I’m hoping, along with the rest of Los Angeles, there won’t be a second edition to this article. Unfortunately, however, all signs point to the contrary.
The Clippers have been playing mediocre basketball at best, which regrettably has been some of the best ball in the city as of late. The fans at Staples Center haven’t seen much better from their Lakers either, sporting a 7-8 record following an agonizing performance against the Pacers. Things better start changing before the fans start calling for Phil to take over and possibly D’Antoni’s head. But lets leave that topic for a later date.
With the NBA teams in Los Angeles providing such low results, it would only be fitting that the UCLA basketball team follows the trend. The start of the season has been a rollercoaster ride consisting of mostly inconsistent play sprinkled with some glimpses of brilliance by the new freshman class led by Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad. After an embarrassing loss to Cal Poly, the Bruins bounced back with a blowout win over Cal State Northridge Thursday night. I’m not trying to take anything away from the win, but this is what’s expected when we’re talking about UCLA, a team with 44 tournament appearances and 18 Final Fours. Their first big test comes this Saturday against #23 San Diego State in the John Wooden Classic.
Riddled with McDonald’s All Americans, this year’s roster is nothing out of the ordinary. Anything less than a title run would be considered a disappointment. Although early, the team hasn’t found a way to gel just yet. Now I know with a team this young that maturity and chemistry aren’t just going to be there, but come on. Up by 18 and still losing to Cal Poly, a team from the Big West that has never made it to the dance. It just shouldn’t happen.
To make matters worse, the Bruin’s released center Joshua Smith due to personal reasons before Thursday’s win. This is the second player this week, the first being Tyler Lamb, who was released after he told the staff his plans to transfer.
Lamb was second on the team in three-pointers last year and Smith is a big presence in the paint. Along with the experience and leadership lost, the team is left with only eight players on scholarship at the moment. Depth is clearly an added concern. There’s a lot of pressure on coach Ben Howland and the star freshmen to play UCLA caliber ball and now, more then ever, they are on the hot seat to step up the intensity for the Bruin faithful.
Maybe its time to give John Calipari a call, he seems to have mastered the system of using the young freshmen to their full potential. (Not really serious, but lets go Howland. You’ve been given, debatably, one of the best players in the nation in Muhammad. When Tony Parker finally starts playing up to par, that’s four top fifty freshmen in the lineup.)
No matter what Howland decides, he needs to figure things out, and fast. He has just the right amount of pieces, but its up to him to put the puzzle together. Maybe this is premature and when it’s all over it will be another championship banner to add to the rafters. But the season, like these young Bruins, is just beginning, and all we can do is watch and take things one game at a time.