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Previously on the Los Angeles Lakers... Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and company entered the playoffs with a 57-25 record, the exact same record they had in the 09-10 season. Complacency, lack of urgency and fatigue troubled the purple and gold in their quest for their second 3-peat. In six games, the Lakers took care of business and clipped the wings off of Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets. Little did they realize, their troubles were only the beginning as the Dallas Mavericks stormed into the Staples Center and downright exposed them as an old and feeble team with internal trust issues. Then the unspeakable happened when Andrew Bynum threw an elbow jab to the chest of J.J. Barea in Game 4, cementing their humiliating defeat as the Lakers were brutally swept out of the playoffs and Phil Jackson heading off into the sunset of Montana, never to be seen again. Can the Lakers redeem themselves? Find out next on the Los Angeles Lakers!
(use script below)
David Stern: "AH! After 35 years, I'm FREE! It's time to conquer the NBA!"
Phil Jackson: "Kupchak, Stern has escaped. Recruit a team of ballers with attitude."
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Kobe Bryant as Black Mamba
Pau Gasol as The Spaniard
Andrew Bynum as The Beast
Ron Artest/Metta World Peace as Crazy Pills
Ramon Sessions as The Point
Mike Brown as Coach
David Stern as The Commissioner
Billy Hunter as The Representative
Phil Jackson as The Zenmaster
Produced by Jim Buss
Executive Producer Dr. Jerry Buss
(Apologies to Saban, MMPR Productions, respective stars and the NBA. It's just a spoof, but it FITS!)
When you think of your Los Angeles Lakers, you think of history, banners, jewelery, and hall of famers. 70 banners in all, comprised of 16 titles, 31 conferences and 23 divisions. Names such as Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and Jerry West should give you goosebumps. Coaches Pat Riley and Phil Jackson have led the Lakers to a flawless victory. The Los Angeles Lakers is a synonym of success, value and leadership, the qualities that David Stern publicly admired, but privately loathed when it came to the great Lakes. Ah, how the mighty have fallen.
It was Game 4 of the NBA Playoffs, Round 2. Dallas beaten the Lakers 3-0, and were vying for a complete sweep of the defending champions. Andrew Bynum publicly addressed the media that there were trust issues within the team. But in an effort to cover up this Bynum malfunction, Phil Jackson did a fast one as Bynum meant to say he was having "truss issues." Kobe was sick in the head, but he still believed his team could ultimately vanquish the group led by Dirk Nowitzki and Rick Carlisle. They had to - it was Jackson's last stand, his final 3-peat. It was prophecy that the Los Angeles Lakers complete their 3-peat campaign, after having toppled their arch nemesis Boston Celtics in a thrilling Game 7 back in 2010. If they could beat Dallas, the Lakers would be two steps closer to tying with Boston in championship banners. Kobe would get his sixth ring, tying Michael Jordan. Phil would have earned his 12th ring and be known as the greatest basketball coach of the modern NBA era. Alas, it was never meant to be.
3 after 3 after 3. Breakdown after breakdown. Mental lapses galore. The Dallas Mavericks exposed the Lakers with every single weakness in the book, it was as if they were facing the Charlotte Bobcats or the Washington Wizards. Turnovers, weak perimeter defense, no athleticism, old age, malaise, fatigue, complacency, lack of urgency, outside distractions, peer pressure, inner demons - and my personal favorite - the cheap shot. The instant Andrew Bynum threw an elbow to J.J. Barea as he was in the air to lay it in, the Lakers transformed into a heel, turning against the good will of the Buss family. A disgrace to Phil Jackson, to their legacy, to their fans, and the entire world. The Lakers betrayed everybody, and everybody was calling for their heads.
Irate, angry and crushed over the broken promise of a Lakers 3-peat, David Stern punished the Lakers by putting the entire NBA into a five-month lockout, hoping for a cancellation of the entire 2011-2012 season. It didn't help that Derek Fisher, then a Laker, pursued federal litigation against the owners when he dissolved the players union. Players wanted a 50-50 deal. Owners called their bluff and wanted more. Bickering over monetary gain - not a good sign for a sports league. It wasn't a question of whether the NBA is losing money or not. It was about when the NBA would return.
If the NBA did not resolve their differences by early December, the fans would revolt against the basketball association and call for an Occupy NBA. Occupy Wall Street was already in full force last November, taking place in Los Angeles, Memphis, Boston, Baltimore: literally all across the United States. Was the National Basketball Association willing to risk losing their life-long consumers and the unemployed to public rallies, peaceful demonstrations, and police brutality like that of the Los Angeles Riots of 1992? Stern did not want Los Angeles to die in the hands of the Occupy movement, so he and Billy Hunter struck a compromise, which you can read here. The NBA tombstone was destroyed, and the lockout was over. Season resumed on Christmas Day, 2011.
