High hopes lead to crushed dreams; that is what I have learned over the past year from sports. From the Philadelphia Eagles talking about being a dynasty last season to the Los Angeles Lakers have championship dreams, nothing good comes out of bragging about a team that has never played together. Just because one team looks good on paper doesn’t mean they will perform well together. The Miami Heat struggled at the beginning of the their first season together. Yes, they are an amazing team, but it took time. By now people should realize they shouldn’t make declarations about their team being fantastic until said team has actually proven they are good.
Let’s start from the beginning. On July 5, 2012 Steve Nash signs with the Lakers. I guess you could say that started it all. The Lakers had finally gotten a capable point guard for the first time in years, the only question was how he would play with Kobe Bryant. The next ball to drop was Antawn Jamison, who signed with the Lakers on July 25. The Lakers seemed to only need a legitimate three point shooter after that. The Lakers did just that; they signed Jodie Meeks. Oh yeah, the Lakers traded for some guy by the name of Dwight Howard days before signing Meeks.
On August 10, the Lakers, and the fans, were sent into pandemonium. Andrew Bynum, Christian Eyenga, and Josh McRoberts were being shipped out of LA for Dwight Howard, Chris Duhon, and Earl Clark. The “Dwightmare” was finally over, and Laker fans were happy. With a core of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard, no one thought anything could go wrong.
The Lakers first game of the season went about as I had expected. They showed flashes of a good team, but you could tell the chemistry just wasn’t there yet. Yes, the Lakers lost, but the Heat started their first season off bad, so there was hope.
It all went downhill from there.
After starting 1-4, the Lakers fired their head coach, Mike Brown. I was really caught off guard by this. Yes, the Lakers were struggling, but it wasn’t surprising. Dwight Howard wasn’t in game shape at all due to his back, they had no chemistry, like I mentioned earlier, and it was only the beginning of the season; there was no reason to panic so early. So what if the fans wanted Coach Brown gone? They like to think they know more than front offices do, but they don’t. The Princeton offense wasn’t a good idea, but I think Coach Brown was smart enough to realize it wouldn’t work in due time. He just needed to see a healthy Laker team try it out before he could change his mind; however, he never had that opportunity.
After the firing, the Lakers went 3-1 with Bernie Bickerstaff as the interim head coach. The Lakers had a new coach within a couple days. The former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks head coach, Mike D’Antoni, was bringing his run-and-gun style of play to Los Angeles. There was a big debate around the basketball world over the hiring D’Antoni. Many people thought Phil Jackson should have been the new coach, but that didn’t happen and Laker fans needed to get over that.
It wouldn’t have mattered who the Lakers hired as their head coach because the team just started getting decimated by injuries. I’m not a big D’Antoni fan, but he helped lead a team that was absolutely crushed by injuries to the playoffs.
Meanwhile, during the coaching search Steve Blake suffered a pulled abdomen that sidelined him for about for about two and a half months. Less then a month later, Pau Gasol had knee tendinitis that kept him off the court for two weeks. And just under two weeks after Gasol was plagued by knee tendinitis, Jordan Hill. He joined Gasol and Blake on the bench for a week. All of these injuries went right along with Nash’s. What was originally thought to be a bruised shin turned out to be a small fracture in his left leg. Nash was able to come back right around the same time Gasol did.
The Lakers had a 13-14 record through December 22 (the day Nash came back) somehow. I’m not really sure you could have asked for more at that point.
The Lakers played awful to start off the new year. During the month of January, the Lakers had a record of 5-11; that’s not exactly what you want when you’re fighting to stay above .500. Dwight Howard was fighting through torn shoulder labrum, Gasol suffered a concussion, and Jordan Hill needed to have season-ending hip surgery. Even though they were losing, the end of the month was really fun. Kobe had taken on a pass-first style of play. Along with his scoring, Kobe had turned into a triple-double threat every night.
February brought more injuries. Howard re-injured the labrum in his shoulder and Gasol was going to be out for the next month and a half due to a tear in his plantar fascia of his right foot. Through the injuries, the Lakers were about to get to one game under .500. With no other injuries after Gasol’s, I think we can say February was a successful month for the Lakers.
March was pretty much the same story; injuries and mediocre play. Kobe was struggling with ankle sprains, but he was still in that pass-first mentality. Gasol was able to come back at the end of the month, but Jamison had a sprained right wrist and Metta World Peace needed surgery for a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee. It seemed like one Laker would recover from an injury, but two more would get hurt. I can’t say I wasn’t frustrated. However, with a record of 38-36, the Lakers were right in the playoff hunt.
And now to April — the final stretch. With eight games left, the Lakers needed to win at least five games to have a shot at making the playoffs. Every game left was a must-win and they would all be difficult. To make matters worse, Nash was out for the remained of the regular season with a strained hamstring. With eight games left to make the playoffs, the Lakers would have to beat: Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, and Houston Rockets. That was some stiff competition, to say the least.
The Mavericks were still fighting to make the playoffs, but with a win, the Lakers could knock them out of the hunt. Win might putting it nicely. A 20 point blowout allowed the Lake Show to keep their playoff hopes alive. The next game, against the Grizzlies, was a low scoring affair. An 86-84 win led by Kobe and Gasol put the Lakers one game close to the playoffs. The next three games went as expected: two wins and one loss. The next game was against the Golden State Warriors, a game I will never forget.
Three games left — all against playoff teams. The sixth seeded Warriors were up next. Stephen Curry was absolutely crushing the Lakers; he had 22 points in the first quarter alone. The game was a battle all the way to the end. In the fourth quarter the unthinkable happened. Kobe Bryant, the warrior, was down in pain and he wasn’t getting up. He tore his achilles tendon. The Lakers won the game thanks to Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. They were alive.
After hearing the news about Kobe, I may or may not have been close to tears. My favorite player, the one who brought me to love basketball was out for who knows how long. It was a blow, that was for sure. The playoffs seemed so far away at that point.
Two games left, two games won. I don’t know how the Lakers were able to pull of wins against the Spurs and Rockets without Kobe. Maybe it was because they had a reason to win, maybe it was because the Spurs wanted to play the Lakers and the Rockets wanted to play the Thunder, I don’t know. What I do know is that the Lakers were the seventh seed in the playoffs.
The playoffs. There’s only one word I can say about the series against the Spurs: injuries. The Lakers were no match for the superior Spurs. With no Kobe Bryant and a rusty Steve Nash, the Spurs were able to take the first two games with ease. It couldn’t get worse, right? Wrong. Jodie Meeks, Steve Nash, and Steve Blake all got hurt. Having a starting lineup of Andrew Goudelock, Darius Morris, Earl Clark, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard was not playoff caliber, to say the least. Add Dwight Howard getting ejected in Game 4 and you have a sweep. There really isn’t much else to say.
Yes, this Lakers season was disappointing, but Laker fans should take something out of this season: we can’t always be good. Every team has a bad season, this just happened to be ours.
I really have no idea what will happen this off season. I do think Howard stays and Kobe doesn’t get amnestied, but who knows what will happen to Gasol, Metta World Peace, and the rest of the Lakers. I have faith in Mitch Kupchak to do what’s best for this team. Hopefully we see the Lakers back on top sooner rather than later. Only time will tell.
Let me know what you guys think about this season in the comment section, or you can find me on Twitter @Caleb_Cottrell. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @thelakeshowlife and like our Facebook page.