The Lakers Are Anything but Intimidating

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst IDecember 26, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat exchanges words with Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers late in the fourth quarter during the NBA game at Staples Center on December 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Heat defeated the Lakers 96-80. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

If someone utters one word about the possibility of the Lakers capturing a three-peat, please let them know the Lakers aren't even close. It wasn't long ago when Kobe Bryant, wearing another championship T-shirt, gazing upwards to watch the confetti fall in his hair or caressing the trophy, collected his fifth ring to cement a dignified legacy.

If the Lakers aren't nervous of the sudden demise, from a perpetual drought to erase the memories of an indelible back-to-back journey and diminish the traditional perception of a team in Hollywood, the motionless fans are hysterical of the undermined calamity. 

So now, the gist of the annual Christmas Day appearance for the Lakers, in theory, perished over the years and has been the one day that the team humiliates itself by crumbling in a signature game. There are times, such as Saturday night in which the Lakers were embarrassed and taken to school by the Miami Heat, when the Staples Center is the equivalent of a mortuary—as if the demise of the untouchable Lakers is slowly materializing. Wasn't it pathetic...so devastating?? 

"This is serious stuff," Bryant said after he posted only 17 points on 6-for-16 shooting. "You don't just have two rings and say we're satisfied with what we've got and let it slide. I am not rolling with that."

Looks as if Team Hollywood quit. Looks as if the brainless, inactive fans observed spongy and incompetent superstars and the most talented franchise in the NBA staggered. As it is, the torpid fans are incapable of inspiring the dispirited defending champs, not loud or cheerful enough of uplifting a diverse town or even one of the most popular franchises. With all the hype of this marquee matchup, a long-awaited LeBron-Kobe show every devotee had been anticipating so anxiously, the timing couldn't be better for the Heat to awaken in the most dynamic test this season. 

For once, he was a benefactor and settled for a triple-double. And so it ended when LeBron James had 27 points, to accompany 10 rebounds and 10 assists as the self-proclaimed King James had his best game this season against the defending champs to lead the Heat to a throbbing 96-80 win over the Lakers Saturday. But if the Lakers ever were to move forward, sustain three consecutive championships that amazingly send Los Angeles into a tie with its nemesis the Boston Celtics as the franchise with the most NBA titles ever, they'd have to purge the apathy, softness and weaknesses.

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Otherwise, it's the prelude to futility and alters into plights, even if the Lakers consist of the greatest closer in the game—Kobe Bryant—or Phil Jackson, maybe the most respected coach for winning his 11th title.

A few minutes into the game, the Lakers rode a 7-2 run and had the crowd, not only in the Christmas spirit, but electrified and screaming to jolt the building with an alley-oop from Bryant to Lamar Odom.

He looked stylish in his new shoe, the unique footwear known as the Nike Kobe Zoom 6 Green Mamba Grinch Christmas Shoe, crazily sporting the shoe just as Odom and Pau Gasol. And there was James revealing his trendy shoe as well—the red ones he wore on the floor. But this wasn't about who had the better shoe. Instead this was about which player had the better outing. It's been horrid, for sure—plenty of nightmares in a town where the celebrities come out to see the Lakers in their courtside seats.

Because of the hype that centered Kobe and LeBron, a pair of puppets and marketers for producing their animated Nike ads, the Heat-Lakers had been defined as the prime-time event on Christmas. And it really was a physical battle as the refs allowed a pair of top-notch teams to play without blowing the whistles. It was so awful, for much of the night, that the Lakers couldn't survive a critical bout when it served as motivation against the toughest opponent with an ambition ever since forming the deepest trio in pro basketball of all time.

Most of the disgust that had shifted on Bryant's face was an expression of frustration, not the normal facial feature of him scowling or grinding his teeth as if he's ready to devour his opponent’s blood. After suffering a Christmas whooping for the second straight year, Kobe wouldn't lash out as much in the news conference, practically humiliated with the ugliest rout on a national holiday when the average populace paid close attention to the Lakers. As we all know, they are playing like confused kids on a playground, scared to attack the rim or penetrate to dominate in the interior.

"We need to play with more focus and put more importance on these games," an irritable Bryant said. "I don't like it."

He wasn't too merry.

"I think these games mean more to our opponent than they do us," he said.

It wasn't amusing to see the Lakers miss shots, fail to defend brilliantly and collect rebounds, but it was painful for a lot of people, many of whom purchased expensive tickets as high as $900 for non-courtside seats. But then with the poor performance of the Lakers, fans walked towards the exits early, and couldn't bear the devastation of trailing by 19 points. From here on out, as long as the Lakers play carelessly and uninspired, it simply won't become easier for Los Angeles.

"That was embarrassing," Magic Johnson said on ABC. "It really was."

There is apparently no sense of pride for the Lakers, lifeless in a must-have. Gasol remained scoreless until midway in the second quarter with an air-ball on one possession, not taking advantage of his upper body strength and had been beaten or tormented in the paint to finish with 17 points.

"I sensed anger in Kobe, obviously, but I didn't sense a lot of anger in our team," Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "I didn't sense that kind of anger that rises in a team when they know that they really disappointed themselves."

Until the Lakers overcome struggles, they won't beat the much-deeper Spurs or Mavericks. That is just something to think about.  

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