I never thought I’d see the day when the Lakers – that eternally privileged Alpha-team clad in royal shades of purple and gold – would be clawing its way to an 8th seed alongside the hometown good guys. But that’s exactly the situation the Lakers are in when they tip off against the Blazers tonight (7:30pm at the Staples Center), and I couldn’t be more satisfied.
Growing up as an impressionable young Blazer fan, it always seemed like the Lakers just seemed rigged to be successful. No matter what happened, you could count on them being at the top of the heap year after year, a status I believe boils down to 3 key traits:
- How desirable of a team the Lakers are for free agents (it’s a big market, they’re usually well-coached, and just basically the Yankees of the NBA)
- The management’s ability to pull off a-lot-for-a-little trades
(examples: Frank Brickowski and Peter Gudmundsson for former Blazers #1 pick Mychal Thompson, an aging Gail Goodrich for a pick that became Magic Johnson, and Vlade Divac for a rookie Kobe Bryant)
- They manage to perpetually have an all-time superstar at the helm (Starting with George Mikan when the franchise was back in Minneapolis)
So it seemed like business as usual this off-season when the Lakers made moves for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. I remember letting out a big sigh when I heard those two were joining forces with Pau and the Black Mamba (not a bad name for an old fairy tale). It looked like the Lakers were poised to battle the Heat for yet another glittering ring.
But, my fellow Blazer brethren, that is far from the story played out this year. I don’t really want to get into Nash’s sub-par contributions or the drama that surrounds Dwight Howard like a bad fart because it gets too much media attention as it is, so I’ll focus on the pure joy every Lakers loss brings me.
I’m usually not one to find glee in the misfortune of others, but this is different. I don’t see Lakers as an entity that’s capable of genuine emotion, but rather a glitzy, Hollywood-tainted monolith that breathes in money and craps out championship banners for Jack Nicholson to use as bath towels. I absolutely will feel happy when the machinery starts to break down.
Tonight’s game, as every broadcaster will probably mention, has playoff implications. The Western Conference is its usual self – packed with teams that would make the playoffs if they played in the East but instead battle each other for the superfluous 8 spot. The Blazers and Lakers are currently only 1 game apart (the Lakers sit at 26-29 to the Blazers 25-29), a margin that could draw level tonight. Honestly, I’m not dead set on the Blazers making the Playoffs this year. I’ll be stoked if it happens, to be sure, but with all the talent in the Western Conference and how perfectly we’d have to play the rest of the season, I’m not going to set myself up for disappointment. Not again. Blazer fans must develop thick skin and cautious hearts.
One more thought about the Lakers: I’ll admit that deep down a part of me believes that if/when the Lakers’ mighty pieces finally click into place, the results will be exponentially positive and they’ll finish the season better than 8th. Kobe did guarantee it, after all. If that happens, I’ll probably sigh again, but this time not so deeply. Now at least they know what mediocrity tastes like.