The wait is over. With a hard-fought win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night — and after seven long years — the Los Angeles Lakers (48-13) have clinched their spot in the 2020 NBA Playoffs with a little over a month to go in the regular season.
It’s not a surprise that the Lakers will be in the playoffs this season. Last summer, they went all-in and traded Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the No. 4 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, two future first-round picks and a pick swap to pair LeBron James with All-NBA big man Anthony Davis. As long as they both James and Davis were both relatively healthy, they were always going to make the playoffs. How could you not with that much star power?
What is a little surprising is just how quickly they got it all together. The Lakers entered their 2019-20 campaign with a revamped front office, a new head coach and seven new players, including three new starters.
It’s for that reason most Lakers fans went into the season with tempered expectations for the team, and those expectations were shattered almost immediately.
“Almost immediately” isn’t hyperbole, either. The Lakers have been the No. 1 seed since Nov. 1.
There’s plenty of praise to go around, but it all goes back to Jeanie Buss, who, three years ago, set out to bring the allure of the Lakers back to Los Angeles. Things got bad before they got good, but now they’re back on top, and it’s in large part because of her courage and leadership.
The team’s general manager, Rob Pelinka, also deserves a ton of credit for turning things around after his boss, Magic Johnson, abruptly quit at the end of last season. Pelinka hasn’t always been a fan favorite (to say the least), but he kept his head down and did what he thought was best for the team. While obviously no one knows how the season would have played out if Tyronn Lue were the head coach instead of Vogel, the latter of the two has done all right for himself.
Then, there’s LeBron James, who lit a fire under everyone’s seats upon arriving to Los Angeles. James’ greatness both on and off the floor made the organization’s flaws stand out in a way they hadn’t while they were rebuilding, and it inspired them to make the changes that got them to where they are now, like firing Luke Walton and trading for Davis. It also helps that James’ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, is one of the most influential people in the NBA.
All of it, together, got the Lakers to where they are today, with a guaranteed postseason berth and a chance to make some real noise once they get there. It’s been a long time coming, Lakers fans, but we’re back.
Now, let’s go get No. 17.