Let me get this out of the way up top, there is a pretty juicy story circulating involving the Lakers, D’Angelo Russell, and Nick Young. If you haven’t read about it yet, you will soon. It is everywhere and will dominate social and traditional media for at least today. Very likely it will last much longer. The story has legs and lots of folks have opinions on what happened, what’s going on now, and what should be next.
That said, I’m not going to discuss the issue here, at my site, beyond the paragraph above. When this site was founded nearly 12 years ago, there were other off-court and drama-rich stories swirling around high profile players. This site was founded as a place to continue to discuss the game and the on-court happenings of the Lakers. It’s one of the principles of FB&G and I’m not going to depart from that now. Not because of the increased presence and importance of social media; not because these types of stories get larger portions of the news cycle; not because there is great fan interest.
If that costs me some readers or eyeballs on this blog, I will live with that. Odds are, if you have followed me (or Kurt before me) you already knew this. But if you’re newer to this site than others, I want to reiterate my stance on this. There are other places who will cater to your desires for updates and coverage. I implore you to seek them out if you’d like more on that subject or if you would like to discuss it with other Lakers’ fans. I will still be here when you come back, talking about the on-court happenings of the really bad 15-59 Lakers.
With that out of the way…
The Lakers take on the Heat tonight at Staples Center. The game will be the last time Kobe faces off against Dwyane Wade. These two players represent the top of the shooting guard class for the past two decades (honorable mention to Ray Allen and Reggie Miller). They have had some intense battles, but the respect and camaraderie has been real too.
One of my favorite Kobe/Wade moments was actually when they were teammates back in the 2008 Olympics. Wade had a great steal and save turned alley-oop to Kobe when Team USA was playing Greece:
But, if you’re looking for my favorite Kobe moment vs. the Heat it has to be his buzzer beating banked in 3 pointer to win the game back in Miami’s 2009 visit to Staples. Afterwards, Kobe compared the shot to when he was a kid riding bikes and trying to throw rocks at a post while riding by, explaining how he had to aim a bit behind the target to account for his momentum going past the hoop.
As was noted in the clip, Kobe had 17 4th quarter points, 25 in the 2nd half, and 33 for the game. The Lakers went on to win their 2nd consecutive title that season.
Of course, times are much different now. The Heat are firmly in the playoff mix as the 4th seed in the East, but trail the Hawks by only a single game for the 3rd spot. They’ve dealt with lineup changes and had Chris Bosh miss the 2nd half of the season with another blood clot scare, but have found their rhythm by mixing small-ball groupings with more traditional lineups featuring (now a reserve) Hasaan Whiteside crushing the paint with lobs and strong paint work.
The Lakers, meanwhile…well, you know what the Lakers are. Hard to believe 6 years ago they were the champions of the league and 4 years ago were primed to make another deep playoff run with the Kobe/Pau/Nash/Dwight quartet. As the internet says, #lifecomesatyoufast.
Tonight’s game, then, should not be close. Unless Kobe finds the fountain of youth and the young players find a way to play better than they have of late, this game will not be even be close. If the Lakers play the same level of defense they have for weeks, things will be out of hand early. If I had to wager on either of these scenarios, the latter seems much more realistic.
In any event, there are only 8 games left in this mess of a season. Considering all the happenings both on and off the court, it can’t come soon enough — even though I really do want to cherish these last Kobe games.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.