As everybody knows by now, the Lakers got bombed out of Cleveland last night, after a pretty amateur outing which led the Zen master to say, “I think they took the break before the game started.” Ouch. Honestly, I think that the media is probably taking it a little too rough on the Lakers, who – from everything I've ever seen – have struggled since Andrew Bynum returned. Despite the ridiculous differences between myself and the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, I think I felt yesterday what the Lakers are going through this season.
Arriving at our seats for the Celtics/Nets game shortly before seven, I found myself feeling pretty under the weather, so my partner in crime and I got up and shuffled towards the concession stands. I picked up a drink to temper my aching throat, and we walked back to our seats. Shortly after sitting down, I noticed that my jacket, which I had foolishly left under the seat when we left, had disappeared into the vapors. Having a cold, I was especially bullshit to lose it, or worse, let it be stolen. I told the concierge about the situation, and I left to talk to guest relations, who informed me that I was screwed and would die in the cold streets outside.
For maybe the next quarter of the game, when the Celtics were doing their best to destroy the Nets’ confidence, I suspiciously leered over the crowd, scoping out any sketchy looking kids in our section that could've done the deed. I honed in on this kid in a Pierce jersey who really didn’t seem to be enjoying himself, but was sitting in the adjacent row and had an identical jacket tucked under his chair. Honestly, I gave him the stinkiest eye I possibly could, almost constantly, for like twenty minutes. It was all, “get fucked,” and I meant it. A few minutes later, our waitress came over with the jacket, which somebody had turned in (!) and I felt like an asshole for judging this kid who was probably not stoked on watching Quinton Ross play for 26 minutes.
You probably just stopped reading, but hear me out: this is exactly like what the Lakers are going through. They had an outstanding jump-off at the beginning of the season (kind of like how I had an awesome breakfast of corned beef hash and eggs), and were playing close to out of their minds even with Kobe limping around and Bynum out (I was still amped about getting linked on SI and BDL in the last couple days). Pau Gasol was the most likely suspect in their rise to awesomeness, but Lamar Odom, perhaps still stoked about his basic cable celebrity and endless weird love, was playing some of the best ball of his career (I was invited to an NBA game by somebody cool).
But even as they played well, the cracks started to appear, like how Ron Artest got psyched into forgetting that he was one of the best all-around players in the league and still only 31 (and like how I ordered the wrong thing at Tacos Lupita in Somerville before the game and got like ten huaraches instead). Gasol started to get tired from playing 40 minutes a night, and Bynum wasn’t that much help (I got sore tonsils).
When they hit the skids with this Grammys road trip, just think about my stupid coat getting stolen; as a result, I was pissed off and suspicious of every technique in which this could’ve gone wrong. But there are deeper seeded things at work that have nothing to do with basketball that are definitely affecting them: ESPN and Chris Broussard’s constant hounding of their star center; playing five games in seven nights across the country; self-doubt; the psychological effects of aging on their leaders (Jackson, Bryant).
If Lakers management pulls their shit together and decides that they have a good team going and that their body of work deserves to be reconsidered in the 25 games they have left, they should pat themselves on the back. But if they rush themselves into a hasty, ill-considered trade to overhaul their "stale" roster, they’re making a mistake: this team is deep, strange, and dangerous. Yo, Matt Barnes.
One of the loudest cheers in the Garden last night was when the PA announcer revealed the final score of the Lakers/Cavaliers game. I clapped with the other fans – after all the senseless anxiety earlier in the night, everything started to be logical again and this was a pleasant feeling. Unfortunately for Celtics fans, eventually (probably over the All-Star break) their rivals will let go and allow reason take over again too. ESPN will probably still hound them, like they did the Heat earlier this year, but its to no bother. Can you imagine what is going to happen when the Lakers realize that they’ve become underdogs?