Monday, July 13, 2009

Part Five: Destructive Tendencies

We lost. Our beautiful orchestra of motivated last-chancers dissipated. The Laker Empire would slowly and destructively crumble over the coming months. Kobe was an unrestricted free agent that summer and wouldn’t even publicly acknowledge whether he would recommit with the organization who had housed him since his days at Lower Marion High School. Shaq demanded a trade (to a team in warm climate city, no less) away from the Bryant, whom he claimed was a terrible teammate, and even sold his L.A. home weeks before an accommodation with the Miami Heat was even made. Our supposed-to-be savior Derek Fisher signed away with the lowly Golden State Warriors for more money than the Lakers’ front office was willing to commit to the role-playing point guard. Gary Payton was shipped for spare parts to the gutter-dwelling Beantown Celtics. Phil Jackson was at an odds with management and just kind of went away to zen however much he wanted to away from professional basketball, with an all-revealing book rumored to be coming soon after. Malone’s knee required extensive offseason work and while he entertained the possibility of coming back with the Spurs, Wolves, or Lake Show, he wound up riding off into the Louisiana sunset of post-basketball life. And while Kobe did wind up re-upping after a flirting period with the Bulls and (*deep breath*) Clippers, darn near no one was recognizably left. The team was in tatters.

The inaugural season of my fandom was supposed to be perfect. The Lakers were supposed to ride the coattails of my support to a championship, cementing my personal revenge of 53-foot tall Michael Jordan for attaining so many while I was too young to object to it. But the season wasn’t perfect. Karl didn’t get the championship to cap off his beyond-extraordinary career. The Mailman moved on and I had to stick with the Lakers to start this climb back up from the gutter. Now while I had my hopes for a roster now consisting of the likes of the lanky (and interestingly enough, my second favorite player from the previous season) Lamar Odom, the Swiss army knife Caron Butler, the aged and dreadlocked rebounder Brian Grant, jellybean-sized shooter Chucky Atkins, and the nearly dead chain-smoking Vlade Divac, the ’05 season was something that had me wishing for a temporary case of Alzheimer’s.

We started it all right enough, simply living up to extensively lowered expectations. We had replaced Phil with a similarly larger-than-life coach in Rudy Tomjanovich, but because of health issues and the pressures that are a package deal with being the Lakers coach, he barely lasted past the Christmas meeting with the now rivaling Heat, and the indignantly bitter Shaq, before re-retiring. All in all, we fell apart midseason due to a never-ending string of injuries and overall lack of talent, missing the playoffs altogether. That was a first (and odds-on, only) for Kobe in his career. Drastic measures needed to be implemented. And then a trade went down that would change all of our lives drastically.

[to be continued]

... but do take my word for it.

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