What this Lakers fan worries about and what he doesn’t anymore.

Posted by: SPQR on 02/26/2013 - 03:26 PM

Reading the game day thread during and after the Dallas game, it was interesting to notice some of the very optimistic opinions of the team. Because the team is playing better now and on the heels of that road win, some comments really caught my eye. Two that come to mind were, “This team will be invincible by the end of the season,” and “We will win the title.”

Of course after the Denver reality check, the see-saw continues again, this time on the downward slide, to despair. And so it goes in a very bad season. Up and down, hope then despair. And many fans hope we make the playoffs, thinking that this team’s talent will come to the fore and we will finally become what so many expected before the season started.

But this Lakers fan doesn’t worry about making the playoffs. Nor did I really care about the win in Dallas or worry about the loss in Denver. Because long ago, it became apparent that it doesn’t matter if we make the playoffs or not. Either way, this team is not going to win a title or even come close to it. It doesn’t matter if we beat sub 500 Dallas or even if we had beaten Denver. Because to win an NBA title, you don’t go through Dallas or Denver. You go through Memphis, San Antonio, OKC to finally arrive at the real monster of the NBA, Miami. And they are not Dallas or Denver. None of them are.

It doesn’t matter if we make the playoffs. Not this year, or next year. Because we can’t win the title this year or next year. We will never win another title in the Kobe Bryant era. Because time has passed him and this team by. It happens to every team and it’s happened to these Lakers. Kobe Bryant is still a great player. But he is not what he was. When we were winning titles, he was the best player in ball. He was that one insurmountable obstacle that other teams could not overcome; the edge we held over everyone. Now that edge is gone forever. Durant is better than Kobe and Lebron plays in a different league than Kobe. There are other players who are as good or better.

After the last two seasons of playoff ejection, it was obvious this team had to be overhauled. And it was. But not the way it needed to be. After the last two seasons, we all discussed what needed to be done on LTB in dozens of threads and thousands of posts. And the vast majority of those posts said it correctly: We needed to get younger and more athletic, especially on defense, if we were going to take a step back up the ladder of contention. But oddly, for strange reasons known only to them, the FO ignored all the certain, immutable empirical data that screamed for youth and speed and decided to double down on age. Instead of shipping Metta and Pau for younger players or draft picks, we kept them. Instead of trading draft picks for younger players, we gave them away for Methuselah Steve Nash, who at 38 was so old one could call him Eve Ash, because that is all that is left of him. They backed that up by signing a 36 year old Antwan Jamison.

That is not to say smarter moves would have brought us another title. Even with some spectacular moves, the fact remains, in all likelihood, the Lakers would have only been able to secure a holding pattern, like the Spurs have the last half decade. The Spurs have in essence, the same problem we have. Their transcendent star, Tim Duncan is no longer the best player in the game. So despite the workings of the best FO in the business, even they could not resurrect the championship days in San Antonio. They best they can do is hold their altitude with good teams, smart teams, fun teams, winning teams, but not teams good enough to win the title.

But the Lakers FO couldn’t even manage that. By ignoring the problems that were so obvious, by deciding to add more age in the persons of Eve Ash and Jamison to a team already listing so badly because of age and lack of youth, speed and defense, they effectively put the final nail in Lakers coffin, even to the extent of ending any prospect of Kobe finishing out on representative teams like Duncan will.

So we will not become a team that can come within shouting distance of a San Antonio, a Memphis, a Indiana. Nor will we even come within sight of an OKC or the iron fisted ruler of the NBA, the once and future champion Miami Heat.

So it really doesn’t matter if we beat a Dallas or lose to Denver. And I don’t worry about it. Because time and mismanagement have ended the Kobe Bryant era with complete finality.

So I don’t worry about whether we will make the playoffs, just to lose to one of the many better teams. In fact, in a normal year, I would root for them to lose so a much needed high draft pick would come. Because man, we really, really need it. I have done it before when I knew the remedy to what ailed us was young, good talent. But thanks to the FO, even this perk during a bad year is denied to us.

