It’s a lesson I myself learned long ago, and one that still applies today. Writing off any team the Black Mamba—injured or not—plays for is like roller skating through your local mall in nothing save for a pair of tidy whities, in that you just don’t do it.
With Dwight Howard now a member of the Houston Rockets, Metta World Peace doing his thing with the New York Knicks, Earl Clark on the Cleveland Cavaliers and Antawn Jamison planning on getting the hell out of purple and gold, faith in Los Angeles is waning. People are discounting the Lakers like Pau Gasol is Kwame Brown, and Steve Nash is Smush Parker. It’s so ridiculous it’s sad.
There doesn’t appear to be any championships in store for the Lakers next season, but they’re not constructed to tank either. Realistically, this team could finish eight to 10 (or more) games over .500, provided everyone stays healthy, and make the playoffs.
“I think we can be better than most people think,” he said. “I think Mitch [Kupchak, Lakers general manager] and [owner and executive] Jim Buss have done a great job of retooling as well as we could.”
Tough to disagree with D’Antoni there. Devoid of absolutely any cap space, the Lakers came away with Chris Kaman, Wesley Johnson and Nick Young. Oh, and Jordan Farmar too. Can’t forget about him.
They were hardly the biggest names available, but for the price the Lakers paid (nothing), they were a steal.
Mostly though, we just look at Kobe and see greatness. The Mamba doesn’t surrender to anything or anyone, injuries included. Although it seems unlikely that he’ll return from his ruptured Achilles to dominate out of the gate, we can’t rule it out. He’s Kobe. Not to mention he’ll probably play at a high level again at some point. And anytime he’s playing at a high level, the Lakers are relevant.
D’Antoni himself wouldn’t make any predictions about Kobe’s health. He did, however, readily admit that the future Hall of Famer’s work ethic is out of this world.
“I do know that his work ethic and the way he attacks the injury,” he explained. “I’ve never seen anybody like this, the hours he puts in.”
That alone is cause for tapered celebration. As long as Kobe’s still in Kobe mode, he’s still Kobe. And as long as he’s still Kobe, the Lakers have a chance to do something. Once again, that “something” isn’t a championship, but the playoffs shouldn’t be deemed an unrealistic goal.
Sans Howard (and World Peace) it all boils down health in Los Angeles. If the Lakers’ Big Three (Nash, Gasol, Kobe) are able to take the floor, and stay on the floor, more than 40 wins will be amassed. Should they be unable to go for extended periods of time, the Lakers are then in trouble.
For now, just appreciate the point Magic Mike is trying to make, the same one we’ve already heard before but some of us seem to have forgotten about.
The Lakers aren’t inept. They can still play. They may even be able to win some along the way.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.