Close your eyes for a second and envision this scenario.
The girl you have been infatuated with for two years just broke up with her boyfriend and is now on the market. She’s giving you all the signs that you can hit it, flirty eye contact, playful touching, the usual.
You get her number with ease and she invites you over her apartment late night to “watch a movie”. Things are going extra smooth, you two start kissing and the clothes are coming off. You’re thinking in your head you hit the jackpot.
All of a sudden a pungent smell in the area of her anatomy that should be maintained completely throws things off, but you still aren’t deterred and you handle your business. Another problem arises however, not only does she smell like a dead fish she moves like one too so you are doing all the work.
All that two years of sweating this girl and it is nothing like how you expected it to be, it is far worse actually and incredibly unfulfilling. All you can think about on your walk of shame home is how you don’t even want to tell your boys about the disappointment and how you will do anything to block that night out of your head as fast as possible.
Open your eyes now.
This about sums up how fans of the Los Angeles Lakers feel about their team right now.
After adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash via trades to a stacked starting lineup and acquiring bench reinforcements Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, the Lakers were poised to become feared in the Western Conference again in 2012-2013.
Its exactly the halfway point in the season for the Los Angeles Lakers and it is safe to say this year hasn’t gone according to plan. Seven games under .500, an embarrassing 5-14 record on the road including losing their last six away from Staples center and 12th place in the Western Conference was not what anyone expected. If you told even the biggest Laker hater that they would be 17-24 three weeks away from the All-Star Break, they would have accused you of consuming bath salts.
The reality is these Los Angeles Lakers are flawed, very flawed. Between a collective lack of heart, problems with chemistry, horrendous coaching by Mike D’Antoni, non-existent defense, subpar bench production, injuries stunting any type of continuity and personality clashes from the players to the front office this season has been an absolute mess.
The Lakers have had a reputation for approaching games with a relaxed attitude and the arrogant attitude that they could turn it on whenever they want for a while now. In 2009 and 2010 when they were NBA Champions, they could get away with it because they were just better than everyone else.
There are some differences, Phil Jackson was the coach behind those championship teams and when the Lakers felt slightly threatened by an opponent, they would rise to the occasion and play inspired basketball. The chemistry on those championship squads was great, as players like Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher proved to be invaluable leaders and balanced out Kobe Bryant’s bad cop act by being the good cops.
Bench players Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic and Trevor Ariza all made valuable contributions at one point or another to propel those Lakers teams to victory.
Today, the Western Conference is as stacked as it has ever been. The Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and now best team in the city LA Clippers all represent legitimate championship threats. The Memphis Grizzlies are the perennial “nobody wants to play us” squad. The Golden State Warriors are the pleasant surprise of the conference and have arrived much sooner than most expected.
The Denver Nuggets after a mediocre start to their season are picking things up and are capable of beating anyone on any given night. As it stands right now, only the Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Hornets and Phoenix Suns have worse records than the Lakers.
The core problem of the Lakers in my opinion is the 2012-13 edition of the Lakeshow exhibits the same arrogant attitude they carried themselves with when they were winning championships. Only this team is not good enough to turn it on when they need to and expect to win. Awful losses lower-echelon teams such as the Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings have plagued the Lakers all season long and they have routinely been outhustled and outworked in these games.
Mike D’Antoni much to the chagrin of Laker fans was hired after Mike Brown was fired in what can only be described as a panic move after a 1-4 start to the season. His all offense, no defense reputation has reared its ugly head as it did when he was coach of the New York Knicks and since he has been hired the team has been indisputably worse, the Lakers currently rank 26th in points given up a night and routinely allow players to have career nights against them.
In addition to his defensive failures, D’Antoni has managed to alienate one of the best post players of our generation, Pau Gasol all in the name of attempting to make his system work. Gasol is in the midst of his worst season as a pro, only averaging 12.7 points and 8.3 rebounds a night on 43.2 percent shooting.
Because of D’Antoni’s blatant disregard for Gasol’s talents it is becoming increasingly likely that the four time All-Star will be moved come trade deadline time. When you have a man as skilled as Gasol setting picks at the three-point line and shooting 20 foot jumpers as a major part of his offense, something is seriously wrong.
As shameful as the Lakers have played, they are lucky to only be four games out of the final seed of the Western Conference playoff race. I was messing around with ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine earlier today and other than firing D’Antoni which is unrealistic unfortunately given the financial obligation made to him by Jim Buss, I have come up with a couple ways to fix the Lakers current roster that can keep their title window open in the tail end of Kobe Bryant’s career while building for the future.
Trade #1: Houston Rockets receive Dwight Howard and Antawn Jamison
Los Angeles Lakers receive Omer Asik, Carlos Delfino, Toney Douglas, Terrence Jones, Houston’s 2013 1st Round Draft pick
Let me just start by saying I know the Rockets are winning big time in this trade when we are talking about raw talent. Dwight Howard though he does not look 100 percent out on the court is still a dominant force. He is a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and is approaching what should be the prime of his career at the age of 27.
