Christmas Wish List: Lakers Edition
Posted by hiphopmama on December 24, 2008
In honor of the holiday season, I’d like to present my petition to Santa Claus to help the Lakers regain their early season form. Feel free to let me know all the glaring omissions I made, because the Lakers have plenty to wish for at this point.
Dear Mr. Claus,
I know you’re a busy man, especially this time of year, and I also know that your schedule is tied up bestowing riches upon the Boston Celtics, but if you could find it in your heart to throw a little love in the direction of a humble Lakers fan it would be much appreciated. I’m not asking for anything on the order of a miracle on 34th Street, although a transformation at Staples Center is certainly welcome. As you are probably aware, avid sports fan that you are, the Los Angeles Lakers have been struggling of late and I feel you are the team’s only hope to find its motivation and reemerge as a powerhouse. I know what you’re thinking: The Lakers? You mean the team that bombed out of the finals less than a year ago to their hated rivals? They need extra motivation? Sadly,sir, that is indeed the case, as they are stumbling through games of late and finding it hard to beat teams like the Knicks and Grizzlies. They were even smacked around and defeated by the lowly Kings and required an all-out effort to beat them on two other occasions.
I could go on, but suffice it to say that their 23-5 record doesn’t hint at the wayward tendencies eating away at the team’s soul. In true Christmas spirit, though, I know you will find it in your heart to award us at least a few of these requests, all modest in nature and exceedingly doable for a team as talented as the Lakers. Please take them into consideration when making your yearly rounds, and please also disregard the histrionics by Phil Jackson, Andrew Bynum, Sasha Vujacic, Derek Fisher (I apologize for all those T’s), and so many others on the team when making your way through the naughty list. They are just misunderstood and will one day be recognized for the emotional pioneers that they are. Thank you for your time.
- Effective defense on the screen-roll. I could be greedy and ask for an all-around revamped defense, but I promised not to beg for a miracle. Perhaps you know the answer to this eternal mystery, but the Lakers have never been able to defend this particular play under Phil Jackson, even during the championship years, and it continues to hurt the team, especially against teams with a big man who can shoot from distance. Which leads me to my next request.
- Better full court presence by all in guarding the perimeter. Andrew Bynum is not one of the current crop of Euro big men. He is over seven feet tall and plays like it, which is a considerable virtue these days, with his post presence making the defense collapse around him. The only problem, though, is that he isn’t comfortable following out adventurous big men like Rasho Nesterovic, Brad Miller, and Rasheed Wallace, resulting in open shots for all and a scramble on defense when he does follow them to the perimeter. It’s not his fault alone, as none of our front court players – or our back court players, for that matter – has been particularly effective at stopping the three, but he is a key part of the puzzle and part of the current strategy against us to pull our big men out of the lane to free up space. A little extra effort on his part wouldn’t hurt, either. The rest of the team is equally at fault, though, particularly for failing to put any kind of stop to penetration by speedy point guards. When the D collapses around them, the three is wide open from just about any position and begging to be exploited. Front and back court both need to take it up a notch.
- Two words: fewer turnovers. The TOs have slowed down since their peak a couple weeks ago, but they still show up far too often for a team of this caliber. The Lakers don’t need to be so adventurous; their regular old meat-and-potatoes approach is effective enough to get the team to 100+ points without forcing the ball in areas where it doesn’t belong. Recognizing when they don’t have numbers on the break would go a long way toward solving the turnover problem as well.
- A more disciplined overall approach. If Phil Jackson is the quality coach we’ve been led to believe, he should be able to whip his boys into better shape than they’re currently in. I know he prefers a hands-off approach to most issues, but someone needs to crack the whip and make guys pay the price in terms of playing time when they gamble too much on defense or behave carelessly with the ball. I’m all for the free-flowing game they’ve been playing, but resorting to the triangle offense to settle things down is nothing to be ashamed of and players who can run it should work their way into the rotation.
- A level of intensity expected of a championship caliber team that suffered an unceremonious exit from the biggest stage just a season ago. This is the most glaring absence from the Lakers’ game this year, and it’s completely bizarre to me. Aside from those first seven games and a few good stretches elsewhere, they have yet to act like they’re as upset by last year’s events as Sasha’s no-green clothing policy would seem to indicate. It’s understandable that you might have let-downs now and then when your ultimate goal is a championship, but it shouldn’t turn into an all-consuming malaise in which everyone acts like Shaq, only really showing up in the post-season. The lack of fire is especially apparent when you compare this team to the Celtics, who are blazing up the Eastern Conference in pursuit of one of the best records in NBA history. They are clearly intent upon repeating, while the Lakers appear intent upon slinking their way toward an underachieving season, devoid of that priceless hardware. I don’t care if it requires Rick Fox rising from the grave to punch Doug Christie behind the stands again, it just needs to happen. Wait, what’s that? You say he’s still alive? Damn…
So that’s it, Santa. Five very reasonable requests that would absolutely make my year. I haven’t asked for much since the team self-destructed following Shaq’s and Phil’s departures, but I am determined that they live up to the mantra of greatness they have gladly taken up for themselves and not waste any more opportunities. I hear that they have recently gotten together to sort out these matters themselves – particularly the defensive issues – and I take that as a sign that you are indeed in my corner on this one. I wouldn’t dare ask you for a title or even a win on Christmas day – that would be highly presumptuous and would border on Belichick levels of self-importance – but I trust you will see the reasonableness of my requests and the humility with which I present them. May all your Christmases be white, purple, and yellow.