Game 58 Preview: Lakers vs. Grizzlies


Feb 25, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Paul Gasol (16) is guarded by Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Los Angeles 118-98. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps this is the storm. Perhaps this is what catastrophe looks like when players turn on each other and then on the coach. Perhaps this is a latent form of amnesia whereas you believe your behavior and your whining occurs in a bubble, absent of social media and ESPN. But this is the truth: everyone is watching as you fall, including the man who put the team together. He conveniently has thirty five million dollars to spend in July. No point in trying to impress him now after the ship is wrecked. Pau Gasol spoke about the team having a lack discipline and I assume he was speaking of himself first and how he was outhustled and pushed around like he was a feather against the Pacers. And then Jordan Farmar chimed in about no one knowing their roles anymore. Really, there is something comical about a team who has won 19 games in four months having a sense of outrage now. Being barbarians at the gate. They have not competed all season. They have not rebounded all season. They have not moved the ball all season; consistently the ball stays on one side of the floor. It’s obvious why the Lakers are an easy team to defend. The operatic complaining every since Steve Blake was traded has reached epic levels and as such the individual and collective game of the Lakers, what is left of it anyway, is a dissolving mystery.

If you buy the argument that Steve Blake was the heart and soul of the Lakers and his trade has caused them to become unglued remember this: the Lakers traded Derek Fisher for Ramon Session. Fisher was their inspirational leader. They traded Lamar Odom for a trade exception. Odom was their empathic leader. No one fell apart in either case; the players were professional. And so you have to ask yourself, all this drama because Kent Bazemore and Marshon Brooks are on the team and have the “gall” to want to play hard, take shots, play as if their career matters? Or perhaps it is what happens when laziness meets effort; laziness tries to protect its own interests. The Lakers are a ‘less is more’ team. Bazemore and Brooks are ‘more is more’ players. It was bound to hit the fan.

Bazemore is starting from now on. Get used to it. But it alters the dynamic. Wesley Johnson is the power forward but he is not tough enough or strong enough. That means Pau Gasol has to do more when he can barely do what he is supposed to do and he gets frustrated. Kent Bazemore is not a small forward but his versatility and his desire is the best thing about the Lakers these past four games. His offensive talent bails him out and all he is doing is playing a feedom shooter game. Jodie Meeks role has not changed so he is happy. The rest of the team cannot get out of their own way. Simply, they are just as bad as they were before the trade except now their feelings are bruised and they are complaining about D’antoni even as D’antoni has not changed.

Of course he is the coach and he has a mess on his hands. Now he has to prepare his team for Memphis. Bazemore is his new crush. Playing him regardless of what everyone else thinks is his silent message to the rest of the team: get over yourselves, he’s better than all of you. So now they are in Memphis and D’antoni has to do something to hold them together. Or not. He may have given up too. He may be fantasizing about the next job, if there is one. (There always is with D’antoni.)

In the here and now this is what the Lakers are facing. They are a team that refuses to compete in the paint. Their opponents, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, rebound the ball as if they won’t get paid if rebounds land in the other teams hands. If D’antoni starts Wesley against Zach then there it is, he has quit too, just like most of his players. The Grizzlies are a defensive team and the Lakers offense is awful. They don’t make open shots so contested shots are going to be wildly ineffective. Consider last night, they were outrebound by 20 by David West and Roy Hibbert. There is no reason a repeat performance will not ensue. On the perimeter Mike Conley is a deceptive point guard. He does not explode like Russell Westbrook or John Wall but he makes the Grizzlies go. Kendall Marshall and Farmar are going to have trouble staying in front of him. As for the rest of the Grizzlies team, on offense it is hit or miss. Sometimes they are good, sometimes they aren’t and it doesn’t matter because they want to stop teams from scoring, they take pride in it. Sigh. D’antoni are you listening?

Memphis is a house of injury horrors and psychological horrors for the Lakers. Andrew Bynum repeatedly  injured his knee nearly every time he played in Memphis. Kobe’s latest injury was in Memphis. Pau Gasol never plays well against his brother and his brother is the better player now by far. His brother is arguably the best center in the Western Conference. Sorry, Dwight. Because Memphis does not have a dynamic perimeter scorer the game should be close until the end, until Zach and Marc pull down every rebound and move the ball and take good shots, then the game will be over but rest assured the whining and complaining won’t be.