The Los Angeles Lakers are one of those plucky duck teams that annoy the smack out of veteran basketball analysts, but much of that consternation is kept on the low, though. The consternation comes from seeing youthful exuberance and exciting celebrations coming from a 2016-17 team that has won nothing and likely will not win anything any time soon.
Despite last night’s 149-106 beat down they took at the hands of the Warriors, the Lakers have been going through something of a transformation, both in energy and circumstances, over the past few years.
The Kobe Bryant retirement tour is over. With regular season records of 27-55, 21-66 and 17-65 over the last three years, the Lakers have been going through some unprecedented dark days. But right now, they are sitting at a respectable 8-8 on Thanksgiving.
“Whoopty-damn-doo!” yells the the naysayer.
But last year the Lakers didn’t win eight games until January 3rd. So, all things considered, this is something of a comeback. The franchise won to back-to-back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. No longer looking like one of the worst teams in the league, Laker fans are beginning to enjoy the show again.
Just a few years ago, executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss was being roasted for his handling of Phil Jackson as well as his basketball I.Q. The Lakers seemed to have 15 players with similar abilities being utilized with varying degrees of success. Guys like Nick Young, Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell weren’t meshing on the court, old man Kobe refused to decrease his shot attempts for better team cohesion, PF Julius Randle was still finding his NBA game, and rumors were rampant of a fractured locker room, especially after D’Angelo used his cell phone spy tactics to expose Nick Young’s infidelity.
Now, not only does head coach Luke Walton have the Lakers competing in every game, but he can relate to the players better than old school disciplinarian Byron Scott ever could. Additionally, acquiring veteran wing man Loul Deng and the drafting of Brandon Ingram shows that the Lakers front office actually does know how to put a team together.
Also, Young, who has been called childish, inconsistent and selfish throughout his career, has grown up and is somewhat living up to his potential after almost a decade in the league and Jordan Clarkson is arguably the best young bench player in the NBA.
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Couple that with D-Russ coming into his own and they’re an intriguing pick to finish 7th or 8th in the Western Conference if they string some wins together throughout the season. So, yeah, this ain’t your father’s Showtime Los Angeles Lakers team, nor is it the thunder-and-lightning attack of young Kobe and Shaq a decade ago. This is something entirely different.
It is a new experience upon the timeline of the gold and purple continuum that is trying to sync up with the prior greatness of Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West. But as was learned from the Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones era, there’s no guarantee of anything. However, they’re third in the NBA in scoring at this early juncture of the season and are a joy to watch.
So, unlike the past three years, it looks like they back and playing for something bigger than themselves.