The Lakers are back?
If they made it to another Media Day, they made it back from the summer, anyway.
Don’t laugh. Some seasons around here, that was an issue, like 2007-08, when Kobe Bryant, who had spent the summer demanding a trade, swore privately he wouldn’t report and didn’t say anything publicly until showing up that morning.
So, as far as actual news from Monday goes, all these Lakers showed up!
Of course, in today’s talk-show world, it’s important to foretell outcomes that won’t be known until events play themselves out over months….
Actually, everyone is sure the Lakers will be good, no one knows how good.
Somebody I know has already said that, and someone else will say that, too, assuming they win opening night. People here have been doing it as the Lakes missed by 13-5-13-28-25-36-14-20-12-14-3 in the last 11 full seasons, while winning five championships.
What’s the problem?
Laker culture is no longer the all-out Pat Riley style, but the relaxed Phil Jackson style. I’d guess they’ll be good during the season, then better in the post-season.
How do you know they’ll be good, then?
This isn’t like bringing LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami. aside from the hysteria. That was no easy trick with ‘Bron and Dwyane Wade, the same player stylistically, both used to having the ball.
This is one of those happy instances where all the pieces fit, as when Kevin Garnett, the long-missing big man who keyed the defense, and sharp-shooting Ray Allen, who spaced the floor, joined Paul Pierce, the No. 1 option, in Boston.
Bryant will be Bryant… except it will be easier than it ever was with the ball in Nash’s hands and the entire defense no longer eyeballing Kobe.
Dwight Howard will be the presence around the basket, on defense even more than offense.
Andrew Bynum was actually a superior post player, with a complete repertoire of jump hooks, turnaround jumpers and range out to 17 feet.
Howard is more active defensively, aside from being the better bet to stay healthy even before Bynum left to have a “procedure” on his knee.
If Howard didn’t want to be second fiddle in L.A., Dwight just spent a season establishing his reputation as a knucklehead and can’t afford any more pratfalls if he wants to go down with the all-time greats.
The big question is, how did this happen?
It didn’t look as if it was in the cards last June when owner Jim Buss suggested they would bring back last season’s team in an interview with the Los Angeles Times’ T.J. Simers.
The Lakers looked like they were out of moves.
The 2011-12 season had been a wall-to-wall disaster: David Stern spiking the deal for Chris Paul, returning Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom…. Odom going to Dallas for a No. 1 pick after NBA officials said they wanted picks for Paul, not Lamar… which became meaningless as the Clippers waltzed off with CP3…. while Orlando pulled Howard off the market.
Worse, Dwight had crossed the Lakers off his list, leery of walking in arch-rival Shaquille O’Neal’s shoes and Bryant’s you-go-rebound attitude, and wanted only to play alongside Deron Williams with the Nets.
Nash who was barely on the Laker list, gave no indication he was interested, closing in on a deal with the Knicks… until turning to them at the very end.
When Nash thought about the Lakers, he thought of the @#$%^&!s he fought uphill against for years.
On the other hand, with custody issues after his divorce, the @#$%^!s were only an hour’s flight from his kids in Phoenix.
“At the time, it was difficult to think about coming to the Lakers because of the history I had, playing against them.
“But the No. 1 reason I couldn’t pass the opportunity up was my children. It was so close to Phoenix.
“And frankly, that was the tipping point, that decided me on coming to the Lakers. But since then, I’ve become increasingly excited about the opportunity.”
Howard was still trying to get to the Nets—which now required Orlando to trade him, with Dwight having just given up free agency by opting in, just to get everyone off his backside, before remembering he didn’t want to be in Orlando.
So, after a nightmare season, Dwight’s summer was off to a bad start, too.
The Magic was willing to move him, but demanding. The Nets finally cut off trade talks and re-signed Brook Lopez, taking themselves out of it until January when he could be traded for Howard.
Happily for the Lakers, Howard didn’t want to wait until January.
With Bynum, the Lakers had the seven-foot piece to make a deal happen, even if it took the 76ers and Nuggets to make it work.
Howard, coming off back surgery, won’t be ready opening night — but this isn’t one of those rump-session 60-game seasons, so they’ll have time to catch up.
Of course, the only thing that has to work on Media Day is your mouth, Dwight served notice he was ready for that.
If this is still Kobe Bryant’s team, it’s now Dwight’s party.
For tough-minded pronouncements of where they are and what they must do, Kobe remains the Laker spokesman.
For everything on the light side, which we all appreciate as the season grinds on and we get tired of hearing the same, tough-minded pronouncements… h-e-r-e’s Dwight!
Howard didn’t need Media Day to announce himself. He didn’t even need the media, appearing on Ellen Degeneres’ show where he told the host he thought she was “sexy” since hearing her voice as Dory in “Finding Nemo;” did the Gangnam Dance; and imitated the solemn, deep-voiced Bryant’s reaction to hearing Dwight’s rehab was going well.
“That’s good. I need you at 100%. Trying to win a ring. Talk to you later. Bye.”
As to SportsCenter’s ongoing obsession with clues from Media Day, suggesting whether the Lakers will realize their greatness….
They play six months worth of games to figure that stuff out, and that doesn’t even start for a month.
Heads, the Lakers live up to expectations, galvanizing a huge audience of fans, and a far greater audience of haters, and SportsCenter wins!
Tails, the Lakers crash and burn, providing even more entertainment for the greater audience of haters… and SportsCenter wins!
In the good news, the Lakers are indisputably back and everyone’s indisputably delighted to see them, except in Oklahoma City and San Antonio.
Noted Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer after issuing the standard disqualifier (“The Los Angeles Lakers want to remind you that NBA champions aren’t created in the summer”):
But really, really scary starting fives sure are.
Mark Heisler is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops, LakersNation and the Old Gray Lady. His power rankings appear every Wednesday during the regular season, and his columns and video reports appear regularly here. Follow him on Twitter.