Last night I watched news coverage of a burning house. And continued to watch the burning house. And I asked myself, how will CNN manage to tear themselves away from this all-consuming event? They wouldn’t go with a split-screen for the State of the Union would they? And then I watched the annual address and couldn’t recall the last time I’ve seen one half of a divided house looking quite so stubbornly grim. And the other side wasn’t exactly turning cartwheels. And then a game of basketball sections that felt entirely foreign to me, coming from a team I’ve watched for most of my life. There’s always silver linings and Dwight stepped up his game in a major way. And when it was over the Lakers had won but the season still feels like a lab experiment that has gone weirdly wrong.
A giant shadow cast its presence as a Lakers center found his basketball groove again. Kevin Ding from the OC Register considers the moment.
Janis Carr from the OC Register writes that even winning can’t silence critics, including Rick Fox.
Brian Kamenetzky writes on Sulia, about Kobe and his relationship with the large man who was watching Dwight from the sidelines.
Drew Garrison for Silver Screen and Roll recaps an utterly strange game for Kobe, and a much-needed win.
Arielle Moyal at Lakers Nation ponders the subject of Dwight Howard’s shoulder and the upcoming All-Star game.
Eric Pincus for the L.A. Times, interviews Jeff Van Gundy on the subject of D12 and free agency. Also according to Eric, Pau Gasol won’t need surgery on his foot.
It’s not about the Lakers but Jonathan Abrams at Grantland delivers a compelling story about Shaun Livingston, a guy who battled back from the worst injury you’re ever apt to see.
Also on the subject of rebuilt legs, Greg Bishop wrote this excellent piece for the NY Times last week, about former Duke and Bulls standout Jay Williams.
And finally, Will Ferrell played the part of a security cop in last night’s game. Courtesy Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie.
I don’t think this team has an identity, apart from their unique individual personalities. This is how the media mostly examines them, and the fans and non-fans as well. It becomes a water cooler series about Kobe and Dwight and Mike and Steve and who said what to who and what about that crazy third quarter? And lost in the mixed-up mess is any sense of this team as a system or definable style.
Unique personalities were certainly present during the Phil Jackson years. He himself was print worthy and there were feuds and star wars and nutty supporting characters like the Machine. But the team still had an overriding presence – they were the Triangle offense. Even if they sometimes strayed from the system, they were still known by it. There was a concept in place and other teams recognized this and fans recognized it and the media recognized it and it became an easy label and it became something you could freelance from – there were the ups and downs and miscues and moments when Phil pondered the wood grain pattern under his high chair and refused to call a time out, but this also was a part of their overall identity and for the most part, it worked. Until it didn’t. And since then, the team has wandered. And no matter how many hirings and firings and big box purchases that the organization makes, the season still ebbs further from its epicenter with each passing game – win or lose. Even a coach who was once labeled by his own seven seconds or less creation, is now simply adrift.
They say that winning cures all and that it just takes some time. And that injuries are what they are. And that still doesn’t provide an identity, at least not one you want. Tomorrow night brings another chapter in the hallway series, with the Clippers going through their own struggles as off late, treading water at five-and-five for their last ten. And if anybody has a storyline for what comes next, just add it below the jump.
Parrothead Phil says
I’m becoming hopeful that this turmultuous season is beginning to shape up a little bit like my favorite season of the last few years, 2008. A team that that went through many ups and downs and no one gave a thought to make the Finals came together for a terrific run at the end of the season. What a joy to follow the team that year. It’s probably just the eternal optimist fan in me that believes this team can do something similar (or better).
This season has not had many enjoyable moments so far. But, if the team can gel in the second half of the season, we could be in for a fun ride. As many have said, “it’s the journey, not the destination.”
bryan S says
Did the media forget that Kobe has been playing with an injured elbow? It is exactly why he isn’t shooting–he just won’t say it.
Kobe needs 192 more assists to pass his highest season assist total. He avg .1 more in 05 than 03 but only played 66 games. If Kobe averages 6.3 assists the last 29 games he’ll have his career high in total assists in a season. Sorry Robert.
Hilarious .. Stepping on the next man’s turf is a risky situation. At least your coming in peace.
I think your first paragraph of the final section says it all. Why does this team lack either an offensive or defensive identity? That fundamental problem is why the Celtics and the Spurs can continue to succeed with older players, castoffs, and unheralded young guys. The coach knows what he wants the team to do and the players stick to the plan.
I can’t believe that would not work for the Lakers. Perhaps not a championship, but a lot better than this. We’ve gone through two years of varying offensive approaches, wild changes in rotation patterns, and complete lack of cohesion on defense. Tough to succeed.
Chris J says
@ Parrothead Phil — Sorry, but the comparison to 2007-08 is missing one key detail if your hopes involve seeing this year conclude with a long playoff run: that 2007-08 team actually played really, really well for the first half of the season.
The Lakers were 25-11 following the Memphis game in which Bynum was lost for the season — only 0.5 games out of first place in the Western Conference. Phoenix and Dallas were each 26-11, and the Lakers had just destroyed Phoenix the prior month when it was clear to all who watched that the Suns had no answer for Bynum inside. The Lakers were clearly among the best in the west, if not the NBA, heading into the midway mark.
When Bynum was lost, the front office set out to fill a hole on what had already proven itself to be one of the league’s best teams. Pau came in, and they continued to prove their worth through late June.
This year as we approach the All-Star break, the Lakers now hold a living room seat to watch the playoffs on TV.
We all hope they’ll sort out their issues and turn the ship around. But to suggest this squad has the same make-up as 2007-08, there’s just been nothing on the docket to support that conclusion.
