While watching the NBA Playoffs preview this week, a startling revelation began to form in my mind.
During the entire synopsis of the bracket conducted by ex-ball players/coaches/etc., our Los Angeles Lakers were only mentioned for about 10 minutes, and the dominant themes were Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. While the seasoned veterans bantered about the “sure things”, the “big comebacks”, and the teams to beat, it became more and more apparent that the Lakers’ arrival in the playoffs was not headline news.
Their presence in post-season is expected, and foreseen as no big surprise. A colleague brought up another speculation, “Where is all the magic this year?”, and to an extent, I have to agree. The Lakers of the 2007-2008 season sailed all the way to the Finals in quite possibly the most aggressive playoff race in NBA history. We rid ourselves of those that did not necessarily fit the “Laker mold” (for example, our fumbling friend Kwame Brown), and laid the foundation for what appeared to be another potential Laker Dynasty.
With the addition of Trevor Ariza and Pau Gasol, as well as, the re-signing of previous Laker great Derek Fisher, the concern surrounding Kobe’s departure from the Lakers began to subside. Despite a bumpy start, the new line-up quickly gained strength. Their growth as a team during this period brought a spark in the Lakers that I hadn’t seen in quite some time (I would say since Shaq left, but that is merely opinion).
The level of uncertainty last season, and the relative excitement over this new “Dream Team” (so to speak), provided the anticipation and enthusiasm to escalate. We were grateful to make it as far as we did last year and were over enthused about it the entire way. But this year, it is much, much different. While still very excited as always to see my team succeed, it felt as if it was projected all along that they’d be where they are.
This season has been plagued by, dare I say it, standards. Everyone in the line-up knew their role and where they belonged. The loss of Bynum would change those roles for a good portion of the season, leaving the Lakers to adjust as they went. Games we should’ve won by a landslide, turned into disasters. There was a predictable quality about this team because we are already familiar with their potential. We KNOW they are the best team in the NBA, and we expect that of them. That is why, when we lose, it doesn’t feel like we tried our hardest because, if we did, we would’ve won!
Personally, I think that this year’s post season is going to be even more eventful than last year. Finally, some of our boys are stepping up in ways they never had before, AND Bynum didn’t get to play in the post-season last year, a shot at redemption? I’d think so.