Lakers

Lakers’ In-Season Tournament Win Means Something

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Twenty-nine other teams may call it just another game in December.

They’ll compare it to the Bubble ring. They’ll do anything they can to discredit the legitimacy of winning the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament.

But this win means something.

Call it fan bias. Call it basking too much in the present moment. Call it what you want. Watching the Lakers hoist up a trophy elicits a profound passion into a fan. As it did with the 17 prior to this one (two of which I consciously remember).

It’s not the privilege of rooting for a team with 17 titles, though. It’s the journey preceding Saturday’s win, the process of getting there, and the benefits that come with winning something this early in the season.

THE BUY-IN

Thirty teams were given the same opportunity at the beginning to win this In-Season Tournament. But only few dedicated their time to buying in and competing for something that matters like the Lakers did — and it all started with LeBron James.

James’ willingness to not only personally adopt this mindset, but spread it around the locker room is what separates him from the many players that came before him. If you’re able to lock in and compete for something in early December, it’ll translate in the latter months when winning becomes more necessary.

What it really is, is an overarching example of how important James has been to this Los Angeles franchise. His unrelenting commitment to competition is setting a precedent for how players should be treating this tournament in the future.

It’s truly emblematic of the winning mentality that Lakers fans idolized in Kobe Bryant.

But this win is more than an 83rd game that doesn’t officially count.

THE LOCKER-ROOM MORALE

Winning feels good. Ask any franchise employee, player or fan. The euphoric feeling of winning runs through an entire team and its fans. If you ask me, any team that came out on top of the In-Season Tournament is a more unified team than they were coming into it.

The Lakers got to experience a playoff atmosphere and play in high-stakes games early in the season. They planned, practiced and competed for seven games en route to a perfect 7-0 IST record.

The chemistry that a team makes over the course of a title run is unmatched, and the Lakers bringing back most of the core that made it to last season’s Western Conference Finals gave them one head start.

LAL now has another advantage that few teams have — a stretch that saw high-stakes games, playoff-like preparation and what it feels like to win something that no other team won. That’s what this win means.

SENT A STATEMENT

The Los Angeles Lakers, 14-9, hadn’t had the most ideal start to the season, playing around 20 games without a fully healthy roster. However, key rotational players like Jarred Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura and Cam Reddish returning gave the league a taste of what an almost-fully-healthy Lakers squad looks like… and it’s scary.

This win sent a statement to the entire league that the association’s preeminent franchise is back in contention.

Instead of mocking the legitimacy of winning this tournament, teams and their fanbases should heed the fact that there’s a contender… no, a juggernaut… in Los Angeles. Although there’s a much more important trophy to hoist in June, showing the league that they are the best team during the season must be noted. They’re only going to get better.

This win told Lakers fans directly that their Lakers are back.

Like I said, seeing your team win any type of trophy elicits a distinct emotion in you, and I felt that. Forget the 17-title privilege and forget having one of the greatest players of all time on the team. Winning feels good. And if you, as a fan, love the feeling of winning, you understand that… this wins means more than just another game in December.

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About Connor Moreno

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