• dEDGE Post Scriptum • PART I of III
The elevation “B” got on his jump-shot was simply mind-boggling. It was as if he was shooting downward from far above in the heavens, raining down buckets in effortless fashion. His right forearm was always perfectly perpendicular to his bicep, raising the ball aloft in a fluid, piston-like fashion. The ball release rotated precisely in orbit as it fluttered off of his fingertips with the end result being a distinct crackle of the nets. Time after time, defenses would double-down on the Lakers’ dominant post players and the Showtime bigs would simply kick the ball out to their young, sharpshooter. Scott would drive to the basket just as ferociously, slamming down monstrous dunks over 7-footers or anyone else stupid enough to get in his way. Whereas Showtime was all about Magic, Kareem and Big Game James, the Lakers did not defeat the Boston Celtics until an Inglewood native blossomed into the perennial two-guard on a roster teeming of megastars.
Byron Scott was born to wear purple and gold. The Morningside High School star used to sneak into the Fabulous Forum to watch his hometown Lakers take the floor. He loved routing for Jerry West, Gail Goodrich and Wilt Chamberlain, but Scott’s favorite player was a future teammate-to-be, Bob McAdoo. He was in awe that a 6′-11″ post player could shoot the ball better than most guards. Scott was an all-around athlete who excelled in everything he attempted. His strong arm easily propelled a football halfway down the field. That same skill-set made him a formidable pitcher on the mound. But his love was on the asphalt courts that surrounded his City of Angels. The playground legend’s running mates were none other than Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis, both future all-stars in MLB. The trio would command court all day, toss around the pigskin, then propel home runs over the chain-linked fences until the floodlights eventually flickered off. But as baseball became more and more of a reality for his friends, Scott knew his athletic talents were destined for the hardwood.
Scott yearned to stay local and attend UCLA, but the coach, Gary Cunningham abruptly resigned, leaving the Bruins coach-less and Scott looking for alternatives. By the time Larry Brown was hired in Westwood, Scott had already decided to attend Arizona State University. It proved to be a very good fit for him. He knew going in that the starting two-guard position was his for the taking. Scott formed a deadly trio with future NBA first-rounders, Lafayette “Fats” Lever and Alton Lister. His desire and talent matched that of his two older teammates, and soon Scott was thinking that he too, could someday compete in the NBA as well. After three successful seasons at ASU, Scott left school early as the Sun Devil’s all-time leading scorer. He applied for the 1983 NBA Draft and was selected 4th overall by the San Diego Clippers. Scott was happy that he was able to remain in Southern California, close to family and friends, but was simply ecstatic when he learned that he, along with center Swen Nater, were traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Norm Nixon, Eddie Jordan and draft picks.
• dEDGE Post Scriptum •
Seriously, no one really had high expectations for this injury plagued, one-year contract, squad of castaways. Most would also say they’re glad D12 is gone, but the true fact of the matter is, we really didn’t have a choice. The cards we’re playing were dealt a long time ago. And this streak of incredibly bad luck doesn’t appear to have an end anytime soon. We keep busting in our elusive quest for the perfect hand, while the house continues to rake in our hard-earned emotional investments. Meanwhile, a devoted fan-base fades deeper and deeper into an inescapable abyss of despair and doom. We reassure ourselves, sooner or later the tide will turn in our favor. But the injuries continue to mount and the losses keep coming. What has happened to our Lakers?
Karma’s a bitch, or as the Zen Master might deadpan, without me, you’ll never prosper. Hear that, Jim Buss? What was once a proud and multi-faceted diamond has deteriorated into dust before our very eyes. Expectations of playing in June have been replaced by “promising” losses. A post-season run will soon be a post-mortem autopsy. Anyone seen a Superstar lately? How about a perennial All-Star? Staples Center now has two Sterling-esque owners trying to ruin things. Laker fans would gladly accept mediocrity at this point, rather than the slop we see on a nightly basis. 2nd Round exits would be a resounding success for this rudderless franchise currently stuck on nostalgia and warm, fuzzy feelings.
The glimpses we see of Phil Jackson only remind us of what should have been. The celebratory championship champagne stings our eyes with tears of pain instead of jubilation. The greatness that momentarily fills our screens quickly evaporates into a indecipherable Pringle’s mumble. Gary Vitti remains our sole connection to better times. It’s ironic how he is connected to both good and bad, glory and pain, winning and losing. As Pat Riley used to say, “it’s either winning or misery.” Those words have never rung truer. Magic Johnson is now Lakers public enemy #1 for spitting out venomous truths and hard-to-swallow facts. Are we too blinded by the bright lights that chased Dwight Howard out of town not to see all that is wrong?
A stumble along the way can be forgiven. An injury can be patched and mended. An error in judgment can be righted and fixed. But how do you restore the indelible brand and undying faith that took years to build and nurture? How can you talk about tradition and glory to a squad composed of unfulfilled potential and long-shots? Tell me precisely Mr. Buss, how do you plan to win again? How could this franchise enjoy so much championship success when it appeared that it’s benevolent owner wasn’t all that involved? How has the untimely death of Dr. Jerry Buss morphed into the near death of the NBA’s most successful franchise?
