It is the most anticipated Wizards home game every year. The Lakers visit once a season, drawing out fans inside the Beltway unlike any other team in the NBA. But how will Lakers fans respond to their team's current tortured campaign Friday in Washington?
Martell Webster was disappointed that the Wizards' win over the Heat on Dec. 4 felt like an away game, but he hasn't been here long enough to understand the apathy. Those who blindly root for Kobe Bryant are different than the bandwagon fans that all of a sudden have adopted Miami as their favorite team.
Bryant is as likely to get "M-V-P!" chants as he is to hear "Beat L.A.!" if the Wizards play competitively, as they did in a 106-101 upset victory in March. But cheers for Washington this time around might be accompanied by boos for the Lakers (9-13) and coach Mike D'Antoni, who are surprisingly directionless after they were supposed to be title contenders. That could make Verizon Center, for a change, a truly unwelcome place for the league's glitziest team.
- Craig Stouffer