Last year, at the beginning of the basketball season, I wrote something that I thought for sure was a given: The Heat will Beat the Lakers in the Finals. (Shaun thought the Suns would make the playoffs…whoops)
Of course that was contingent on the Lakers making the playoffs, which, as of Wednesday morning, they wouldn’t.
I didn’t see this coming at the beginning of the year. I figured that an energized Dwight Howard and a certain Steven Nash running the show would fit seamlessly with Kobe and Pau Gasol out there in la la land. It should have been as simple as Nash coming down the court with the ball thinking:
“OK. What should I do this time? Should I lob an alley-oop to Dwight? How about a pick and roll with Pau, he’s good at that. Maybe I’ll beat my man off the dribble and get a layup myself. Ron Artest out there has been working on threes, maybe I can kick it out to him. Actually, I’ve got Kobe on my team, I’ll take this play off I think and let him shoot.”
Somehow it all failed. Nash injured his leg early in the season and missed nearly a month. Pau Gasol missed almost two months with a foot injury, and Kobe even missed a couple of games with a twisted ankle. But there were other issues for this seemingly unstoppable team: Mike Brown, the supposed defensive minded coach, was fired early in the year after only five games and Mike D’Antoni was hired to bring an up tempo pace to the Lakers. Yup, that same Mike D’Antoni that Phoenix fans ran out of town after falling short of the championship. D’Antoni couldn’t ever get it going with the Lakers, and aside from some wins over poor teams, They haven’t looked good the entire year.
Now here’s where the fun part starts for me, and my Laker hatred comes out even more. Due to the Nash trade last year, if the Lakers miss the playoffs, that means that the Suns get their first round pick (due to the lottery it could be pick #1, 2, or 3, but most likely it’ll be 14). However if the Lakers make the playoffs, the Suns then get Miami’s first round draft pick…all the way at the end of round one. So you can see the high stakes here: as per usual with the Suns, it’s an all or nothing deal.
If you’re not a Suns fan, you might ask, “Why do you hate the Lakers so much? They’re a good team and you’re just jealous right?” Well why do I hate the Lakers? It might be a bit of jealousy yes. No matter how good the Suns are or have been over the years, they have never been able to get over that hump of a championship, while the Lakers seeming have a chance handed to them every year. In the past 20 years alone they have gone from a couple of down years after the Showtime Lakers to getting the most dominant players of the 1990s in Shaq and trading a role player for a future hall of famer in Kobe Bryant within two years of one another. That lead to three straight titles. While the Kobe move was good scouting and a good basketball move, the Shaq move was solely a move that only the Lakers could have made. For years and years they have always gotten the best players because of their location and fame as the glamour franchise of the NBA. They got Dwight Howard this year, Pau Gasol in 2008, and there’s even a hint that LeBron James wants to go play there when his contract is up in 2014. There rarely is a time that they aren’t good. I really dislike them in the same way that I’ve always disliked the Yankees, Cowboys and Red Wings, they’re always good, and I don’t want to cheer for a team just because they’re good.
The real reason that I hate the Lakers so much are the fans. Laker fans in Los Angeles are one thing, they live there and cheer for the home team, it’s their right and I respect that. However there are so many…too many people here in my home city of Phoenix (HOME OF THE SUNS) that are Laker fans merely because they grew up when the Lakers were good. They like to rub it in your face that they’re a Laker fan. They point at their fingers and say “Where are your championship rings Suns fan?” They laugh at you when you have a good season or two, because they know they’ll get that next good player. It’s not that I dislike people for liking other teams, it’s the arrogance and lack of any respect that is shown by Lakers fans. For the most part, these are people who know little to nothing about basketball, and act like they’re experts merely because a team that has been successful is their favorite.
This is what made the years of 2004-2007 so sweet for me. It was a small, three year window, but I could go up to a Laker fan to talk basketball and for once, they couldn’t say anything back to me, because their best player scored 1 point in the second half of a game 7. (and it led to this highlight, one of the greatest in Suns history)
That’s what is making this year so sweet, even though my team is horrible. The Suns gave their best, most beloved player, Steve Nash, to the team that always gets the players they want, and somehow it’s not working out for the Lakers. It would be such sweet justice for me if the Lakers miss the playoffs, then end up winning the draft lottery, and the Suns getting the #1 overall draft pick that usually goes to the glamour team.
So, right now I’ve become a huge fan of the Utah Jazz. Going into Wednesday the Jazz have 1 more loss than the Lakers. If the Jazz finish the season by winning their last three games (2 against a bad team in Minnesota and 1 against a Grizzlies team that might rest its starters), that means the Lakers can’t lose again for the rest of the year with four games remaining. It’s not going to be easy for the Lakers to pull this off, as three of those last four are against playoff teams in the Warriors, Spurs, and Rockets.
The Suns have done their part, taking 2 games from the Lakers in a year when wins are hard to come by. I only hope the Jazz do their part and win the rest of their games. As I said at the beginning of the year, I was excited to watch this season unfold. Now I’m even more excited, but for a completely different, and much more satisfying reason. Go Jazz!