When Kirk Hinrich stamps a season-high 22 points against your squad on 9-11 shooting, crossing over fools and dropping in jumper after jumper like a summer league game or a Sunday at the Rucker, times are rough.
When the Mamba, aka Mr. 81, aka KB, aka Mr. Dependable for at least 20 a night suddenly freezes ice cold from deep, clanking all six of his threes, and produces only 16 points in the house that Mike and Phil built, times are tough.
When the Lakers fight back valiantly from a 10-point deficit at the start of the 3rd to end tied at 69 to go into the 4th, times are a changing, right?
Wrong. They looked good for a minute, and then a 26-14 4th sucker punch rattles your gut on national television, just as you started enjoying fist pumping for your team again. The Lakers flummoxed the world again and fumbled away another shot at a comeback story, leaving their 6th straight on the road sitting on the table along with their wallet and their keys as the headed out of the United Center and locked the door behind them, 95-83.
The default reaction is jump. Jump out of you chair. Jump off of the bandwagon. Jump off of a cliff.
Ease up, player. Put down the CP3 jersey, slowly back away, and look at the standings. Despite everything that has gone wrong (don’t kid yourself, it has), the Lakers are only four games out of the playoffs. Yes, it’s true. Use you fingers and your toes.
Granted, the 8th seed is not the pot o’ purple and gold expectations leapt to by countless @Lakerholicz and the entire basketball world when Steve and Dwight first posed with their jerseys. Losses to the Kings, Cavs, and Raptors seemed improbable, unacceptable for a dreamy team of award winning vets and talented newcomers poised to nab LA #17.
Now, a Bulls club sans DRose and Luol Deng repped a fabulous opportunity to halt a 5-game road slide and be about, instead of talking about, building some momentum. Fat chance. An 18-4 run sparked by bench play from Marco Belinelli only managed to throw Dwight’s name into the trade ring.
A night after Dwight unfairly saw the showers before everyone, the prevailing wind expected him to blow up on the Bulls frontcourt. Dwight had 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 PFs. His sub par response of a performance led many on the net to question his acquisition. The blame game, as John Legend so ably belts, always leads the frustrated to sing, “Let’s call out names, names, for sure.”
For real, the fault does not belong to Dwight, Steve, Pau, or even Mike D and his Pringles system, despite a myriad of justifiable reasons for any and all of above. The ubiquitous finger could point squarely at Boss Buss, Jr. for a lengthening list of questionable decisions, namely not lambasting Boss Buss, Sr. for refusing to put Jeanie in charge.
The Lakers, like the average franchise, simply are the victim of circumstances beyond their control. The Lakers, however, are by no means the average franchise. No road arenas experience the consistent equity of raucous cheers and boo for any other visiting team. The Lakers aren’t the NBA equivalent of the Yankees, they carved out their own empire, exhorting fans to love them when they hoist trophies, or roast them when they miss opportunities. The last few games were such opportunities.
A vetoed trade here and a trade exception for Lamar there and LA found themselves in a serious bind to rebuild for a title, which is vastly more difficult than aspiring to make the playoffs. Time is not your enemy; it is your built-in excuse for the lack of immediate production. Chemistry mixes deliberately for the future. A turnover evokes a supportive “Nice try,” rather than the cynical, “Nice pass, @#$*!” Moral victories welcome discussion, not dissension. Ask GP and the Mailman. The post season represents a reasonable goal to strive for, to hope for, to aim towards. Yet, the Lakers find themselves in this exact situation, vying for a sport in the playoffs, as opposed to the expected slot in the title game.
Granted, I celebrated the 3rd quarter comeback effort, and lambasted the 4th quarter execution confusion. Hopes will always and forever remain high for this franchise, especially with these names on the backs of jerseys.
Times as of late have been rough. The 2nd half of the season, however, will not be worse than the 1st because the chemistry never had the opportunity to share the floor together, let alone develop. The Lakers could have made it easier on themselves, and the fans, best the teams that they should, then steal one from the defending champs. But, that just wouldn’t be this team’s style.
They almost must struggle, endure great hardship, and overcome slide show long odds. Think of how tough they could be in the playoffs if they do turn it around. Think of how tough they will need to be if they reach the 7th or 8th seed, considering whom they will face.
Ideal would not be the first word that comes to mind regarding the sludge the Lakers are dragging through, but as the next month of the season approaches, they must use the adversity to their advantage. They need to get angry and take their frustrations out on the other locker room. They will have to start beating teams in the elite. Memphis on Wednesday is a no longer a gauge, or a test of where the team is. It is a battle for the bottom of the playoffs.