One of the tough things about covering (media) and cheering for (fans) a team like the Lakers comes from everything they do- good, bad, mysterious, and beyond- being filtered through a crystal ball aimed squarely at June. In other cities, it's about jockeying for playoff position, finding growth in players, or in the case of some franchises, marking days off the calendar until the '09-'10 season is, like Leno in primetime, finally allowed to die. There's stuff to do.
Here, we've been spent every day since October divining answers to questions that still won't be resolved for weeks.
I've tried to stay balanced, noting deficiencies in individual games and throughout the season, but not forgetting the Lakers are very, very good. Still, right now I'd favor Cleveland in a seven-game series, and don't believe the team has, for reasons in and out of its control, played up to its potential.
Today, NBA.com's Fran Blinebury explores the question of whether or not the worry and drama surrounding the team is just that, or something more substantive. The players, he writes, seem to believe its the former.
Says Pau Gasol: "We have so many media around us, following us. Obviously, when there's something that is unusual they make a big deal out of it and they try to start looking for reasons just to start things up. "But we understand what goes on with our team. We understand what it takes to be successful, to win ballgames. We're gonna go through slumps and bumps here and there. But I think right now we're at a good place."
Kobe Bryant: "We've got the trophy... Until somebody takes it from us, we're still top dog... We're not gonna be where we were last year. We're a different team. The simple fact that we added Ron makes us a different team, gives us a different identity. The way that we went about winning it last year is not gonna be the same way we go about it this year. We've accepted that. We understand that we'll have a different DNA... We don't worry about the drama. I think that's more entertainment, something for people to talk about, especially in L.A. People really get up in arms about a two-game, three-game losing streak. We know who we can be."
Derek Fisher: "I was telling some guys the other day, it's easy to talk about what we haven't done and you forget what we have done," said Fisher. "So far, in the last year plus, we've won 118 games and lost 35. That's not too bad. It sure isn't anything to worry about."
Not to say there isn't room for improvement-- all three have said so repeatedly throughout the year-- but clearly their confidence in the team outstrips some folks who have paid to watch, or are paid to write and comment.
So where do you fall? Are we in the media just rabble rousing drama queens, or have the Lakers taken themselves to a place where genuine fear is warranted?
As always, we want your vote, then your comments below.