So it’s possible that I might be the slightest bit biased, little bit, but I also like to think of myself as level headed, as I’m sure every dumb Laker fan probably does. Here’s why this season is gonna be great.
People here will drive to you to fight over Kobe, it’s the only reason why anyone outside of the state knows about Temecula. They’re probably going to retire both of his numbers, and even if they don’t, no one’s gonna pick #8. It might as well be up there. Only recently did I realize that his 60 point tirade/finale was the highest scoring total of the season, by anyone. Some would say it’s like Kobe wrote it himself, but he would never write a story that ends before June.
But it was clearly time. He’s said that if he couldn’t play on a competitive team he would let it go, and he did, but not before Byron gave him the green light the entire season despite being awful. After a while we hated it as much as everyone else did. Kobe probably hate loved it too.
Somewhat coincidentally, he was noticeably absent from Media Day. Enough for Nick Young to notice his absence, painfully ironic as his presence (still, following a summer of futile attempts to move him after The Incident and yet another iffy season) was especially noteworthy. Even to Geeter and James Worthy (It’s weird for all of us). People are still gonna ask and call D’Angelo a snitch in his Instagram comments. Eventually, the rest of the world will join us in having moved on. Him individually playing well, especially with such low expectations, will eventually shut them up.
So yeah, Kobe’s gone. One immediate side effect of that is other people can now shoot the ball. This was in part the thinking of the front office for some time, relative to free agency. Once Kobe, who in 20 years has literally never seen a shot he didn’t like, was out of the picture, any free agent could come claim The Lakers as their own for a little while.
Only problem there is that there really isn’t much to the Lakers right now. That’s not to suggest the Lakers haven’t drafted well. Quite the contrary, it appears that while nearly everything else has been completely questionable, we’ve assembled a core (D’Angelo, Clarkson, Randle, Nance, Zubac, Ingram, Tarik, Brown) of intriguing “what if’s,” which if just one of them, ideally D’Angelo, reaches their potential then the sky is the limit. If two or more of them (most likely D’Angelo, Clarkson, Ingram, and Randle) pan out to their potential, or “pop” as John Ireland says, it could get scary.
The thing about what if’s is that they take time to pan out. It’s not like you can plant a seed and it’ll start growing out of the soil immediately. Outside of us drafting Magic, teams with high picks usually aren’t winning championships immediately, or even contending for them. It’ll take an unknown amount of years to determine just what it is the Lakers have amassed here with this young core, a task our last coach seemed more than happy to lob over to his successor.
Kevin Durant, this offseason’s top prize, and others like him doesn’t have years to wait. He wants a ring on his finger, like now. He’s an incredible player, but KD alone doesn’t turn the Lakers into immediate championship threats again, especially not in a Western Conference that only seems to get tougher each year, and without an already established star, a 17-65 team is a hard sell, even in LA.
One thing being bad does, at the very least, is give you opportunities to build through the draft (strike)unless you’re the Nets(/strike).
Back to those what if’s.
Two years ago, Julius Randle, who bullied his way through Division 1 college ball at Kentucky, somehow fell in our lap at #7. Then Mitch threw a light stack at the Wizards for the pick that turned into Jordan Clarkson. Julius was then robbed of his rookie year by a leg injury (in the FIRST FUCKING GAME OF HIS CAREER!!!!! Come on man.) and spent last year under the foot of Byron Scott, the same Byron that only started playing Jordan Clarkson (who has a shiny new contract) when an ungodly amount of injuries forced him to. Two years later, Byron’s been dumped for LUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUKE, who most importantly isn’t Byron, and Randle and Clarkson stand to benefit and add to their respective games and fix their weaknesses (for Randle, his right hand. For Clarkson, mostly defense).
D’Angelo Russell is who stands to benefit most from the new coach, who he’s already latched himself to, and who’s willing to give positive feedback! Imagine that, he’s crazy enough to think that might actually work. With the team basically his and a grip of similarly young and promising prospects to sling the rock to, this team will eventually be competitive. Not this year (who knows what this does with the whole Jim Buss timeline), but soon. Patience is not a word we know too well, outside of when it’s forced upon us during rush hour, but here we have to be patient. Look at Ingram, who looks as sure a thing as a prospect can look, but he has to put on weight and get used to the physicality and schedule of the NBA.
So they’ll be better, which is all we can really ask after two straight franchise worst seasons. As Luke himself has been preaching, they’re working to build a solid foundation. Maybe by the time summer rolls back around, the Lakers will look promising enough that a star who might be the difference between present low expectations and a return to the bloodbath that is the Western Conference Playoffs will come on down.
The key word, children, is patience. At least they’ll be fun while we wait, now that they don’t groan whenever they see a basketball. Two years of Byron will do that, but the best part of a Byron Scott tenure is after it’s over.