Still Riding With The Lakers

They are built for this.

Jim Rome
July 01, 2020 - 11:32 am
Rob Pelinka

USA Today

Categories: 

In the final weekend before the NBA shut down the season, the Los Angeles Lakers looked like absolute monsters. They beat the Bucks by 10 in a game where LeBron had 37 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists on a Friday night. Then they came back on Sunday and beat the Clippers by nine in what was supposed to be a Clippers home game.

I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a statement weekend in early March in the NBA, but if there was, that was it.

And then everything shut down. And we haven’t seen the Lakers on the floor for nearly four months. And when they do take the floor again, they won’t be the same team. Avery Bradley won’t be there. Dwight Howard may or may not be there. JR Smith will be there.

And now they are looking at the possibility of spending months in a hotel, away from their families. AND As GM Rob Pelinka laid out in a conference call with reporters, that’s not that simple.

"Have I had nights at dinner where I’ll look over and my 10-year-old daughter has tears in her eyes and I ask her why and she says, 'It's because daddy could be gone for 3-and-a-half months'? Yes, that stuff is part of this. But I think she understands the bigger picture."

It’s not just a matter of showing up in Florida and picking up where you left off in March. Guys will have gone months without playing together and in some cases, without playing at all.

So it’s not just a matter of getting LeBron and AD out there and just rolling the ball out and dominating the way they did in that weekend in March. As Pelinka points out, there’s a lot more to this.

"We have put a ton of thought into the mental part of this journey. It is going to be as much as a physical grind as it's going to be a mental grind. And I think the mental component might even be more paramount. And so, yes ... We have mental wellness people on staff here and we've been working with them on developing a protocol to address some of the concerns that are going to come up from an extended time away from family or an extended time living in a city that's not your home."

Initially, when the plan was announced, it might have been easy for fans to think that this was going to be easier than a normal postseason. You get to stay at a resort of a few months, play some golf, some ping-pong, no doubles ping-pong, though. And just hang out. It’s like being on a cruise ship without the water or the boat.

But think about being on a cruise ship for three months or more. I don’t care how many ping pong tables there are, that ship is going to get old. Really, really old. And it’s going to feel like you’re trapped there. It is going to be a mental grind. And the team that succeeds doesn’t just need talent, they need toughness, mental and physical toughness.

You can see why a lot of guys might not be looking forward to it. But I know one guy who is.

I am talking about Alex Caruso. Because if I could, I would talk about Alex Caruso every single day. All day. 

Because when we’re talking about Alex Caruso, we’re talking about a guy who went undrafted. We’re talking about a guy who played for the 76ers in Summer League, then went to OKC, and then joined the Lakers summer league team the following year. He was a two-way player and now he is a legend.

And as he told ESPN, he is ready to go. He was made for this moment.

"For me, I'm looking forward to it, just because I think I thrive in situations like that where you gotta get gritty and you kind of have to tough it out, you know, stuff that's not status quo and it's not normal."

When you’re grinding it out for the South Bay Lakers, playing in tiny gyms around the country, going to Disney with the LA Lakers is an improvement. No matter what.

"Obviously, I'm not looking forward to the situation and being hot and humid in Orlando and not seeing my family for that long of a time. But, you know, given the challenge, I'm kind of ready for it."

In other words, all you other players who were drafted and went straight into the league, you think challenging situations are your ally? You merely accepted the challenging situation?. Yeah, well. I was born in it, built for it.

This is a guy who does stuff like this

And this

And this

And if you think I was looking for yet another reason to roll my Alex Caruso montage, you’re damn right I was. And you should be too. Because we all need more Alex Caruso in our lives right now. And from the sounds of it, we’re about to get some. And it could be better than ever.

Because as he declared last night, “the best for me is years to come.”

Hell yes. You know what, Laker fans, you have my permission to fly your car flags out the window of your home right now.  Yes, Avery Bradley was a big loss. Yes, you might not have Dwight Howard. Yes, the Clippers are a beast; and a threat. But the Lakers still have LeBron. And they still have AD.  But just as importantly they till have A.C.; Alex freaking Caruso: and he was built for this; and the best of hi is yet to come. I’m still riding with the Lakers.