Opening night for the Lakers in my house hold is always something special. I wake up extra early in the morning for no good reason at all other than the Lakers are playing. I’m loud, I wear my L.A. gear proudly, but most importantly I’m down right annoying that day, I could see why someone would wanna avoid me. Yesterday was no different than any other year. I treat that like Christmas around here, if you aren’t on the same wave length as me that day then you can keep that negativity from around me. I haven’t been this excited for opening night in quite some time, and that’s for many of reasons. This marks the first time in my life that I will witness the NBA without Kobe Bryant, and I know what you’re thinking, “You’re excited that Kobe is gone? What kind of fan are you?” After last nights game and how mature those young guys looked? Yes, I am absolutely ecstatic.
If you would have asked me before the 2014 NBA Draft if I was excited for life after Kobe I would have hit you with a swift HELL NO. But after the basketball gods sprinkled some luck our way and the man child known as Julius Randle dropped to the Lakers at #7 and Mitch Kupchak pulled off a slick trade by bringing Jordan Clarkson over my opinion started to differ. There was this little feeling of hope, some sort of light at the end of this bad tunnel the Lakers franchise was traveling at that point. Something that L.A. fans hadn’t felt in what felt like an eternity.
Fast forward to 2015 and the Lakers land D’Angelo Russell with the 2nd pick and this is where that feeling starts to change. Remember that light at the end of the tunnel? It started to look like the sun was directly in Laker Nations face and it was directly lighting up the next 10 years in Tinsletown. Not to mention they added Larry Nance Jr.in the same draft, if you haven’t seen this guys highlight videos go ahead and do your googles and just marvel at his natural athletic ability. It’s down right scary what he can do and I feel like nobody outside loyal Laker followers are really aware of what this guy is capable of. Like I said earlier, this was the point where I started to really think about the Lakers future post Kobe. I was as happy as Terio was in this video, RIP to Vine.
It wasn’t until I saw Brandon Ingram late in his only collegiate season at Duke that I started to put two and two together. Once Kobe leaves the Lakers we’re going to have a starting PG in D’Angelo Russell, starting SG in Jordan Clarkson, plus, two young Forwards in Nance and Randle that the Lakers can build around for the next 5-10 years. If you add Ingram to the 3 spot you have a young core as talented, if not more, than any young team in the league. I started weighing out the options and once again the Lakers had to jump through hoops to even be in the position to draft Ingram because of their pick being protected. The Lakers couldn’t get lucky once again, could they?
Yup, little baby Jesus blessed L.A. and bestowed the 2nd pick in the draft to the franchise for the second year in a row. It all started to feel like this was somehow bigger than any of us, bigger than the game of basketball. It all started to feel like this was fate, like this was meant to be.
Not only did the Lakers continue their great draft day success they’ve enjoyed for the last three years by adding the adding future Super Star in Ingram but they grabbed a diamond in the rough in Ivica Zubac. This young center can bang down low in the paint. There is nothing really flashy about his game but he has heart, he hustles and brings it every single night.
Not only are all these guys great young talent but they all seem to be happy to be Lakers and be apart of bringing the franchise back to prominence. They all seem to have a sense of pride that they are apart of arguably the biggest brand in the game of basketball, not too many young guys can handle that kind of pressure, especially under the bright lights of Los Angeles. I mean, isn’t that the kind of guys you want to take over the franchise when the greatest Laker of All-Time just retired? Wouldn’t Kobe want guys as proud and hard working as he was during his career? I heard a lot of people say that Kobe’s last year was detrimental to the growth of the young guys but I don’t agree with that. Just think about it, you don’t think they picked up some of his habits? His mannerisms? The way he conducts himself in the spot light?
I’ve talked to a lot of Lakers fans in the last couple of years and there is a sense of ease and excitement coming into this season. For the first time in 20 years Los Angeles has a new face(s) of the Franchise. It’s crazy to think that three years ago the Lakers looked like they were going to be setback for the next decade. Now, they’re on the brink of surprising everybody in the league that hasn’t been giving them their credit.