The Los Angeles Lakers had a lot of expectations this season and have met precisely none of them. With a starting lineup of four likely Hall of Famers, the Lakers looked like a juggernaut that even the most conservative estimates pegged for 60 wins and a pretty good shot at winning the West. Instead, they've gone 15-20, fired a coach, and looked like an aging team in need of several dozen infusions of energy and togetherness.
It's been tough for players like Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, in part because there's a lot of pressure on all of them to succeed. But, according to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Lakers are seeing nothing like what the Miami Heat experienced in the aftermath of "The Decision" in 2010. From Joseph Goodman for the Miami Herald (via EOB):
James and [Dwyane] Wade had to chuckle Thursday when asked if the current scrutiny the Lakers are experiencing compares to what the Heat went through in 2010. Not even close, said the Heat’s stars.
“No one will ever be able to compare what we went through,” James said. “Even though they’re not winning and they’re losing a lot of games, it’s still nowhere near what we went through.
“Yeah, right. That level of magnitude was nowhere near where ours was two years ago. Nothing. Nothing compares to it.” [...]
The difference between the Lakers’ negative spotlight and the Heat’s scrutiny in 2010, according to Wade, was that Miami began the season fighting off potential distractions. The Heat’s celebration after signing Wade, James and Chris Bosh, plus James’ ill-conceived TV special ensured a rocky start for the Heat if it didn’t win immediately.
“Because of everything that happened in 2010 with offseason signings, it was, automatically, just a lot of negative things that was said about us,” Wade said. “[Los Angeles] didn’t go through that at the beginning. They didn’t go through anything negative about bringing those guys together, so ours started off bad and it stayed bad for a while, and then we got better.”
It's natural for the people who experienced a large amount of pressure to think that no other situation can compare, but James and Wade aren't exaggerating in this case. When the Heat went into the 2010-11 season, there was a huge amount of animosity that met their every move. The issue wasn't just that they had expectations, but that not meeting those expectations would reflect some kind of personal moral deficiency. Many people thought they represented the end of honest competition, or that LeBron lacked some essential personal motivation to become a winner. Those who hated him — and it was hate, not just disapproval — desperately wanted to see the Heat lose.
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The Lakers are not especially well liked by fans around the league, but there just isn't that same level of distaste for what they represent. We know that superteams take time to jell, and that their coming together this summer didn't represent some unholy moment in the history of the NBA. They're just a basketball team. There was an expectation that they'd be really good, but their failure to do so doesn't stand for anything broader. They're just not very good.
That difference is a good thing. Because while the Lakers are a different entity than the Heat, LeBron and Co. still teamed up to form a basketball team, not an evil conglomerate hellbent on world domination. Taking the Lakers for what they are shows some progress.
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