Out of Bounds: Reality vs. Expectation

Out of Bounds with Jason Riley

I really enjoy watching a good love story (briefly pausing while you quietly judge me). This would really work to my advantage if I ever found myself in this position:

Girl: Are you really watching another basketball game tonight!?
Me: Baby, that’s why God created NBA League Pass.
Girl: What about me!? What about what I want to watch?
Me: I’ll make a deal with you. For every NBA game that I watch, we can watch one of your chick-flick love stories together?
Girl: Um, really!? You would actually do that?
Me: Ordinarily, no… but for you, absolutely. Not everything in this relationship has to be about me.
Girl: OMG, you’re the best!

One of the most enjoyable love stories I have seen is 500 Days of Summer (if you haven’t seen it, you really should). About two-thirds of the way through the film, there is a brilliant scene that perfectly illustrates exactly why we are all frustrated with the recent play of the Lakers:

Reality vs. Expectation.

Most of us secretly (or not-so-secretly) thought the Lakers would do the NBA schedule like Jason Voorhes does Spring Break. Of course, we weren’t alone in our observations. Reggie Miller predicted the Lakers would start the season at 20-1. Kenny Smith expected a healthy Lakers team to challenge the ’96 Chicago Bulls regular season wins record (72-10). 8/10 NBA.com analysts and 19/20 ESPN.com analysts picked the Lakers to run away with the West.

Let’s be completely honest with ourselves, we weren’t thinking about being one of the best teams in the league, we were thinking about being one of the best teams of all-time. Whether we want to admit it or not, the majority of us would have agreed on the following equation:

Healthy and Rested Kobe + Healthy and Rested Pau + Hungry and Motivated Ron Artest = So Long ’96 Chicago Bulls.

By the end of November, our tower of Babel high expectations were being met.

We were cruising down the PCH at 13-3, closing out the month by winning our last six games by double figures. We slashed through the early part of December (5-0) and watched Kobe Bryant bury one of his greatest clutch shots at the buzzer to beat D-Wade and the Miami Heat. Finally, we aced our first extended road trip (4-1), watched the Mamba drill another game-winning buzzer beater (vs. Milwaukee) and marched into the Christmas Day match-up with the Lebrons’ at a pristine 28-6.

Then it began to happen… our expectations started to drift away from reality.

The Cavs wiped the floor with the Lakers on Christmas Day (completely ruining the whole day). If that wasn’t bad enough, Ron Artest falls down the stairs at his home (really?) and misses the next several games. Any chance he was sober when that happened? None. Three days later, the Suns demolished the Lakers in Phoenix. The Lakers managed to respond by rattling off four straight wins (including another Kobe game-winner vs. Sacramento), but lost Pau Gasol to another hamstring injury in the process. The week finished with a blowout win against the ice-cold Bucks (95-77), but not before the Lakers had been embarrassed out by the Clippers and Blazers in back to back games.

And now it’s complete… our expectations have completely abandoned reality.

The Lakers are a mediocre 6-4 since beating the Zombie Sonics right before Christmas, forcing expectations and reality as far apart from each other as they have been this season. Naturally (just like we do so often in real life), we totally freak out when this happens. How many times have you heard different variations of the following statements this week?

“What’s wrong with Kobe? Why can’t he shoot? Has he stopped trusting his teammates?”
“Andrew Bynum is a joke! He can’t play with Pau Gasol. Let’s get rid of him while he is still healthy!”
“What the hell is Phil doing? Why is he playing Sasha and Morrison together? Is he crazy?”

Before we totally lose our minds and enter the Tyson zone, now is a good time to take a step back and reset a few of our expectations for the regular season, only this time with a little more sensibility.

Expectation says… Kobe Bryant will win his second MVP award.
Reality says… 30/5/5 on 46% shooting + 3 game winners at the buzzer + best player on best team argument.

