Not that one game defines the Lakers, but…

As a faithful Angelino, I overloaded my DVR on Thursday to watch the Dodgers and Lakers. I learned two things from the binge watch with certitude.

Them sure ain’t the old Dodgers. Reaching the World Series for the first time in nearly three decades helped me reach that conclusion.

Also, these are the same young Lakers. There really isn’t much reason to think the Lakers are going to be appreciably better than last year.

I will stipulate to you that is an overreaction if you will stipulate that preseason hype about this being a playoff team is an overreaction.

We all get it. Magic Johnson’s first priority was to restore order after the slipshod, play-the-hunch approach from trust-fund baby Jim Buss. I am confident Johnson has taken big strides in a short amount of time.

Yet, the drubbing they took from the Clippers on opening night looked like the same no-defense, no-low post, no identity hot mess from the last three years when the Lakers finished with the No. 2 overall draft pick. Only this year, no matter how bad it gets, the Lakers won’t get any such draft relief. That was traded away.

Let’s be semipositive to start: I didn’t have much of a problem with Lonzo Ball’s nasty debut. He debuted against a chippy defensive expert. Not an easy task. He will improve.

I also liked the fact that the starting lineup included some long-needed tough decisions. In other words, there was an unstated admission that former lottery draft pick Julius Randle can’t stay awake during a game. Overall, there is some rhyme and reason to a starting lineup of Ball, Brandon Ingram, Luol Deng, Larry Nance Jr. and Brook Lopez. It should get somewhat better when Kentavious Caldwell Pope enters the lineup, bumping either Deng or Nance back to the bench.

But the playoffs? Maybe it’s a better investment to wager that in a Vegas sports book than to buy Big Baller Brand shoes. Either way, that’s not money well spent. This team won 25 games last season. To qualify for the playoffs, it would stand to reason that they would have to win more games than lose this year. To do so, the Lakers would need to win at least 16 more games. That is a huge spike.

Beyond the open paths to the rim the Lakers allowed, despite the addiction to chucking up threes with nary a teammate under the rim in case the shot goes awry, though, I was struck by a third chronic unsolved problem.

Last year, I wrote that the Lakers had no team identity or defined leader. All of that youth meant nothing if the energy was not organized and then molded. Take the Dodgers. They have an identity, a philosophy, that lead to wins. We are going to have depth across the roster — starting pitching, relievers, etc. The Dodgers are called “relentless.” But they also have defined leaders, an ace in Clayton Kershaw, an elite closer in Kenley Jansen, elite hitters in Corey Seager. Most importantly, it seems as if they have a leader in Justin Turner.

Who is the leader of the Lakers? Hell, who is their best player? Do you know? I don’t.

Last year, coach Luke Walton figured he’d just let the roster decide on its own. It was foolish then and it’s foolhardy now. There was no sign of an alpha dog on the floor who would put his teammates on his back through sheer force of will. That’s on Walton. In a roster of youngsters, he’s the adult in the room. If he refuses to put someone in position to lead, he’s going to be out of a job.

It may be the first step for actual growth, which is what — you know — you have to do to become a playoff team in the first place.

But the Lakers aren’t supposed to be the boys of summer

For a fan base seeking any ray of optimism to bask under, I understand Lakers fans rejoicing that the newbies won NBA Summer League in Vegas last night. I’m in the same boat. I’d rather feel good than to remember the disaster the franchise became since the passing of Jerry Buss. Swaggy P? Buss family legal infighting? #TheLakersAreSoWhite? Timofey Mosgov?

But you do realize this is akin to being the valedictorian in summer school, right? No student applying to Harvard would include that on the application.

True, the Lakers are right now better than they were at any point in the last four years. However, that’s an indication of how low the bar was set.

Any improvement by the Lakers in the last few weeks had nothing to do with a handful of games near a casino. You just haven’t been able to see that yet because with the exception of Lonzo Ball, most of those Summer League players will not make an impact during the upcoming season.

