LOS ANGELES — Experience testifies it’s not a particularly good idea to get bent out of shape by either alarming defeats or elating victories.
Those who get too high after a win or too low following a loss are apt to become emotional wrecks. Those who overreact one way or the other tend to look lame more times than not.
Yet many coaches, players and members of the media never learn the value of patience and perspective. Fans, of course, have license — minus any liability or shame — to freak out at the slightest hint of hardship or suggestion of a gained upper hand, and are always at their hysterical worst when the home team/opponent is wheeled into emergency.
Upon arriving at Staples Center for Game 3 of the Lakers-Spurs playoff series, the mood mirrored that of the city. While watching the Lakers and Spurs warm up, a parade of patrons approached and vented one complaint (“Why didn’t they do this? How could they have done that?”) after another:
* Jerry Buss was denounced for not spending enough during the off-season on strengthening his team.
* VP Mitch Kupchak was blasted for not finding an adequate power forward/center to help Shaq.
* Phil Jackson was condemned for not bringing along the rookies faster.
* Shaq was censured for being out of shape.
* Derek Fisher’s feet don’t move quick enough.
* It was a mistake to re-sign Devean George; Samaki Walker’s a waste of space.
* Robert Horry was knocked for not making a big shot in the first or second round.
Only justice allowed Kobe to escape the withering diatribes unscathed.
If it weren’t so irreverent, it would have been amusing how hastily the Lakers had been downgraded because of two beatings (one bad) in San Antonio.
Somewhere along the way the faithfully departed were entrapped and indoctrinated by Kevin Garnett’s (“If we win tonight it’s over”) cult.
If it weren’t so disrespectful, it would have been funny how geared up they were to defame the defending three-time champs (who routinely overcome two-game deficits; Timberwolves and Kings, the previous season) before they even tipped off in their own building.
One venerable, elite season-ticket holder was so disenchanted with the Lakers — unconvinced they could survive past May — he booked himself an African safari starting on June 9.
Two triumphs later, Joe Smith’s perfectly willing to sell the trip at a loss.
I assume you won’t be surprised to learn that several hundred thousand other fans have re-pledged their allegiance as well.
I assume you also won’t be surprised to learn that people in San Antonio and around the country are scrutinizing the Spurs far more critically now than when they were undefeated . . . at home.
Which is why this nuclear overreaction is so farcical.
At home, the Spurs took care of business, accomplishing, in theory, what they were supposed to accomplish and the Lakers had to endure the fallout.
Then they went on the road and the Lakers, in theory, accomplished what they were supposed to accomplish and the Spurs’ warts are now radioactive.
Let’s start with guard Tony Parker.
As the regular season wound down, popular opinion found it unfathomable that the Spurs seem so intent on making a maximum money move on free agent-in-waiting Jason Kidd.
Why import the NBA’s premier point guard when you have already got one of the league’s best young playmakers? Why risk undermining the 20-year-old’s future?
When Parker, as predicted, didn’t devour Derek Fisher and, in fact, got outplayed by Fisher once, maybe twice, Kidd’s name was suddenly on the lips of everyone in the press room.
When Tim Duncan’s foul trouble forced him to sit over two stretches for 7 1/2 minutes and the Spurs had nobody to assume the offensive burden (outscored 28-6) it became an instant reflection of Parker’s shortcomings.
When Parker failed to take charge and direct those under his command to attack the attack to the hoop instead of settling for jumpers, it became mounting evidence as to how much the Spurs need Kidd’s expertise and experience.
When Parker had his inbounds pass stolen by Kobe (with 14.2 seconds left in the game and the Spurs down by three), those sitting in Desolation Row immediately began selling post cards of his hanging and painted his passport black.
Two losses on the road to Shaq and Kobe and it’s suddenly a catastrophe that the Spurs only flaunt one superstar, as well as revelation at how far David Robinson — four points, seven rebounds while vacationing in LA — has slipped.
(Personally, Parker thinks his team needs to recruit a big free agent come the offseason. Unofficially, Jermaine O’Neal will be the team’s second priority should Kidd stay put, while P.J. Brown is getting some covert honorable mention.)
Suddenly, those who miscast their MVP ballots discovered how much better the league’s repeat award winner makes his teammates . . . and Gregg Popovich.
After all, without Duncan to depend on full time, it was plain to see how badly Lakers assistant Jim Cleamons out-coached the coach-of-the-year.
I rest my exaggerated case.
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