THIS is the team you guys are playing for, you represent. A franchise which is one of the Top 3 All-Time in ALL American sports. One that has been to the Finals over every second year in its history, and brought home the Trophy about 1 in every 4 seasons. A team with the largest fanbase of any in any American sport. Remember that. Respect that.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This letter was originally written over a month ago, after the Lakers had just completed a three game losing streak ; but due to scheduling clashes and other issues, was never published. Unfortunately, almost nothing has changed since then, and therefore this article can be published almost untouched. It's highly unlikely that any member of Lakers staff will read this 'letter' (though you never know with Ron Artest), but I still feel the need to vent.
So, you've just lost to Orlando, the team you obliterated without as much as breaking a sweat in the Finals last year. Remember that feeling, guys? Remember what it felt like to hold that Trophy, to know that you had finally gotten to the top of the mountain, that feeling that you had earned it? Remember the little details? You know, like Dwight sitting on the bench, dejected, watching you guys celebrate on his homecourt? Can you picture that look on his face? Well, get acquainted with it, as the way you guys are playing right now, if you even manage to scrape your way to the Finals, that's likely the expression you're gonna have to mimic.
So, care to talk, guys? What's going on, what's wrong? A simultaneous case of Kwame-itis? A seeming lack of ability to run the offense? A lack of effort on the defensive end, which was really the only thing holding this team up through this season (#14 in offense, #1 in defense - is that your true identity, L.A?)? A sudden virus spreading through the team, making one's vision blur at distances greater than 20 feet, leading to a seeming inability to even be respectable from beyond the arc? In inability to see any teammates standing on the block? A voodoo curse? No, I'm dead serious, guys, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!?
What on Earth is causing this malaise, lack of effort, and as Phil would put it 'sickly' feel throughout the team? Please, guys, surely you don't expect us to believe that you can simply 'flip the switch' whenever necessary, please don't tell me you honestly believe that yourself. As Dex said, "Right now, there is no switch. There's just a hole in the wall and some loose wires hanging out. The Lakers need to fix the circuitry, repair the drywall, shop for a switch at Home Depot, screw it in and then pay their past-due bills with SoCal Edison. Then, maybe, there will be time left to flip it, and we can all hope the whole building doesn't short out.".
Ah, Kobe, what's with your seeming mortality of late? Your inability to shoot, your lack of speed, your complete lack of effort on the defensive end? You've even been missing gamewinners, you're 0-2 on your last two attempts. Why is it, that only NOW you decide to talk to your team, try and motivate and focus them? Surely a leader of your skill would have realised the time for that was long ago, that now is the time for action? The sad thing is, you're still showing at least the second-most heart, hustle, effort and passion on this team, with the only one showing more being the one who has yet to experience that sweet feeling of a win.
I'm talking, of course, about Ron Artest. You, sir, are the only one whose heart cannot be doubted even an infestimable amount. You always put in the effort, always try, always fight. You know what is expected of you, and you do your best to deliver, without expanding beyond your role. You've even shown hints of being able to carry the team when Kobe is on the bench, and shown hints of clutch. You've realised you were having some defensive struggles at the beginning of the year, at least compared to your usual lofty standards; and you discerned that the reason for that was your weight, then putting in remarkable work to dramatically reduce your weight - and the results are highly tangible, as the victims of your new posters will unwillingly attest to. To put it simply, I love your heart. However, basketball isn't ALL heart, brains are required, too, and in that area you have occasionally been lacking. You've had struggles learning the offense, which is justifiable, as it is a tough offense to learn. However, this isn't a situation where you have the luxury of making justifications, you have to ameliorate, to have a hope of winning it all. Don't take this the wrong way, you've been excellent, the best on the team, but right now that just isn't enough; and that's just the reality of the situation. [Update: Also, PLEASE break out of your shooting slump. Maybe it's the weight you've dropped screwing with your rhythm, maybe it's just a slump, I don't know. Practise, lock your self in a gym and just shoot threes all day. Hell, pray to pagan gods. Do SOMETHING, we need you.]
