The Lakers are a half game closer to the cellar of the Western Conference than they are to the playoffs. Their losing streaks since the beginning of the season include three in a row, nine of 11, 10 of 13, 14 of 22 and 16 of 25. They lost fairly big to the Grizzlies Wednesday night, 106-93. They are 17-25 and not heading in the right direction. Not much is going right for the Lakers, to the point where coach Mike D’Antoni felt compelled to hold an airing of the grievances before the game against Memphis. Clearly it didn’t amount to much.
Trouble had been brewing in Lakerland between world-class ball-hog Kobe Bryant and world-class sourpuss Dwight Howard. Howard allegedly told a teammate on the bench that he was upset about all the shots Kobe was taking and the lack of shots he was getting. When the teammate beckoned Kobe so Dwight could tell it to his face, Howard shied away.
So before the game in Memphis, D’Antoni held a team meeting where he encouraged his players, specifically vets Bryant and Steve Nash, to talk out their issues in a constructive manner, kill the demons, blow out the cobwebs and start fresh. Kobe actually acknowledged he could be hard to play with at times, while Howard apologized for comments he made after Monday’s loss to the Bulls about not taking enough shots and called them immature. However, he reportedly seemed “despondent” and didn’t offer up much to Kobe’s inquiries when he said he’d be an open book to any teammates with gripes.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about D’Antoni is that he is so keenly aware of the problems his team faces, but acts in perpetual shock, as if there is nothing he can possibly do about it.
“We’ve got an All-Star team out there,” D’Antoni said. “Have you ever watched an All-Star Game? It’s God-awful because everybody gets the ball, they go 1-on-1 and then they play no defense. That’s our team. That’s us. We’re an All-Star team and we haven’t learned there’s a pecking order. There’s the one guy, the two guy, the three guy and the four guy. It might not be the same guy every night, but somebody has got to accept being the fourth guy. If you’ve been the first guy all your life, that’s hard to accept. That’s what happens in All-Star (Games) and that’s what happened with us. Like I said, with today’s meeting, hopefully we’ve overcome a little bit of that. I hope. We’ll see.”
So how did the team respond to the meeting? Kobe had 23 shots in the Memphis game, sinking 11 of them for 29 points. Howard had four shots, made none of them, scored zero points and left after the first half with shoulder aggravation. Team therapy is nice, but here’s the real solution: Let Kobe be Kobe. Clearly, this team can’t do that. Plus it has two centers and it plays a system tailored to the antithesis of what this team is, under a coach who thinks defense was cute at some time.
LAKERWATCH 2013, please, roll along.
[ESPN Los Angeles, Getty Images]