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Westhem: Down season for Lakers doesn’t diminish franchise’s luster

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, born and raised a USC fan (don’t worry, not anymore — my past columns can corroborate that), but most importantly, and relevantly, born and raised a Lakers fan.

While my love for the Trojans quickly dissipated when I joined Nerd Nation, I won’t turn my back on the Lakers — despite that horrifying 123-87 loss to the Clippers on Friday (their largest loss in the almost 44 years of playing them).

I can acknowledge that there might possibly be a new sheriff in LA when it comes to the NBA, but I won’t be a turncoat or jump on the Clippers bandwagon — anyone who does that was never a real Lakers fan to begin with. That would be like suddenly tolerating the Celtics — it’s just an accepted rule that Lakers fans can’t and won’t do that, ever.

This is not to say that I have an ounce of faith in the Lakers or believe that they can bounce back this season and make the playoffs. The Lakers have only ever not made the playoffs once since the 1993-94 season, but I can say without a doubt that this season will be the second time.

I want to make it clear, though, that I am a Lakers fan and always will be — it’s just a part of being born in Los Angeles that I’ll always carry with me — because I don’t want my criticism to seem like I’m bashing the Lakers or am disrespecting the franchise; my intention is not aimed towards accomplishing any of those. I’m just talking as a disheartened Lakers fan.

Right now, in the absence of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and Xavier Henry due to injury, the Lakers are allowing themselves to be walked all over one and treated as an easy game where everyone on the opposing team can score and have some fun and laughs. The Lakers are playing soft basketball.

Nick Young called it “embarrassing” after Friday’s loss how they “let people just dunk on us and clown us without giving them a hard foul or even showing any emotion.”

Turnovers will be the demise of the Lakers, as will the lack of forcing turnovers. That just shows a lack of effort, drive and intensity on the part of the defense and a lack of confidence and accountability on the part of the offense. It is pretty hard to rally though when you have no depth, no chemistry and little hope.

But what happened to that heart and drive of the Lakers? I think it’s been missing since just before the passing of Jerry Buss. Since then, nothing good has happened for the Lakers. They spent loads of money acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, and look where that ended: higher draft picks foregone, an unhappy and unproductive Howard for the short time that he was in Los Angeles and the realization that Nash might be nearing the end of his time as a capable player.

Pau Gasol is the only player left on the active roster who has championship experience. The Lakers have gone from a team of veterans and stars to a team of newbies trying to scrap together enough points for a win. I’m not saying they’re not talented (I’m still a Nick Young fan from my time as a USC supporter); they just haven’t figured out how to play together.

Perhaps the coaching could be blamed for that. I haven’t heard of any fan that is happy with Mike D’Antoni at the helm. However, no single instance or person can be pegged for this downfall of the Lakers — it’s a cumulative effect and a part of the natural cycling of the NBA that teams rise to prominence, fall to obscurity and then regroup and return to dominance.

The Lakers are in the midst of a free fall, but that only means that they are coming off the heels of some kind of prominence, and, in the case of the Lakers franchise, periods of greatness are more common than periods of insignificance. So as a Lakers fan, I encourage all other fans out there who consider the Lakers to be the reigning Los Angeles team in the NBA forevermore to remember that a few bad seasons shouldn’t wipe away the memory of those seasons of NBA excellence — that should be something to rally the fans and the players.

Ashley Westhem nearly had a heart attack when the Lakers were forced to insert the recently signed Kendall Marshall into the starting lineup due to a rash of injuries. Recommend some experienced ball handlers to her at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Ashley Westhem

Ashley Westhem is the voice of Stanford women’s basketball for KZSU as well as The Daily’s beat writer for the team. She has been a desk editor for three volumes and plans to take over as Managing Editor of Sports next volume and aid in KZSU’s coverage of football. She is an American Studies major from Lake Tahoe, Calif., and aspires to work in sports administration, to positively affect the lives of student-athletes and the relationship between the athletic and academic spheres of universities.