This isn’t going very well. At all.
Nobody picked the Lakers to win the 2015 championship — or, really, to even make the playoffs — but the first half of their season has been one glass-eating carnival trick after another.
It started with the end of Julius Randle’s season on opening night and somehow worsened.
Kobe Bryant became a part-time player (seven games in, seven games out the last four weeks), Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer lost their starting jobs, and Steve Nash kept everybody updated on his fun-filled exploits via Instagram from as far away as Argentina.
ABC took one look at it all and punted the Lakers’ only home game on its network this season.
Without further delay, here are some questions about the second half of their season.
What is going on with Bryant?
There have been a lot of “Father Time” analogies lately. Father Time is starting to catch up. Father Time is starting to win. Father Time is undefeated.
Here’s advocating a moratorium from here on out. Please.
None of this should be overly surprising. Bryant played only six games last season but everybody got excited because he looked great in off-season workouts against Wesley Johnson. Yes, Wesley Johnson.
Then at age 36, he played 37.1 minutes a game in November — 30 seconds more per game than his career average. A breakdown wasn’t boldly forecast. But it wasn’t shocking, either.
Personal prediction: Bryant is staggering his games for three reasons. He’s physically exhausted, he’s hoping the Lakers’ roster gets upgraded next season and he wants to be healthy enough to play one last time on a rocking-chair tour through Philadelphia, Boston, New York, etc.
Where did Nick Young go?
Young’s January swoon is as confounding as anything on the Lakers.
He was in the conversation for sixth man of the year until he shot 29% this month. Match that up with Bryant’s 37.2% this season and it’s easy to see why the Lakers are 12-29.
Lakers Coach Byron Scott isn’t happy with Young. Keeps threatening to reduce his playing time. Wants him to take better shots, get more rebounds and, you know, play some defense.
To which Young smiles. Some things just don’t change, including his assist-per-game average (1.0 this season, 1.1 career).
How has Scott done in his first season?
Victories aren’t the only way to assess a coach’s impact on a team with a weak roster.
There’s also effort. The Lakers actually play hard.
There have been some throw-away games, including losses to the Clippers, Indiana and Dallas by extreme scores. For the most part, the Lakers have been competitive, simply falling apart in the second half on the way to three close losses to Memphis and two against Portland.
Minus points: Scott played Bryant too often before easing up, though Bryant played a role in that too. Also, Scott can’t seem to motivate Johnson or make Young a more complete player.
Lin and Boozer were the Lakers’ main off-season acquisitions. Will they be back next season?
Only if the Lakers completely strike out in free agency. And even then … probably not.
Lin has failed to nail down a starting spot twice this season. Nash got it when exhibition season began. Then Nash fell apart, Lin was named the starter, and Ronnie Price took it from him 20 games into the season.
Lin is a good athlete but streaky beyond belief. And his defense? Please.
There will be two very good free agents at point guard (Rajon Rondo, Goran Dragic) and the Lakers have rookie Jordan Clarkson waiting to show what he can do.
Unlike Lin, Boozer has thrived on the second unit after losing his starting job to Ed Davis. His defense is still awful and he’s not getting any younger. The Lakers will look at other options at power forward, falling back to Boozer only if they can’t find anybody else.
Who is the Lakers’ most frustrating player?
Probably Bryant. Takes a lot of shots. Makes some. Misses most of them. He’s in and out of the lineup. Soaks up $23.5 million this season and $25 million next season. It’s killing fans to see him fade like this.
A close second place is Johnson. He has great natural gifts and sometimes uses them, but most nights he’s a bust. At least nobody can blame Father Time.