It’s Shaq day, and for that I’m nostalgic and grateful. I remember the good times, the winning, the high stakes of April transitioning to May and then June. Shaq’s feats of strength were as if festivus were celebrated year round and for that alone he’ll hold a fond place in my heart. Wilt used to say no one rooted for Goliath, but I know I did for 8 years and did so with fervor.
It being Shaq day also reminds me of where the Lakers are today, a team at the bottom looking for the right pieces to take the long climb back to where they once were. The Lakers don’t have the “next” Shaq on their team right now, but that’s because there won’t be a “next” Shaq. This is something that might make some sad, but not me. It’s a reminder to cherish the special times. Not only because they’re not guaranteed, but because they come along so rarely and are so fleeting. It also reminds me that, in many ways, it’s luck to get a generational talent on the team you root for and that they’re called generational talents for a reason. If any top pick could be that guy, every team in the league would have championship banners in their rafters.
Anyways, I’m rambling now…
Back to tonight, the Lakers face a ‘Wolves team which is finding it’s way and is now, seemingly, on the path the Lakers want to get on sooner than later. Number one overall picks Wiggins and Towns are the right foundation to turn a team around and, with help from Rubio, Thibs, and others, are doing that now. It’s not enough to get to the postseason this year, but they are taking the right steps; doing the right things more consistently which lays the foundation for longterm success.
The Lakers are making strides too, but they’re not nearly as pronounced and also come with plenty of backslides too. Some might see that as an indictment of their own young core, but I do not. I have talked about this plenty, but the lifecycle of a lottery pick is, in the early stages, a focus on self. What works and what doesn’t and what needs to be improved in the latter to turn it to the former. Those acts very often don’t come in the context of team success because it’s hard to do right by the whole when you can’t even do right by yourself.
In terms of this game, then, I’ll repeat what I have been saying for weeks. I want to continue to see the individual guys make strides while accepting they may not come or that there may be missteps along the way. In the aggregate, I like what I’ve seen from Russell, Randle, Ingram, Clarkson, and Zubac of late. They’re playing better and finding ways to contribute to stretches of good team play even though their bad moments also detract from it. As another of my pet sayings goes, this is what development looks like. I know we all hope there won’t be much longer to go in that pursuit to develop.
In any event, tonight’s game offers some nice matchups worth watching. At some point tonight we’ll see Russell/Clakrson vs. Rubio/Dunn, Ingram vs. Wiggins, and Randle/Zubac vs. Towns/Dieng. These battles should all produce some wow moments that remind us of the talent these young guys possess and some head scratchers which indicate they still have a ways to go. I’ll be here for all of them, though, while also remembering those great moments brought by previous greats like Shaq.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.