I am sure that the Lakers have lost many bandwagon, fair-weather fans this season and so I’ve tried to avoid writing about them because most people don’t really care.
Although I might sheepishly, and sometimes begrudgingly, answer “the Lakers” when people ask me what my NBA team is — and then quickly reconsider whether I should have said the Warriors — I’m still a Los Angeles girl through and through and I’ll stick by my team (even though I can’t remember watching an entire game through this season).
But my excitement for the future was renewed when I read in a tweet that Mike D’Antoni had resigned.
I grew up in the Phil Jackson era of the Lakers and went to the 2008 NBA Finals at Staples against the Celtics (the one that we won) and wore my Lakers jersey far too many times to school when I was younger. So when Phil Jackson left, I felt like a part of the Lakers in me had departed and that no coach would fill it — and I was right.
The Mikes did not deliver and it’s just gone downhill since Jackson departed — of the last four coaches, only Jackson left the team of his own volition and on his own terms. And then without Kobe Bryant…well, that was when I just stopped watching.
Then I read Magic Johnson’s tweet saying, “Happy days are here again! Mike D’Antoni resigns as the Lakers coach. I couldn’t be happier!” I think it was pretty evident to all that this change was inevitable and would be welcomed by all. Bryant wasn’t quite as enthusiastic and instead said that he didn’t care, probably indifferent towards the disastrous season.
But now there’s a chance for a fresh start with a new coach and hopefully a healthy Kobe. The latter says he wants to have input in the hiring process — kind of a diva move, but it’s Kobe Bryant, so he’s entitled. I will definitely be interested this year for the first time in a while to see what the Lakers have in store for us. And hopefully all the bandwagon jumpers will have a little faith in the Lakers as well.
To be quite honest, after D’Antoni led the Lakers to their worst season in franchise history, it can’t get any worse for the team. Everything that could have gone wrong for the Lakers over the past two years did go wrong under D’Antoni. Injuries, bad coaching style, contempt in the locker room, lack of camaraderie and an overall bad mood plagued the team.
Yet word has it that D’Antoni wants to keep coaching. Good luck with that.
The Lakers allowed 109.2 points per game last season, the second-worst defensive team in the league by that statistic. They suffered their worst defeat to any team when they lost to the Clippers by 48 points and had a dismal 14-27 record at home. Gasol openly criticized D’Antoni’s “small-ball approach” to the game and was backed by Bryant. If the two leaders of the team are against the coach, that negative vibe is going to spread to the rest of the team, which it did.
So you can see why I would be excited to see what’s in store for next season because it really can’t get any worse. And considering it’s the Lakers, one of the most lucrative, well-known and successful franchises in NBA history, you have to have faith that something will be fixed and their tradition of excellence will be restored once again.
Ashley Westhem hid her Los Angeles Clippers jersey in the closet before writing this column but is planning to bring it back out for their game this Tuesday. To tell Ashley why Lakers fans don’t root for the Clippers in the playoffs, contact her at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu and tweet her @ashwest16.