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

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

NEW ORLEANS -- There will be a significant faction of Celtics Nation who will see DeMarcus Cousins’ trade to New Orleans as a lost opportunity for the C's, who could have offered a much more enticing trade package than the one the Sacramento Kings accepted.
 
The Kings received nothing even remotely close to a king’s ransom for Cousins, acquiring him in exchange for rookie Buddy Hield, journeyman Langston Galloway and ex-Pelican Tyreke Evans (who has never been the same since his Rookie of the Year season in 2010), along with a protected first-round pick and a future second-round selection.

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While the knee-jerk reaction is to focus on why Boston decided to not pursue a trade for Cousins, more important is what the non-decision means for the moment and going forward.
 
Think about what the Celtics have done in the last three-plus seasons.
 
They went from being a lottery team to one that has the second-best record in the East. They're holding the potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft; at worst, the pick will be in the top four or five. They have three of the most team-friendly contracts (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder) in the NBA. They have promising prospects overseas as well as in the D-League. And they're led by a coach who has improved his coaching acumen -- and the team’s win total -- every year he's been on the job.
 
And it's all enveloped by a culture with a high level of selflessness, which has created a locker-room environment that has been more about fighting for each other than fighting one another or others off the court.
 
Do you really think Cousins’ talent would have trumped the baggage he'd be bringing to the Celtics if they'd acquired him?
 
For him to have fit in with this team would have required him to make the kind of changes that, frankly, I just don’t see him being capable of making at this point.
 
On more than one occasion, “not fitting in” with the Celtics culture was given to me as the reason why a Cousins-to-Boston trade never gained any traction with the team’s brass. Or coaching staff, for that matter.
 
While there's no denying that he's arguably the best center in the NBA, Cousins is a high-risk, high-reward talent that makes sense to pursue if you're a franchise which has nothing to lose by adding him to the mix. Like, say, New Orleans.
 
The Pelicans are 11th in the Western Conference despite having Anthony Davis, who has been asked to carry the weight of a franchise that has yet to figure out the best combination of talent to surround him with and find success.
 
The addition of Cousins not only provides Davis some major help, but serves as a reminder of just how desperate the Pelicans are.
 
While there are mixed reports on whether the package of assets the Kings agreed to was the best they could have received for Cousins, there was no way they were going to get anything close to comparable talent in exchange for him.
 
And that was solely due to the risk that any team was willing to take on in order to acquire him.
 
At some point, the Celtics need to take advantage of an opportunity to go all-in for a superstar player. But this was not that time, or that player.

Blakely: Pelicans form arguably the best frontcourt with Cousins-Davis

Blakely: Pelicans form arguably the best frontcourt with Cousins-Davis

A. Sherrod Blakely breaks down the DeMarcus Cousins trade to the New Orleans Pelicans