Lakers Showing the Wear of a Long, Hard Journey

Darius Soriano —  April 25, 2013

The Lakers fought like mad just to make the playoffs. Their 28-12 run to close the season implies a certain amount of fluidity and good fortune, but that wasn’t the case at all. Nearly every game was a grind with injuries and in game lapses providing a teeter-totter feeling to each contest. Wether the Lakers would hold on to a lead, be able to come from behind, or simply survive to the next contest was an every game adventure for players and fans alike.

Now that they’ve actually made the post-season, finding themselves down two games to none versus the Spurs, it seems that 40 game grind has caught up to them.

Forget Kobe’s ruptured achilles tendon for a moment and simply look at what’s developed in the last two games against the Spurs. Steve Nash has returned from his hip/back/hamstring issues, but resembles someone trying to play with a weighted vest on. His stride is short and choppy and he lacks most (if not all) of the burst he had before he went down 11 games ago. Jodie Meeks rolled his ankle in game 1 and missed game 2 after trying to test the sore joint in pre-game warmups. And now Steve Blake is also injured with a strained hamstring, saying that he “felt a sharp pain” when he tried to drive baseline towards the end of game 2. He’ll undergo tests today, but I’m not that optimistic this will end up being something that doesn’t limit him moving forward.

Even if all three players are able to play this Friday (which, as of now, doesn’t seem likely), they’ll all be compromised in some way. Having your best three guards hobbled (with the fourth, and best of them all, already injured) is no way to compete in a regular season game, much less the playoffs. Plus, with Ron still being more than a step slow after his knee surgery and Jamison still playing with a torn ligament in his wrist, the team doesn’t have many healthy bodies from their original 10 man rotation (and none not named Pau or Dwight unless you count Jordan Hill who looked active in his first game back from a hip surgery that took place three months ago).

And that’s just the physical side of the story.

The Lakers are also clearly suffering from the mental wear and tear of a grueling season. I mentioned the strong run they had to close the season, but that came on the heels of a 17-25 start to the campaign. That hole they dug themselves put them in a position where whatever room for error they had to start the season vanished. They needed every single one of those wins to close their season just to qualify for the playoffs and had to gear up mentally to make the run they did.

Said another way, the Lakers’ playoffs didn’t start on Sunday, they started months ago. They started with an air-it-out meeting in Memphis and have been rolling along ever since, grinding away at the players and coaches who understood that every game mattered towards a goal of simply making the post-season. There was no cushion to fall back on, no net to catch them if they fell just one more time. They battled through injury and exhaustion just to get to this point and now that they’re here they’re even more injured and more exhausted. You can see it on their faces as they walk to timeouts and in their slumped shoulders when a broken play leads to another big basket by their opponent. They’re still fighting — something that I admire them a great deal for — but in this battle of attrition they’re showing the wear of the warfare they’ve endured.

So, even though there are tactical adjustments that can be made, there isn’t really a magic elixir to help the Lakers at this point. We can talk about the coaching (which has actually been fine, all things considered), what the players need to do better (hit some shots), or how a few breaks within the game could help the Lakers win a game or two. But, in the end, the Lakers are showing the weathering, both physical and mental, of a journey that’s been much too long with the stakes way too high. What they need is rest. And, sad to say, that may be coming sooner rather than later.

Darius Soriano

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44 responses to Lakers Showing the Wear of a Long, Hard Journey

  1. There was a point in this season, and I commented on this site, that I had had enough of the team. The biggest issue I had, was a lack of sustained effort. This is not the case, as of a few weeks ago. I thought the last few games with Kobe showed some very good grind from players, up and down the roster. That game when Kobe was injured, I thought was one of the best I had seen from the team in the last two seasons.

    It is hard watching players you love go down but without that, one doesn’t get to see them grind. Nash is a warrior. Dwight is getting his head on straight and one hopes his back stays straight too. Pau has been excellent and this speaks nothing to the effort and grind we are seeing from injured warriors like Jamison, Metta and Clark. These losses are more satisfying then those dramatic and barely earned wins. I may be in the minority here. That us fine. I’m just hoping to see 3,4 more games of grind. I believe this will carry over into whatever it is our team will come over the off-season. Hopefully next season we see urgency from game one. Hopefully we see some health. Until then, lets see them grind a few more wins out of this season.

