Lakers flags are fluttering on cars throughout the city. Stars want courtside seats. Scalpers are asking up to $8,100 for a ticket.
On Sunday the NBA playoff marathon begins for the Lakers and lasts until mid-June, they hope.
The Lakers have won 14 NBA titles since debuting in Minneapolis in 1948, including nine after moving to Los Angeles in 1960. They average a championship every 4.3 years.
But since the Lakers overwhelmed the New Jersey Nets to win the championship in 2002, there have been few successes for a franchise that refuses to acknowledge anything not ending with a victory parade through the heart of downtown.
This championship drought is the longest for Kobe Bryant in his career, who is in his 13th season with the Lakers, and the longest dry spell for Lakers coach Phil Jackson, in his 18th season as an NBA coach. They have been unimaginably successful in their careers, but they're feeling the seven-year itch.
"One year is too long for me," Bryant said when asked if seven years seems like forever.
Bryant can sign with another team in July if he decides to opt out of his Lakers' contract with two more years (and $47.8 million) on it. Jackson, 63, coping with a variety of health issues, has not said whether he will return next season.
Oddsmakers say the Lakers are favorites to win the NBA championship, but they were in the same position last June before suffering an embarrassing loss in the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics, their hated historical rival. With every new playoff season, however, comes a chance at redemption. Bryant, 30, is driven like few others to be the best basketball player, but his three titles lag behind modern-era luminaries Michael Jordan (with six NBA championships) and Magic Johnson (five championships).
Meanwhile, Jackson is tied with the late Boston legend Red Auerbach for most championships won by an NBA coach (nine), and has also been stuck in a basketball rut.
When his teams begin the playoffs, Jackson, always pulls out his most recent championship ring and wears it. It's a tradition for him — it's also become annoying.
"I've been wearing one now from 2002 through two other championship runs that failed and two other playoff attempts that didn't go anywhere," Jackson said. "I was thinking the other day, 'I've got to get rid of that ring.'
"It really has been a challenging situation for us. It's always great to be able to go to the playoffs and get to the Finals, but the biggest thing is to lose in the Finals because there's so much drama there.
"It's a huge disappointment. It's a disappointment that takes a couple weeks to a month to get over because of the hype that goes along with it, because of the adulation that goes to the winner."
The Lakers start the playoffs against the underdog Utah Jazz, whose own coach, Jerry Sloan, even admitted that "it looks pretty bleak" for his team.
The Lakers need four victories in each round, or a total of 16 wins to win the title. And, according to oddsmakers, they will meet the Cleveland Cavaliers and mega-star LeBron James in the Finals.
Last season the Lakers won 14 playoffs games, which led to a summer of self-doubt after they lost Game 6 of the Finals to Boston by a whopping 39 points.
This season, with the efforts of Bryant and 7-foot towers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, the Lakers had a better regular season record than every team in the league, with the exception of Cleveland.
But the Lakers aren't overly concerned with what happened over the last six months. They've turned to face the next two months, and the reality that anything less than a championship is a failure.
"With our standards, it is," Jackson said. "For the Lakers, having won a number of times, and probably the Celtics, success is measured in championships."
What if the Lakers don't have what it takes? What if they don't win it all?
"There's no 'don'ts,' " Bryant said crisply. "We're going to get it done. We want to try and get the title back to L.A. That's where it belongs anyway."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times