Understanding Lakers “playoff” talk

Ever since the Lakers’ offseason came together in ways we wouldn’t have thought possible only months ago, the question surrounding the team has been giving me the following reaction:

Look, I’m all for optimism. It’s fun. The Lakers might actually be fun to watch. That being said, “fun” should be enough. Except, it isn’t. For whatever reason, the goal has to be nearly unattainable. And the worst part: It’s coming from people who should know better.

Which begs the question: Are there ulterior motives?

Look back on those mentioning the postseason. First, Mitch Kupchak brought it up. Then, Kobe Bryant echoed those sentiments. Even former players have joined the act, with Jamaal Wilkes going as far to say they have a “very real” chance at making the playoffs.

The last one could be a former Laker excited that the franchise he won titles with might no longer reside in the NBA’s cellar. The first two, though? Shouldn’t Kobe and Mitch understand what expectations can do to perception?

I know, those of you who have read almost anything I’ve written will say “great, here’s Anthony preaching about expectations again”, but this is public relations 101. Like Dan LeBatard likes to say: Under promise and exceed expectations. It’s the easiest way to keep fans happy.

But what if the franchise doesn’t want the fans to simply be happy with progress? What if they’re interested in something more than that beyond this season and aren’t necessarily comfortable with the coach who may not be well-equipped enough to get them there? This is purely speculation, but isn’t the best way to ensure pressure publicly to do the opposite of what I lined out above?

So, if they aren’t stoked to have Byron leading the way as the Lakers’ young core takes shape, why not apply some pressure publicly by mentioning the playoffs? By riling up the fans before the season knowing the team will probably come woefully short of said goal, who else might be to blame but the bumbling coach helplessly crossing his arms as if the world around him is spinning and his sides are all he can hope to cling to? It seems crazy, but it’s late and “True Detective” makes me extremely cynical.

The other, much more logical explanation, is that we are months away from the season and, honestly, there isn’t much else to say. By setting such a lofty goal, players might start to believe in themselves in ways they might not if those around them start mitigating expectations before their training camp jerseys are even printed out for them.

Either way, though, I’m fine with realism. Sure, everything could break perfectly and the team could surprise beyond all our wildest dreams. Such a scenario taking place becomes all the sweeter if we don’t head into the season thinking it might be worth expecting.

Even if my conspiracy theory is correct (it probably isn’t), doesn’t the thought that the Lakers hired someone they would eventually head into a season with as a lame duck feel kind of… I don’t know… Empty? I’m by no means a member of Byron’s fan club, but this scenario — just like the show that made me consider it — sucks.

So, let’s just take the offseason for what it was: Pretty successful, all things considered. By extension, let’s enjoy this season for what it will be: Fun.



Author: Anthony F. Irwin

The old guy.

Leave a Reply