  2. In this second season, the playoffs, the Lakers are still searching for that first win. I hope they get it, if for no other reason than to avoid a sweep. The effort and grit has been impressive but they are outmanned right now in health and talent. Darius makes an excellent point about the wear and tear of playing for the last month+ already with playoff like stakes. It took a monumental effort just to get in.

    Seeing Steve Nash hobbling out there is difficult to watch but he has always been one tough dude. Pau has played exceedingly well, especially during the drive to make it to the NBA’s second season. To wit, his two recent triple doubles…but the playoffs have not been kind to him this year or in the two previous years. This could be argued but it would be a difficult argument to support. One of his most cringe worthy traits is the frequent inability to hold on to the ball. To be fair, Dwight continues to struggle with this as well. Duncan does not.

    Hopefully with the home crowd behind them Friday night our guys can find a way to eke out a win…

  3. darius: spot on again and that weight you are seeing on lakers faces is the weight of a nation, laker nation. starting and ending with all things social and broadcast media, never before in the history of sports has there been this much in your face information; often feeling like we’re all in the back pocket of our favorite, non favorite players, coaches, media personalities, etc., etc.

    we’re like this beast with insatiable appetites. the more you feed, the more is consumed. like msg, not madison square garden but mono sodium glutamate; an additive placed in foods to whet the appetite. it’s everywhere and the waste product is the by-product. it’s all about addiction. but what an addiction we have for our lakers.

    for those of us still on this broken down, nuts and bolts streaming in every which direction, bandwagon, there is still hope. hope that that other team begins to feel the wratch of laker nation beginning friday nite at staples center. who knows, a flat tire here, couple of spark plugs misfiring, broke wind shield wiper, and that misbegotten tail light, things we don’t see, we don’t expect, here comes the nba police enforcing and dampening the picture. got the picture?

    Go Lakers

  4. Per Marc Stein: Lakers just announced Steve Blake (hamstring) out indefinitely and Steve Nash (hip/hamstring) & Jodie Meeks (ankle) doubtful for Game 3

  5. I agree with P. Ami. This team played with a sense of boredom and entitlement in the early part of the season, but has really found its heart. It’s a mercy killing for us now, but I really hope and believe the grit this team has shown (found?) over the last 30 games or so will propel us to a great start out of the gate next season. I realize injuries will always be a factor for an older team, but these guys have really found a passion for playing together and have learned the hard way that no one’s going to hand them the trophy.

    By contrast, I must say I don’t understand the game-day negativity on this board at all; no coach in the world could beat this very talented and disciplined Spurs team with the lineup and health issues we’re experiencing. The repetitive complaints about D’Antoni have about as much resonance for me as those who mention DH’s offensive statline without either mentioning that the Spurs are packing the paint or acknowledging his stellar defense. The guy committed some bonehead fouls and has hands that remind me of the cake-snatcher, but he is playing really, really hard and is the only thing saving us from 4 blowouts. I’m going to games 3 and 4 and, even if they get destroyed in both games, as long as they’re working hard you won’t hear me booing. This has been a brutal year, almost like some kind of divine punishment, but I see a great deal to be proud about. Now does anyone know where I can quickly find a Goudelock jersey? Go Lakers!

  6. When the top 4 guards on your team go down to injury and you are left with #5 and a just-called-up D-leaguer, there isn’t much more to say about the season. If neither Nash nor Meeks play Friday, I wonder who will be there to keep Morris and G-lock from playing 48 minutes each. Methinks Ebanks will see some run Friday and Clark will defend a few minutes at the 2.

    I expect to see fight, but how much more we can take I really don’t know.

