It’s about five weeks until the Lakers head into training camp. Five weeks with really no basketball to speak of as we watch the start of football (both American and in Europe) and writers and bloggers start working on team previews.
And when those previews come out, a lot of people are going to pick the Los Angeles Lakers to win a title. There’s good reason for that — the Lakers went six games into the NBA Finals last season without their starting center and having Kobe’s finger held in place by a piece of tape.
Lakers fans have a reputation, in some part deserved, of thinking anything short of hanging a new banner and having a parade downtown is a failed season. Going into this season that certainly will be the expectation of many.
But is that fair?
I don’t think that it is. For two primary reasons, one practical and one philosophical:
1) You never know how a season will shake out. Injuries can turn a team’s season around, plus other teams will have players emerge that we didn’t expect (as Bynum did last year). This is a deep Western Conference and the difference between winning the conference and going out in the second round is pretty slim. Then there are good teams from the East to overcome. I don’t think it’s fair to expect nothing but a title in such a close, fluid situation.
2) Focusing on the end result spoils the journey. One of the best parts of last year’s Lakers success was the unexpected joy of watching young players (Farmar, Bynum and others) start to blossom and how that changed the team dynamic. We watched Kobe evolve over the course of the last four years. Suddenly a team we had watched struggle and grow together was very good.
And while this year’s journey starts from a different vantage point, it should still be an entertaining one. This team still needs to grow, it needs to find a defensive desire and game that can compliment what will be an explosive offense. It will have to overcome adversity.
And it may or may not end in a title. But if the title is the only goal, we as fans will look past the steps it took to get there, robbing some of the joy from that moment. And I want to completely soak in that moment.
But what do you expect this season?