Playing for the Lakers is not for everybody.
That’s not even something said — or written — as some badge of honor or sign of superiority. It’s just a matter of fact. Good players and bad players alike have come to Los Angeles, failed to adapt and gone on to have success elsewhere.
There’s a certain mindset needed to play for the Lakers. Or, put in more modern terms, you have to be built different.
That was Andre Drummond’s message and takeaway after his half-season in the purple and gold. In a recent interview with Jefe Island, Drummond talked about the difference between playing in Los Angeles versus even a city like Brooklyn (h/t Yahoo Sports).
“The Lakers is exactly what you think it is, man. You got to be built differently to play for that organization. You have to be mentally strong not even just on the court but off the court, too, because there’s so much expectation of being a Laker and putting that purple and gold on because if you don’t meet that expectation, they will let you know you’re not worthy enough to wear that jersey. So, you have to play to the best of your ability and play hard each and every night. Regardless of win, lose or draw, you have to just play hard and that’s what they respect. I had a lot of fun out there...The Lakers situation was fun, though. I had a lot of fun being there.”
Drummond’s time with the Lakers was certainly not ideal, even if he did shoulder a likely unfair amount of criticism for an overall frustrating season. That isn’t to say he didn’t deserve some criticism for how he handled things, but even as Drummond produced statistically for chunks of his tenure, that criticism was constant.
He was perhaps one of the most glaring recent examples of the pressures of playing for the Lakers, Russell Westbrook standing alongside him in the same light. On paper, both acquisitions had their positives, Drummond giving the Lakers a second center they needed and Westbrook returning home to try to push the franchise he rooted for as a child over the top again.
For various reasons, neither acquisition worked and the pressure has been pushed up to 100 on both of them during their tenures. Whether from fans or media or both alike, there’s a constant level of scrutiny that can be draining on players.
Those that succeed are the ones that can block everything out, a difficult task in its own right in the modern era with social media. Doing it also in recent years on a LeBron James team adds multiple more levels of pressure and scrutiny.
But even before LeBron was a Laker, it was tough to play for the franchise and that’ll be the case after he leaves as well. There’s a high expectation that comes with being a Laker and players just have to be built different to handle it.