Ownership, management, the coaching staff, players and the sports media have not been able to figure the Los Angeles Lakers out. Maybe it is time for a Laker fan's viewpoint; I have been one since 1949.
I loved the Minneapolis Lakers with big George Mikan, probably because he was tall, clumsy and wore glasses - like me. But I also enjoyed watching Slater Martin, Jim Pollard and Vern Mikkelsen help win five championships. That was a TEAM.
But the best was to come when Jerry West (my favorite player of all time) arrived in 1960, and the Lakers moved to Los Angeles. Jerry and Elgin Baylor teamed up to become the best one-two punch in NBA history, averaging over 69 points a game in the 1961-62 season. Along with Rudy LaRusso, Dick Barnett and LeRoy Ellis, that was a TEAM.
Elg retired, but Jerry went on with Wilt Chamberlain to win 69 games, 33 straight, and the NBA championship in 1972 with the help of Pat Riley, Gail Goodrich and Happy Hairston. That was a TEAM.
There was a lull until Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came on the scene in 1975, culminating with Magic in 1979. The result was five more championships with the help of James Worthy, Byron Scott and Michael Cooper. That REALLY was a TEAM.
Then Kareem retired, Magic came down with the AIDS virus, and the team went to hell until Jerry West restored them with a kid name Kobe Bryant and Shaq O'Neal. With Rick Fox, Robert Horry and Derek Fisher, that was a TEAM, albeit a dysfunctional one.
After things were looking glum in 2011-12, Mitch pulled off two of the biggest deals in history, landing the best center in basketball, Dwight Howard, and one of the best point guards of all time, Steve Nash. The result was three NBA defensive players of the year - Kobe, Metta World Peace and Howard, a great point guard, and the second best big man in basketball - Gasol. The result? Chaos. When Mike Brown couldn't get these guys to win, run-and-gun Mike D'Antoni was hired. The result? Chaos.
I have never seen a group of players - not a TEAM - so lacking in chemistry. Kobe and Metta have been having one of their best years. Dwight and Pau have been off and on. Steve is almost his old self if he would shoot more. The offense is semi-great even if role players Antwan Jamison and Jodie Meeks have contributed little. But they don't play together, and they don't seem to be capable of playing defense. There are ways to find out.
1. Tell the players they will be shipped to the Continental Basketball League - or Charlotte - if they don't start defending.
2. Play man-to-man defense and don't leave ANY man wide open for a three-point shot - under penalty of death - or benching.
3. Sign a great defender - a young guy with legs - to harass the other team's point guard at least 20 minutes a game to help diminish the opponent's scoring.
4. Start Pau and employ him and Dwight under the basket.
5. Or forget everything I said and bring back Jerry (I don't mean Buss) or Phil (I don't mean Mickelson) or Magic (I don't mean Orlando) to figure out this mess.
Don Lechman, a former reporter, critic and editor for the Daily Breeze, is author of two sports books: "Los Angeles Dodgers Pitchers: Seven Decades of Diamond Dominance" and "Notre Dame Vs. USC: The Rivalry."
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