Ted Green: Relief and resentment rule the day
The Lakers threw it and lit up Staples Center, bright as neon in Game 5, just a bravura all-around performance, leaving me with some very ambivalent feelings.
As a Laker fan, watching the champs go up 3-2 and now possibly/likely winning the Okie series is a heckuva lot better than leaving the playoffs in April. That would have been ugly and could have led to other goodbyes like maybe to Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar for sure.
However, as a journalist who is supposed to critique performance, I’m actually angry that the Lakers are this arrogant. Are the NBA’s current lords of the rings really so high and mighty as to throw that switch, to play their best and most enthusiastic basketball only when they absolutely have to, only when losing would probably mean the end of their championship reign?
By definition, it means they’re making less than their best effort on a steady basis, like, oh, 95% of the time. So if you love championship pedigree, admire effort and laud those teams and athletes who leave it all out there, giving it their very best virtually all the time, then this Laker team does leave you wanting -- and expecting -- so much more.
If Game 5 was an indication, they’re treating these playoffs like an Austin Powers movie, losing their mojo, then going back in their time machine (2009) to try to get it back. All that’s missing is Dr. Evil sitting courtside next to Jack.
Now in fairness, this isn’t exactly the Laker team we know, certainly not the one that brought home last year’s title. They can’t be fully operational when Kobe Bryant is physically compromised. That in itself is the first and biggest domino, making the other dominoes fall faster on off nights. When things aren’t going well, there is no longer the real Kobe out there, supreme and supernatural, to bail them out.
And yes, if the 1985 Lakers were, as many Lakerphiles believe, the best of all the championship teams, we do remember the Memorial Day Massacre in the old Boston Garden. A 148-114 blowout, a profound embarrassment that had a lot of us wondering what the heck happened to the real Lakers. Then they regrouped, played splendidly and won the championship, stuffing Red Auerbach’s unlit cigar right back into his wrinkly old pocket.
So nights like Game 4 in OKC where these current Lakers were run out of the gym, they do happen.
Maybe Game 4 in OKC will be their Memorial Day Massacre a month early.
Still, much as I like raising championship banners as much as the next guy, until these entitled brats play with this kind of effort on a more frequent and consistent basis, real Laker fans, the ones who understand the rich history of the franchise, should refrain from all-out celebration.
For me, relief and resentment are the operative words of the day.
-- Ted Green
Green formerly covered the Lakers for the L.A. Times and is currently Senior Sports Producer for KTLA Prime News.
Photo: Phil Jackson gestures during the second half of the Lakers' 111-87 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals on Tuesday. Credit: Chris Carlson / Associated Press