From a beautiful free flow against Oklahoma to a brief road trip somewhere over the time line, an effort’s being made to stay with it, whatever it is, the lives of people involved in some convergent story, albeit with blank spaces and distant voices. The Lakers resolutely play in sections now, a quarter of brilliance followed by a quarter of distraction. Coach Jackson digs into timeouts more than ever before, barking in faces and drawing recalcitrant responses, attention flickering to the stands. The second half breaks down and we get carpet-bombed in Dallas.
How to define a season once earmarked for greatness? Fisher often talks about the difficulty of maintaining a focus - grown children, staring out the window as the teacher drones on, wondering what’s out there. The distractions. A championship can still be won of course - all it takes is flipping the switch, 4 out of 7 times. Except that it’s all these sections now, 28 and maybe more and the switch becomes looser from time and misuse, prone to shorts. Do we turn it now coach? Do we turn it now, Kobe? He stares a death stare and pulls and prods and curses. He’s not the distracted one.
Continuing on to the mile-high city, a team with their own attention disorders. The ‘Melo trade talks have dragged on, well past the point of being epic. Still, a dangerous team, especially on their home turf. The last time I made a prediction about the Nuggets it went all wrong. We’ve dropped our last four games there; the ink brigade’s got injury problems but they’ve still got emotion and they use it often, baiting opponents into playing their running game and we always seem to leave their shooters wide open, parked somewhere on the outskirts and happy to bomb away.
The question was who or what would show up, it could have been another game with brilliant sections or one where the distractions reared with baleful glare. Luckily it was neither, the team gnawed their way though a solid, workmanlike four quarters; going inside often; working until the plan fell into place, rewards coming with the occasional outside shot and then back to plan. More specifically, Artest went to work early, scoring 3 baskets inside and following up with a corner three. Kobe facilitated the first half, came out swinging in the second - 14 of his 19 points came in the 3rd quarter. Pau was inspired on the offensive glass and Andrew Bynum had one of his best games yet this season, putting his big boy pants on as he went chest-to-chest with Nene. Maybe Uncle Theo’s been imparting some of that manhood knowledge. By the time all was said and done, five players would be in double figures and all within two points of each other.
The team has a few days rest now, their next game’s at home on Tuesday against the struggling Jazz. The train may continue on track, it may momentarily derail. It’s anybody’s guess now, whether blue skies beyond the window or the season of the witch. I’m feeling good after last night’s win though. Years ago, somebody spoke to me about looking in through the window at that which seems so subjective up close. Blocking out sounds and distractions can reveal the simplest of truths and that lesson has always stayed with me. Phil Jackson has won 11 championships in 19 seasons as a head coach. He says this 20th season will be his last. Ergo, he’s gonna be a tough old coot to beat.
On a sidenote, tonight marks the 5th anniversary of Kobe’s historic 81-point night. Andy Kamenetzky at the Land O’Lakers remembers it in glorious detail. Give it a read.