OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 16: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks to drive on Thabo Sefolosha #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 16, 2012 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Thunder beat the Lakers 77-75. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers face the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals, and depending on the result, it may end up being the last meaningful basketball contest of the Lakers' season. A loss tonight would surely doom the Lakers to another early exit from the 2nd round of the NBA playoffs, while a win, on the back of almost winning Game 2, would put the victor of this series firmly back in question. The stakes of this game, especially for the Lakers, are quite high. The season hangs in the balance.
And so much more.
Nothing can communicate the spirit the Lakers need to play tonight's game with better than the iconic single from recently departed Donna Summers. "Let's Dance The Last Dance" is a song about hope for a happy ending even though time is running out. And time is most certainly running out for the Lakers. Time is running out on the season; it could be over in two more games, and with a loss tonight, that seems a likely outcome.
But more importantly, time is running out on the team itself. For two straight years, the Lakers have had the league's highest payroll, buried under massive amounts of money being paid to its three stars, and a bunch of other smaller, but still overvalued in today's NBA, contracts to role players like Steve Blake and Metta World Peace. For the highest paid team in the league, achieving nothing more than an early 2nd round flameout is an unacceptable return on investment. If the Lakers do fade meekly into the night, as they did last year, the team will almost certainly be blown up.
Pau Gasol will be gone, and depending on the franchise's tolerance with Andrew Bynum's behavior, he too might be dealt. I'm no fan of firing a head coach after one season, especially one in which the coach did not have a proper training camp or practice time, but a variety of factors might lead to Mike Brown's dismissal as well. Unless the Lakers turn things around in a hurry and end this season on a high note, you can bet that next year's version will look different. In all likelihood, the changes will be drastic.
So the Lakers need to hold on to hope as their time runs out, but they also need to seize their opportunity. That's the other aspect to the song that is so important to the Lakers' efforts. Its about more than just hoping things will turn out well at the last possible moment. Its about pursuing the last opportunity instead of standing around and hoping it will work out for you. The Lakers need to play tonight's game as if they know it is their last chance for salvation.
Lakers, tonight just might be your last dance, and not just for the season. It might be your last dance ever as a unit that can be at all associated with the one that has brought in so much recent success. So by all means, dance the shit out of it. If you do, you might just find yourself with a few more opportunities.