Enjoy The Ride

Kurt —  January 10, 2008

There are just too few times as a sports fan when you can feel like you are seeing something special come together before your eyes. When the present looks good and the future even better. When young players are developing like you hoped and the veterans are both leading them and energized by them.

We Lakers fans can be a spoiled bunch at times. We can look at this current roster and only think, “they aren’t going to win a championship this season with this group, what do we have to do to get a title?” We start to obsess over trades or envy players other teams have.

But while the title is the goal, the journey is the fun part. This team (as constructed) will not win a title this season, and that’s okay. You can see a team that can challenge for one in the near future, and the rush to make it one right now is more likely to lead to mistakes and failure than success.

Be patient. And enjoy what we get to see nightly:

• A team playing an up-tempo, exciting style. The Lakers are often pushing the ball up, Bynum and the other bigs are looking for drags (running the high screen and roll early in the possession before the defense can set or get the matchups it wants) and there is an element of unpredictability in the offense that was lacking for years.

• A young center who is growing in confidence every game. Did you see what he did to Tyson Chandler (one of the game’s best defensive centers) in the second quarter? He backed him down on the block, pushing him to the right like Bynum wanted to spin into the middle, then when Chandler started to overplay that side Bynum swung back for a little left handed jump hook that went in cleanly. Forget last year, Bynum would not have had the confidence to make that move at the start of the season. Early on this season he was being ignored, and that was leading to a lot of dunks and lobs and easy baskets for him, which started to build that confidence. Now teams are adjusting, they are taking away some of those simple buckets, but Bynum now has the confidence in his game to show off more of his repertoire. And do things like back down Tyson Chandler.

• A veteran point guard who makes smart choices. This was a sight for sore eyes after the last couple years.

• Two young point guards who are growing and learning behind that veteran, and are bringing incredible energy off the bench.

• A deep bench that puts pressure on other team’s second units with defense and sharp shooting,

• Ball movement in the half-court offense. The extra pass to the open man is a pretty thing.

• And still the best player in the game. Every game he still does something that we can take for granted because we see it so often, but should make your jaw drop. Last night in the second quarter (I think) Kobe had the ball at the three-point line straight away with the clock running down and Mo Pete right up on him. Kobe made a jab step that Pete didn’t really bite on and Kobe went up with the three anyway, with Pete in his face. Nothing but net. You could hear the Hornet crowd deflate. I get emails from other bloggers after Lakers games against their team and universally they glow about Kobe, just marveling at what he can do.

We need to step back a little and marvel at it to. And just enjoy this ride.