What’s Up With The Los Angeles Lakers?

It’s been a very up-and-down NBA season so far, with only a few teams rising to the top and looking like real contenders for when May rolls around. The rest of the pack either looks like bottomfeeders or are too inconsistent to really gauge how their season will turn out. But in looking deeper into that inconsistency, we might be able to make some sense out of the league’s most disappointing teams so far this season. In this series of posts, we’re going to take a look at why certain teams that should be contending are currently struggling. First, we have to start with the most underwhelming team in the NBA that constantly begs the question:

What’s up with the Los Angeles Lakers?

Kobe Bryant. Dwight Howard. Steve Nash. Pau Gasol. Ron Artest. Antawn Jamison. Those are the Lakers six best players. HOW THE HELL IS THIS TEAM NOT INSTILLING FEAR IN EVERYONE BY NOW? We gave the Lakers the benefit of the doubt when the incompetent Mike Brown was running his silly little Princeton offense, but there’s no excuse for the Lakers’ current 9-13 record. Granted, that’s not a terrible record, but it’s certainly not acceptable when you’ve got multiple Hall-of-Famers in your starting lineup. Whether or not you believe Mike D’Antoni is the solution and whether or not you think Phil Jackson would have been a better fit, the Lakers should not be struggling this much still, especially considering that they’ve fared worse under D’Antoni than Brown.

In the Lakers’ defense, injuries have prevented them from reaching their full potential or even develop chemistry yet. But with Kobe and Dwight on the floor at the same time, it’s hard to make too many excuses. Everyone keeps saying, “Once Steve Nash comes back, you’ll see!” or “They still have plenty of time to work things out!” But unfortunately for LA, Nash’s return isn’t going to fix the Lakers’ extensive problems on the defensive end. If anything, it’ll make those problems worse. Gasol’s injury would be another way to deflect how poorly the Lakers have played so far this year, but he really hasn’t done much when he’s been on the court. Gasol prefers playing closer to the basket but D’Antoni’s system has him shooting elbow and baseline jumpers. His complaints about adjusting to the system and the tendinitis that’s been ailing him all season spurred Kobe’s now infamous “put your big boy pants on” quote, one that speaks volumes about the team’s lack of unity, chemistry and yes, leadership.

How much longer before Kobe completely goes ballistic on his teammates?

How much longer before Kobe completely goes ballistic on his teammates?

You can disagree all you want, but Kobe is not the leader the Lakers need right now. And before you write me off as another Kobe hater, let me say that I’m entirely aware of how much more efficient he’s been this season, how he’s leading the league in scoring and how he’s the youngest (that’s YOUNGEST, not FASTEST) player to reach 30,000 points. Without Kobe, this team would have an even worse record. Then again, is Kobe’s leadership what this new, struggling team needs? Watch five minutes of a Lakers game and you can see the pure disdain on Kobe’s face every time Dwight Howard misses a free throw or every time someone misses a defensive assignment. For years, Kobe’s used the same kind of unrelenting, competitive, yelling-at-your-teammates leadership we saw out of Michael Jordan for the first half of his career, and so far, that’s gotten him five championships. But they were all with the best coach in basketball history. What happens now that Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson aren’t around to console teammates not strong enough or not accustomed to Kobe’s verbal beatings and melting staredowns?

Kobe may be leading the charge on the offensive end with more efficient scoring, but the Lakers are 1-10 this season in games in which Kobe scores more than 30 points. ONE. AND. TEN. I don’t care what anyone says, that kind of scoring is not effficient from a team perspective. I still believe the Lakers have time to figure things out, I think that Nash’s return will brighten the gloomy mood in LA right now and I know this team has too much talent to continue struggling like this. But the clock is ticking and saying, “We still have time to work things out,” isn’t as true when a quarter of the season’s already gone by. Gasol and Nash need to get healthy and a solution for Hack-A-Howard needs to be found soon, but the bigger problems are Kobe’s “Eff You I’m Just Gonna Do It Myself And Shoot My Way Into 30+ points” mode and an embarrassing defense. One of those things is fixable, but with D’Antoni and Nash at the helm, that defense might be a lingering problem. D’Antoni’s irritable answer and overreaction to the question of defense certainly helps illustrate how lost this team is on that end of the floor.

