Can the NBA season start already? If you can’t wait, then read on, but be forewarned there are spoilers ahead!
Can you believe it? That doesn’t look like a long time when you write it down, but it feels like a long time when you have to wait for it. The Los Angeles Lakers tip-off their 2019-20 regular season in 26 days.
It wouldn’t be right to say this is the most highly anticipated season for the LAL ever. It’s not. I mean, this is a franchise that has won 16 Championships. This is a franchise with a staggering 26 former players enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. This is a franchise with high expectations year in and year out. This is no more a highly anticipated season for the Lakers than the upcoming SNL season is highly anticipated for Kenan Thompson.
When you excel at something consistently over years the anticipation wanes.
But therein lies the rub for the Purple & Gold. The last several years have not been about excellence, but frustration. A fan recently responded to a tweet about Frank Vogel’s chances to lead this Lakers team to greatness. In their reply they perfectly encapsulated the last few years of Lakers basketball from a fans perspective.
I really hope he can handle the Lakers and that we can finally say we have a true basketball coach after all these insufferable years.
— Andressa 🤘🏻🤘🏻 (@chikane89) September 20, 2019
No, this season isn’t any more anticipated than any other for the most celebrated professional basketball team in Los Angeles, but it is a season with a lot riding on it. As loyal as the Lakers fan-base is, they are collectively growing more and more tired of what has been a dysfunctional team in recent years. Lakers fans are not used to talking to younger fans and reminiscing about the “good ole days”. Every day, every season, is supposed to be a good ole day for the Lakers! When the franchise added LeBron James, expectations were high and not met. Now, by adding Anthony Davis expectations are once again high.
Highly anticipated has been replaced by cautious optimism and guarded expectations for Lakers fans as they await their teams upcoming season. Surely, the Lakers won’t miss the playoffs with both LBJ and AD. Surely, expectations will be met this year. Surely, this team will jell quickly. They will be relatively injury free. Surely, this is the season it all comes together. I mean, right?
While the alliteration I’m about to share doesn’t flow as nicely as Clippers Crystal Ball, the outcome will be the same as what was presented earlier for the LAC. In short, an opportunity for all very patient fans of the Purple & Gold to take a sneak peak at the outcome of the first 10 regular season games. Let’s call it, Lakers lookup.
I know, not strong, but it does the trick.
Game #1 – on the road @ Los Angeles Clippers
No two teams in the history of the Association have been more connected and less competitive than the LAC and LAL. For decades, the Lakers owned the Clippers. In fact, every team in the NBA had their way with what was a fundamentally flawed franchise. Over the last few years however the tables turned and it has been the Clippers enjoying success over their stadium roommate. The 2019-20 season is a first for the two franchises in that both come into it as favorites to win it all.
Make no mistake, Los Angeles will be rocking on Tuesday night, October 22nd when these two powerhouses tip off!
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they drop the first game of the 2019-20 season. The Clippers return a core group that doesn’t need time to come together as a team. The Lakers will need time to move from great individual players, to a a great team of players. You have to be a team to beat a quality club like the Clippers and the Lakers simply won’t be there for game one.
Lakers start 0-1.
Game #2 – at home against the Utah Jazz
The Jazz are a good team. Some would say a quality team, just like the Los Angeles Clippers. We have already established that the best way to beat a quality team is to move from great individual players to a great team of players. The Lakers will not have made that transition after one game, so the outcome against the Jazz might look a bit perilous. However, one great ace-in-the-hole when you aren’t quite ready to compete against a great team and still want to win is the energy of a great crowd.
This will be the Lakers first home game of the season and the crowd will be energized. No, I’m not saying that the crowd can win a game for a team. I am saying however that the energy of the crowd when combined with the talent on this team coming off a loss will be enough to carry them to a win.
Lakers now 1-1.
Game #3 – at home against the Charlotte Hornets
Michael Jordan was one of the greatest to ever play the game. As a franchise chairman however, he’s been challenged. The Hornets haven’t been good under his leadership and will take another step in the wrong direction in the 2019-20 season. This game will be a coming out party, of sorts, for AD. He has a monster game as the Lakers win their second in a row.
This is the game where Los Angeles gets to see that the real NBA Unicorn wears Purple & Gold.
Game #4 – at home against the Memphis Grizzlies
This game will take a backseat to the ongoing drama around Grizzlies player, Andre Iguodala. After trying unsuccessfully all off-season to trade the unhappy player, the Grizzlies were ready to admit defeat and eat a spot on the roster for as long as needed to prove a point. Iggy hadn’t been with the team to start the season and wasn’t on the bench to start this game.
