With Kobe Bryant making a return from an Achilles injury and Pau Gasol looking… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
At first glance, the rebuilding Lakers will make you cover your mouth in shock.
No Dwight Howard. No Metta World Peace. No Earl Clark. No new coach. No defined ownership. No clear plan. No Showtime. No Lake Show. No Bench Mob. No way in heck are you going to rush home from work on a Tuesday night in February to watch the fourth quarter of their game in Atlanta.
But now wait. Look at what is left. Look at what has been added. If you really look at it, when you slowly remove your hand from your mouth, you might actually be smiling.
In losing some of their hype and much of their hope, the Lakers gained something that has been missing in the three years since the final moments of Game 7 against Boston.
These Lakers could actually be fun again.
There is a little chance they will make the playoffs. There is a decent chance they will stink. There is zero chance they will play any defense. But with something to prove and nothing to lose, they are almost guaranteed to entertain.
The theme will be Waiting for LeBron. The goal is still to get into position for a decent pick in one of the top drafts in recent history. The journey is still to nowhere. But it's going to be a blast watching the ride.
Just listen to the Lakers' minister of fun, Robert Sacre, the towel-waving cheerleader and occasional center who was thankfully re-signed for three more seasons, joining Steve Nash and Nick Young as the only Lakers whose contracts extend beyond next spring.
In a phone call from the Las Vegas Summer League on Thursday, Sacre was downright bubbly about how this team is going to be a blast.
"You know that scene in 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' where they just come out with guns blazing?" he said. "That's exactly what we're going to do. Nobody thinks we can do anything, we have a lot to prove, and we're going to come out with guns blazing to prove it."
With eight expiring contracts on a roster coached by a guy who could also be in his final months, we're talking about a lot of Mike D'Antoni-manufactured smoke.
Kobe Bryant, for one, will be nuts. He is playing not only for a new contract, but an extended career, and he'll initially be trying to do it on one foot. Can you imagine?
Pau Gasol will also be frantic. He is playing not only for a new contract, but also a new team, as he will surely get trampled in the Lakers' projected 2014 free-agent gold rush. This will essentially be a one-year tryout, and if that doesn't make him pound someone, nothing will.
Jordan Hill will be the same dreadlocks-flying Jordan Hill, trying to make it rain. The new Jordan Farmar will be the old Jordan Farmar, trying to return to the league. Chris Kaman will be sprinting out of the post to his next payday. Wesley Johnson will be shooting to change the perception that he's a highly drafted flop.
Nick Young has two years on his contract, but he'll be gunning from midcourt because, oh well, he's Nick Young.
They're not going to be very talented, but they're going to play really fast, maybe even fast enough to make Steve Nash forget that during the middle of the season, he will turn 40.
The scores will be outrageous. The results will be crazy. They'll give up 105 points a game. They'll win some games by scoring 120, lose some by scoring 60, and occasionally maybe even pull a monumental upset of the Clippers in triple overtime with Bryant shaking his fist in Doc Rivers' face.
"We hear a lot of things about what everybody thinks we will be, but I'll tell you this — we're going to have fun, and we're going to try to win games," said Sacre.
When asked about the idea that their fans wouldn't mind their losing enough games to have a better chance at a good lottery draft pick, Sacre laughed.
"I've been around Kobe Bryant enough to know, that's not how you're supposed to think, and that's not how we're going to think," he said. "All we're going to care about is winning. There will be no choice. The lottery is the last thing on our minds."
First things first. There is still one missing piece that could turn this season into an MTV reality show. The Lakers still need to add one more guy burdened by his past and fighting uphill to complete this Cirque du Staples crew.
Bring back Lamar Odom, please. Promise him a seat on the bench in front of the Mad Dog.