I’ve given the Lakers the benefit of the doubt so far. When every journalist in the country was ready to freak out that LA wasn’t winning games so early in the season, I held off. But after tonight’s embarrassing loss to Cleveland, it’s hard to ignore the fact that this is not a good basketball team. Kobe went for 42 points and Dwight Howard had 19 points and 20 rebounds, but NOBODY ELSE contributed. Having Steve Blake out has forced Chris Duhon to play the point, but there’s no excuse for Jordan Hill and Antawn Jamison to be so overwhelmingly average. The Lakers are facing problems with injuries, their bench and their defense, three areas that are hard to overcome, even with Ron Artest playing some pretty solid minutes. It’s still not impossible for this team to be a contender come April and May, but if this type of play continues, they’ll be lucky to make the playoffs.

They still have time and injuries have been a problem, but this team should be so much better.

They still have time and injuries have been a problem, but this team should be so much better.

Fourth Of July Free Agency Wrap-Up

In a particularly dry free agency day, one piece of news immediately jumped out and turned the whole day on its head. Here are the major headlines from the Fourth of July:

Steve Nash Heads to Rival Lakers:

The biggest news of the day was Steve Nash’s decision to play with Kobe Bryant on the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix’s biggest and most hated divisional rival. Although calling what the Lakers and Suns have a “rivalry” might not be completely accurate since Los Angeles seems to get the best of Phoenix every time these two teams meet, Nash’s decision quickly dissolved the happy memories of his time in Phoenix into outrage over his decision to put on the yellow and purple colors. Nash explained that the decision was influenced by his desire to be close to his three children in Phoenix and wished the Suns organization nothing but the best for the future, but there’s no question his departure for LA is still a stab in the back to the city of Phoenix. Nash signed a three-year deal with Los Angeles worth around $25 million, instantly turning Los Angeles into title contenders once again. How Nash and Kobe will function on offense remains to be seen, as both guards need the ball to be effective, but there’s no question that having a quality point guard like Nash increases a team’s pick-and-roll game and overall success. Suns management continued to baffle fans with this trade, as the Suns only got four future draft picks for their beloved marquee player who will now leave to join Phoenix’s hated rival. Phoenix received first-round picks in 2013 and 2015 and second-rounders in 2013 and 2014. Not bad overall, but certainly not worth Nash and definitely not enough to raise a fan base’s faith in their management, especially considering Phoenix’s history of wasting draft picks in exchange for cash considerations. To make matters worse for his former team, Nash will try and talk Grant Hill into joining him in LA. Hill said he would either join the Lakers or retire, but considering the fact that he went to Germany for a knee procedure (the same one that revitalized Kobe Bryant’s knee), it doesn’t seem that Hill is ready to retire just yet. If Hill does head to LA to join Nash, the Lakers could be looking at a potential lineup of Nash, Kobe, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum with Hill, Steve Blake and Jordan Hill on the bench. Not bad at all, especially since the Lakers could look into Dwight Howard either next year or in a trade for Gasol/Bynum. Overall, it was a horrible day for Phoenix fans and a glorious one for LA supporters.

Nash will be joining Kobe in Los Angeles, much to the chagrin of every basketball fan in Phoenix.

Suns Sign Dragic and Beasley:

In a feeble attempt to compensate for Steve Nash’s departure for LA, the Suns signed Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley. Dragic was signed to a four-year deal worth $34 million and Beasley was signed to an $18 million deal for three years. Dragic was a very good signing by the Suns, especially now that Nash is gone. Considering how Dragic thrived in Houston as a starter when Kyle Lowry sat out, the Suns are getting a quality player who deserves a better contract as a starting point guard. As an added bonus, Phoenix was always particularly fond of Dragic when he backed up Nash and will be happy to welcome his back. Unfortunately, the signing of Beasley won’t get many (smart) Suns fans excited. Beasley is a decent player at best and considering how many of those are already on the roster, this isn’t the kind of quality player Phoenix needs, especially with Nash and possibly Hill leaving.

Nash is gone, but the Suns got a consolation prize in potential breakout star Goran Dragic.

