Monday, January 14, 2013

"Black Days" and Sleepless Nights in Lakers Country

In a Facebook group I'm a part of, we were asked to name songs to describe this Lakers season. I named two and one of them was Soundgarden's "Fell on Black Days". It's hard, it's depressing and lyrically it's the soundtrack to a year I didn't expect in Lakerland.

I've been pretty quiet on my Lakers this year. Maybe it's because they've been too confusing to keep trying to understand. Maybe it's just that one too many stomach punches makes you numb. Either way, this season has been an unpleasant one. Just like 2004-05.

You remember that year, right? Shaq gone, Phil Jackson gone, Derek Fisher gone - just Kobe Bryant, Rudy Tomjanovich and a bunch of strange parts. Worst year I've seen as a Lakers fan as it was basically Kobe shooting the lights out and not much else.

This team looked way too promising but even when they were assembled, I had my concerns. I saw folks giddy about Steve Nash but I saw an old point guard who was still efficient offensively but wouldn't solve the Lakers perimeter defense problems. I saw folks happy about Dwight Howard signing but I saw a guy who mentally might not fit with the team and who wasn't 100% back from the first major injury of his career.

And as much as I had some issues with Mike Brown, I felt he wasn't the biggest problem. He coached this team for 83 games, including playoffs, and did as well as he could given the circumstances.

What's worse is that Lakers ownership panicked and replaced him with not Phil Jackson, the guy who ready to come back from retirement, but Mike D'Antoni. A guy I lovingly call Mike Antoni, who has proved why he got ran out of New York and why the Suns made the conference finals in 2009-2010. He's trying to run with an older team, a recipe for disaster, while his lack of coaching defense already hurts a team that has struggled on that side of the floor.

They can't guard anybody on the perimeter, period. Haven't been able to in two years and right now, I don't see Dwight making that much of an impact protecting the basket. And unless you do two things well - play defense and control the post - you won't win much in April/May/June.

It's a mess. A wasted mess. A waste of Kobe's best offensive season in years. A waste of Pau Gasol, who's being turned in a shooting big man instead of the versatile low post threat he is. A waste of Antwan Jamison, who isn't getting minutes despite being a proven offensive weapon this year.

At this point, winning surprises me. And here's a fact I thought I'd never see - the Lakers struggling while the Clippers look like a better, complete team.

It reminds me of how one decision turned the course of two franchises. The Chris Paul trade that never was happened over a year ago. It was a decision that affected the Lakers deeply because it sent them on a spiral of bad moves, none maybe worse than sending Lamar Odom to Dallas because he was hurt over being traded for CP3. If I'm honest, losing Odom hurt more than getting CP3 because the bench has yet to show any consistency since then.

This isn't still harping on what happened a year ago. It's just telling the story. The Lakers were still a good team but they weren't going to be better than OKC or San Antonio. They went as far as they could go and that's a credit to Brown and how the guys played.

Lakers' ownership somehow never managed to fix the biggest problem. They gave Kobe a point guard to help ease him handling the ball but they didn't get younger or deeper. Antoni has wasted the talents of Jodie Meeks, Jamison and hopefully he won't handcuff Earl Clark when Pau Gasol gets back.

At this point, it's news when they have a winning streak. They have a win now after losing six in a row. I'm not giving up on the year of course but I'm sadly admitting what they are. A frustrating team that'll be lucky enough to sneak in the playoffs and if they don't, I'm looking at Lakers ownership to fix the mess they created.

It was all good two months ago.
Either way, I need one of my teams to start winning. I've struggled with the Chargers and Cowboys going boom and the Lakers would make this indeed a winter of my discontent. At least I have UCLA saving and reinventing their season with this 9-game winning streak.

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