Growing up a Lakers fan, I’ll admit I’ve been pretty spoiled. From watching Magic and “Showtime,” to seeing Jerry West – Mr. NBA logo himself – steal Shaq from Orlando, there really haven’t been too many bad years. Unless you count the few seasons before Head Coach Phil Jackson arrived, when several extremely talented Lake Show squads failed repeatedly to get over the hump in the Western Conference under the bland Del Harris. About as bad as it’s been in Lakerland was when Kobe ran Shaq out of town and turned me against him.
That is until a few weeks ago when Andrew Bynum, my favorite NBA up-and-comer, collapsed in a heap of youth against the Memphis Grizzlies. After the promising start to last season, I figured I knew exactly what would happen. The Lakers would fold under Kobe’s selfishness, dropping from the top of the standings all the way to the eight spot, only to be bounced in the first round of the playoffs by Phoenix yet again. Man, do I hate the Suns.
But alas, my misery was short-lived thanks to another front office robbery, this time in the form of Pau Gasol. I liken what Mitch Kupchak did to Memphis’ front office to how the Patriots simply stole Randy Moss from the Raiders. Both players simply did not give it their all for teams destined for awfulness, and each has since been rescued. I’m not saying that Gasol is going to completely revive the skills he displayed early in his career as a Grizzly like Moss did this year in his record-breaking campaign, but I do have a guarantee: Gasol will show that he can be the man in the paint until Bynum returns, and when little Andrew suits up again, the duo will prove to be the most dominant pair of big men in the league.
The biggest reason this is a huge deal for the Lakers is that not only does the move instill fear upon the rest of the West, but Kobe is going to stay because of it. That’s right, I said Kobe won’t opt out. And not only will he fulfill his contract; he is going to re-up when it runs out and end his career in Hollywood. That is because a high-flying guard’s dream come true is two big men with the capability to dominate inside for 48 minutes for the entire season. Kobe already proved what he could do with one gigantic asset in the paint. Imagine what could happen when Gasol and Bynum get on the same page and start triangling their way through anything in their path.
It’s unfair to write this column without mentioning the shipment of Kwame Brown, but he is one of the few Lakers that I have hated with a passion in my lifetime. And I mean absolutely hated. He replaced my then-favorite member of the Purple and Gold in Caron Butler, who conveniently upped his game to an All-Star level upon arriving in Washington. When Kwame was sporting the dreads, I’ll admit a soft spot opened up in my heart for him. But as soon as he shaved them off, that was it. I didn’t even care about this year’s playoffs – all I wanted was to avoid seeing the ugly purple grape in a Lakers uniform anymore. Well, thank you, Mr. Kupchak. You gave me my birthday present four months in advance.
Tonight is the night. Well, by the time you read this, tonight will be yesterday and Gasol will already have made his Lakers debut. I’m not expecting big things from the Spaniard quite yet, but I do expect a win over the hapless Nets. Thank God my one season of taking crap from Warriors fans is over. Not only have the Lakers arrived, but they’re here to stay for the long haul.