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Lakers Nation, I Believe

2016 December 9

• dEDGE Post Scriptum •

Purple and gold streamers rain down on a shrieking over-capacity Staples. Confetti is blasting through the air adding an even more dramatic flair to this storybook ending. The roar is deafening and the arena is blinded by paparazzi-like flashes from the throngs of mobile phones. Beat writers rush over to the side of the savior, rail thin and reed thick yet wiser and more skilled than anyone had ever imagined. The coach, cool and confident, stands tall and proud just outside of the media scrum. And an older warrior, once the measuring stick for all who dared follow, his dual jerseys displayed prominently high above the crowd, beams as his franchise once again stands head and shoulders above all the rest.

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Okay, maybe not this season or not even next… but I can finally say with all sincerity that we are on our way! Luke Walton has not only transformed these young, pliable Lakers, he has reenergized an entire organization and its fan base. The failures and shortcomings of coaches Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni and Byron Scott are clearly exemplified in comparison to what Walton has accomplished. He’s done far more with far less talent than anyone since Phil Jackson’s departure. I admit, I willingly “drank the punch” each and every season falsely hoping for better times to come. And each year, my renewed optimism was replaced with more heartache and dismay. When I felt we had hit rock bottom, the ensuing season proved that there was a floor much lower.

Luke’s approach to coaching is part Zen Master, a sprinkling of Pops and a dash of Lute Olson thrown in for good measure. His demeanor on the sidelines is Phil reincarnated—steady and unemotional, providing an even keel through the highs and lows of the game. His strategy is direct and hands-on—to exploit and take advantage of an opponent’s weaknesses while emphasizing his team’s strengths and advantages. His mentorship is solid yet approachable—keeping tabs and establishing milestones for the young squad, yet respectful and empowering of his veterans to share their input and leadership. With this, Walton has commanded a total buy-in from the locker room to the upper 300′s of Staples Center to the outstretched reaches of Laker Nation and beyond.

Brandon Ingram is a star in the making. His recent play is more aggressive and assertive compared to his first few weeks in the league. Imagine him in a couple of years… D’Angelo Russell is a modern day NBA point guard. He’s capable of either dishing the ball or scoring on his own. Imagine him after a full season under his belt… Julius Randle, everyone’s favorite trade bait earlier in the year, has suddenly surpassed his expectations and become a solid double-double machine. Imagine if he continues to improve… Larry Nance, Jr. is still ascending higher and higher. Even Timofey Mozgov seems like a reasonable piece to fill the middle. The Lakers are lacking some star power to elicit any real comparisons to Showtime, but I do like what I see.

Instead of false hope, we have real, tangible Ws in the win column. Instead of hoping for the best, we’ve got a coach that is demonstrating how chemistry, teamwork and sacrifice can work. Instead of counting down the days until next season, we’re looking forward to our next game. I believe again and more importantly, Lakers Nation is back!