Let’s face it, Laker Nation. This season sucks. There was hope at the beginning that maybe, just maybe the role players could come together and hang around until Kobe came back (they did), before taking off upon his return (they didn’t). Kobe broke his knee, and the team has dropped 20 of their last 26 games.
The playoffs are out of reach. As a passionate Laker fan myself, I know that most (if not all) of us are only concerned with championships. Thus, it can be tempting to tune out for the next couple of months instead of watching D-League standouts on 10 day contracts get their shot in the NBA, and players on one year deals play for their next payday.
Here are four reasons you SHOULD watch the Lakers until the bitter end of this season.
1) Watch the Young Guns Grow Up
The Lakers will rebound and win championships again, and some of these players will play important roles. You want to be able to say you “knew them when.”
In the Lakers’ last down period (‘05-‘07) which admittedly was not as bad as this one, guys like Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic grew up, eventually playing big roles for NBA title teams.
Watching Sasha drain two huge free throws in Game 7 of the finals in 2010 (and make sure his hair looked good), we remembered him gaining confidence during the “lost” seasons.
Seeing Jordan Farmar lead the Lakers second unit in back to back championship runs was so much sweeter after seeing him as a rookie struggling with the triangle offense, and learning to manage a team under Phil Jackson.
Maybe in a couple of years Ryan Kelly will hit a game winning 3 in the playoffs, and you’ll recall his first start for this injury riddled Lakers squad. Perhaps Nick Young will score 20 points in the fourth quarter of a Finals game, and you’ll remember the time he went toe to toe with LeBron for a quarter in a losing effort this season.
When a scuffle breaks out in a big playoff game, and Kendall Marshall mixes it up, you can remember the time he absolutely did NOT have Nick Young’s back, and that Young taught him the value of standing up for teammates.
Just like with Farmar and Vujacic, it will be so much more satisfying for you knowing that you saw these players grow up. Watching these guys struggle and develop will make seeing them play the right way even more enjoyable.
2) Pau Gasol’s Final Stretch as a Laker
There are nine games left until the trade deadline. Any one of them could be Pau’s last in purple and gold as the Lakers look to the future. Even if Gasol is still a Laker after the deadline, there are only 37 games left this season, the final one on Pau Gasol’s contract.
While he started slow, Pau has recovered from lingering injuries, and is playing like the man who controlled the paint for two straight championship teams (20.5 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 1.8 BPG in January).
Enjoy Pau Gasol while he’s here. You will miss him when he is gone.
3) Kobe’s Last Chapter
Kobe will return this season. Laker Nation has seen every stage of one of the great careers in professional basketball history, and Kobe’s swan song may be the most fascinating yet.
A fan base develops a bond with their franchise player, and Laker Nation’s bond with Kobe is stronger than most. During Kobe’s 18 year career with the Lakers, most of us Laker faithful know Kobe’s game like the back of our hand. We’ve seen him make countless pull ups from the elbow, work defenders over in the post, blow by defenders for reverse layups towards the end of quarters, and get hot from downtown. We know his moves and his tendencies better than any scouting report.
As we saw in Kobe’s six games this season, he will have to adjust his style of play based on his injuries and age. Now Kobe will form new tendencies, and develop new moves, and we get a chance to re-learn about Kobe Bryant as he discovers the next form of his game. As a Lakers fan who watched Kobe grow up, I can’t wait to see him evolve yet again.
4) Pleasure would not be so good if not for pain.
The Lakers will make it back to the top. Not because they are “the Lakers” and it is their birthright (although that might help woo free agents), but because they are smart, rich, and they care. It is only a matter of time until the Lakers win another championship.
When the Lakers climb that mountain again, you will enjoy the victory more for having suffered the defeat. You will know the feeling of watching teams like Utah and Milwaukee beat the Lakers at Staples, and rejoice when the Purple and Gold celebrate tough playoff wins on the road.
As the Lakers hoist trophy after trophy, others will complain that the Lakers “always get what they want” and you will smile, knowing that the Lakers succeed because they make the right moves, because they do not accept mediocrity, and because the organization and fans demand excellence.
So stick with it, Laker Nation. Watch the Lakers play the Pacers on Tuesday night, even though Indiana’s professional basketball team looks much more like one you’d like to see in L.A. than the collection of NBA hopefuls auditioning for supporting roles in Lakerland right now. And continue watching, all the way until the Lakers season ends in April, long before basketball season in L.A. is supposed to end.
You won’t regret it.