Advertisement

It wouldn’t hurt Lakers to show some more humility

Share via
ON THE NBA

In the good news, the sky didn’t really fall . . . I don’t think. Of course, I wrote this Tuesday, going on faith.

(If the sky did fall, and this is read centuries later by an archaeologist trying to figure out what happened, Lakerdom perished because the team lost a second-round playoff game in 2009. In other words, as civilizations go, it was no big loss.)

I know how tough losing to the Rockets is. The Lakers are not only behind in a series for the first time since . . . last spring’s NBA Finals . . . it wasn’t because of Andrew Bynum, who scored 10 points, or Jordan Farmar, who made his only shot, a three-pointer.

Advertisement

Of course, in times as dark as these, Lakers fans can turn on anyone from Kobe Bryant on down, like Reuben C., who e-mailed our Mike Bresnahan last week:

“I know why Kobe has a sore throat. Where was he this weekend? Practicing with the team? Watching game tape? Nursing his old hand injury? Shooting free throws?

“NO.

“I saw him at Disneyland with his wife and kids on Friday.

“If you want to get sick, go to Disneyland.

“There is a MAJOR sickness going around!!”

After Game 1, Reuben added:

“Now are you willing to listen? I have pictures of Kobe at Disneyland this weekend!! I can prove it was this weekend. The weekend before the Rockets series.”

Wrote Sam A.: “Rumor has it Bynum and Rihanna spent the weekend together. Against Houston last night he played 15 minutes, and had three rebounds. Foul trouble in the first quarter.”

Actually, Kobe doesn’t have swine flu and Brynum’s problem is rehab, not Rihanna.

Meanwhile, in the perfect antidote to popular frenzy, the Lakers had the usual reaction:

What, us worry?

The Lakers always have it covered. If the moon is in the seventh house, Jupiter aligns with Mars, and it gets uncovered for a night, like Monday, they’ll bring the full force of their consciousness to bear on the unlucky opponent.

Not that it isn’t a little unusual to be talking about “wake-up calls” in the postseason, when everyone else is already awake, and grim as reapers.

Advertisement

For a team that has yet to win anything, the Lakers have a confidence so serene, it borders on, or crosses over into, entitlement.

They were even giddy in last spring’s Finals, joking it up before, and even after losing Game 1 in Boston, so sure were they of winning Game 2.

Only when they trailed, 0-2, did they get as somber as the Celtics were from the get-do, and that was too late.

Of course, they’re day-and-night better with Bynum . . . or would be if he were at full strength, giving them a low-post weapon, a double-figure rebounder and a shot blocker to discourage some of the many drivers they let through.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, this isn’t That Andrew, and there’s no assurance he will be this spring.

Coming off Game 1, his best showing this postseason, Bynum said Tuesday he’s at about 85%-90%.

Advertisement

In the first round, he said his missing explosion was because of his knee brace. Tuesday he said, “I think that’s just the knee, in general. It’s just not ready.”

The missing 10%-15%, or more, is on defense, where the Lakers need him most and have had him least. Even while averaging 17 points in his four games before the playoffs, he took 5.0 rebounds with 1.0 block.

In the postseason, playing scant minutes, it’s a Barely There 3.0 rebounds and 0.8 blocks.

As the Lakers would be the first to tell you, they were good enough without Bynum to reach the Finals last spring.

It’s true, but the Cavaliers are good too . . . as is the Magic . . . as the Celtics would be with Kevin Garnett, and were last spring when they crushed the Lakers.

It’s OK to be arrogant if you’re that good. The Showtime Lakers made a show of theirs, exemplified by Magic Johnson leading them on the floor with his nose in the air.

The Showtime Lakers were that good, falling on whomever was there, following their born-to-dominate point guard and their nothing-is-ever-good-enough coach, Pat Riley.

Advertisement

These Lakers aren’t vaguely that dominating.

Young as the Lakers are, they have Bryant, whose drive is scary, and hard-nosed Derek Fisher, but their leaders take their cues from Coach Phil Jackson, whose confidence runs deep.

I once told Jackson his greatest gift is that serene assurance he imparts in his players that no matter how bad it looks, he has it covered.

Jackson was surprised. It wasn’t a tactic, or an approach. It was the way he saw things.

Of course, Jackson has nine titles to prove he either had it covered, or could get it covered nine times.

Nevertheless, these aren’t the Showtime Lakers, the Michael Jordan Bulls or the Kobe-Shaquille O’Neal Lakers.

These Lakers are sure they’ll win something too, summoning last spring’s humiliation to teach themselves a lesson . . . even if they don’t always, or often, look as if they’ve learned any lesson at all.

Maybe they do have it covered. Maybe they’ll get it covered. In the meantime, they’d be better off if they respected opponents less but feared them just a little.

Advertisement

In any case, there’s still a cloudless sky over Lakerdom, at least until sunset.

--

mark.heisler@latimes.com

Advertisement