The Curtain will not fall on the Lake Show
By Andrew Fish Fain
The Los Angeles Lakers have been in nearly half of all NBA Finals. Think about that for a moment. There is not another team in any major sport that can even come close to saying that. Not the Yankees, Canadiens, Celtics, Cowboys, Notre Dame or Alabama.
You would think with that kind of success it would buy the Lakers some leeway when it comes to tough seasons. Instead what it has done is made Laker fans more spoiled than an only child of divorced parents in Beverly Hills.
Laker fans feel the post-season is a right, not a privilege that needs to be earned. With that thought in mind, folks may look at the 2013-2014 season as one of disappointment. I mean, this is a team that was swept out of the first round last year (including losing by a combined 52 points in 2 games at home), and lost its second best player, Dwight Howard, in free agency.
That last statement in and of itself is almost history making. Free agents don’t leave the Lakers, they ditch other teams to GO to the Purple and Gold.
But, I digress. How is an old team that is now a year older, and without Dwight Howard going to be better than last year’s version? How will the Staples Center be filled with satisfied fans when this team is predicted to be 12th in the West? How can one of the crown jewel franchises of the NBA be any good when it’s best player is in his mid-30’s and coming off of one of the most serious injuries an athlete can suffer?
The answer to this is easy and two-fold, no expectations and better team chemistry. Now I am not saying that the Heat should be concerned that the Lakers are coming for their crowns, but I would be shocked if this Laker team isn’t at least a 6th seed, and may take the 3rd seed to 7 games in the first round if they don’t “shock the world” and even win a first round series.
The first thing the Lakers have going for them is everyone not only doubting the team, but doubting whether or not Kobe can come back from his injury. This is going to be one HUGE mistake. People always want to compare Kobe to Jordan, and this is the one area where I think the two are the most comparable. There is nobody in the NBA today who is as competitive as #24, and when he is doubted he likes to shut everyone up. As if coming back from the torn Achilles and having his team totally dissed isn’t going to be enough motivation for him, you don’t think he can’t wait to posterize new Rockets center Dwight Howard a couple of times?
Then you have the chemistry issue. Last year it was well known that Kobe and Dwight did not get along. You had a better chance of Charlie Sheen and Chuck Lorre being pals than you did of Dwight and Kobe. That was one of the major reasons that D-How left LA for Houston. But now the Lakers have players who either understand what it means to play with Kobe (Jordan Farmar), have always dreamed of being a Laker no matter what (Nick Young), have something to prove to the rest of the league (Wes Johnson and Xavier Henry) or have been in the league long enough to understand you have to acquiesce to the team’s best player sometimes (Chris Kaman). So chemistry will not be an issue with this Laker team. Especially when they have the us against the world mentality that this group of disrespected players feels they have.
You add all that to a guy who is finally back in his natural position (Pau Gasol) and a sure fire Hall of Famer who feels healthier than ever (Steve Nash), and this is a Laker team that will surprise the uninformed, and will be right back into the post-season mix.
Then when you consider that this team has what appears to be a TON of cap space for not only an amazing free agent class next year (Lebron, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony) but they can also make a run at some big name players in the summer of 2015 (Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, Marc Gasol).
The best part about it all is even if I am totally wrong, and this team totally stinks this year, the 2014 draft class is one of the best in recent history (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle), so either way the Lakers will be set up to become one of the elite teams again in the NBA for years to come.