Lakers guard kobe Bryant takes a seat on the bench after drawing his second… (Jason Miller / US Presswire )
Reporting from Cleveland — Welcome to Los Angeles!
Only the Lakers could turn the All-Star break into a weekend's worth of hand-wringing angst over a broken team.
It's come to the point where they can't even beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, America's season-long punch line.
An apparent season-turning victory in Boston last week dissolved amid a season-churning 104-99 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday, but there was a more somber realization as the Lakers slipped nine games behind San Antonio and two behind Dallas.
Maybe this team can't win the championship.
Their defense is horrendous, their legs are getting older by the possession and their interest level fluctuates between bored and horribly bored.
Lakers fans will be apoplectic with the last few losses, but it could be worse. Talk-radio host and Lakers sideline reporter John Ireland said over the airwaves last week he would walk home from Cleveland if the Lakers lost to the Cavaliers.
It's a 2,300-mile trek. He'll be home by the end of the playoffs. Maybe.
Then again, a quick glance at Twitter feeds might make Ireland feel better about himself. "Lakers hit ROCK BOTTOM," wrote one fan in mourning. Another was more somber, simply writing "dead."
It's only February. Seriously.
On the other hand, Kobe Bryant looked incredibly irritated as he walked off the court, head down, all alone after the latest loss. He then ignored reporters for a second consecutive game, his second mini-boycott of the media this season.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson actually spent a full 2 1/2 minutes with reporters in the wake of Wednesday's debacle after providing five terse seconds of his time in Charlotte.
"I think they took the [All-Star] break before the game," he said, declining to name names though it wouldn't spoil anything to provide some clues (RonArtestLamarOdomAndrewBynum).
Just checking, but didn't the Lakers beat this team by 55 points last month?
On Wednesday, some dude named Christian Eyenga blew past Bryant on the baseline and dunked over Pau Gasol.
Ramon Sessions (three teams in four NBA seasons) punctured the Lakers for 32 points and eight assists, although I'm the fool here. He's on my fantasy team and was on my bench Wednesday. The Lakers aren't the only ones making dumb decisions.
Shockingly, Cleveland fans did not storm the court after its team hit the magical 10-victory plateau.
Then there's the curious case of Artest.
A few minutes after the loss to Charlotte, he irritated the upper reaches of the Lakers by jokingly spraying a TV reporter with Odom's new line of cologne.
He won't endear himself to the franchise with his post-game activities Wednesday, either, using his Twitter feed shortly after the loss to request feedback on a new musical mix he had been compiling.
The trade deadline is next Thursday. Maybe something will happen. Maybe not.
But if the Lakers are stuck with the same roster in a week, they can probably count on more discipline from a coaching staff that had given a veteran team a long leash.
Yeah, the Lakers are a mess. But please forget all of the above if they come back and win the championship in June.
And if you see John Ireland on the side of the road, give him a lift for a few miles.