Once upon a time geriatric Diva Mae Young gave birth to an adult hand on live television. No other broadcast even had ever been so brash, so bold, so full of non-sense, the kind of stunt Vince McMahon would use to troll on WWE Attitude’s smarks.
I get that none of this was planned Sunday night. What was supposed to be a laugher between the best and worst teams in the leagues turned out to really be one. The Lakers beat the Thunder, 114-110. Jodie Meeks scored 42 points on 18 shots to score a career high 42 points. He almost scored as much as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant also had a triple double. Serge Ibaka scored 21. Reggie Jackson chipped in 14 from the bench.
Is this what happens when Kendrick Perkins is not around?
The Thunder didn’t play a bad game, but had to be perfect against a team who’s lost all but 29 of its last 37 games and wrecked with injuries. Obviously they weren’t.
OKC’s perimeter defenders couldn’t contain the Lakers. Meeks scored 24 points in the second half that Kevin Durant almost erased with a 20-7 run.
It doesn’t quite take the sting off losing by 48 points to the Clippers. The Lakers know they’re playing to not be in last place. The front office is at the point of bracing for a Top 5 pick.
GM Mitch Kupchak hasn’t selected in the first round since 2009, when he selected Toney Douglas late in the late 20s. The team’s last lottery selection came in 2005 and was used to draft C Andrew Bynum 10th overall. In between Bynum and Douglas came PG Javaris Crittenton, famous for murdering people and waving his gun collection shouting “Where’s my money, bitch?” at Gilbert Arenas.
Mostly the Lakers have gotten by with other teams’ lottery picks. Before that they were cagey enough to wrestle picks and therefore franchise players with the Utah Jazz (Magic Johnson, first overall) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (James Worthy, first overall).
The Lakers have never had to choose below 10 since, doing it the first time with Eddie Jones in 1994 and Bynum. UNC’s George Lynch, the guy Philly paid to watch Allen Iverson pay, was also a late lottery pick (12th overall) in the mid-90s. Kobe Bryant, taken 13th overall courtesy of the Hornets/Pelicans, was a late pick.
You can forgive Kupchak and Tommy Boy Buss* for being a little too eager about tanking this year, after allowing close to an average of 136 points in three games prior to the OKC victory.
The blue print coming into the 2013-14 season, I’m pretty sure, was to compete. When Dwight Howard said no, L.A. was still wrapped under the illusion that a healthy Kobe will at least carry with it a late-seed berth.
In a rush, Kupchak ate up available veteran talent for short term deals, some young like Nick Young, some old like Chris Kaman, some Turkish delight like Jordan Farmar. In between Kupchak copied a Rockets smartball tactic of gobbling up available lottery busts. In came Kendall Marshall, Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson. Before he went down Xavier Henry was pulling in quality minutes.
And then there was Meeks, nationally unknown but an Atlantic-seaboard cult legend who for three seasons gave Sixers fans a move-by-move reprise of the beloved Aaron McKie. It’s like that Filipino singer the rest of Journey found on Youtube sounding like Steve Perry. Nothing, it’s obvious, is irreplaceable. Not Steve Perry. Not Aaron McKie.
But, and hold on here because this will require a suspension of belief, Meeks isn’t McKie so much as the blood heir to guys like Eddie Johnson, Vinny Johnson and Ricky Pierce. Like those elite second unit predators, Meeks has got the slick shooting, the weird but ordinary name, the ordinary look, the sixth man stamina. Successful, post Shaqobe Lakers teams relied on a strong bench.
The Thunder might be scratching their heads wondering why they didn’t just trade for Meeks at the deadline. Coach Scott Brooks was a victim of anomaly — but in so doing, his defense was exposed to a weakness at the wings. This changes nothing in the Western Conference. The Thunder and the Spurs are on virtual tie for first, but both could also lose to the Rockets or Suns in a playoff format.