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Okay, we all know this is a big day in this country. A lot is riding on the turnout of today’s contest and folks all over the country are stressing out about the results and what they will mean. I get it, I do. The Lakers can move to 5-3 on the season and tonight’s game against the Mavs marks a great opportunity for them to take another step forward as a team.

Wait. Oh, you thought I was talking about Election Day. Yes, yes. That matters too.

On a serious note, we keep things on basketball here and that will continue. That said, I know today I will be distracted from the Lakers as the results trickle in from the Presidential election. I have a feeling I am not alone in feeling this way either. That’s about all I will say on this topic and, per the commenting guidelines, I don’t want this to trickle down into the comment section even though I know it’s on a lot of people’s minds.

With that, the NBA season rolls on and the Lakers are back in action against the Mavs. Or, I should say, the banged up Mavs who are struggling mightily right now. The team is only 1-5 on the year and are only ahead of the winless Pelicans in the standings. Dirk, who is out again tonight with a sore/strained achilles, has only played in 3 games and is likely to miss at least a couple more while on the mend. Deron Williams and Devin Harris are also out tonight, which leaves Rick Carlisle’s crew down three key vets and some needed scoring punch.

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The Lakers Collective

Darius Soriano —  November 7, 2016

The Lakers have traditionally been built on the premise that stars win. The idea is seemingly embedded into the fabric of the organizational ethos. This is a franchise that does not retire your jersey number unless you get elected into the Hall of Fame. They are the franchise who has always had a leading man (and usually more) — from Mikan to Magic, Baylor to Bryant and all the HOF names in-between — anchoring the roster and driving it towards success.

Recent summers (save for 2016) were dedicated to the chase of the next front-man who would lead the organization out of shambles and back into position to compete for championships. Even though there are high hopes for the youngsters grabbed in the lottery, the team always operated under the guise that the next great team might need to be fronted by a star not yet present.

And maybe that is still true. We don’t yet know how good D’Angelo Russell or Brandon Ingram or Julius Randle will be. Early returns tell us they have the potential to be special. And I am a believer in their respective talents. But if every player with potential reached their ceiling, Anthony Randolph might be the league’s reigning MVP on the Warriors, not that Steph Curry character.

While the young players ply their craft in pursuit of living up to their draft status, a funny thing has happened: the Lakers are winning games and are a fun team to watch play. Even if we thought this was possible, to see it actually happening is surprising. What’s even more surprising his how it is happening.

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The Lakers are now in an interesting position and it’s one their head coach is even starting to recognize. Through six games, the team is now 3-3 with back to back wins over the Hawks and the Warriors. The team’s schedule to start the year has been difficult, with every team they’ve faced projected to make the playoffs and four of their six games coming on the road.

To be .500 through this stretch is, then, an achievement worth acknowledging. And while I am not ready to alter my preseason projections about how good this team could be (I am still looking at a best case scenario of ~35 wins which would more than double last year’s total), I am a bit higher on them than I was — to the point where I am now a bit more interested in win/loss outcomes for each game than before the campaign began.

Which leads us to tonight’s game against the Suns. As noted, the Lakers are coming off two straight wins including a blowout over the Warriors. The Suns are, like the Lakers, viewed as an up and coming team, but it would be more than fair to say that this match up looks like one the Lakers should win. That’s an interesting place to be this early in the year and one I am not sure I expected the team to be in much this year at all. I mean, most outlets had the Lakers as the worst team in the conference and in real contention to keep their top-3 protected pick. To now be looking at games as winnable and for their head coach to be talking about the need to watch out for let down games…I did not see that coming, especially not early in the season.

But this is where we are and I am quite interested in seeing how this team does with a little wind in their sails. Will they be overconfident? Will they not play as hard? Will they take their foot off the gas pedal at all?

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The Lakers pulled out a surprise win over the Warriors on Friday, not only by being ahead when the clock hit triple zeros but by doing so in a wire to wire fashion with a 20 point final margin. Before the game, I wrote that I was only looking for good execution and the types of incremental improvements I think is the goal of this season. Instead, I saw the Lakers play quite well on both sides of the ball and punish a Warriors’ team who shot poorly and defended even worse than that.

The Warriors’ performance might lead some to give less credit to the Lakers than would typically be the case after such a win. And when you rewatch the game and see some of the open looks the Warriors missed, I can understand that sentiment to an extent. However, what the tape also revealed was the Lakers doing so many little things well, leveraging some of their advantages against a Dubs team who is simply not as deep as previous contending versions, and also countering every run with a big bucket or stop of their own to hold off any hard charge.

These are the things winning teams do often and the Warriors game marks the second consecutive contest in which the Lakers exhibited these traits. Now, I’m not ready to call this a trend and the Lakers have a ways to go before they can be considered much more than the type of pesky opponent who will play hard and stay in games — pulling some out you do not expect. However, if we start to see these things more consistently, it will force many (including me) to reevaluate our projections for what is possible for them.

But that is a discussion for down the line. For now, here are 10 thoughts from a game I did not see coming, but was more than happy to be wrong about.

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Larry Nance Jr. lives to put people on posters. Against the Warriors, David West became Nance’s latest victim, finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and suffering the consequences for it.

(h/t to @cjzero for the clip)

There’s really nothing else to say except damn, you lived a good life David West. We’re all sorry it had to end at the hands of Larry Nance Jr.

The Lakers come home off their 4 game road trip with only a single win, but got that W on the 2nd night of a back to back against a game Hawks team in the final game of their trip. With that, they should be feeling pretty good about themselves, given that they were finally able to get over the hump they could not hurdle in previous games which saw second half surges turn into down the stretch faltering.

It’s too early to say if that was a breakthrough or just another learning moment which may not stick as the season progresses. After all, the Lakers showed similar winning resolve on opening night against the Rockets only to fall back against the Jazz, Thunder, and Pacers. That said, it felt good to see the team pull one out and, as Luke Walton said, it was a nice reward for the hard work the team has been putting in and gives them some incentive to keep up those efforts moving forward.

This is a great point and should not be overlooked. As we have discussed in the past, it is one thing to keep players engaged and buying into their respective roles when the team is winning like what occurred under Luke Walton in Golden State during his interim stint. It’s quite another, though, to continue to get that same level of commitment when the losses start to pile up. I’m not saying that would have happened if the team had fallen to 1-4, but I am saying it’s good to be 2-3 instead.

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Earlier today we ran an excerpt from the great Roland Lazenby’s latest book, Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant. The book is fantastic (I am not yet finished, but what I have read is tremendous) and you can get yourself a copy right here through Amazon.

However, we have a special surprise for a couple of our readers — we are also doing a giveaway!

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Though he walked away from the game this past April after giving the most Kobe performance imaginable, it was 20 years ago today that Kobe Bryant made his NBA debut for the Lakers. As fans of the team (or more broadly, the NBA) we all know how those 20 years went. The championships, league and Finals MVP’s, all-NBA nods, all-star games, scoring records, etc, etc.

We do not know it all, though.

What Roland Lazenby has done is attempt to fill in some of those gaps and give us more on Kobe than we have ever gotten before. And, while I am not yet finished with his latest book, I can tell you he’s done an excellent job with Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant. Below is an excerpt from the book which is now available for purchase here. The book does not begin with Kobe, but instead with the man who passed down the game (and the name Bean) to him — his father Joe “Jellybean” Bryant.

We have read lots of stories about the strained relationship between Kobe and his parents, but I, personally, know little about Joe’s life. This opening chapter from the book introduces us to Joe and gives us a glimpse into his world before Kobe…

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