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