Boy, Lakers. Nothing like taking it down to the wire. Game 82 had to be won after surrendering a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, and then, Kobe had to bail you out with the three to take it to OT?
Ach, they are killing me.
But, here we are, and the Lakers finally know who their first-round playoff opponent is—the New Orleans Hornets. Don't listen to all these people who say the Lakers will sweep. I, personally, am not getting out my broom.
My guess is the Hornets can win at least one since it's certain Chris Paul will put the team on his back at some point. They'll probably capitalize on a night when the Lakers A) turn it over; B) slack off on defense; C) miss their free throws; and D) turn it over.
For each man, going against the Lakers is a measuring stick of your manhood. Blocking a shot from Kobe or Pau is worth its weight in gold.
Still, I really do think the Hornets will take at least one game, at which point Mamba will come unglued and read the team the riot act. Hopefully, it won't come to that, because this is a veteran team that basically knows how to police themselves.
So, what to think as the playoffs start?
Cross your fingers that LA can get back Andrew Bynum (sketchy knee), Matt Barnes (sketchy knee 2.0) and Steve Blake (Chicken pox?). Oof. All three are important.
There's been a lot of talk about how the Lakers will fare if Bynum can't go but recall last year that Bynum gutted through on one bad knee. In the last 24 hours, his demeanor has suggested he's ready to play.
So I want to talk instead about two other men that I think have potential to be game-changing in this playoff run. Not to be a contrarian, but their contributions are often overlooked in the nonstop Lakers soap opera.
Shannon Brown and Lamar Odom. Let's start with Brown.
Shannon Brown: Stop trying to be Blake Griffin on these fast break dunks. I can think of at least three in the past few days you've missed. Let Griffin win the highlight reel this year for sexy dunks.
You know what's sexier? Going to the postseason and winning championships.
Take the easy two. You don't have to show off; we all know you can play. Your speed and chippiness are invaluable. Don't blow it showboating.
When Bynum went down, Pau Gasol, and particularly Lamar Odom, stepped it way up. I wonder if both of them, especially Odom, have been subconsciously deferring to Bynum?
All of a sudden, Odom started lowering his shoulder and driving to the basket. I know it was desperation time, but there was a noticeable difference before and after Bynum's injury.
Guilty pleasure: I watched that Khloe and Lamar show the other day (Don't judge me.) One fascinating thing emerged: Lamar was much more upset about not being named an All-Star than was reported. He needs to forget All-Star—he could be the hero of the postseason if he brings it like he can for the upcoming games.
I'll say the same thing I said about Shannon—All-Star is sexy. Going to the playoffs and winning another championship is sexier.
Lamar, you are a critical element of this team. The Lakers would not be where they are without your selflessness, positive attitude, health and basketball smarts. With or without Bynum and Barnes, something tells me you will be seeing a lot of minutes.
I live in Los Angeles. The Lakers' playoffs are practically their own season around here. Here's a snapshot of what it's like in LA this time of year.
Everyone in town follows the Lakers during the playoffs. If they say otherwise, they're lying. The Lakers own this town, especially in the spring.
I saw the first flag about a week ago; I'll explain. Starting during the playoffs, everybody digs out their Lakers flags and puts them on their cars. It's a kind of contraption that flies out of your closed backseat window. Folks give a friendly honk of the horn in support when you pull up next to a car that's flying one.
Everybody is on a first name basis with the entire team. Kobe, Pau, Andrew, Derek, Ron, Phil. The whole team. I mean it. Even the bench.
The whole city gets into the spirit; this is one of my favorite times of year in LA. There is an undeniable civic pride in the air.
We're collectively proud of this team. The team and the organization know it, and I know they feel and appreciate the love.
So, as we get ready to go, here are a few things to keep an eye on—especially if you're not from LA.
First, keep an eye out in the broadcasts for the establishing shot of the inside of Staples at the beginning of games. The Lakers dim the crowd lights for home games, even if it's a day game.
I mean, the stands are dark. The broadcasters usually get a great shot at the beginning of the game because it's so sexy.
Is it a little staged? Maybe. Could they get away with this in, say, Cleveland? Doubtful.
But this town knows stars and lighting. And it is gorgeous. The polished floor of the court looks like a gleaming golden jewel. And this time, the stars aren't the ones sitting courtside; they're the ones wearing the jerseys.
Each Lakers home game is an event, and considering the competition in the town (movie premieres, the Oscars, TV shows shooting around every corner), that's a pretty high bar to clear. But the Lakers, with the full support of their terrific organization, do it with ease.
I know the court has the exact same dimensions as any other in the NBA—you can check it Gene Hackman/Hickory High-style. But this is an intimidating house to enter.
And do not underestimate the crowd. They know basketball.
Second, whenever you can try to watch and listen to the local announcers. They are superlative and know the team inside and out. They are thoughtful, observant and unafraid to call the Lakers out when they do something dumb.
Most of all, basketball fans, relish these next few weeks for however long they last. Phil Jackson and the Los Angeles Lakers have a chance to make unprecedented basketball history, and they know it.
Lakers? It's showtime. Make amazing happen.