The Lakers upgraded in at least two, and as many as four, positions in the starting lineup. That’s what should make you happier.

Brook Lopez at center and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at shooting guard are genuine improvements over Mosgov and Jordan Clarkson. They are simply more versatile, particularly at the defensive end. This matters because in the NBA, defense is suspect. In Los Angeles, defense was nonexistent. 

Further, second-year forward Brandon Ingram was the one untouchable player in a tsunami of Lakers trade rumors, meaning his future is far brighter than Luol Deng’s anything.

And Ball appears to be better right now than D’Angelo Russell ever was. True, analysts took Ball to task for his poor shooting and defense. People took Magic Johnson to task for poor shooting as a rookie, too. I have no problem giving Ball time to develop accuracy in his shot because if those Summer League games proved anything, it’s that the kid is a sniper in terms of passing.

Now for the reasons to curb your enthusiasm: Any other names from the Lakers summer team that you throw at me and I’ll give you the same reply. Maybe they make the team, but the only remaining starting player on the hot seat is Julius Randle.

Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma aren’t starting. They’re guards. Thomas Bryant is a center. He’s probably third on the depth chart behind Lopez and Ivica Zubac. Maybe Zubac or Bryant or Larry Nance Jr. pry the inconsistent and undersized Randle from the lineup. I wouldn’t mind seeing that. I’d miss Randle about as much as any of you pine for Russell right now.

Does this column read a little cold? It should. When you haven’t won 30 games in a few years, that’s a frigid reality. Johnson was right when he took over the team. Only Ingram was an untouchable. If Johnson didn’t fall in love with the Lakers youth movement of the last few years, why should you? The results aren’t there.

As for the results this year? The smart money is LA winds up with about 35 wins, forfeits its first-round draft pick as the result of horrible trades you don’t remember them making and possibly firing Luke Walton to lure top tier free agents.

It’s time to realize what the Lakers don’t have

I’m about to marginally insult people I’ve never met — namely, D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. I don’t like doing it, because they don’t seem like horrible people. And it’s kind of a cheap shot.

It has to be done in the name of tough love.

Not for their sakes. They don’t give a damn about me.

It has to be done for Lakers fans — who have started to see this roster get torn asunder by the new leadership team of Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka. It had to be ripped to pieces because what was put together by the scatterbrained Jim Buss looked like a quilt for puppies. It looks cute in a photo, but in real life it’s a rag that stinks up the entire house.

But you’re wrong, James. This is a young core that needs to develop! Give them time!

Um, how much time? Especially when you can clear salary cap room for players in the prime of their career who have already developed. You have no idea if Randle will be better than Paul Pierce. I wouldn’t wager on it. And don’t insult my intelligence by saying Clarkson will ever approach Russell Westbrook.

Not that I believe both Pierce and Westbrook, or Pierce and LeBron James, or Pierce and insert-megastar-here are sure to come to LA. But maximum contracts in exciting cities with player-friendly ownership groups go a long way.

How can anyone argue that wagering on the future of inconsistent players is superior to the certainty of perennial all-stars? True, Russell scored 40 points in a game against the Cavaliers. He is also the 17th-most turnover prone player in a league of about 450 people. He averaged 2.8 per game. Considering when a point guard turns a ball over, it is often at midcourt, that’s the equivalent of about three breakaway layups every game.

You can’t have that. Even worse came public feuds with coaches, a breach of trust with his teammates by posting an embarrassing video to social media and telling Lakers fans that they expect too much.

Lonzo Ball is unlikely to blast his coaches, tell Lakers fans to pipe down or betray the fellas in the locker room. … OK, maybe his father, but let’s withhold judgment.

So why Randle and Clarkson? Well, Clarkson doesn’t even start. There is no such thing as an indispensable reserve on a team that can’t win 30 games. As for Randle, how can I put this?

