When dealing with a franchise that's known nothing but winning, how does a Lakers fan even prepare for the upcoming season?
How does one get amped up for the year when nearly every single pundit, talking head and blogger is picking the team to not only finish outside of the playoff picture for an almost unprecedented two seasons in a row...but also to be amongst the league's worst teams?
Can Lakers fans rationalize to themselves that their future is without a surefire building block? That the team will be without an established young star for the first time since the mid-nineties and just the second time since the mid-seventies?
How will Lakers nation react to the notion that "things won't work out LA's way", which is contrary to the last fifty years of NBA basketball?
The answer? Not well. At least from what I've seen.
We at Silver Screen & Roll pride ourselves on the many facets of our in-depth coverage of all angles of Los Angeles Lakers basketball. However, we feel that one aspect of our community that sets us apart from the rest of the healthy purple & gold blogosphere is our unyielding commitment to unbiased reporting and analysis with a curated focus on what fans are most interested in. From Josh Tucker, C.A. Clark and Dexter Fishmore to Drew Garrison and our newer writers like James Jackson, we have always been a site that has never shied away from expressing our opinions on the Los Angeles Lakers, regardless of what side of criticism they fall on. In other words: we don't pull our punches. For anyone. Not for anyone whose business card reads "Buss", not for any man whose name is raised to the rafters of STAPLES Center, not for #24 himself. This has never been, nor will it ever be, a site that is going to trumpet a "rah-rah Lakers" approach, while conveniently ignoring the pitfalls of an all-too-human organization.
This community is committed to bringing you the most unfiltered, unrelenting analysis and coverage of the team. We're all fans here--hell, that's why any of us were interested in doing this in the first place. But that fandom extends to understanding what are the best stories to cover and the most critical aspects of the team's on-court play. If you're looking for "Go Lakers" to finish out our posts, you've come to the wrong place.
Well, of course, unless the Celtics are in town.
As the Lakers gear up for this season, the seeds of doubt aren't just planted--they've bloomed in a full-blown crop of negativity. From my vantage point, the fanbase is in a state of shock of sorts. Shock that Dwight Howard took less money to go to the Houston Rockets, that the seemingly impervious Kobe Bryant missed an entire season with injury, that stars like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James would turn down an opportunity to play with the Los Angeles Lakers. But most of all, they seem to be in shock that the team is just plain bad, with nothing but a varied amount of speculation as to where the roadmap is leading the team in the seasons to come.
It's a confusing time for Lakers nation, with more questions than answers for the first time in two decades. Still, there is an unerring belief that again, things just always seem to work out for the Lakers. For example...
In the 70s after Wilt, West and Baylor hung up their sneakers, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar bounded into town. Then, just as the Captain didn't seem to have enough to bring the Lakers a title, the team miraculously received the number one overall pick and took Magic Johnson. Seventeen years, 9 Western Conference crowns and 5 titles later, LA acquired Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant during one amazing summer. A decade after that, with Kobe floundering amongst the Smush Parkers and Kwame Browns of the world, Pau Gasol joined the squad and helped capture two more chips.
Things just work out for the Lakers. How could they not this time? Simple: it just might not.
It's this attitude that many people have construed as cynicism. Negativity. Scorn. Even downright disdain for the Show.
It's not just us, of course. Nearly everyone across the internet is writing the same things. This Lakers team is going to be bad. Hell, they might be historically bad. Saying this isn't being a hater. It's not even being a cynic. It's being realistic.
And that's what I've seen recently: many Lakers fans blurring the lines between realism and pessimism. Shaking their digital fists at not just SS&R, but NBA and Lakers blogs across the web as we doubt Kobe's will to win, underestimate Jeremy Lin's abilities, unnecessarily denigrate Byron Scott's coaching pedigree or disparage the notion that it's got to work out for the Lakers.
Let's get this straight: I love the Lakers. Beyond all reasonable measure. I love the Lakers so much that I devote my time and energy to writing about them over and over again, while still maintaining a full-time job that has nothing to do with basketball or the professional sports world. But loving the Lakers doesn't mean I'm going to turn a blind eye when I see bad performances on the court or boneheaded personnel moves. In fact, my passion for the team is only going to strengthen that. This attitude is what Silver Screen & Roll has always been about.
Being realistic about this team's chances doesn't mean that you're a pessimist. It means that you're looking at facts and letting passion fuel your argument, not hinder it.
The Lakers have always won. No one will dispute that--it's in the history books. But just because that's the way it's been, doesn't mean that the possibility doesn't exist of it all going south. After all, do you think Celtics fans in 1992 ever thought that the team would be mediocre to downright horrid for the next 16 years? This after 16 titles and missing the playoffs just a scant 7 times up until then...and then going on to missing the playoffs 9 times in the next decade and a half until their 17th title in 2008? I'm sure that around water coolers and in pubs all around Massachusetts in '92 the echoes of C's fans sounded an awful like the message boards from the purple & gold faithful.
Lakers fans aren't used to embracing a bad team. That's a fact. But to call out others for being "haters" who are supporting their stances with well documented evidence for doing otherwise is silly.
I'm not suggesting that Lakers fans shouldn't be hopeful. That's the beautiful part of being a fan--there's always another season just around the corner. There's always a reason to believe.
I'm not even suggesting that Lakers fans shouldn't root for this team this season. No, they won't be very good and at times, won't be very much fun to watch. Hell, they should be even less fun to cover night to night. But no matter how stinky I think they'll be, you bet your ass that I'll be rooting for them every quarter of every game.
I'm not saying that Lakers fans should change. We are one of the best, most knowledgeable fan bases in the NBA and no one likes to admit it. But that being said, the Lakers have changed, and because of that, we have to re-direct our passion and stay realistic.
It's going to be a long year. I'm hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst. Let's all do the same and not blur the lines between what's reality and what's fantasy.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino