Several troubling comments by players to the media led to media members relegated to over hearing a meeting in which the Lakers addressed all of the chatter. Nash started by trying to bring the team together. Kobe asked Dwight if he was unhappy playing with him. Mike D pleaded for better defense. The air now cleared, the squad could get back to playing ball.
None of it really helped.
In a season even Shakespeare might wonder at how upside down the standings look, the Lakers produced another lackluster performance that will continue their craned neck perspective towards the 8th seed of the playoffs. Amazingly, they are still only four games out, but the gap seems contextually insurmountable considering recent play. The usual suspects, offensive rebounding, injuries, and a mid-game scoring meltdown, led to the 7th straight demise of the Lakers on the road, 106-91. Not pictured here: defense and turnovers, which, despite the score, the Lakers played and kept relatively under control at 15. The last time the Lakers strung together play this poorly away from LA, they missed the playoffs, which is what they are poised to do merely halfway into the season.
LA jumped out to an 8-3 lead as Kobe found his wayward shot. The Grizz roared right back as quick fouls on the Memphis frontcourt rang the buzzer for Darrell Arthur off of the short bench due to an almost cleared trade with the Cavs. He responded with a sick 20-point and 9 rebound effort, ripping down 4 of the team’s game leading 16 2nd chances. His consistent impact proved devastating each time the Lakers repeatedly tried to climb back into the game. His first four points tied the game at 11. As they got within 8 with 3 minutes to go in the 3rd, Arthur scored 6 straight to maintain a double-digit lead into the final 12 minutes. In the 4th, he added four more rebounds and eight points, including a slam-dunk to stretch the lead to 19 with 3 minutes left, as Arthur shut the door on the Lakers for the night. Although the former Jayhawks’ inspired play shined a light once again on the deficient bench play of LA, yet another scary moment for also Dwight paved the way.
While challenging a jumper late in the 2nd quarter, Dwight held his right arm close to his side. After fighting through a screen in the paint, Dwight re-aggravated the labrum injury that sidelined him for two games. Although he will be reevaluated tomorrow to gauge his status for Friday’s matchup against the 7th seed Utah Jazz, Dwight did not provide the intensity and spark he assured. 0-4 from the field and only 2 points on FTs, along with 2 boards and a block, did very little to support his claims regarding the start of yet another new season within the season. Without Dwight, the Lakers got pounded on the glass, 52-34, and the floodgates opened in the lane as the Grizz almost doubled up the Lakers in PITP (Points In The Paint), 60-34. The 23 extra shot attempts earned by Memphis’ hustle and grit led to many of those dunks and layups in the lane.
Yet, no Dwight marked a perfect opportunity for Pau to extend his minutes upon his return to the 2nd unit, but with Kobe going the Lakers lone big remained on the perimeter. Even with the frontcourt foul trouble of the Grizz, the Lakers turned Kobe voyeur once more as he cooled after opening 10-13, notching 29 points on 11-23 shooting. To Kobe’s credit, he took advantage of the open lanes and continued to attack, only shooting 1 three. But, the mid 2nd quarter draught after a 30-30 tie and timeout, a Memphis run of 20-5, left the Lakers down 50-35 and deep in another hole that they couldn’t quite dig out of. Metta and Earl played well on defense and chipped in 15 and 11 a piece. Nash looked ragged as he chased the wrong triple-double with 7 points, 8 assists, and 6 turnovers. Pau only managed 13 in 30 minutes on 4-10 shooting.
Swirling trade talk about Dwight will nevertheless calm since his shoulder is in question. Pau seesawing back and forth to the pine doesn’t necessarily hurt his value, but similar numbers by the brother he was “unfairly” traded for surely doesn’t help. Would a team be willing to take Steve Nash on as his skills meander through the Pringles system? Is it plausible to fire a second coach and crawl back to Phil wondering just how much team ownership it would take to lure him back?
Indeed, the talk around the Lakers camp should concentrate on their play, players, or upcoming opponents. However, the expectations skyrocketed upon the initial announcement of the starting five. They have not played in the neighborhood of their potential as of late. Thus, a dramatic change seems destined to occur. The only question is will the move turn the season right side up, or send it spinning even further out of control.