For anyone but the team's fans, there's an evil delight in watching the NBA's most overblown franchise fail this spectacularly.
Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Patrick Hruby (writer, Sports on Earth and The Atlantic), Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), and Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic) discuss the Lakers' humiliatingly bad season—and why it's just so damn fun to watch.
Forget laughing at Lance Armstrong, or Manti Te'o, or Ronaiah Tuiasosopo (Jon Stewart seems to have the last one covered anyway). Sports fans in need of a good chuckle at someone else's misfortune need only look to Los Angeles, where the Lakers are doing their best impersonation of a slow-speed train wreck.
After adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the offseason, the Lakers were supposed to be unleashing Showtime 2.0 by now. Instead, the Clippers have raced to one of the the best records in the league while the Lakers look a lot like the Clippers did about 10 years ago. A 17-25 record has coach Mike D'Antoni's team 12th in the Western Conference—realistically, the Lakers have to go 29-11 or better the rest of the way to make the playoffs. That's not going to happen, no matter what midseason trade magic GM Mitch Kupchak tries to pull off.
Unless you live in L.A., this is a perfect storm of schadenfreude. The Lakers are the Yankees of basketball, universally loathed by everyone who's not a fan. Their team is full of unlikable stars, from the whiny, petulant Howard to the possible rapist Kobe Bryant (yeah, I went there). To watch them implode in such spectacular fashion, culminating in Wednesday's team meeting where Howard reportedly would not respond to Kobe's direct criticism, is way better than sneering at the apparent naiveté of a 21-year-old.
Who's to blame for the Lakers' horrific season? There's enough to go around! D'Antoni's to blame for trying to impose his up-tempo system on the league's oldest team and failing to coach defense once again. Howard's to blame for being an insecure whiner and refusing to stand up to Kobe. Pau Gasol is to blame for grousing about his removal from the starting lineup (to be fair, he has a point). Kobe himself is to blame for trying to fix the issues with his biting, critical leadership style. Owner Jim Buss is to blame for letting his feelings about Phil Jackson's relationship with Buss's sister Jeannie keep him from hiring Jackson over D'Antoni.
They're all to blame to some extent. Or should I say they all deserve credit for this glorious train wreck of a season?
You guys as happy about this as I am?