Out of Bounds with Jason Riley

The Lakers Nation is such a spoiled and self-important fan base – and if you’re offended by that, you’re really just proving my point. In all fairness, we have inherited our egotism from the franchise we passionately support – so why shouldn’t we feel a certain sense of entitlement?

15 NBA Titles, arguably 3 of the 5 greatest players of all-time (Kareem, Magic and Kobe), defending NBA champions…

You get the point.

With success comes swagger – a word we like to use in place of arrogance because it sounds better… even though it really means the same thing. The dark side of the Lakers superiority complex is their tendency to approach the latter part of the regular season with the enthusiasm of an IHOP waitress serving a group of drunken college kids at 3am.

Do you laugh at their inebriated attempts at flattery? Do you go out of your way to offer outstanding service? Do you flash a phony smile when they order a Big-Mac-Burrito with cheese? Of course not – I mean, what’s the payoff, right? That dirty pocket change of a tip scattered on the table (also known as the last eight games of the regular season) doesn’t exactly inspire you to be exceptional – even though you are fully confident that you could be if the situation called for it.

Truth be told, I have never personally waited tables at IHOP, and despite my puzzling fixation for teeny-bop dramas on the CW, I certainly could never be classified as a waitress – but having now destroyed my credibility with this impressive run on sentence, I think our IHOP waitress and the ’10 Lakers both believe in the only thing that can salvage the Lakers’ repeat hopes:

The switch.

(Now go back and read those two words like Don LaFontaine would say it)

By way of definition…

The Switch [th-uh-swi-ch]

  1. The ability to instantaneously increase your teams’ level of play without warning or notice.
  2. The power to suddenly thrive in a situation where you have previously failed.

Hold on, Riley! The Lakers are right where they need to be – we don’t need some magical switch to repeat as champions!

Whether you agree with that comment or not, I think we can all be in agreement that the Lakers had three chief objectives for the regular season – and with 74 games in the books, they haven’t fully accomplished any of them.

* Secure home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
* Be/Get/Stay healthy.
* Build momentum heading into the postseason.

Are you sure we don’t need that switch?

We don’t like to admit our dependence on the switch because it confesses disappointment. It means that our lofty expectations for historic dominance (70+ wins anyone?) now seem somewhat irrational, if not entirely premature. It acknowledges that the road to a repeat was paved with more barriers than we thought; and sometimes, it wasn’t even paved at all. It concedes that if things continue as they are, there will likely come a time in the playoffs where all will seem to be lost.

Kobe and Pau are reeling… The opposition is closing in… Staples Center is jarringly quiet… you know the feeling. If you’re a devout Lakers fan, it’s no secret that something is eerily familiar about that predicament. It wasn’t exactly the Dark Ages when the Lakers last found themselves staring at the switch…

Like in the 4th quarter of Game 7 vs. Portland in 2000, where the switch powered the first of three consecutive NBA titles for the Kobe, Shaq era. Then again in the 4th quarter of Game 5 vs. San Antonio in 2003, where the switch abruptly lost power and the Lakers dynasty sputtered to an end.

The switch even tricked us in the 4th quarter of Game 4 vs. Boston in 2008, where a catastrophic power failure left the Lakers title hopes in the dark. And most recently, in Game 4 vs. Orlando last season, the switch surmounted the Magic’ momentum and motorized the Lakers to their 15th NBA championship.

When that switch moment comes, the Lakers will slip into the huddle, wipe off the dust and open up the switch box. Will it have a power source? Will all the wires be connected? Will there even be a light bulb on the other end? The mystifying truth about the switch is that you can’t fully test it during the regular season – it can only be flipped if the situation demands it.

Each of the last four NBA champions (Heat, Spurs, Celtics and Lakers) followed up their title seasons with less wins the following year. The first three of them opened their repeat switch boxes to find they had completely run out of power. With history stacked against them and a growing sense of frustration as the regular season comes to a close, what will the switch tell us about the ’10 Lakers? The switch doesn’t play favorites – it is only powered by greatness. Repeat or flame out, we can really only be certain of one thing.

Whatever it reveals about this Lakers team… will be the truth.

  • http://twitter.com/3_wyshes Ryan White

    Great stuff Jason! Im excited to see what the post season brings. I admit I am a little nervous about how the team has played as of late but at the same time still feel like if any team can turn it around its the Lakers lead by KB24.

    • http://twitter.com/JRiley21 Jason Riley

      Thanks, bro. I think we're all a little nervous around here, but like you said, with Kobe, all things are possible. :)

  • lostinla

    who cares what barkley thinks,he only gets paid millions to sound off.

  • dmpark42

    Yes I am a self important, spoiled fan. With that comes the disapppointment when the team is playing uninspired basketball. I'm hoping they still close out strong. They have to know momentum is important, and winning against the 5 playoff teams in their last 8 would definitely help their confidence as well as mine. I hate looking at the standings everyday and looking at the matchup's and thinking, that we are in for a tough road to the finals. For instance today, I thought, well you can never count out SA with their championship experience; second round, well DEN plays us tough, and PHO is hot right now. Translation, I have lost my swagger as a fan at this point. Hope their switch ignites mine.

    • http://twitter.com/JRiley21 Jason Riley

      Great comment, I think you should be writing my column.

  • http://lakers-edge.com/ dEDGE

    At our current pace, the Lakers look to win every other game. That's fine as long as we have home court advantage and don't face the Cavs… Let's hope Kobe lighting up into his teammates will do the trick, because nothing else this season seems to have worked.

    • http://twitter.com/JRiley21 Jason Riley

      It sure feels that way, huh!? I'm not too optimistic about us playing with a whole ton of energy to close out the regular season – BUT, I'm hopeful that they flip that switch come playoff time. Let's just hope it works…