It is officially opening night and a brand new season of basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers. Their home court at Staples Center has a fresh look, the roster has been revamped and a new offensive system is being ushered in to become the new identity for the Lakers. With the blockbuster acquisitions of the off-season by Lakers’ management, there is definitely an even higher level of anticipation and expectations for the purple and gold in the 2012-13 season.
After a rather disappointing performance strung together by the new-look Lakers in the past few weeks in preseason play, the general consensus surrounding LA is and should be that that was the preseason, and the real play begins tonight. It is my belief that this sentiment is true. In the game of basketball (at the NBA level) and with this Lakers squad, judgements should be saved for how they finish. I have said this before, and I’ll say it again: it is a marathon, not a sprint.
Yet, you cannot ignore the fact that there seems to be a even higher sense of urgency to win in Lakerland this year. While we can’t rush to judgement too soon with expected early season hurdles, this urgency is somewhat of a reality that even the players feel. After all, you can sample some of the anxiety that occurred during the preseason as evidence that the urgency to win a title and to win in general exists in LA, and it’s even more than usual.
The fact is, the Lakers have built such a strong tradition and history of winning at the highest level on a supremely consistent basis. They have reached the NBA Finals 31 times, which is most among all teams in the league. Urgency to win is not a new concept in LA, ask any Laker fan. However, with all the pieces of the puzzle presenting themselves for the Lakers to be put together by June, the urgency is in full force in October before the opening tip has yet to be thrown.
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We all know the competitor that Kobe Bryant is and dedicates his life to be. There is no other player in today’s game that matches Kobe’s drive and work ethic as I pointed out in an article last week. So it seems as if the basketball gods, or Mitch Kupchak, have aligned the stars so that Kobe goes out with a bang. Winning at least one more championship would be the so-called storybook ending to Kobe’s illustrious career, which is the focal point to this added urgency.
As ESPNLA’s Brian Kamenetzky pointed out:
Kobe Bryant has spent about half his life in the NBA and, as he has pointed out, will have played 18 years if he walks away after next season. That’s an extraordinarily long career, particularly for a guard, particularly for one with Kobe’s lofty standards. His calculations on the amount of sand left in the hourglass seem based on a logical calculus as much as any hard and fast understanding that in two years, he won’t want to play anymore.
Kobe has played 42,377 regular season minutes and 8,641 minutes in the playoffs. Kobe’s miles have already surpassed the vast majority of other NBA players who have had long-lasting, successful careers. Kobe is a machine when it comes to his body and doing everything and anything necessary to maintain it. The window that has been slowly closing on the Lakers to win in the Kobe era was stalled when Dwight Howard and Steve Nash came to Hollywood. Therefore, urgency has been created to finish Kobe’s story with a Hollywood ending.
The shortcomings from the last two seasons have been addressed on paper. That is why the expectations, anticipation and the sense of urgency is higher than it has been in LA for quite a while.
And here’s the thing with the Lakers: They have a lineup filled with guys who are playing their correct, natural positions. Point guard Steve Nash is ready to win the first title of his career, and center Dwight Howard is the best in the league. Kobe is Kobe. And Pau Gasol will be Pau Gasol.
It safe to say that the starting lineup is a veteran one for the Lakers. Besides Dwight Howard, the other four starters have already hit their prime and have compiled accomplished resumes in the NBA. This doesn’t mean that these four aren’t capable in any sense. However, it does mean that they share one common goal – they have already made their money, established their names in the record books and have earned individual awards.
They want to win and they want to win now. They’re hungry.
And you can add that hunger to Dwight Howard’s own desire to establish a beginning of a real legacy that will follow the footsteps of Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Howard is ready to shed all the weight of the “Dwightmare” off his shoulders and build on the future of the Lakers’ continuous history and tradition of success.
Howard and Nash are definitely game-changers for the Lakers to contend for a title and the fans and players know that.
A new day is dawning in Los Angeles and the Lakers once again are going for the knockout. The urgency is palpable among the fans, the team and the media. The stars have certainly aligned in Lakerland. The time has come to make that final push to the mountaintop for some, and for others, it’s time to create an ending only Hollywood and the Lakers could offer.
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