What is it about these Los Angeles Lakers? They've gotten so lucky recently running into shorthanded teams that they should handily beat (like the Houston Rockets or Utah Jazz), and yet they squander leads and continue to act entitled.
Once again, James Worthy said it best on LTV, the Lakers post-game show he co-hosts with Jim Hill on KCAL 9. Worthy noted that it used to be that with the Lakers up 40-25 after the first quarter, other teams would be demoralized. Now, says Worthy, word is out: You can come back on the Lakers.
That is not good news.
To be sure, there were some good things to take from this game. It was great to see that Kobe Bryant has recovered enough and feels confident enough to play without the mask he has worn since Dwyane Wade broke his nose during the All-Star Game. Bryant had one of the worst games I've seen him play in a while, against Utah on Sunday night at Staples Arena. His 3-of- 20 shooting from the field was awful.
Everybody has a bad night now and then. Bryant carried this team in the early part of the year. Pass given. But Mamba came back and had a better night against the Rockets.
Ramon Sessions has been great to watch. I love Ramon. So that's what a speedy point guard looks like? You can tell Bryant loves it, too.
Look, no disrespect to Derek Fisher who is, and will remain, part of the Lakers family. I look forward to the day they hoist his number 2 jersey up into the rafters. But he wasn't a great match for the traditional offense head coach Mike Brown runs. That calls for a more conventional point guard. Fisher had great success (five rings) in Phil Jackson's triangle offense. Not so much with the way things are now. We'll miss you, Fish. Point-Four lives forever.
In the meantime, I like how Sessions and Matt Barnes seem to be developing a nice chemistry on fast-break transition offense, especially off of turnovers. Finally Barnes has somebody to run with. This bears keeping an eye on. I also love Sessions' willingness to drive the lane. His demeanor and obvious work ethic are great. I also like how after a busted play, he goes right over to the teammate involved and checks in to find out what went wrong. What can he do better next time?
It appears he has done a great job learning the Lakers playbook on the fly. But learning teammates' tendencies only comes with playing time.
Overall, I think the Lakers are trying to re-calibrate the offense with the addition of Sessions and the speed he brings. The tempo has ticked up, but sometimes that can lure the Lakers into bad offensive possessions. I think it's going to take some film study to find the balance between the new speed at point and not getting sucked into trading track meet possessions back and forth with opponents. When that happens, if anyone has a hot hand with the 3 on the opposing team that can kill the Lakers.
Defense must remain the priority. It also doesn't help when the Lakers continue to turn the ball over.
But this loss isn't on Bryant or Sessions. This loss in on Andrew Bynum and Brown.
For all his huge leap forward in his physical game this year, Bynum can still be a punk. Drawing that second technical and then glad-handing the crowd on the way out after he was ejected is the definition of immature. This is where the Lakers will miss Fisher. It would have fallen to him to sit Bynum down after the game or maybe the following day and explain how he cannot behave like that.
In my opinion, he cost the team the game.
And this is also on Brown. Maybe Brown is unfamiliar with a similar moronic technical foul causing ejection last year in the final Lakers playoff game against the Dallas Mavericks, when Bynum also got tossed and proceeded to rip off his shirt and get slapped with a four-game suspension for the beginning of this season.
If Brown didn't know that, he should have. Or one of the assistant coaches should have reminded Brown that Bynum can be an impulsive hothead. Oh, wait, that's what happens when you gut most of the Lakers staff that could have reminded you of this.
The Lakers are a better team after the trade deadline. They got speedier and younger at the point. It takes a ton of pressure off of Kobe and opens up the whole floor. But it's all for naught if the Lakers give games away from dumb mistakes and lapsed defense.
It's up to Brown to take firm control of this team and demand accountability and results.
Either that or the Lakers' playoff exit will be even more ignominious than last year's.