COMMENTARY | Expectations are high when it comes to the Los Angeles Lakers, and the 2012-13 season and playoffs is a prime example of that fact.
Case in point is the purple-and-gold going down 0-2 in a 2 vs. 7 matchup against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Playoffs and on top of it, seeing its two best remaining backcourt players, Steve Nash and Steve Blake dealing with substantial injuries. In any other series, the seventh seed's fans and local media would understand why their team was down in an already-lopsided series.
But this is Hollywood -- reason has no place here in the land of basketball hyperbole. With the team's tumultuous season appearing to come to an unceremonious end sooner rather than later, is it really time to panic, write off Dwight Howard, fire head coach Mike D'Antoni and blow up the team according to many who care about how the Lakers fare?
Of course not, but that's what a look around the Southern California hoops landscape would suggest. Around the Twittersphere, fans are calling for D'Antoni's head ad-nauseum. Howard is slowly falling out of their good graces despite still being injured and the Lakers are literally falling apart around him.
John Ireland, the radio voice of the Lakers and a go-to source for all news surrounding the team, was clearly feeling it on Wednesday night after the loss and stockpile of injuries.
"Kobe, D12, Pau, Nash, MWP, Blake, JHill, Jamison,Clark-the entire rotation had major injuries. Even D'Antoni coming off knee replacement-Wow."
Four minutes later, he added this nugget:
"And I left out Meeks. You think an all broadcast team of Mychal, Magic, Coop, Rambis and Worthy could all sign ten day contracts?"
-- @LAIreland via Twitter
Ireland is right, even though he's wearing it on his sleeve a little here. The Lakers are going through an anomaly of a season. Steve Nash said as much following the game himself.
"This is has been far and away the worst season for injuries. I've ever been a part of both personally and collectively," he told reporters following the game via the Time Warner Cable SportsNet broadcast of "Access Lakers."
Even renowned columnist and well-respected basketball mind Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times seems ready to give up on Howard, who struggled in Game 2 with 16 points, nine rebounds and five turnovers after showing up in a big way at the end of the regular season. He's praised him in the recent past, but he's already seen enough as of Wednesday night. He wrote:
"Two games into their first postseason with Howard, and the Lakers are all tangled up in questions about his future here. In two games he has 10 fouls, nine turnovers, four offensive rebounds, and only six made free throws.
And, oh yeah, two losses."
Really? Let's not pin these losses on Howard.
Plaschke isn't wrong in his assessment of Howard's performance, but it's worth noting that without Kobe Bryant and healthy perimeter players like Meeks and Nash to stretch the floor, it's easy for defenses to key in on him and disrupt things inside.
Granted, Howard isn't an offensive juggernaut like Shaquille O'Neal was -- in fact, he's not close. But he is the best center in the game today, and to suggest anything but the fact that the Lakers need to hang onto him is misguided.
It's frustrating to see a team one's used to watching succeed struggle with bad luck, but let's be clear here. The Lakers are not very good this season. In this particular series with the Spurs, they are overmatched.
It's largely due to the fact that hey can't defend, as evidenced by their No. 22 ranking in opponent points per game (101.0) during the regular season. They were sixth in the league in scoring with 102.2 points per game, but struggled to string together wins because they couldn't get stops. The Spurs are masterful at executing their offense, and just from watching the flow of the game, their shots came easy, while the Lakers' looks are often out of rhythm and late in the shot clock.
It's a fine idea that Howard is engaged in a de facto audition for the role of Laker leader -- I wrote as much not long ago -- but he, like O'Neal before him, needs help. Even with Bryant, the Lakers were mediocre and needed a Herculean effort just to make the playoffs. Now, there's no Mamba to allow a finally-healthy Dwight Howard to really showcase what he can do.
Whether it's an aging roster, lack of health or a still-growing team chemistry, that's a fact that manifested itself over the course of the regular season with bad losses to low-tier teams when the Lakers needed wins in the worst way.
Now, the Lakers are playing a great team, on the road, in the playoffs and without their best player, and their world is coming to an end?
Only in Hollywood.
Sometimes, drama masks the truth. The Lakers are underdogs here, and they shouldn't beat San Antonio, even at full strength. It's that simple.
With Bryant, save two games, they had to string together an amazing run late in the year by defeating teams they should have (and a hobbled Spurs squad) in order to make the postseason. If they do turn things around and win the series, then they can shove it in everyone's faces, but when the inevitable likely happens, it's not time to behave irrationally.
Even in Laker-land, where expectations are unjustly high, you can't win titles or even playoff series every year, especially under these circumstances.
Michael C. Jones covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA as a Southern California-based sports journalist and editor. He contributes to SB Nation in addition to Yahoo! Sports and is the Managing Editor of Sports Out West.
Catch up with him on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets
- Sports & Recreation
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Steve Nash
- Dwight Howard
- San Antonio Spurs