I still like this year’s Lakers team, even after watching their most recent second-half meltdown Jan. 10.
After playing the Portland Trail Blazers even for 24 minutes, the Lakers went to pieces in the second half, losing 108-87.
How bad was the second half? The Lakers scored 31 points in the second quarter. They scored 30 the entire second half.
In the third quarter, the Trail Blazers outscored the Lakers 23-12 to overcome a two-point halftime deficit. The Lakers made only 5 of 23 shots in the quarter.
“I’m still trying to figure out what just happened in the second half, honestly,” coach Luke Walton told the media after the game.
When they play as a team, the Lakers can compete with any team in the league. Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Jordan Clarkson can all handle the ball, hit the open man with a pass or hit an open shot.
When they share the ball and get everyone involved good things happen.
But all those players are young and when it gets to crunch time they all have the tendency to play one-on-one playground style ball and forget they have four teammates on the court.
Russell, in particular, went that why against Portland, especially after he exchanged words with Damian Lillard about halfway through the third quarter. Both players were given technical fouls. Lillard went on a tear, scoring 18 of his 20 poins on the night after the incident.
Russell missed 10 of 14 shots and finished with only nine points.
Eventually, the young Lakers should figure it out. Russell or Ingram will eventually become the go-to guy and the other players will learn their roles and develop their skills to fill those roles. These young players have too much talent not to develop into solid NBA players.
But the pains of learning on the fly are tough to watch sometimes. So was the third quarter against Portland.
ON THE CLOCK: If this was the NFL draft, that’s where the San Diego Chargers would be. The Chargers must decide by Jan. 17 whether they want to exercise their option to move into the new stadium being built in Inglewood with the Rams in 2019 or stay in San Diego.
To many people, that’s an easy decision. But the Spanos family that has run the Chargers for years have always had a peculiar way of doing things, which explains why their team has played in only one Super Bowl and why they are still haggling over a new stadium in San Diego 20 after that appearance.
The Spanos family wants to stay in San Diego, where they are the biggest team in town. They want someone — local government preferably — to build them a new stadium where they want it built — downtown — with no strings attached.
Local government wants a new stadium built but it wants the stadium built next to the old stadium, which can then be torn down and the property redeveloped. There are issues over who would benefit the most from the redeveloped property, but that is the gist of the contention over a new stadium in San Diego.
Added to the mix of the San Diego option on the Inglewood stadium are our friends to the north, the Oakland Raiders. If the Chargers don’t use their option, the Raiders get a one-year option to decide to move to Inglewood.
The Raiders also are considering a move to Las Vegas, since they are never going to get anyone to build them a new stadium in Oakland and owner Mark Davis doesn’t have the money to do it himself.
The Chargers would have a tough time moving to Los Angeles. They would be the fifth most popular football team here if they moved, trailing USC, the Rams, the Raiders and UCLA.
That doesn’t take into account the Dodgers, the Lakers and the Clippers.
The Chargers are the sports king of San Diego, competing only against the San Diego Padres and San Diego State.
Smart businessmen would figure out a way to stay home and get a new stadium built. Alas, that’s something the Spanos family has never been accused of being.
WE’RE NUMBER THREE: The people who vote in the Associated Press college football poll actually got things right this week when they voted USC number three in the final poll.
Clemson, which upset Alabama 35-31 in a outstanding national championship game Jan. 8, was number one and Alabama was number two.
Those of you who remember USC getting crushed 52-6 by Alabama in the season opener four months ago also need to remember that this is a different USC team now. The Trojans probably would have lost to the Crimson Tide in the season opener if Sam Darnold had been the quarterback, but it wouldn’t have been by 46 points.
My one criticism of the final AP poll is that four Big 10 teams were in the top 10 after that conference went 3-7 in bowl games. Number seven Penn State deserved to be ranked ahead of number six Ohio State since Penn State beat the Buckeyes head to head and played a lot better in its bowl game, the 52-49 thriller in the Rose Bowl.
USC should rank in the top five when the preseason polls come out next August but the Trojans are going to need to recruit some offensive lineman for next year. Tackles Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler are five-year seniors and our graduating. Guard Damien Mama, a junior out of St. John Bosco in Bellflower, has announced he is turning pro and backup Khaliel Rodgers is transferring.
That’s four holes coach Chad Helton needs to plug for next year.
BEST IN 2016: Southern California sports fans can cast their online ballot for the top moments of 2016. To vote, visit www.Facebook.com/LASportsAwards and click on the tab near the top of the page reading:Vote for 2016’s Greatest Moments. Voting takes place through Jan. 30.
The results will be revealed during the 12 annual LA Sports Awards, which will be held Feb. 27 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
In addition to the countdown of 2016’s Top 10 moments, the ceremony also will feature the presentation of the Sportsman, Sportswoman and Coach of the Year Awards, plus the Lifetime Achievement Award to Peter Ueberroth for his Olympic career and service as commissioner of Major League Baseball.
The LA Sports Awards are an annual televised show produced by the Los Angeles Sports Council to celebrate the best of the year in sports in the Los Angeles/Orange County area.