More Lakers laughs

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More Lakers laughs

The best way to cope with the Celtics struggles is to shift focus to the drama in LA. Drama and embarrassment might be a better way to describe it, but either way it's a hell of a lot worse than what's happening in Boston.

With half the season in the books, the Lakers are 17-24. They're four games back of the eighth seed, and only the Hornets, Kings and Suns have a worse record in the West. I mean, at least the Celtics are still right around .500, and no one really expected them to win it all. On the other hand, the Lakers were Western Conference favorites, they were supposed to take over the world. But between firing Mike Brown, hiring Mike D'Antoni, injuries to Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, Dwight Howard's slow recovery and inability to get on Kobe's level, it's been a total disaster. It's been a lot of fun to watch.

If you listen to Howard, that's all in the past: "I think this will be the start of a new season for us tonight," he said after Wednesday's shootaround (before tonight's game in Memphis). "Hopefully our effort and energy is where it needs to be tonight. But it starts with me. I have to bring it."
I agree with what he's saying, but here's why I don't expect things to change.

According to the LA Times, the Lakers had an air-clearing team meeting before the shoot around, and here's how it played out:

First, D'Antoni expressed his displeasure with a lack of defense and abundance of players speaking out in the media. Then, Steve Nash said he's willing to do whatever it takes to make everyone comfortable. And then, writes the Times' Mike Bresnahan

Bryant also spoke up, acknowledging he could be "hard to play with" and asking Howard if that bothered him.

Howard's answer was unclear, though he did not engage Bryant in nearly as vocal a manner as Bryant engaged him.

"He didn't go back at Kobe," said the person who witnessed the meeting.

Typical Dwight.

It's obvious that he's not crazy about playing with Kobe. Even if he wasn't feeling it at that very moment, you know he has loads pent up animosity from these last few months. And this was his chance to be honest, to be a man, to say what he thinks without his constant passive-aggressive BS . . . and maybe have a breakthrough.

But from the looks of this report, Howard just shut off. He backed down.

And then he went and said all the right things to the media. "It starts with me," he said. "I have to bring it."

But saying that is one thing. The Lakers will only improve if Howard really means it, and if he's at peace with his role on this team and under Kobe's jurisdiction.

In other words, don't count on the diversion disappearing anytime soon.

The LA disaster is here to stay. At least until Dwight bounces next summer.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

C's players mull how to utilize platform as athletes for social commentary

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C's players mull how to utilize platform as athletes for social commentary

WALTHAM -- The national anthem protests by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick have had an undeniable ripple effect on professional sports teams across the country. And that includes the Boston Celtics.
 
“We as an organization know what’s going on,” said Marcus Smart. “We read and see and hear about it every day. It’s a sensitive subject for everybody.”
 
While it’s unlikely that Celtics players will do something similar to Kaepernick taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem, there’s no question some are figuring out the best way to utilize their platform as athletes to express their views on current social issues.
 
“Us athletes have to take advantage of the stage we’re on,” said Jae Crowder. “Try to make a positive out it. You can’t fix negative problems with negative energy. I don’t want to do anything negative; I want to do something positive, shed light on the situation.”
 
Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, and a number of professional athletes have tried to have more attention paid to recent killings of African-Americans by police officers where, based on the video footage, it appears excessive or unnecessary force was used.
 
It is a topic that has brought a wide range of responses from many in the sports world, including the dean of NBA coaches, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.
 
During the Spurs’ media day this week, he was asked about the Kaepernick’s protests.
 
“I absolutely understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and I respect their courage for what they’ve done,” Popovich told reporters. “The question is whether it will do any good or not because it seems that change really seems to happen through political pressure, no matter how you look at it.”
 
As examples of the political pressure he was referring to, Popovich mentioned Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ability to galvanize group, as well as the NBA and other organizations pulling their events out of the state of North Carolina because of its legislation as it relates to the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
 
“The important thing that Kaepernick and others have done is keep it in the conversation,” Popovich said.
 
And while there may be differing opinions as to whether Kaepernick or any other athlete should be protesting, the one common thread that seems to bind the Celtics players and the front office is them having the right to speak out not only as professional athletes, but Americans.
 
“The biggest thing is we all really value the freedoms that we have and that we’ve been allotted,” said coach Brad Stevens, who added that he has had individual discussions with players on this subject. “We certainly support an individual’s freedoms. It’s been great to engage in those discussions. It’s been really fun for me how excited our guys are about using their platform.”
 
And that more than anything else is why Crowder feels the Celtics have to have a united front as far as the message they present to the masses.
 
“If we want change we have to do it together,” Crowder said. “I feel like those guys (other athletes) used their platforms well. I think more athletes should do the same. You can’t do it with any hatred; you can’t do it with any negative. You have to do it with positive energy.”