It happens just about every Christmas.
The Lakers suck the cheer out of the day like a Boston Celtics Championship DVD.
In ’03, Steve Francis (remember him?) carved the Lakers up like Freddy Krueger. In ’04, Shaq ate Chris Mihm in his first visit to L.A. after the Kupchak fire sale. In ’05, Gary Payton – at 87 years old – demoralized the Lakers D. In ’06, Wade (40/11/4) made Kobe (16/4/2) look slower than Eddy Curry after a Chinese buffet.
And, we all remember last year, when LeBron James and the Cavs all but killed Santa with a 15-point victory at Staples Center.
If history has any say in this, yesterday’s layup drill for Miami will prove to be relatively meaningless.
In ’07, the Lakers vs. Suns on Christmas was a western conference finals preview, right? Not exactly. L.A. never saw them again on their way to the Finals.
In ’08, surely a Holiday date with the Celtics was an early glimpse at June… except it was Orlando, not Boston, waiting for L.A. in the Finals.
In ’09, David Stern, Nike and just about everyone expected a Christmas Day “LeBron vs. Kobe” appetizer, but then Boston got hot and stormed their way through the Eastern Conference playoffs, single-handedly moving LeBron to South Beach.
Christmas day matchups predict the future about as well as Bill Simmons predicts Christmas day matchups.
Let’s put things in perspective: The Lakers baffling woes on Christmas day really aren’t cause for too much concern.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned about this Lakers team…
Sure, Miami exploited some major weaknesses – they are legitimate title contenders. They should be able to do that. The real issue here is that Miami didn’t do anything the Jenning-less Bucks weren’t able to do at Staples Center last Tuesday.
That tells us one thing: The sense of panic in Lakers’ fans this Christmas is different than it has been in years past.
Yesterday’s loss wasn’t a Christmas no-show (like it was last year, when the Lakers were 23-4 heading into Christmas) – it was the continuation of a dangerous pattern in a mostly passionless, and strikingly arrogant, Lakers team.
Lamar said it best after the game, “Part of the problem is we’re cocky, we feel we shouldn’t lose any games.”
Kobe echoed the same sentiment, “These games mean more to our opponents than they do to us.”
To steal from my favorite sports movie of all time, these are the Rocky III Lakers. It took an absolute beating by Clubber Lang before Rocky realized the truth about himself.
He was soft.
He was satisfied.
He was missing the eye…
Lang was the hungry, powerful, trash-talking Miami Heat on Christmas. What happened at Staples Center yesterday was exactly what the Lakers needed.
They were humiliated.
They were booed.
But most importantly, they were threatened.
The Miami Heat came into Staples Center and said, “That trophy you have back there? We’re coming to take it away from you.”
From a distance, the Celtics, Spurs, Mavs and Magic are saying the very same thing.
The threat of failure for Kobe and the Lakers is suddenly real, and from the tone of their post-game press conference, they are finally starting to feel that.
Human nature says that if you ever want to see what someone’s capable of, threaten what’s most valuable to them and see how they respond.
We know what’s most valuable to Kobe Bryant, and if that posture infects the rest of his teammates, you can be sure that the champs may be down…
But they’re certainly not done.