So no, this Lakers fan doesn’t worry about whether we beat a Dallas or a Denver or make the playoffs. Why should I? The time for that is long gone. It doesn’t matter if we do or don’t. Our fate this year and for next season is written in stone and can’t be chiseled out no matter how many hopeful hammer strokes fans take at it, nor how many times Mitch and Buss assure us this team will reach its potential. Because next year, they will just be older. Their potential will never approximate what is needed to win a title. It couldn’t. It never could. Because the problems that needed to be addressed never were. So what potential does Mitch and Buss speak of or expect me or others to believe in? This is one Lakers fan who is not that blind.

But I do worry. About something else. I worry about how the FO, despite two years of evidence that told them, and us, exactly what was wrong with this team, decided to forget all of that and become hypnotized and enamored with a 38 year old Eve Ash, a 36 year old Antawn Jamison and thought adding them to the team would solve the age, athleticism and defensive problems that caused us to crash against Dallas and OKC. When they looked at those films, looked at those so obvious flaws, how exactly did they see an older Metta, and older Pau and an ancient Eve Ash and Jamison correcting those very indelible problems? And I’m not talking about hindsight, I mean, at the time. How did they think this team was going to correct its perimeter defense, its post defense, its transition defense, its one-on-one defense? All the things that above all else, killed us the last two years? I’m still not sure how they thought that. And you know what, I have a feeling when they lie in bed at night now, Mitch and Buss wonder exactly how they bought into that too. But it’s too late now. We have too many old players, playing big minutes at important positions, tying up big money for us to do anything about it. The nails are in the coffin and lid is on so tight it can’t ever be removed.

So now we have to play it out. A nothing year now, a nothing year coming. Just hoops, some moments of fun, but in the end, playing for nothing, not even a draft pick.

And we won’t be able to think about championships till this team is gone. When Kobe, Pau, Metta, Jamison and Nash are history, along with their salaries. Then, and only then, can we even begin to start thinking about what the future may hold and harbor championship thoughts in the far recesses of our minds.

And that is where this Lakers fan does have worries. With Dr. Buss now gone, with Jerry West more a memory for many fans and just a name to newer Lakers fans, what will the future bring? It is easy to say the lure of LA will take care of the franchise. That we will just sign some big name players and win titles again. But that is not necessarily the case. With the new bargaining agreement, it will be harder than ever to stockpile superstars on one team, an old Mitch stratagem and fall back method in lieu of good drafting and smart trades. With the final dissolution of this team, it will not only be the farewell to the Kobe era, but hello to a new one, without Dr. Buss and the leadership and smarts he provided.

And what will be the result of Mitch and Jim Buss turned loose? Were the horrific, blind decisions of the last year, which Mitch and Buss so believed in and still, amazingly, try to believe in, be proven just a momentary aberration and madness? A short lived fever? Or is it the precursor to a more virulent, long-lasting strain of ineptitude that will constrain and contaminate important decisions and this team for years or decades to come? Don’t think it can’t happen. We have been lucky as Lakers fans. But all sports have hosts of teams that have never won a title, never even competed for one, as stark, silent testament to what a bad owner and front office can do to their team and even more sadly, their fans.

I don’t worry about us making the playoffs, not this year, nor the next. Because our fate is already decided this year and the next. There aren’t going to be any more titles. But I have to admit, for the first time in my life as a Lakers fan, for the very first time, I do worry about what comes next, how bad it might get, and how long it may go on. At the end of Showtime and the Threepeat era, as sad as it was, the long range health and destiny of the team was never a concern for me. This is a first. And that worries me too.

As an aside here, but also related to this post: It was interesting at half time of the Dallas game that every member of the panel said the Lakers made a mistake not trading Dwight. The other thing that couldn’t help capture my attention was during the game when Van Gundy pretty much said it is obvious that Kobe and Dwight don’t get along and one probably needs to go. Some strong words were spoken during that telecast. Are they right? We will see. But interesting stuff for sure.

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