Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Los Angeles' Kobe Bryant, centre, may need to pass the ball in order for the Lakers to win.
Los Angeles' Kobe Bryant, centre, may need to pass the ball in order for the Lakers to win.

NBA: LA Lakers 'All-Star team' still struggling

The Los Angeles Lakers have the highest payroll in the NBA but they sit well below .500 as questions still loom, writes Steve Dilbeck.

The Los Angeles Lakers reached the midpoint of the season as undisputed champions of failed expectations.

It is not just that they are playing poorly, it is the disarray of a foundering team expected to contend for a championship. Coaches, stars, role players, all unhappy and not hesitant to mention it.

A team blessed with, in theory, four superstars (Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol) was expected to contend for a title but are 18-25 after 43 games of an 82-game season. If the play-offs were to start today, the Lakers would be watching at home on their super-sized TV screens.

The season is turning into a soap opera, with hourly drama and denunciations. It hearkens back to the club's 2004 Days of Turmoil when Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant were at loggerheads.

Just five games into the season the Lakers fired coach Mike Brown. They replaced him with run-and-gun aficionado Mike D'Antoni, who seems unable to fit two elite big men (Gasol, Howard) into his system.

Gasol has complained he needs to get the ball close to the basket. Howard has complained he does not get the ball enough. There have been cries to trade Gasol, then new cries to trade Howard. Gasol wants to start again. Bryant has to shoot less. Metta World Peace needs to shoot less. There is tension between Bryant and Howard.

The only constant is the failure of a highly talented team to win consistently, despite the fattest wage bill in the NBA, at US$100 million (Dh367m).

Several times someone in the club has declared that "the season starts for us on (fill in the blank)". Which has always been followed by more defeat.

"Have you ever watched an All-Star game? It's god-awful," D'Antoni said in a moment of candour. "Everybody gets the ball and goes one on one and then they play no defence. That's our team. That's us. We're an All-Star team."

Last week, they tried a team meeting to clear the air, then went out and lost to the Memphis Grizzlies. When the team returned home on Thursday management felt compelled to give D'Antoni the dreaded vote of confidence.

Then came a whisper of hope. The Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz on Friday and, in their most significant victory of the season, beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. In each game, Bryant reverted to being more of a facilitator, handing out 14 assists in each win.

"I think we've found our identity," Bryant said.

Bryant has experienced brief bouts of sharing the ball in the past, but always found it difficult to control his "shoot-first" impulses.

"We just have to learn to play together," Howard said. Time is running short to find answers.


twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Glenn Maxwell's knock that followed ensured Brendon McCullum's knock went in vain after his explosive half-century took Chennai Super Kings past the 200-mark. Ravindranath K / The National

All is well with Punjab as Maxwell and Miller seal win against Chennai

The Australian missed out on a century but his 95 runs, along with Miller's unbeaten half-century, ensured Kings XI scaled a mighty peak of a target in a hot first game of Abu Dhabi's double-header.

 Sunderland manager Gus Poyet protests during the Premier League match against Crystal Palace at The Stadium of Light in Sunderland, northeast England, on March 15, 2014. Ian MacNicol / AFP

Sunderland going out of Premier League with a grumble

Northeast club have underwhelmed during seven-year stay in the top flight

 Hamburg players leave the field after the match against Borussia Moenchengladbach on March 30, 2014. AFP

Hamburg the dinosaur’s time may be up in Bundesliga

Ever-present for 51 years in the German top-flight, Hamburg face the prospect of relegation, writes Ian Hawkey.

 At 105 kg, Gabrielle Garcia has dominated the world circuit and loves many things about being in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Garcia seeks fresh challenge in MMA after her jiu-jitsu domination

Brazilian prides being a lioness in the sport but feels she can shed 25kg weight to pursue her MMA debut aspirations.

 England's Jonathan Trott hits out during the ICC Champions Trophy semi final match against South Africa at The Oval cricket ground, London June 19, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Brown

England’s Jonathan Trott sidelined with stress-related illness again

Jonathan Trott is to take a second break from professional cricket because of his stress-related illness as England and Wales Cricket Board and Warwickshire confirmed he will stop playing with immediate effect.

 Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho looks on during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium on April 13, 2014 in Swansea, Wales. Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

‘That’s why we are a top club’ says Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech

Jose Mourinho’s men will temporarily claim the Premier League top spot if they beat Sunderland, leaving them in control of their own destiny in the title race ahead of a crucial trip to face Liverpool at Anfield on April 27.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National