Los Angeles Fakers
Showtime? More like No-time. It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows in La La land lately. The 2012-2013 Lakers season started with championship aspirations. All Star Center Dwight Howard was brought in along with 2 time NBA MVP Steve Nash. Put those two with Pau Gasol, Ron Artest (Sorry, I still remember the guy who killed it at Nike Pro City and St John’s, but I’ll try calling him Metta) and of course one of the all time greats in Kobe Bryant, forget about The Big 3, the Lakers entered the season with The Big 5. However, after a disappointing 1-4 start, the Lakers parted ways with head coach Mike Brown. Despite reports of Phil Jackson expecting the job, the Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni to bring “Showtime” back to LA. The results, disastrous. Let’s break it down.
Mike D’Antoni was the wrong hire for this team. There was a reason D’Antoni was not successful in New York and it’s the same reason he is not and wont be successful in LA. He is stubborn. 10 years ago Mike D’Antoni revolutionized offense in the NBA. His run-and-gun, “7 seconds or less” philosophy took the league by storm. The Suns were fast, they were efficient, and they were athletic. Stars like Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, Shawn Marion, and even at one point a young Joe Johnson, fit perfectly into D’Antoni’s fast paced attack. No one would argue against the success he has had in the past, however, the NBA has changed. It has been proven over the years that D’Antoni’s system just does not win in this NBA. You cannot lose sight of defense in order to play at a fast pace, and you certainly cannot play this system if you don’t have the players. In New York, D’Antoni did not have the players to run his offense. He had a short stint with Jeremy Lin but it alienated his super star Carmelo Anthony. His biggest flaw was his stubbornness. His unwilling to change his style to benefit his roster. This led to his departure from the Knicks. So would it be different in LA? When D’Antoni took the job I’m sure he thought Steve Nash and even Steve Blake (a guy D’Antoni tried to get in NY) would run his system effectively. Unfortunately, he was without those two due to injury and he never figured out how to get the rest of the roster to mesh with his plan. Where does Dwight Howard fit? Pau Gasol? He benched Gasol, leading to trade speculation, and that didn’t work. At times it seems D’Antoni is clueless. What do you do with this collaboration of talent? Can you get these players to put their egos aside and buy in to what you are selling? Can he put aside his ego and evolve to better suit his talent? I doubt it.
Then there’s Dwight Howard, one of the most physically dominant players in the NBA the past few years. His impact on this Lakers team has been mostly negative. There’s even trade speculation around him, although GM Mitch Kupchak has already said he wont be dealt. His performance lately has been nothing to write home about. In fact, some would say he is more a hindrance on the roster. Recently, Dwight has gone down with a shoulder injury and the Lakers won all 3 games in his absence. Dwight comes back, Pau goes down, and they get smoked by the Celtics. Kobe has even called Howard out, saying he needs to play through pain. The scenario is not great in LA. It’s becoming more clear that Dwight Howard does not fit in with this team. I wonder how split that locker room is. If that in fact is the case, who is choosing Dwight’s side over Kobe? No one. We all envisioned when they brought Howard in, that he would be the future of the Lakers. Kobe is aging and it will soon be time to pass the torch to Dwight. That might not be the case anymore. Based on what we see so far this season, with the Lakers right now on the outside of the playoffs looking in, can we say for sure they will sign Dwight at the end of the season? Why would they? Maybe Dwight Howard isn’t the same player he was back in Orlando. Perhaps after his back injury, he wont be the same again. All we know is that we have not seen the dominant Dwight the Lakers thought they were getting. The back and forth between Kobe and Dwight is not healthy and the constant questions about Mike D’Antoni’s ability to lead this roster will not go away. Gasol is out the next 6-8 weeks and with less than half the season remaining, it’s pretty clear who the X factor has to be in order for the Lakers to make a push. Dwight Howard. Man up. Play the game like you know how. Be the most dominant Center in this league like you used to be and perhaps they can turn this around.
No one is expecting the Lakers to go on this miracle run and get into first place. All they have to do is figure out how to get this thing going and make it into the playoffs. If they do, I guarantee no team in the West is going to want to see them. With their talent, the leadership of Kobe, and throw in a healthy/rested Pau Gasol, who knows how much damage they can do. Is it possible? Sure. But they need to show something and show it soon. Until then, they can go on Faking.