It's been a trying, trying season for Lakers fans. Distilling this nightmarish year down to that simplistic of a sentence might not actually do it justice.
But that's why we're here on Silver Screen & Roll: to make sense of the madness and give Lakers fans the unfettered truth. As many low points as there have been this past year—and there have been a ton—there's also been a few shining moments of brightness throughout the dark. We took a poll of our esteemed writers to get their high points and low points on the season.
The high point of this year, at least in terms of sheer entertainment value, was likely the game in Cleveland back in February in which a hilariously depleted Lakers roster beat the Cavs in a laugher despite literally everything going wrong for the road team. Whether it was Nick Young or Jordan Farmar getting injured and aggravating a pre-existing injury respectively, Chris Kaman and Robert Sacre fouling out, something that forced Ryan Kelly into significant minutes at the five--which is a really unreported storyline of the game: the Lakers played for a good chunk of the contest with Kelly at the five and were still blowing away the Cavs--or any of the shenanigans at the end of the contest, the Lakers were never really in danger of losing the game, an entirely incongruous proposition if one looks at the active rosters of both teams that evening. The Cavs had Kyrie Irving, Luol Deng, Anderson Varejao, and a roster of so-so pieces, and whether a result of former Lakers coach Mike Brown's inept coaching ability or whatever reason you care to fathom, they were losing to a Lakers squad that technically couldn't field a full team near the end of the game without resorting to an arcane NBA rule in which a fouled out player can stay in in exchange for a technical being called on every subsequent foul.
This game also produced two immortal images that really encapsulate the sheer absurdity of this season: Kaman resting on an otherwise empty bench and a hobbled Steve Nash entering the game to sit on the bench in full uniform because he thought he might actually be needed to play. Both accentuate how ridiculously bad the Lakers' injury situation has been, as not only was Kaman able to lay down on a bench otherwise devoid of players--similarly amusing are the photos of Kaman and Kendall Marshall chatting with each other as the only players on the bench and being separated by at least two empty chairs--Nash felt it it was necessary to at least don a uniform to show moral support for his teammates. And in spite of the team dealing with the aforementioned circumstances and really having nothing to play for besides pride at that point in the year, the Lakers defied expectations as they have done all year and won anyway. By the end of that game, even devoted tanking enthusiasts, namely yours truly, felt it was entirely worth the hit at the Lakers draft position.
As for a low point, it's really hard to pinpoint one in a year in which losses are really the best long-term solution for the team. Sure, getting annihilated by the Clippers by 48 hurts, but the knowledge that it's ultimately helpful mollifies most of the impact. Perhaps it's when Kobe Bryant suffered the injury that prematurely ended his comeback attempt, as at that point, we had the notion that this team could be competitive, entertaining, and possibly make some noise when at full strength. Without Kobe, whom most Laker fans likely wanted to see make a full return to superstar status after suffering his Achilles injury last season, it became clear that the best path forward for the Lakers was to better their draft position, something that has been aided by the flood of injuries the team has suffered. It's an ideal path forward as far as asset management goes, especially with regards to all of the minutes that players like Kelly, Marshall, and Sacre are getting, but having to rely on nothing more than hope that Kobe will be back on the court in the purple and gold at anything close to his previous level is a tough pill to swallow.
My personal high point of this abysmal season was when the Lakers sent my brother one of Robert Sacre's jerseys.
But for the purposes of this roundtable I will pick something more relevant to all of you: the opening night victory over the Clippers. I have a feeling this was the easy choice, although some might be more partial to the Steve Blake game winner over the Rockets, or the triumph over OKC and I would not fight them too much on it. However, I have to go with opening night victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, our cross town "rivals". Ever since the Lakers' vetoed trade for Chris Paul, the Clippers have caused a special kind of pain with every success because it brings up memories that should have, but never did happen, of Kobe Bryant and Paul (and Dwight Howard?) leading the Lakers' next dynasty. Thus, wins over the red, white, and blue always bring the satisfying feeling of smacking an overconfident younger sibling in the back of the head. This win had all the hallmarks of a Lakers victory this season: breakout performances from the bench and role players; with the reserves outscoring the starters, hot shooting, and just a joyful, fun-to-watch team who all played as a cohesive unit.
Most of all, I chose this opening night victory because it was a time when there was some hope for this season, it appeared as though this collection of misfit toys was not a sneaky attempt at tanking, and could actually band together and become something greater than the sum of their parts. This was not to be though, as we saw in my low point of the season, the 142-94 loss to the Clippers.
