Once, the Los Angles Lakers were a team where players would go to win championships. From legends past their primes who wanted one last shot at a ring to under-appreciated role players who thought they could flourish in Phil Jackson’s Triangle, the Lakers were attractive because every player knew they’d at least have a chance to win it all. Recently, however, the Lakers have become a place for reclamation projects and fringe players: Nick Young, Kendall Marshall, Chris Kaman, Carlos Boozer, Robert Sacre, Wes Johnson – the list goes on and on. The stars they have acquired either left as soon as possible (Dwight Howard), or crumbled from injuries (Steve Nash).
This once proud franchise is now rife with dysfunction. That’s not news when it comes to their front office, once Dr. Buss passed, but as Wes Johnson revealed to Janis Carr of the Orange County Register, that dysfunction extended to the court, too.
“You would go out there and want to play the right way, but everyone wanted to prove themselves,” Johnson said as the Clippers wrapped up their brief training camp at UC Irvine.
“So nobody really knew what was going on. Nobody ever knew, so it was hard for anyone to come in and get into a good rhythm or flow. Nobody was playing together.”
Almost every team has at least one player who too often plays for himself and not for the team. But to have several of those players on a roster — one fairly devoid of any on-court leadership — is a recipe for disaster. Kobe Bryant could leer and shout and stare daggers into his teammates from the bench as much as he wanted, but there isn’t much he could do when the ball was live. For a guy like Johnson, whose longevity depends on doing all the small things, it must have been frustrating being on such a disorganized mess (even though Johnson himself probably contributed to that mess as well).
Now Johnson finds himself on a team with an established hierarchy, one in which he is nowhere near the top. Even though he’ll start some games, he’s not going to see a lot of the ball, and he has to be fine with that. The Clippers don’t need an outstanding wing, they need one who can fill all the various holes left by the other starters. If Johnson can do that, he’ll succeed. It’s probably a little disappointing for a former fourth overall pick, but at least he’s not still on the Lakers.