Consider that the Lakers had no leadership last year. That was, in my opinion, by design. First-year coach Luke Walton inherited a team of young players and — like Phil Jackson used to do — let his players try to figure it out. That whole thing you hear about “whose team it is”? How the Wizards are John Wall’s team. The Cavaliers are LeBron’s team? Well, if those younger players were worth the hassle, one of them would have taken the reins. One would have busted his rear, produced big numbers and insisted his teammates follow his lead.

Randle didn’t. He, too, was as inconsistent as Russell. Given a chance to make a name for himself, Randle scored 13.2 points per game — a mere two points better than his first full season. Even worse, his rebounds per game dropped. And this guy is supposed to be a power forward?

Now, he’s still on the roster, for now. But Lakers fans need to catch up to me. No, better stated, they need to jump off the “next gen” bandwagon and look with sober eyes at players that might mature. They have been affirming a future that his little discipline. 

And affirmation without discipline is the beginning of delusion.

Keep big money in politics

If you want to make the world a better place, and I believe many of you do, you have better things to do with your money than politics.

I learned that the hard way. I’d tell you about it, but I’d only feel embarrassed and I’d like to keep my self-esteem intact, thank you.

Right now, I have some friends who are down in the dumps that #TheResistance hasn’t produced results commensurate with their hatred for the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. To be real, it hasn’t produced any positive results at all, but I don’t want to gloat. Why should I? Georgia’s 6th District has been blood-dripping red for four decades. Jon Ossoff was going to change that? Please.

Gloat? No way. I want my friends to feel good.

Stop donating to Democrats, as I have stopped donating to Republicans.

Let the wealthy bastards cut the checks. Hell, don’t have campaign finance reform. Let them spend money on losing causes or horrible side deals. The question is not whether politicians are corrupt. The question tends to be how corrupt. It’s not going to change. Citizens United wouldn’t change that. Neither would McCain-Feingold.

But James, you’re telling me not to give so Republicans can win. I can see through you, Trump lover.

No, I’m just saying if you want to make an impact, invest it properly. I didn’t give money to the GOP. I gave it to a food bank. I didn’t buy a red “MAGA” cap. I gave my change to The Salvation Army, bought Girl Scout cookies, dropped money to an animal rescue shelter.

I’m not saying this to claim I’m a better person than you. I’m an asshole. I admit it.

I’m saying it because I know you want to make somebody’s day a little better. I believe that in the marrow of my bones, despite how you vote. Most of us cast votes not just for our own self-interest. We hope — or have blind faith — that our candidates will not only serve us but change the nation and the planet.

That candidate is not going to miss your 20 bucks, no matter how many mass emails you get.

The vibe I get after dropping off a couple of bags of nonperishables at a food bank is far more pleasurable than any I get watching election night results come in. You know what it’s like, especially if you cut a candidate a check. There you are, watching the news like a gambling junkie watches a roulette table: “Come on, red! Hit red! Hit red! Hit reeeeddddd…? … Dammit.”

Sure, argue your political beliefs. Vote on Election Day. But when it comes to your money, make sure your debit card is still in your back pocket and get the hell off of that candidate’s website. Let George Soros, the Koch Brothers, “Big Banking” or “Big Hollywood” handle that.

A hunch the Cavs repeat

There are some wagers you take because of logic and some because of emotion. I know this to be true because many of my friends are gambling addicts.

The Warriors are supposed to be unstoppable, logic suggests, because they had the best record in the NBA. They almost won the title last year and upgraded the team during the offseason by landing the top prize of free agency in Kevin Durant. This season, four of them made the all-star team.

Put it all together and it sounds as if Oracle Arena sits atop Mount Olympus.

I can’t buy into that. Here’s why:

Emotion. Not my emotions. Theirs. I’m not convinced the Warriors are mentally tough enough to withstand adversity. If they were, they would not have tanked a 3-1 lead in last year’s NBA Finals when they lost to Cleveland.

