The Lakers enjoyed a rare coast-to-coast romp last night, the kind of game we all thought would come often and easily on the way to the promised land. The win wasn’t any type of championship indicator – the injury-plagued T-Wolves aren’t that kind of competition. Of course, the Lakers haven’t been that kind either so far. This at least showed us what we’ve been missing – a 22-point win, great production from the reserves and a chance to empty the bench in the fourth quarter.
Watching the win felt somewhat bittersweet. The team imploded and underperformed throughout much of the season. There are reasons of course. There always are. But whether it’s Kobe Bryant’s sheer force of will or something inside Dwight Howard or a larger amalgamation of factors – the team has finally begun to find itself, agonizingly late. Last night should just have been a routine victory but instead it’s another tiny click in a Rube Goldberg contraption – the team is running up a down escalator, hoping to make the playoffs when so many things ahead can go so wrong.
Sam Amick for USA Today sits down with Mitch Kupchak as he looks back at rough seasons from the past and how they compare to this one.
Dave McMenamin from ESPN’s Lakers Index writes about Kobe Bryant, finding the balance in his game.
Kevin Ding for the OC Register ponders the possibility of Kobe Bryant retiring after next year, and the loss it would present for the game, the fans and Bryant himself.
Drew Garrison at Silver Screen and Roll writes about Dwight Howard setting better screens.
Helene Elliott for the L.A. Times feels that the Lakers might actually have a good chance to catch either the Jazz or the Rockets on their way to a playoff spot.
Brian Kamenetzky for the Land O’Lakers, on Antawn Jamison finding his way back into the rotation and into Coach D’Antoni’s favor.
Rudy Garciduenas was the Lakers equipment manager for 28 years before losing his job in a massive bloodletting. Bill Plaschke for the L.A. Times writes about the man who now owns and operates a food truck, still possessing his customary good humor.
Last night on TNT, Kenny Smith and Shaq reflected on the passing of streetball legend Tyrone ‘Alimoe’ Evans, a player many thought should have been in the NBA. Joseph Vecsey for Slam writes about the man, along with a Slam update on a goodwill gesture from Alimoe’s favorite player.
Also on TNT last night, Doug Collins voiced his frustration about the Andrew Bynum situation. Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk examines Bynum’s latest setback in more detail.
It’s a numbers game now. We’ve been hearing this phrase too often lately but it has only just begun. It will become an undying mantra the closer we get, and as the path grows ever more byzantine. It may come down to the last few games in the season, and teams that we don’t play at the end will still have the ability to play the spoiler. It has become a season that will be ripe for conspiracy theories.
“What are you doing Dave, you’re being a buzzkill.”
The writer jumped in his chair, spilling over-roasted acidic coffee all over his laptop. He reached for a wadded-up napkin, wiped ineffectually, eyes roving wildly. “Who said that?”
“Unceasing change turns the wheel of life, and so reality is shown in all its many forms.”
The writer peered around the room suspiciously, the voice seemed to be coming from all places at once. “Is that you Phil?”
If the voice could have shrugged, it would have. “I’m the voice of championships past. Basketball is a spiritual journey and you’re robbing readers of their simple pleasures. A win is a win.”
He found another used napkin, dabbed gingerly at the keypad. “Well, it’s been a pretty crappy season. You’ve got to admit that.”
The voice was bemused, reflective. “I can still remember the winters of my youth, walking five miles before dawn across the snowy plains. The gymnasium would be locked and unheated when I got there and I loved it. Give them some hope, Dave.”
The writer shook his head and tried to shut out the droning voice. He was getting too old for this crap. Sometimes it’s easier just to give in. The keypad was sticky to the touch. He swallowed the last dregs of his lousy coffee and resumed his labor.
The last weeks of the season arrived with a blinding rush, the wins coming in transcendent stretches and it was good. And the teams ahead drifted backwards and withered on the vine yet some still posed mighty and magnificent warrior challenges…
His fingers stopped as if of their own accord. He shook it off, rolled his shoulders, took a deep breath. He placed his hands above the keyboard again. Nothing. He looked around the room plaintively. “Phil? Are you still there? I need an ending.”
There was a long stony silence. Finally, the voice spoke with more than a hint of weariness. “I wasn’t asking for metaphors and vines and unicorns Dave. Just some basketball writing. Like those other guys up above. Y’know, Kobe’s balanced scoring, Dwight getting back to form, an actual path forward.”
His shoulders slumped. “Ohhh. Sorry.”
“Just press send, Dave. It’s fine.”