It's all smiles at the start of the Lakers' training camp
All’s quiet on the Western Front. I’m serious. You could almost hear a pin drop on the west coast as The Los Angeles Lakers started training camp this week. No buzz. No swarm. No hordes. Quiet. Nothing but quiet.
This is one of the most unusual title defense starts in NBA history, possibly in all of sport. The two-time, defending champs have embarked on a three-peat and no one is talking about it.
For their legendary coach, he begins a mind-boggling attempt for a fourth, yes a fourth, three-peat. The press loves to say how hard a title defense can be. But Phil Jackson has done it not two times in a row but three-peated three previous times. He seems to make everything effortless.
But this year begins with the Lakers as underdogs. Please, tell me, when has another champ, winners of two in a row, not been the favorite?
Las Vegas bookmakers, even so-called NBA experts in the media, have labeled the Miami Heat as the chosen team to win the title next June. At seven to five odds, the experts think the Heat are better than a two to one bet on a roulette wheel.
Without going into the Heat versus the Lakers, my point is this. The Heat are the best things to happen to the Lakers. You couldn’t have dreamed up a better scenario.
And, I’ll give you two main reasons.
The number one enemy of a champion attempting to repeat is desire. This has been the downfall of a laundry list of great champions, great teams. They lose focus, lose their fire, their “eye of the tiger,” so to speak, disappears.
Whether they admit it or not, the Lakers entered this season with the risk of complacency looming. Yes, PJ would coach against it, he knows how to spark, how to motivate, how to pace. He knows how to milk and incite. But, he’d have to really dig into his head games basket for this season.
And, sure, the Boston Celtics took them to a game seven but Laker players and fans alike could point to injuries making the series close. (Sorry Doc Rivers but a healthy Laker squad with Andrew Bynum smokes a healthy Celtic team, even with Kendrick Perkins. But, I digress.)
I know what you’re thinking. Not Kobe. He’s always motivated. And, yes you’re right.
Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant, the warrior who will always be ready for battle. But what about his comrades?
What about Lamar Odom, who loses focus not only in a season but a game? Or, Ron Artest who finally got his ring? Or, the bench players?
Once players taste the title, the risk is always there. Even with a master of a coach who knows that the NBA season, as he says, is a “marathon,” he can only pull out so much.
But everything changed with LeBron James’ decision this past July. The Heat are all the motivation the Lakers will need to win the title next year.
Seriously, everything is quiet in LA and that is a good thing. All the media attention is locked on South Florida, as it should be. The collusion of LBJ, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh is compelling. Who won’t be watching opening night when they battle the Celtics?
I guarantee the Lakers will be glued to their flatscreen TV’s that night. They know. Everyone is painting the Heat as the odds on favorites. And, that is a great thing for the Lakers.
Don’t you think somewhere deep down, maybe not even that far, right below the textbook answers he gives in interviews when asked about the Heat, that Kobe Bryant is brewing, his embers sparking?
Kobe loves competition. He excels on challenges. It is the fuel to be the greatest. The Heat change everything.
They have the Lakers attention. Count on that.
All’s Quiet on the Western Front
The other major thing that the Heat has done for the Lakers is divert attention. Now, instead of the media drumming up controversy or drama, (yes, they do this) all eyes are on the Heat.
This next sentence I can’t even believe I’m going to write but it is true.
The Lakers will be able to fly most of the 2010-2011 season UNDER THE RADAR.
That’s what blows my mind. Never in sports history will a two-time champ get so little love.
No one will care, except in Los Angeles and Southern California, if Ron Artest sells his championship ring. Or, what Lamar is keeping up with. Or, if newly acquired forward Matt Barnes is getting beat up again.
The Lakers are Page Two. Period.
But, get this. That is an incredible gift. That is the best thing that could ever happen. The Heat changed everything, especially for the Lakers.
Now, the Lakers can cruise. Sure, they have to worry about the Western Conference, about Dallas, and possibly an upstart team or two. But the Lakers can sit back and watch the circus like the rest of us.
They’re underdogs. And, that is a good thing. From Lakers fans everywhere, thanks LeBron. You’ve made this season relevant, important for the Lakers who’ll see you in June, well, maybe for your team.