In that series, Warriors forward Draymond Green was suspended in part because, despite numerous requests by the league and repeated “bro, that’s not cool” complaints from men across the planet, he couldn’t stop punching opponents in the nuts. Granted, he didn’t punch LeBron “King” James in the Crown Jewels, but when you’re on notice that one more flagrant foul will kick you out of the game you have to use your head. Green didn’t.

Have the Warriors matured since then? I can’t say so. Starting center JaVale McGee was frustrated by jokes about his bonehead plays on “Shaqtin’ A Fool,” the popular bloopers segment on TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” He complained so much that the team reportedly protested to the network about Shaquille O’Neal. Dude, what is this, junior high? You’re a grown man on a blooper reel. Maybe you have to take the joke. At least, you should bring up your beef with O’Neal in private.

In my opinion, you can’t rely on the mental toughness of 40 percent of the Warriors starting lineup.

Not to mention the fact that head coach Steve Kerr hasn’t been on the bench since the first round of the playoffs due to complications from spinal surgery. As for the afore-mentioned Durant, last year his Oklahoma City Thunder blew a 3-1 playoff lead.

Fine. Steph Curry makes 3-pointers look like layups, but overall this isn’t a group that should be linked to the phrase “indomitable will to win.”

True, the Cavs didn’t have four all-stars on the roster. They sent a mere three to the All-Star Game, including the current reigning best player in the planet in James. Cleveland has lost one game in the postseason and should the series stretch to a Game 7, the Cavs took out Golden State in Oracle last year.

There are reasons to believe the Warriors are better with Durant.

There is no reason to believe the Cavs got any worse since last offseason.

I’m taking the champs to successfully defend the title.

Fortunately, though, I don’t gamble.

The Lakers: Two easy choices, after that…

Magic Johnson is aware that his reputation as a franchise savior — regardless of whether it’s deserved or fair — depends on the Lakers qualifying for the playoffs next year. 

True, under his stewardship the Dodgers are compelling viewing — if anyone in Los Angeles has Spectrum SportsNet to view them in the first place. But even the prior ownership group knew the Dodgers owned a stocked minor-league system. The franchise was set to consistently win regardless of who cut the checks.

On the other hand, the Lakers have a random collection of lottery-pick level players and no specific sense of direction. In the NBA, that is a recipe for long-term irrelevance. Trust me, I now live in Orlando. The Magic are the definition of a team with a bevy of lottery players and no idea how to make them a winning team.

Simply put, Lakers fans think far too highly of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. Maybe Brandon Ingram is worth the hype, but putting the weight of this marquee franchise on those skinny shoulders might be a bit much to bear.

Moreover, coach Luke Walton did not answer the fundamental question — what direction is this team going? In other words, whose team is it? What does the method by which this team will learn to win. What type of team is it?

You watch the Golden State Warriors and you know how they approach the game. Same for the San Antonio Spurs. Heck, even the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards have more of a defined approach to the game.

For the Lakers, this is their biggest problem heading into the upcoming season. If Walton can’t give ownership and players a vision, or if Johnson has a vision that Walton cannot produce, then I’m going to be the first to assert that everybody’s beloved former sixth man will have to go. I like him as a guy, but dem’s the breaks, dude.

How do the Lakers get from 26 wins to 40-plus wins? (Portland qualified for the playoffs with 41 wins this season.) I don’t have all the answers, but after careful consideration I know of only two easy decisions for the Lakers:

1) Russell has to go if they draft Lonzo Ball. The idea that Russell can function as a shooting guard seems pie-in-the-sky. He never played off the ball before. Moreover, Russell was given a poor role model when he broke into the league. What the hell was Jim Buss thinking by having a space case like Nick Young mentor Russell?

Russell developed bad habits. I don’t think of him as a bust, but drafting Ball gives the Lakers two of the same player. Moreover, drafting Ball sends a clear signal. The Lakers would indeed be his team. A big part of me thinks that’s why so many stories linking the Lakers and Ball exist. Taking Ball automatically removes the decision from Walton.

