Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lakers Fighting Each Other--a Toxic Mess

Want to know why the LA Lakers are playing like a team loaded with guys who don't like each other and don't trust each other? That's because so many Laker players don't like each other and don't trust each other. Inter-player tension, among other ills, is killing the team.

Right now the Lakers stink, sinking below .500 and are threatening to slide even father downhill. Tapping into a fraction of their talent, they played listlessly and sloppily on Tuesday, losing to a lousy Cleveland team. The Lakers are particularly appalling on defense, which is based on effort, communication and teamwork Give this crew an F in all three areas.

Two sources close to two Lakers report that the players are constantly arguing, squabbling and sniping at each other. The locker room, say the sources, is downright toxic. As usual, Kobe Bryant is at the center of the turmoil. In his opinion, with the exception of center Dwight Howard, he's stuck with a bunch of lazy stiffs and treats the other players in a surly, stand-offish manner. To them Kobe is a mean-spirited jerk. Read the body language on the court and it's obvious who doesn't like whom.

But Kobe is just part of the problem. The sources report that the players are also divided over forward Pau Gasol, who's been out with tendinitis in both knees. Some think Gasol is a soft, super sensitive prima donna who should man up, stop whining and act like a professional. Others side with the Big Spaniard, charging that Gasol is being abused and misused by new coach Mike D'Antoni.

Meanwhile all the players are skeptical, even dismissive, about D'Antoni's run-run, offense-first system. In public they support him and his system. In private, though, they're constantly taking nasty shots at the coach, who doesn't have a clue about how to right this sinking ship.  His answer seems to be to wait for the return of point guard Steve Nash, who's been out nearly all season with a bum leg. So a gimpy, late-thirties player, who probably won't be back til next month, is the savior? Yeah, right.

Let's assess. The Lakers are not only without two of their best players--Nash and Gasol, they're aging, don't run the floor well, are not athletic, don't play good defense, are the worst free-throw shooting team in the league and are in the hands of horrible point guards and a clueless coach. In addition, center Howard, by far their best defender, hasn't recovered from this back surgery and isn't as effective as he can be. Oh yes, and Bryant, once a stellar defender, is playing the worse defense of his career, setting a bad example for his teammates.

If the players were getting along, this would be a tough situation. But factor in players fighting each other and you have one big mess. Don't look for the Lakers to win on a consistent basis any time soon.