No team in the NBA, and maybe all of American sports, is under more intense scrutiny than the Los Angeles Lakers. When you add in all of the attention that follows superstar LeBron James, the pressure on the team to win grows exponentially.
With the unfortunate and tragic passing of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, the potential of even more heightened expectations on the team became real. Bryant is possibly the most beloved member of the Lakers and is the franchise’s greatest player in the eyes of many.
Furthermore, Kobe had just spoken with LeBron the night before his death as James passed Bryant on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. And considering that Kobe was always about winning above anything else, many believed the Lakers could have more motivation to bring home the NBA championship this season.
To add the pressure of winning for Bryant on top of everything that comes with being on the Lakers and teaming with James could potentially be too much, but Alex Caruso doesn’t believe that is the case, as he recently explained on “The Lowe Post” podcast:
“We talked about that going through the grieving process we did as a team, organization and city. We talked about people are going to try and make this about winning the ring for Kobe and doing all that. That’s obviously something we’re excited about doing, but our main focus was going to be doing the things that got us to the point of being prepared to win a championship.”
Allowing that to take over their minds could lead to more issues and the Lakers can’t afford that. Caruso also noted the team’s veteran leadership is key to navigating everything:
“I think having such veteran guys on the team, guys that have been deep in playoff runs, have been in the spotlight, have handled media attention like nobody else has, I think it was going to be OK for us. I say OK, because I don’t know the future. I think they would’ve done a good job of having us prepared to show up each time ready to play. There’s already so much ‘pressure’ to go out and play every day. That goes back to what I talked about earlier with holding myself to a standard and our team holding ourselves to a standard that’s higher than what the people in the crowd expect of us.”
Having the likes of James, Rajon Rondo and Jared Dudley undoubtedly helps the Lakers in these tough times. Caruso made a good point in that the Lakers can’t afford to focus too much on strictly winning for Bryant and lose track of what they need to do to actually capture the NBA title.
Lakers honor Kobe’s memory
While Caruso said the Lakers don’t feel any added pressure by Bryant’s passing, the team and franchise has kept his memory close to them. The Lakers break huddles with ‘1-2-3 Mamba,’ and are 4-0 when wearing his Black Mamba City Edition jerseys in the playoffs.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss emotionally discussed the team’s continued remembrance of Bryant, expressing happiness it came about organically.
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