  7. coaching hasnt been fine…when D.A. made comments earlier this season about his 8 players ..he left out Morris. Now if Morris wouldve been played earlier in the season ..he would be ready.D.A, disrespected his bench players and now he needs them…big picture….D.A. wrecked this team.He even had Clark,Hill and Jaimeson on the bench…. The Lakers have enough offense. Jamison,Gasol,Howard,Blake are all capable of getting you 20.Peace,Meeks(when he was in)and Nash(when he was in) are capable of getting you 10 to 14. This team lost in the preseason..was a mess when they had Kobe…Is a mess now…stop with the excuses…

  8. Who is D.A? Mike Dantoni (M.D)?

  9. D.A. is D Antoni Duh !!! one more thing… Gasol should play 45 minutes not 34…..He had no fouls….Also how about a zone defense??? See how Houston used it yesterday???

  10. Relax, do you really think playing Morris more earlier in the season would help now? Would we have even made the playoffs?

  11. Starting Morris and Duhon then * shudders* we are so screwed.

  12. Dust off Ebanks – if Devin gets no run at all what was the point of keeping him on the team? – Devin is our only slightly legitimate 2.

    Unless we say screw it and go ultra big and pound the post every play with Morris at the 1, Ron at the 2, Clark at the 3, Gasol at the 4, and Dwight at the 5 with Sacre and Hill getting real burn so we are always playing big.

    We could switch on essentially everything and play some type of big man zone with hands stretched in passing lanes to screw things up for the spurs.

    Not gonna happen but would be really interesting to see if we went the complete opposite way that the rest of the league is going at least for a game or 2 – even is devin gets run at the 2 we would still be staying big compared to Nash playing the 2 like yesterday.

    grasping at straws here

  13. Jennings (Bucks)
    Garnett (Celtics)
    Noah (Bulls)
    Horford (Hawks)
    Gasol (Grizzlies)
    Curry (Warriors)
    Harden (Rockets)

    The above teams all entered this years playoffs as underdogs. I also show, who I believe, to be the best player of each aforementioned team. Each of the 7 players from said team is participating in this years playoffs. Giving their squad an opportunity to advance to the next round.

    Okay, with that being said, let’s remove each of the 7 players from their respective teams. Out for the entire Postseason. Now, keeping in mind as I mentioned earlier, that they were already considered underdogs heading into each series and all 7 teams started this years playoff journey on the road, who honestly believes that any one of those squads would stand a chance of advancing to the 2nd round? … Exactly. And unfortunately, that’s how I felt about this Lakers Team without their best player. Especially if one was to take into account the fact that damn near 50 percent of the remaining roster is either coming back from or nursing some kind of injury.

    Now, with the news coming out that SB is (more then likely) done for the season and that Nash and Meeks are doubtful for game 3, there’s a good possibility that the Spurs will be traveling to L.A. with brooms in hand. If so, I can honestly say that I’m Proud of my Lakers for fighting through all of the adversity, the avalanche of injuries and persevering in a loaded WC to make the playoffs. I’m definitely Upset with all of the Bad Breaks that we’ve gone through this season. Literally. And I’m Disappointed that, due to said injuries, we’re ending our season on this type of note.

    Still in all, I Ryde or Die with our Lakers .. 4 Life

  14. I love the commentators here and elsewhere who suggest if only we had ‘developed’ our bottom of the roster players we’d be in great shape right now. No doubt, if that would have been the approach, these same people would be posting 100 times a minute complaining about the lineups. Guess what– Darius Morris is not going to turn into Chris Paul by playing 6 minutes a game in February. Want proof? He played tons of minutes along with Chris Duhon in the fall and did either of those guys look like they were going to help in the postseason?

    The Lakers took a gamble on a top-heavy, aging roster. Given Kobe’s age, and what he’s meant to this franchise, I thought it was a good gamble, but I knew it was a risky one. Given the injuries we faced, I’m still not sure there’s a clear verdict on whether it was a good gamble (and we just got very unlucky) or a bad one and we got what we deserved. But one thing is clear– the consequence of having 4 stars get paid a ton of money, plus MWP’s deal, is that we’re going to be weak at the bottom of the roster. And now, unfortunately, we’re going to have to wheel those guys out against a team that is at or nearly at a Championship level. It’s a terrible roll of the dice, but to blame the coach at this point for things he ostensibly should have done to prepare for this moment seems only slightly more logical than than blaming the ballboy. This was a two-year experiment; I still think, despite everything, it might prove to be a successful one.

