Hours removed from a summer league championship, Magic Johnson made a bold declaration about the state of his Lakers:
“When Rob and I took over when Jeanie Buss hired, we strive for excellence. We wanted to talk about doing things the right way. We wanted to talk about winning and building a winning tradition. And it started with these young men tonight. Winning the Summer League. Then it has to carry over to our summer workouts and into training camp, exhibition season and into next season. So the Lakers are back, we’re going to try to build and grow.”
You hear that? The Lakers are back. Despite what’s happened in the last 7 years, despite how far they’ve fallen, the Lakers are somehow becoming relevant again. The young Lakers haven't done anything quite yet, but when you look at their roster this year, you might wonder something: could the Lakers actually be a little good?
Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and Brook Lopez is absolutely the best roster they've had in about 4 years. But what's even better could be the new front office that's taken over since Jeanie fired her brother. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have managed to stay out of scandal and gossip to actually do their job, which is a refreshing change. For the first time in years, the purple and gold can focus on basketball.
It looks like these rough times for L.A. fans will be over soon. But this progress didn't happen over night.
Back in 2010, if I would have told you that the Lakers would win a total of 91 games over 4 seasons combined, you would’ve never believed it. But since 2013, that’s been the Lakers reality. Rather than Kobe and Shaq, guys like Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill, Jordan Clarkson, and Robert Sacre have been donning the purple and gold, only to lose 50+ games a year while they were at it. Years of subpar seasons and lottery picks became the norm for a once glamorous franchise. For a while there, the glory days of L.A. seemed like a mile away.
And that's because it was. The magic, the beauty, the swagger of the Lakers was all gone. The NBA hadn't seen anything like it in its long and storied history. After all, the Lakers are probably the most famous franchise in the league.
But a disliked owner in Jim Buss paired with a GM (Mitch Kupchak) who had no idea what he was doing ultimately cursed the Lakers for many years to come.
And then Magic came back, both literally and figuratively. He took the reigns of a train wreck and promised to make it work again. His winning mentality brought a taste of the old Lakers culture back into the Front office. And from that culture, the team starting becoming something more, something better.
Things have changed for the better now. That mile wide ravine has been reduced to a few inches. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram have brought about a new age, one that contains something the Lakers haven’t had in years: Hope.
And while they may not be a championship contender in the 2017/18 season, the pieces are starting to come together. The excitement is building faster than it ever has before. Summer league games are selling out at a record pace, Lonzo Ball's name is in all the headlines, and the Lakers are getting their swagger back.
Finally, Lakers fans have something cheer about Finally, they don’t have to think about tanking and losing. The future is bright in Los Angeles, and Magic Johnson believes it more than anyone else. The city believes it too.
This warning goes out to all teams in the NBA: The Lakers are back, and it's only a matter of time until they are ruling basketball once again.