Granderson: This year’s Lakers motto was “I only work here”
One of the part-time jobs I had while in college was a night cashier at a 24-hour party shop. As you can imagine, it got sketchy at times. But when a gunman came into the store to rob the store, you know what your boy LZ did? Whatever the shooter said. I wasn’t paid to be a security guard either. More importantly, this party shop didn’t belong to me. I only worked there.
That’s exactly how I would describe this season for the Lakers.
When things got sketchy, at times it seemed like we just had a bunch of guys working for the Lakers. It wasn’t her team. Not the losses, not the boos, not the shortcomings.
Not that I can blame them. All but three of the current players played for another team last season and most of the newcomers are on one-year contracts. Why should they feel any different? Perhaps that explains in part why there was too little fighting after an opponent’s pounce, especially early in the second half.
And the two most embarrassing examples of it not only bookend this season, they define it.
LA has had a 230-0 record for the past 25 seasons when they led by at least 25 at some point during the game. They snapped that streak barely a week into the season, extending a 26-point lead over an Oklahoma City Thunder team that had started the year 0-4. Worst of all, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook played, so it’s not like we don’t have stars.
The second Stinger came just recently, the 23-point lead in a must-win fight against the New Orleans Pelicans in late March. This loss all but eliminated the team from playoff contention. Westbrook and LeBron James played even more alarmingly. I thought how satisfying it must have been for Pelican forward Brandon Ingram, who was often criticized for not caring in LA, to show how much he cared about his former team in such a high-level game beat.
“I was out for three weeks and to be back and win like that with all my brothers is special,” said Ingram. “It shows that we believe in each other. … When winning is the mentality, good things come to you and great things have come to us tonight.
On my earlier point, TeamRankings.com put the Lakers in 22nd place in the third quarter. In the two games I’ve pointed out, they were surpassed with a combined 82-48.
In hindsight, it was pretty foolish to expect that a team with just three returning players from a year ago — James, Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker — wouldn’t have chemistry issues. The reason they were never solved is because mercenaries don’t usually do “us” and “our”. Only “mine” and “her”.
This team went into the season with a roster full of one-year minimums. And while I understand the salary cap restrictions and the need to be flexible going forward, I also understand the difficulty of getting tourists to buy property.
On paper, the Lakers should…wait…why bother with the synopsis, right? We all know this team is now one of those paper champions we drool over at the start of the season.
“Look who they’ve got!”
“There is so much talent in this team!”
“How do you defeat them?”
And then comes the off-season.
“What went wrong?”
“Is this the biggest choke job in history (choose your team)?”
“Changes are needed!”
This veteran Lakers roster has already started the season due to the age of some of the new signings. But who would have thought James and Davis would miss the postseason entirely? And now with so many trade rumors floating around, who knows if all three Superstars will return next season? If they do, they clearly have a lot to contend with because this somber season…this is theirs. you own it
The supporting actors are another question.
When the Lakers cobbled together a roster to acquire Davis after trading so many assets, the result was a 2020 championship for a number of reasons. Health played a big part in that. But they also wanted to bring him in for Kobe Bryant, who died mid-season in January 2020. Some sought redemption or accepted a second chance. Whatever the reason, there was a sense of ownership about how the season would end.
I don’t think this team has felt like this in a long time. With the roster set to experience its fourth major overhaul in as many off-seasons, the Front Office will obviously be looking to load up with new Vet minima and new Mercenaries. Maybe with luck, health will be on our side and everything will be fine.
But I also hope that some of the current players will come back. Those who want more than just working for the Lakers. There must be some who want be lakers Those who care about how the season ends and want to come back and clean up that mess.