LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Lakers finally unveiled the franchise’s 17th NBA Championship at Staples Center on Wednesday night, and LeBron James took the opportunity to target 18th.
“We said we’ll only be showing this banner if we’re sitting, guys, so this is the guys’ moment, ”James said as he spoke into the middle court microphone before winning LA 124-122 against the Houston Rockets. “It was our ring at night; we wanted you there, but we wanted to make sure we all saved the banner.
“So, we love you guys, and the round trip starts in about a week. So, let’s get started.”
The victory over Houston kept LA’s hopes alive to avoid a play-in tournament where they have to fight supernova fans like Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, or possibly Memphis Grizzlies led by Ja Morant or James -t. ‘old final nemesis, Gregg Popovich and San Antonio Spurs.
If the Lakers close the season at 2-0 this weekend against the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans and either the Portland Trail Blazers finish 0-2 in Phoenix or the Denver or Dallas Mavericks 0-2 in Toronto and in Minnesota, LA, the 6th place finisher will be featured in the playoffs. If both the Blazers and Mavs finish 0-2, the Lakers will be in 5th place.
The Lakers coach Frank Vogel said before the game that it is possible that in the second half of the season, his list will be completely healthy and available for Saturday’s game in Indiana.
“It’s obviously exciting to get everyone back, to put our team in a completely healthy state,” said Wesley Matthews, who preserved the victory against Houston with Kelly Olynyk’s late defensive strip. – And from there we’ll see where we are.
Matthews, who had contracted with LA as a free agent in the offseason, was nowhere to be seen during the banner ceremony, staying in the locker room to pray.
“I felt like it was for them,” he said. “And I, my fire is burning, my hunger is burning to raise another flag.”
Nearly five months ago, the Lakers held a traditional ring ceremony on the opening night of the 2020-21 season in December, but it lasted to reveal the league flag until LA County COVID-19 restrictions were lowered so fans could be admitted to the building.
A Lakers spokesman said approximately 4,000 fans took part in Wednesday’s game, well below the Staples Center’s 19,000 capacity at the Lakers ’games, but more than double the 1,915 fans present against the Boston Celtics on April 15 – the first match fans were released. .
James shared the central court with the Lakers governor Jeanie Buss. Resting on the table between them was the Larry O’Brien Trophy from the team’s 2020 league title, which they won in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida.
“We’ve been waiting until now because our headlines have always been about our fans,” Buss said. “It’s great to hear that you’re together and you’re together again in the family. We’ve won our trophy; players have a ring. The last undertaking to commemorate the 2020 NBA Championship is to honor our fans with the ribbon.”
The Lakers, the team spokesman said, hopes to continue to increase attendance capacity in the off-season while working on state and local coronavirus policies.
James, who missed the sixth straight game due to a twitch in his right ankle, wore a baseball-style hat, dark green pants and a black sweater. When he finished speaking, Lakers longtime announcer Lawrence Tanter counted back to “3-2-1” and the black cloak was marked with the message “Stay Tuned, Lakers Family,” which had removed the league’s banner since it was opened. .
The Queen’s “We are the Champions” accompanied the arena’s sound system to accompany the moment.
Anthony Davis, also in street clothes and due to the tightness of his loins in the game, used the microphone to complete the foreplay ceremony.
“How it feels,” Davis said. “I never thought I’d hang one of these banners, man. And it’s all because of you guys. It’s all because of you, the continued support for me, my teammates, the coaching staff.
“Before the break when you were admitted to the building. Even as we went to the bubble, we came in every night and saw on the screen that you were happy for us. And that means a lot to us. And without you guys we wouldn’t be able to pick up this banner, and this trophy could not be behind us.
“So I appreciate you, and as Bron said, let’s get started and try again.”
It’s not yet determined how much James and Davis will play over the weekend, or if Dennis Schroder is cleared of the league’s health and safety protocols, or if Alex Caruso’s sore right leg will feel good enough to join them.
But in the three-match winning streak, the Lakers sound like they can’t wait to see how it all happens in the future – playoffs, playoffs, whatever.
“Honestly, damn fun,” Kyle Kuzma said. “Honestly. For us, the season was a challenge. There were rotating parts, people in, people out, COVID protocols, people who weren’t healthy enough to play. We all had to figure it out on the go. … … I think it’s okay. we will be. “