The Curious State of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Other Thoughts on the NBA
The Los Angeles Lakers were supposed to be bad this year….
With a roster where your second best player is probably Jeremy Lin (no disrespect to LINSANITY) then you have to expect some struggles. But a 1-6 start? No one saw that coming. As of today, the Lakers have the second worst record in the league (the worst being the Philadelphia TANKERS 76ERS at 0-7). Think about that for a second. Since 1980 the Lakers franchise has won the NBA championship 10 times!! The next closest team (Chicago Bulls) has 6. That is an astounding rate of success in a league where it is difficult to stay at the top of the mountain, the Lakers have not only managed to get to the top of said mountain, they have pushed everyone else off. The fact that they are this bad…. Like unwatchable bad, like OMG WHY DID THEY THINK THIS WAS GOING TO WORK bad is insane.
The Lakers have a history of getting their way. In 1975 they acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from the Bucks for “great” players like Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman. 4 years later in the 1979 draft they traded for the New Orleans Jazz’s first round pick and acquired Magic Johnson (who combined with Kareem, led them to a championship in his rookie season). 5 championships later, fast forward to 1996 when the once again traded for another future Hall of Famer. This time it was a kid out of Lower Merion High School named Kobe Bryant. During that offseason they also signed free agent Shaquille O’neal. 3 championships later fast forward to 2008 when they traded Kwame Brown to Memphis for Pau Gasol. 2 championships later fast forward to 2012 and the Lakers traded for Dwight Howard. This is where the wheels seemingly fell off. After a TERRIBLE SEASON, Dwight left for Houston, Kobe was fresh off an Achilles tear, Steve Nash all of the sudden looked shockingly old and the bright lights of Hollywood no longer seemed to appeal to marquee free agents.
So why weren’t the able to build a better team? Is it because of Kobe Bryant? Well recent STORIES seem to think so. Playing with Kobe Bryant has never been a cakewalk for anyone. He plays at such a high level and is so competitive that he is hard to get along with (ahem Smush Parker). But I doubt Kobe’s attitude is the reason that people aren’t coming to LA more than his huge contract. Kobe’s massive $48 million deal has been the elephant in the Lakers salary cap room since the day he signed it. As a fan you can’t really be mad at an organization that goes out of their way to take care of a star that has done so much for their team for so many years. On the other hand, it strapped them financially in a big way. This last offseason instead of having enough cap space to offer two max-contracts, they only had room for one. So was Carmelo Anthony going to be intrigued by playing with Kobe, Steve Nash, and Julius Randle? Maybe, but was it a good basketball decision? No way (neither was signing with Knicks, but that’s another story). When ‘Melo opted to return to New York, pickings were slim. Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak decided to try and remain and competitive and traded for Jeremy Lin, re-signed Nick Young, Jordan Hill, Wes Johnson and Xavier Henry, and won the rights to Carlos Boozer.
Like I said before, with this team the Lakers were supposed to be bad. No one really knew how bad until that first game where Houston blew them out of the water. Aside from Kobe Bryant calling Dwight Howard SOFT it was not fun to watch. Add to the fact that the one truly positive thing the Lakers in drafting Julius Randle turned sour quickly. Randle BROKE HIS LEG in the 4th quarter of that already decided opening game. Since then it has been Kobe, Kobe, Kobe and more Kobe. Already he has had a game where he scored 39 points but took 37 SHOTS to get there, in the loss against the Grizzlies last night he managed to grab the infamous title of having the most missed FGAs in NBA history. Will they improve…Sure…Probably….Most likely….They’ll get Nick Young back soon enough which will give them another guy who can score. As of right now Kobe’s usage rate is at 38%. That is way too high for a 36 year old with the recent ankle and knee injuries that Kobe has had. He needs Jeremy Lin to be more consistent, and Nick Young returning and being the secondary scoring option will help that. The defense is going to be bad, but that can’t be helped. Their best defender is Ed Davis and he is an undersized big man who is going to be dominated by the Dwight Howards, Blake Griffins, Lamarcus Aldridge’s of the world.
In other NBA News..
The King returned home.
After a brief 4 year vacation to Miami, LeBron James returned to Cleveland to tons of fanfare, amazing NIKE COMMERCIALS and unexpectedly some growing pains with his new teammates. A 3-3 start isn’t quite what everyone expected when LEBRON, KEVIN LOVE, AND KYRIE IRVING came together. But in hindsight it is what we all should have expected. There have been clear signs of no one wanting to get in each other’s way. LeBron has been more passive and tried to get everyone else involved rather than do the heavy lifting himself. Unfortunately, while his teammates in Cleveland are a clear upgrade over what he had in Miami, it will still be on LeBron to make this team go. 5 out of the 6 games this year he has shot under 50% from the floor, and has only gone to the line more than 10 times in two games. In the past two games there has been a clear IMPROVEMENT and you have to think that between LeBron James and Kevin Love that offense will be completely fine.
Let me be the 235346347345521 person in the world to declare that Anthony Davis is the next NBA superstar. In his third season looks at how he stacks up to other hall of fame centers in their third year.
All-Time Great Center #1: 29 PPG, 11.4 REBS, 2.4 BLKS
All-Time Great Center #2: 23 PPG, 11.4 REBS, 3.4 BLKS
All-Time Great Center #3: 23.2 PPG, 12.2 REBS, 4.5 BLKS
Anthony Davis: 24.8 PPG, 13 REBS, 4.2 BLKS
The first center is Shaquille O’Neal, the second is Hakeem Olajuwon, and the third is David Robinson. Now it has only been 6 games but those numbers he’s averaging now are pretty comparable to those Hall of Famers listed above him, and he’s only 21 years old!
A new year has come along and already Derrick Rose is battling lower leg injuries. This time it’s his ankles. Every NBA player has to face their mortality eventually, but the fact that it seems to be coming so soon for Derrick Rose is particularly troubling. While everyone hopes he can return to that MVP level of basketball on a consistent basis it just doesn’t seem like it’s going to go that way. His explosiveness and ability to get to the rim is what sets him apart from every other player in the league and when he’s not 100% it takes that away from him.
The Church of Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook broke his hand in late October in the second game of the season. Unfortunately for the Thunder and NBA fans in general we were finally primed to watch Russell be Russell. With Kevin Durant out indefinitely with a foot injury this was Westbrook’s team. All the criticism he has gotten throughout the year for taking too many shots and not deferring to KD at times was certainly going to be put to bed. In the first game of the season against Portland we certainly SAW what a Thunder team helmed by a fully unleashed Russell Westbrook looked like.