El Segundo — Covering a bad team isn’t easy, and in the seasons leading up to this one, the Los Angeles Lakers were really, really bad. Few people know this better than James Worthy, who had to talk about the team losing the same ways over and over on television right after each defeat.
Worthy has been with Spectrum SportsNet since the network started in 2012, and the 2012-13 season was the last time the Lakers made the playoffs. That’s a lot of bad basketball to watch, and to say Worthy is happy that the dark days are seemingly over in Los Angeles would be a gross understatement.
“It’s been miserable for the last six years,” Worthy told Silver Screen and Roll. “We haven’t been to the playoffs since San Antonio swept us in the first round so, for me personally, I’ve never been used to that ... rebuilding. When Magic retired in the early 90s, we still were able to get to the playoffs — most of those years, anyway — and then we got Shaq and Kobe.”
But Worthy also knew the end was coming. In the span of one year, Kobe Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon, Dwight Howard bolted in free agency and Steve Nash’s health started to rapidly decline. The Lakers put all of their eggs in one basket, and all of those eggs went rotten at the same time. Since then, they haven’t sniffed the postseason.
“It was tough, it’s been tough. It’s not the Lakers’ brand, to lose,” Worthy said.
However, as a result of their historically bad run as a team, the Lakers were able to add top-tier young talent through the draft, some of whom are still with the team today, like Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.
Surely that means the rebuild was somewhat successful, right? Not to Worthy, who only cares about winning.
“I can’t say the rebuild was good because they didn’t win,” Worthy said. “I’m a winner and when you don’t win, the rebuilding process didn’t work.”
It’s not the results of the rebuild Worthy was unhappy with, though, it was the process in which the team was rebuilt. That process might have had something to do with the presence of Kobe Bryant.
“I didn’t like the Luol Deng move,” Worthy said. “We came out of desperation and the Mozgov move, there was a lot of money there. I’m not in the front office, I don’t deal with GMs but I heard we had an opportunity to get someone like Kyle Lowry and some other good players that could have been here. And then they made the moves that they made in the draft. Some people said maybe we should have taken Porzingis or maybe Tatum, or someone like that.
“When you look at all of those scenarios, you can’t say that the rebuilding process went great. A lot of it had to do with the fact that no one was going to play with Kobe those last couple of years. If you were a free agent like LaMarcus Aldridge or one of those guys — I was fortunate enough to sit in on a couple of those interviews — it was difficult for someone to come in here and be the man when ‘the man’ was still here. It was a waiting process.”
When Bryant hung up his sneakers after an illustrious 20-year career, the Lakers moved on from their previous front office tandem of Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, replacing them with Johnson and Rob Pelinka. Now, the team finally has its next superstar in LeBron James, arguably the greatest player the league has ever seen.
The dog days are over, and Worthy couldn’t be more elated.
“Big Game is a Laker for Life. His jersey is on the wall, he bleeds purple and gold. The losses were hard on all of us,” Chris “Geeter” McGee said of his Spectrum SportsNet co-host. “He hated seeing his team go through all the tough times and the negativity.”
His colleagues have even joked that Worthy is in better health now that the Lakers are winning games again, and he’s focused on spreading his increased positivity across the airwaves to Lakers fans all over Southern California with his signature “Worthy clap” he does after victories.
Spectrum Sportsnet has even begun airing viewers’ own Worthy claps, democratizing the post-win fun now that the team is winning more consistently again:
@SpectrumSN Showing us some love. To hear two of my Favorite Lakers of all time @JamesWorthy42 and @roberthorry show us love is the ultimate! Best TV crew in the game! #lakeshow #WorthyClap #lakers pic.twitter.com/IMgHNKX6C6— JFernandez (@lakeshow81) December 11, 2018
And as much as the Lakers’ have struggled over the last few seasons, today the team sits at 17-11, which is fifth place but just one game back of the No. 1 seed. Things are better, and at this rate, the Worthy clap and its increasingly positive inventor will get to make their postseason debut together when May rolls around.
“This year is different, last year started to get real fun but this year has been next level,” McGee said. “He seems revived and excited and he’s having a lot of fun.”
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.