2) Pursue no top free agents other than power forward. Like the draft, this class is loaded with small forwards and point guards. The best option at power forward is likely Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, because I can’t see Blake Griffin leaving the Clippers. Free agent centers start with other team’s reserves. No thanks.

Signing Millsap, which I don’t particularly envision, likely sends Randle to the bench.

Everything else is up in the air. Everything. Because the Lakers have a glut of otherwise undistinguished lottery players. They’ve been inconsistent at best. The question for each player becomes: Is that from growing pains or are they just simply unreliable?

Trades for Paul George? Sure, I’ve read the rumors. Doing so would create a forward glut unless you send Ingram and/or Randle and/or Russell to Indiana. And George doesn’t fare well at power forward. So does that make Ingram the target to go? And by me saying that, is your immediate reaction But wait! Ingram’s got real potential here!

As you can see, that discussion alone leads to a headache.

So yeah, two answers are simple. Trade Russell if they take Ball. Save free agent money for the better group of players available next year.

But add at least 15 wins next season.

This is the job, Magic. I don’t have to tell you that.

One arrogant PS opinion: Being realistic here, the best starting five the Lakers can accomplish next year is Ball at the point, Dion Waiters as a shooting guard free agent signing if not one gained from a Russell trade, Ingram, George, Ivica Zubac. I can see that team push for 40 wins next year.

The Lakers are winning and I’m overjoyed

Let’s take a moment to make sure I understand the point of the Lakers losing at this time of year.

It’s to make sure they keep a draft pick in the top three. If they fall out of the top three, the pick goes to Philadelphia — as if the Sixers could do any better with it.

Keeping that top three pick by continuing to lose means, according to most mock drafts, the Lakers will get to choose an elite point guard in UCLA’s Lonzo Ball or a small forward in Josh Jackson of Kansas.

Didn’t the Lakers already draft to fill those needs? Didn’t the guard they drafted hit a three-point field goal as time expired to lift LA to a victory over Minnesota on Sunday? Wasn’t small forward addressed in the last draft with Brandon Ingram? Or Julius Randle three years prior?

Keeping a top three pick is no panacea for the Lakers. What fans haven’t noticed is this so-called disastrous four-game winning streak indicates the team — indeed, the franchise — is trying to cure itself. You should applaud that.

The Lakers are perilously close to becoming what the Sixers have been for far too long — a storied franchise obsessed with “the process” of getting better instead of simply getting better. The Sixers stocked up on picks for years and are still nose deep in the swamp.

Instead, Jeanie Buss — bless our little purple-and-gold nudist — willingly asserted herself in a family dispute when it became apparent the franchise with 16 NBA titles was nowhere near catching the Celtics. The franchise has clearly been scrubbing off the stench of ineptitude left by her brother, Jim. Remember, the only reason the Lakers are forced to tank to keep a draft pick was because of his foolhardy trade that brought a broken-down Steve Nash in the first place.

Under Jim Buss, the Lakers reputation had been so sullied they couldn’t even get a meeting with Kevin Durant when he was a free agent last year.

Not that I’m convinced everything new grand poobah Magic Johnson will find a miracle cure (please insert your own HIV joke here). Put it this way: The Sixers motto for years was “trust the process.” It seems that Magic’s motto to this roster is “trust in yourselves.”

What would happen should the Lakers keep the pick? You really want them to take Ball with his megalomaniac/racial provocateur father? How does that play in the locker room of a young team still finding an identity? How long before there’s infighting between Ball and D’Angelo Russell? How long before that idiot father of his claims Luke Walton can’t coach because he’s white?

If the Lakers keep the pick, great. If not, they either have a foundation with the three lottery picks they’ve already utilized or the Lakers need to look to free agency and trades.

Each win thus far suggests there might be hope with Russell, Randle and Ingram. Putting wins together makes a streak that is more than a sign of hope.

Winning streaks are a sign of what made the Lakers the franchise that it was.

