Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka isn’t stressing. After helping build the roster that brought home the franchise’s 17th banner from the NBA bubble at Disney World and proved his late friend’s prediction prescient, he’s trying to focus on the positives.
As a result, he told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that he’s not thinking about the team not being able to have a championship parade or celebrate in the traditional ways. He also has a rebuttal for anyone that would discredit the Lakers’ achievement (via “The Woj Pod”):
“I spend a lot of time kind of thinking through what lens you’re viewing things through and for me, this one is ‘let’s count the blessings instead of the losses.’ Like it’s easy to think about ‘oh, we didn’t get to have a parade, or we didn’t get to do this yet.’ But to be able to have won a championship inside a bubble, and to be with the guys and the staff for 100 days in a row, also provided some extraordinary moments that probably future champions will never be able to experience because it was such a unique setting. So I try to spend a lot of time thinking about the parts of this championship that make it unique.
“I think some have (asked) ‘will this championship have an asterisk on it?’ I like to say ‘no, I think it’s got a gold star.’ Just because you had to do so much more to get to the end, and I think it was just a testament to our team (and) the players and our staff coming together in that environment.”
Pelinka is not wrong. While some will crow about the Lakers not facing the Milwaukee Bucks or LA Clippers en route to their title, it’s hardly their fault that those two teams weren’t as good as most they predicted they would be. Why are the Lakers’ responsible for the Clippers’ fraudulence?
There has also been talk that the basketball was easier in the bubble, with no travel and shooting in the same gym for months. But even if that’s true, wouldn’t every team have the exact same advantage? How would that lead to an asterisk?
The bubble also wasn’t easy. Teams without the uniquely strong chemistry the Lakers had splintered and fell. Games were every other day most of the time, leaving few hours for a veteran team to recover between battles. Practices were also all over the place in their timing, making it hard for notorious creatures of habit like professional athletes to build a rhythm. And that’s all without mentioning that players were isolated from their families for months, and the outside world for even longer.
So yes, the Lakers’ championship is different, but Pelinka is right that “different” doesn’t mean “less than.” If anything, the circumstances this team had to go through during the longest year in NBA history make it the most difficult title ever, not the easiest one. That honor obviously goes to the Celtics winning most of their championships in an NBA with nine teams, players smoking in the locker room and like five guys that weren’t accountants for their day job. If we want to talk asterisks, there’s where we start.
But for a man known for overwrought and insane analogies, somehow a gold star is an understated and perfectly apt way to describe any extra marking on the 2020 title that Pelinka and the Lakers definitely earned the right to celebrate. Even if they have to party it in a more isolated way than normal, they deserve to relish this one.
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