In a year where nothing is certain, we have somehow made it to the dawn of the NBA Playoffs. It’s a little later than usual, and there won’t be any fans in the arena or home-court advantage, but we made it.
In a world starving for normalcy, this is as normal of an NBA as we ever could have hoped for.
For fans of the Los Angeles Lakers, normal also comes in the form of the purple and gold sitting as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. For the past six seasons, the Lakers have found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being on the outside looking in during the postseason.
The NBA Playoffs without the Lakers felt as blatantly wrong as a Paul Pierce hot take.
It feels like a lifetime ago now, but we aren’t far from the days when Lakers fans were praying for losses in order to add a few more ping-pong balls in the lottery hopper, hoping that the right combination would deliver a new star to the bright lights of Hollywood.
We watched Kobe Bryant’s Achilles snap, Julius Randle’s leg buckle, and the signings of Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov to cap-cannibalizing contracts. Rookies struggled to develop, losses piled up, and the term “dysfunctional” was used far too often to describe the front office of the once-mighty Lakers.
Last year was particularly cruel. The arrival of LeBron James pushed expectations through the roof, only to send them crashing back down when he suffered a season-altering injury, and on Christmas Day, no less.
Even with the best player in the league on the roster, the Lakers still found themselves in the lottery. This year flipped the script, forcing us to adapt to many bizarre new real-world realities, like face masks, quarantines, and life without Kobe.
Yet, on the hardwood, the season brought a return to form for the Lakers. Like reuniting an old friend after years apart, the season greeted Lakers fans with the warm embrace of winning. James, at 35 years old, has stalled Father Time.
Anthony Davis has been every bit the superstar the Lakers hoped he would be when they acquired him. The role players have largely panned out, providing the support needed to allow the stars to shine.
The Lakers’ chemistry has been impressive, with their first-place finish in the conference serving as a reminder of how important it is for a team to actually enjoy playing together.
While the real world has dealt with the challenged of a pandemic, the NBA world, at least from a Lakers’ perspective, was a haven.
This team has had blowout wins, close wins, some that saw them come from behind, and others where they got by with grit and determination. More often than not, they have found a way to get the job done.
After a four-month stoppage due to the coronavirus, the team has struggled to regain their footing, but optimism remains high, as it should. After all, more often than not, the 2019-2020 Lakers have come through.
Their success has served as a welcome departure from the struggles of the past six seasons. After what seemed like a lifetime in purgatory, it has finally felt like Lakers basketball again.
That said, as the playoffs begin, take a moment to savor it. Reflect upon what it’s taken to get here; after years of missing the cut, the lesson to learn is that the playoffs should never be taken for granted, even by the Lakers.
Embrace the lean years. After all, it’s the trials and tribulations of the journey that make arriving at the final destination that much sweeter.
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