And our last perimeter starter, Mr. Point-Four, the insurmountable classy and ridiculously clutch Derek Fisher, the Fish Who Saved L.A. It's been a nice run, my brother, but I fear it's time for you to hang it up. I'm sorry, but there comes a time where every player must hang it up and call it a day. You are an unbelievably tough warrior, and without your contributions last year we may not have had the privilege of watching the Parade through 9th and Figureoa; but Father Time is undefeatable, and you have unfortunately succumbed to his reach. That is nothing to be ashamed of, you've lasted far longer than most. 14 seasons of basketball at a professional level is something 99.999999999% of the world would KILL to be able to accomplish, and you should be happy with it. You still show heart and leadership, your mind, heart and soul are there but your body, despite your religious workout program, is no longer. You can't shoot, can't defend, and can't push the tempo. Consistently, your teammates are asked to cover for your deficiences, and you have been a negative factor upon the success of this Lakers team. I pray you, regardless of whether or not you are hoisting the Larry O'Brien at the end of this season, walk away afterwards. Retire on a good note, while you still have your pride and some semblance of still being a decent player. Retire in the knowledge that you've played more games and won more rings than over 99% of other players, and you left before you were forced to leave. [Update: By all means, come back, your smarts, leadership and heart will always be valued - but come back as an assistant coach.]
Ah, and our frontcourt partners. Let's start with Pau, shall we? Pau, what's wrong with you, mate? It seems the Cleveland game scared you. Alright, whatever, even at 37 Shaquille O'Neal is a scary presence, one of the most physically dominant players to ever set foot on the hardwood. Problem? You never bounced back. You never came back and showed us 'yeah, I'm Pau Gasol, all-NBA player, European Player of the Year and 2nd option on the Defending Champions, mother.fucker.' You lost all the badass progression you made since arriving in this town of ours, and reverted back to your Memphis self. Hell, it's getting to the point people are considering that the trade we made to get you, one that many considered the most lop-sided trade in recent history, was a net loss for us, that your brother is better than you. I have a little brother myself, and if someone told me my little brother was better than me at something I would park my ass wherever necessary and improve to the point I could kick my brother's ass, and then shove it in the bastard who said my brother was better than me's face. Where's that edge, Pau. Hell, never mind your inability to hit a shot any more, or your mass case of Kwame-itis, what I can't stand is the absolute lack of emotion you show. You're like a statue out there, nothing affects you. It's like you're a spectator to your own game. What happened to your heart, Pau? It's gone AWOL. Question is, is it coming back, or not? (P.S: The bitching about the team and blaming them for your own shortcoming can STOP. RIGHT. NOW. kthxbai.). [Update: You've had some nice games of late, my man, but still haven't shown any consistency.]
Drew, I love your play of late, my man. You've been showing heart and intensity, with plenty of effort on the defensive end. You've shown much improvement in the non-scoring aspects of your game, and your ability to put the ball in the basket was always impeccable. Some nights, your shot won't fall. That's basketball, man, you just gotta play through it. All I ask from you is some consistency, and you'll be fine. [Update: Get well soon, Drew. We need you. You shore up our defense, provide a true post present, and present another option when the team offense isn't clicking.]
Now, to the bench. Let's start with the bench leader, Sixth Man Lamar Joseph Odom. You've been through a lot in your life, man, you're a warrior. You've shown maturity, and the ability to step up and make your presence felt to positive affect on the team when necessary, but, like Andrew, you're inconsistent. You can often be too passive, or just disappear totally. It's too late in your career to be the Magic Johnson - rebirth or the LeBron James - rival that some thought you could be when you came into this League, but you can still be great. The team needs you, and you have that ability to step up. Use it. [Update: You're starting now, but the same issues are prevalent.]
Shannon, Shannon, Shannon. You've got shitloads of potential, my friend, and the coaching staff recognise it - So much so that they're actually diverting from the Triangle to see what you've got. Don't let them. Show them that you can succeed within the system, as, no offense intended, the Triangle has won a hell of a lot more rings throughout the years than you ever will. What scares me is that you've been doing the opposite, positively revelling in this attention, taking terrible shots out of the flow of the offense. In short, you're trying to be Kobe. Problem? You don't have the experience, work ethic or natural talent of Kobe. You can't be Kobe, you can't even be a true star. You're taking a path similar to that of an accelerated Ariza, and look at him, serving penance in Houston, shooting under 40% on the season and missing the playoffs. Do you want to end up like that? I'm starting to imagine that you have an attitude similar to that of Willie Beamen in the movie 'Any Given Sunday', that you're being the stereotypical cocky young upstart. Please, prove my preconceptions to be misconceptions.