  15. Goudelock goes for 30 in the Lakers win on Friday.

    It’s meant to be.

  16. I hope people have a new appreciation of what Kobe has to deal with every game. This team is not as good as we all thought and the injuries have destroyed whatever depth we had. Kobe was carrying the team to the playoffs and he ended up paying the ultimate price.

  17. oh well. can’t really complain about anything now, i just hate to see the losses. worse things can happen.

  18. lil pau: “2 Year Gamble”: Indeed it was and we almost all bought off on the concept, and now we need to press forward into year 2. We have very little other choice. Hence – Sign Dwight, Keep Pau, Pray for Kobe, and do the best you can with the rest. Very little else can be done (until after 14).
    With regard to the criticism of the coach. Yes – aspects of it are way overblown. MD is not responsible for many negative things that are being attributed to him. That said, when discussing MD we seem to have a set of bashers, commenting against a set of apologists. The bashers do go to far, but the apologists usually list excuses, and do not really state reasons why MD should be our coach (although I will give rr credit for coming up with Steve Blake’s improved play as a feather in MD’s cap). The coach of the Lakers needs a cap with more feathers in it then the improved play of your 7th man.

  19. Barring a miracle the Lakers’ season is over. It pains me to accept that the inevitable changing of the guard, which we all assumed would happen after next season, may take place this summer.

    Ian Thomsen, of SI, was on The Herd this mroning. Colin floated the idea of ‘why on earth would Dwight come back to the Lakers? – they’re old,over the cap etc. Thomsen believs that Dwight comes back and that though next year may be tough the Lakers can virtually change their entire roster with the cap space available to them in the 2014/15 season.

    I’m looking forward to the future when we can be as feared as the Lakers of old.

  20. It’s amazing what a few losses can do. Beating SA in the second to last regular season game convinced Lakers fans, many here, the Lakers got the Spurs at the right time. Many brought up injuries to the Spurs stars and Dwight and Pau play as reasons for optomism. Lakers talent was not brought up. Now all of a sudden Lakers lose 2 in a row the Spurs are deeper. No team will win a series when their most talented player isn’t playing like it. Lakers have been in every quarter this series. If Dwight played like a max player Lakers might have won a game. But he’ll get a pass because of Kobe’s injury and the hate for D’Antoni. The Spurs have not proven to be the clear better team.

  21. I always knew it was a 2 year gamble and im always fine with, because we all know or at least should know the cap situation is going to be solved 15 months from now. Thats when the Lakers will get younger and the next reloading will take place. This has been the worst injury plaged season in the history of the franchise. About MDA, not even PJ himself would had save this season. I think MDA has done an ok job, not excellemt just ok. This coaching job was a set up for failure regardlees of the coach, thats why i dont go overboard with the criticism of him like some guys here, neither he nor PJ were going to turn this team into a juggernaut overnight too many injuries never let this team mesh like it was supposed to and even during that 28-12 dash to the playoffs the Lakers had to gut out almost every single game while still in flux with players coming and going out of the lineup because of injuries i had the feeling and i said it before that this team was going to be spend ince the official playoffs started because we been in the playoofs for like 2 months now.The Lakers did what they had to do to get onto the playoffs and and on a lot of the choices the people whine and complain here there were really not other choice most of the time. Unbeliavable season i never seen anything like this in any sport. Now we have another major obstacle lets see if this team have something left in the tank to overcome this one. GO LAKERS!!!!

  22. As I said yesterday, I think they need to look at the team’s injury prevention/medical staff at this point.

  23. The coach of the Lakers needs a cap with more feathers in it then the improved play of your 7th man

    There is more to it than that. The team didn’t quit and still hasn’t, even under the wave of injuries and bad vibes. D’Antoni should share in the credit for the team winning games 81 and 82 to get in and in the 28-13 second half.