Rapid reactions from the Lakers front office upheaval

About an hour ago, the Lakers announced that general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive Vice President Jim Buss were both relieved of their duties. They were replaced, at least in the interim, by franchise legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson. I could repeat gripes that I’ve had about the team under Buss’ stewardship. Instead, I’d like to focus on what this means for one of the most recognizable brand names in sports.

All of what follows is filtered through the following prism: The good news for Lakers fans is not that Johnson is in, but that Buss is out. Why?

1) Magic would likely make a horrible GM, so the future of the franchise rests on his pick to run player personnel decisions.

It is an educated guess that Johnson would not be ideal to build a Lakers roster for two reasons. One, often in the NBA, successful coaches have significant say in building good rosters. Johnson served rather poorly as an interim coach.

Two, the greatest players in the game are often lacking in scouting talent. For every Larry Bird success story in Indiana, there is Michael Jordan’s mismanagement of the Charlotte Bobcats, and pretty much everything Isaiah Thomas has run in retirement.

Magic has a hit-and-miss record in his post-playing career. His hits have been incredible, such as owning the Dodgers. How terrifying are his mistakes? Aw, man. You really wanna know?

2) Please, Magic, do not make your first phone call to Kobe Bryant, which was suggested in news reports. See above. Because Bryant has been known to miss the mark badly, too. How terrifying? Aw, man. You really wanna know?

3) It does not matter that this move came two days before the NBA trading deadline. The NBA trading deadline features very few blockbusters. Baseball’s deadline does. Besides, unless the Lakers want to break up their alleged “future talent,” they have scant pieces to trade away. Reserve guard Lou Williams is pretty much it.

So what could Magic Johnson do to restore the Lakers?

1) Remind the players and management of their identity. No, I don’t mean wave a purple and gold flag around like a male cheerleader. The Lakers had a formula that worked for decades, only it was abandoned because Jim Buss made a series of impulsive, foolhardy decisions. First, they were going to be a defensive power under coach Mike Brown. Then they were going to return to the 1980s Showtime era with Mike D’Antoni. Now, they want to be a version of the Golden State Warriors and none of it worked because they simply can’t shoot.

This is a team without an identity. Fortunately, it had one for decades — the inside/out game. In the 1960s, inside to Wilt Chamberlain, out to Jerry West. In the 1980s, inside to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, out to Johnson. In the 2000s, in to Shaquille O’Neal, out to Bryant.

Maybe the team has the “out” in D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers need to do whatever it takes to find the inside game.

2) If that means trading Julius Randle or Brandon Ingram, so be it.

3) Support coach Luke Walton publicly, but privately inform him that this roster needs to follow a specific growth plan. For far too often this season, Walton has believed that in order for the Lakers to grow somebody in the younger core needs to step up. Be the leader. Demand the ball. That sort of thing.

At this point, Russell, Randle or Ingram have not answered that call.

That leaves it up to you, coach. You have to pick. Pick wisely. Pick now.

Squint really really hard and there’s hope for the Lakers

If you saw the Lakers depth chart for the upcoming season — and Google pushed ESPN’s chart straight to the top of its search engine — you would be as deeply startled and disappointed as if you had stayed up to watch Julian Assange online this morning.

Here’s ESPN’s cruel equivalent of a WikiLeaks bombshell, which I downloaded this morning:


Please take a moment to ask God if you’ve suffered through enough horrible basketball yet to be punished further by this graphic.

The fact that Roy Hibbert plays for the Charlotte Hornets not withstanding, there’s a lot on the actual roster that will make basketball fans feel equal parts optimism and loathing for the upcoming season. The preseason, by the way, begins tonight in Anaheim against the equally dreadful Sacramento Kings.

Ultimately, much like the graphic above, this team has far more questions than answers. Having questions alone is a reason for good cheer. With the team last year, we already knew the answer: They were going to stink.

