Jerry Buss just Broke NBA 2k13
“Gold or bust, bitch”
In four words Doug Collins both unknowingly and brilliantly described the mentality of sports fans across the country while simultaneously causing slight tremors across the the NBA blogosphere.1 In context the statement referred to the US National Team’s only hope of being considered a success, winning gold. This attitude seems to permeate deeper than the US National Team though. Fan bases across the country seem to view a championship as the only way to judge the success of their teams in the long run. Listening in to both local radio and talking about the Dwight Howard trade with a variety NBA fans it seems that it is viewed as just another smack in the face to so called “smaller market teams” who seemingly should just forfeit the approaching NBA season and let the Heat, Thunder, and Lakers battle it out for the title right from the get go. Despite all the voices in the sports world that want to tell you that your favorite team’s success hinges on how many “rings” they win, it just isn’t true. Sure I’d love if every sports league mirrored the NFL’s parity, but it isn’t going to happen. They are different leagues with different labor forces and marketing strategies. Do the Lakers have some sort of competitive advantage over the rest of the NBA? Simply put: yes. Is it going to stop me from enjoying sports? Fuck no.
The national media and fans from other cities will continue to mock Cleveland teams for their failure to win the ultimate prize, but honestly I don’t really care. The 90’s Indians and the LeBron era Cavs, the two best Cleveland teams of my young sports life, hold some of my favorite memories as a Clevelander, championship or no. It is about being entertained and teams exceeding expectations. After all, sports is entertainment. I hate to be that guy to tell someone not to take something so seriously. Investing emotionally in sports is what makes it fun, but when fans define a championship as the only true measure of success they set themselves up for disappointment. So get over your Cleveland sports insecurities. We aren’t the US National Team, we aren’t the Lakers, we aren’t the Red Soxs, and we aren’t the Yankees. “Gold or bust, bitch” need not apply to us.
I’m done ranting. Let’s talk…Lakers?
The over/under on Lakers regular season game I end up watching this season is probably at 60. This roster is the most compelling roster the NBA has seen in a while. That is saying something considering the outbreak of “Big Threes” across the league over the past few years, but this ensemble passes them all on the intrigue scale easily. The main reason being that a declining Kobe Bryant’s ego is involved, but I’ll get to that later.
The trade for Dwight Howard represents what now is surely considered the Lakers calling card, grabbing the best center in the league without drafting him. Owner Jerry Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak somehow managed to formulate a trade that sent a package to Orlando that would make the owners of poopsenders.com jealous.2 What is more remarkable is that Magic fans don’t even care about the pile of feces they received in return either; they’re just relieved to no longer be held hostage by “The Indecision” that plagued both the Magic front office and Howard himself.
LeBron was bashed world wide for “The Decision” and Howard will have his fair share of critics on how he handled the end of his tenure as a Magic player, but honestly even casual fans of the NBA should be rejoicing. The Heat have drawn big finals rating which doesn’t happen without pulling in the casual fan, and I suspect the ratings of a Heat/Lakers finals would give David Stern a throbbing erection that could rival any of the US OlympicRower’s. Who could blame him? Fans say they hate these super teams, but then tune in to basketball like they haven’t in at least a decade to watch them compete.
Adding to the intrigue that is the 2012/2013 Los Angeles Lakers is that their window for a championship, at least with this big four, is slight. Kobe is becoming more and more limited in what he can bring to the table, Nash needs his minutes precariously handled to get all-star play from him, and Gasol will not be a Laker much longer. They won’t dominate the NBA for five or six year period so I’m not worried about watching them win title after title inciting ridiculous conversations all across the country about how maybe Kobe is better than Michael. Overexposure to aforementioned conversations will surely result in me committing Seppuku.
As for how this team will play out on the court it all really depends on how they play close games in the playoffs and if they can learn to share the basketball. This team will surely excel on the offensive end for the first three quarters, but I can see them then coming apart in the fourth quarter of close games. Kobe hero ball, that though I still love to watch, is not this team’s best shot at a championship. Nash has to be the one with the ball in his hands late. This team will have some holes on defense and thus they can’t afford to waste offensive possessions in the playoffs. This team has too many options to put the ball in the hands of the best chucker of all time.
In the weeks since the trade I’ve repeatedly been told that Dwight Howard will cover for both Bryant and Nash’s defense on the perimeter. This is a gross oversimplification of how basketball works. Now, I’m not saying that Dwight Howard will not make the Lakers better at defense, but this Lakers team is going to have flaws on D and I’m not going to gloss over them.. This team is going to struggle to defend against the three, which Miami used to absolutely butcher a much more athletic and taller Oklahoma City team. Just because an opposing guard penetrates doesn’t mean they are going to chuck up a shot with Dwight closing in on them. They are more likely going to pass the ball out, let it swing around the perimeter, make the Lakers aging backcourt rotate and close out the three, and thus resulting in a wide open threes. The Spurs, for example, are offensively made to deconstruct this current Lakers team. Unfortunately for Spurs fans they don’t have anyone to guard Howard.
Lastly, I feel obligated to mention that Mike Brown is coaching this team. I don’t know if I feel bad for him at this point or what. The guy has been in over his head his entire head coaching career and now he’s been giving the keys to this beautiful mess. I don’t think he is a terrible coach, but I’m not sure what he’s done to been given the opportunity to coach two of the top five NBA players during their primes. 3. Adding to this enigma is that the man who can’t coach offense has been given Steve Nash to run his team. If I was Mitch Kupchak I wouldn’t even allow Nash and Brown to communicate with each other just as a precaution. If they have even a five minute conversation Nash might just end up pounding the ball for 18 seconds of every shot clock and chucking up a bad jumper every time down the court as Brown looks on with that scrunched confused face he tends to get when his team doesn’t listen to him. I was all for giving Brown a pass for the poor offense sometimes seen late in the 4th quarter when he coached in Cleveland, until I saw his post game comments on Artest passing to Steve Blake for a missed game winner during the playoffs against Oklahoma City. He actually was upset that Artest did not pass to Kobe who, as can be seen in the video, was all the way across the court and completely covered. From that point on I could no longer make excuses for Brown. I’m ashamed it took this long. It’s clear he is a good defensive coach, but it is also clear he is not someone who can consistently get through to NBA superstars and have them run anything that resembles an actual offense.. If I was a Lakers fan he’s not the person I’d want at the wheel, but as a spectator I couldn’t be happier with him as the pilot of what is now the best reason to stay up late on the east coast come October.
- Editor’s note: There’s been a fair amount of dialogue on this now infamous quote about whether or not Doug Collins said “Gold or bust, bitch” or “Gold or bust, Fitz”, which is what he referred to his play-by-play partner Bob Fitzgerald throughout their Olympic men’s coverage. Most likely it was the latter, but I have to admit (and I still have it recorded and just watched it again), in the live broadcast it really did sound like he said “Gold or bust, bitch”, …and since it’s far more interesting and Joe and I and the rest the world agrees it’s much funnier, we’ll go with that. [↩]
- Yes this is real, they will anonymously send animal feces to people’s houses for you. [↩]
- Kobe, I’m not talking about you [↩]
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