Kobe Bryant waves to fans lining Figueroa Street during the Lakers victory… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)
At a time of partisan squabbling, here's one thing Laker fans believe will mark a show of unity.
Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace will all get along.
At a time of economic uncertainty, here's one thing that leaves Lakers fans unconcerned about money.
Despite harsher luxury taxes and revenue sharing on the horizons, the Lakers still devoted $100 million to payroll.
At a time of skepticism over our nation's future, here's one thing leaving Laker fans optimistic.
The purple and gold will win the 2013 NBA championship.
Based on a series of poll questions, there's very little sapping the enthusiasm of Laker fans. There's an 87% majority of fans who say the Lakers' title chances are already a foregone conclusion. A 38% plurality simply gush over the Lakers' overwhelming talent in the Lakers' Fantastic 5 starting lineup. Even 50% believe the Lakers will collect 64 to 72 wins, meaning many expect the purple and gold at least to be within striking distance of matching the Chicago Bulls' 72-win record set in the 1995-96 season.
Does this blindly reflect the reality that a majority of NBA executives told Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick that the Miami Heat will beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals? Does this show Laker fans aren't buying the claims from Miami's Chris Bosh and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durantthat the Lakers only look better "on paper"? Does this illustrate the entitled attitude Laker fans have in expecting everything will work out in their favorite team's favor?
But based on the poll results, it seems like they're aware of the potential pitfalls ahead.
With Bryant's knees, Nash's old back, Howard's surgically treated back and Gasol's high basketball mileage, a 48% plurality admit concern on whether this veteran-laden roster can stay healthy. As a runner-up, 20% of fans believe finding the right chemistry could become an ongoing challenge. There's also a healthy dose of skepticism whether Lakers Coach Mike Browncan handle such stars. If the Lakers don't win a championship, 17% of fans believe it's because Brown didn't know how to fully use his talent.
Meanwhile, a majority of Laker fans know that overcoming such challenges will also require going through both the Thunder and the Heat. An overwhelming majority consider Oklahoma City as the Lakers' main Western Conference threat (89%) and Miami as the Lakers' main Eastern Conference threat (89%).
Still, Laker fans believe they can overcome such issues.
Even with a star-laden team, a 55% majority believes the Lakers will play as a team because pick-and-roll specialist Nash will run the offense. Even with a 45% plurality predicting Bryant will defer more to the talent around him, 62% think he'll still remain the Lakers' best player because of easier looks and his leadership presence.
Orlando Magicfans still wonder if Howard will ever mature. But almost 50% of Laker fans believe his amazing talent mixed in with a better supporting cast will ensure a more mature attitude and a dominant defensive team.
Both Gasol and World Peace fought inconsistency last season, but Laker fans have plenty of reason to think that won't be an issue this year. About 56% of fans say the evaporating trade rumors and the Princeton offense will help Gasol play a larger role with more confidence and focus. About 51% of fans also believe World Peace won't be as wildly unpredictable. World Peace has slimmed down to 255 pounds this season, and many believe he will have way too many wide open shots for them not to go in the basket. And after remaining a strong lightning rod for criticism in past seasons, the Lakers' bench has suddenly earned rave reviews. With Antawn Jamisonjoining the Lakers at the veteran's minimum, 72% believe his career double-digit scoring averages will make him the team's top reserve.
Will this unyielding optimism ensure that everything turns out as planned? Who knows. That's why they play the games. But Laker fans have seen their team experience such great fortune with 17 NBA championships, that it's hard for them not to envision continuous glory. As they've seen countless times, the Lakers tend to work things out in time to collect another Larry O'Brien trophy.
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