We’ve all been exposed to a person who micro-manages everyone. He’s the individual that gets so caught up in the minutia and details of how you should perform your job, that you can no longer perform your job. Dr. Jerry had his own Jerry plus a supporting cast that stretched from Bill Sharman to Bill Bertka and everyone else in between. He surrounded himself with the game’s best and brightest minds. Son Jimmy has a former bartender to lean on for advice. The shots being called neither make sense or provide much hope for a resurgence in the foreseeable future.
Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and a handful of college hopefuls are our inspiration for next season and beyond. Chris Kaman, Jordan Hill, Kendall Marshall, and Robert Sacre are our current dose of reality. Will Kobe ever be the Black Mamba again? Will Nash return to Nashty or retreat into retirement? Is Pau finally on his last legs even though he survived another trade deadline? Can Mike D’Antoni ever amount to anything more than the guy that was chosen over Phil Jackson? Tell me precisely Mr. Buss, how will the Lakers win again? Hope runs eternal but our patience does not.
• dEDGE Post Scriptum •
Dwight Howard scorns the bright lights of LA for the obscurity of candle-lit Houston. Kobe Bryant tends to his blown achilles tendon and Vines himself jumping down, but not up. Steve Nash is another year older and another year removed from his MVP reign in Phoenix. Mike D’Antoni is still the head coach and still not Phil Jackson. Metta World Peace, Ron Artest and Tru Warior are all amnestied in a harsh realization of the NBA’s luxury tax. With D12 out, Pau Gasol is in… that is, until rumors begin to percolate right around February’s trade deadline. While questions about this team’s resolve remain unanswered and unproven, unabashed fans of the Los Angeles Lakers embark on the 2013 season with a clear mantra, “Just wait until 2014.”
If there was ever reason to doubt the purple and gold, the Summer of 2013 should jettison any bandwagon fan directly across the hallway. The Clips remain the next best thing to an NBA title contender since Donald Sterling reinterpreted the definition of settlement. The once, lowly Clips are now projected as a likely Western Conference finalist while the 16-time, banner waving Lakers will be hard pressed to match last season’s meager accomplishments with Howard, Gasol, Bryant, Nash and MWP in the line-up. Gone are all remnants of D’Antoni’s coaching staff, the sole exception being big brother Dan. Also awry are any expectations of a 17th championship, that is, until the Lakers reload in the free agent rich Summer of 2014.
Lacking in substance and quality, the Lakers have gone the route of nostalgia, bringing back former Angelenos Nick Young, Chris Kaman and Jordan Farmar. Ownership would never say it out loud, but this team has been built for a solitary season of expiring contracts and temporary bodies. The names and faces look familiar, the better to alleviate the harsh reality of another “wasted” season. Last year was championship or bust, and after the disastrous tenure of the cowardice, the finger pointing quickly turned on anyone and everyone. What better way to appease a dedicated, yet unrealistic fan base than to direct them back to the past; a happier time full of warm, fuzzy feelings and meager goals?
Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry and Elias Harris won’t quite elicit the oohs-and-ahhs of Dwight Howard powering home an alley-oop jam, but they will fill a void that has been blatantly absent for the past several seasons, youth and athleticism. Look for both Johnson and Young to bring instant excitement to a debilitated bench. Henry appears to have finally found his comfort zone in his 4th NBA season and could be on the verge of a Trevor Ariza-like breakthrough. Although newfound fan favorite Earl Clark is off to greener and richer pastures in Cleveland, his ceiling was viewed as relatively low, as proven by his late season descent to earth after his meteoric rise. With Jordan Hill back from hip surgery, Clark was expendable, even after recording his best statistical season of his career.
Steve Blake finally flourished in the offense and returns for a 4th and final season as does inconsistent streak-shooter Jodie Meeks. Back-up center and lead cheerleader, Robert Sacre also returns as inexpensive insurance to the injury-prone Gasol and Kaman. Gone are Antawn Jamison, Chris Duhon, Darius Morris, late addition Andrew Goudelock and doghouse dweller, Devin Ebanks. To complete the nostalgia tour, the Lakers added Mark Madsen and Kurt Rambis to the coaching staff, along with Johnny Davis and Larry Lewis. And on the farthest fringes of reality television, lies the smallest of opportunities to resign former 6th Man of the Year, Lamar Odom.
The Los Angeles Lakers start the season with a tenuous schedule and if the shaky start under former coach Mike Brown seemed bad, this has the potential to be even worse. Lowered expectations and the frail health of veterans Nash, Gasol and yes, even Kobe has pundits calling for no better than a 12th place finish in the talent-rich Western Conference. But the Lakers have never been accused of tanking so don’t ever count this franchise out. Stranger things have happened and with a bevy of free agents available in the upcoming off-season, look for some serious trade scenarios popping up right after Christmas.
And should Mike D’Antoni and the Lakers stumble badly out of the gates, there are plenty of eager candidates waiting in the wings. Although Phil Jackson has ruled out ever coaching again, his regime is far-reaching and any assistant under the Zen Master will automatically bring back instant credibility. If you want to reach even further back, Byron Scott, a Pat Riley protege is patiently biding his time for an opportunity to join the bench on the purple and gold. With Kurt Rambis now part of D’Antoni’s staff, a shift in direction is easily possible with one or more of his cohorts jumping onto this nostalgic tour.
It may not be pretty, it may not be Lakers caliber basketball that we’re accustomed, but it will be basketball from the heart. As Lakers Nation patiently waits for the main act to hit the stage, all we can do is hum along and snap our fingers to the beat of some treasured oldies.