Parrothead Phil says
I didn’t mean to suggest that this team reminds me of the 2008 squad. I’m just merely hopeful that a miracle can happen and this team gets their stuff together.
Everything I wanted to say about Dwight Howard on the Lakers right now.
Seems like everyone on the team, including Kobe, has accepted their role on this team except Dwight. When that happens, this team will be great. Hope it’s soon.
Kevin: Nice stat. KB actually has some respectable dime totals given the fact that he is a scorer. I am a little puzzled by the last game as were many others, but hey – it was a “W”.
Tra: Love it – no infringement on my turf there. That occurred at the end of the game thread where a guy posted under the name Robert. That was handled peacefully as well. If there was one name I would think people would not want to post under – it would be Robert. Only exceeded perhaps by the name Ken. The owner of the name Ken doesn’t even use that anymore.
Ken: I meant that as a compliment – your name is legendary – you should start using it again. The Lakers had a better record when you did : )
Thank you sir. It always feels warm and fuzzy to be appreciated.
Chris J says
God bless you, Rick Fox.
Dave M. says
Robert – I know how it is. I remember having another “Dave M” make comments here and there at places where I used to hang out. And I thought, “really? Is this necessary?”
Hedo now and Lewis before both used banned substances while with the Magic. Just wondering if Kryptonite is or was a banned substance.
Call me crazy but J. O’neal looked pretty good last night. Might be a good 12 minute a night guy for a team who needs a back up center. Good jumper, rebounded and only got one T.
Portland lose and Houston is down by 20 points while Utah won. We need to win tomorrow to catch up.
The Lakers were always more of an owner and star driven franchise as opposed to one driven by a coach/system, like San Antonio or the Jazz. Hell, it’s only constant is its total deferral to its stars and their strengths; unlike some teams that somehow embody a team color regardless of the coach or players.
And… that’s the cost of nearly always having a star player that is once-in-a-generation. Our star power has been such that they basically defy what’s been done just before them.
so I hear LaL is instrested in Lou Adumson
Rick Fox nailed it. Respect the uniform and the History of the Organization!
As crazy a season as it has been, if they keep the foot on the pedal and make the playoffs, and get healthy, at least Pau, it could be a very interesting playoff run. They don’t need to win the title this year, but a good strong finish will set up next year nicely.
Inwit, it’s championship or bust every season brah.
Sometimes you have to be realistic.
That piece about Derrick Rose waiting til he is 110%, and possibly sitting out the entire season , really makes me think about Dwight’s situation.
He had major back surgery and was not ready to return. He returned too early.
Back issues often cause shoulder injuries because you are not using your core correctly.
They need to realize they are not being careful with Dwight at all. He has been of the most durable players of his generation before this year.
They are mortgaging their future by pushing upon Dwight’s lack of full recovery. Very risky and foolish.
oh i’m being realistic, I refuse to have quit in these Lakers until we are mathematically NOT going to make it.
P. Ami says
Agreed, their identity is either unformed or unflattering but for…
Having confounded our expectations of their talents the long-saber-toothed members of the team are showing the wisdom we associate with their age. Lau Tzu was with a disciple who asked him for wisdom. The old man answered by opening his mouth. The disciple asked him what this meant and Lau Tzu asked, What do you see? I see nothing, said the student. No teeth, was the next question. No teeth only a tongue, said the student.
We see a wise team that may well be taking the old man’s path to success. They see what Lau Tsu showed his disciple. Even as the teeth may bite the tongue, in time, the hard and brittle tooth falls from the mouth. The soft and supple tongue, though perhaps wounded, remains.
Dwight has been relying on the hard and brittle bone to beat teams since his career began. He was like Samson with his jackass jawbone leveling the field of his enemies. Blinded by his back he is imprisoned in the temple of his mind that is accustomed both to a once invincible body as well as no dispute over who the big dog was on his Orlando teams. Now he is in a position to learn that winning is not just from the strength of your muscles. He is also learning that the reward is not the sycophant’s laughing at his clownish persona. Success come from the seriousness of the mind. The reward is a true and lasting faith that this effort will bring the results you earned. This is a difficult lesson to learn and he has the right guys around him to teach it. All around him are mouths with only tongues and no teeth.
Steve Nash has supported this lesson with his rebukes. We see Ron’s seriousness and his focus. Kobe has been ever willing to adjust to the team’s needs. Jamison adds value with more then just a veteran’s example. His professionalism shows results. Pau has struggled with being put in positions that are not his strengths but he perseveres. This team will not be what it can be until this old and wise identity is accepted by Dwight.
I think the slow and supple ways of the tongue may have begun to push up Dwight’s tooth. The constant ache of LA’s expectations makes us all restless. Tuesday night was ugly in many ways but hopefully the veterans will continue to open their mouths and Dwight will be willing to look inside. He showed a willingness to exhaust himself and though it will sometimes be ugly and will certainly be difficult, we saw results. As bad as PHX is, the Lakers won with Kobe having his worst game this century. This team is old and ugly, and will be at it’s best when the youngest of it’s star players accepts this identity.
Dave M. says
OK, I’ll bite. We’ve got to start gumming our opponents to death. Whatever works. But I’ll say this – CP3 and Chauncey are back and they’ve got lots of chompers so Lakers better bring the tongues of fire tonight.
P. Ami says
That’s just it, I think gumming is exactly how the Lakers have been beating their opponents. Dwight accepts his role and stays active, that will be the tongue of fire.
I can’t say enough about CP3s ability and leadership. Chauncey has his own leadership qualities but he doesn’t really worry me much. He gives up possessions with his 3PT hero-ball mode. Last night he was shooting well but we have 8 years of history showing that Billups thinks more of his shot then the basket does.