Everyone of them knew that as time went by they'd
Get a little bit older and a little bit slower but...
"Revolution #9" The Beatles
Ultimately this season has been a cautionary tale for the Lakers so far on what it actually means to get older. We don't know just what the season has in store for the Lakers, and later in this piece we're going to take a long look at their schedule. But given that there have been so many unbelievable twists and turns, I decided it might be nice to get this moment, possibly the Lakers' nadir as a franchise, in amber (you know, like from that episode of House), for posterity. Okay, so it's December 14th, and I've gone through about four stages of feelings with the Lakers this season, as a Spurs fan and as a basketball fan in general.
1. Abject Sports Horror - "They did it again! How did they do it! ..." I have used the ellipsis to omit several unpublishable 8000-word rants. The Los Angeles Lakers had acquired Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Their starting five looked legendary. Not much to say.
2. Schadenfreude - 1-4, they fired Mike Brown, and didn't hire Phil Jackson. Kobe made public comments. Hack-A-Howard worked. Twice. Glorious swoon.
3. Abject Sports Horror 2: Electric Boogaloo - Fun fact: I hadn't at all considered the idea that a bad season might be more horrifying than a good season. For all the fear I had of what the Lakers could do, I hadn't realized how awful a flop would actually be. Not in some big picture "It's fun to hate the Lakers and the league suffers when they aren't a dynasty" sense. I mean in the small-picture. "Wait, I like Steve Nash! I might root against him, but he make the game a lot more fun for everyone, myself included! I also like Kobe, Gasol, and Dwight, as players! It's fascinating to watch each of the four and they are all amazing players." The schadenfreude wears off. You start to laugh at Kobe's vintage season being wasted... but then you think about it for five seconds and realize that Kobe is having a vintage season that's being completely wasted. Dwight Howard can't make a weakside play to save his life. Pau Gasol looks about 48 years old. Steve Nash looks about 38, which is 10 years old than he's ever looked. Four generational talents. Four wasted seasons. Steve Nash might never play another full season. Quite distressing.
4. Overriding Curiosity - We have to lower our expectations for this team, if not in terms of potential than in terms of record. Every loss will not be made up in March. A recalibration is inevitable. Even those of us (Aaron and myself included) who had huge questions about age and the bench need to recalibrate: Aaron did his thesis on aging and I was in close contact with him, he was absolutely concerned about the Lakers entering the season. And even before that, I've long held to Bill James' principle that aging happens much more quickly than any of us are generally willing to admit. But neither of us saw this. Hence our recalibration, in which an impulse akin to leadership emerges, and I start to wonder just what the heck this team would look like at full strength again. The Spurs and Celtics from the last couple of years and the 2011 Mavericks were pretty long in the tooth, after all, and those teams were a lot of fun to watch (okay, not the Celtics, but they've had their moments). Heck, the previous iteration of the Lakers (Bynum-Odom-Gasol-Kobe) was pretty darn old and that team's offense was awesome at times. The Lakers could still be scary.
Okay, thanks for indulging me. Now, let's move from what the Lakers have done to what the Lakers can do, in terms of what that would mean for their remaining schedule.