Where Do We Go From Here?

The Los Angeles Lakers are down 0-3 to the Dallas Mavericks.

I never thought that those words would be arranged like that in a sentence.

Ever.

As I write this, the chorus of “Where Do We Go?” by hip hop artist Talib Kweli invades my mind. Its words reverberate louder and louder, until I can’t think of anything else.

Where do we go? What do we say? What do we do?
Nowhere to turn, nowhere to run and there’s nothin new
Where do we go for inspiration?
It’s like pain is our only inspiration

This song isn’t about basketball. It’s about the remnants of a troubled people, scattered and defeated, trying to find their way up. A people whose history has led them here, to this moment in time, and they are at a crossroads. They have to find a way to get up. The words hit home if you’re a Laker fan. That’s what I feel right now, and you probably do too.

I’m asking myself the same exact questions as Kweli.

Where do we go?

Three years ago, the future looked like it would be littered with purple and gold championship banners. Pau Gasol was young, Kobe was well in his prime, Andrew Bynum was ripe with potential, and Lamar Odom was finding his niche. What a difference three years makes. Pau has mentally, and physically, checked out. The greatest coach in the history of the game couldn’t get him to care. Kobe, who has made a living out of getting the best out of his teammates, couldn’t get a 20-point game in 9 tries out of a guy who averaged 18.8 on the season. Kobe has lost a step or two, can’t carry his team with consistency anymore, and struggles to get anything to go his way. Andrew is the lone bright spot for L.A., displaying tremendous intensity and moxie, but it’s all for naught. Lamar has wasted his best season as a Laker and continued the curse of the 6th Man of the Year winner: their team doesn’t win the championship.

Missing: Have You Seen This Man?

What do we say?

The words “trust issues” come to mind. Lamar doesn’t trust anybody to cover Dirk, nor Andrew to cover Tyson Chandler, so he leaves Peja Stojakovic in the corner ready to accept a pass and nail a three. Andrew was right. This team has trust issues. But he was right for a few reasons. The Lakers aren’t equipped to guard Dirk Nowitzki. In fact, nobody is. He’s an impossible cover. And you can’t complain in the NBA. When you do, it’s a technical foul.

There’s nothing to say but goodbye Phil, goodbye three-peat, goodbye Collective Bargaining Agreement, goodbye Kobe’s prime, and goodbye old-school basketball. The last few times the Lakers exited on this bad a note, the verses that followed only caused turmoil. Shaq got bounced from L.A. Phil threw Kobe under the bus. Kobe threw Andrew under the bus. Kobe wanted out. Smush Parker was  a Laker starter for two years.

Only bad things happen when you pop-off at the mouth. Say your goodbyes. If you’re lucky, then maybe D12 won’t exclusively be associated with Detroit and Orlando, if you know what I mean.

What do we do?

We move forward. The Lakers are an organization that produces championships. This town isn’t a town at all, but a city; it’s a metropolis. A place where urban and suburban coexist; where the people are infatuated with the superficial, and where the words “loser,” “failure,” and “lottery pick” don’t sit well. No. L.A. has aspirations, and the city is always looking forward.

This off-season, there’ll be a new collective bargaining agreement. With any luck, the season won’t be affected. If it is, then big deal. The old and tired Lakers get more rest. But believe me when I tell you that Mitch Kupchak won’t make any blockbuster moves because of pressure. He didn’t trade Kobe, even at the peak of his displeasure, nor did he trade Andrew when Kobe wanted better teammates, and he won’t trade Pau without something substantial on the table, and without it being on his terms. He’s too conservative to act on pressure.

It’s like pain is our only inspiration.

It’s not over yet, but game 4 may just be a formality. There’s a reason why none of the other 98 teams have come back from a 0-3 hole: good teams don’t go down 0-3, and too many things have to go right to win 4 games in a row. Usually, when they don’t go right the first three games, there’s no reason for them to go right for the four games that follow.

You sat through breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, all at one restaurant, and it’s finally closing. You may still be sipping on your coffee refill, but all around you, things are shutting down. The floor’s being vacuumed/mopped, the tables are all wiped down, the lights in the kitchen are off, and the servers, cooks, and managers are all waiting on you. All you have to do is walk out the door, and then it’s officially closed.

All the Lakers have to do is emotionally vacate this series, which won’t be hard, and then their physical presence will  evaporate as well. Once that happens, the fans will go home, the Mavericks will head out to celebrate, and the stadium staff will finish cleaning up.

When the Lakers began their 2006-2007 season, they did so with a new Staples Center motto: Lights Out. The lights would be dimmed on the crowd during the game, so as to feature the game itself, and fade the fans into the background.

That year, L.A. lost to the Phoenix Suns in 5 games. Lights out is right.

This time, the Lakers might not even get to extinguish their own stadium lights on their own season. Come Sunday, we’ll see just how proud these old Lakers truly are. They should be plenty motivated. Pain-the pain of failure, of humiliation, of helplessness, of being wrong, and of being dethroned should culminate into one final HOO-RAH.

Till then, Semper Fi.

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6 Responses to “Where Do We Go From Here?”

  1. D-Flo Says:

    I feel like a chapter in my life has ended after reading this.

  2. daniel "cool beans" lee Says:

    I’m too depressed already. Reading this has not add to my misery.

  3. Sina Says:

    I feel like this after the Hawks got blown out last night….

  4. tommy Says:

    as a hater of everything lakers, i still have to admit it was a hell of a run, sir.

  5. Nallely Says:

    Seriously, WOW! I don’t even know what to say because it kind of made me sad, but yet we all knew that this would come. Lights out is right. They were all amazing and one day, like you said Kobe prime might be done. I guess we will see them still hold their heads up high, make everyone proud.

  6. Teddy KGB Says:

    I like the D-12 reference… But you know what this was missing… Some talk about maybe Dwight Howard coming to LA!

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