'We didn't ... come to play'

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
12:53
AM PT
Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Lakers DejectionAP Photo/Jae C. HongPau Gasol, Jordan Farmar and the Lakers emerged from the beating with the West's worst record.
LOS ANGELES -- There comes a point when you just want it to stop. All of it. The losing, the injuries, the frustration, the season. The end seems merciful because the present has become that awful.

That’s what it felt like for the fans during the worst loss in Los Angeles Lakers history Thursday night.

It was pretty bad for the players, too.

Embarrassing, for sure.

But to reach that level of dejection, you have to be deeply invested in something, and the guys currently wearing the purple and gold really don’t have much connection to the franchise.

Most won’t be here long. Some just got here. The rest are trying to figure out what category they fall into.

“I’ve never been in a game where a team won by 50,” veteran center Chris Kaman said.

Never mind that the Los Angeles Clippers actually beat the Lakers by 48 points. The part of that statement that’s actually in doubt is the use of the word “team.”

The Lakers are a team because that’s what you call a group of guys who wear the same jersey and compete in games together. But this is no team. It’s a group of nice guys trying to make the best of an awful situation.

[+] EnlargeClippers
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty ImagesHounded at times by the Clippers defense, Gasol still managed a Lakers-high 21 points.

Mike D’Antoni is the Lakers coach, and for a while he had his players buying into “team concepts.” But when the losses started piling up, it just became so obvious to everyone involved that there’s nothing left for the “team” to do this year other than try to be professional and compete.

The Lakers aren’t building a culture or molding a young core group of guys. In a way, they’re auditioning whoever is left standing for next year. But even a good showing in this last quarter of the season doesn’t guarantee anyone anything.

“You have a lot of guys on one-year deals,” Kaman said. “There’s a lot of guys who are worried about that. It’s definitely on the back of everybody’s mind. And if it’s not, they’re not telling the truth. It’s hard.”

To their credit, the Lakers have been giving a good effort most nights and competing well enough to give the fans a good show.

But every so often there are nights like this, where they absolutely get worked and the best thing for all involved is for it to end quickly.

That’s what happened against the Clippers.

The Lakers live and die by the 3-pointer and one-on-one play. All of D’Antoni’s offensive concepts have been watered down while they try and fit in newcomers Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks. When those shots don’t fall, it creates long rebounds and fast breaks for the other team. A game can get out of hand very quickly.

The Clippers led 29-27 after the first quarter, then the floodgates opened. By halftime it was 73-40. That’s right, the Clippers scored 44 points in the second quarter; the Lakers scored 40 in the first half.

It was ugly. Fans didn’t even wait for the second half to start before leaving. The teams played the second half, but even the Clippers started taking pity on the Lakers and lifted their starters midway through the third quarter when the margin got to 48.

“This was the worst loss I’ve been a part of at any level,” Lakers guard Jodie Meeks said. “Even if it wasn’t the Lakers, nobody wants to lose by that much. It’s embarrassing. There’s not much to say. We didn’t, for whatever reason, come to play, and they did.”

Ah, but it is the Lakers.

That means something to their millions of fans.

That means something to all the longtime staffers who have seen far, far better days.

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak looked to be in all states of agony just watching. D’Antoni was enraged for most of the game, then sad.

“They’re trying. It’s not like they’re not trying,” D’Antoni said, protective of his players to the end. “When you’re a little bit slower than the other team and a lot less athletic, they just carved us up.

“We’ll do a lot of things, but just going in and yelling and screaming is not going to help a whole lot.”

This loss was so bad, it felt like it could be the one that ends D’Antoni’s star-crossed Lakers career. Initially at least, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Kobe Bryant has been increasingly silent as this awful season winds its way to its eventual end, but even he knew this was a night the people needed to hear something -- anything -- to make them feel like this will all be over someday.

“Misery = Motivation #thanku #urwelcome,” Bryant tweeted after the game.

He’s not coming back anytime soon to help. Mostly likely, he’s not coming back at all this season.

That’s a sobering thought. But sometimes you get to the point where you just want it to stop. End and be over. End and never be like this again.

No matter how miserable games get, they do eventually end. So do seasons.

But how do the Lakers make sure the rest of it stops, too? The losing? The frustration? The lack of direction?

They won’t be a team again until those questions are answered.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0