Houston Offers Jeremy Lin a Deal: 

The Rockets have offered Jeremy Lin a four-year deal worth around $30 million. The Knicks can almost match Houston’s offer (four years, $24.5 million), but have made it clear they would have to think hard about matching other teams’ high offers for the breakout point guard. After losing Dragic to Phoenix, the Rockets could use a quality backup for Kyle Lowry in Lin, but keep in mind that Lin and the Knicks both want a reunion. What offer New York puts on the table could decide where Lin ends up.

Could Jeremy Lin be heading back to the Houston Rockets?

Jason Kidd and Mavs Close to Signing Deal:

Jason Kidd and the Mavericks are closing in on a multi-year deal that will allow the Dallas veteran to end his career where it all began. The amount is unknown, but it will likely be a bit higher than Kidd would normally be worth after the Mavs were unable to bring Deron Williams or Goran Dragic to Dallas.

Jason Kidd will most likely be ending his career in Dallas.

Spencer Hawes Signs Extension:

Spencer Hawes will be staying in Philadelphia next year after signing a two-year, $13 million deal with the Sixers. Nothing much to report here other than the fact that the 76ers could be shaping up to be a pretty consistent threat in the playoffs for the next few years if they continue to keep so many pieces together (especially with so much youth).

Spencer Hawes will be staying in Philly after signing a two-year extension.

Thunder Add Hasheem Thabeet:

The Oklahoma City Thunder signed former number two draft pick Hasheem Thabeet to a two-year deal. Thabeet has never really panned out to be the quality player with potential he promised to be, with career averages of just over two points and two rebounds per game in his limited time on the floor. This is a questionable signing by the Thunder, especially because Serge Ibaka’s return to OKC is not guaranteed at this point.

The Thunder signed Hasheem Thabeet. For some reason.

Thunder Storm Back Late In 4th, Take 2-0 Lead

After a 29-point rout in Game 1, it was fairly obvious Game 2 would be a little more competitive. But despite a drastically improved effort from Los Angeles and an off shooting night for OKC, the Thunder stormed back from a seven point deficit with two minutes to play and stunned the Lakers with a 77-75 win in Game 3. Oklahoma City took a 2-0 lead on the series after the Lakers crumbled down the stretch in the hands of the man they usually trust to hit game-winners: Kobe Bryant.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists, including the go-ahead basket with 18 seconds to go. James Harden was also critical for OKC down the stretch, driving to the basket after the Thunder had fallen in love with jump shots and hitting two critical, contested layups in traffic. In fact, Durant and Harden were the only two Thunder players behind OKC’s 9-0 run to close the game and send the Lakers back to LA facing a 2-0 deficit. Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka took too many shots away from Durant and Harden in this one, even if OKC should keep trying to exploit LA’s weakness guarding point guards (and even though Ibaka’s seven blocks certainly earned him some offensive looks). But as much as the Thunder came back and took this game, Los Angeles definitely helped them out a bit by offering such little resistance.

Kobe Bryant, who has been a hero and savior for the Lakers many times throughout his career, surprised everyone by making a few key mistakes down the stretch that cost his team the game. After a Harden layup cut the Lakers’ lead to five with just under two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Kobe quickly made a bad pass that Durant easily stole and turned into a dunk at the other end. On the next possession, Steve Blake threw a bad pass and it looked like it was tipped by Russell Westbrook, but after the officials looked at the replay, they discovered it really just went through Kobe’s hands and out of bounds. The Thunder didn’t convert on the ensuing possession, but the second turnover fired the crowd up and Harden got his hands on Kobe’s next shot that fell way short of the target. Then Harden made another layup and Kobe bricked a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left. Durant then gave the Thunder the lead with his floater over Pau Gasol, leaving LA with 18 seconds to try and reclaim the lead.

LeBron James is getting a lot of scrutiny for his recent fourth quarter struggles, but Kobe was no better down the stretch last night in Game 2.

