Never has a two time defending champion flown so far under the radar. With the formation of the Heat, the wild free agent movement and player acquisitions by other teams around the league, the rise of Durant, the return of Yao, Shaq to the C’s, and on, and on, the Lakers are now just another team. Nothing to see here. Just another story. And honestly, I’m perfectly happy with this. Thrilled even.
This isn’t to say that I think the Lakers aren’t the favorite to win the title. Nor do I think the Lakers won’t get every team’s best effort when they face off against the defending champs. But, this team, for lack of a better word is boring right now. Even the news making items (Bynum’s health, the acquisition and integration of new players, etc) aren’t really new or fresh feeling (especailly, as Jeff pointed out, other teams are facing some of the same issues). I mean, the Lakers have been dealing with an injured Bynum for going on four seasons now. And while I think we’re all interested in seeing how the new players fit in, it’s not like the Lakers just signed Artest or traded for Gasol. This has resulted in the Lakers being a bit of an underwhelming story this Summer and while that makes my life a bit more difficult in running this site, it should be considered a great thing for Lakers fans.
You see, the Lakers don’t need the attention. While Kobe is busy rehabbing his knee (with Bynum doing the same), Pau works to get his wind and timing back, and newcomers Blake/Barnes/Theo/the rookies get acclimated to the offensvive and defensive schemes, the spotlight can be on other teams. The goal for this Lakers team isn’t to win the off-season or the pre-season, it’s to win when the playoffs come.
And the putting in the work to achieve this goal will occur with or without the media swarm that other teams are facing right now. So, why not have it be without?
All this is to say that I’m happy this off-season has been relatively uneventful. I’m thrilled that other teams will be the first team covered on Sports Center or on the front page of every NBA based website. This means that the Lakers can do their work in peace and come out ready to play when banner #16 gets raised on ring night.
And this team will be ready. Does anyone think that Kobe is going to relax now that he’s gotten to championship number 5? How about Phil in his “last stand” season? That Fisher, Gasol, Artest, and Odom don’t want a three-peat on their resume (or two if you’re Derek)? Or that Barnes and Blake and Ratliff aren’t hungry for that elusive championship that they’ve chased for all these years on all those different teams? Yeah, I think we’re all on the same page when answering those questions.
So, sit back and relax. Enjoy that the Lakers are just as great a team as they’ve been in the past three seasons (better, even) and let others enjoy the heat that comes from the lights shining bright on them. I know that this Lakers team – a veteran one that’s been through the battles before – knows what it’s going to take to win when it’s time to. And really, that’s all I can ask for and I’m more than happy to live with that being the case. I hope you’ll do the same.