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.
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.