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Lakers fans, the joke is on us

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With 1:40 left in last night's victory over the Washington Wizards, and the Los Angeles Lakers nursing a 7 point lead, Wiz guard Gilbert Arenas turned the ball over.  Barring some kind of Reggie Miller/Tracy McGrady/Paul Milsapp level explosion, the game should have been well in hand.  Instead, we were treated to this ...

1:38 Gilbert Arenas bad pass 103-110  
1:27   103-110 Kobe Bryant misses 28-foot three point jumper

Even the box score doesn't properly portray the stupidity of this shot.  It says 11 seconds passed in between Arenas' turnover and Kobe's shot, but there were still 16 seconds left on the shot clock.

Time for a quick lesson in end game basketball strategy.  Every time posession changes (or a shot hits the rim) in professional basketball, the shot clock is reset to 24 seconds.  The offensive team has that much time to shoot the ball, and failure to do so (or to touch rim with the shot they do take) results in a turnover.  Simple arithmetic dictates that a team with a 7-10 point lead with under 2 minutes to play doesn't need to do anything at all on offense.  Just allowing the 24 second clock to expire 3 straight times would put tremendous pressure on the team facing the deficit, because if you add in the roughly 6 or so seconds minimum it would take the other team to score, every possession would use a minimum of 30 seconds utilizing this strategy.  An eight year old understands the complexity of this situation.  And Kobe Bryant launched a 28 foot 3 pointer with 16 seconds left on the shot clock.  And he wasn't even open.  The Lakers would literally be better served with an offensive set in which Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Derrick Caracter and Ron Artest form a fort of screens just past half court, with Derek Fisher dribbling into the fort and then spooning with the basketball for 20 seconds.  From the second that shot left Bryant's hands, I knew what I'd be writing about today.  For a player of his monumental experience and ability, it might be one of the dumbest things I've ever seen him do.  I was ready to rip in to our fearless leader, tear him a new one for making a decision we would more readily associate with Ron Artest or Sasha Vujacic.

And then Lamar Odom came along and completely changed the context.

I don't know about you, but when I make a mistake, I tend to keep that mistake in my head for a little while, just in case I need to avoid the opportunity to make the same mistake again.  Same thing goes for when someone close to me makes a mistake.  If my friend gets pulled over for texting and driving at the same time, I'm going to be a little more conscious of it so that the same thing doesn't happen to me later that day.  It would seem to me to be an elementary part of human nature.  So you can imagine how my internal rage turned to shock as we were treated to this sequence, just a few precious moments after Mamba's misfire.

0:36   108-112 Kobe Bryant misses 21-foot jumper
0:32   108-112 Jumpball: John Wall vs. Pau Gasol (Kobe Bryant gains possession)
0:32   108-112 Los Angeles offensive team rebound
0:21   108-112 Lamar Odom misses three point jumper

Kobe misses another deep shot (to be fair, this one was late in the shot clock), Derek Fisher makes a good play to knock the rebound out of the hands of a Wizards big, and Pau Gasol dives on the ball, ending up with a jump ball against the Wizards' smallest player.  The Lakers inevitably win the tip, and that's the ball game.  30 seconds left, a four point lead, and possession of the ball: there is literally no way for the Wizards to win unless they make a bunch of shots and foul the Lakers repeatedly to extend the game.  No way ... unless one of the Lakers takes another contested 3 point shot with 16 seconds left on the shot clock.

As the Wizards called time-out to attempt to formulate a plan for attempting a comeback they had no business making, the camera cut to Lamar Odom ... and he was smiling.  On his face was the type of sheepish grin normally reserved for a drunk hanging out with his other drunk friends (keep your Ron Artest Hennessey jokes to yourselves please) after he just fucked up in a way that he knows is bad, but can't properly process the consequences.  He might as well be exclaiming "Oh shit, I just spent my entire paycheck at the strip club"  as Kobe and Pau burst into uncontrollable laughter.  But he was not drunk.  Lamar Odom was in full possession of his faculties, as was Kobe Bryant.  They simply seem to have no remorse about acting as if consequences don't exist. 

A long time ago, I made peace with the fact that the Lakers aren't going to give their best in the regular season.  I continue to struggle with the fact that they might not give their best in the playoffs either unless they absolutely have to, though with 3 straight Finals trips and two straight titles, I guess I can't complain too strongly.  But last night's proceedings have me looking at the Lakers in an altogether different light.  I used to think the regular season was a burden for the Lakers, an inconvenience, but now I see that it's a joke to them.  Games like this, against teams that are well below the Lakers in talent, are nothing more than a punchline.  And the joke is on us fans.  Then again, since this team's collective hands are littered with championship rings, I guess the joke is on everyone else, too.  But, just on the off chance that word of this filters down to the team in any possible fashion, I figured I'd get this out there in print: 

The joke isn't very funny.