The Los Angeles Lakers are failing in 2012-13. How are people reacting? In predictable ways.
Whenever there is a problem in life, it is not uncommon to troubleshoot and look for the source of the difficulty. When this involves people, scrutinizers will ask a very basic question.
Who messed up?
A legitimate question, to be sure. However, the problem is that sometimes people hope to find a singular problem. Or, to overuse an overused cliche, fans hope to identify a smoking gun so that it can be fixed and all can return to normal.
If only it were that simple. When it comes to the Lakers, there are plenty of fingers being pointed. Take your pick.
Jim Buss messed up the team by hiring the wrong coach, then panicking and hiring a second wrong coach. Along the way he couldn’t bring himself to call the Zen Master.
It is Mike D’Antoni’s fault for trying to run with old men while not teaching defense.
Dwight Howard is to blame because he can’t shoot free throws and he never wanted to be here in the first place.
Kobe Bryant shoots too much and won’t adapt to other players.
Somewhere along the way, Pau Gasol lost his way.
Steve Nash is old, fragile and can’t play any defense.
A team meeting happened about 37 games too late.
The bench is, well, the bench.
Or, maybe it is just about effort. Work harder. Work faster. That's what GM Mitch Kupchak implied in a recent conversation with Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles.
Who is most to blame for this season?
Blame, blame, blame.
All of these aspects have impacted this team. Then again, could there be something else?
How about the reality that sports are a cruel combination of chemistry and circumstance? What about the fact that teams in all sports go through a life cycle?
Many teams start out young, and when they mature the fortunate squads are able to put everything together and compete for titles. This does not happen to every franchise. The Lakers have been especially blessed throughout their history.
The other aspect of this season is that the plan was actually not terrible. Think back to the preseason. When the Lakers got Nash and Howard, did a lot of people proclaim the Lakers to be instant contenders? Yes.
The plan was supposed to unfold in a way that was not particularly far-fetched. Nash and Howard come in and help Kobe chase one or two more titles before No. 24 walks away from the NBA after next season. Howard re-signs, and the Lakers use their brand, history and location to entice a superstar running mate for Superman. The Lakers reload and maintain their status as a member of the NBA elite.
A relatively simple plan.
What has gone wrong? It just hasn’t worked. Period. Again, the list of reasons is long, but ultimately those who understand basketball realize that sheer amounts of talent and experience do not always trump age and chemistry.
Some Los Angeles fans may not want to hear this, but this team has had it pretty good during its history. Since 1948, the team has only missed the postseason five times. Five.
Want to compare that to the playoff history of the Los Angeles Clippers? I didn’t think so.
Do all fans go through difficult times? Certainly. However, when fans in Los Angeles suggest that they know what it is like to suffer because they lived through the Elden Campbell/Cedric Ceballos/Nick Van Exel era, that is honestly a little thin. Tell that to a Chicago Cubs fan.
Clearly, you have to respect the accomplishments of the Los Angeles Lakers. The championships and legendary players are arguably unmatched in professional basketball, though I am sure a few Boston Celtics fans would suggest that their franchise has also done fairly well.
This is where Lakers fans are similar to those that follow the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys. All three are highly accomplished, iconic franchises. All three have fiercely loyal fans. All three have certain segments of fans that cannot fathom why their team is not a championship contender every single year.
Who is to blame when it comes to this season? Everyone. And yet, no one. It just hasn’t worked.
Could it still turn around? Of course. However, it is starting to get a bit late for a revival.
This team will rise again. It just may not be this year...or next.