After the Lakers' less-than-stellar 7-3 start, the expectations surrounding this team had substantially lowered. But as they've shown in the past, that's when the Lakers function at their best.
The fact that they dropped their second game of the season to Dallas? Proof of how critical Pau Gasol's absence can be. The fact that Phoenix had the best record in the West until as recently as yesterday? A pesky, short-term technicality.
Since the return of Pau Gasol, no team the Lakers have faced has been capable of remaining within 10 digits of their final score, never mind beating them. Now the Lakers are starting to show the tip of what could very well be an insurmountable iceberg.
After all, several of the greatest teams in NBA history have gotten off to relatively slow starts. The 1996 Bulls started off at 10-2 before capturing the NBA's best ever record of 72-10. Two years later the Bulls started off at 12-9 before winning 50 of their next 61 games. The 1972 33-straight-win Lakers started off at 6-3 before finishing at 69-13. The 2001 Lakers finished with a record of 56-26, 11 fewer victories than they had earned in their previous regular season, before going undefeated until the Finals.
Phil Jackson has been quoted as saying that the Lakers are “on the brink.” There has been much speculation over what he meant, but given the Lakers' play of late, it's becoming more and more clear.
A champion can be made in a year and forgotten the next; ask Miami. Becoming a legend, however, is something entirely different. Legendary teams are never forgotten. Their triumphs define their generation and echo throughout the course of history. Usually, this is not a feat that can be accomplished in a single season.
Legendary teams, be it those of Jordan's Bulls, Russell's Celtics, Magic's Lakers, or Laimbeer's Pistons, have forged their place in history by undergoing multiple championship runs. Already reigning champions, the Lakers now have the opportunity to do just that.
And I wouldn't bet against them.
The Lakers' road will be far from easy. The season is still very young, and as every champion will tell you, defending the title is always more difficult than winning in the first place. But then if it weren't, such teams wouldn't be legends.
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