Way Out West – Post All Star Break

A calamity in the City of Angels?

When LeBron took his talents to Los Angeles, expectations weren’t out of whack. People
foresaw a middle-low playoff seed and a roster that could be shuffled and rebuilt to get the King back to the Finals sooner, rather than later. Sure, things got dicey for a little bit when King James missed some time, and yeah, maybe that whole Anthony Davis trade kerfuffle wasn’t great, but surely, they’ll bounce back, right? Suddenly, I’m not so certain. Best case scenario over the last twenty-something games is that the Lakers get off the mat and walk back the eighth seed. LeBron’s obvious contempt for the rest of the roster, as well as the coaching staff, was laid bare in the Davis drama, and I don’t know that anything short of a total rebuild can salvage the mess. After whole team 111-106 win over the Rockets, when LA outrebounded Houston 71-44, the Lakers have fallen apart, getting blown out by the Pelicans (without Anthony Davis) and then the moribund Grizzlies. The Lakers have dropped seven of their last ten and after a rousing speech about effort, their leader showed absolutely none on defense last night. LeBron might pretend that he’s saving his best for the playoffs, but if the most they can muster is an eight seed and an inevitable sweep to the Warriors, what’s he really trying to do? My guess is that LeBron is learning that playing in a major market just isn’t the same as playing in Cleveland or Miami, where he could do no wrong. I’m not saying that he can’t single-handedly will this team into the playoffs, he can. But it will take a superhuman effort to make it happen, and how many more games/weeks/years of superhuman does the king have left? More importantly, can the Lakers survive a tear-down to assemble LeBron’s preferred super team? They tried once and failed already, and it likely cost them the season.

Remember last year?

Does anyone else remember the Western Conference finals last year? When James Harden and a cast of dragon slayers came oh-so-close to knocking off the Warriors… Well mark my words, after Saturday’s upset win over the champs with James Harden on the bench, the Rockets have that feeling again. Much has been made of the Beard’s thirty-points-per-game string, most of it negative. Unsustainable, bad basketball. Too much iso-ball. Well…what if…bear with me now. What if they don’t have to play that way? What if James Harden’s circus act is exactly that, an act? What if the Rockets are projecting weakness from a place of strength? It’s really, really hard to beat the Warriors. Especially hard if Steve Kerr knows how you’re going to play the game. With that one late February win, in the Warriors own gym, the Rockets sent a message. We can beat you. And you don’t know how we’re going to come at you. Creating defensive uncertainty and hitting three-pointers is the best way to beat the champs. The Rockets have hit more threes than anyone in the league thus far, and if they can keep Curry, Durant and company off balance, who knows.

No business like shoe business…

Speaking of Golden State, did anyone catch the super-questionable tech the refs threw at Boogie Cousins when the Warriors new big man threw a piece of detritus from the court yesterday? Granted, the item in question was an opponent’s shoe, which Cousins lobbed towards the sideline. The Refs then stopped the play and issued the technical for…uhm…being DeMarcus Cousins? It was inexplicable. It was ridiculous. I can think of maybe five players in the league who get T-ed up in that scenario. The refs should have stopped play themselves, just like they do if a fan throws an item onto the court. Instead, because Cousins took it on himself to clean the court of a potentially dangerous hazard, the big man’s best game since returning (24pts, 11 reb, 3blk in 31 minutes) was marred with an absurdity. It shouldn’t really matter, but come playoff time, you might wonder if the Warriors have one too many guys that refs keep their eyes on for comfort.

Image Source: USA Today

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