HBO: Winning Time season 2 episode 2: The New World

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. Photograph by Warrick Page/HBO
Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. Photograph by Warrick Page/HBO /

Episode two of Winning Time focuses on the pre-season of ’81. While the Lakers may be world champions they are still not the face of Sports Illustrated and a lot of anger and hurt comes along with that. The team will have to prove even more that they are the face and the future of premier athletics.

It is hard enough to stay at a peak level after winning a championship and going into another season to try and repeat that task. But the press out in the west do not make their job any easier and Paul Westhead lets it get to his head.

Winning Time season 2 episode 2 recap

As always there is more drama surrounding Magic Johnson. The story behind the Lakers being interested in David Thompson in exchange for Norm Nixon is realistic and Magic Johnson was very much behind the trade. Westhead believed Magic was becoming a little too sure of himself and his position as a player. Westhead wanted to back out of the trade just for the fact that he didn’t feel respected enough as a coach. Westhead doesn’t think they need Thompson. Nixon is doing a great job but Pat Riley thinks they could get many more years and star power with a player like David.

When looking at the bigger picture like repeat championships Thompson is the guy you want to get. Ultimately Westhead goes against the trade but does it in an incredibly unprofessional way. The ball never really got rolling because of Westhead’s pride. The more time that goes by the more you see being the Lakers head coach was not a great fit for Paul Westhead. He may have learned a lot from McKinney but the boys seem to respect the assistant coach Pat Riley way more. There is more trust there and Westhead comes off a little flighty. Where Riley connects deeper to the players as a former one.

Magic Johnson having such a rise in fame so young in his life brought many challenges. He is a man who always means well but his competitive spirit can come across as an arrogant disaster. He’s earned his right to be cocky but he has not earned his right to act like he is the team. He had one phenomenal year of making the all-star team and helping the Lakers get a ring. Kareem is never afraid to put the young gun in his place. Because of Magic’s level of greatness but also immaturity he needs a role model he can look up to before he lets his head overrule his heart which can lead to the possibility of losing everything.

Winning Time: The locker room drama

The locker room friction came at an all-time high and was starting to create too much of a toxic environment for the team. They had all had enough and forced Nixon and Magic to squash their beef with each other or they could kiss any chance they had at a repeat of last season goodbye. Even making them have one of the most awkward hugs I’ve ever seen on television. Hard to say if it will make them find some kind of brotherhood yet.

In Winning Time season 2 episode 2, the audience can sense the tidal wave that is about to come for Westhead. The disagreements between players and coaches cannot continue to go on. A coach and star player have to be in the same cohesive unit and understand and respect one another. But above all, they must have trust and believe in each other. All that is lacking at this stage of the game and I’m not sure how much longer this can continue to go on.

Riley is a better fit for this offense. Westhead very much believes in his systematic offense. Almost believes in it a little too much. It was McKinney’s bread and butter and the reason why he just became coach of the year for the Pacers out in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, for Westhead, this is not Showtime. And not what the fans come to see. A systematic offense is not flashy and not made for players like Magic Johnson who can take the game over at any moment when it’s needed for the team to thrive.

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. Photograph by Warrick Page/HBO
Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. Photograph by Warrick Page/HBO /

Not only was there conflict between Magic and Westhead but there was a battle of power between head coach and assistant coach. Westhead is trying to solidify the power he holds as the Lakers head coach. Reminding Riley that he is the assistant and he needs to act like it. Riley had taken magic under his wings to do some extra workouts.

Deep down he knows that Magic may not have been ready to come back but with some guidance from a man who has been through it, Riley knows he can help. And I see nothing wrong with what Riley is doing. That’s what coaches are supposed to do. But Westhead is angered when Riley keeps the information from him and feels that the balance of power is shifting. Westhead has gone from being a modest man lucky to be in the position to an ego-shaken coach trying to desperately hold onto a position that wasn’t meant for him.

The team did well in the previous year because Westhead and Riley worked so well together. They were put in a situation where they had to work together and it became like magic. Now that Paul’s head has swelled that magic is fading. He went on to hire extra assistant coaches claiming that a lot of teams are doing it now. But it’s a smack in the face to Riley and feels more like punishment to him than an act of professional basketball.

Winning Time: The heart wants what it wants

Jerry Buss has been away from the team chasing after his old flame Honey. We could say she’s the woman who got away but you’d have to ask yourself which one? He wooed his old love who is very apprehensive at first but he breaks her down after a while. Honey gives him confidence and a sense of nostalgia. Meanwhile, his children remain at each other’s throats even after the gifts their father has given them. Jeanie may be the only child he has with brains at this point. Which is crazy when you think about it because they were afforded the same opportunities. Boys will be boys I guess.

One of my favorite characters this season has to be Jerry West. I’m not sure how humor-filled the real Jerry West was in the front office but in Winning Time he carries a no-nonsense attitude and leaves no emotions unturned.

Sadly the on-court and off-court drama with Magic will not end with Nixon. You get the feeling that the drama will fester and not completely go away. Nixon isn’t his only problem there is the continuing battle of leadership between Magic and Karen Abdul-Jabbar.

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