As I was shaving this morning I was listening to sports talk radio, specifically Colin Cowherd on ESPN. I was alarmed as I heard an irate caller refer to our once mighty Los Angeles Lakers as “Team Tank.” I inadvertently cut myself shaving. Ouch.
“Team Tank” suggests that the best possible outcome for the Lakers for this coming year and probably the one after is to lose as many games as possible and wind up once again in the draft lottery. As a diehard Laker fan, I had to write this before I bled to death.
I’ve been going to Laker games since 1959. I tell people my father took me in a stroller but the fact is I was in the 10th grade.
My friends and I used to hitchhike or take the bus to the Sports Arena where the Lakers played their home games. With certain promotions tickets went for as low as $1.
Once inside we immediately snuck into the floor seats that might have been $10. This is long before Jack Nicholson and courtside seats that cost $2,700.
Once, while using the bathroom on the floor level, we saw Laker Center Ray Felix sitting on the john. He was so tall his head actually rose about the stall! We hurriedly finished our business and left laughing hysterically. (After having invaded the poor guy’s privacy.)
In those days we had two future Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. No offense but now we have Jeremy Lin and Swaggy P. Over time the Lakers had the greatest centers of all-time like Mikan, Wilt, Kareem and Shaq. Now we have Robert Sacre? What happened?
For one thing, Dr. Buss died. Now his son “Jimmy” seems determined to prove his mettle except I fear he’s wrecking the franchise. Dr. Buss had class. Jimmy looks like he just got back from a swap meet.
In Cleveland, Lebron has returned. And they may be acquiring Kevin Love. The Cavs current motto could be “All you need is Love.”
But Cleveland the powerhouse of the NBA? C’mon, Cleveland was so polluted from industrial waste that in 1969 the Cuyahoga River (“crooked river” in Iroquoian) caught fire. “Time Magazine” reported, “The Cuyahoga oozes rather than flows.”
The Lakers aren’t even close to being the best team in a town they dominated for a half-century. Then again, the Clippers may be stuck with Donald Sterling who’s either nuts or senile. In court one moment he cried about “my beautiful wife” and the next he called her “a pig.”
Then there’s the subject of Kobe. Last year the man I thought was “all about rings” was more about “getting paid.” Coming off a major injury, Kobe was rewarded with a two-year $48 million contract I suppose as a “lifetime achievement award.” Whereas Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzski took 50 percent pay cuts for the benefit of their team, Kobe took a contract for double his worth. Go figure.
I know Kobe’s not obligated to turn down money and owners don’t take pay cuts. But with this contract Kobe will have made $328 million from just his playing, not counting his endorsements which are probably double that. Why couldn’t he have settled for a mere $12,000,000 per year and left room for other A-list players? (I can just imagine the emails I’m going to get for this one.)
And notice that other A-listers didn’t exactly flock to the Lakers to play with Kobe. That says something. Frankly, when one player, even as great as Kobe, hogs the ball it isn’t nearly as satisfying as team basketball as played by the San Antonio Spurs. It is, after all, a team sport. Statistically, Wilt was better than Bill Russell but the Celtics played a team game and won every time.
My friend Tom Looney, co-host of the “JT the Brick Show” on Fox Sports Radio, says I’m way overreacting. Looney, I’d gladly be patient if I thought Buss Jr. had a game plan. For example, they could have signed talented young players like Lance Stevenson and Isaiah Thomas. But instead they gave $18 million for two years to Jordan Hill who’s never played an average of more than 20 minutes a game and has exhaustion issues.
Last season was the worst in Laker franchise history and next already looks shaky. At the moment we don’t even have a coach!
The Lakers just signed the talented but oft-injured Carlos Boozer who will be 33 in November. He should blend well with the perennially-injured 40-year-old Steve Nash who played a grand total of 15 games last year and is due $10 million this year.
Yes dear readers, I confess that in my darker moments it feels like the bleeding for the Lakers will never stop. On a brighter note, at least it has on my face.
Every Friday Jack also writes “Laughing Matters.” He can be reached at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth or firstname.lastname@example.org.