But what will stand out the most after this game is the Lakers’ last possession. Everyone in the arena knew who Ron Artest would be looking for on the inbounds pass, and after Kobe’s last few possessions, there was a justifiable fear that he was going to somehow put the Lakers back on top in typical Kobe fashion. But the double screen they ran for Kobe didn’t work and Artest didn’t wait long enough for him to come off the flare screen. Why? Because Steve Blake was sitting wide open in the corner as Russell Westbrook momentarily forgot his defensive duties and moved further toward the paint where all the action was. Artest got the ball to a completely unguarded Blake, who bricked the wide open 3-pointer. Kobe couldn’t get the rebound, Thabo Sefolosha was fouled with one second left and the game was basically over. Kobe clapped his hands in disgust at not getting the chance to right the ship and make up for his mistakes down the stretch, but was Artest wrong for getting the ball to Blake? The answer to that question is absolutely not. Kobe had two defenders on him, Westbrook made a mental error and Blake was wide open. Blake was the dagger in Denver’s playoff hopes in the last series, so getting him a good look for the win wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Obviously Laker fans would have loved to see Kobe get the ball, but you should blame Mike Brown for not drawing up a better play to get Kobe open if that’s your main gripe.

The Lakers’ defense was a lot better, but a fair amount of that can be attributed to the Thunder’s poor shooting and terrible shot selection. Westbrook took too many shots (he went 5-for-17) and so did Serge Ibaka (4-for-11) while Los Angeles made sure its best players got all the looks (Kobe, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol took 55 of LA’s 78 shots). The Thunder will need to improve their shot selections and turnovers after committing 13 in Game 2, but other than that, they proved they can grind a game out when their perimeter shots aren’t falling, a real testament to Harden’s value driving to the basket. However, the Lakers are really running out of options. Bynum had 20 points and nine rebounds while Gasol had 14 points and 11 rebounds, so LA’s bigs were actually involved. The Lakers’ defense was fine and other than falling apart down the stretch, Kobe Bryant was fine too. But they haven’t been able to get anything out of their supporting cast. Blake missed a potential game-winner and had five points. Ron Artest went 2-for-10. Matt Barnes put up a goose egg. And Jordan Hill only had six. But the biggest disappointment has to be Ramon Sessions; Sessions was seen as the missing piece to the puzzle when the Lakers acquired him a few months ago, now he’s just a missing piece. Sessions put up two points last night and is averaging 2.7 points and 1.7 assists in his last three playoff games. Not what you want from your starting point guard. Kobe, Bynum and Gasol all have to step it up at home and be wary of how dangerous the Thunder can be at any time, especially in the fourth quarter. They also would really benefit from anything their supporting cast could provide, but at this point, all OKC needs to do to lock up this series is win one of the next two games at Staples Center.

Kevin Durant didn’t get many shots, but made the most of them and gave the Thunder a 2-0 lead.

LA Steals Game 4 On The Road

Denver was poised to even the series up at two games apiece and head back to LA with a renewed sense of hope, but an unlikely hero emerged and the Lakers stole Game 4 with a 92-88 win on the road. Los Angeles now leads the series 3-1 and will look to send this balanced Nuggets team home with a win at Staples Center in Game 5 tomorrow night. With Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol all on the floor, everyone thought one of these guys would provide the dagger as the audience felt the game start to slip away from Denver. But in the end, it turned out to be none other than Steve Blake who decimated the Nuggets’ chances in the game and possibly the whole series.

Kobe led LA with 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists, Bynum had 19 points and seven rebounds and Gasol finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists. But it was Blake’s 10 points off the bench, which included the 3-pointer that put the Lakers ahead by six with 18 seconds left, that proved to be Denver’s undoing. It was Jordan Hill’s 12 points and 11 rebounds that kept the Lakers from being overwhelmed by Denver’s depth. And even though the Nuggets’ bench still outscored LA’s, the fact that the Lakers’ supporting cast even contributed gave them the upper hand.

If you had said before Game 4 that Steve Blake would be the difference, would anyone have believed you?

