Under the Lights: California dreaming

The team that provides the most pleasurable rooting experience in sports today is not a contender for any kind of championship this season. It does not feature anything close to a real superstar, a player who can transcend the entire experience of watching a team with their remarkable acts of athleticism on the field or court. The team whose fans are feeling the best right now isn’t even expected to make the playoffs this year or even to really come anywhere close.

This team is the Los Angeles Lakers. Yes, those Los Angeles Lakers. The same team that has won 27, 21 and 17 games respectively in each of the last three seasons as one of the worst squads in not just all of basketball, but in all of sports, is now the most fun team to root for in the NBA.

After three straight years with no real direction, an aging and increasingly awful superstar (Kobe Bryant) and a coach who wouldn’t give anyone but the washed-up veterans who had “earned their stripes” a chance to succeed (Byron Scott), the Lakers revamped this offseason. The franchise brought in fresh face Luke Walton to be head coach and drafted promising 18-year-old Brandon Ingram.

The results have been staggering. The Lakers have gone from a team whose “offense” consisted of standing around the perimeter and watching a washed-up Bryant fire up contested midrange jumpers to a fast-paced, free-flowing group whose play actually resembles what modern NBA basketball looks like.

Potential future stars D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson have all seen their efficiency and stats surge from last year, each showing glimpses of being more than just players with potential.

The Lakers are at a shockingly good 6-5, but the best part about rooting for them is that wins and losses are essentially irrelevant. After dipping to such lows in the last three years, showing some signs of competence is enough. And these Lakers have blasted through those modest expectations, shooting a disproportionate dose of joy straight into the veins of a fan who hasn’t watched anything like this since I was in middle school.

And I get that being a fan of a great team like the Cleveland Cavaliers, which is just rolling through teams right now on its way to victories, would be awesome right now. But for the Cavs, it’s championship or bust. As sweet as the feeling of holding a championship trophy is, anything short of a Finals triumph in June will lead to a great sense of disappointment for Cleveland fans.

Lakers fans simply aren’t beholden to that feeling of being let down right now. A win feels great, but a loss is fine too, simply because the bar has been set so low and what lies ahead is so bright. Instead of worrying about the present, us Lakers fans can dream about the future. And that’s about as good as it gets.

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