Just four years ago the Lakers were entering a training camp leading up to the 2008-2009 season. They had just come off a heartbreaking defeat against the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals and were focused on getting back to the Finals.
Fast-forward to the present and the Lakers won back-to-back championships in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons, failed to make it out of the second round the following two seasons, and although Kobe Bryant won another Gold Medal, he was no longer the primary option on the Olympics team; taking a backseat to LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Oh how time flies.
The Lakers are once again focused on bringing a championship to Los Angeles with the needed talent to do so, but gone are the days of Phil Jackson and the Triangle offense, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, and a youthfully talented team hungry for an NBA championship.
In fact, the only holdovers from either of those two championships are Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, and Gary Vitti (head athletic trainer) on the sidelines.
Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss somehow managed to reload this Lakers team, however, by adding superstars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, adding an exceptional talent off the bench in the form of Antawn Jamison, keeping likely key pieces such as Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill, and providing a capable backup to Kobe Bryant in the form of Jodie Meeks.
These off-season moves prompted Kobe to even declare this team “the best talent I’ve ever been around” on paper.
Lakers fans simply cannot wait to see the dream-like starting lineup of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard finally take the court together.
However, this team will be gone in a flash and become just a memory in a short amount of time.
How little time, exactly?
Bryant plans on only playing two seasons and then retiring, but I believe if the Lakers are coming off a championship in the 2013-2014 season and Kobe’s body is still holding up, he’ll sign a one-year extension. That would also be Steve Nash’s final contractual season, and likely the last season he would lace ’em up.
Pau Gasol and/or Metta World Peace may still be here, but that’s not a guarantee, either. As for Dwight Howard, he’ll likely still be here, and be poised to take over the reigns as the Lakers’ franchise player.
This basically means that this team should be together for two seasons, and if everything goes as planned, possibly even three seasons.
In either event, the Lakers are not the Oklahoma City Thunder where superstars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden will likely be together for many years to come and have the opportunity to dominate for multiple seasons.
No, this team as currently constructed will be gone so quickly it may almost not seem real.
So what am I saying, exactly?
Simply put, I’m saying to not take this team for granted.
Just as you shouldn’t take Kobe’s last two (or hopefully three) seasons for granted, you shouldn’t take for granted a team with four potential Hall-of-Famers. Sure, this has happened as recently as nine seasons ago when the Lakers pulled aboard Gary Payton and Karl Malone to join forces with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, but this team will likely have more than one season together.
Additionally, although this team has elderly starters just as that one did, Bryant and Nash are still playing at an extremely high level, and are still fiercely competing with their younger superstar counterparts. Add in Pau Gasol–who’s coming off an excellent summer with the Spanish National Team–and a youthful superstar/defensive monster in Dwight Howard, and this team has all the potential in the world.
There are sure to be highs and lows, showtime and drama, and triumph and defeat. But that’s what it’s all about. That’s what the Lakers are about.
Cherish every moment of this team because although the Lakers always seem to manage to pull the best talent to Los Angeles, talent such as Kobe Bryant doesn’t come along so often.
The beauty of the current arrangement, however, is that Kobe will be given the chance to go out with a bang alongside as he put it, “Defensive Player of the Years, MVPs, All-Stars.”
Four years from now (and likely less), it will all be over and just another memory.
The final chapter of the legendary “Kobe Bryant era” is about to begin. Just be sure to enjoy every minute of it because with all the new characters added, it’s going to be a great one–possibly even the best one yet.