Denver did a good job of containing Andrew Bynum again, using double teams to get the ball out of his hands. Kobe had an all-around great game, but the Nuggets were able to prevent him from going off in the scoring column by holding him to just 10-of-25 shooting. But their lack of offensive production from some of the guys who gave Denver a Game 3 victory eventually hurt them, especially when Blake and Hill started making shots. Ty Lawson, who had a stellar performance in the Nuggets’ first game at home, finished with just 11 points. Kenneth Faried had just six points and seven rebounds. JaVale McGee, who was a hero in Game 3 for guarding Bynum and still finding energy on the offensive end, could only tally eight points and four rebounds after getting tired early in the second half. Al Harrington struggled with his shot and missed a few big 3-pointers. And Arron Afflalo, who seems like he won’t show up in time for the end of the playoffs this year, could only muster six points. Danilo Gallinari finally had an efficient shooting night, leading the Nuggets with 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting, but he only got significant help from Andre Miller, who had 15 points off the bench.

A few key plays killed Denver down the stretch, but the Lakers earned the victory and the Nuggets didn’t have what it took to prevent a crucial Game 4 from slipping through their fingers. Gallinari getting laid out on a clean pick by Gasol led to a wide open 3-pointer for Ramon Sessions that put LA up by three, which proved to be insurmountable and was an extremely unfortunate break for the Nuggets (Gallo looked like he flopped, but Gasol did raise his shoulders and pop him in the throat. But then again, the pick was definitely clean and didn’t warrant a foul call. This debate could go on and on so we’re just going to chalk it up to a bad break for Denver/good play by the Lakers and leave it at that). Whatever the case, Denver couldn’t get the job done and will go home sooner than expected unless they somehow win Game 5 in LA against the cold-blooded killer and closer that is Kobe Bryant. This would require an inordinate amount of team chemistry, improved shooting, no production from LA’s bench and similarly stifling defense on both Kobe and Bynum. This is a tall order, but it should be worth watching if George Karl can rally his balanced team to keep this series competitive.

Danilo Gallinari led the Nuggets with 20, but his absence on a key play with less than a minute to go ultimately killed his team.

LA Block Party

The Lakers started the postseason off on a strong note with a convincing 103-88 win over the visiting Denver Nuggets in Game 1. LA has been on upset alert since the Western playoff matchups were determined, but Kobe Bryant and company left no doubt that the Nuggets will need to bring everything they’ve got to have a chance in this series.

Kobe finished with 31 points, but most of them came in garbage time. In fact, for the majority of the game, Denver did an adequate job of keeping him contained. So where did the Nuggets go wrong? Well, allowing guys like Steve Blake and Devin Evanks to score nine and 12 (respectively) by halftime is a bad start. Jordan Hill had 10 points as well. Andrew Bynum dropped a triple double, but his 10 blocks were the biggest part of that statline as he completely clogged up the middle. However, the worst part was Denver’s defense allowed all this to happen while Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo, who both had been playing lights out coming into the postseason, each shot 3-for-11 from the floor (6-for-22 combined). That can’t happen if Denver wants to contend in this series.

Andrew Bynum prevented Ty Lawson and the Nuggets from getting their offense going at the rim.

LA definitely had everything going their way. Kobe dropped his expected 20-30+ points, Bynum and Pau Gasol did their thing down in the paint and Ramon Sessions and the bench contributed a perfectly appropriate amount with Ron Artest sitting out. Kenneth Faried had a hard time getting shots up and Lawson couldn’t even come close because of Bynum’s presence in the middle, which was directly connected to his poor shooting night.

There are only two bright spots for Denver after such a one-sided defeat. The first is that Danilo Gallinari played well and finished with 19 points. If the Nuggets are going to keep the series close, they need Gallo to score like he did. The second positive note is that Denver’s bench showed their worth and pitched in some buckets to keep this one from being a complete blowout. Andre Miller, Corey Brewer and Al Harrington played fine and finished with a combined 33 points off the bench. Unfortunately, it was Denver’s starting lineup that didn’t get the job done today.

That being said, Denver really has to enter Game 2 with a sense of urgency and get a road win to have a chance for the upset. The Lakers smell blood in the water after such an easy victory and Kobe Bryant is a cold-hearted killer. Unless Lawson and Afflalo regroup and play lights out in Game 2, this balanced Nuggets squad might fall short of their playoff potential before anybody even gets a chance to see it.

Danilo Gallinari is one of the few bright spots Denver can take into Game 2.

