As a Los Angeles Lakers fan, it pains me to write this. But, as of January 27, the Lakers are 19-25.
Let that sink in. Arguably THE marquee team in the NBA is sitting six games under .500. They own a losing record at the halfway point. They are in 12th place in the 15 team Western Conference. And the worst part of all of this? The situation doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better.
The personnel and coaching moves have left many fans, media pundits, and even Lakers’ players, scratching their collective heads. Dr. Buss giving his son Jim more power over personnel decisions, and Phil Jackson retiring in 2011 created a vacuum that has yet to be filled. Jim Buss has made efforts to put his stamp on the team, but it’s been for naught. He botched his first attempt at hiring a coach. Then, the guy he did hire was woefully unqualified. The general manager, Mitch Kupchak, doesn’t get completely absolved of his part, but Jim overrules him.
Cheering for the Lakers is/was a family institution. My grandmother’s cousin, and by extension mine, used to play for them. As a 25+ years Lakers fan, I’ve seen the team go through ups and downs. But right now, there is a pall over the team that is hard to fathom. What makes matters worse is that nobody on the team knows where to begin making changes.
This is hard to deal with because, as a fan of the Purple & Gold, I’m used to a winning team. Even when the team has been a second tier contender, knowing it was in the championship mix was gratifying. That’s not the case anymore. Not knowing who to direct the frustration at is just as aggravating.
For all the consternation he has caused the team’s fans, directing it at Kobe is just dumb. Yes he’s the face of the team, but he’s played better the last two seasons than at any point in his career. Having traded for Dwight Howard, Kupchak could get the ire, but who honestly wouldn’t have made that trade? Signs were there that he’d be a possible issue off the court. But on it? It seemed like a no-brainer. Even Mike D’Antoni could get some blame. He wasn’t ready, nor were the players (in hindsight), for what kind of screw-up his hiring would be.
The question then becomes: “what will it take to fix the Lakers?”
Truthfully, nobody really knows. People much more intune to the inner workings of the organization than I, are at a loss. Trading Dwight may be a move, but why would a team give up what it’d take to get him when they could just sign him in the offseason? Even I, in my fandom, have said “fire D’Antoni!” The only problem is, who would replace him? Getting rid of Kupchak seems feasible. However, I’m not sure leaving Jim Buss to handle all parts of the team is wise.
The only thing that could turn all the frustration the fans, and I’m reasonably sure the players, feel around is a Lakers’ championship. Yet, that goal, at least for this season, doesn’t seem feasible. Unfortunately, the team positioning itself to get back on track to the playoffs doesn’t either. If the organization doesn’t find a direction soon, this could become a regular occurrence. And who would the Lakers be if that happens? The Clippers.
That’s a fate even the biggest Laker hater doesn’t want.