8th Edition – 11/22/2003
I know this may sound funny, but it’s tough being a Laker fan. Before you start laughing, hear me out. As a “reporter” it’s not proper procedure to announce your allegiance to a specific team (I think), especially when bias and favoritism can come into question when writing critical copy. But being the honest and fair person that I am, I never allow my love for the Lakers to jade my perspective and prevent me from telling the truth. And the truth is…the Lakers drive me crazy!
With the acquisitions of Gary Payton and Karl Malone, many critics and casual fans have already given the Lakers the 2004 NBA Title. And believe me–as a devout fan–I can’t allow myself to believe otherwise. But by no means do I feel that it’s guaranteed. Everyone is aware how loaded the Western Conference is, and some of those teams have as legitimate a shot at the Glory as much the Lakers, especially the defending champions in San Antonio.
Unfortunately for Laker fans like myself, the Lakers don’t seem to have the same understanding. After watching them play so far, it has become painfully obvious that they think they can win just by showing up. They don’t seem to be aware that despite their immense talent, they have to play hard on both ends of the floor the ENTIRE game to maximize their personnel advantage. Opposing teams are not cowering in fear at the sight of the “Fantastic Four.” As a matter of fact, they’re playing with more excitement and energy so they can have a chance at knocking off the BIG BAD Lakers.
Case in point, their 105-95 defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies – MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES – a couple of weeks ago. That was as shameful as a performance as I’ve seen from a contender. Props to the Grizz for their effort and eventual march to victory, but the Lakers were dreadful. After the first quarter, they played on cruise control as if the Grizzlies were a WNBA team. The Lakers transition defense was porous; their individual defense was nonexistent and their rendition of the triangle offense was literally offensive.
As frustrating as that was to witness, I decided to chalk it up as growing pains…bygones. With so many new players the Lakers need time to acclimate themselves to one another and the team system. They’re also dealing with injuries to Rick Fox, Slava Medvedenko, and Brian Cook, which have depleted their bench. However maximum effort is not too much to ask especially since they’re no longer the champs. Teams who are trying to regain the title don’t play like it’s already in the bag.
After recovering from their 2-game slide with 3 consecutive wins at Staples Center, the Lakers ventured off to Detroit for their second and final meeting with the Pistons this season. My thought process going into that game was the Lakers CLEARLY understand the nature of the beast (especially on the road) and are going to bring their A-game (I hate this phrase) and perform to their capabilities. My bad. Instead they got ran off the court in the final period resulting in another loss to an inferior team. To their credit, Shaq battling foul trouble hampered the Lakers’ attack, but that’s no excuse for their minimal effort. The Pistons played to win while the Lakers played as if victory was a forgone conclusion. Absolutely mind-boggling! That’s the only way I can explain why they didn’t play any defense, rebound the ball, or score a field goal for nearly eight minutes in the fourth quarter. And listen I’m not taking anything away from the Pistons, they’re a good team that is well coached and should be in contention for the Eastern Conference championship, but they are not–I repeat–NOT on the Lakers’ level.
In an 82-game season, teams face several ups and downs; shooting slumps, injuries, misfortune, and bad calls. As we all know, no one can go undefeated, but everyone can play hard and that’s something the Lakers don’t do on a consistent basis. They take their talent for granted and it’s extremely infuriating. I’m sure there will be folks who read this and think my discontent is minor compared to those who support the Atlanta Hawks or Orlando Magic, but that’s the world I live in and I gotta call it like I see it.
What’s The Haps!?
• He may not be aware of this now, but Doc Rivers getting pink slipped is the best thing that could have happened to him. There hasn’t been ANY Magic in Orlando since Shaq left in ’96, and that blame can clearly be placed on the shoulders of management.
• What has to happen before Bonzi Wells truly understands the fortunate position he’s in? He was suspended for 2-games without pay and stripped of his co-captaincy for cursing at his head coach. All Maurice Cheeks did was take him out of the game! With great exasperation… FOR THE LOVE OF GOD… BONZI!!
• Who is Ronald “Flip” Murray, and where did he come from?
• Apparently rap artist Jay-Z has hired an investment-banking firm to look into the possibility of making a bid to buy the New Jersey Nets. It’s absolutely amazing what being a successful and dope MC can lead to.
• Alonzo Mourning and Kenyon Martin of the New Jersey Nets pulled a Shaq and Kobe and almost came to blows in practice the other day. Maybe if they channeled all that aggression towards the actual games, the Nets would have a winning record. Nonetheless, it was CLASSLESS of Kenyon to say that Alonzo whines about his kidneys–that’s nothing to make slight of–ever!
• Will Tracy McGrady just SHUT UP ALREADY!!!