Name a more successful NBA team since November 18th than the Lakers.
I can wait!
Even better? The Lakers are going to remain undefeated since Tuesday until at least Friday evening, when they play the Mavericks in Dallas, and even with a loss actually have a decent chance to win three-of-four with the struggling Nuggets coming town this weekend. Swaggy P is back (and apparently is good enough to make the Lakers 25 points better per 100 defensive positions)! Kobe isn’t exactly a model of efficiency, but is still doing things no backcourt player with his age and mileage (let alone the recent injuries) has ever done. In short, for the first time since they won the preseason opener, Lakers fans can experience a few days of good cheer. There could be a few more stretches like this one between now and spring, but best not to spoil the mood while they happen.
Meaning it’s probably the wrong day for a big-picture evaluation of the Lakers front office and their approach to rebuilding (like the one I’d started writing ahead of of Tuesday’s win).* Instead, it seems reasonable to think about ways to extract as much enjoyment out of what even under decent circumstances could be a burly season, and if a few things go wrong… yikes.
*Spoiler alert: I’m not a fan.
With that in mind, here are five solid guidelines:
1. When good things happen, do not harken back to Sunday against Golden State, whether literally or metaphorically.
Everyone knows this season isn’t going to end with a parade down Figueroa, unless someone just wants to plan a parade down Figueroa for April 16, the day after the Lakers play their 82nd game. On many nights between now and then the Lakers will be absolutely throttled, sometimes by great teams like the Warriors, other times by more cringeworthy squads. Still lacking faith in Mitch ‘n’ Jim? Not a fan of Byron Scott? Want more out of Jeremy Lin? Save your gripes for a day or two. They’re not going anywhere. You won’t be keeping it any less real letting the seasons little pleasures linger whenever possible.
2. Do not poo poo a win.
The Rockets were without Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones, meaning Tarik Black was granted 35 minutes of playing time and, for reasons nobody quite understands, the chance to shoot in a critical moment Wednesday night. Whatever. The Houston Rockets are an NBA team with uniforms and everything. The Lakers went into Houston’s building on the second night of a back-to-back, demanded the Rockets look at them, and declared themselves the captain now. L.A. has less talent on the roster than any team in the Western Conference, save perhaps Minnesota. It doesn’t matter who they beat. A win is a win, unspoiled by extenuating circumstances (a well-timed injury to an opponent) or statistical flukes (shooting 60-plus percent in a half, as they did Tuesday in Atlanta) helping them out.
3. It is absolutely appropriate to bestow magical powers on Nick Young and his presence in the lineup.
Getting Young back is a big deal, instantly doubling the number of guys on the roster capable of effectively creating his own shot. Even when he’s not shooting efficiently, as was the case Wednesday (6-of-15 from the floor) Young still forces defenses to be accountable, opening up the floor for other guys. His presence offensively can even improve the defense, providing more floor balance, increasing the number of good shots the Lakers take (an odd thing to say about Nick Young, maybe, but consider the alternatives) and/or make, and generally chipping away at run out opportunities for the opposition.
But the joy of Nick Young doesn’t come getting granular about his statistics, or worrying if his assist-to-shot ratio will ever improve (it won’t). Don’t bother looking up his PER, Young’s gift is his HER (Happiness Efficiency Rating). I believe Nick Young arrives at every game riding on a unicorn sporting four hot pink high tops identical to those Young busted out earlier in the road trip. I believe Young not only has a spirit animal, but that they Skype each other regularly. His house looks just like Pee Wee’s down to the talking chair and visiting cowboy Laurence Fishburne. Meanwhile, he spreads a little joy in the locker room. Every successful Lakers team has had someone in the locker room capable of counterbalancing Kobe’s intensity with some combination of humor, empathy, and credibility. Think Shaq, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, and Ron Artest/Metta World Peace. On this roster, Young fills that role.
So of course the win streak comes thanks to Young. For his offense, yes, but mostly because he has magical swaggy powers.[divide]
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CONTINUE READING: A Guide To Viewing The 2014-15 Lakers Season