All professional sports teams play the expectations game to one degree or another and with varying degrees of success. There are the perennial bottom feeders, the rank and file, the contenders and at the top of the pyramid, the elite franchises. In basketball, it has been often pointed out that two teams have won the most championships, the Boston Celtics at 17 and the Los Angeles Lakers at 16. The next closest teams are the Chicago Bulls with 6 and the San Antonio Spurs with 4. It’s significant that all of those Spurs titles have been under Coach Gregg Popvich. As for other coaches of course, Phil Jackson was at the the top of his own pyramid with 11 rings until his retirement. Given recent events, we most likely will never know if that number might have changed.
The expectations game is changing and it has been for a long time. The massive number of titles won by Boston came from a different era – they have only won one in the last 25 years. The Chicago Bulls haven’t been close since Phil Jackson left. If we are to be honest about the current Lakers and their future, we have to acknowledge that most of their superstars are aging and they are playing in a new system with a new head coach who entered the fray after the last one was fired. And then there’s the oft-mentioned fact that Mike D’Antoni, as superb a coach as he is, has never won a ring. For all of the summertime hype, the playing field has been leveled – with last night’s loss, the team is now back under the .500 mark. And then there’s the Spurs of course – that doggedly unassuming team with its recalcitrant 4-ring coach is a half-game in back of Memphis with 12 wins and 3 losses. Just plugging along.
Dave McMenamin at ESPN Los Angeles writes that Kobe Bryant’s mental energy needs to be matched by others on his team.
Brian Kamenetzky at ESPN’s Lakers Index has the rapid reaction to last night’s loss to the Pacers. Sidebar: none of the recent title offerings pasted into the mothership’s banner box has come close to the sublime Land O’Lakers.
Mark Whicker at the OC Register writes about a team that is very much a work in progress after last night’s loss.
If there was a defining narrative from last nights Lakers/Pacers game apart from horrible play, it was the one and only Joey Crawford. C.A. Clark at Silver Screen and Roll writes about the debacle.
Mike Bresnahan at the L.A. Times reports that Steve Nash won’t be returning to the Lakers for at least another week.
Brent Pollakoff at ProBasketballTalk reports on the Lakers’ free-throw woes, and Kobe’s dismissal of same.
Dan Devine for Ball Don’t Lie has video and text about George Hill’s romp to the basket in the final seconds last night.
Suki Thind at Lakers Nation writes about MWP’s much improved play this season.
As for the Spurs, mentioned in the lead-in, they won’t be meeting the Lakers until January. They’re currently chugging through an east coast road trip. Andrew McNeill at 48MOH writes about their blowout win against the Wizards.
The Lakers have a couple days off before facing Denver at Staples on Friday, in a nationally televised game. It will be a chance to regroup, to rest a little and for the team to get some more tutelage in Mike D’Antoni’s system. Although we’re nearing December, it’s still a new team in many ways. There have been some obvious growing pains and the team is still without the floor general that will be such an integral part of D’Antoni’s master plan – Steve Nash. Regardless of excuses and reasoning, numbers and records exist and their importance cannot be denied. The Lakers are have won 2 and lost 3 since their new head coach make his game debut. How this plays into the expectations game is a matter of perspective – from management to fans.
And for Phil Jackson – he of the 11 rings and probably the last NBA coach who will ever truly sit on top of the mountain, he reportedly considers future coaching prospects to be ‘slim and none’. He will continue with his writing and personal appearances and also finds time for worthy causes, such as the opportunity to share his Zen Master ways with whoever wins a contest sponsored by the non-profit group Omaze, with proceeds going to benefit the American Indian College Fund. And so the wheel turns as he is fond of saying, with reality shown in all its many forms.