It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. A road trip that began with promise ended in a lie. Better yet, the longest road trip of the year ended with the ugly truth staring the Lakers in the face. We’re more than half way through the season and the championship focus is still severely lacking.
It’s not the fact that the Lakers have dropped three in a row. It’s that this is now the third three game losing streak of the season.
It’s not the fact that they lost to the league-worst Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s that they didn’t even put forth an effort necessary to beat the Cleveland Indians in a pickup game.
The Jekyll and Hyde nature of Phil Jackson’s team was on stunning display over the course of the last week. From the heights of victory in Boston to the lows of defeat in Cleveland, the Lakers in all the glory of their schizophrenic personality took the stage once again.
Ask any man on the roster and none have answers. Phil’s responses have become shorter and shorter. Mitch Kupchak’s idle trade threats got its desired response but that only lasted for one week.
What’s left to motivate this team?
Kobe’s quest to equal Jordan in ring count isn’t enough. Phil’s desire to go out on top doesn’t seem to move his men. Ron Ron’s need to re-up his ring collection hasn’t pushed him at all.
What’s it going to take to get these Lakers interested in competing again?
In Boston we saw a glimpse of what you’d expect in Game 7 of the Finals. Then in Cleveland we saw an effort unworthy of a preseason contest. No matter the opponent, no matter the circumstances, these Lakers clock in and out as they so choose.
Explaining the Lakers has become an exercise in futility. In one week’s time they made the haters look like fools only to turn around and made fools out of their supporters. Hoops aficionados worldwide are confused. When they show up willing to give a full effort the Lakers are untouchable. When they slump in more concerned with catching a flight than playing a game they are unwatchable.
No need to ask who the real Lakers are. We know exactly who they are.
This is a team that no longer takes pride in defending its title. This is a team that has tuned out its coach if he’s even coaching anymore. This is a team that has hit rock bottom only seconds after ascending back to the top.
This is a problem and the solution doesn’t seem very obvious. If it were, we’d have heard from the team and coaching staff by now. Instead, we’re left with Andrew Bynum passing the buck, Pau Gasol shrugging, Lamar Odom rolling his eyes and Ron Artest spraying Unbreakable to cover the stench of defeat in the locker room.
A road trip that began with four wins that seemed to unite the team ended with three losses that have again separated them. Naturally all this occurs just as the unit is going their separate ways for the All-Star break. All of this should be shocking but instead it’s just depressing. A depressing reminder of just how little talent and accolades matter if you’re not putting your best foot forward every time you clock in on the job. It’s just that simple but it seems to be the most difficult task of all for these Lakers.