Now, our Point Guard off the bench (and possibly our only hope at that position), Jordan Farmar. You are massively talented, Jordan, as we've seen in flashes. Your decision-making has improved, and you have shown the ability to be highly affective in bursts. When your shot is on you can prove to be that missing perimeter shooter we so desperately need, and your ability to penetrate and create your own shot off the dribble is second to only that of one Kobe Bean Bryant. You've also shown the ability to be wonderfully, dramatically clutch, on both ends of the ball. However, you still confound me by putting up an atrocious and downright ugly game more often than not. As with many others on this team, your only real issue is consistency, and that's all I ask of you. [Update: Jordan. Don't ask for an extra 20 minutes a game. TAKE IT. Work hard and prove you deserve it.]
Ah, Luke Walton, team ladies' man. Try to get well before the Playoffs, Luke, as much as some may undervalue you, we truly do need you. Your knowledge of the offense, your discipline, your quiet efficiency, your steadiness, your ability to, no matter what, trust in and run the Triangle. We need you back, Mr. Walton. [Update: You're back. Now show us the Luke of last year.]
Sasha, you gym rat. You're dedicated and have heart (some may say too much). You can let your heart cloud your head often, but you're still one of our x-factors. If you can come back, and maintain the maturity, focus and aggresiveness you started to exhibit before your injury, it would be much appreciated. If you could find your stroke back, and start shooting 43% from beyond the arc like you used to be capable of doing, it would be a pleasant and greatly appreciated surprise. You practise shooting more than all but very few in the NBA, all that's stopping you from being a great shooter on the court is your head, and your nerves. Block everything out, and just focus on the ball, going in the hoop. [Update: Glad to see you sorted out your little spat with the coaching staff.]
Josh Powell, cut the perimeter jumpers and get in and finish hard, whenever you play. Continue to exhibit that hustle and determination to get the rebound that I've seen you play, and be ever ready as you never know when foul trouble or (God forbid) injury may strike.
D.J. Mbenga, the most important man off-the-court on this team. You've been through so much strife in your life, this scenario is a walk in the park for you. Be ever vigilant, and always prepared, as you may be called upon at any time, particularly if we meet Cleveland, as you are our strongest player and may be needed to help handle Shaq. If you are called upon for this task, do us proud, big man, do us proud. [Update: Keep playing strong in the minutes you're given in Drew's absence, make the most of them.]
Adam Morrison, you're still here. I must say I am dissapointed, but not entirely surprised, that you weren't traded before the deadline. You'll never be called upon during the Playoffs, but right now we have a very short wing rotation due to Luke and Sasha both being injured. All I can say is, don't screw up too bad, and take and make the open shot if the opportunity presents itself. [Update: This is irrelevant.]
Coach Phil Jackson, he of the highest winning percentage and most rings of any coach in NBA history. He that coached Pippen, Jordan, Kobe, Shaq. Are you going senile, old man? I mean, you've never cared much for the Regular Season, but much of what you have been doing of late is downright bizarre. Making excuses for Pau being a little girl? Bitching about the refs after ugly efforts? Cracking jokes after getting dominated by the Cavs at home on Christmas Day? Bizarre late-game rotations costing us countless games? Even of late, where you have seemed like you care, you haven't been able to get through to your players, nor do you appear be phased by this disturbing detail. You haven't been drilling the Triangle or execution into your team, and you have done a terrible job of motivating them so far throughout the season. Crunch time is coming, Phil, will you be prepared?
Jerry Buss. I understand that the Lakers are your only real revenue stream, but surely you could handle net profit being cut from 35 million a year next year to 30 million, in order to exchange Ammo's expiring contract into something that could be useful to the team, and fill up our point guard and perimeter shooting holes? Surely you could dole out at least a minimum contract to shore up our lack of depth at the wing? Also, please, stop being a goddamn misogynist and let Jeanie take over the team. Jim is woefully incompetent, as he has proven over the years, while Jeanie has been doing an excellent job of running the day-to-day operations of the team behind the scenes throughout the last decade. Whatever you do, don't let this family feud cost the team, or its fans. [Update: Congratulations on being inducted into the Hall of Fame; despite all the issues I have outlined, it is still well-deserved].
That applies for all of you, Lakers. Don't let your own issues cost us, the fans. Please.
Saurav A. Das.
I leave you with a video, which I find highly fitting to your current scenario. Maybe this shall motivate you.
[Edit: Phil Jackson set your goal at 60 wins, guys. Guess what? That's still obtainable.]