    D’Antoni is like any other coach in that:

    1. There is only so much he can do. Coaching matters a lot, but the NBA is a talent league. Anyone who doesn’t believe me should ask Clippers’ fans what they think of Vinny Del Negro.
    2. MDA has plusses and minuses. IMO, Trying to discern what those are is a better way to approach the issue than asking “Why should he be the coach?”

  24. Make due with what you have. This whole feeling sorry for yourself and long, hard journey framing of the season doesn’t do anything to help prepare yourself mentally for the next game.

    You don’t just let-down and say “they played with heart for a little while there at the end”, so I can live with this. Really? That’s not how “having heart” works. You never stop.

    I have a feeling that these last 2 Laker games are going to be the opposite of “having heart”.

  25. rr: That is a logical place at which to look. Gary Vitti has been our head trainer for 29 years. We have won 8 NBA championships, and been to the Finals 12 times during his tenure. I would think that the techniques and methods we used this year are consistent with those that we have used during the rest of Vitti’s Laker career. Yet the predominance of injuries demands the question which you ask. It could all be bad luck. Or perhaps it is something that caused Vitti’s 29th year to be different than his first 28. No – I am not implying what you think. I am very bitter about KB, but as you have seen , I have refrained from blaming that on MD. I am simply following the logic of the discussion that you started : )

  26. Ron Artest needs to step up big time!

  27. Robert,

    I don’t really mean Vitti. Trainer is one of many positions on an NBA team in this area. I am thinking more of the other people, some of whom were brought in pretty recently by Jim Buss, as well as the overall program. Both the Physical Therapist (Judy Seto) and the Strength and Conditioning coach (Tim DiFrancesco) were hired prior to the 2012 season. It is also worth noting that both Metta and Hill were cleared to play very, very early. One thing no one wants to see is Kobe getting cleared in six months and going down again, this time for good.

    To be clear, I have no reason to believe that any of these people are not top-line professionals in their fields. But when you have as many guys go down as the Lakers have, I think you have to look at it.

  28. mini mamba time,30-2-8 for AG.

  29. Here are the KBros from yesterday:

    ______________

    But D’Antoni has nothing to do with why the Lakers are now trailing 2-0 in their series vs. San Antonio, nor why they’ll be lucky to win a game given the myriad health problems facing the squad.

    The Lakers just don’t have nearly enough talent available to win four times against a group as good as the Spurs.
    ________________

  30. rr: Good points with regard to the new hires. So I guess there are some differences with the 29th year vs. the other 28. Also – I think your questioning of the aggressive recovery timelines is valid. Most importantly, how this applies to the Kobe return next year, and the stretch goal to have him ready at the beginning of the season.
    With regard to the K’Bros: With the injuries, we are simply outmatched, there is little arguing with that. As you have pointed out many times, we have had a multitude of issues this year, so we can’t blame it “all” on MD, or we can’t blame it “all” on the FO, or we can’t blame it “all” on DH, etc.. There is plenty of blame to go around, and also plenty of simple bad luck, which just is what it is – nobody’s specific fault.

  31. Was a pretty bad omen when our new head coach was was introduced to the press with crutches.

    If that was an ominous sign that symbolizes this entire season, I don’t know what does.

  32. Agree with lil pau’s point. I think Popovich’s excellent system often has fans thinking that if a bit player got just a little more playing time, he’d develop into another Danny Green or Gary Neal. Pop is a once-in-a-generation coach, as Phil was. It’d be nice if Darius Morris didn’t lose his head every time he runs into traffic, but that’s not going to turn him into a floor leader. I saw the same calls last offseason, to develop our future talent. Darius Morris and Devin Ebanks are not future, present, or past talent. They’re marginal NBA players at best.

    Secondly, if we had “taken the time to develop the end of our bench,” we wouldn’t be in the playoffs right now.

  33. Warren Wee Lim April 26, 2013 at 5:39 am

    Snoopy2006:
    “Secondly, if we had “taken the time to develop the end of our bench,” we wouldn’t be in the playoffs right now.”

    100% agree. With all that happened wrong for our season, what makes it worse are the people that use blame. If we had developed these guys, we’d be in vacation now cheering for whoever the Celtics and Clippers play against.

