The pressure to be great.
Great expectations coming from both parties. Fans and foes.
One team Vs. twenty-nine others fighting for the same goal.
There are no allies.
The Los Angeles Lakers are alone in their quest to defend their title.
A great title, but a curse.
They are on the top with many trying everything in their power to make them fall from glory. Aiming and hoping for their leader to finally break down and pass down the torch.
That is going to be the atmosphere starting next season for the Lakers. Other teams trying to permeate their defenses to exploit their weaknesses in their efforts to defeat them.
On the other hand, fans are going to expect nothing less than amazing. If they don't have the best record of the NBA next season and win another ring, next season will be viewed as a failure.
The bar is set to the highest level, but can the Lakers meet or even succeed their expectations for the people who believe in them and most importantly for themselves?
Their intentions are there.
The Lakers front office is trying their best to meet their needs. The gain of Ron Artest. The successful negotiations with Lamar Odom.
They have certainly improved on paper. How about on the court?
I cannot answer that question with a definitive tone, just yet. I have not seen how the Artest swap changed the Lakers chemistry. Better or worse.
What I can confidently answer is that they have to improve significantly if their goal is still the same from the previous season; a championship.
Their point guard situation is iffy.
Derek Fisher is a veteran. Meaning his body can't take the numerous offensive fouls he attracts every season. His body is going to crumble eventually.
Jordan Farmar has to fully embrace his role as a point guard next season. He needs to take his game to the next level in order to balance out the Lakers offensive and defensive game.
The same goes for Andrew Bynum, Sasha Vujacic, Adam Morrison, Shannon Brown, Josh Powell and D.J. Mbenga. The leaders of their team, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Derek Fisher, can't play in their highest level each and every game and expect them to have energy left for the playoffs.
That's not practical.
An ideal season for the Lakers includes those players to increase their efficiency, not the other way around.
Since the team is built differently than the team that existed a few seasons ago. The Lakers are not as dependent on Kobe as they used to be. This means that Kobe's numbers and minutes on the court are expected to go down.
If that fate does happen, it would be a great opportunity for those players to improve and get some much needed experience. They need to do the best with that opening if that were to happen.
After all, Kobe is only human...okay, an above-average human being blessed with superior skills in the game of basketball. A human, nonetheless.
Kobe came into the NBA pressured to be great. He had some huge shoes to fill after Michael Jordan left.
He was always on the spotlight, good or bad. The dynasty years, the rape charges fiasco, and the rebuilding of the once formidable Lakers.
He was conditioned from day one to handle pressure. To carry a whole franchise.
In another light, maybe that's the reason why Kobe is great under pressure, but that's for another article.
His team needs to spread out the responsibility. Kobe was in a way, the perfect protection from the media. It used to be when something went wrong for the Lakers; a loss of any form, he was the main target of blame.
Now, the other limbs of the Lakers team needs to feel the burden he still feels. By doing that, the whole Lakers organization can finally handle the pressure of greatness and make that a fuel to their purple and gold fire. A flame strong enough to have the potential to take them to their wanted destination.
The NBA Finals.