Expecting Victory: A Familiar Yet Fresh Feeling for Lakers

Almost all of Walton’s playing career was spent alongside Bryant, so Walton knows all about feeding off a superstar’s confidence and the greater expectations that come with it.

The current young Lakers—all of whom came to the team after Bryant’s retirement—will be getting schooled behind another curtain this season: James’ curtain.

They will see first-hand his tricks for turning potential losses into secured victories, and they will understand those tricks because James has never been shy about sharing knowledge. It’s why Ball already was referring to James as “like a big brother” Wednesday after just one preseason game on the same court, and they’ll have every day of this coming season to build their bond.

With that closeness to James comes additional stresses, of course. It’s one thing for Kuzma fearlessly to launch fourth-quarter shots last season when no tangible penalty in the standings exists; it’s another thing to make or miss in the clutch amid expectations of winning this season.

That is, however, how these Lakers will learn their truths faster.

It’s like going into a rave-reviewed movie all your friends have seen and hyped up to you. The expectations are there, so that movie absolutely has to be the real deal to live up to those expectations.

James and his teams have had the expectations, and they have almost always been the real deal—no matter the water pressure in that fishbowl.

For now, his arrival fundamentally raises the ceiling on how good the Lakers can or should be. It makes it natural to stand with your head held high, the air up there noticeably fresher. To have expectations that others cannot have brings a wonderful, optimistic, almost giddy feeling.

The popcorn is ready. It’s time to file into the theater.

The Lakers are expecting victory again.