Having said that, I believe Howard’s care-free personality is one of the major factors currently going against the Los Angeles Lakers. Dwight’s immaturity does not mesh well with Kobe Bryant’s win at all cost mentality and when your two stars appear to be butting heads, the logical choice is to side with the one who has won championships.
Houston would be a great destination for Dwight, it is still a huge media market and this should satisfy Howard’s cravings for the limelight though not to the extent L.A. does. A Dwight Howard/James Harden/Jeremy Lin/Chandler Parsons core could make some serious damage in the West and Jamison though he is completely and utterly useless defensively would give the Rockets bench some scoring pop.
This deal while it may not sound like a good one for Laker fans makes perfect sense for Los Angeles. While Omer Asik is not the glamorous name that Dwight Howard is, he has an equally stellar reputation as a defender. Asik will also be a more willing pick and roll partner for Steve Nash than Dwight has been thus far in his tenure with the Lakers. Omer will endear himself to Kobe and the crew as a hard-working, low maintenance personality that does not demand the ball.
Carlos Delfino would be a nice bench piece for the Lakers as his rugged defense and three point shooting would be a nice fit in Mike D’Antoni’s system and Toney Douglas has resurrected himself nicely in Houston after a disastrous 2011-12 campaign with the New York Knicks. Terrence Jones is a project at this point in his career but is capable of playing both forward positions and is a good ball-handler. He would also help improve the Lakers athleticism.
I doubt this trade would ever happen as it would be an admission by the Lakers front office that the Dwight Howard trade was a failure but this is a workable deal for both squads.
Trade #2: I’m going to admit right now that this one has a lot of moving pieces (18 total) but with the trade rumors and contract situations surrounding some of these players some are bound to be moved anyway.
Los Angeles Lakers receive: Paul Millsap, Ersan Ilyasova, Devin Harris, Zaza Pachulia, Deshawn Stevenson
Utah Jazz receive: Brandon Jennings, Drew Gooden, Mike Dunleavy, Johan Petro, Jannero Pargo
Milwaukee Bucks receive: Al Jefferson, Metta World Peace, Earl Watson, Jodie Meeks
Atlanta Hawks receive: Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, Doron Lamb, Alec Burks
As much as I’d like to see Gasol retire as a Laker, the situation with Mike D’Antoni is looking more and more like it is unworkable. Sending him to Atlanta would however be a blessing for his game. Pau can play his natural center position and this will also help Al Horford as he can move to the power forward spot, Horford has played out of position his entire career with the Hawks. A Gasol, Horford and Josh Smith frontcourt is downright scary in the East.
For the Milwaukee Bucks, the Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis backcourt while explosive offensively is also not a workable situation. By acquiring Al Jefferson they get one of the premiere post players in the league. Metta World Peace immediately becomes the starting small forward for the Bucks and Beno Udrih while not a household name is a capable point guard who can fill in for Jennings.
The Utah Jazz in the deal acquire a great young talent in Brandon Jennings. They are also able to usher in the new era of bigs as Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors will both move into starting roles. Mike Dunleavy also adds to Utah’s Caucasian quota but he is still a gifted outside shooter who can help the Jazz off the bench in this deal. The Jazz continue on with a strong young nucleus that can continue to get better with the trade.
Lastly the Los Angeles Lakers do quite well for themselves in this transaction. Paul Millsap has been one of the more underrated players in the league for a long time and is the epitome of toughness which is something the Lakers lack. While he isn’t the absolute ideal fit for Mike D’Antoni’s “system”, Millsap can stretch the court and would be a nice fit with Omer Asik.
Ersan Ilyasova while having an awful season so far in Milwaukee if he does turn it on would be a picture perfect fit in coach D’Antoni’s system. Just last year, Ilyasova had a breakout season with the Bucks scoring 13.0 points and grabbing 8.8 rebounds a game while shooting better than 45 percent from deep. It is reasonable to expect Ilyasova to rebound as he is only 25 years old.
Devin Harris gives the Lakers an expiring contract but when healthy can be a dynamic scorer and would instantly upgrade a mediocre bench unit. Zaza Pachulia and Deshawn Stevenson are role players who would endear themselves to Laker fans with their toughness.
Your new LA Lakers rotation:
C: Omer Asik, Zaza Pachulia
PF: Paul Millsap, Earl Clark, Terrence Jones
SF: Ersan Ilyasova, Carlos Delfino
SG: Kobe Bryant, Deshawn Stevenson, Toney Douglas
PG: Steve Nash, Devin Harris, Darius Morris, Steve Blake
While this hypothetical Lakers team doesn’t have the star power that the current team has, they are a better fit for what Mike D’Antoni wants to run and would certainly show more effort than the lackadaisical nonsense that has plagued the Lakeshow thus far this season.
There is still time for the Lakers to rectify things but with each passing loss it is seeming more unlikely. One can dare to dream though right?