From The Raptors to The Lakers – my love affair with basketball

I’ll never forget the first time I said the f word in front of my parents. It was 2001, Game 7 of the NBA playoffs, the Toronto Raptors were looking to eliminate the Philadelphia 76ers to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Vince Carter had just graduated from College and had flown back to play game 7. He had 20 points and was 6 for 18. Not one of his better games, but it was too close to even think about that. The 76ers were up one. 88-87 with three seconds left in regulation. Carter stood just inside the three point line looking to end the game with a winning jumper. I held my breath as the ball left his hands..and – he missed.  The game was over. The Raptors season was done. Just like that. Why didn’t he drive to the net? Why did he take a three pointer? That couldn’t have been their last move. And with all those questions swirling through my  mind I screamed “Fuck!”  My dad, who had been in the kitchen, walked over to me, he was in shock. So was I. But for a very different reason than he was. As he stared at me in disbelief I got up and ran to my room, slamming the door behind me. My basketball dreams had just been crushed. And that began what was a long chain of disappointing events that surrounded me and Toronto sports. Let’s be real, the Leafs used to suck, the Blue Jays sucked, and the Raptors sucked. But with age and maturity, I’ve come to appreciate sports for all the passion as when I was a kid, without the same heartbreak. And a little more compassion for the players and the team as a whole.

I recently moved to Los Angeles from Toronto and immediately jumped on the Lonzo Ball bandwagon. I fell in love with everything Ball, from Big Baller Brand, to Ball in the Family, to Lavar’s outrageous claims that Lonzo is better than Steph Curry. Lonzo had an incredible game against the Warriors on November 29th, and even bested the two-time MVP in regulation time. During overtime however, Curry got hot and the Lakers lost. That was devastating. Not as devastating as Carter missing that 3 – but it still sucked. Kind of how I’ve been feeling about the Lakers lately. Like they suck. I love most of the players individually. But as a team they have absolutely no chemistry.

Let’s just start with Brandon Ingram. To be blunt, Ingram is a ball hog. His competitive drive is very admirable. His growth and ability to drive to the net show why he was the second pick in last year’s draft, but every time he’s on the court, it looks like he’s just playing for his own stats. He’ll go coast to coast on three or four straight possessions without passing the ball once, all the while producing points. That, however, is boring to watch. It’s boring because he’s not a developed or a skilled enough player to make explosive plays consistently. It’s boring and frustrating because he commits so many turnovers. In the game mentioned above against the Warriors, Ingram had 7 turnovers alone. The Lakers as a team had 17. Ingram had 41% of the team’s turnovers in that game and averages 2.5 per game. He plays like a player who’s afraid that if he lets the ball go, for even one second, he won’t get it back. Which leads me to the next player – Lonzo Ball. Lonzo has played fairly inconsistently, but we’ll give him a pass because he’s only 20 something games into his rookie season. He’s had two triple doubles and has shown some signs of improvement after a fairly shaky start to his career. What Lonzo excels in, is what also makes him incredibly boring to watch. Lonzo is a passer. He has uncanny vision and can see plays that his teammates can’t. He isn’t a ball hog, in fact, he may be too passive but what I don’t see from him is any passion. He floats around offensively, makes passes early in the shot clock and seems content just waiting at the perimeter for someone to pass the ball back. It seems as though he’s scared to leave it all on the line: blood, sweat and tears. As cliche as that sounds, I have yet to see him make any aggressive plays and lead the team as a point guard. He just hasn’t shown himself to be the same guy he was at UCLA. I’m not sure what’s worse, Ingram’s ball hogging or Lonzo’s indifference.

Kyle Kuzma, in my opinion, is the best player on the Lakers right now. He’s averaging 16.8 points this season with 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists.  What I love about Kuzma is his ability to set himself up for a high percentage shot. You’ll very rarely see Kuzma take a shot that he doesn’t feel 100 percent comfortable with. While offensively, he plays with great confidence, defensively, he still leaves a bit to be desired. I’d love to see Ball and Kuzma develop better chemistry. I have seen it in a few games, but with Ball’s passing gene and Kuzma’s scoring ability I just think those two could really give the fans something to root for for year’s to come.

Julius Randle happens to be one of my favorite players to watch. He’s aggressive, active,  and very athletic. I’d like to see more of him, and WAY less of Brook Lopez. But that’s for another article on another day.

I’m officially a Lakers fan. A Big Baller and a casual basketball fanatic. I want to see the Lakers grow and trust Luke Walton will coach the team to the playoffs, at some point in the next few years. I’d just love to see some more chemistry between the players, because I think that’s the only thing that will lead them to more victories. Being a young team I know that can take time – but I’m here for the long haul.

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