The calls from Lakers executives to the Grizzlies had been ongoing for some time however. Those discussions all game to a head hours before the game with the Lakers and Grizz agreeing to swap the disgruntled player for a second round pick. In a stunning moment for a franchise accustomed to them, Iggy walks out in sweats and dramatically unzips them to show his Lakers jersey. Imagine a Superman-esque unveiling!
Nice thought, but no, that doesn’t happen. Sorry.
Lakers do win however. So there is that. Lakers now off to a nice 3-1 start.
Game #5 – on the road against the Dallas Mavericks
As exciting as the LBJ and AD pairing is,and it is very exciting, the Mavericks have their own impressive duo. Luka Doncic is the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year and Kristaps Porzingis has skills on par with Anthony Davis. While LBJ and AD have experience on their side, the Mavericks pair is young, Porzingis is 24 and Doncic is only 20! If they can stay healthy and are allowed to grow together those two can form the foundation of a very good Dallas team for years to come.
That is then however, this is now. Lakers win and are off to a respectable 4-1 start.
Game #6 – on the road against the San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio basketball team has been good for a long time. They have been good when they had no business being good. It’s as if the playoffs are their birthright; they seem to always make it. This year will be a challenge however. While Gregg Popovich remains, the stars that regularly suited up for this team are, well, they aren’t the same. DeMar DeRozan is a star, but he just didn’t seem to click as a Spurs player. LaMarcus Aldridge is in the downside of a great career. Derrick White doesn’t seem ready to make that jump. This team might make the playoffs in the coming season, but barely.
Somehow however, Pop works his magic with this very un-inspiring Spurs team and leads his team over the Lakers at home.
Lakers drop to 4-2.
Game #7 – on the road against the Chicago Bulls
The last game of a road trip is often times a tough battle. Road weariness sets in and jet lag is a real thing, even if you fly private charters. The Bulls however won’t put up much of a fight. This Lakers team begins to develop a personality; they don’t like to lose games! They showed that by winning four in a row after starting the season with a loss. Now, they beat the Bulls after suffering an unexpected loss to the Spurs.
Things are looking good for the Lakers who are now 5-2.
Game #8 – at home against the Miami Heat
Jimmy Butler has found a home! The best part of being a Heat fan is the realization that your team plays in the East. That doesn’t necessarily mean what it used to when you consider the defending champs are from the East and the reigning MVP also plays on that side of the Mississippi. However, the drop off from those elite teams to teams like the Heat is pretty pronounced. The Heat will likely win more games than they lose in the coming season. They will have flashes of excellence. They will not however beat the Lakers in game #8
Lakers improve to 6-2.
Game #9 – at home against the Toronto Raptors
We just talked about the defending champs, now here they are! Lakers players and fans alike are ready for this game. It is an opportunity to see how far they have come over the first few weeks of the season. It marks the first game against a quality opponent since Game #2 against the Jazz. Fans were ready for this one, Lakers players were ready, the LA spotlight was bright as the game tipped off. The problem for the Lakers was that the Raptors were also ready.
Tired of hearing how the title they won was a one-off, the Raptors came out of the gates motivated. This is a game dominated by the team from Canada early. Despite a valiant comeback effort by the Purple & Gold the win goes to the defending champs. The Lakers suffer their first home loss and drop to 6-3.
Game #10 – on the road against the Phoenix Suns
The Suns and their fans do not enjoy the same advantage we earlier attributed to the Heat. Unfortunately for them, they play West of the mighty Mississippi. For years the West was the home of the better basketball teams in the Association. Some teams in the East, as mentioned earlier, have caught them however and can safely call themselves elite. One constant in the West however is that it’s a tough place for a team that’s good, but not great. Teams like that get beat up West of the Mississippi. The Suns will be, once again, good, but not great.
The Lakers take this game on the road and finish the first 10 games with a very respectable 7-3 record!
Now, you might not be all that impressed with a 7-3 start to the 2019-20 season. But, consider this. A 7-3 season will be the Lakers best start to a season since the 2010-11 season when they came out of the gates at 8-2. That season they won the Pacific division and made the playoffs.
Jose has written for Bleacher Report, Clipperholics, OC Weekly and wrote a series of articles covering the 2010 NBA Finals for the LA Times. He lives in Southern California and is excited to watch thePeachBasket grow!