The date is September 27th and NBA pre-season basketball is on the cusp of beginning. Like any other year, teams are taking in the final days of this NBA off-season to gather themselves, and get in the necessary frame of mind required to prosper.
For some, this means gearing up for a possible momentous championship run (I’m looking at you, Cleveland). However, not too long ago, this also included the Lakers. We had arguably the best shooting guard in the league, a talented all-around big man down low in the paint, and a rightful leader for the bunch who exemplified his 11 rings to his players through top-notch basketball articulation and a chi that was unmatched around the league.
For these Lakers, however, this year simply extrapolates what began two seasons ago. The unknown is the most we know, and although a cautious optimistic aura currently resides over this Laker squad, no one truly knows what this upcoming 2014-15 season holds for us. Some are pulling for a revitalized Kobe showing that can hopefully turn the eyes of the many critics and doubters that have already counted out the five-time champion. Others are asking whether Julius Randle will be able to begin his rookie year with guns blazing, especially with reports from sites like Bleacher Report labeling him as a player that won’t make any significant contribution this year.
Heck, some are just hoping for an enjoyable season with a few surprises here and there, not caring about the playoffs and characterizing this season as just another “pass through” and hoping for a more promising free agency period in 2015.
However, there are many different scenarios at play here: Will the Lakers go for a lower tier playoff berth in a stacked Western Conference, or simply try and secure a top five pick that will otherwise land with the Suns if they finish outside of the top five?
As Mitch Kupchak noted Friday during a press conference held at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo, health – as always – would be the biggest factor this coming season.
“First and foremost, we have to stay healthy, and that begins with Kobe and Steve Nash,” Kupchak said. “And I think our offseason acquisition, Carlos Boozer, who is an established player in the league, he is healthy. But I think a big degree of our success will depend on if those three guys can stay healthy.”
He’s not kidding.
Now 36, 40, and 32 years old respectively, this may not seem like the ideal situation for the Lakers to be in. But with a roster that holds a handful of veterans – including the former MVPs – and young talent, they don’t have much of an option. After striking out on possible free agents like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony during the summer, they settled on lower tier acquisitions in Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer. Now, with a total 19 players on deck including a handful of training camp invitees, the roster for this coming season is pretty much set.
With the first pre-season game just over a week away and a forgettable season already far behind us, all we can now do is wait. For Kobe, this means waiting to take the stage – in what could be his second to last season – in anticipation to see if he’s still got it or not. For Steve Nash, this means taking hold of fear by the throat and going out with a bang that is memorable for both him and the fans. For Julius Randle, Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin, and the rest of this roster, this simply means moving on to new pastures to try and recapture former glory all as one, or simply work on building a new legacy that can hopefully transcend into something special.
For the rest of us, this just means sitting down and gathering as one – either at our television sets or at STAPLES Center – and holding our collective breaths for a glorious playoff push come April.
Now, taking a step back here, I know that the reality of the matter is that in order for this to happen, a lot of things must go our way.
Ultimately, though, this upcoming season has a lot more intrigue written over it in comparison to last year’s disappointing one. The Lakers managed to secure a well respected coach in Byron Scott, picked up a bright, young prospect in Julius Randle, and acquired up some decent players in Lin and Boozer.
So, if you put all of this together and add in a “healthy Kobe and Steve Nash” – as Mitch put it – there’s truly no telling what this team could accomplish this coming season.