Ask anyone who's watched "Game of Thrones" in its entirety, letting one's guard down for even a second is a sure way to get kicked straight in the land south of The Wall.
Fall in love with a character, they're gone. Predict anything less than the worst absolute resolution to a scenario, and watch with your mouth agape as (SPOILER ALERT) an adorable daughter is burnt at the stake.
Faith in humanity was, for most of the series, punishable by death. This season, though, since George RR Martin's source material ran out, fans have been (comparatively speaking) rewarded for sticking it out.
The same, quite frankly, could be said about the last two years of Lakers fandom. Murphy's Law was fully in-effect with a Mad King manning the sidelines. Just as with the last season of Thrones, however, this offseason has served to reward those who trudged through the sewers with at least a glimmer of hope.
All this said, Lakers and Thrones fans alike must ask themselves a critical question: Is it safe to put our guard down? Should we redefine expectations based on the status quo? The resulting gut punch is absolutely terrifying, but should we retrain ourselves for optimism? At the risk of jinxing everything, I think we can.
(Note to the reader: I'm going to warn you, if you aren't completely caught up on this season of Thrones, you might want to come back to this article later. Also, what the bleep are you waiting for?)
So, I've been watching this season of GoT with one eye open, and the other ready to wince as something terrible takes place. Yes, there have been speedbumps along the way (#HoldTheDoor), but for the most part, we have a clear picture of where the series could possibly go. The future is (relatively) bright.
Thing is: We can also see how the series could fall right back into the muddled cluster-eff that's defined the show to this point. One character misstep, one unfortunate detour from the pièce de résistance, one unplanned swerve from a dragon, unseated its rider, and we again are left to question why we even allowed ourselves hope in the first place.
Fans are in the exact same situation with their Lakers.
One bad max contract hinders the organization's ability to acquire elite talent moving forward. Harrison Barnes and DeMar DeRozan are probably available if offered the full max, but man, those signings better work out. Neither guy is likely to convince other all-star caliber free agents to ditch their current situations for Los Angeles, especially if neither Barnes nor DeRozan grow into the roles they'd be forced into with the Lakers. Add to that the flexibility the Lakers would lose by signing those guys, and even with the insane cap jumps, the future is pretty severely hampered if the signing goes awry.
Then, the Luke Walton-Daenarys Targaryen parallel is pretty easy to make, isn't it?
The Mother of Dragons burst onto the scene after she forced the slave trade into submission, but the subsequent farting around in the desert has made that storyline pretty annoying up until she turned those masters into barbecued chickens in the penultimate episode of season six. What she does from here on is basically the deciding factor for the entire show moving forward.
Walton comes back to Los Angeles with similar momentum, even despite the Warriors' epic finals collapse. Actually, now that I think about it, the parallel becomes even stronger given the location of this year's NBA finals parade. Walton's introductory press conference felt like one of Dany's umpteen speeches of world domination that, up to this point, haven't really been acted upon. Like Khaleesi, Walton doesn't have to immediately take the NBA world by storm, but please get to it eventually, Luke. The organization is depending on it.
Should either D'Angelo Russell or Brandon Ingram fail to live up to their lofty potential, the Lakers are suddenly no better after years of "unintentional" tanking. In this case, think of Sansa Stark and Jon Snow's partnership, but if Snow was coming off an unfortunate Wildling recording incident. To this point, their reunion has directly resulted in the ridding of one of the most evil characters in television history, but their work is far from done. They still have to manage the incoming swarm of White Walkers behind them and the "civilized" world to the south. One would think Snow and Dany need to meet at some point, but there are all kinds of pitfalls between the two characters as the entire fictional world lays ahead.
(Side note: Byron was ABSOLUTELY Ramsay Bolton. We continue.)
Ingram enters the fray just as Sansa did, joining a weary Russell, who's coming off of a productive, but incredibly frustrating rookie campaign. At Russell's side are Julius Randle (Tormund Giantsbane), Jordan Clarkson (Davos Seaworth, because Clarkson is somehow considered old among on this uber-young roster) and the rest of the Lakers' young core (represented by the armies who trust Snow's leadership).
Just as in the show, if Ingram or Russell bicker or, for whatever reason, fail to develop together, Lakers fans would be dealt an almost cruel blow, just as the audience would probably riot if Jon and/or Sansa are killed off after all this.
So, will all those potential disasters in front of both viewers of Game of Thrones and Lakers fans alike, how could I possibly encourage people to open up? With so many ways this could go wrong, why get excited for the bright side? Well, first off, think of where we're coming from.
Think of those lost (actually, in Thrones' case and kind of, in the Lakers') and the path behind in us. Fans of the show and fans of the Lakers have been kicked in nuts enough to make Draymond Green blush. There is almost literally nowhere to go but up. We have quite the ride to enjoy.
Optimism is equal parts amazing and horrifying. Expectations lay the groundwork for reality. We should know this by now, but we somehow forget at end and every possible turn, because each scenario is unique.
George RR Martin's nihilism has, up until this season, punished the audience for believing in the bright side. Reality has had the same effect on anyone rooting for the purple and gold. Heading into last year, the only thing that could possibly have sent the season into dismay (Byron) did so in such incredible fashion that hope, at this point, feels like a distant memory.
I'm not here to preach about some new day or any other such cliché, but what I am comfortable with offering is the potential for fun. The option of opening up to enjoy the ride. Sunday will mark the finale of my favorite season Thrones yet, and yesterday marked the beginning of what could be one of an entire fan base's favorite seasons in quite some time.
You can follow the author of this column at @AnthonyIrwinLA.