Now that we know the identity of their opening opponent in the NBA playoffs--the Portland "We Haven't Won Anything in 20 Years" Trail Blazers--I know that some of L.A.'s fans must wonder whether I believe the Lakers have a chance to win the championship.
Yes, they do.
And here is how you can help:
Wear gold to the games.
Gold shirt, gold shorts, gold earring, gold nose ring, gold Kareem souvenir jersey, gold Dolly Parton wig, gold Deion Sanders doo-rag, gold tattoo, gold chain, gold Planet Hollywood jacket, gold halter-top, gold Madonna souvenir bra (worn on the outside), gold thigh-high Julia Roberts boots with five-inch heels (also OK for men) . . .
We need all the help we can get against the Trail Blazers, who are 3-1 against the Lakers this season. I can't promise you a Laker victory in that Rose Garden. So, we had better hold home court at the Forum. Wear your gold.
I don't care if it's a 1957 pair of Elvis Presley's pajamas. I don't care if it's O.J. Simpson's 1967 USC football pants. I don't care if it's a 1977 Rogie Vachon hockey sweater. Even if it has mold, wear your gold.
Make a statement.
Just last week, we saw how the Mighty Ducks gave credit to their fans for wearing white. A "sea of white" helped them win their Pond games, said the Ducks.
I have never seen so much white clothing, outside of a cruise ship.
But who am I to argue? It worked. The Ducks were inspired by fans who wore white and waved white towels. Coach Ron Wilson even needled Disney's main mouse in the house, Michael Eisner, about not wearing white to Game 1. Well, sure enough, Eisner's outfit for Game 2 was as white as Donald Duck's derriere.
Therefore, the Lakers should do likewise.
I usually hate gimmicks--and Laker teams usually don't need them--but a little superstition couldn't hurt. Coach Del Harris has had his share of bad luck this season, injuries and all. Del would dye his hair blonde, if he thought it would help.
That's why I want to urge Forum fans to do their part. The NBA playoffs open here Friday. If the Lakers don't get off to a good start, the coast could be toast.
The fans can help.
Don't be so nice. Heckle the opponent.
(Portland's fans chanted "Beat L.A.!" at Sunday's game. No fans in NBA history have ever chanted "Beat Portland!")
Make more noise. Be on time.
(If the game begins at 7:30, here's a tip: Be there by 7:30.)
Pay attention. Know when to be quiet.
(If the Laker Girls are dancing, go ahead and talk, because the music will drown you out anyway. But if Shaq is trying to shoot a free throw, shut up. He can't concentrate if he hears you on your cell phone, cutting a three-picture deal with Tri-Star.)
Things won't be easy for the Lakers, because many of the Western Conference teams are on a roll. The Utah Jazz won more games than anybody but the Chicago Bulls. The Phoenix Suns recovered from a rotten start. Even the Minnesota Timberwolves won more games than the 76ers and Celtics did combined (Hell officially freezing over).
As for the Lakers . . .
Shaq is baq. This is the good news. Without him, the Lakers didn't stand a chance. But suddenly the Bulls look vulnerable--Michael J has misplaced his J--and the best team in basketball might be the Heat, whose coach knows every floor board in the Forum.
However, it is a team like Portland's that could fluster the Lakers most. In the season-ending game Sunday, we could see how tough the Trail Blazers could be. Eddie Jones was treated by Isaiah Rider very physically. Shaq wasn't able to overpower Arvydas Sabonis the way he does most. Nick Van Exel constantly found Kenny Anderson in his face.
But in the end, the Trail Blazers did beat L.A. . . . again.
Portland hasn't won the NBA since Bill Walton was quiet. But this Blazer team looks good, so wear something gold. Anybody who wears red, you better have a good excuse.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
NBA PLAYOFF SCHEDULES
Lakers vs. Portland
SERIES AT A GLANCE
* Game 1: Friday at Forum, 7:30 p.m.
* Game 2: Sunday at Forum, Noon
* Game 3: April 30 at Portland, 7:30 p.m.
* Game 4: May 2 at Portland, TBA*
* Game 5: May 4 at Forum, TBA*
* if necessary
Clippers vs. Utah
SERIES AT A GLANCE
* Game 1: Thursday at Utah, 7:30 p.m.
* Game 2: Saturday at Utah, 5:30 p.m.
* Game 3: April 28 at Sports Arena, 7:30 p.m.
* Game 4: April 30 at Sports Arena, TBA*
* Game 5: May 4 at Utah, TBA*
* if necessary
PLAYOFF BRACKET: C6