Being a Lakers fan comes every year with the pressures of great expectations. We expect every year for our team to be a championship-contender. It just comes with the territory. Most other teams spend the year just trying to improve, get healthy, etc. Many fans aren’t used to, or don’t know what it’s like to see a few losses, see their team struggle, then suddenly start to question the championship fortitude of their squad. Laker fans have been admittedly spoiled, and now we’re being brought back down to earth, and I for one, am very much welcoming the trip.
Since the Pau Gasol trade in 2008, the Lakers have been consistent at at least one thing every season; experts predict them to be a playoff, if not title contenders. Since 2008 the questions have been such as “How far can Gasol, Bryant and Odom carry them?” “Will they be able to repeat, defend their title?” “What moves does Mitch have up his sleeve?” “Will Andrew Bynum remain healthy long enough to form the formidable front-court with Gasol?” Every one of those questions, at least for me, came with anxiety and great expectations, watching every game every season. These were all championship caliber questions. Last year was of course no different, possibly one of the most stressful seasons I have ever endured; “How will this super-team mesh?” “How long will player A be out, and when will player B be back?” “Is Dwight happy, will he stay?” “Will MDA figure this thing out?” “Will they make the playoffs?” Again, a “yes” or “no” to any of these could have meant championship, or no playoffs at all.
The questions facing the Lakers this year are much more simple; “When will Kobe Bryant be back?” “Will he return to his all-star form?” “How will MDA’s offense run without Howard?” “Can Nash get his groove back?” And of course, further down the line “Who will the Lakers target in free agency?” There is one element in there that is missing; the Lakers are not expected to compete for a championship this year. BOOM! No expectations, or pressures. No one is expecting Mitch to hit one out of the park again. We as fans can watch and enjoy a full season of Lakers basketball just for what it is; Lakers basketball. In a city, and a team that is always surrounded by drama, the (hopefully) complete lack of it this season is a welcome change I look forward to.