As we approach the halfway point, let’s review our preseason predictions.
I did – well, if you take away one of the ones.
Who dreamed that it wouldn’t work with Steve Nash – perhaps the most skilled point guard ever, even if he was 38 – and Dwight Howard – the most dominating big man, even coming off back surgery – joining Kobe Bryant, even at 34, with defenses no longer able to lock onto him?
The last time a new ensemble looked like such a lock was 2007, when the Celtics got Kevin Garnett (Mr. Knife-in-Teeth Defense) and Ray Allen (Mr. Outside Shooter) to go with Paul Pierce (Mr. Scorer).
Who cared if the Lakers started 1-4 and fired overmatched Mike Brown?
They looked like a better bet with Mike D’Antoni – an “offensive genius,” as Bryant called him – even if they passed over Phil Jackson, a sure bet with the team he coached for 11 of its last 13 seasons, whose Cheshire Cat grin would have cleared away the crisis atmosphere.
Of course, it may still work – especially with expectations having shrunk so much. As D’Antoni recently noted, “Mathematically, we could still make the playoffs.”
Last week’s New York Daily News report that Bryant and Howard almost came to blows was inevitable, given the differences between the arch-serious Kobe and the light-hearted Dwight, who has told people he can’t understand why the Lakers are so grim, or, as it’s known among big teams, “professional.”
The interesting thing was what would come next.
Would they (a) deny it, which might mean anything; (b) refuse to talk about it, which would be bad; or (c) joke about it, which was good.
It was (c), with Bryant and Howard tweeting a picture showing them striking a boxing pose with a laughing D’Antoni in the middle.
Of course, if dissension isn’t the problem, it must be basketball, so how good is that?
Even an offensive genius has his hands full with the Lakers allowing opponents to run a virtual layup line at the other end, having dropped from No. 9 on defense in Jackson’s last season to 15th last season, to 26th now, allowing 100.8 points per game.
Nor are they improving. In December, they allowed 105 per game. Four games into January, they’re giving up 112.
No, they haven’t lost the city to the Clippers yet. It takes more than two months of the regular season to reverse decades of polar opposite traditions, so no one was surprised when the supposedly pro-Clipper “home” crowd watching last week’s victory over the Lakers split about 60-40 – for the Lakers.
“Before,” noted Clippers stud Blake Griffin, “it used to be 90-10.”
Nevertheless, it wasn’t good for the Lakers when respondents to a Los Angeles Times poll ranked the Clippers the more entertaining team, 82-18.
Nor was it good when 63 percent of Times readers said things can get even worse for the Lakers while 37 percent said they are at “rock bottom.”
That 37 percent are some optimists. If no one knew things would get worse, they certainly could, playing back-to-back in Houston — where they lost – and San Antonio without the injured Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill.
The lower they go, the more likely they are to trade Gasol for some kind of package, like Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon.
If that still doesn’t leave the Lakers looking like the Sons of Showtime, the original was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
On to the rankings.