YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Feel the passion, Lakers fans, as the moral victories pile up

Lakers played hard (at times) in giving up 125 to the Rockets, then (darn near) beat Spurs and held Thunder under 100 (for three quarters). Are you excited yet?

January 11, 2013|T.J. Simers

I came to Staples Center on Friday night pretty darn excited, the Lakers coming off two incredible moral victories and Magic Johnson and Jim Buss full of good cheer.

Happy days are here again.

Or, as Buss put it in a radio interview, "How can you not believe in this team?"

Magic had said almost the same thing a few days earlier, pointing to the team's thrilling turnaround in playing "with passion" and holding Houston to 125 points.

Then the Lakers almost beat San Antonio, and how cool is that, almost winning?

Magic concluded if the Lakers continue to play hard like they did in losing they might make the playoffs.

Now I don't know if that means the Lakers will have to continue playing high-energy overachievers like Earl Clark and Robert Sacre in place of grizzled underachievers like Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard to get maximum effort.

But if so, who cares if Howard comes back next year?

What about Clark?

"It is Earl's world and we're just living in it," proclaimed Mark Willard on the Lakers' radio station Friday, seconded by Mychal Thompson, who told Clark in an interview, "You remind me of a young Amare Stoudemire."

Now you can understand what Buss meant when he said in his radio interview, "This team is built to win," Clark ready to step right in for Howard.

If I was conducting the radio interview, though, I might've asked Buss one more question.

"Didn't you blow it when you had the chance to hire Phil Jackson, who only coaches teams built to win and who usually does win?"

But that's me, always causing a disturbance with troublesome questions, when I should be patting the Lakers on the back for finally playing hard this week.

"I have no questions about [Mike D'Antoni]," Buss said in his radio interview, and I'm a little surprised he wouldn't want to ask how a guy gets three jobs as a head coach without knowing anything about defense.

Or, as Magic tweeted a few days ago, "Coach D'Antoni has to start teaching better pick & roll defense and better defensive rotations," while also demanding more on a twitter rampage from Kobe, Metta World Peace, Howard and Gasol. "All 12 @Lakers players need to understand what it means to be a member of the @Lakers," Magic tweeted in summing up his disgust.

Two days and two more losses later and Magic seemed satisfied the Lakers had responded to his criticism: "I feel like the @Lakers found their passion and love for the game last night in the loss to the Spurs."

I remember when Magic became owner of the Dodgers and said he was excited about building on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt. I was skeptical.

But maybe he's on to something, the Lakers all set to build on the fantastic foundation of playing hard in losses to Houston and San Antonio.

So bring on Oklahoma City, the Black Eyed Peas predicting "tonight's gonna be a good night," a real chance for the Lakers to make it three moral victories in a row.

The Thunder, as you might know, lost to the Washington Wizards this week, so it has already shown a willingness to play down to the competition.

And for all we know the Thunder might be no match for Earl-sanity, Clark going off for six points in the first quarter, and why is it D'Antoni doesn't know he has good players sitting on the bench until he's forced to play them?

The arena is dead, though, or maybe I'm just used to noise during a basketball game because I go to so many Clippers games.

But just wait until Gasol comes back, Buss saying he expects D'Antoni to play Gasol closer to the basket.

That sounded like the front office was telling D'Antoni how to coach, but when asked about it, D'Antoni said he came up with that on his own — after talking with the front office.

Question: Who is the worst coach hired by Jim Buss? Rudy Tomjanovich, Mike Brown or Mike D'Antoni?

Tough one, I know.

The Thunder, meanwhile, has jumped out to a 16-point halftime lead, and someone just emailed Magic's latest pronouncement on ESPN.

"It's over for my Lakers — no playoffs, no nothing."

Two days ago Magic had the guys playing with passion, and now two quarters later it's all over?

What happens if the Lakers beat Cleveland and then Milwaukee? Does Magic tweet the Lakers are back?

But then what happens if they lose to Miami on Thursday? Are they dead again?

I'm so confused. On the overhead scoreboard there's the height of optimism with the crowd being advised that "if the Lakers win and hold their opponent under 100 points" everyone gets two free tacos.

Right now there's 2:05 left in the third quarter and Oklahoma City is winning, 90-68.

As bleak as the taco outlook might be, I take heart in something Buss said.

"Why blow up something we have a future with?"

Yeah, next year will be so much better.

Los Angeles Times Articles