“World Peace” and Lakers Haters

A highly anticipated Sunday matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder turned ugly pretty quick after Metta World Peace got so excited from a dunk he felt the need to elbow James Harden in the head as hard as he could. Watching it live, it didn’t look particularly severe or intentional; watching the dozens of replays that followed immediately proved otherwise. The irony of “Metta World Peace” making such an idiotic and downright despicable play was immediately clear as everyone hammered him and the Lakers on Twitter and Facebook while LA fans tried to come up with some clever response to what had just happened.

Now I’ve never liked Ron Artest (from here on out I don’t care what his name is, I’m never referring to him as “World Peace” again) because I’m a Phoenix Suns fan. His buzzer-beater changed momentum in a playoff series that ended my favorite team’s hopes of going to the Finals. And as an ASU student, I love James Harden and his epic beard, especially since he’s having such a breakout year. So I’m sure any Lakers fans reading this are going to accuse me of being biased. But let me assure that when I wrote this post, I considered both sides and wrote it in a fair and strictly professional way. With that being said, there are times in sports when it’s acceptable for there to be haters because of the actions of some players, and this is certainly one of those moments.

Artest’s elbow on James Harden was a disgrace to the game and if he isn’t banned for more than 10 games, I will be disgusted. You can say all you want that maybe it wasn’t intentional because he wasn’t looking at Harden when he threw the elbow, but even if he just felt the presence of someone next to him, how does it make sense that he maliciously threw the elbow and followed through? He knew what he was doing, whether he was looking at him or not. He tried to explain to the referee that he was just pumped up and beating his chest, but I don’t recall the last time someone in the NBA beat their chest and threw an elbow while doing it. So there’s no question that after such an awful play, Laker haters were in heaven. They had another valid reason to hate on the team they previously could only resent because of their success.

To be fair, Lakers fans have to deal with a lot of hating. And until last year, it was mostly because Kobe Bryant and his team were so successful (although it’s also true a lot of fans dislike Kobe because of the rape allegations a few years ago). But whatever the case, sports fans will be sports fans; Laker haters make comments about the integrity of the organization and Kobe any chance they get and LA fans respond with generic comments reminding everyone about how historically successful their franchise has been. I admit, I’ve hated on the Lakers before just because of how long they’ve been successful and how great Kobe Bryant has been in his career (especially on my poor Phoenix Suns). And that may seem two-faced of me considering how one of my team’s former players, Raja Bell, was responsible for one of the biggest cheap shots in NBA history on Kobe Bryant. But Raja Bell doesn’t play for Phoenix anymore and found no love in my heard for that horrendous excuse for a foul; in fact, I condemned him after that play and wanted him out of my team’s uniform immediately, something I had no problem telling anyone who would listen. But I didn’t hear anything like that from Laker fans yesterday.

To all my Lakers fans, I have to say this: While it’s been unfair for most people to hate on the Lakers in the past for the reason of resenting success, there’s a legitimate reason to do so now. Artest’s blatant elbow to Harden’s head was a disgrace to the game and he should be fined and suspended for at least 10 games. But what a lot of people should remember is that this isn’t the first time this kind of crap has happened with the Lakers. There was Andrew Bynum’s ridiculous body check on J.J. Barea in the playoffs last year, followed by him taking his shirt off in an immediate ejection. Lamar Odom’s hit on Dirk Nowitzki was completely disrespectful and got him ejected in the same game. And who could forget the fact that Ron Artest is a repeat offender after the infamous Pacers-Pistons brawl in 2004? So is there any question that Laker haters actually have a legitimate reason now?

Artest is a repeat offender. A ban of no less than 10 games should happen here.

It’s wrong to hate on a team because of their success, and at some point in our sports-loving lives, we’ve all been guilty of it. But the fact is, it still happens and that’s never going to change. Lakers fans, Steelers fans, Yankees fans and a lot of other great teams know this already. But after things like this happen, I don’t blame fans for jumping on the “HATE L.A.” bandwagon. And something else to consider is that Lakers fans aren’t making things any easier on themselves with their sarcastic, anti-Laker hater tweets defending such an indefensible act. A few of them admitted how disgusted they were with what he did, but the majority were already on the defensive because of the barrage of Artest-hating sentiments that were raining down. Rightfully so, and I’m not saying Lakers fans should go choose another team to support just because of what Artest did. But when your first move as a “true fan” is to go on the offensive to defend your team and ignore what happened after such an egregious act, you (and your team by extension) don’t deserve the rest of the league’s respect.

