The 2014-15 Los Angeles Lakers have to be one of the most fun teams to watch of all time.
Normally, as a small town fan, I'm resentful of the attention that the Lakers get. But this year, I really don't mind. After countless seasons of cowering before the mighty Lakers and their unfair ability to grab great players....it's a pleasure to watch them lose.
But the Lakers are doing more than lose. They're losing in the most spectacular of fashions. I mean,the team is led by Kobe Bryant, a player that's managed to alienate just about every valuable NBA free agent. Meanwhile, he's been able to simultaneously maintain a stranglehold on the Lakers organization, using his track record and connections among season ticket holders to remain the franchises' star player. Meanwhile, on the court, Kobe remained just good enough to make it look like he can lead a team. But in fact, statistically, he is consistently leading his team down a path to ruin.
The characters surrounding Kobe make the story even more compelling. You've got Byron Scott, a coach that's been thoroughly disproven on the NBA level. Scott was fired for underachieving with Jason Kidd's New Jersey Nets, he was fired for underachieving with Chris Paul's New Orleans Hornets, and he was fired for outright bombing for the Cleveland Cavaliers for three straight seasons. In fact, the stated reason for Scott's last firing was his lack of defensive improvement. The Lakers cited his abilities as a defensive coach as one of the two primary reasons they hired him, with the other reason being Scott's relationship with Kobe. LAWL. George Karl, Lionel Hollins, and Alvin Gentry were also considered. And they went with Byron Scott.
The next biggest character in this Laker soap opera is Nick Young. Swaggy P has a notorious league wide reputation for not taking anything seriously, yet possesses the talent to force you to take him seriously. Most of the time, Swaggy P's game is like his persona: nothing but hot air. But there are occasional nights where Young's offense skyrockets to atmospheric levels, and he's able to single-handedly pull the Lakers out of a funk. Then, there's some nights where Young's chucking goes nowhere, and the Lakers with him.
Other characters include the hype brothers, Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin. Both of these players have much bigger names than their current games represent, both for separate reasons. Also, neither of them play a lick of defense. Byron Scott noticed this, recently benching them for Ed Davis and Ronnie Price. The move seemingly worked, as the Lakers have gone 3-2 since the change. But, as this article by Harrison Faigen over at Silver Screen and Roll points out, the improvement is only an illusion. Price and Davis are just as bad.
The rest of the Lakers' roster is only recognizable to die hard NBA fans. It's full of never-beens and one-trick-ponies, the literal scraps of the league's free agent pool. No one wanted to go down with Kobe's ship, and he's paying the price.
Watching Kobe slowly lose hope of a miracle playoff run with every single game is utterly fascinating. Obviously, we're all just gawking at a trainwreck here. But Kobe is the conductor, maddeningly pulling at switches and accelerating his own engine towards the cliff. And he admits as much....
Kobe: "If this was the Titanic, I'd go down with that sh*t, I'm not jumping off."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) December 8, 2014
But it gets better. Kobe isn't only still giving it his absolute all. He's expecting the same from his teammates. Unfortunately, the Lakers' roster is full of overhyped and flawed players. Even if they were playing hard, they couldn't win basketball games. So Kobe occasionally blames his teammates for his own problems. Go over to Lakers Nation and watch Kobe literally throw a hissy fit in practice, dissing other players in a blatant attempt to feel better about himself. Bryant would call it motivation, but most coaches would disagree with him.
Anyway, if you're going to tune into this Laker drama, tonight would be a great night to do it. At this point, their season is coming to a head. The Lakers are 3-1 over their past four, with their most recent loss to Indiana easily overlooked as the second night of a back to back on the road. Theoretically, the Lake Show could still make the playoffs. Were they to play .600 or .700 ball while one of the West powers stumbled, the math could be in their favor.
Of course, it doesn't really matter. There's no way the Lakers will do that. This is simply the point where things finally start crashing down. Players quit. Tempers flare. Things happen. No one can predict exactly what's going to go down tonight, but you're always guaranteed a nice dose of Kobe and Swaggy P hero ball. And a Laker loss.
Yes, even with KD possibly out, I don't think the Lakers stand a chance in heck of winning this game. They simply don't have a defensive stopper type player to hang with Durant or Westbrook. Meanwhile, complete defensive plagues like Carlos Boozer are going to get picked apart by whomever the Thunder are playing at 4. Even if the Lakers can manage to play a lick of defense, it's not like their offense can make up for it. The Lakers are 19th in the NBA in terms of three point percentage, and down at 25th when it comes to three pointers attempted. Compare this to the Thunder, who are allowing the league's lowest opponent three point percentage at 28.9%. OKC is also allowing the league's second lowest field goal percentage, at 41.8%.
In other words, the Thunder's defense thrives on an ability to force bad shots, and the Lakers are prone to taking bad shots. The only teams the Lakers will fare well against are those who like to force turnovers, and the Thunder are middle of the pack in terms of that category.
On an individual level, OKC definitely has a few stories to watch. Obviously, KD is currently listed as questionable with a sprained ankle sustained in Thursday night's game against the Warriors. Meanwhile, Reggie Jackson is seriously struggling with his shot and decision making, having not cracked double digits in 4 nights. Andre Roberson is coming straight off his first career double-double, taking advantage of Golden State's weak interior. The Lakers have an even weaker front line, so look for him to possibly repeat his performance. Adams is a threat to get some good burn too. Also, I'm expecting Perry Jones to get time over Nick Collison as the 10th man.
This should be a relatively easy win. If not, watch out for the fireworks and just avert disaster!
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 109, Los Angeles Lakers 97.
What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!
|2014-15 NBA Season Game 27|
|December 19th, 2014|
|The Staples Center, Los Angeles, California|
|9:30 PM Central Standard Time|
|TV: Entertainment Sports Programming Network, Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Time Warner Cable Sports Net|
|Injury Report: Jordan Hill (Probable), Kevin Durant (Questionable), Xavier Henry, Ryan Kelly, Julius Randle, Steve Nash, Mitch McGary (Out)|
|Last Season's Matchups: Dec 13 (W 122-97), Feb 14 (W 107-103), Mar 9 (W 114-110)|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Ronnie Price|
|Andre Roberson||SG||Kobe Bryant|
|Kevin Durant or Perry Jones III||SF||Wesley Johnson|
|Serge Ibaka||PF||Ed Davis|
|Steven Adams||C||Jordan Hill|