I love LA!?
I am a die-hard Warriors fan and I think the Lakers are going to win the NBA championship. It has taken hours of therapy to get to this point but I am finally secure enough to say it. (I guess I was secure enough to say it at the start of season when I predicted it). There are three primary reasons I like the Lakers to win the NBA championship and none of them have to do with their recent undefeated road trip.
Reason #1: Chemistry
In this age of “we need immediate returns”, many analysts and experts have forgotten that basketball is still a team game. David Stern has done his best to make it about individuals, but the fact of the matter is individuals win MVPs and teams win championships. When the Lakers acquired Gasol in the middle of the season last year, everyone (including me) thought that Lakers team was destined to hold the trophy in June. They almost did, but an amazing comeback by the Celtics in game 4 took the wind out of their sails and – at least in my opinion – they did not know how to react to the adversity as a team.
(Don’t give me the Lakers won game 5 BS. The Celtics mailed that because a) Stern told them too and B) they knew the Lakers had ZERO chance of taking two from them in Boston)
The circumstances are different this time around. Gasol and the gang have now been together for a full year which has given them the time to gel. As anyone who has played basketball knows, if you cannot rely on your teammates to help on defense or knockdown an open shot, you have no chance of winning. The trust is there for the Lakers and the results will speak for themselves.
Reason #2: Defense
To keep it simple, the Lakers are a very good defensive team. Even without Bynum, they present tough matchups all over the court for most teams. Over the last couple of years, Kobe has turned into more of a defensive stopper than most predicted. The Lakers are one of the few teams that have the benefit of having two seven-footers (Gasol and Odom) down low and an athletic wingman (Ariza) that can cover almost any perimeter player in the league. (Not to mention, Ariza faces the best offensive player in the league every day in practice). Fisher and Farmar are adequate defensive point guards but are aided in the fact that they know the rim is sufficiently guarded by the big men so they can crowd guards beyond the arc. As long as Josh Powell can be relied on for 15 minutes of bend – don’t break – defense in the playoffs, the Lakers will be a tough team to score on when the pressure is at its highest.
Reason #3: “MVP! MVP!”
Kobe Bryant has been the best player in the NBA for a number of years now. While he has been surrounded by varying degrees of talent, there has been little doubt about his ability to score. However, he has been – in my mind – fairly criticized for not being the leader that many of the NBA greats that preceded him were. Furthermore, it even seemed like he was ok with losing badly as long as everyone thought he was not to blame. To keep it simple, he was (is) one of the best scorers this game has ever seen that was selfish and immature.
I am saying right now … those days are over.
Through the combination of an embarrassing loss in game 6, a gold medal Olympic games and a 30th birthday, I believe Kobe has finally come to grips with the fact that he needs to be that leader many thought he would become. He also understands that he is surrounded by the most talent he has played with on the Lakers since Shaq left and he still has one of the best coaches in NBA history on the bench. The time for Kobe to release himself from the stigma of “never will win a championship without Shaq” has finally arrived.
(Wait … what am I saying?! I hate Kobe Bryant! He is a selfish prick that allowed his team to lose to the Warriors by 50 a couple years ago. He will never win a championship without Shaq. The day he wins a championship without Shaq is the day Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers no longer exist, A-rod admits to using steroids and the Warriors decide to sign Corey Maggette instead of Baron Davis. It will never happen!)