Celtics homer Bill Simmons compared the ’22 Lakers to the ’04 Lakers. But are they even worse than that? Simmons said LeBron would be Kobe, then “you have an older Shaq vs a in his prime Anthony Davis… and then you have Russell Westbrook as the proxy to this Malone/ Payton combo. These two guys that were one thing on other teams and now they’re getting shoe-horned to this other situation, that belongs to these two other guys.”
Other than it being hard to top an ongoing three-year feud (Kobe vs. Shaq) a few months before it reaches its boiling point and a very public and idol-crushing trial. Are we sure the ’04 Lakers are the best comparison?
Right now, the ’22 Lakers are 2-2, which is not that bad, right? Well, they were also winless in the preseason, and Howard and Davis had their scuffle – something Magic Johnson said he has never witnessed before. Not once but at least three times has team leader LeBron not run back on defense or offense because he was ‘frustrated.’ Cough, cough… diva. There was also that weird Rondo shooting a fan with his hand thing.
Westbrook is Westbrook which is actually how they just scraped to the finish line against Memphis. Russ playing godawful for two games to then drop 13 assists the next seems like a returning trend you can bet on. Then again, they needed a motivated Carmelo Anthony to drop 28 points to beat a team that’s predicted by many to be in the play-in tournament.
So who else could even light a torch to that much opening drama and still be picked by so many to hold the championship trophy at the end of the race?
Well, the ’01 Jail Blazers kicked off a potential championship season by picking up a way-too-fat Shawn Kemp and sending away a way-too-young Jermaine O’Neal. There was little authority between their best player, Rasheed Wallace, and their head coach, Mike Dunleavy, from the getgo. This accumulated to Sheed averaging a technical every second game. Literally.
Or we can look back as far as the ’65 Warriors when Chamberlain was threatening to retire unless owner Franklin Maieuli gave him a bigger contract. The fact the franchise was on the verge of bankruptcy didn’t help either. That and the rising attention of rookie Nate Thurmond, and Wilt was in typical Wilt fashion – disrupting the whole team. When they finally traded him to Philadelphia to play for Wilt’s attorney, who was also the team’s owner, the Warriors was 11-33.
A funny side note, when Wilt finally left, Maieuli commented, “Chamberlain is not an easy man to love … the fans in San Francisco never learned to love him. Wilt is easy to hate … people came to see him lose.” Any team with Wilt was a contender, just like how any night Westbrook can get 13 assists – they just need to stay out of their own way. Easier said than done.
So far, the ’22 Lakers do not have two major players beefing (sorry Dwight), or a coach/ player beef (no one seems to mess with LeBron in both of his roles), hopefully, no cocaine problems (any David Thompson Nuggets team from ’76-’79 was close to making the list but it was too much of a stretch to call them contenders).
They just have Westbrook mixed with a lot of colorful personalities. Think of the ’18 Cavs, but the supporting cast is a little better, and instead of Westbrook, you have John Wall. Is that a championship? Ehh, probably. So that means the ’21 Lakers are probably going to come back from this abysmal start. Obviously, it’s only been a few games, but could it have been any worse?