Sunday, January 26, 2014
Lifeless Lakers fall flat on the road
By Dave McMenamin
NEW YORK -- Chris Kaman stood in another losing locker room after another defeat he didn't have any part of and uttered a complaint to no one in particular.
"That shower was freaking cold, man," Kaman said.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni couldn't really pinpoint one factor as to why his team fell to the Knicks on Sunday. The Lakers completed their trip with a 2-5 record.
While Kaman picked up five straight DNP-CDs at the tail end of the Los Angeles Lakers' 2-5 Grammy trip that dropped the team to 16-29 -- so he had nothing to do with the mess that happened on the court -- his words actually apply perfectly to what happened to L.A. on the road the last two weeks.
The Lakers got a rude awakening that shook them to the core as if a bucket of ice water was doused over their heads. With the trip spiraling out of control with a four-game losing streak to end it, including Sunday's 110-103 loss to the New York Knicks, and with Lakers now having gone just 3-16 since Dec. 21, there is no getting around the fact they are a flawed team.
"Just play with a purpose," Pau Gasol said when asked for his goal for the Lakers going forward. "Sometimes we don't play enough with a sense of urgency and purpose. We just go with the flow and play through the motions and that's something we cannot afford as a team and, again, we're a young, inexperienced team for the most part. So, it is what it is. There's nothing you can do."
It was a statement devoid of any optimism or pessimism, really. It was the cold, hard facts.
It brings to mind the infamous rant by former NFL coach Dennis Green after his Arizona Cardinals lost a game: The Lakers are who we thought they were.
How could they be anything else than a slumping team with five guards out of the lineup in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and Xavier Henry? How can they not struggle with turnovers when they play a high-paced speed with a lineup full of players who get shuffled in the starting lineup on a near nightly basis? How can they not give up too many points in the paint and lose the battle of the boards when they start Ryan Kelly at the stretch 4 and purposely position him out by the 3-point line and have Nick Young, a shooting guard, playing small forward like he did against the Knicks? How can they be expected to win like the Lakers have always been known for when seven of the 15 players on the team are wearing the purple and gold for the first time? How can the team play with poise when so many of its key contributors have never been there, done that before?
"Just a lot of factors, it kind of oozed away," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It wasn't one thing, it was a lot of little things."
The little things add up, of course. And the Lakers find themselves in a big, big hole. So big, in fact, that suddenly the brand name of the Lakers, one that has served the franchise so well in television contracts and merchandise dollars, is a major deterrent for this group. The emperor isn't wearing any clothes and opposing fans are hurling tomatoes at him.
"It's the Lakers," Young said. "They're used to us ... they're used to them winning championships and being 'Showtime' and always having a packed arena when they come to town. So [to others], it's always good to see the top fall a little bit."
It's so bad that Young, who grew up in L.A. rooting for everyone from Magic Johnson to Bryant, didn't even feel right putting "us" and "championships" in the same sentence.
After so many losses, a defeatist attitude is setting in.
"When we lack of focus or lack of effort, that really pisses me off," Gasol said. "So, I'm going to continue to be frustrated as long as we lose. It's a difficult situation, but I can't help it. I want to win and I'm trying to work hard to help the team win. So, that's it."
Try as Gasol might, and he has been trying with another solid 20-point, 13-rebound, two-block game against the Knicks that went moot because of Carmelo Anthony's 35 points, once a team realizes its limitations, it cements its identity. There needs to be belief for growth to occur.
"We had a burst of energy at the beginning of the road trip and got a couple of wins," said Kelly, who individually blossomed as a starter while the team has been away from Staples Center. "Then we flatlined."
They're lifeless and there's still 37 games left to the season.