Prior to the season’s start, I had guessed that the Lakers would win 30 games. I wasn’t happy about that prediction, but had a hunch that the worst was coming. Several things occurred last season that teams just don’t recover from.
- Top free agent, Dwight Howard, left the team.
- Kobe Bryant, got one of the most severe basketball injuries, with a torn ACL.
- Mike D’Antoni had a season under his belt.
- Pau Gasol was fighting knick-knack injuries.
- Steve Nash would never be the same.
Look at the list. It’s the equivalent of taking out the top four players of the team, and adding a new coach. How would the Miami Heat be without LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Mario Chalmers? How would the Pacers be without Roy Hibbert, Paul George, Lance Stephenson, and David West? Are the Spurs even recognizable without Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard?
Usually when a team is headed for a downward spiral, they can see it ahead of time. Elite franchise players leave. Other elite franchise players get traded away. Sometimes, the construction of the roster just isn’t right, so major trades are made. Sometimes a new coach is added to float through the bad times.
No one really saw this coming. Instead of having four All-Star veterans leading the team into championship glory, the Lakers had a team with personality conflicts and bodies breaking down. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a farewell tour. Shaquille O’Neal was traded. The last time anything this severe happened to the Lakers, was when Magic Johnson was diagnosed with HIV in 1991. The Lakers of the 1980′s had a decade of championship competitiveness, similar to the teams of the 2000′s.
The team was patched up with talent that had been misplaced. The Lakers found band-aids in Kendall Marshall, Xavier Henry, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar, and Wesley Johnson. All of them were able to seize the opportunity to show what they could do on the NBA floor. They all belong.
Kobe Bryant has had his share of playoff runs. He’s still going to fight for one more. Now that he’s finally clear for intense training, he can take control of his situation.
I look forward to the NBA lottery date on May 20th. I look forward to the NBA Draft on June 26th. I look forward to the news of NBA draftee workouts. I look forward to the Vegas Pro League. I look forward to the moves that Mitch Kupchak will be attempting. I look forward to how Kobe Bryant comes back.
This will be an off-season of optimism, instead of high expectations. The Laker franchise, team, and coaching staff had taken multiple punches to the face, whether it’s free agency, offensive style, injuries, or criticism from Laker ticket holders themselves.
The toughest part is already over. The fun begins when we get to witness how the Laker franchise builds itself back up.