What I’m Hearing: After a disappointing first season with the Lakers, LeBron James is ready to go to work and recruit elite talent to join him in Los Angeles.
LOS ANGELES — Shaquille O’Neal wasn’t impressed, and let’s face it, no one does a slow burn quite like him. When asked how many members of the Los Angeles Lakers’ Thursday night roster he could name, he verbally dunked all over his former franchise.
“None of them,” O’Neal said, on TNT’s post-game studio coverage. “I wasn’t watching them. I’m not watching that. I like competitive games.”
Suffice to say, the Lakers’ 108-90 defeat to the Golden State Warriors was not a competitive game, or anything vaguely resembling one.
When LeBron James signed in the summer and then the NBA schedule came out this was one fixture that was immediately circled. You could picture it then, James leading his plucky Lakers toward the playoffs and trying to get a home “W” over the defending champions less than a week before the playoffs.
The reality was somewhat different. No James, who is out the remainder of the season to rest and recuperate. No Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma either, through injury or merely the pointlessness of risking further harm to valuable players when the season is already in the dumpster.
The Lakers were captained by Isaac Bonga, 19, a 39th draft pick from Germany. Their top scorer? Johnathan Williams, a two-way forward usually assigned to the G-League’s South Bay Lakers. Their biggest highlight? A thunderous second quarter dunk by Alex Caruso, also a two-way guy, a balding 25-year-old out of Texas A&M.
Moritz Wagner was the second top scorer. Mike Muscala hit the most threes. It was a night for anonymous guys, because really, that’s about all the Lakers have available.
Predictably, it was a rout. The Warriors, who have awoken from their season-long slumber and are hitting playoff mode, cruised to a 37-10 lead, looked to the bench and went into cruise control from there.
Yet while Shaq detested the latest ignominy of a detestable Lakers season, a funny thing was happening at Staples Center. There weren’t boos. No one was mad. It wasn’t a joyous celebration but it wasn’t a wake, either.
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The 40th home game of the team’s campaign could not have felt more different than the first in October, or any of the first dozen. It is a different crowd these days, primarily because tickets in the nosebleed sections no longer resell for more than $300 like in the crazed initial days of LeBron Mania.
Some of the ne