One of the sad things about the Los Angeles Lakers this season is that they’re not trying to tank or lose on purpose: They really are that bad. In a campaign that’s been about reaching low points one after the other, their 96-79 home loss to the Utah Jazz marked another chapter in futility and failure.
Injuries aside the Lakers looked bad. Steve Nash back in the lineup didn’t help one bit, and fewer and fewer people believe that his return is actually going to give them a chance for any sort of happy ending this season. It was a franchise record sixth consecutive home loss, looking especially awful in the second (10-32) and fourth quarters (19-28), ruining a promising start, leading by 11 after 12 minutes.
He wanted to come back in the second half when we had so few guys to play. We just have to get through this period and get guys back after the All-Star break. We’ll have three or four guys back then, and that will help.
The Lakers are hoping that after the All-Star break things get better, with three or four players coming back. But that’s just leading themselves into believing something that isn’t going to happen. At no stage this season except for the first month did the Lakers look like an above average team at best, and Kobe Bryant’s return killed any momentum they had going. His injury, running mysteriously long, sent the season into a downward spiral they still haven’t figured out how to break.
Chris Kaman scored 25 points in the loss to the Jazz, adding 14 rebounds. He looked like the only player with the combination of giving a damn and actually having the capabilities to do something about it. The Lakers shot 38.8% from the field, 25% from three and allowed the Jazz 15 offensive rebounds.
The Jazz got a big game from Alec Burks coming off the bench, scoring 24 points. He made up for a bad shooting game from Trey Burke (3-of-11 from the field), getting help from Jeremy Evans (with 14 points off the bench) and 15 from Gordon Hayward, adding 8 rebounds and 7 assists in another impressive all-around performance from him.
When does this nightmare end for the Lakers? The optimists believe that if Gasol, Nick Young and Kobe Bryant come back after the All-Star break, there’s a chance of making this season look a bit more respectable. Others might point out that there’s no real reason to risk Bryant anymore this season: The playoffs are out of reach in any case (at 18-34, the Lakers are one game above the bottom of the West and 12.5 games behind the 8th and last playoff place), so why risk Bryant getting injured again, especially when he has $47 million committed to him over the next two seasons?
The more depressing bit for the Lakers might be that last sentence. The Lakers have made so many mistakes over the last couple of seasons when it comes to their inability in preparing for the future, that this season might be terrible and a one time thing in terms of how low they’ve sunk, but it’s not going to be much better as long as Bryant is eating up so much of their cap space.