Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wake Up Busses: Harsh Reality Is, Lakers’ Era No More

Much as I try to respect the Buss family, for assembling star power and consistent winners in the past to own the well-known, beloved pro sports franchise in town, Jim Buss – the son of self-serving owner Jerry Buss – recently perceived as one of the inept co-chairmen in the NBA, is destroying the personality of his franchise.

It seems as if the Los Angeles Lakers, once a smart-minded organization primarily because the Busses opened their wallets to spend wisely and lavished star players, are turning into egomaniacs and dummies who are foolish enough to withdraw the effects of ascendancy for the foreseeable future.

From now on, it’s about revamping and hopes in returning to prominence, and even if the Lakers era unquestionably has come to an end, the storied franchise won’t ever win another championship with the current roster. If you expect the Lakers to win it all, shimmer under the bright lights on center stage in Hollywood, please realize that the team needs to acquire another skilled player or invest in supplementary pieces to dismiss the misfortunes and restore an engaged roster by surrounding Kobe Bryant with a dimensional supporting cast.

Until then, while sitting around waiting for the Lakers to conduct business by their considerable diplomacy in maybe pulling off a blockbuster deal for Dwight Howard –Orlando’s kryptonite center — they won’t have a profound foundation of winners. For one dreary afternoon at Staples Center, another Christmas Day that wasn’t so merry or cheerful in Los Angeles, a dispirited crowd seated in the building suddenly worried about the flaws seen after the Lakers had blown an 11-point lead in a loss to the Chicago Bulls.

The wasted opportunity, frighteningly enough, besieged what almost capped the nicest moment and the finest victory. And maybe now the Lakers became conscious of the missing pieces to reform an optimal team. There’s no joy in the City of Angels, a fear of failures and long-suffering droughts with expectations and pressure because of bloated egos, because the team arguably has the best closer in the game and, well, because the Lakers are widely considered one of the world-famous franchises in NBA history. The demise of the Lakers, suppressed by the mediocrity and infirmity, is oddly sweeping over purple and gold, and then evokes plenty of horror.

Bryant, playing with a torn ligament in his right wrist, is unhappy that his bosses traded Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for a 2012 first-round draft pick. The loss of Odom, probably the best sixth man in the NBA, sends off a bad vibe as the Lakers are weaker and not favorites to win another championship, falling behind the Clippers in a town where they’ve rained on their neighbor’s parade – the in-town rivals in purple and gold.

Given that he’s a clutch performer of this generation, it’s bad not to surround, maybe the best entertainer in basketball, with a reliable supporter, such as those tough ballplayers on the streets – which would be physically built men with bruises and scratches to their faces and maybe even a Band-Aid seen on their forehead. This isn’t a team that plays aggressive like the rough boys from And1 mixtapes — but suddenly soft and passive, so the Lakers are not even close to being destined to winning a championship.

His challenge just became harder, and the circumstances of uncertainty have visited L.A.’s beloved sports team, as the burdens of mental toughness and urgency lies on the shoulders of Kobe, not yet requesting for a trade to play elsewhere when he is maligned by the front office boneheaded moves. Last time this happened, Bryant, unsatisfied and livid with the direction the team was headed, demanded a trade because the Lakers weren’t seeking to hire Jerry West as general manager, the former team executive who traded for Kobe in 1996.

It’s not surprising that he reportedly requested a trade out of Los Angeles and whined bitterly, after the front office’s aggressive pursuit of Chris Paul was a failed attempt to halt much promise in a deal that would have sent Pau Gasol to Houston and Odom to New Orleans. Having seen this episode before, I know the fluctuations of his mind: Satisfy Kobe “Bean” Bryant as much as possible. The Lakers, the most enigmatic, culture-riddled NBA team this season, barely seem like they are positioned to dominate in a condensed season, much less a franchise that can bring in a star player to share the ball with Bryant.

But now, as we often see the Kobe Lakeshow, an extravaganza on center stage that absorbs the spotlight in Hollywood, Bryant is worried about what direction the team is headed. What’s fascinating about a well-known L.A. spectacle, which happens at a lively venue, is that his show on the court entertains and entices the audience enough to awe true fans sitting courtside, including Lakers’ mascot Jack Nicholson. Seems he and his team, with sudden mortality, watches an era come to an end as common L.A. folks regularly scheduled program has been canceled for the time being.

Sure NBA commissioner David Stern, acting as the powerful owner of the Hornets, if not the mighty god of the NBA, blocked a megatrade for the all-star point guard. But what I dislike about Jim, the witless and dumbfounded co-owner of the Lakers, is that he’s dismantled the franchise to the point where it has become the least polished and interesting team in pro basketball. The first sign that the Lakers’ woes are far from over was a bit startling in recent weeks. It would be appropriate to realize that the Lakers had set their sights on acquiring Howard from Orlando and were in prime position to trade for him, but the Magic abruptly pulled the marketable sensation off the trade market.

