Ring nights are notoriously tricky for the defending champions, an emotional event that often tends to overshadow the basketball game at hand.
The last time the Lakers received their championship rings, even in an empty building, they found themselves down 20 points on opening night in the blink of an eye, ultimately losing to the Clippers.
In the grand scheme of things, being the defending champ is more satisfying than collecting one regular-season victory. But in order to actually defend that title, or mount a championship chase of your own, the win matters more. That’s the mindset Juan Toscano-Anderson has going into opening night.
Unlike the rest of the Lakers who are simply looking to spoil Golden State’s party on Tuesday, Toscano-Anderson will be collecting his championship ring as a member of the 2021-22 Warriors. But the new Laker believes that the result of the game is more important than any jewelry, as he told Spectrum SportsNet Friday:
“Obviously it’s a big night for myself and for Golden State, something that I definitely want to enjoy. But I’m a Laker now, I want to go in there and kick their butts. That’s the ultimate goal is to start off the season on the right foot and go into Golden State, which is a tough place to win. You know, I’ve played many games in Chase, I know how tough it is to win there, I know how their fans are, and they’re an amazing team, so I would like to go in there and get a win, that would be better than the ring, to be honest.”
A year ago, the Lakers had a chance to start their season off with a bang against these very same Warriors, a chance to punctuate their controversial offseason with a big-time win. Instead, Carmelo Anthony pump-faked a free throw, the Lakers flubbed a double-digit lead, and things went south from there.
The Lakers aren’t expected to win the rematch, but therein lies the opportunity to flip the script and set a better tone for the 2022-23 season. Acquitting themselves well against a team of Golden State’s caliber would bring good vibes from the get-go, something Toscano-Anderson doesn’t take for granted.
“It would feel much sweeter to go in there, get my ring and win, and feel good about the win itself, but feel confident moving forward in the season. Beating Golden State, it’s a big deal, they’re a great team. They’re the champions. And so that would be much sweeter than anything else, getting my ring and enjoying doing that with my family, but capping it off with a win at Golden State.”
It’ll be a good night for Toscano-Anderson regardless of the outcome. But getting his new team out on a high note would be the ultimate victory.