Coach Luke Walton is every bit of an unknown as the roster. Sure, he took over to coach the Golden State Warriors for a spell last year in Steve Kerr’s absence, but how much does that mean? One, the Warriors have an elite roster that knows their game plan. Two, Walton coached with Kerr — who let the Warriors rain three-point shots — but he played under Phil Jackson, who ran the Triangle offense. That offense features free-flowing motion and can help post players.

So are the Lakers trying to reinvent themselves into the Warriors or rediscover the Shaq-Kobe era? We can guess. We don’t know.

In the graphic above, the only roster spot we know is locked up belongs to point guard D’Angelo Russell. How close he is to being an impact player is anyone’s guess. The Lakers like him, but if he were a sure-fire star, he wouldn’t have been playing for their summer league team in Las Vegas. There are also legitimate questions of his maturity level, and he’s supposed to be the conduit for the offense?

Jordan Clarkson is likely your starting shooting guard. The only reason he wouldn’t be is if the Lakers craft a three forward offense of some sort after ingesting copious amounts of hallucinogens. And the Lakers are surprisingly deep at forward.

It seems highly likely that Julius Randle is the starting power forward after a productive first full year, considering he averaged a double-double in points and rebounds per game. However, a team that won 17 games last year can’t etch too many sure things in its roster and the Lakers also like what they’ve seen in Larry Nance Jr. It’s also possible both play in the front court for small lineups.

The idea that Nick Young still draws a paycheck or is listed as a starter in the above graphic is beyond me. Young has been rightfully buried at small forward in the depth chart. No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram may not start in his rookie year, but the entire organization will tackle him if he ever steps to “Swaggy P” for advice. Your likely starter is Luol Dang, who is serviceable but not a game-changer.

L.A. hopes Timofey Mozgov is serviceable at center. He brings with him a championship from the Cavaliers and also the eternal emotional baggage from this. I sure hope the Buss family is paying for therapy after that. Should he falter, Yi Jianlian is listed as a power forward but he has seen time in practice as a backup center. He’s a defensive liability but can shoot.

So what to make of it? The gut feeling here is that the Lakers aren’t trying to be the Warriors as much as they are trying to be the Oklahoma City Thunder in the near future — deep, athletic and more importantly, versatile.   

For this season, the Lakers can’t be worse than they were the last two years. Aside from 17 wins, there was this sinking suspicion that they simply didn’t like each other or enjoy the way they were playing under Byron Scott. 

I think there’s reason for optimism. 

I think they’ve turned a corner.

I don’t think the results will be that much better, surely not a playoff team. 

If this team doubles its wins, it misses the playoffs by a mile. However, if the Lakers do win 34 games — which is conceivable — Randle makes a firm connection with Russell and Ingram cracks the starting lineup by the end of the year, then the clouds will finally lift for a franchise that is in desperate need of direction.

Not everybody deserves a “Happy Father’s Day”


Like this hump right here.

This awkward family photo was taken prior to Game 7 of the NBA Finals last night, when the same p—- a– b—- dropped a triple-double right in this idiot’s chin-deprived face and provided Cleveland with its first professional sports championship since… Since… I dunno. Since Jesus Christ parted the Red Sea and allowed Jim Brown and open path to the end zone for the Browns to win the NFL title.

Mr. PAB is only the third man ever to record a triple-double in a Game 7 — scoring 27 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing 11 assists —  which means he showed up when it mattered most.

And when does it matter most?

To tell some dingledouche clown that he needs to set a better example for his embarrassed kid than wearing a ridiculous swap meet T-shirt like that. That matters a lot.

Not that I’m a Cavs fan or big on LeBron James. I just know that while it’s OK to debate over which athletes are “winners” or “chokers,” you don’t call a man out on whether he is a man. Not unless you’re ready to fight over it.

Dude, you spent thousands of dollars on tickets to look like a damned fool. But at least your kid has a fresh lid with your IQ on it.

Happy Father’s Day.