Nothing To See Here. Or, Why I’m Happy The Lakers Are Flying Under The Radar

Darius Soriano —  October 12, 2010

Los Angeles Laker's Derek Fisher sits down for an interview during the media day at the Lakers training facility in El Segundo, Ca., on September 25, 2010 (UPI Photo/Lori Shepler) Photo via Newscom

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.

Darius Soriano

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20 responses to Nothing To See Here. Or, Why I’m Happy The Lakers Are Flying Under The Radar

  1. Well said. I’ve got nothing to add here except for the virtual clicking of the non-existent “like” button.

    Aaaaand back to quiet off season mode for me, just like the team.

  2. The Miami scenario sells papers, generates lots of hits, makes fans have a zest for the upcoming season. Every team in the league has a chance at 0-0, so let them have their shine now and the Lakers at the end of the year when it matters. The fans of other teams are tired of watching LA in the finals every year, so the underdog must prevail to keep everyone sane other than us LA fans.

    Do you think the 97/98 Bulls would have not been favored to 3peat if they had lost Randy Brown( Jordan Farmar), Dickey Simpkins( J. Powell), and Matt Steigenga(Mbenga)? I am glad LA is flying unde the radar, but I find it a little disrespectful for a team that is the two time defending champs to be brushed aside so easily. I hope that the players are feeling the same way as I am about this upcoming season.

  3. What a difference a dynasty makes…contrast this championship team vs the one earlier this decade. I’m loving this right now, the fact that the media focus on the Lakers is about basketball.

    In the media, you’ve got the super-friends and their every move (talk about a puff piece w/ Bosh meeting the President), Boozer and his Handgate, Yao, and everyone else Darius mentioned.

  4. The subdued lighting is nice but we might want to have a few red herrings set aside in case the national media comes sniffing around again. Maybe Carmelo going to the Wizards. Or J.R. Rider joining the Heat. Or Birdman’s new tattoo strangling him.

  5. Well, LeBron has a history of letting people down, so I’m not so sure if we’ll see the Heat in this year’s finals either ;)

    And really, the 17th banner should be raised against the Celtics anyway.

    But, it would be interesting to see 3 puppets ganging up on Kobe. Lil-Dez could just be recycled to be Bosh or something.

  6. I think that the over the top publicity for Lebron in particular and the Heat in general amounts to a setup.

    These do not usually have happy endings.

  7. Please, God, no more Nike puppets.

    I swore we’d seen the last of that awful campaign when LeBron failed to get the Cavs to the Finals, as everyone on Madison Avenue and at Nike headquarters expected in 2009.

    Then they had to go and resurrect those ads for that awful KRS-ONE commercial on the Christmas game last year.

    Unless the ad has someone lighting those stupid puppets on fire, I never want to see one of those commercials again.

  8. its kinda odd that there is no extravagant media news story about the team from the entertainment capital of the world but it doesnt bother me as much now as it did during the summer. lets all just Fall back (pun intended) and get ready for a good season. They will be forced to talk about us once we win #17, that is unless James takes his talents somewhere else

  9. Artest only has 1 championship ring, and he’s giving that away!

  10. Hey guys,a longtime reader here.This is gonna be off-topic and I’m sorry for that but as you say it’s a slow preseason for our team.Tonight on ESPN there was a documentary called Once brothers,and it was about two great players and one really really great team,Vlade Divac,Drazen Petrovic and Yugoslav national team from the end of 80′s and the start on 90′s.Since I’m from that part of the world I’ve always wanted to know your opinion about those players including Toni Kukoc,Dino Radja etc.So if you could help me and write a few of your thoughts about them to see are they regarded nearly as great across the Atlantic as they are here in the former Yugoslavia.Thanks.Greetings from Croatia.

  11. jedinac — Vlade Divac will always be well-regarded among most Lakers fans, in large part because of the fun he brought to the game. He was kind of like a goofy little brother who we watched grow into a solid man over time. Even when he played for the hated Kings, I don’t know many Lakers who ever felt much ill-will toward him.

    He was a skilled big man and a great passer. A bit too tentative at times, but I always felt he never really received his due credit from fans in other cities who didn’t watch him play night in and out. He was without question the first legit Yugoslavian star in the United States, and his success helped pave the way for other Europeans to thrive here years later. In many ways, his game was similar to Pau Gasol, though Pau’s the better player of the two.

    He was a key contributor to two of my favorite seasons ever, 1990-91 and moreso 1994-95. I don’t think anyone in L.A. wanted to see him go, though we’re all quite pleased with how that trade with Charlotte worked out for the Lakers.

  12. @jedinac (#10)

    Vlade Divac – Being born and raised a Lakers fan, I’ve always appreciated the stability that Vlade Divac provided during the Eddie Jones, Sedale Threatt, Elden Campbell, Nick Van Exel years. Although not a powerful presence, I always thought he was solid down in the post. I especially remember him playing with Magic, and thought he’s an OK replacement for Kareem. When I found out he used to smoke a pack before every game, I was laughing like crazy.

    Toni Kukoc – I think the best from your area. He was totally a legit baller. When he came off the bench, I always wondered what PJ was thinking. Then I remembered, oh yeah, they have Scottie Pippen. Dude was a sick baller, had major skills (not flashy), and was easily a starter in any other team. I always thought Odom would be more like Kukoc than Pippen.

    Vladimir Radmanovic – He’s not on the Lakers anymore after snowboard-gate, and I’m happy w/ that trade (go ShannWow!).

    Marko Jaric – I always thought he had potential when he was on the Clippers. Then he became junk in Minnesota.

