If you told me at the beginning of the season that the Los Angeles Lakers would be 5.5 games ahead of the No. 2 seed LA Clippers 63 regular season games, I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, before the season started, I had the Lakers finishing as the No. 5 seed because I thought it would take a little time for a team with a new head coach and eight new players to find their footing. I also thought the continuity that teams like the Clippers, Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz had would work in their favor.
I was wrong, and I wasn’t the only one.
During a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, LeBron James said he didn’t think it was possible for his team to build chemistry as quickly as they have this season, but he was happy to be proven wrong (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN):
“I can have some satisfaction on what our team has been able to do this year, having a first-year coach, first-year system, a whole new coaching staff, bringing on so many new pieces to our team this year,” James said. “Doing the things that I honestly — like I told you guys all year — I honestly didn’t think that we would be able to come together as fast as we did. I thought it would take us a lot longer than it did. But I was wrong. I was very wrong about that.”
The irony in James’ comments is that his ability to get everyone involved — both on and off the court — is a big reason for the Lakers’ early success. Of course, his teammates had to buy in, too, but it was easy for them to buy in with how often they were winning.
Frank Vogel also deserves a lot of credit for knowing when to lead and when to defer to his two superstar players. The fact that there hasn’t been one rumor about Vogel’s job security or a rift between him and James is astounding.
It’s taken a lot of effort and hard work from everyone on the team to get the Lakers to where they are. Now, the hope is that they’ll be able to see through the fruits of their labor.