The Lakers are in the dumps, the Clippers have been wildly inconsistent, UCLA is on the NCAA tournament bubble and USC's season has burst. But there is plenty of good basketball being played in and around Los Angeles. You just need to go to a high school gymnasium to watch it.
With playoffs starting this week, columnist Eric Sondheimer offers his thoughts about some of the region's top high school players and teams:
Doctor of dunk / Kobe Paras, Cathedral
Yes, there is one Kobe in town who is still worth watching. This one, a high school junior, is a native of the Philippines who has committed to UCLA. Paras averages 14.6 points and can always be counted on to soar for a dunk or two worthy of a YouTube posting. He'll have to elevate his game further if the Phantoms hope to get past Redondo on Thursday in a Southern Section Open Division game.
Point of attack / Lonzo Ball, Chino Hills
There are playmakers so skillful the ball looks like it is connected to their hand. Ball, a junior, is one of them. He can dribble. He can pass. He can score. And at 6 feet 6, he is formidable on defense. He sees teammates across the court who are open a count or two before they actually are open, and in an instant the ball is zipping over to them. He has committed to UCLA and the Bruins could use him — now.
Points man / Tyler Dorsey, Maranatha
There are some high school teams that don't average what Dorsey does — 34.7 points per game. Nine times this season, the 6-4 shooting guard has scored 40 points or more in a game. He not only knows how to score, he knows how to win. This is his first season at Maranatha, after he helped Bellflower St. John Bosco to a state Division III championship last season. His next stop: Oregon.
Dialing from distance / Bennie Boatwright, Village Christian
At 6-10, you would think Boatwright would set his anchor close to the basket. Think again. The USC-bound senior is an improved rebounder and shot blocker, but the part of his game that sets him apart is his shooting range, which is basically anything inside half court. He averages 26.4 points and has made as many as eight three-point baskets in a game.
Center of attention / Chance Comanche, Beverly Hills
There's no chance you won't be impressed with this 6-11, Arizona-bound senior who helped the stormin' Normans win the Ocean League championship and earn the top seeding in the Southern Section 3A Division. A dominant rebounder and shot blocker, he has shown some nifty inside moves that allow him to get loose in the key on offense.
All in the family / Lindsey Drew, Fairfax
Larry Drew is an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Oldest son Larry II played at North Carolina and UCLA. Middle son Landon is a point guard for Cal State Northridge. And then there is Lindsey, a 6-4 guard who is arguably the best senior in the region left unsigned. He has committed to Arizona State, but the Sun Devils don't have a scholarship available next season.
Like father, like son / M.J. Cage, Mater Dei
Michael Cage, M.J.'s father, made an NBA career out of his ability to defend and rebound. M.J. is a chip off the old block. He averages 13.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.5 blocks for a Mater Dei team with a 24-3 record that just might be peaking at the right time. Cage alters a lot of shots, and he's a big reason the Monarchs enter the Open Division playoffs with a 14-game winning streak.
Other offspring to watch: Shareef O'Neal, a freshman on the Windward boys' team, is the son of Shaquille O'Neal. Caida Davis, a sophomore on the Windward girls' team, is the daughter of Dale Davis.
You can't call them losers
Well, you can, but they're still pretty good.
JSerra and St. Francis both made the Southern Section 4AA playoffs despite not winning a league game. JSerra was 0-10 in the Trinity League; St. Francis was 0-12 in the Mission League.
The Trinity and Mission Leagues are among the most competitive around, but this is still a bit bizarre.
And don't be surprised if each wins its opening-round game to set up what might be one of the more unattractive second-round matchups in playoff history.
This team should carry a warning label
The Open Division playoffs is a crapshoot, and if any top-seeded team is going to crap out in the first round, it could be Bishop Montgomery.
That's not to say that Bishop Montgomery, with a 26-1 record, isn't a worthy No. 1.
It's just that No. 16 Riverside North is pretty good, too.
The Huskies, 24-1, have junior dynamo Dikymbe Martin at point guard, with plenty of strength, quickness and athletic ability surrounding him.
Samuelson an All-American girl
With all the great high school basketball being played in the region, there is only one McDonald's All-American: Katie Lou Samuelson of Mater Dei.
Samuelson, a 6-3 senior, averages 29.4 points for the Monarchs, who are top seeded in the Open Division.
Samuelson is polished in just about every facet of the game, including three-point shooting, and is said to be the top college prospect in the nation.
Do we even have to say where she's headed for college?