Okay, so Luke Walton and the “baby” Lakers are off to a very pedestrian, just above .500 start, however, the fact that they’re winning–and the way that they’ve been able to get those wins has been enough to get the LA die-hards and hardcore NBA fans alike off their feet, declaring the young squad as more than just the old adage of a team that’s in the process of “rebuilding”–but a fun team, a team of the future. And perhaps to some, even whispers of: a return to form for the showtime Lakers? Two words: No Kobe.
— Frank Quaid (@frankquaid2) April 19, 2016
The Lakers won 17 games last season. A season in which a 37-year-old Kobe Bryant started in all of the 66 games he played mediocre in (save for that last one–60?! Are you kidding me?), and averaged nearly 30 minutes in those games. What does that mean? It means the “young core” (as they’ve been dubbed) of D’angelo Russsell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson didn’t have that much fun on the “Kobe farewell tour” that was the 2015/16 season. Coupled by the fact that their then head coach, Byron Scott, seemed to favor the old school ideologies that he grew up learning and standing by back when he donned the purple and gold, you had somewhat of a directionless team whose main goal was to see to it that one of the league’s greatest warriors went out the way he deserved– which led to the stifled growth of pretty much everybody else, and an offseason marked by more questions than answers.
Fast forward to November: What do you get when you add “Steve Kerr in training” Luke Walton, number two draft pick Brandon Ingram, and a roster sans number 24?
— Brandon X. Ingram (@B_Ingram13) August 9, 2016
You get the Lakers shellacking the Warriors and holding the greatest 3 point shooter of all time to zero threes. You get uncanny positive morale for a team that hasn’t had a a 30 win season in three years. You get lead ins on Sports Center. You get Nick Young playing defense. Nick Young!
— D’Angelo Russell (@Dloading) October 11, 2016
Undoubtedly, Kobe is one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and is certainly on that Mt. Rushmore of Laker greats–but dude was an absolute hindrance last year, and his teammates suffered because of it. Now that he’s gone, the babyfaced squadron can breathe, and although they’re only a few games into this season, it shows. For the first time, it’s up to them to cultivate a winning culture and bring prominence and pride back to Laker Nation, no more Mamba in their way. It still might take a few seasons, but it ain’t looking bad so far.