Everyone — writer or fan — goes through it.
The depression and embarrassment that takes you by the neck, bends gently, until it snaps. Figuratively, that’s an estimation of how it feels when you have a lifelong soft spot for one franchise …. and they do nothing but slap you in the face game after game.
Los Angeles Lakers fans of the last decade are relatively new to this experience. In the same time frame, San Antonio Spurs fans don’t have a clue what I’m referring to. Winning is all they know the meaning of, and what they’re doing is phenomenal, considering the Western Conference is at it’s peak, historically.
As for Mike D’Antoni‘s Lakers, we thought a 142-point allowance (and 48 point loss) to the city rival Clippers was the worst this organization could see this season.
Technically, yes …. but Friday evening’s performance in Minnesota topped off everything and ended the season for even the die-hards, and people that claim to capture joy out of every Lakers game, regardless of who’s on the floor.
I used to be in that category for this season, 143 points ago.
The bitter defeat to the Timberwolves, 143-107, shut the door on any excitement left for the remaining two and a half weeks of the season. Lakers fans can’t wait until April 16, when the team can walk off the court in San Antonio — you can bet your bottom dollar the prominent Spurs’ starters won’t play — heading into an offseason full of hope, and uncertainty.
Kevin Love and the Timberwolves displayed the Lakers’ lack of defensive care, concern, and willingness on Friday, as they shot a sweltering 67.1 percent on the night, and received 66 points in the paint, along with 40 trips to the charity stripe. Complete respect to Louisville product Gorgui Dieng (along with his recent success) and Rick Adelman‘s bench, but when the second unit of a non-playoff team shoots 22-of-33 (66.7 percent), you’re fully aware that these Lakers aren’t capable of stopping a snail with ankle weights.
Love, who eventually wants to be “big time in a big city,” cruised to his second career triple double, scoring 22 points, grabbing 10 boards, and dishing 10 assists in only 29 minutes. If it was a message to Lakers’ General Manager Mitch Kupchak of something such as “This is what you can have in 2015,” it was loud and clear. Against the Lakers this season (4 games), Love averaged 25.8 points and 13.3 rebounds per contest while shooting 48.4 percent from the field. Not bad against the franchise he grew up admiring.
Marshall shot 0-of-6 from the floor, including four 3-point attempts, and recorded just three assists. He and Steve Nash, who returned yet again from nerve root irritation, played 15 minutes and Marshall is still out-played by a 40-year-old that has to watch every point of contact. Marshall’s opening performances as a Laker was a stretch of beauty, knocking down the ugly-formed shot from the perimeter and setting up teammates comparable to Magic Johnson‘s first days as a Laker (yes, it’s true). However, it was solely because defenses hadn’t had a great feel for what he could do on the court. He had started just three games for the Phoenix Suns in his rookie season, with a roster that wasn’t quite as up-and-down as this group of Lakers shooters.
If you’re not ready for an afternoon barf, flip off your concentration switch for the following. In the month of March, Marshall has shot only 30 percent from the field, 30 percent from long range, 25 percent from the free throw line, and scored 5.1 points per game. It’s Phoenix all over again for the former North Carolina Tar Heel. At what point does someone point out that it’s the worst basketball he’s played his entire college and professional career? It’ll snap back to an adequate level, as he’ll likely have a new coach to work with next season. One that seems to care about all aspects of the game.
On Sunday, the Lakers host the Suns in the final game of the month, as well as the last game of the season series between the two Pacific Division rivals. Phoenix, clinging to a half game lead over Memphis and Dallas for the Western Conference seven seed, has already begun unleashing their urgency. Defeating New York by 24 point on Friday, Goran Dragic (or “The Dragon” is you live in the desert) has no mercy for the purple and gold. All he cares about is carrying Phoenix on his back to reach the Playoffs for the first time since Steve Nash was traded to Hollywood.
Finishing off March and heading to April, the Lakers would starve to death if they lived off the word “win.”
Seven of the Lakers’ nine games in April are matchups against teams in playoff position. The ones mathematically eliminated (Sacramento and Utah) also tend to look forward with meetings against Los Angeles, as it’s a always a chance for them to avoid being labeled as “the West’s worst.”
Many had a problem with the Lakers receiving 29 nationally televised games this season. It’s understandable, considering they weren’t going to be hunting a top playoff seed regardless of health. However, they would’ve generated larger crowd turnouts in arenas if Kobe Bryant had avoided the injury plague, and that accounts for something. Box office superstars draw attention in any arena they walk into, so the veteran talent surely would’ve warranted 29 games for the sports public to view.
With that said, there’s no reason to continue the humiliation with five of the nine April games being nationally televised, beginning April 1 vs. Portland.
Just when the bleeding seems to diminish to just small drips, circumstances force another overflow.
Nine teams are looking to draw blood in April, which is why now is the perfect time to hang up the season.
Good luck, Lakers.
Shane Young is an NBA credentialed writer for 8 Points, 9 Seconds and HoopsHabit.com. For all Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, or general NBA coverage, follow @YoungNBA and @HoopsHabit on Twitter. You can contact Shane via email: [email protected]