How LA Lakers Fans Can Survive Rare Disaster Season
The Los Angeles Lakers aren't going to win a championship in 2013-14. They're not even going to be contenders.
That means that the team's passionate fans are going to have to go a whole entire season without rooting for a title-contending squad. In other words, they're going to experience what it's like to root for one of the other 29 teams in the Association...at least for a year.
They aren't stepping into the shoes of the downtrodden Charlotte Bobcats (though there are signs of hope brewing for Michael Jordan's franchise) or the Sacramento Kings. Just into the ones worn by a non-contender.
This takes adjustment, so we're providing a handy-dandy guide for surviving the season.
Print it out. Hang it on your wall, right in front of your desk if need be. Frame the pages and refer to them over and over.
Do whatever needs to be done in order to survive.
Note: As a fan of the Atlanta Hawks and Jacksonville Jaguars, I'm pretty sure I can be considered an authority on rooting for non-contenders.
Remember Your Team's History
This applies in two ways.
First, you have the luxury of thinking back and remembering championships. It doesn't matter how old you are, as the title-winning Lakers squads have been spread out over the years.
If you're really getting up there in years, you might remember the George Mikan squads that won championships during the BAA years and the first few after the NBA was formed. Or if you don't remember the Wilt Chamberlain title-winning year, you might be able to recall the dominance of Magic Johnson during the 1980s.
Younger generations got to witness the legend that is Kobe Bryant. And he spread out the championships, three-peating alongside Shaquille O'Neal and then taking home two more trophies with Pau Gasol in 2009 and 2010.
Unless you root for the Boston Celtics or Lakers, you don't have the luxury of recalling that much successful history. So be thankful for that, and remember that you aren't really allowed to complain all that much. Sure, some griping is permitted since you're spoiled by victorious seasons, but be thankful that you are spoiled.
That's a good thing, after all. And I can guarantee that the majority of NBA fans are green with envy, even if they typically sport other colors.
But there's one other takeaway here.
The Lakers have consistently bounced back from their down seasons. They never stay at the bottom for too long, as marquee free agents and stars flock to Hollywood like teenagers in search of acting gigs.
L.A. has experienced back-to-back losing seasons only twice in the past 50 years. Seriously.
Over the same time frame, the Purple and Gold has been kept out of the playoffs just four times, and only once did they miss out on the postseason festivities in consecutive campaigns.
You might not have faith in the current roster, Mike D'Antoni or Jim Buss. But you should have confidence in this franchise's history and international status as a basketball superpower.
Listen to Nick Young
I'm certainly not condoning violence and aggressive behavior, but L.A. supporters should take a page out of Young's book.
No, they shouldn't throw punches. No, they shouldn't yell at the Suns, as Young is doing in the picture up above. No, they shouldn't try to get suspended by their bosses.
Instead, they should just listen to the 2-guard who has emerged as a favorite for Sixth Man of the Year.
"What I'm mad about is it was 1-on-5, I felt like," Young told ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin. "If somebody [from the Lakers] would have got in the middle, everything wouldn't have escalated that much."
D'Antoni was correct to suggest that the Lakers handled the situation correctly, even if they didn't spring to Young's defense. They need all the healthy bodies they can get, and losing one or two more to suspension wouldn't help them whatsoever.
But fans need to take this message to heart, because it's all about supporting each other. Lakers fans are all on the same team, whether they're advocating for the team to continue competing or to do everything possible to tank.
The lack of success has resulted in a lot of in-house fighting.
Diehard fans are consistently attacking people they feel are just bandwagon supporters. Then the perceived bandwagoners feel defensive, and the whole thing just spirals out of control.
Have each other's backs. Unite as a fanbase, even if it's a massive fanbase that seems to be larger than the combined output of multiple other teams in the Association.
You're all on the same team.
Stop Hitting the Panic Button
At this point, even Magic Johnson is forecasting doom and gloom.
If you read between the lines of his recent comments to Mike James of the Los Angeles Times, you'll see what I mean:
He (Kobe Bryant) has got to (sit out the whole year). What is he coming back to? He’s not going to be able to stop the pick and roll, all the layups the Lakers are giving up. He’s been hurt twice, give him the whole year to get healthy.
That doesn't exactly sound positive. Isn't the legend supposed to maintain an optimistic attitude? Especially when he has the unique ability to inspire the entire fanbase, as he tends to draw quite a bit of respect whenever he opens his mouth.
That quote isn't about Kobe so much as the rest of the roster. And it paints a pretty scathing picture.
B/R's Kevin Ding even went as far as writing about the all-time great, "His uneducated, shallow, fleeting assessments indicate he's a bandwagon guy who mainly wants to make clear, in a trap a lot of older people tend to fall into, that the past was better."
It's fine to reminisce about the past. I've even suggested that you do so in this article.
But remembering the days of old and supporting the current version of the Lakers can't be mutually exclusive ideas. Lakers fans must be able to do both, and they must stop hitting the dreaded panic button.
Don't have misplaced confidence, because this team isn't going anywhere in 2013-14. But don't let that impact your entire view of the franchise's ability to succeed in the future.
Focus on the Positives, Not the Record
It's all about coping.
Instead of looking at the final score of any given game and getting depressed about the outcome, dig into the box score and find a positive. That's never hard, especially when supporting a team led by D'Antoni, who is uniquely able to make role players look like something more.
Rather than pointing out all of the negatives, find something you can get excited about. Like Kendall Marshall's passing, for example.
Since he stepped into the starting lineup, the former D-Leaguer has averaged an insane 12.1 assists per game. Marshall's court vision is absolutely unbelievable, especially when he doesn't get lazy with his passes around the perimeter.
He could very well emerge as the team's point guard of the future, but you might miss that if you're too busy acting depressed about the mounting losses.
If you can't find a positive each and every game, even in a blowout loss, then you aren't trying hard enough.
Watch a Lot of College Basketball
The Lakers are going to end up with a top draft pick. That much seems inevitable, even if Bryant comes back sooner than expected and provides a nice spark for the offense.
Right now, the Lakers have a better record than only one team in the Western Conference, and they aren't coming out ahead of too many squads in the East either. It's not entirely unreasonable to expect them to earn one of the top-five picks in the 2014 NBA draft, especially after their record is depressed further by the Grammys road trip.
Because of that, go ahead and get yourself acquainted with some of the top prospects in basketball, because you're going to have pretty decent odds of winning the draft lottery and having the pick of the litter.
Tune in to Kansas games so that you can watch Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. The latter has been particularly impressive, elevating to the top of many draft boards with his rapidly improving offensive game.
You should know all about the former by now.
Make sure that you catch Jabari Parker and the Duke Blue Devils going to work, as well as Julius Randle and the Kentucky Wildcats. And don't forget about Arizona's Aaron Gordon or Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart.
Regardless of whether you like NBA basketball more than the college game (frankly, I don't understand how it's not enjoyable to watch both), it's your duty as a fan to acquaint yourself with the future of the franchise. Especially when the future matters more than the present.
Don't Stop Supporting Your Team
Don't give up. Don't ever give up.
Jim Valvano might not have been associated with the Los Angeles Lakers at any point in his illustrious career, but his famous words still ring true for the team's fanbase.
Whatever you do, don't stop supporting your team. Even if you've lost hope this season, that doesn't mean that you can't have faith in them moving forward.
Part of being a fan is enduring the rough stretches. Every franchise goes through them, though some last longer than others. While the Lakers haven't had as many as other teams during recent years, they're still not immune to the down seasons.
Put up with it. Grit your teeth and bear it.
Keep being a fan and never stop supporting your team. That's the most important rule of all.