The Lakers are a franchise built on pride. Players who don the Lakers jersey are proud to do so. It’s why the greats like Magic, Kareem, West, and even guys like Shaq and Rick Fox stay involved with the Lakers in some capacity. Even a recent newcomer like Steve Nash knows what it means to be on a Lakers jersey. You’re representing a legacy of greatness, championships, and excellence.
Last season and into this off-season, Dwight Howard soured that tradition. He didn’t care about the players that had come before him, nor wanted anything to do with the pressures associated with playing for the Lakers. As a result, his effort was questioned and his play left fans bitter. No player had questioned their undisputed leader in Kobe Bryant like Howard had. Fans didn’t like the constant chattering of his desire for a new coach, specifically Phil Jackson.
Fortunate or not, he left the Lakers in a one-and-done fashion. With him, the me-first attitude and selfishness exited the Lakers locker room. The Lakers didn’t have to travel far to find some players to replace him and bring in a more positive, prideful approach. First, Chris Kaman was brought in to directly replace Howard’s role on the team. Kaman played in the city of Los Angeles for eight seasons with the Clippers. He’s aware of the stigma that goes along with the Lakers, but in an indirect manner. He turned down more money to play in other places for a return to Los Angeles.
Next, a couple of hometown boys were brought in. Jordan Farmar (although still not officially signed) turned down literally millions of dollars because he missed playing in the NBA and for the Lakers. Then the Lakers signed Nick Young to a veterans minimum contract when he certainly could have gotten more elsewhere, but chose his favorite boyhood team in the Lakers. To top it off, Farmar and Young have a friendship that dates back to their high school and early college days when they played across town from each other at UCLA and USC, respectively.
With the exit of the “cancer” in Howard and the arrival of eager players, the entire attitude of the Lakers has shifted. Whether this year’s Lakers team will be competitive or not is up for debate. What isn’t is that this is a team you’ll be proud of. It’s a team you’ll enjoy watching. Think back to the title winning teams, even the team that made the Finals from 2008 through 2010. Those teams were some of the most enjoyable teams in recent memory because they cared. They loved being Lakers, loved playing on the Staples Center floor, and playing in front of the Lakers fans.
This year’s version of the Lakers will be similarly endearing with the fans. They’ll play more of an uptempo style with the additions of Farmar and Young. But they’ll care, which is less than what you can say about last year’s squad. Be prepared Lakers fans. Despite the result of the Lakers this season, you’ll be proud of their performance.