There aren't a whole lot of reasons to pay attention to the 2013-14 Los Angeles Lakers at this point — they're tied for the sixth-worst record in the NBA, they're very out of the playoffs and their three future Hall of Famers are all hurt — but those that persist tend to involve things that are funny and/or ridiculous. In other words, Nick Young:
Nick Young on hurting PHX playoff chances: "Welcome to the Player Haters Ball...we tryin to hate, hate, hate hate..."— J.A. Adande (@jadande) March 31, 2014
Swaggy P began co-opting the classic "Chappelle's Show" bit (which is NSFW and also shakily shot off TV here) after the Lakers hung a franchise-record 51 third-quarter points on the New York Knicks en route to a blowout victory that dealt a blow to the Knicks' pursuit of a playoff berth. (After a surprising victory over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, New York now sits one game out of the No. 8 seed, thanks to the injured-and-running-on-fumes Atlanta Hawks having dropped six in a row. The East, ladies and gentlemen!) Evidently, the rest of the Lakers appear to have taken a shine to Young's suggestion — after a 115-99 Sunday upset that snapped the six-game winning streak of the also-fighting-for-their-postseason-life Phoenix Suns, several of Swaggy's colleagues spoke about how they're relishing the spoiler role these days, according to ESPN Los Angeles' Jovan Buha:
The Lakers want their opponents to hate them. They want to knock postseason contenders down a peg or two in the standings, if not fall out of the playoff picture altogether. That, more than anything else, is their primary motivation for the rest of the season.
“We embrace trying to be the ‘player-haters of the year,’” [point guard Kendall] Marshall said postgame. “We want to mess up seedings, keep teams out of the playoffs, and any type of motivation we can get to grow as a team is good for us right now.”
Prior to the game, coach Mike D’Antoni was asked if the Lakers reveled in their wins against playoff contenders such as the Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder and New York Knicks earlier this month.
Without hesitation, D’Antoni said it’s something Los Angeles has been focusing on and talking about recently.
“We want everybody to hate us by the end of the year,” D’Antoni said. “We did get New York and now we’re trying to get Phoenix and then we’ll try to give them a favor by getting Portland. We’ll have our chances, so hopefully we can do that.”
You wouldn't give L.A. very good odds of "getting" a Portland Trail Blazers team that knocked off the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday and that has won three straight games since getting All-Star big man LaMarcus Aldridge back from injury. Then again, you also wouldn't have bet on the Lakers getting monster play from just-taken-out-of-mothballs center Chris Kaman (a season-high 28 points, 17 rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes against Phoenix) or such thrilling and nimble end-to-end work from rookie big man Ryan Kelly:
... so, y'know, maybe anything's possible with the Lakers at this stage, which sounds about right for a team facing so many questions come the end of the regular season. Also sounding about right: Swaggy finishing with 11 points on 4 for 12 shooting, including a 1 for 6 mark from 3-point range, in 23 1/2 minutes of work. Never stop putting 'em up, Nick.
The loss could have huge implications for the Suns. Jeff Hornacek's club enters Monday's play holding onto the No. 7 seed in the West at 44-30, thanks in part to the Grizzlies' loss to the Blazers, but Phoenix has the league's toughest remaining schedule. They host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, travel to Portland on Friday and welcome the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday before kicking off a critical three-game road trip that begins with a visit to another late-season spoiler, the Anthony Davis-and-Tyreke Evans-led New Orleans Pelicans, followed by a back-to-back in Texas against the West-leading San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks, with whom they're battling for seventh/eighth-seed positioning.
The meeting with the Lakers was a prime opportunity to get a win in hand before things got brutal, and Hornacek knows it, according to Joe Resnick of The Associated Press:
''I don't know if we had a single guy who came with the energy that they usually have," coach Jeff Hornacek said. "We've had games like this before, where they think they're just going to show up and win a game. We're not good enough to do that. These guys have been winning games lately because they've been focused in, but tonight they just weren't.'' [...]
"Our schedule gets a lot harder after this," Hornacek said. "Play all the top teams now in the next six or seven games, so that's why this game was so important. I mean, if this happens against Oklahoma City or the Clippers, then fine. But this team is not a playoff team, so that's why it's disappointing."
Suns point guard Goran Dragic, who needed 16 shots to score 17 points and undercut his four assists with three turnovers, put a pretty fine point on the disappointment, according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic: "We didn't know how to stop them. Our intensity was really bad. I don't know why but it's like nobody wants to play playoffs. It seems like that."
If Phoenix comes up one game short of the postseason, they very well might hate themselves for letting this one slip. The Lakers are cool with that ... just so long as they remember to send some of that hate in the direction of Swaggy P and company.
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