In order to help with offseason boredom, Fred Cervantez (@Fmcervantez) will be writing about the history of the Lakers. From the 40’s until the end of showtime. In Part One, Fred looked at how the Lakers were founded and George Mikan’s arrival.
The Minneapolis Lakers had completely transformed themselves before the 1948 NBL season. After going 4-40 as the Detroit Gems, the team now had a new city, a new name, and two great players in Jim Pollard and George Mikan.
Mikan didn’t officially join the team until the fifth game of the 1948 season. Once he joined the team, the Lakers lost four of their next five games. There had been so much talk about Mikan coming to the Lakers that the rest of the team expected Mikan to carry them to a title. The game plan was now to throw the ball into Mikan every offensive possession. In his book Unstoppable, Mikan described how he and Jim Pollard made their play styles work together.
“I needed to get the ball back out to where my open teammates had a better shot…Jim and I talked it over and worked out a signal for a return pass, which made all the difference in the world. Jim was so quick that all he needed was a step and the ball, and he was in for an easy layup. If he missed, I would slide open after the pass and be set for the rebound and easy putback.”
The discussion helped the team win twenty-seven of remaining thirty-three regular season games. The Lakers ended the season with a 43-17 record and George Mikan led the league in scoring with 21.3 points per game.
The Lakers made it to the 1948 NBL finals, where they faced the Rochester Royals, a team that may be more commonly known as the Sacramento Kings today. In the best of five series, the Lakers won three games to the Royals’ one. In just one season, the 4-40 Detroit Gems had transformed into a championship team. However, despite a championship season, the Lakers were ready to switch leagues.