Only in a crazy world would a win on the road create turmoil. Only in a crazy world would a 40+ point night cause foaming at the mouth. Only in a crazy world would shooting 54% create pandemonium. But such is the elegy that is the Lakers collective. They hate winning. So they hated what happened last night. They hate losing. So they hated what happened last night. It’s a crazy world.
As for the game itself, it was another contest in Utah distinguished only by the large contingent of Lakers fans who made the trip. It is no surprise why the Lakers are 3rd in the NBA in road attendance, behind Oklahoma City and Miami. Their fans love to fill up road arenas. As for the game it was a predictable first quarter. The Lakers not interested, D’antoni lifeless. And then the earth shifted. The second quarter started and gone was the sluggishness. In its place was the emotionally charged, effervescent and boyish scoring habits of Nick Young. He turned a twelve point deficit into a half time lead of six. And then in the fourth quarter the Lakers, as a team, did what they rarely have done all year. They made shots. They passed the ball. They rebounded. They guarded people. It was clear in the first few minutes of the quarter that they wanted to win the game. Pleasure reeked out of their pores. They were happy. And yet fans who say they love this team and love this organization and hate this year in which losing has become the constant were angry. Losing probably cost the Lakers a shot at Jabari Parker or Dante Exum. Now they are in Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon country. And the fans? To quote a line from the movie The Best Man: It’s karma baby.
You don’t root for losing. Ever.
Of course Mike D’antoni was clueless about the whole thing. He did not know that a Lakers loss would keep them in the 6th slot in the lottery. All it shows is that D’antoni has checked out on this season. No surprise there. Watch him post game. His eyes are glazed over, his voice is detached, he has the look of someone who has been given an execution date. All he is waiting for is his last meal. Why would he care about the Lakers lottery position? It is not going to be a team he coaches. Because this is the thing. The top players, Wiggins, Exum, Embiid, Parker, none of them are D’antoni system guys, three point shooters and nothing else. The free agents, Lebron James, Chris Bosh, Gordon Hawyard, Evan Turner, Luol Deng, none of them are D’antoni system guys, three point shooters and nothing else. It is fair to say that D’antoni’s system had its day but like flowers in winter its day is gone. His system did not grow up, it stayed a child. Sure every team uses a part of D’antoni’s offense but they have adapted it to the current skill set of the players involved. D’antoni refuses to adapt. D’antoni refuses to teach defense. D’antoni refuses to reward scoring in the post. D’antoni refuses to make players accountable. D’antoni refuses to look past this year and to consider the lottery and to look at who may be coming in next year. Because does it really matter to him anymore?
The funny thing about the fan reaction is that it is based upon romance. It’s like a blind date. You hope and pray this is the one. Your soulmate. But often blind dates are disasters. A lottery pick is an outlier. In the last five years there have been 70 lottery picks. 70. Only 3 have won a first round playoff series (Paul George, Blake Griffin, James Harden). Only 7 have been All Stars (Damien Lillard, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Steph Curry, DeMar Derozan). Basically what that means is that teams have a 90% chance of their lottery pick being average, like Gerald Henderson, or a bust like Johnny Flynn who is no longer in the NBA. Note to fans: live in reality.
The Lakers players don’t care about the lottery. They don’t. They care about getting jobs next year. They care about their families. There is anxiety in the unknown- no one, I repeat, no one knows what is going to happen this summer. I did find it funny though how the day before Jordan Farmar said if he was Mitch Kupchak, he would sign him (Jordan) for next year. And then he went to Utah and only made one shot and missed five. And with the exception of one ankle breaking play looked terrible. He missed at the rim, he missed midrange, he missed his threes. That is Lakers basketball 2013-14. But the rest of the team was not impressed with Jordan’s inefficiency. Something happened halfway through the second quarter. Nick Young got hot. Jordan Hill couldn’t miss. Wesley Johnson actually scored.
Utah is particularly pathetic. If you look at the matchups on paper Utah wins every one. Trey Burke (lottery pick) is better than anyone the Lakers have at point guard. Gordon Hayward (lottery pick) will get paid this summer. Derrick Favors (lottery pick) and Enes Kantor (lottery pick) are big bodies in the paint that can exert their will. All those lottery picks and they have won one less game than the Lakers. That sums it up. That is the moral to the story. And this too. Losing is antithetical to passion. You just don’t care anymore. That was the Utah Jazz last not. But in a surprise that was not the Los Angeles Lakers.
After the game, Tyron Corbin admitted what all Lakers fans know. You can’t win when you don’t play hard. There has to be effort. Of course, I expected a loss. But when I saw Nick Young get hot I rooted for him to get 50. He deserves it. He has had both a good year and a rotten year. This will probably be our last close up look at Swaggy P. With all of his offensive and defensive faults he is a commodity that has value in this league. I rooted for Jordan Hill to get 40. Jordan Hill has had to overcome so much in his personal life and in his professional life and in this season. He got a raw deal with D’antoni. He won’t be a Laker next year, a team like Atlanta will give him money to be their guy off the bench. He will have a coach next year who believes in him and trusts him.
It’s science. Our memory works in fragmented sections. We remember what we see last. It stays locked like a key jammed in a door. That is true. So what I will remember was last night in Utah and Swaggy P, and Jordan Hill and Kendall Marshall’s 15 assists. I will remember D’antoni being clueless as usual but lucking in to a win. But more than anything I will remember the Lakers players afterwards. How happy they were. After this terrible year in their careers they deserved a game like last night.