’s screwing up, call him out! That’s your job as a coach, but all too often I see him just pacing the sidelines shaking his head like a neutered puppy.
At this point, I see a lot of people panicking and calling Armageddon. I, like the true Laker faithful, want to see how the team plays with everyone at full strength. It doesn’t make sense to judge a car with a faulty engine, and for those of you who don’t have the patience to ride out this current storm there is another L.A. team for you to cheer on.