Last night seemed to be a strange amalgamation. The two halves of basketball couldn’t have been more different. It was as if the team had arrived at a crucial juncture and taken the fork to the right – to a style of tactical basketball far removed from seven seconds or less. As Steve Kerr and Charles Barkley said in various ways, “Mike D’Antoni is going to have to adapt. Can he do it?” I was watching the cutaways from the action on the floor to our new coach on the bench during the mid-point of the fourth quarter. The Lakers were slowly grinding their way back in. It was too little too late of course, but it represented something. It was a form of progress and it may not have been a rational thought on my part but it looked as if D’Antoni was sitting on his hands. It looked as if he was doing all he could to accept what was happening. This is the battle for the Lakers’ middle-earth and it will become infinitely more complicated when Steve Nash returns.
The common narrative around the Lakers these days is to just hold out, reinforcements are coming. Nash, a floor general almost without peer, may be returning to practice next week. And if all goes well, he could be back in uniform by the end of the month. Presumably, Pau Gasol will be back as well. And at that point, a grand experiment will truly begin to form. It is the idea that Nash can find a way to tailor an innovative style of basketball to an aging roster that simply may not be well-suited to it. This is a reunion tour, this is D’Antoni and Nash, together again. Except that time stands still for no man. And the links are waiting in the weeds:
Dave McMenamin for ESPN GO, relays a call made by Kobe to Magic, seeking counsel.
Ramona Shelburne at ESPN GO wrote about the spiraling lights, before last night’s loss.
From Mike Bresnahan at the LA Times; Dwight Howard tells the critics to settle down.
In light of last night’s loss, Drew Garrison at Silver Screen and Roll asks, how low can you go?
Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk writes that Kobe needs Ron’s toughness.
Mark Medina for Inside the Lakers, reports that Pau will sit another one out.
Eric Freeman at Ball Don’t Lie asks if the Lakers are beyond repair.
John Hollinger pens one last column for ESPN about analytics and change – the numbers guru is the new VP of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Don’t think back to the run and gun glory days. Think back to the painful years of transition as the Suns aged and doors revolved. The 2007-2008 season was Mike D’Antoni’s last before he headed east. Maybe Steve Kerr was remembering that as he ruminated with Sir Charles last night. That was Kerr’s first year as the Suns’ GM, the year he brought in Shaquille, a big square peg in D’Antoni’s system. The temptation will be great – to try and return to the way things were. To capture lighting in a bottle, once again. The Lakers showed signs of life in the second half last night. Kobe Bryant with his back spasms, Ron Artest at the four. It wasn’t pretty basketball but the effort was there. As was the loss.
Tonight the Lakers continue their road trip, facing the Wizards in DC. There will be a lot of hearts that aren’t into sports tonight but games will still be played. This will be another one without Nash and Gasol. It may be another foray into some indeterminate middle territory and it will probably not be remembered in the long run. We’re in the rail yards now, with junctions and switches and old engines waiting. And no one knows where the tracks will lead.