The Chris Paul Trade That Wasn't
If anything, Stern resurrected the NBA for the fans. It was about the money, but it was really about the product. But the stench of the 3-Peat remained fresh in his mind. He was willing to give the Lakers hell, even after the fans forced the owners and the players to call it even. So the Lakers were working on a deal that would have brought Chris Paul to the purple and gold by sending Lamar Odom to the Hornets and Pau Gasol to the Rockets. One stipulation to the trade offered by the Hornets was the inclusion of Jason Smith through a sign-and-trade deal, which he seriously declined. THAT'S why Stern stepped in and destroyed your beloved deal, rephrasing the term as "basketball reasons." Don't believe me, read this.
Despite the cancelled trade, the damage had already been done. Lamar Odom, distraught and devastated by the news once it was made public, entered Kupchak's office and demanded out. He felt betrayed by the Lakers, a team he once called home and family. For him to hear that the Lakers would do anything to make up for the mistakes that happened last year during the regular season and the early playoff exit by trading him to New Orleans put him on the edge of a mental meltdown. Mitch Kupchak agreed to his request, sending Lamar to the reigning champion Dallas Mavericks. Y'all know what went down with Lamar's competitive fire, why should I even douse it further with water? So yeah, Lamar was eliminated. And Chris Paul became a Clipper (for more on the Clippers, check out the other Ultimate Rant).
Changing Of The Coach
What to do with Phil Jackson, the heir to Tex Winter and the triangle offense, winner of 11 championships as coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers; mentor of Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest? Jim Buss wanted nothing to do with any remaining remnants of the Phil Jackson era. Jim wanted his own team, his own staff calling the shots. Like Barack Obama, he wanted change. And he damn near got it, starting with Mike Brown of the Cleveland Cavaliers. A defensive minded coach with family values and a resume of video coordinator with the San Antonio Spurs, for which he won a championship with. A coach with no rings, but a will to reach another NBA Finals. Out of all the coaches who know a thing or two about implementing the triangle so that the Lakers wouldn't have to learn anything new (coughBrianShawcough), Mike Brown was chosen because he had no care about the triangle. Kobe did not like the fact that he wasn't notified of this coaching choice. And so, the dysfunction continues...
The Peace, Disturbing
Ron Artest has a problem. Every time he is confronted, he gets angry. His fuse is so short that it takes only one 12 oz. can of Miller Genuine Draft by a displeased fan to enrage him. Ron stampeded through the crowd, put the punches to his face, and the Pistons-Pacers Malice At The Palace brawl was born. Artest worked so hard to get rid of his dark side, winning a championship with the Lakers and turning over a new leaf with his citizenship efforts. His name also had to go for "Ron Artest" was already married to one of the ugliest fan-player incidents in sports history. And so, "Metta World Peace" was born.
Bynum wasn't given any favors. The NBA properly suspended the beast for five days for his fatality to J.J. Barea, later reduced to four in conjunction with the less-than-normal season already in progress. The Lakers understood that Andrew is a creature all his own: an immature child in human life, but a monster on the court. He grabbed a career high 30 rebounds against the San Antonio Spurs, and a season high 37 points against the Memphis Grizzlies. Standing at seven feet tall, with his defensive presence on the paint truly felt, he is regarded as the resurrection of former big Shaquille O'Neal. If Bynum has one weakness, it's being distracted. He hurts people. He shows no remorse. He lacks respect. He has an issue with authority: he DESIRES authority. Without a calm head in the locker room a la Derek Fisher to guide the beast, Andrew Bynum is an AK-47: always shoots, no questions.
Jim: The Buss Recluse
If there was any person to blame for your new coach, Lamar go bye-bye, Derek Fisher being traded and Bynum feelin' himself, you have one man to point the finger on. With Dr. Jerry Buss and his health waning, his son Jim Buss became the owner and operator of the Lakers franchise. Anytime a great signing or trade was made, you thank Mitch Kupchak. Anytime you get a bad performance, worthless player, or ridiculous signing, you blame it on Jim. But there's one thing he did get right: keeping Andrew Bynum over Dwight Howard.
I'll explain: throughout the years, the Lakers have always gotten natural big men from other teams. Chamberlain, Philadelphia 76ers. Kareem, Milwaukee Bucks. Shaq, Orlando Magic. Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies. Bynum is a completely different animal in that he never came here via trade – the Lakers got him through the draft. Jim Buss apparently did not like the idea of always having to get big men from other places, such as the case with Dwight Howard and the Magic. Buss wanted to prove to the family, to the Lakers fanbase and the organization that they don’t need to make a trade. They don’t need Dwight Howard anymore. The Lakers already have their big in the form of Andrew Bynum, and no matter how much we want to criticize or put him down for not refusing to trade Bynum for Howard, Jim Buss is going to stick with his guns.