Expectation says… The Lakers will finish the season with a healthy roster.
Reality says… Kobe (finger) will find a solution, he always does. Pau Gasol (hamstring) is expected back sometime next week. Ron Artest (concussion) is back on the court without any lingering effects. Luke Walton (back) has been participating in full practices.

Expectation says… The Lakers will finish the season with the NBA’s best record.
Reality says… the Lakers (29-8) lead the Cavs (29-10) by 1 game and the Celtics (26-10) by 2 ½ games.

Even after the Christmas Day letdown… The Ron Artest vs. the Stairs setback… The series of blowout defeats against the Suns, Blazers and Clippers… The untimely Pau Gasol hamstring injury… The Kobe Cold-Front during the last four games… The Lakers reality still says they are on pace for the only thing that actually matters.

Banner #16.

Expectation says everything else will simply produce a more dramatic championship DVD.

Jason Riley is the executive director of LakerNation.com. He also pens a regular opinion column, Out of Bounds, and is the co-host of Voice of the Nation: Fastbreak. He currently splits his time in Los Angeles, CA and Carlsbad, CA.
  • http://lakersnation.com KOBE THA MVP 10′

    ???????????????????????????????????????????????

  • Jerod

    Good read Riley, about time you decided to write again.

  • 09champs!

    My favorite writer on TLN, please man, you gotta write more often, i haven´t read any of your columns that I haven´t agreed on it. This one is another example, we were expecting to give the bulls record a shot, but nobody (including myself) THOUGHT about Pau being injured, we THOUGHT Ron was going to average 15-18 pts. But those are things we THOUGHT and EXPECTED, I still think we are winning the ship, and who knows, if it wasn´t this year, maybe next year with the same group of guys, but with 1 year of playing together (with Ron included) , we can give the Bulls record a shot, obviously with everyone healthy. Remember, we´ll have this team for the next 5 years, so every year we may have the opportunity, which is obviously not the goal, but imagine people in 20 years trying to break the 2010-2011 Lakers record, wouldn´t that be awesome :)

  • http://www.violetkanian.com Vee

    GREAT read! this brought a tear to my eye. I would LOVE to see Banner #16. WOW. WE NEED TO DO THIS!! lets go lakers!! :)

  • http://TheLakersNation Marwan..

    No! Read this from Bill Simmons on his twitter.

    “FYI: Bosh & Banks (exp 2011) for Bynum, Vujacic (exp 2011) and Morrison’s expiring works under the cap. I am terrified.”

    • highflyer

      i wud love if we can get jose calderon

  • http://TheLakersNation Marwan..

    I sent a tweet question to Larry Coon, a blogger on the New York times, as he wrote an article on the Bosh and Bynum trade and this is what he said.

    LarryCoon If I’m LA I do it it a heartbeat. If I’m Tor I’m patient & find the best deal out there. RT @TLN24: @LarryCoon Do you want this trade?

  • P-gutta

    breh you aint got no girlfriend why you makin stories up?

  • WifelovesLuke

    “Expectation says everything else will simply produce a more dramatic championship DVD.”

    Let’s all enjoy the ride…..1-2-3 Ring!

  • http://www.j-ri.com Jason Riley

    @Jerod/@09Champs/@Vee – Thanks, guys!

    @Marwan – Bosh/Banks for Bynum/Sasha/Adam is intriguing. I guess the question Mitch has to answer is, “Do we need to break up this team to win a championship?” I think the answer is no; and if not, is it worth the chemistry intangibles to possibly make a minor improvement? I’ll have more about this is my mailbag next week, but it definitely is worth considering

    @P-gutta – Haha, because that’s what writers do, make up stories. :)

  • BE_A_LakerFan

    “500 Days of Summer” was a great movie. Nice how you threw that in.

    Lake Show!!

  • Jim

    Good take!

  • proemb

    Dude, just get another TV set and hook it up for her. Simple as that. No need to have your balls in her purse like that.