Column: Lakers looking up again

E9: What you wouldn’t believe about sports.

Sam L. Jaime

Sam L. Jaime

Sam L. Jaime, Reporter

It feels like an eternity when thinking back on the last time the Lakers won it all. Since that epic game seven against Boston, the Lakers have gone through six head coaches and failed to make the playoffs in two straight seasons. That has made being a Laker fan an abysmal nightmare. Since the 2014-2015 season, the Lakers have amassed a record of 42-126.

That means heading into this season, the Lakers had totaled enough wins over three seasons to have barely even made the playoffs this past year.

The hiring of Luke Walton as head coach seemed to produce a groan from many Laker fans, considering his long, mostly uncompelling tenure as a Laker. Yet, when Luke was hired, it felt like a fresh start and a new direction. The early return on his tenure has been wonderful. The team is galvanized under Walton’s guidance; players have said they would “run through a wall” for him.

That dedication to the program, to the organization, and the message Walton is transmitting can only translate to great basketball. The once lackluster play that cost the Lakers so many late-game leads and blowout losses, has been polished into a purple and golden treasure. Sure, the team remains a far cry from the “Showtime Lakers” of old, but that comparison has always fallen short. Instead, the Lakers show signs of something truly magical.

I remember sitting in a bar at fisherman’s wharf in San Francisco about four years ago, watching the Golden State Warriors play the San Antonio Spurs.

At that time, the Warriors were not the powerhouse of late, but a struggling team, taking up a spot in the Western Conference. But what I saw told me, the Warriors were on the verge of something great.

I could sense it in the way they moved the ball, their heart and hustle, and a focus on getting the most out of their rotation.

I see a lot of similarities between that upstart Warrior team and this young Laker squad. The energy and confidence they exude is telling, even this early in the season. It’s a joy to watch Laker games again, whether they win or lose. To see them play with this level of focus, creates a different type of fandom. It feels like an underdog type of love.

There is obviously still a very long journey ahead on their road back to the promise land of NBA title number 17 and beyond, but this glimpse of progress has become a foundation for the regrowth of a sense of relevance for the Lakers. This young, mostly untested core will continue to grow and mature with the help of veteran players like Metta World Peace, Luol Deng, and José Calderón.

I remember when the last Lakers dynasty arose from the doldrums of the late 1990s. It took players who had been there before, players that some considered past their prime, to maturate the Lakers into the team that won consecutive NBA titles to begin the millennium.

I’m not saying Metta World Peace is A.C. Green, or Luol Deng is Glen Rice, but it’s hard for me to look away as something big is being built in Los Angeles.