There’s a feeling as of now, in contrary to the Buss family sending Odom to Dallas when he pouted and asked for a trade, that they are proposing a deal to trade both Andrew Bynum and Gasol. Mad with the world, turning an overblown situation into a soap opera, Odom boycotted the Lakers’ practice facility where he was a no-show on the first day of practice and asked for a trade. It isn’t the most satisfying moment for a high-market franchise with much tradition, wins and championships. Nor is life glamorous in Lakerland.

It’s always nice to have the best player in the game if this generation, if not on the planet in the midst of a foreign period for the Lakers. The distractions, in a town commonly badgered by the Hollywood drama and celebrity gossip, are swirling around Bryant in the aftermath of his wife Vanessa Bryant filing for divorce from the Lakers star player. The world was as shock as they are now, seeing the Lakers take a 0-2 skid to begin the season.

Is it time to panic in L.A.? Is this the time when Dr. Jerry Buss takes a few shots of Whiskey? Is this the time Kobe will request a trade out of town? Is this the time Kobe pisses off Jim and is foolishly granted his wish?

One has to wonder, not too sure what direction the Lakers are headed, as the front office made a few head-scratching moves. Not much in life, unless the Buss family conducts business by making poor alterations as the franchise become worse, upsets the minds of Lakers’ supporters. He prayed that he’d still lead the Lakers, knowing that he has enough in him, even if he’s getting old. Each time, Bryant is exhausted by a grueling shooting spectacle, hogging the ball to save his team from itself, to rescue the Lakers from hell. Such was his ability, finesse to score at will one night, when he compiled 81 points in a historic performance at Staples Center, or when he promoted the “Where Amazing Happens” NBA theme and wore the most intimidating expression. This was Bryant nearly three years ago, when he startled the world with his scowl game face.

While his eyes were possessed and focused heavily on his prey, as if he was a vampire ready to devour anyone’s blood, Kobe scored 40 points and single-handedly pummeled Orlando 100-75 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. But the Lakers right now are nearing the end of an era, and indelible moments are not logical in duplicating at this point. If you care about the Lakers, a share of your soul is gone begging for the franchise to end a turbulent relationship and dump Gasol, even when he contributed to the team’s two recent titles, even when he was an x-factor in playoff games in the past.

And now, after two seasons with the Lakers where he’s been a four-time All-Star and entrenched as one of the star players, his reign in a purple and gold uniform has come to an end, washed up, useless, like an old dishrag. When it comes time to play, Gasol is a fearless, harmless tall lanky guy with a reputation of being lazy and soft, and has taken much criticism. Sorry, if he doesn’t have “Toughness” anywhere in his name, because in reality he’s softer than a marshmallow and will probably be on the trading block real soon.

His softness shows on the court, and opposing players have called him soft in the past, maybe the softest player in the NBA. At 37-years-old – or 37-years-young – for some who believe he’s still ageless, Derek Fisher is far from ageless but the oldest player on the court, certainly in the starting lineup – mind you. It sounds like he should be close to signing his retirement documents, too slow to keep his feet in front of younger point guards in the game and losing his lateral quickness for which he can’t defend.

The car flags’ are probably lowered at half-mast on many vehicles, and as much as life is dreary from Orange County to Santa Monica, it feels almost like the Lakers perished.

The challenge, meanwhile, is larger and more compelling. It’s time that the Buss family wake up and surround Bryant with a reliable supporting cast. And, just show you know, the Lakers have been to 32 NBA Finals and won 16 championships, but triumph has sadly culminated in a dying era. And a long the way, the Lakers are about to embark on a sizable rebuilding project -- at least that’s what is needed if they want to stay on top in the west and return to championship form. We now know for certain that the Lakers era ended, and it’s time to declare that triumph is over for Team Hollywood, one franchise that leaves us guessing and wondering strongly about any future plans.

When NBA legend Phil Jackson retired, the winningest coach in NBA history, it was a new tale for Jim and the Busses and at level of understanding the significance of replacing a legend – he brought in new Lakers head coach Mike Brown to begin a new coaching regime. When the front office failed to trade for two prime targets -- such as Howard -- general manager Mitch Kupchak, who is suffering from headaches amid potentially a lengthy transition period, the team couldn't rebuild talent, aura and reliance with all the agonizing pitfalls to become a below-average franchise.

But mainly, the pedigree and aspirations are lost, and the result is that the Lakers are a long ways from being a consistent winner, as vulnerable to losing against any team. The franchise has failed to retool, missing on big-name players once available on the trade market. That’s what happens with bad personnel decisions, the Lakers never had an opportunity to revamp. Ask Magic Johnson. Even he knows this current team doesn’t have enough to win a championship.

Are the Lakers the Colts of the NBA? You often wonder.

Kobe can’t do it alone. And Buss doesn’t realize it.