It also became apparent that Jim was public enemy no. 1 amongst all Laker fans. Second place in the Pacific Division, Jim. Kobe not being involved in the new coach, Jim. Lamar in exchange for cash, Jim. Attempting to get rid of Gasol but keep Bynum, Jim. Fisher for Hill, Jim. Kobe not playing up to par, DeAndre Jordan (I got you there, hun!) Furious with all the finger pointing going at him, Jim Buss wanted to set the record straight once and for all.
He may not be anything like his father, but you damn well better respect his foundation and way of business. Jim is just trying his best, so give him a couple years.
The Lockout In A Nutshell
The lockout season has been a story of upsets and surprises. For the first half of the season, the Clippers have owned the Pacific Division. Uncharacteristic losses to the Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trailblazers, Los Angeles Clippers, Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets - that's almost half of the entire league. But a big win against the Boston Celtics - this is because the Celtics-Lakers rivalry isn't what it used to be, when they originally had Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the lineup. Half of these players have already left Boston, and the possibility of the original big three breaking up was clearly evident. Even though the roster was under the process of rebuilding, the Lakers cannot stand to lose to their arch nemesis ever again. Beating the Celtics in a 2010 Game 7 forced the franchise to recognize the Los Angeles Lakers as the new Boston Celtics of our time. They didn't stand a chance against them at Staples Center, neither could they beat them back home in the Boston Gardens. If the Lakers dynasty was coming to a close, they needed to take care of business with their master enemy.
The Elbow That Stole The Division
The fate of the Pacific Division was on the line. Meanwhile, the Clippers suffered their first ever three-game losing streak on the closing days of March, topped with a flagrant foul from Jason Smith to Blake Griffin. Then a miracle happened: the Clippers were experiencing winning streaks of six games and five. Every time the Clippers got close, the Lakers feared for their safety. But if there was one thing they could count on, it was the inevitable Clipper curse, a side effect created long ago by the Laker fans that would take affect every time the Clippers attempted to dethrone the true L.A. team. The Clippers had three chances throughout the end of the season to tie them. And they CHOKED on all three.
The ultimate choke came on the day against the Oklahoma City Thunder, when a celebratory Metta World Peace, beating his chest King-Kong style, threw an unconscious elbow to an unsuspecting James Harden. Ron Artest had returned, and both he and Metta were ejected from the game and issued a seven day suspension by the Stern dictator, extending into the first round of the playoffs. The Clippers are the only team in the NBA to defeat the Thunder more than twice. Lakers have lost to the Thunder twice; they couldn't afford to be swept, because if they did, OKC would automatically win should they meet in the playoffs. The only way to beat the Thunder was to take out their best man, like how Phoenix and New Orleans handled the Clippers. How ironic that the recipient of the blow would be the Thunder's sixth man when it could have been reserved for Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook. Whereas the Clippers defeated the Thunder with their strengths, the Lakers stole a game with this cheap shot. Ron Artest is gone. The only way they can get him back is if the Lakers beat the Nuggets in round one, or survive the gauntlet, when they can get him back on a game 7.
The way Ron/Metta shot the elbow, it had the impressions of a bounty. If you take out the head of the snake, the body becomes useless. For the Lakers, removing James Harden (unintentionally) gave the Thunder a temporary advantage. They were up 17 at the end of the third quarter, but on the fourth, Westbrook and Durant were having a difficult time making shots. Jordan Hill, refreshed after his injury, was an athletic rebounding asset, and second-year guard Devin Ebanks finally got his shine when he was defending Kevin Durant. Without James Harden controlling the game, the Lakers found a way to climb back and bring Kobe in for the finish. They survived double overtime, and stole a much-needed victory from the Thunder.
Losing Ron Artest was a costly, risky move. But if it helped them to win the Pacific Division and keep the Clippers where they belong, then so be it. All it took to win the Pacific Division, really, was this one important game. And they got it! Cause of this, Lakers are the three seed with the division, Clippers are the fifth and a road team for the entire playoffs, and between them is Memphis with the home court.
The Road To Redemption
Now that the Lakers have clinched the third seed, winning the Pacific Division and putting the Clippers en route to a first round exit, all that is left in their minds: REVENGE!
1. Against David Stern, for keeping Chris Paul from the Lakers, handing him over to the Clippers
2. Against the Dallas Mavericks for robbing the Lakers of their 3-peat
3. Against the media and critics for ruling the Lakers out of the hunt
The Los Angeles Lakers will do everything in their power to reclaim the title that which is theirs. Why, because they are the Lakers: golden champions with a purple heart, where the true seven feet players play, and clutch reigns supreme. Their 3-peat may have come to a crashing halt last season, but they promise to atone for last year's mishap by winning this year's lockout against the prophecy of the San Antonio Spurs. If they can do that, apology accepted.
We now begin the campaign of a REPEAT... AND ONE.