Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oh, to be a Laker fan heading into the playoffs!

lakers vs blazers, originally uploaded by allanallanallan.

My family moved to Los Angeles from the East Coast in the Summer of 1976 when I was 4 years old. by the time I was 9, I had beed reborn, baptized anew as a Los Angeles Lakers fan. We had Buck (Magic) Cap (Kareem) Bob McAdoo, Norm the DUI Nixon, Coop, Smrek, McNamara, (OK, Smrek and McNamara were not particularly good players, but they were the dorky white guys that backed up Kareem, and they do have rings). We have the best Owner in sports in Jerry Buss, a super-pimp. poker player of a man who prefers a luxury box full of young women to sitting in the front row with a too-tight t-shirt, with sweat pouring down his comb-forward while he argues with refs (take note, Mark Cuban). The NBA logo himself, the great Jerry West, was a one time coach, and executive and a permanent fixture in the Laker family.

(What a good NBA team owner looks like)

(What a sweaty douchebag looks like)
So anyway, by 9 years old, I was hooked on the Lakers. Like the kind of hooked where I was making $10 bets with Celtics Fans and using the spread and odds and winning money purely based on faith in the Lakers always coming through no matter how the odds were stacked against them.

(only because I couldn't find the old-school anti-celtics Ghostbusters teesh online)

Because of this, I realized at a young age that you cannot count out a person or team of championship caliber based on how they perform in the regular season. Phil Jackson is known to have a somewhat relaxed attitude about losing leads in games or losing games in general. The understanding is, that the team will learn more from losing a game than they will from winning a game. This totally makes sense to me, my biggest mistakes were my biggest life-lessons. So when the lakers drop a few games in January, February and/or March, people start to freak out a little. Is Kobe taking too many shots? Is Ron Artest hurting us offensively? Is Fisher too old? Is Farmar too often in Phil's doghouse? Is Phil thinking ahead to coaching Lebron as a Clipper? All of these and may other equally ridiculous questions are raised on a seemingly annual basis.

In the 1999-2000 season, the first season with PJ as coach, the Lakers went 67-15. That's pretty effing good, by the way. Anyway, come January they went 16-4. I know, 16-4! With all four losses coming two at a time. I remember the media freaking the hell out about the the Eddie Jones & Elden Campbell for J.R. Reid and Glen Rice trade. OMG! They shot themselves in the foot! It's the end!
In the 2000-2001 season they went 56-26, clearly lottery bound! They lost games early in the season, they lost games late in the season, they lost to terrible teams like the Clippers and the Warriors, surely the would't succeed in the playoffs? Kobe hates Shaq, Shaq hates Kobe. Phil hates everybody including then GM Jerry West, Robert Horry can't stand the drama, who the hell is Mike Penberthy? Why is everybody yelling?!?! When is the Panda Express at the Staples Center going to finally open?!?!? And the Lakers go 15-1 in the playoffs and take the Larry O'Brien Trophy in Philly while Cookie Monster and The NBA's littlest thug cry in their towels.

2001-2002, the Lakers are 58-24, Mike Penberthy was released after 3 games, we couldn't seem to beat the Blazers (except for 3 straight to sweep the first round). We couldn't beat the Spurs (except for beating them in 5 games in round 2: does anyone else remember that deer-in-the-headlights look on Tim Duncan's face in that series? I mean, say what you will, he's mos def H.O.F. caliber, but he did not look confident in that series

Can we take a minute to talk about the Spurs' Spursmoni logo and court color scheme from the early part of last decade? What the hell were they thinking? Would men really rock that color when the go to Chilis on the Riverwalk? Anyway, back to the topic, anytime the Lakers dropped a game, it was the beginning of the end. Their demise was predicted countless times to no avail.

Ironically, it was the 2003-2004 Lakers, the team that brought in Malone and Payton that seemed for the time being to shake the stigma of self-destruction. I remember that offseason well, Karl Malone signed, Gary Payton signed, Kobe was accused of rape. . . oh, wait, that wasn't a good thing. Anyway, I remember when Malone was signed, my buddy Jeremy was ecstatic. "Dude, we just signed Karl Malone!" he said.
"Dude, I hate Karl Malone, I hate the Jazz, I mean he's a great player, but do you really want to see him in a Laker Uniform?" I asked. While everyone made plans for a parade in June, I knew that an NBA title couldn't be bought, it can only be built or in some rare instances it can be stolen (see Kevin Garnett Trade and 2008 Boston Celtics). I knew that the previous year's implosion against the Spurs would prove too much for this nucleus. As sad as it made me to see it, the best thing we could do is get rid of Fat Shaq and rebuild around Kobe.

Sure the next few years sucked ass. It was safe to say that nobody expected much from the Lakers and I was in that majority. There were some highlights, like when Bynum tried to get cute with Shaq:

or when the Lakers almost beat Phoenix (sigh)

But it was't until the Lakers made an amazing trade with the Memphis Grizzlies that it all came back together. A little side note here: People love to call the Gasol trade a gift or a steal, but that was a trade that actually worked out very well for the Grizzlies. They were able to clear 12 million in cap space with Kwame Brown's expiring contract (a move that may have saved the Grizzlies franchise. My parents live in Memphis, when I go to visit, I'm amazed at how cheap it is to go to an NBA game there, mainly because they can't get anyone to show up! They can get 30,000 fans a night seemingly to show up at a Tigers game, but the Grizzlies were actually less popular than High Holiday services and the Jerry Lawler hootenanny!). You also have to look at their current roster and realize that Marc Gasol, a candidate for most improved player this season was part of that trade, in addition, they acquired Darrel Arthur, a relatively promising young player in trading that 2008 draft pick (Donte Greene, who is a starter for the Kings I might add). Okay, enough of my soap box.

Now let's look at that 2007-2008 season, I thought for sure we would beat the Celtics, I was wrong, I can admit it. I underestimated the Celtics ability to do everything off the court to guarantee success on the court, but enough about that awful June, so let's move forward. . .


Yup, we beat them Magic. . . folks though we wouldn't do it. (yawn)

Now here we are, 2010 and the Lakers have looked soft over the last month or so, but I'm not worried. This team can play defense when it has to and that will win you championships. My only concern is that Ron Artest doesn't know where that extra playoff gear is, but I have a feeling that Kobe will make sure he finds it.



Excellent post. I'm of the opinion that the Malone/Payton Lakers would have still beaten Detroit if Karl didn't injure himself hunting young Mexican girls.

Ben Le Vine said...

Oh, hey, look! I was kind of right1

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