Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - As if a team that started the season with
legitimate championship hopes falling to a 15-18 record wasn't bad enough,
things are really starting to crumble in the world of the Los Angeles Lakers.
They have lost four of five games and reports are surfacing of trouble in LA-
The New York Daily News reported that following a New Year's Day loss to the
Philadelphia 76ers, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard got into a little tiff.
The report says that Bryant brought up Shaquille O'Neal's criticism of Howard
being soft. The Daily News also stated that Howard had to be restrained from
going after Bryant.
Everyone involved has denied it. Of course.
We don't know for sure unless someone confirms it, but team basketball is not
being played in the Laker Land.
In their three losses in a row, Bryant has attempted at least 10 more shots
than anyone else in a Lakers jersey. That's expected for a superstar, but
there are three other stars wearing the yellow, purple and white.
Bryant has his own theory about the problems the Lakers have.
After the Sixers defeat, Bryant was asked what has been the problem for the
Lakers. He replied, "Cause we're old as (expletive)." They are old and
Bryant's frustrations may be manifesting themselves in the form of profanity.
He's been good for a almost a curse word per interview. It's like he's
auditioning for a Tarantino movie.
After the Clippers loss, Howard had a simple philosophy about what is wrong
with the Lakers: "We have to learn to share the ball. I think that's the
difference between our team and their's. They just play together, share the
ball. Everybody's excited when something happens. We have to get to that to be
a great team."
That's not where the Lakers envisioned themselves inching up to the halfway
point - trying their best to become the Clippers.
Now, there's the reported dustup. Howard will be undergoing an MRI for a sore
shoulder and, after a Sunday loss to the Denver Nuggets, it looked to be
bothersome. He had more iced packed on his shoulder than a frat goes through
keeping the keg cold at a toga party.
Any significant injury to Howard would be a problem. He is the only thing
keeping the Lakers from surrendering 125 points a game. Against the Nuggets,
Howard had 26 rebounds and four blocked shots. Your shoulder would ache, too,
if you had to pull down that many rebounds.
And, yes, Bryant is shooting a lot and Howard is trying to preach team
basketball, but both are trying to do what they think is necessary for the
Lakers to win some games.
Pau Gasol has been pathetic this season. Blame head coach Mike D'Antoni's
system if you'd like, but the fact is Gasol is averaging 12.2 ppg. That's a
career-low by almost five points.
Steve Nash is averaging 10.2 ppg. That is his lowest production scoring-wise
since the 1999-2000 season.
Lest we forget, the Lakers already canned head coach Mike Brown about a half-
hour into the season. D'Antoni would probably be on the block if it wouldn't
be such a joke.
To make matters worse, or much pressure-filled, there were chants of "We want
Phil!" echoing through the Staples Center late in the Denver loss.
Basically, this season has become a disaster of biblical proportions.
"We've just got to stay together," Howard said. "We can't point the finger at
anybody. It's a team thing."
Howard's point is valid. Bryant shoots a lot, but he's also carried the Lakers
to two championships post-Shaq. There is no flow to the Lakers offense, but
that pales in comparison to the bigger problems.
Bryant's point is valid about their age. The Lakers are slower than Christmas
Eve mass. They don't get out on shooters, don't communicate on defense, don't
get back on defense and are fifth-worst in the league in opponents' scoring.
Howard is a defensive force and Metta World Peace is still decent on that side
of the ball, but Nash is atrocious and Bryant is getting older. Defensively,
Bryant's solid, but the Lakers are in desperate need of an athletic infusion.
How do they get that?
The obvious answer is to move Howard. Every loss that goes by and every
alleged near melee in the locker room inches Howard away from Los Angeles and
closer to Dallas, Brooklyn or Atlanta.
Howard said before the season he'd wait until after the season to discuss a
contract extension. You can read between the lines that he wanted to see how
the Los Angeles experiment went before committing.
And it doesn't take a scientist to figure out this is not working.
So, can the Lakers move Howard? Sure, they could. L.A. could send him to
Atlanta for his best friend Josh Smith and another piece like Kyle Korver.
Would that help? Probably, but it would be a pretty large admission of
Gasol could be traded and his psyche is fragile. You could get a more athletic
big man for him for sure, but his contract ($38 million over this season and
next) is a big anchor.
The best course is to stay the course. There's entirely too much talent,
veteran talent, for this to be the Titanic. The reality of catching the
Clippers or Golden State Warriors is dwindling, but the playoffs aren't out of
reach. Would the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder want to see the
Lakers in the first round?
Bryant would answer that with a "(expletive) no!"
This season has been tumultuous to say the least. It's only 33 games deep.
It's been a horrendous 33 games, but D'Antoni has to get a leash on this thing
Falling five or six under .500 might make things hairy for a playoff bid. The
schedule is not great coming up. They visit the Houston Rockets and San
Antonio Spurs, then host the Thunder and Miami on the horizon.
The onus might not fall on D'Antonio anymore. Bryant needs to get this group
together. Insulting Howard is not the way to do it. Genuine leadership is
needed now. If it doesn't come from Bryant, then Nash may have to assume the
role, but someone needs to get this in order, stat.
There's too much talent to waste on selfishness and childishness.
- The Royce White saga is getting worse. He has been suspended by the Houston
Rockets and it's starting to get a feel that he may not ever play in the NBA.
- P.J. Carlesimo has gotten a lot out of the Brooklyn Nets since he assumed
head coach duties. The Nets are 4-1 and one of those victories was an
impressive one in Oklahoma City. The other four are against Charlotte,
Cleveland, Washington and Sacramento, so let's remember that. Carlesimo has
rubbed people the wrong way with his style in the past and I doubt he's the
long-term solution, no matter what general manager Billy King says. Phil
Jackson or any immediate member of the Van Gundy family has to be at the top of
the list. With owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets can afford a high-profile
coach and he wants to make a splash.
- I still can't figure out why Carmelo Anthony isn't the MVP favorite yet. He
scored 40 against the Orlando Magic on Saturday night, but 16 came in the
fourth quarter when the Knicks were trailing by eight. That's impact
performance. LeBron James, or Kevin Durant, or Chris Paul are considered the
favorites by most, but Anthony still gets my vote.
- Kevin Love re-broke his hand and will be for a while. The Minnesota
Timberwolves are the most injured team in the NBA.
- Why won't Brandon Roy just retire already?
- Dirk Nowitzki's comments about the future of the Dallas Mavericks were
revealing. They did ditch money (especially not re-signing Tyson Chandler
after the title run of 2011) in an effort to get Deron Williams or Howard. So
far, no good. It's a fair criticism.
- Movie moment - Want the most underrated of the 2000s "Apatow" comedies? It's
"Superbad." Michael Cera and Jonah Hill are as good at high-schoolers as
anyone in recent memory, despite the fact Hill is probably 25 or so, and the
movie has at least five laugh-out-loud moments, which is actually a lot. I
defy you to watch when the liquor store gets robbed and McLovin gets hit and
not make some type of noise.
- TV moment - The single craziest show I've witnessed on television is
"Catfish" on MTV. It allows people to meet in person who've had an Internet
relationship. The one I watched was about one young lady who created a man
just to get another young lady to fall in love with him. See, the second lady,
the one in love, messed with the other's man a year or so before, so she
naturally created a human being online, just to screw with the other. Wild.
Horribly deflating for a society, but wild television.
The Sports Network