For the past two seasons, the annual “Grammy Road Trip” the Los Angeles Lakers embark on has been viewed as a tragedy before it even approaches.
In 2012-13, it’s well documented that the team wasn’t playing together in unison, and Mike D’Antoni was still adjusting, or trying to adjust his players to fit his system.
Nonetheless, the Lakers finished their seven-game road trip that began Feb. 1 with a 4-3 record. This season, the trip begins on Jan. 15, just days away. Before they hit the road for six Eastern Conference meetings and one Western Conference matchup, they have the
pleasuring hard task of taking on a Los Angeles Clippers team on Jan. 10 with their roster severely depleted.
On Wednesday evening, the Lakers racked up their ninth loss in the last 10 games, something that didn’t seem very plausible when this team began the year 13-13, mildly exceeding expectations many had. The Houston Rockets delivered a strong punch to Los Angeles last night, holding on to a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter despite Mike D’Antoni reverting to the “Hack-a-Howard” technique. James Harden lit up the scoreboard in the third quarter, scoring 17 of his 38 points, and outscoring the Lakers 33-15 in the period. After leading 57-52 at halftime, Los Angeles didn’t play well on either end of the floor to open the second half. Nick Young was the player of the game for the Lakers, scoring 25 points for the fifth time this season, on an efficient 10-of-20 shooting. In fact, Young has scored 20 or more points in 12 games this season, a feat that “Swaggy P” probably envisioned knowing Kobe Bryant would be missing some significant time.
Mike D’Antoni may be the coach, but this Lakers’ team needs to take some advice from the man who should’ve been the coach of this historic franchise, Phil Jackson. In Jackson’s book titled Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, the decorated champion explains that perhaps the most important element of being a professional basketball player is to live in the moment of “now,” rather than in the past or future. This young group of guys (without Bryant, Steve Nash, Xavier Henry, Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake), cannot dwell on the slump they have found themselves in. They must have, as Jackson would say, “no short term memory.” In order to survive the stretch they are about to encounter is going to require them to focus on one opponent at a time, and to forget the fact that the Utah Jazz have nearly caught them in the standings.
This begins with the Clippers on Friday. Without Chris Paul in the mix for Doc Rivers and company, it’s up to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to exploit the weaknesses the Lakers have proven to occupy; points off the fast break and interior defense. In the first meeting between these two cross-town rivals, it became a 3-point shootout for the Lakers and Xavier Henry’s coming out party. Consider this a much different ballgame approaching, with Henry’s re-evaluation day (bone bruise on knee) being pushed back until Monday or Tuesday of next week.
After the Lakers get their first look at the Clippers’ self portraits covering up the championship banners in Staples, there is only one matchup standing between their Grammy Road Trip. That game, Jan. 14 vs. Cleveland on the Lakers’ home floor, cannot be another decimating loss considering what’s ahead.
Lakers 2013-14 Grammy Road Trip:
- Wednesday, Jan. 15 at Phoenix Suns (21-13)
- Friday, Jan. 17 at Boston Celtics (13-23)
- Sunday, Jan. 19 at Toronto Raptors (17-17)
- Monday, Jan. 20 at Chicago Bulls (15-18)
- Thursday, Jan. 23 at Miami Heat (27-8)
- Friday, Jan. 24 at Orlando Magic (10-25)
- Sunday, Jan. 26 at New York Knicks (12-22)
Many would ponder whether a few of these games would be easy tasks for the Lakers to handle. But the truth is, nothing is easy for team that loses a key talent each week. Even before traveling to Houston on Wednesday, Nick Young told team doctors that he was experiencing a sore back. Granted he did play and certainly did his share of work, it just proves how weakened this depth chart has become.
The Lakers waived forward Shawne Williams on Tuesday, ahead of the deadline which would guarantee his full salary for the season.
While Kobe Bryant did partake in a mini shootaround earlier this week to try to keep his shot in rhythm, he has publicly acknowledged the fact that he has been very limited on what he can do while he gives his lateral tibial plateau time to heal completely. From what we heard Bryant discuss to the media on Sunday, it’s definitely not looking as if he will be back on the court during the long seven game road trip.
In totality of the organization, who would have thought that, at the end of January, we would likely see the NBA’s most storied franchise 15th in the Western Conference? I’m definitely not raising my hand to that. Is there any more play-making fire in the spirit of Kendall Marshall (46 assists in four games)? Do the Lakers actually decide to make a gamble on Andrew Bynum, returning the center back to his NBA roots?
Whatever it is we are about to see in the next two weeks, the only thing guaranteed is that my preseason win total projection for these Lakers has gone out the window. Along with the health of half of this roster.