Words by Phlip
It is a terrible feeling to have lost faith in one’s team, but the Lakers are dead soldiers. If Mike Brown was fired hastily for a poor start, it baffles me that Mike D’Antoni still has a job right now.As they continue to lose games in more and more embarrassing fashion, microphones are continually shoved into Kobe Bryant’s face in attempts to be the first to catch a sound bite of him Kirking out and telling them how he really feels.
The reality is deeper than “wait til Nash and Gasol are healthy and Dwight is at 100%.” The reality is that they will likely be so deep in the shit by the time that chance arrives that they may not be able to recover. 3rd in the division, 12th in the conference, 4 straight losses and 5 games under .500 with a .391 winning percentage. A 9-point loss to the Knicks that was never even THAT close. Losses to the lowly Cavaliers, Magic and Kings are inexcusable.
The reality is that Mike D’Antoni’s “just outscore the other guys and let defense figure itself out” approach to basketball has infiltrated the team in a manner that it should not have been allowed to. Recovery on changes of possession, help defense and general reactions are all TERRIBLE. It is difficult to watch a Lakers game as a fan. When Magic Johnson (!!!) is tweeting Spike Lee AT HALFTIME to apologize for suggesting that the Lakers might beat the Knicks is not only embarrassing, but insulting.
And now about those Knicks…
At 17-5, they have the second-best record in the league and have been proving that they’re worthy thus far. People are playing defense like they mean it (surprisingly) and I am inclined to believe that Jason Kidd is the difference in the locker room. They have made (and attempted) more three-pointers than anyone else in the league, and the manner and timing of their shooting barrages have made the difference in games.
The old adage is that those who live by the jumper also (or, eventually) die by it when their good fortunes eventually dry up. With the Knicks being the Knicks, I am STILL not 100% sure that these good fortunes will survive the whole of the regular season and would bet money that it won’t survive the playoffs but for the time being, they are the guys to beat and have been taking on most comers.
You know who it must be GREAT to be? The Miami Heat. No stay with me, here. They are the defending champions and became so under very dubious circumstances of collusion for which they were hated. They are a respectable 2nd place in the conference and the reigning MVP is still playing MVP ball even if his second-in-command is playing at a less-than-himself level through injuries and missed games brought on by his playing style. Through this all, for all the attention that a reigning champion should receive even when playing reasonably well, it has to be AMAZING to be completely under the radar. Look at my first few paragraphs… I talked about the Lakers and the Knicks, yet NEVER mentioned the Heat. That is about on par with the actual (paid) media who cover these things professionally. For that reason, I still have Miami pegged to repeat, and that is in spite of the fact that OKC is surging again.
And then we arrive to the Thunder…
They’re not missing James Harden anymore, and only were for a very short period of time then. They’ve risen to the top of the Western conference playing the same kind of ball that got them to the finals last year and I can imagine that it will not be terribly difficult for them to maintain that on through the season and playoffs. Their major – well, only – detractors will be the Grizzlies and Spurs in the west, both of whom they have proven they can beat. The Lakers were SUPPOSED to be in the conversation, but Phil Jackson is not interested interested in coming back to help, not this time and I don’t blame him.
There is LeBron James, and then there is everyone else. “Everyone else” consist of Kevin Durant and Kevin Love, and Kevin Love’s shooting percentages are too far down from his career averages despite his overall numbers being up. He has missed several games this season, so that is quite possible to change, but I don’t think this is his MVP year yet.
The only way that Kevin Durant will take this from LeBron is if he leads the Thunder to a #1 seed in the West, as I suspect that the media still only likes LeBron when it is beneficial to their bottom line.
Games of interest this week include the Lakers embarking on a less-harrowing schedule that includes the Wizards, 76ers and Bobcats, but they have shown us that they cannot be trusted to win games they should be winning. The Knicks will see the Cavs, Linsanity will drop by from Houston, and the Nets are coming back by. The Spurs will play the Thunder this week, which should ALWAYS be interesting and relevant, as will be games between the Heat and Timberwolves and then the Thunder and Timberwolves.
As ever, I will be here next week to discuss the goings on. Keep in mind that it is looking more like I will be doing so from the position of a non-fan. Go Niners!
Words by Phlip