by Oliver Layco
The nightmare is over. It all started as a dream over the summer of 2012. Steve Nash was the first cog in the wheel that was supposed to be the resurgence of the Lakers. A short while later, Dwight Howard was signed and we were led to believe that we would dominate the regular season and steamroll our way to the franchise’s 17th Championship; Kobe would tie Jordan for rings and a new Dynasty would be underway. Two games into the season, the basketball gods had something else in mind. Nash would go down to injury as a precursor for what would define our season. By the All-Star break, Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, Steve Blake, and Dwight Howard would have missed a significant amount of games; on top of all that the Lakers were 17-25 and many ruled them out of making the playoffs. After the break, the Lakers would go on a tear and fight their way to the 7th spot in the West. However, this came at a cost. First, Ron Artest would go down and require knee surgery; yet he surprised everyone and came back within 12 days from his surgery. The real heartbreaker came in the form of a ruptured Achilles for our leader. There Kobe lay on the floor of Staples Center clutching his left ankle; the air sucked out of the building; the man who has been the franchise for the past 17 years finally got caught by Father Time. Yet, he managed to shuffle to the free throw line, sink the pair, and then make his way off court (mostly) on his own. No one can question his toughness and resolve after seeing that. It’s fitting that the demigod that the Achilles was named after was what finally took down Kobe Bryant. Much is yet to be determined about his future; but one thing I can guarantee is that he’s not going out like this and he will return.
Finally in the playoffs, the Lakers were matched up with the San Antonio Spurs. Although they did beat them just a few days earlier, these Spurs were nothing like the team the Lakers beat. The Spurs came out firing and showed their veteran poise and composure. Coach Popovich knows how to manage his players and that was evident all throughout the series. Meanwhile, Coach D’Antoni always look frazzled and like he didn’t belong. Questionable rotations and minute distribution was evident in the season and magnified in these four brief games. By Game 3 of the series, we were down three more players in Blake, Nash, and Jodi Meeks. Our starting backcourt would fall in the hands of Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. The latter of who was still in the D-League until Kobe went down. This game was the ultimate punch in the face as we got throttled by 31 points; sending us to our worse playoff loss in franchise history. As if that wasn’t hard enough, Ron Artest would admit that he shouldn’t have played in Game 3 because his knee was drained of excess fluids just earlier and it was evident in his play. With that, he would be pulled from Game 4. This would leave the Lakers with 10 players in uniform and bench players being thrust into the spotlight. They looked discombobulated and that was shown through the 10 first quarter turnovers. From that point on, it wasn’t a question if we could pull this win out but rather if we could avoid being embarrassed again. In the end, the vastly superior team won the series and they look poised to win their fifth championship in franchise history.
Meanwhile, the Lakers face a summer of unknowns. Dwight Howard was ejected in his potential last game suiting up for the purple and gold. This brings up the whole ‘Dwightmare’ back to the forefront. If the Lakers are able to re-sign him, are they willing to pay the inevitable luxury tax? If not, which players have we seen the last of? Many fingers are pointing at Pau and Artest. Artest because of his age, and Pau because the team is looking to build around Dwight for the future. Then there are some absurd thoughts of using the amnesty provision on Kobe. This would be distasteful and more disrespectful than anything. If Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family know anything, they wouldn’t trade away their franchise player of 17 years; this would be equivalent of amnestying Magic Johnson when he announced he had HIV. This is going to be a long and arduous off-season for the Lakers and hopefully the right decisions are made in the end. If not, the Lakers and their fans are never going to wake up from this nightmare.