Son of Yhency

Monday, October 31, 2005

Are you ready for some basketball?

Ahhhh, the dog days of October. Baseball has finished, football is grinding away, hockey is somewhere there and basketball is back! What a joyous time it is for the House of Yhency. My college basketball preview will come in a few weeks, but with the NBA season starting tomorrow, I'm going to focus on my Lakers.

(Note: Much like ESPN's Sports Guy, who often takes 10,000 words to discuss the Boston sports team of his choice, I will sometimes spend far too much time discussing the L.A. sports scene. If that doesn't fancy your interests, deal with it. I promise to muse on other things as well.)

The Lakers are a mystery to me right now. You have a superstar player, a superstar coach and then eleven insignificant role players, none of whom could make the Spurs' practice squad. Which could be why most experts are picking them to do no better than squeak into the playoffs.

Public enemy number one for this atrocious team? Mitch Kupchak. Is this really the best team he could field? I don't mean to disparage -- wait, yes I do -- but he may actually be the second worst GM in basketball. (Isiah, of course, will hold down that top spot for as long as he's around.) I'm glad I can look forward to a second round draft pick in 2047 from that Jumaine Jones trade. Just please don't take a guy with a friggin' heart defect this time. Because there's nothing more exciting than burning cap space on a guy with no NBA experience and who has a massive bleeping heart. (Which is a bad thing.) In hindsight, has Kupchak ever made a smart, savvy move? Besides getting lucky with Kobe (no one knew he'd be this good when they traded Vlade for him) and paying Shaq a crapload of money -- two moves a monkey could have made -- he's done nothing with that team.

Listen, nobody appreciated the Lakers' threepeat more than me. With Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, the Derek Fisher shot in the 2004 playoffs, every Big Game Bob moment, Rick Fox' hair, I loved those teams. But Shaq elevated every one of those players and now that he's gone, he's exposed Kupchak for the fraud he is. Put Mitch in a small market and that team will suck. Not unlike the Lakers right now!

And much like my thoughts on the Dodgers on Saturday, so much of this starts with ownership. No, the Parking Lot Attendant and Doctor Jerry Buss don't even belong in the same stratosphere; I think The Doctor has earned the respect of Los Angelenos that it looks like Frank McCourt will never scratch the surface of. But while watching a preseason match between the Lakers and Queens on Friday, I saw an interview with Buss that made me uneasy. When asked about Kwame Brown, Buss enthusiastically praised his skills and said he was excited to have him on the team. He specifically cited watching Brown lead a fast break in practice, saying, "It's rare for a seven-footer to be able to do that."

Oh no. Sound the alarms.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that Kwame's thing? That his raw skills are so great that they're only bested by those of Darko Milicic? Jerry, we know he's got the skills. But as we've seen from this guy for four years in D.C., he (a) can't translate the raw skills into game skills, (b) he acts like a little child (which, considering his age, isn't too surprising) and (c) he's a cancer to the team. There's a reason why the Wizards gleefully sent him home last year -- during the playoffs, mind you -- after he simply missed a practice.

I have no problem with giving Kwame a chance. The kid is still young, and who knows, maybe he'll finally grow up under Jackson's tutelage. But how about we temper expectations until he proves us wrong? And with Buss' interview from Friday, I'm scared. I'm scared that he's lost sight of the larger picture, which is to construct a cohesive squad capable of a championship run, not a random assortment of guys who can't play together. Phil's good, but when you have a potential starting five of Kobe, Kwame, Lamar Odom, Chris Mihm and Devean George, and then one of the first guys off the bench is named Sasha... yikes.

That said, I'm looking forward to the season. Not that it'll be a smooth ride. They aren't your grandfather's Lakers, but with a postseason berth, I'm happy. It's the friggin' Lakers, and with Phil and Kobe at the helm, anything's possible in the playoffs.