  34. The injury bug continues to bite. (Sigh)

    Earlier this year I compared the Laker season to the Book of Job. A couple of folks thought I was overdoing it. Probably not anymore.

  35. I just don’t get all this support for MDA. What has this clown done to gain such allegiance?

    When MDA officially took over the team, the team was at 500, and playing well under Bickerstaff, despite the injury issues. Once MDA took over and tried to implement his precious system, the team immediately struggled and fell to 17-25….and as a result, the Lakers were forced to go into desperation mode for the remainder of the season. The players took it upon themselves to reverse the damage that MDA had done, following the meeting in Memphis, by deciding to change their style of play. It was the PLAYERS, NOT the coach! Yet, you defend this guy as if nothing is his fault?

    When a team is in desperation mode, it makes it more difficult to develop the bench or the reduce the minutes of the starters. But the POINT is, this team would have never been in desperation mode to begin with had it not been for MDA’s coaching. There should never been a need to play Kobe almost the entire game, or the players to exhaust themselves by treating every regular season game like the playoffs, just to eke into the playoffs.

    The second half of the season was the players’ valiant attempt at undoing the damage MDA had done, so in this regard, someone like Phil Jackson could have made all the difference. He would have played through the post immediately. The team would’ve have never fell to 17-25 after being at 500. The team would have never been forced to go into desperation mode….which leads to more minutes for the bench, less minutes for the starters, and most importantly, less injuries.

    Sure, in a prism, nobody can blame MDA for losing against the Spurs with all these injuries, but it you look at the bigger picture, he is surely to blame for how this season has turned out.

    WE WANT PHIL!

  36. I dont know whether or not we should just lose the series on purpose just to rest our players. Given how the season has turned out, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gasol or Howard went down with another injury. I know the Lakers have played with heart and they should never give up, but with the myriad of injuries, Lakers can’t win so why prolong their misery. Better to pack up and wait till next season. With a healthier team and hopefully some offseason moves, I believe the Lakers can make a strong push in the regular season and postseason next year.

  37. I have said this before, but it bears repeating….

    We humans seem to be build to demand solutions that are easy to understand. That is not the way the world works…things are very interrelated. Giving Darius Morris more minutes during the season or hiring Phil Jackson is not – and has never been – the solution to all our problems, only another fork in the road.

    Darius will probably be with us next year because we cannot afford to hire a replacement. Phil very well may not have accepted the job of coaching the Lakers earlier this year because of 1) the current roster/injury issues were present and 2) he simply wouldn’t have the kind of organizational control he is demanding when talking to other organizations.

  38. where to begin; when this laker season ends and at some point it will, this season in particular can be summarized by the saying, if it wasn’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all. or looking at it from another perspective, the law of diminishing return has a way of rearing it’s ugly head, sometimes to the best of them. them meaning the los angeles lakers. personally, i abscribe to the theory, when dog scratches door, we go for walk, we come home, lakers win.

    walking around with this hang dog look is not a good look. looking back at the mirror is something i use to think would best suit current laker ownership/management, only coming to realize it is currently fractured and/or marginalized, based on what we know of jim buss on the one hand and jeanne buss on the other. rolling over in one’s grave comes to mind.

    this of all seasons’s was meant to be. and yet here we are, hoping again, upon prayer again. starting tonite at home we call staples center with a semblance of players we still call lakers, one foot at a time, one hand at a time, one step at a time.

    mark twain: It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

    Go Lakers

  39. “Darius will probably be with us next year because we cannot afford to hire a replacement.”

    lol

  40. LOL!

    There is Darius and then there is Darius.

  41. what about phil’s engagement to the smartest buss around? At his age, he’s not looking for a long distance relationship. I would not expect him to be working that far from his wife, which would have made the coaching position in LA one of the best possible choices.

    I thought the shorter span between games could help the lakers get one of these 2, but I wonder if westbrook’s injury is going to change the motivation of the spurs. I think they’ll try to gut it out and push harder for a sweep.

  42. Was my post taken down? If so, I see that as being quite unfair.

  43. Both posts were taken down.