Paging Austin Powers: Lakers Lose Mojo
Like Austin Powers, the Lakers have lost their mojo. Their chi decided to flee. Their eye of the Tiger? It needs an optometrist.
Like Kobe Bryant every time Stu Jackson reviews a game tape, they're in a world of trouble.
Their fall into the abyss, also known as No Man's Land, Nowheresville and 8th place in the Western Conference, has been triggered by a rash of injuries. Lamar Odom (torn labrum), Luke Walton (tweaked ankle) and Kwame Brown (ankle also) are all starters. (Brown has since returned, raising the Fed EX question: what can Brown do for you?) So too was Vlad Radmanovich, who's on the snowboard DL after replacing Walton in the lineup. So that's effectively a total of four starters who've been missing for extended stretches.
Their injuries--they're real. And there've been enoughof them to bring most teams down. Seventeen losses in 25 games is all the proof you need.
What seems unreal, though, unimaginable almost, is any team quitting on Phil Jackson. But that appears to be what's happening right now. The Lakers' lack of fight as their second of two 6-game losing streaks has progressed shows them regressing into a team that lacks fight. Not to mention heart, toughness and perseverance.
Losing, that's one thing. Looking like you're at the top of the heart transplant list, that's another. It's one thing to get a 'D' on your report card, but parents should get really concerned when there's a zero in the column next to 'Classroom Effort'.
A 36-point home loss, even to the Mavericks, gets them that zero. And a call from the principal.
If the Lakers fly south any faster, they'll have to move the team to Capistrano with the swallows.
Which got me to musing: Could Dr. Phil, seer of seers, the greatest coach in modern NBA history, be firedTWICE by Jerry Buss?
I would think not. Heck, past 60, Phillip came back from hip replacement faster than his 20-somethings return from rolled ankles.
Still, if I'm the Dr. J with the PhD in mathematical chemistry--that's Dr. Buss--I'm a little troubled right now by the staff's inability to get their undermanned group to play hard at the defensive end. It doesn't take great skill to play tough 'D', it takes great will.
With Lamar and Luke both set to return Thursday at Denver against the team closest to them, the Lakers find themselves in a struggle just to hold on to that 8 spot. Or as we also call it: being behind the 8 ball. It's really just a battle to see who gets blown out in the first round by Dallas.
Maybe you put an even half-healthy Lamar back with Kobe, mix in the triangle-savvy Walton, and they win enough to get at least a bit of their swagger back. Certainly stranger things have happened. At least that'll take the front office out of full panic mode.
Still, it'll be interesting to see if, for $10 mil a year, Big Chief Son In Law helps them rediscover their lost Mojo...or if, horror of horrors, the Lakers are heading for that Big Lottery in the Sky.
Ted Green is Senior Sports Producer for KTLA Prime News and a former L.A. Times sportswriter