    Darko Milicic – Dude is crazy, bustin a Hulk Hogan and ripping his jersey. Then that crazy cuss-filled tirade on camera. I love that they have a site named after him (freedarko.com).

    Aleksandar Pavlovi? – He was ok when he was on the Cavs. That’s it.

    Nenad Krsti? – I’m surprised how effective he is. I think he’s underrated (even by me lol).

  13. Jed,
    From my perspective, both Vlade and Toni were always regarded very highly. Drazen as well but of course he died young and didn’t have a long NBA career (although his stint with the Nets was impressive). I don’t remember much about Dino Radja except he had a few good seasons with the Celtics and then went back to Europe. In general, euro players from that era got a fair amount of attention because it was a pioneering movement – for instance, Sabonis came here after being a huge star in Europe and even though he was past his prime with the Trailblazers, there was always real respect for him. Of the players you mentioned, Kukoc got the most press… probably because he was with the Bulls. He always wanted to play a larger starring role and Phil Jackson would tweak him about it. One other early euro player that should be mentioned – Detlef Schrempf!

  14. Thanks everyone,most of them were on a same team,and we can only imagine how great that team would be after reaching its full potential,but there was a war and now its in the past.I can only dream :) I’m glad that you as an American fans give credit to my people,especially Toni Kukoc cause he’s my favorite player ever,now if only Sasha could wake up and follow in the footsteps of his great (former)countrymen.

  15. Did you guys see that Ammo played for the Wizards?

  16. #10. I always thought that Vlade was a 2nd tier Center, but an excellent role player that did a variety of things very well (passer, shooter) and was only adequate at other aspects of the game (rebounding especially). He was crafty and a real thinking man’s player. His ability to see the entire floor and still make the needed pass (of any variety – bounce, hook, wrap around, etc) as a big man was a special quality that few players have/do possess (Bill Walton, Sabonis, Webber, Gasol, to name a few) and I think that was his best trait. I think playing for Adelman and Pete Carrill in the Princeton offense really highlighted Vlade’s skill on offense. Vlade was also an underrated scorer. He didn’t have too many post up moves, but I thought he did a good job with a limited repetoire. His basic rolling right handed hook to the middle of the lane that he then could counter with a quick drop step to the baseline was a quality combination that worked against most defensive big men.

    As for Petrovic, what a shame that he was taken from us so early in life. From what I remember, he was just a tremendous scorer that could shoot with range and was a great attacker off the dribble as well. He always played with a fearlessness and a confidence that really showed his strong belief that he belonged. In a way, Drazen was from the same tree that has produced Ginobili, though his game was more orthodox and was tilted more towards outside shooting where Manu’s is tilted more towards penetration. However, Petrovic (like Manu) showed very capable at other facets of offense. On defense, I don’t recall him being that strong a defender but that he’d get after you when the mood struck. He was a great scorer, first and foremost, but a very good overall player.

    In the end, what I appreciate most about Vlade and Drazen were that, besides Detlef Schrempf (who really played more of an American style of game), they were the first Euro’s to come to the league and really show that excellent basketball was played all over the world. And while the aesthetic was a bit different, they were quite effective and quality players that any team could win with.

    On a side note, I really liked Kukoc. First of all, he was left handed. But I really liked his ball handling and ability to create for himself and his teammates. He showed confidence in big moments and his shot making was always strong. I think Toni struggled some with the fact that he was really a natural SF for the NBA, but due to the presence of Pippen and MJ on the wing, he often played PF for the Bulls where he got exposed on defense and on the glass. In a way, as was mentioned earlier, Kukoc and Odom are different sides of the same coin in that they both possess some of the same skills (ball handling, shot creation, etc) but where Toni was much more skewed towards shooting and offense, Odom is much better and defense and rebounding. This is why LO is a such a gem for this Lakers team. He’s got the offensive skills to play off of Kobe/Gasol as a ball handler/slasher, but on defense he can excel at rebounding and helping on the P&R. Kukoc helped the Bulls some on D and on the glass (especially, like LO, on the transition from defensive rebound to fast break chance), but he was much more dangerous on offense as a shooter, in isolation at the top of the key as a penetrator, and as an inside/outside threat to score in a variety of ways. Man, ‘The Waiter’….I kind of miss him.

  17. Damn Darius, you really stole what I had to say about Divac. That European post should have been a topic in and of itself.

    A few points that I don’t think you brought up. Aside from the lack of post moves offensively, Divac has nowhere near the quickness and motility on defense that Gasol does. And in this day and age with tiny centers, that means Gasol can guard two positions excellently.

    Kukoc may have the game of a SF, but not the quickness to keep up with the faster ones in defense. Just like Lamar now, and that’s the major reason why we don’t see our triple towers lineup too often.

  18. Floppy Divac is all this uneducated basketball fan has to say.

  19. #19. It’s funny that mention Vlade’s flopping because that is one aspect of his game that he’ll probably be remembered for. But again, I think that speaks to his craftiness as a player. I don’t think you’ll find one Lakers fan that was happy with Vlade when he played for the Kings and was drawing countless offensive fouls on Shaq in meaninful games to decide Pacific Division titles and playoff series. However, Vlade did whatever he could to combat a player (Shaq) that was stronger, quicker, and just a better talent. Vlade used his smarts to try and neutralize Shaq’s advantages by attempting to take away his power game. Obviously it wasn’t terribly effective over the long haul (the Kings never beat the Lakers in a playoff series) but, in retrospect, I can give Vlade his due for pulling out all the stops in trying to get a win (even though at the time I was not that objective when analyzing what he was doing).