As I write this article, I’m operating under the view the Roy Hibbert trade will take place later today. Given the DeAndre Jordan fiasco yesterday, it’s important to present this caveat, as all deals mentioned in this article are no more than verbal agreements at this time.
We live in a world where Steve Nash’s trophy case has as many MVP awards as Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant combined. Don’t get me wrong, Nash is a surefire Hall of Famer, but no GM in their right mind would choose to start their franchise with him over Kobe, let alone Shaq. Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson, who share 16 NBA Championships between them only combine for four NBA Coach of the Year awards. The reason for those apparent injustices: expectations.
We expect the seven-foot- tall behemoth, gifted beyond measure athletically, to dominate the sport. Same goes for the geniuses who have figured out the game of basketball to depths few can only imagine. The scrawny white guy who overachieves gets extra points because we can’t quite understand how he’s so good. Those coaches who drag mediocre teams to the playoffs are honored because we don’t know how they do it. In this case, it’s beneficial to be dealt the tougher hand. None of that has anything to do with how deserving the actual winner might be, only the circumstance under which the award was given.
But sure, Nash and Allen Iverson were obviously more valuable than the most dominating presence the NBA has ever seen.
Our perception of everything is skewed by expectations. We think of movies differently given what we hear about them from friends. Have you ever said something along the lines of “no, don’t tell me how good it was” to someone who just saw a movie you’re interested in? You’re managing expectations.
The same applies to the offseason facelift the Lakers just underwent. We gauge success on a curve based not only on the franchise’s history, but on tidbits we see heading into free agency. Think of it this way: Would fans have been more or less impressed with the Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass acquisitions had we not heard the Lakers had meetings with LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan?
They’d be more impressed, right? That’s not even debatable.
Heading into the lottery, fans only pleaded and prayed for the ping pong balls fall in a way so the Lakers could somehow keep their pick. Sure, the odds were heavily in favor for that to take place, but so much was riding on it. Since then, the Lakers miraculously moved up in the draft, selected an exciting point guard they believe can be the answer at his position for the next decade. Add to that those moves I mentioned above and improved health throughout the roster and the Lakers somehow found at least short-term solutions at nearly ever hole they had.
Look, if we’re being completely honest, neither Aldridge or Jordan were never coming to the Lakers. The move never made any sense for either player. Aldridge is 30 and probably has only a handful of prime years left before we start to see a decline. Signing with a team in the middle of a long-term rebuild given his age would’ve been extremely short-sighted. And DeAndre Jordan? Well, given how that worked out for Dallas, let’s just say the Lakers are pretty easily better off.
But, because the Lakers are the Lakers and we heard reports they were moving up Aldridge’s list of preferred destinations, we freaked out a little. It’s perfectly fine, that’s what fans do. But, just like you should prepare yourself to see a movie, we should’ve managed expectations. Given what few assets the Lakers have to work with, filling holes up and down the roster should have been enough.
Filling those hole while maintaining flexibility for next season? We really should be jumping for joy.
Now, say what you will about Lakers fans having to manage expectations – and many have. If we continue along the movie analogy, the franchise should be that Oscar nominee no one worries about hyping up as a must-see. That’s simply not the case. As with almost everything else in life, we have to understand what we’re getting into before we throw ourselves headfirst into a situation.
So, the Lakers head into the season with a potential starting five of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Kobe, Julius Randle and Roy Hibbert with an elite bench scorer (Williams) and veteran presence down low to bring in off the bench (Bass). No, it’s not a playoff team – far from it, probably. But it’s progress.
Perception is reality, right? And if our reality can be so easily skewed by expectations, the most important theme we have to consciously keep in mind is to understand circumstance. For now, progress should be enough.