Congrats, Lakers! It may not be the celebration anybody around here expected, but the Lakers have practically locked up second place in the Western Conference!
There’s that small inconvenient part where it won’t be official for another month, and they still won’t have home-court advantage over San Antonio, but that can all be found below in the fine print.
In fact the Lakers are on a roll, only a few days away from clinching the Pacific Division, even though nobody cares about winning divisions.
Wait. That’s not true.
The Miami Heat proudly displays all seven of its “division championships” with fancy banners hanging over the court at American Airlines Arena. Somebody should take a deeper look into that, uh, honorable tradition before debating less-important matters such as Erik Spoelstra’s job status.
And that’s a franchise that has actually won an NBA championship in the last five years. Please.
The Lakers put their own fans through plenty of hard times this season, even at home, where they lost to Indiana, Milwaukee and Sacramento.
And yet they still managed to find a buyer for a small percentage of their team, Patrick Soon-Shiong eagerly stepping up to purchase Magic Johnson’s share. Soon-Shiong believed in them. He knew a winner. He should be a shaman, not a billionaire biotech entrepreneur.
It took the Lakers more than four months to show up for the season, but here they are, finally acting like a team that plans on playing beyond May.
They’re still in this little battle for second in the West with the Mavericks, with whom they were tied in the standings at the start of play Tuesday.
Key fact: Dallas has played four fewer road games than the Lakers. Another key fact: The Mavericks begin a six-game trip next week. Final key fact: The Lakers just won in Dallas . . . at the end of a demanding trip . . . with a hobbled Kobe Bryant.
Who can argue with the Lakers’ success since the All-Star break? They’re 10-1 after falling on their faces in Cleveland.
It’s amazing what they’ve done since trading Andrew Bynum for Carmelo Anthony. Who would have predicted that Kobe and Melo would form such an incredible tandem and push the Lakers from the depths of Lake Erie to the hottest team in the . . . oh, Bynum’s still here? Even better!
A quick check of the box score from the Lakers’ drubbing of Orlando on Monday shows the 23-year-old blocked four shots (twice as many as Dwight Howard), had 18 rebounds (three more than Howard) and committed no turnovers (nine fewer than Howard).
If Bynum hasn’t formally arrived, he’s close enough that he gets the only quote in this space as the Lakers prepare to finish the regular season with 10 of 14 games at home.
“We want to win every game on this home stretch,” Bynum said. “That’s what we’re looking at. We have to win every game.”
I won’t argue with him. I sat in the second row at Monday’s game and saw him block Howard’s shot in the first quarter. Twice.
Bottom line: It makes things so much easier if the Lakers finish ahead of Dallas, especially for writers who cover them. It means less travel for the first two rounds, and wouldn’t you want everyone around the Lakers to be rested, including those who merely use digital voice recorders and laptops all day?
Besides, if the Lakers go belly-up before the NBA Finals, things could get really ugly around here, especially among the rich people. Soon-Shiong might even call up Magic and ask for a refund.