Then Los Angeles Lakers finally put the cherry on top of a successful year by revealing their 17th championship banner at Staples Center ahead of their showdown with the Houston Rockets.
It was an unprecedented year for the NBA due to the restrictions of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Despite the challenges that came with finishing out the season in a bubble, the Lakers emerged victorious for their record-trying 17th championship.
Unfortunately, the restrictions spilled over into the 2020-21 NBA season and it took some time for L.A. to kickstart the process of welcoming fans back to Staples Center. As a result, the team opted to delay its celebration for the last home game of the season when the fans were allowed to fill the arena.
Of course, this roster experienced some significant turnover during the offseason. Wesley Matthews was among the players that will be on the outside looking in and he admits that it served as a motivating factor for some of the new members of the team.
“As far as the banner, I didn’t watch it,” Matthews said after the game. “I’m incredibly proud of these guys having been teammates with them now this season. Obviously, I played against them last year. That is something that I felt was for them and me my fire burns, my hunger burns to raise another banner.
“I was incredibly happy for those guys for my teammates, this whole organization for this community this state. All Lakernation. I’m excited to be a part of this team and hopefully get another one.”
Matthews revealed that he spent the ceremony praying for good fortune on the upcoming quest for a repeat.
“I go back to the locker room and I pray, so that’s what I was doing. I was praying. I was thankful to be in the position that I’m in right now. Happy for the guys, happy for the organization and happy for Lakernation, but knowing that there is still a task at hand for myself, which is go out there and doing everything I can to help this team beat the [Houston] Rockets, which we were able to do tonight.”
There is no question that the opportunity to compete for a championship was a facilitating factor for veteran free agents this offseason. Matthews’ comments indicate that this allure was part of the reason for his arrival.
Expectations remain as high as ever despite the team being on track to take part in the play-in tournament for the postseason. Matthews is just one of the new members hoping to play an integral role in making it come to fruition.
Vogel on banner raising ceremony
Head coach Frank Vogel was well aware of the championship expectations upon taking the job last offseason. Despite the trials and tribulations that came with a truncated season, he found a way to lead this team over the obstacles that came with playing in the bubble.
The restrictions delayed celebrations and even canceled the championship parade altogether. Regardless, Vogel was glad to see it finally made official.
“It was awesome, you know what I mean. Obviously we didn’t have a full house because we’re not allowed to but the fans that were here were super loud during that moment. I just look forward to the day that we can have everybody back in Staples. So much pride to bring a title to Lakers Nation and raise that banner and it was great for AD and Bron to get up there and speak directly to the fans. It got us pumped up that we’re close. We’re close to heading into the playoffs with a chance to defend our title.”
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