Now is the winter of our discontent. The NBA season is days away and few Laker fans seem pumped about it. Los Angeles, where indifference happens.
I’ve been a Laker diehard since 1971 and I’ve never seen the apathy this pervasive. “The Lakers are my team but I can’t get into it the way I used to, every game was must see tv. Now? Meh.”
Used to be Laker games were an event, a time to get together with friends and bleed purple and gold at Staples or the living room. 2000 WCF game 7 when the impossible became real. The pure elation of Horry’s heroics vs. Sac. The Ko-be Ko-be OT game vs. the Pacers. Shaq as wrecking ball just crushing teams in the finals. Showtime vs. the Celtics in the ultimate battle of good vs. evil. Amazing did happen. Nightly.
Now entire seasons seem inevitably over before they’ve begun. First round exits are easier to predict than the LA weather. The combination of no defense at 1 and no anchor means no second round. The front office may finally understand that, but their answer is wait on Bynum and the young 1’s. If waiting is all they plan to do then the second round can wait too - for another two seasons.
The championship garden that used to set the standard is now overrun with weeds. The gardener left. His magic Bean is all that remains and will be replanted within the next 12 months. The rest of the shrubs just fade into the landscape. A lot of faith has been placed in Bynum and Crittenton but they’ll need years of growth.
The Lakers were the Lakers because they were a fan’s dream, winning championships was all that mattered. No longer, and this is at the very heart of the loss of passion. Championships are no longer first. Now it’s about waiting for Bynum, waiting for a great offer for Kobe, waiting for the home run trade, waiting for someone from the outside to pull them out of this hole because they are utterly incapable of saving themselves.
The irony is that they are now so dependent on outside help that getting it makes it all the more unlikely. They need too much and are counting on a Kobe trade to make up for years of bad decisions.
When a needy guy walks into a bar the women know it immediately. So too with GMs. Just as the guy can’t get the babe that way, so too with the Lakers in a Kobe deal. They have to wait for a team to not just want Kobe Bryant but truly need him. The babe has to come to them. Only then will LA have a chance at getting value in return.
So we wait. And wait. And apathy sets in. It’s not just on one guy, some would like to think it is, if only it were that easy. And the nominees are…
Dr. Jerry Buss – Moved over to the passenger seat and let his son take the wheel, only to discover that Jim didn’t know how to drive a stick. Car’s been stuck in neutral ever since.
Jim Buss – Build around Kobe or rebuild with youth? Both. Spend now or plan for cap room in the future? Both. Apathy due to lack of clear direction or lack of talent? Both.
Mitch Kupchak – Surprised he hasn’t made a public show of going after Antoine Walker yet. If there’s one thing this team needs it’s a gunner matador. “We only have five. We NEED six.”
Phil Jackson – The woeful defense begins with Kupchak’s affinity for offense first defense dead last with a bullet players, but it doesn’t end there. Jackson claims he’s working on defense every camp. What happens? 29th in defense this pre-season, 20s in the regular season.
Kobe Bryant – The public will roll with a diva as long as the success is there. When the success is gone the diva is just too high maintenance. Diva fatigue with Kobe is at epidemic levels, drama fatigue with the Lakers is pandemic.
If Laker fans cared enough to shout ”enough already!” they would, but they’re too busy watching something else. Until the 4th quarter.