The Lakers were down by 6 points with just about two minutes left on the game clock. Playing against the team with the best record in the monstrous Western Conference, LA's 12th loss looked like a lock.
But would that be such a bad thing? A last place conference finish would almost guarantee that the Lakers keep their NBA Draft pick at season's end. In the ill-fated Steve Nash trade that seems to keep adding salt to a festering wound, LA only keeps their current draft pick given that it falls in the top-5. I don't have to tell anyone that reads this blog: for the purposes of this year, losses--for one of the first times in Lakers history--are a good thing. Even if the Show loses and loses, anything less than a bottom-5 finish and a couple lucky bounces of a ping pong ball would make this entire enterprise of futility completely without merit.
This has been a talking point--no, a preaching point--on Lakers blogs for the past 18 months. As soon as Dwight Howard left town, it was apparent that even with Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant, LA would soon be in a rebuilding phase. As hard as it was to visualize, the best way for the Lakers to prosper in the near future would be a tremendous amount of losses from 2013-2015. The team complied with shocking ease.
At 3-12, the Lakers are well on their way to keeping their draft pick this season. They are a bad, bad team, playing with at least five players that wouldn't sniff a Western Conference playoff roster rotation and one of the very worst defenses in the entire league. For those of us watching from afar over our keyboards and phones, each loss is a good thing. It's an incredibly foreign concept for Lakers fans and writers to grasp, but it seems that the purple and gold blogosphere has embraced this theorem with ease...and in some cases, glee. Losing, almost under any cost that doesn't include falling to Boston (nor should it ever), is the goal. Winning is merely an impediment.
However, sitting in the stands at STAPLES last night, none of that felt apparent.
The Lakers went into the half with an unlikely lead, going ahead by 5 points against the bruising Memphis Grizzlies. One of the best defensive teams in the league, the Grizz gave up an uncharacteristic 51 points to an inconsistent LA offense. Memphis had no doubt taken the Lakers lightly, giving their opponents space to hit mid-range jumpers in a strange play to take away off the dribble moves that most of the team doesn't really have. There was no grit and no grind and the Lake Show feasted off of a somewhat lackadaisical defense.
For some of us at home looking at the big picture, watching the Lakers on their way to a potential upset was, well, upsetting. The objective this season is to lose, after all. But you wouldn't guess that the same caliber of Lakers fans were sitting there in STAPLES.
The crowd went absolutely wild for the team last night, rising to their feet for Jeremy Lin's Linsanity-esque first half and forgiving Wesley Johnson's numerous missteps after his cataclysmic breakaway jam. Even journeyman Ronnie Price earned a standing ovation for a stunningly commendable 11/2/5 performance that kept the Lakers within striking distance all night long. Then of course there was Kobe, who could go 5 for 35, let alone the 5 for 15 he went last night, and still be treated like the real life superhero-emperor-deity he seemingly is. If losing is expressed objective, then the 18,897 people in STAPLES must be hard of hearing and unable to read lips.
Within our community here at Silver Screen & Roll and the general NBA Twitterverse at large, we have the great privilege of being able to converse and debate amongst some of the most knowledgeable Lakers fans in the world. I proudly write for this blog knowing that there are hundreds of readers (if not more) that know more about the intricacies of the NBA collective bargaining agreement, salary cap and draft consideration rules than I will ever understand. This is a proud collective of fans that look at the larger picture as well as the short term future, scrutinizing and examining, poking and prodding. It's truly incredible.
But there is also a large part of the Lakers fanbase that is just as knowledgeable and dedicated that just wants to see their team win, no matter what the cost. There are some folks out there do not participate in our community, nor do they pay attention to our 2,000 word blog posts or take a look at our screen caps--they just plainly root for the purple and gold and want this team to bring home the W. Sitting in the arena, amongst 16 championship banners and retired jerseys of some of the greatest athletes in American sports history, it's very easy to forget about five and six years down the road and just root for the next five or six minutes.
We get so caught up with a wealth of information at our fingertips. In a couple of keystrokes, I can look up just how many picks the Lakers owe to other teams in the drafts to come, the salary cap room of other organizations in the next several years and who free agents will be as far as the summer of 2018.
It's easy to forget that there are a ton of fans that just don't care about this. None of it. They just want to see the Lakers win, every single game, because that's why they root for the damn team to begin with. Amongst 19,000 of my closest friends, it was refreshing to remember how to live with this team in the moment, to appreciate what they mean to me and my life and how great it is to be a fan of the NBA.
Don't get me wrong: it's not a bad thing that the Lakers lost last night. But at the same time, it's not a bad thing for us to love this team and root for them every night. How easy it is to forget that.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino