After a month filled with holidays, hope, vacation, winning streaks, losing streaks, encouraging moments, utter frustration and me absolutely freaking out about this team, I am finally back to the blog. Unfortunately, however, the Lakers (15-16) are right where I left them. They are still underachieving, still agonizing to watch, still under .500 and still out of the top 8 in the Western Conference. They still play with no urgency. They still seem to have no clue as to where they are currently sitting in the standings. They still seem to be victimized by the same annoying trends night in and night out. There are no two ways about it…It’s been an absolute train wreck of a season. An absolute embarrassment. An absolute perfect sports nightmare. And I’m really struggling to endure it.
You don’t have to look too far to figure it out. To me, the chief culprit has to be the combination of Dwight “The Textbook Primadonna” Howard and Pau “I have to be the most overrated player in the NBA even though I’m a good guy” Gasol. Before I get into how bad this built-for-2008 frontcourt combination has been, let’s set it up by taking a quick look at how other key players have pulled their weight.
Kobe’s Benjamin Button act has been nothing short of spectacular. The dude is in his 17th season and still plays 40+ minutes a night including entire second halves on a routine basis. Meanwhile, he’s leading the league in scoring and shooting almost 48%! This type of production from a 34-year old is unprecedented in the 67 year history of the league….So I guess we can all agree that Kobe has done his job. (Side note: I know Kobe’s success has been, to some extent, at the expense of some of his teammates. His greatness is different from Magic’s or Lebron’s in that he doesn’t “make guys better” beyond giving them space to operate. Maybe his greatness doesn’t motivate his teammates the way other stars do. However, this performance has been inspiring and not the reason the Lakers are under .500).
Metta World Peace has had a renaissance of sorts. Despite being unable to dribble a basketball on a fast break even though he is an NBA perimeter player making about $7 million, he’s been everything a Laker fan can ask for. He’s in great shape, shooting the ball extremely well and playing defense that somewhat resembles Indiana Ron Artest. He’s been good as a starter, good as a 6th man and has been able to play at different positions while being asked to do different things on the floor. In a nutshell, this guy has stepped up his game and has answered the bell.
In a small sample size, Nash has at least resembled what Laker fans expected. He’s been a knock down shooter, an assist machine and has made the game easier for everyone on offense. At times, he’s been “the reason why I play the game.” On defense…well…he’s been just like every Laker PG in recent memory. He’s been an absolute punching bag and complete liability. But that is not why the organization is paying him so I can at least live with it. (Side note: PGs of all shapes, sizes, ages and ability levels have been torching the Lakers for 20+ years. Can this please stop!?).
The bench–a downright embarrassing punchline a season ago and much maligned going into this year–has actually been a plus. Most experts thought this would be the Lakers achilles heel and what eventually did them in. Well, they were wrong. Meeks and Hill have been very effective doing their thing. Meeks has been a reliable scorer and defender for extended minutes while Hill has been a hustling madman Darius Morris–although he is absolutely unable to lead a successful fastbreak even though he is an NBA PG–has had some decent moments. Chris Duhon as been adequate despite getting three times more burn in the first 31 games of the year than we’d thought he’d get all season. Even Jamison had some monster games before being relegated to bench warmer status and confirming my “Laker Mitch Richmond/Knicks Glenn Rice reincarnated” prediction.
So…do the math…add it up. Kobe, MWP, Nash and the bench have all met or exceeded expectations. So how is this team possibly 15-16?…Because of the most overrated combination of “stars” in the league–Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard–the Tag Team Chumps. Yeah, that same duo that combined for 3 FGs–3 FGs!–against the Sixers the other night….WHO HAVE NO LEGIT CENTER!!!!!! This combo of allegedly good players has been absolutely dishearteningly brutal.
Let’s start with Pau: I love the guy, but he has to be the most screwed-up-in-the-head, least confident dude making $19 million in the country right now. If anyone challenges him at all physically, his likelihood of success goes down drastically…to like almost 0%. I can’t even remember the last time he truly scored over or through anyone. When he had that dunk on Christmas vs. the Knicks the guys congratulated him on the bench like he was the kid on the Parks n’ Rec team that was the last one to score a basket on the season. That’s how pathetic his act has become. It has gotten that bad. My heart breaks for him, but he is not even close to an upper-echelon player right now. He had an uncontested fastbreak 1 on 0 dunk opportunity vs. Philly the other night and it literally took 3 full seconds and every bit of strength that he had to get that ball over the rim. His moxie has been completely removed to say the least. The Kenneth Farieds and Carl Landrys of the world have been embarrassing him all season while stripping much of his manhood in the process. This whole “3pt shooter” thing is just further confirmation that Pau as we once knew him is long gone. You can blame health. You can blame system. However, the bottom line, is that it’s been a sad demise to watch….Oh yeah, he is also untradeable now.
Now to Dwight…I hope you are still reading because this primadonna deserves the all the bad press in the world. I CANNOT BELIEVE how bad this joke is playing. I tore him apart–his game, his attitude, what he stands for, etc–in my last entry a month ago and I can pretty much copy and paste all of the same things to this entry if I wanted. Nothing has changed with this piece of sh-t. It blows my mind how often this guy is either a non-factor or a downright liability. First off, he can’t score in the post…at all. He loves making moves that put him behind the hoop where it is impossible to score efficiently. If he doesn’t do that when making a move he either gets it stripped on the way up (this has seriously happened 45+ times this season) or gets fouled which is obviously not good. He isn’t coordinated enough to catch on the pick and roll and finish with any type of consistency while on the move. I believe I saw him travel while trying to execute a fastbreak dunk a few games ago. He’s the most overratedly coordinated big man ever maybe! Truth be told, when he’s in the game, he is the 4th or 5th guy I want touching the ball. And when he does, I freak out worse than I did in the bad MWP days. Even worse, Dwight stupidly gets himself into foul trouble practically every game. Half of his fouls are rookie-ish, useless and ultimately cost him playing time. For example, against Charlotte, he was on the bench pretty much the majority of the first 3 quarters because he got 2 quick fouls in the 1st, a quick 3rd foul in the 2nd and an immediate 4th foul in the 3rd. How did he respond after being relegated to the bench for all of that time? He picked up his 5th foul :12 into the 4th quarter. Seriously? Really? This guy, by the way, has been in the league for 9 years…not 9 months.
These antics, some selfish and some being the byproduct of him not being any good at basketball have been killing this team. You know that arrogant dude from the pick-up game that goes completely silent and into “woe is me” mode when things don’t go his way? You know him…he gets mad at other people for his mistakes or for their success but does it in a silent-asshole kind of way. What about that guy that doesn’t know how to handle any type of diversity–basketball or not–so instead goes silent and makes everyone around him feel like his failure is their wrong or their fault? Well, that is Dwight Howard right now. Instead of meeting this challenge head-on, he’d rather go mute and pick up frustration flagrant fouls and point the finger anywhere but at himself. Now isn’t this the same dude that apparently is so good that he can hold multiple franchises hostage with what he will eventually do? Isn’t this the guy that the whole NBA is supposed to care where he goes? Isn’t this the best defensive player in the league? Well, right now, all he is is public enemy #1 of this blog. As my facebook status has said for almost a month now since I saw him lay a complete egg at MSG: “I think Dwight Howard absolutely stinks. I hope we don’t resign that primadonna. This status will not change until I think otherwise.” Also….lose the headband dude! You haven’t even earned that!
I can go on forever about this team but having to deal with Dwight makes my head feel like it is about to explode. I could preview the brutal schedule coming up or complain about how the Lakers insist on getting off to mediocre starts every night or rant about how we are lucky to be 15-16 considering we had miraculous comeback wins vs. Charlotte and G-State (yeah…it took a massive run to beat the Dunlap’s boys at Staples). However, the prime issue here is Pau and Dwight. It starts and stops with those 14-feet of $38 million over-priced talent. When they get it together, and only when they get it together, will this team even come close to looking like a contender.
“Groundhog Day. Bad start. Playing from behind. Pau and Dwight grossly underperforming. The story of the 12-13 Lakers.” ~@DS_Lakers (me).