The NBA is always going to have haters. Especially when it comes to the Association's super teams.
And the Los Angeles Lakers would do themselves well to remember this.
As disappointed as many are that Kobe Bryant and company haven't steamrolled the opposition on a nightly basis, there are plenty more people who are taking great pleasure out of Los Angeles' growing pains.
For some, to watch a supposed powerhouse struggle to keep their heads above .500 against fringe teams has become a pastime. That's the way it is.
Because convocations of this magnitude take time. Championship contenders aren't built overnight, they don't yield instantaneous results.
Just ask the Miami Heat. The same team that struggled to develop consistency upon its inception during the 2010-11 campaign, the same team who started out 9-8 on the season and was subsequently doomed. And yes, the same team who pushed through to the NBA Finals that very year and snagged its first championship one season later.
The Heat, just like the Lakers, have had to put up with more than the average dose of haters. It comes with the territory.
All teams struggle when there are an abundance of fresh faces to integrate, but such struggles are scrutinized and blown out of proportion when it's components of near-perfection that are nearly failing.
So yeah, the controversy, belligerent sentiments and unjustified conclusions are all a part of the evolution of a prolific championship entity. Like a right of passage, if you will.
That said, how a team navigates this passage way, how this team handles running this gauntlet speaks volumes about their future. Which is where the Heat come into play once again.
That the Lakers have a team to both idolize and learn from—and boy, do they need it.
We're not even three weeks deep into the NBA season and already Los Angeles is making waves in the headlines.
Once Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngles.com reported that Blake was fined by $25,000 by the NBA for the latter, you could sense he and the Lakers were reaching a boiling point:
Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake has been fined $25,000 for directing inappropriate language toward a fan, the NBA announced Tuesday...
...Blake and the fan initially exchanged words after the fan told Blake, "You need to knock down those open shots," and Blake snapped back with a comment, ESPNLosAngeles.com has learned. Later, Blake again made comments to the fan shortly after fouling out of the game.
Instances such as this simply cannot happen.
We watched as Miami succumbed to the wrath that was scrutiny on countless occasions during the Big Three's inaugural campaign. We watched then as LeBron James lashed out at reporters, and we bore witness to the frustration of it all getting the best of Dwyane Wade last season.
These are instances Los Angeles can learn from, and learn to avoid.
Tempers are bound to flair, especially during a team's first season together, but the Lakers have to minimize those occurrences. They have to understand that it took more than a year for the Heat to grip—you cannot react impulsively.
There is always going to be media pundits and fans who will push patience to the brink, but Kobe and the rest of the Lakers included are going to have to rise above it. Blake cannot be getting fined for yelling obscenities at fans, Dwight Howard cannot downplay Los Angeles' struggles and even Bryant must be careful with what he let slips.
Because there's a fine line between villainy and heroism, and as a powerhouse, each member of the Lakers is already walking it. But they must be careful not to cross it, because the journey back over is not as swift.
It took LeBron an entire year to resurrect his image after he spent all of 2010-11 tarnishing it in post game interviews, and it took the Heat an entire year to shed the stigma that was constantly plaguing them.
Los Angeles must know better, though. The Lakers must understand it's more productive to keep their heads down and let their games do the talking, the way James and company did for much of last season. They turned a deaf ear and blind eye to excessive scrutiny; they turned criticism into fuel for a championship run.
Los Angeles must do the same. There is no need to provide a virulent rebuttal to what may or may not be true. There's no need for the team to assume the role of a perpetually sinister villain.
There are always going to be haters, always going to be people that want to see a star-driven team, like the one currently in purple and gold, fail.
After all, haters gonna hate.
The Lakers, though?
They just need to play.
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