When the Los Angeles Lakers successfully paired LeBron James with Anthony Davis last summer, the expectations for the team immediately shifted from “make the playoffs” to “win a championship,” even though they had just hired a new head coach and added eight new players to their roster.
Thus far, they’ve managed to overcome the adversity that’s typically associated with building a contender overnight, in addition to the adversity they’ve had to deal with off the court, and are currently the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with a 49-14 record. However, the Lakers didn’t trade away valuable assets to be a good regular season team — they want to win a championship, and the players have held themselves to that standard this season.
In the most recent episode of “The LiucciCast,” Alex Caruso said that everyone in the Lakers’ locker room expects a championship at the end of the season, and that nothing else will suffice:
“I don’t have enough experience under my belt yet to know how it is on different levels, because obviously the team we have with L.A. is star-studded and people expect us to be there and there is a lot of attention to it already. We don’t have to talk about it, we know that’s our only purpose. If we don’t win it, it’s a failure, basically. That’s our goal, to win a championship.”
That being said, Caruso said the messaging within the team hasn’t been “champion or bust.” Rather, they’ve prided themselves on building championship habits that they hope will translate to them playing championship-level basketball when the postseason rolls around:
“We talked about it preseason, leading up, but it’s not even so much about we talk about winning a championship. During the season, we talk about how well we have to play as well as building habits and improving the basketball that we’re playing ... With the teammates and coaching staff that we have, everybody is so experienced and so wise, they don’t really panic when you lose four or five in a row in December. It’s like all right, we played a couple good teams, had some guys sit out a couple games, probably should have won them, but not a big deal. Let’s get back to doing what we do. And for me that’s been great, because that’s always kind of been my mantra as far as basketball is concerned: Let me get out there and do my job and get it done.”
The Lakers will be hoping that the foundation they built in the regular season was strong enough to withstand the season’s suspension, which is entering its third month. While that applies to the habits they built on the court, it also extends to the chemistry in the locker room, which has play a crucial part in their early success.
Things haven’t gone exactly the way they, or anyone, expected them to go this season, but they still have the opportunity to accomplish the goal they had at the beginning of the season, which was to bring No. 17 to Los Angeles.