Tuesday, April 19, 2011
THIS IS THE END
It’s easy to fall into the trap of repetitive behavior and there are certainly good and necessary patterns - the duplication of basketball fundamentals enables ingrained muscle memory as an example. Getting torched by pick-and-roll represents a less seemly side of Lakers tradition. Beyond anything resembling actual X’s and O’s however, lies larger and widely discussed behavioral patterns - the most oft-repeated being the turning of a switch and the second being laziness (to use a over-simplification).
Repetitive behavior of course, is hardly limited to sports or any other specific actions - eating, laughter, war, discussions of weather and lazy literary devices such as self-indulgent inclusions of old-dog stories, are only the tip of a fast-melting iceberg. The day will come when there is no basketball to be played, a dying generation will survey the ruin of earth and look backwards, asking "why?"
More astute observers than I, are able to pinpoint basketball actions that led to Sunday afternoon’s defeat, or, a certain malaise in general. C.A.Clark at SS&R makes the point that Pau Gasol’s skill and grace do not equal willingness. Phillip Barnett at FB&G focuses closely on Chris Paul’s brilliant game. Andy Kamenetsky at the LOL examines the effect of Steve Blake’s absence on the second unit. And, Lisa Dillman at the LAT looks at the X-factor of the Hornets’ undersized Cal Landry.
There was a wonderful on-court interview with Lamar Odom after the recent Spurs game, sweat was coming down in sheets and he spoke about pride and ego and the dangers of complacency. Then came Sunday and he pulled another one of those on-court disappearing acts. In truth, it’s not about any one Laker, apart from Kobe - he being possessed of a killer instinct that’s only betrayed these days by a deteriorating body. The real issue is whether the team comes together collectively, whether they can all take it on their shoulders.
I doubt there’s been a game this season that will be singularly remembered in future years. Nothing on the level of Fisher’s 0.4 rainbow or Kobe’s 81 points or the 4th quarter rally against Portland in the 2000 western finals. There will however, be an erratic pattern and season on whole, that will be vividly remembered - this being Phil’s last. If we somehow win another championship, the legacy will be of a maddingly inconsistent team that reached beyond the demands and ravages of so many long and challenging seasons.
Beware the talk of triangle mysteries, of adjustments and stats, of big men manning the paint. Beware the analysts and experts - there’s only one true thing that’s gotten us here, time and again. The Switch. Scoffed at, cursed and dismissed - it’s real. It’s been riding shotgun for the past 10 years and we need to accept its presence now, we need to throw it because we’re in too deep.
How many times can you hurl your aging body against a door, how long will dead legs carry you? The young lions are coming fast and furious, it’s their league now. The real reason for an upcoming lockout? Corporate wants to kill off the old superstars. Believe it. There’s younger, faster, cheaper models now. Regardless of how long the old guard remains, they’re gone. It’s the age of expressionless perfection. There’s one last stand though, and it’s now. Throw the switch, lever it into position and lock it - this is the path we’ve chosen. If we don’t win it all this time, it’ll be because we didn’t embrace the end. Close with a song.