The Thunder losing the game and Kevin Durant disappearing like that was absolutely disturbing. They had a reason to win and someone to play for and completely choked. But it’s not inexplicable; after that elbow, OKC lost their third best player and all the Lakers lost was Artest. LA was actually better off without him, as Jordan Hill had a terrific game. And sure, LA took the lead, won it in double overtime and got everyone in the Staples Center fired up, but anyone who wasn’t a Laker fan wanted them to lose, especially after Staples Center gave Artest a standing ovation as he left the court. It felt like injustice. I’ve never been more disgusted watching a team win a basketball game in my entire life, and seeing Laker fans jubilantly celebrating the win and Kobe’s clutch performance didn’t feel right, even if they had every reason to do so. Now it’s unfair to blame an entire organization for one idiot’s mistake, but after Bynum and Odom’s actions last year and now this, it’s hard to fault Lakers haters.

Ron Artest has always been a punk and changing his name to “Metta World Peace” might be one of the biggest ironies in NBA history. You can call me biased and you can call me a Laker hater, but when I watched that Oklahoma City Thunder-LA Lakers game on Sunday, I was cheering against the Lakers not as a James Harden fan and not as Laker hater. But I sure as hell cheered against the Lakers as a fan of the integrity of the game of basketball. So please, Lakers fans. Just this one time, can you stop being so damn defensive about Laker haters and admit that someone on your team did something wrong and just leave it at that? Because the rest of us would probably take it easier on you if you had the courage to say you’re just as disgusted with Ron Artest as we are. In fact, you’re doing a disservice to the very team you love so much, a team with a rich basketball history, by not doing so. You want Laker haters to stop? Show them you’re won’t tolerate any kind of behavior that tarnishes the image and reputation of your team. Then you will have my respect as a truly classy fanbase.

Support your team all you want. But when stuff like this happens, you should be ashamed if your first thought is to defend your team and not condemn this crap that makes your team look bad.

Happy Trails, Derek Fisher

It seems the question of whether or not Ramon Sessions would be starting for the Lakers has been answered. After 12 full seasons in Los Angeles and five championships, the Lakers are trading Derek Fisher to the Houston Rockets for Jordan Hill and a future first-round pick.

Fisher is averaging 5.9 ppg on 38% shooting this season. The Lakers traded for Ramon Sessions earlier today, needing an upgrade at the point guard position, but I don’t think anyone saw a Derek Fisher trade coming. Fisher provided the Lakers with many memorable playoff moments, including his incredible buzzer-beater with 0.4 seconds left that lifted the Lakers over the Spurs in Game 5 of the Western Conference semis in 2004. His heart, determination and highly competitive play was a huge reason for the Lakers’ recent championships over Orlando  and Boston, hitting big-time shots down the stretch and providing leadership throughout the postseason. Although LA fans will agree that Fisher has been a liability this season with poor 3-point shooting and lackluster defense on younger and quicker guards, they should also never forget how much he gave the city of Los Angeles.

Although the Lakers don’t really need Fisher with the acquisition of Sessions, it seems almost unnecessary to send him away. However, the addition of Jordan Hill will make the Lakers a better team as his production off the bench can only be a step up from what the LA has been getting from its bench players up to this point. Hill is averaging 5 ppg and 4.9 rpg this season. If the Lakers can get their hands on Beasley, LA will be a powerhouse in the West.

On the other side of the coin, the Rockets’ moves have been questionable so far today. They have acquired two washed up veterans (Fisher and Marcus Camby). I’m assuming they hope these veterans will provide leadership for a team currently in the playoff picture and although they had to give up very little to get them, these moves are not particularly impressive. The injured Kyle Lowry must have had something to do with the Derek Fisher trade, needing a backup for Goran Dragic. Houston may have slightly upgraded, but not as much as they should have if they really want to contend.

Derek Fisher has been traded to the Rockets for Jordan Hill