To quote from Drew's recap "At least in wasn't 50 points." This qualified as a positive on a night when the Clippers positively dominated the Lakers in every facet of the game, getting revenge (and then some) for the embarrassment of losing as a heavy favorite in their opener. The nation got a good look at Mitch's misery, with the cameras seemingly panning to the GM's face for analysis on the most recent transition dunk or backdoor lob. As starved for talent as this team is, you almost have to try to lose by 48 points, a new Lakers record for futility. Seemingly everything went wrong, with the Lakers shooting less than 40% from the field, and 26.7% from three point range. The transition defense especially was some of the most abysmal effort I have personally witnessed. Kobe apparently knew it was coming, unfollowing all of his teammates on twitter a week prior, with this night providing delayed justification. Overall, even in a season where we are rooting for more ping pong balls, it was a one of the most painful games I have ever had to watch; and therefore my low point of the season.
For me, the highlight and lowlight of the season is the tale of two Clippers games.
Coming into the season with our best player injured and a roster full of NBA castoffs, I didn't have high hopes for the Lakers. I thought if everything went perfectly and Kobe came back to form, maybe, just maybe our ceiling was barely making the playoffs. As a result, I relished our victory over CP3 and the Clippers in the first game of the season, knowing it may never be that good again. A 13 point blowout despite solid games from Griffin and Paul, with strong supporting contributions? I'm still not entirely sure how that happened. Afterwards, I wrote The Great Mambino an email:
"It may be the highlight of the season. It may be all downhill from here. I may never be glad that Jordan Farmar, Swaggy P, or Beetlejuice Kaman are on our team again. Tonight, though? That was beautiful. They punched the Clippers in the mouth, who looked like a team that thought the Lake Show would just roll over. They overlooked this game, plain and simple. The Lakers didn't care. They hustled, got offensive rebounds, played some tight defense in the second half. The bench came to play. Doc Rivers looked shell shocked. Chris Paul was pissed off and got an offensive foul while throwing a temper tantrum. I will be sleeping with a smile on my face tonight."
On the other hand, I think everyone can already tell where I'm going with the lowlight. After being embarrassed early, the Clippers had circled the January rematch on their calendar and came to play. The end result was beyond ugly - it was a 39 point drubbing that was the worst loss to the Clippers in Lakers history and dropped the Lakers to 14-23 on the season. The Clippers didn't even need CP3 for this mauling. Blake Griffin, Darren Collison, and DeAndre Jordan all exceeded an unreal +40 for the game.
The Lakers were appropriately sheepish in the aftermath. Nick Young said "they killed us" and Pau Gasol called it a "painful loss and somewhat embarrassing as a player." Beforehand, I already knew that the Lakers were clearly the worst team in LA and heading towards a lost season, but it was still a jarring game for me. You can mentally prepare for yourself to lose to your little brother at some point, but you don't expect for him to absolutely destroy you. I know the Clippers are a totally different franchise than they were 10 years ago, but that doesn't make losing to them any less painful. Especially like this.
I would say the high point of the season is probably the Cleveland game with the foul fiasco. The confusion I had watching the game on mute on my iPad made for a pretty memorable watching experience. I, for one, had no idea that rule even existed. I'm sure that others will choose this moment, though, so I'll go with the game at Houston early in the year. It was just pretty fun to beat Dwight after the bad taste that last season left in my mouth. Steve Blake's game winning three pointer was pretty awesome, too.
For the low point, I'll say Kobe going down again. Going into this season, I was mostly just looking forward to seeing how Kobe bounced back from the Achilles injury, and we never really got to see that. Instead, Kobe was thrust into emergency point guard role, tried to do way too much to set up his teammates, struggled, and then had a fracture in his leg. Which, by the way, is pretty Kobe-ish that he still finished that game after breaking his leg and seemed fine after a few grimaces.
The Great Mambino
Undoubtedly, the highest point in the season had to be the calamitous affair known as 4 Lakers vs. a team of Cavaliers.
Counting down aloud in my apartment as the Lakers ran out of players as if they were playing dodgeball rather than an NBA game was one of the true, sheer joys in this otherwise moribund season. Players kept falling, literally and metaphorically, from the pre-game reporting to the middle of the fourth quarter. Adding to the improbable fate of Robert Sacre staying in the game with six fouls, the Lakers somehow... kept the lead against a fully functional Cavaliers team helmed towards an eventual devastating loss by, appropriately enough, old friend Mike Brown. Every single part of that game was hilariously delicious, with irony being stacked upon comedy. Though it made it all the more better that the Lakers won the game, the outcome was simply a mere bonus compared to the insanity that came before it.
The low point is as clear to me as the high point: a 48 point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. As a fan who watched the Clip Show laid in front of the juggernaut Lakers for so many seasons, even in a year where tanking is the accepted practice, it was equal parts unbelievable and embarrassing.
Low point(s): Everything else.