I have to hand it to David Stern and the NBA. When it comes to favoring their beloved Los Angeles Lakers franchise, the league has really kicked it up a notch. I'm not sure whether they have a psychic on retainer, or a time machine which they used 6 months from now to go back and rearrange the schedule, but there must be some supernatural explanation for how the league knew that the Lakers would be on a four-game losing streak, because how else can you explain a stretch of schedule that looks like nothing short of a gift from heaven.
- Home game against the Sacramento Kings
- Three days off (the psychic must have picked up on Pau Gasol's injury/long minutes)
- Back-to-back starting with the Washington Wizards and ending with a "road" game against the L.A. Clippers.
The Lakers are already one of a select few teams in the league who can have a back-to-back without missing the comfort of their own bed, and they get to do so against a franchise that has had one good season in the history of the world. To have the second member of that back-to-back be the team that was bad enough to obtain last year's #1 pick is simply unfair to the rest of the league. To let the Lakers have three days off before that back-to-back, and for the opponent three days ahead of that back-to-back be another of the league's worst teams is piling on to a judidcious degree. Considering the circumstances, I have no hesitation in labeling this the easiest back-to-back in the history of the world. Which of course means the Lakers will lose at least one of the two games.
Forgive my jest, but there is very little about tonight's game, or tomorrow's companion, to take very seriously. The Washington Wizards are one of the worst teams in the NBA. They are tied with Sacramento (sound familiar?) for the 2nd worst point differential in the league, with the Cleveland Cavaliers the only team worse. They are winless in ten attempts on the road. No matter how you look at it, it's nearly impossible to imagine the Lakers losing to this team. Even a blazing fast point guard couldn't provide Washington with a victory.
Oh, the Wizards have one of those? Crap. Yes, tonight will be our first close-up view of John Wall, first pick in last year's NBA draft. Wall might have more potential as a pure point guard than anybody who has come before him... ever. That's not to say he will end up the best of the insanely strong crop of young point guards which has blessed today's NBA, nor is it even close to a guarantee that Wall's name will belong in the same conversation with Magic and John Stockton when his career has reached its climax. All I'm saying is that it might be easier to see why Wall is likely to end up an outstanding point guard than it has ever been in any other point. Why? Well, he's got great court vision, terrific handles and top tier athleticism, but the first thing that will jump out at you about Wall is his speed. As Paul Walker would say, John Wall is a 10 second car.
Apologies for waxing so poetic about the dude, but I have to do my best to get you interested in tonight's contest, and building Wall up is the only viable strategy. Outside of him, unless you have a strong desire to rubber-neck at the scene of the horrific crash that is Gilbert Arenas' career, the only other interesting player on Washington's roster is Javale McGee, a skeleton of a man who combines 7 feet of height with long arms and a 3 foot vertical. He is either God's version of a pogo stick, or the prototype upon which James Cameron created the Na'vi.
Sadly, not much of this discussion has centered on how the Wizards play basketball, and therein lies the problem. They've got a fair bit of talent, but very little cohesion. They have the 26th ranked offense and the 28th ranked defense. So enjoy tonight's game for a change of pace. Normally, a Lakers game is but one more chance to see an exhibition of professional basketball. Tonight's game will be more like a visit to Ripley's Believe it or Not, or a trip to the circus. But hey, at least it's still entertainment.