30 Teams, 30 Days
Los Angeles Lakers Season Preview.
We conclude the Pacific Division previews with the Los Angeles Lakers. You can read past previews here.
by Myles Brown / @mdotbrown
She that is Queen of Tunis; she that dwells
Ten leagues beyond man’s life; she that from Naples
Can have no note, unless the sun were post—
The Man i’ th’ Moon’s too slow—till new-born chins
Be rough and razorable; she that from whom
We all were sea-swallow’d, though some cast again
(And by that destiny) to perform an act
Whereof what’s past is prologue; what to come,
In yours and my discharge.
Shakespeare’s words have been uttered countless times since The Tempest’s second act with varying interpretations. Are our present circumstances the precursor to our greatness or to history repeating itself?
In the case of modern drama-particularly sports films-it’s certainly the latter.
They’re practically all the same; trite, predictable and largely boring. They provide hardly any insight, just empty clichés; redemption, camaraderie and sacrifice. The team fights, they learn, they win, we’re inspired, some of us weep and we all go home. No wonder piracy is so rampant.
In fact, Hollywood’s own basketball team regurgitated several classic characters just last season. Lamar and Pau, who overcome their timid and mercurial natures to fulfill their potential. Trevor, as the hometown boy who makes good. Derek, the old soul and achillies heel who comes through in the clutch. Phil, the crotchety teacher who guides a rebel and bunch of loveable misfits. Then there’s Kobe, who had enough personalities and lessons to learn for a box set of trilogies and prequels.
And that’s the thing about sports films. They rarely have sequels.
Of course it’s probably for the aforementioned reasons, but in these stories only one championship is ever won. The title is never defended. Lessons were learned, but aren’t there more? Are we to assume a dynasty ensued?
It certainly doesn’t work that way in the NBA.
Some teams never win anything. Some teams come close and fall short only to find out it was their only opportunity. Even the teams that win usually fail to recreate the chemistry and circumstances of their previous run. Nothing is promised. The Los Angeles Lakers realized this in their 2008 Finals loss and joined a select group of company in succeeding on their second try. Only six teams have ever lost in the NBA Finals and returned the following year. Only four of those teams won. Only two of them repeated.
The difference between winners and repeat winners is as big as that of winning once and not winning at all. But this is currently a weak league, there are only five teams of any real circumstance, and of those the Lakers are as close to perfection as you can get. (Their youth trumping any argument with the Celtics or Spurs) So the opportunity for a sequel is certainly available. But again, that doesn’t mean this team doesn’t have more to learn.
The first lesson of course, is how to deal with Ron Artest.
Ron has been persistently pleasant and grateful since his signing, eagerly embracing the team concept. But last year he started 55 of only 69 games played and shot the ball 1037 times in 2452 minutes, at 40%, I might add. That’s five more shots in eight less games and 137 less minutes than Yao Ming. For further contrast, Pau Gasol played 81 games and 2999 minutes, taking 1045 shots and Trevor Ariza took 596 shots in 1998 minutes. So perhaps Ron has been so pleasant because he hasn’t realized just how much he will be expected to sacrifice. His lesser instincts will eventually kick in and if they turn the triangle into a pentagram, There May Be Blood.
Which leads us to the second lesson, how to deal with Kobe Bryant.
We all wanted Kobe to prove he could win one ‘on his own’ before we’d ease up on him, but once he did, we may have eased up too much. Though it’s doubtful that he’s taken any pressure off of himself. He knows that by the standard he wishes to be measured, he needs to repeat. Last year he took 22 more shots with 42 less assists in 232 less minutes than in 2008. He also made 25 more baskets and shot better from the field, but the point is he tried to do more. It wouldn’t surprise me if he took things up another notch this season, because I believe he wants this one more than the ‘first.’ The question is whether his teammates can handle that and match his intensity.
Even after acquiring Pau Gasol, it was remarkable that such a young team that lacked focus and determination gelled so quickly and advanced to the Finals. After being thoroughly embarrassed in an elimination game, it was somewhat surprising to see them mature and bounce back in the manner they did. Now, after winning, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see them succumb to complacency or overconfidence. Winning a ring does not make one a perfect player and for some, the lessons of the first championship need to be learned every year.
So just as with the other contenders, the real questions surrounding this team won’t be answered for another seven months. When the season really begins. Until then, what’s past is prologue.