When I agreed to write my blog, the last team I dreamed of writing about was the Lakers.
Through the years their arrogance of being good and their ability to finish ahead of the Blazers in the West really turned me off. Their media staff my first 10 years on the job only talked to me twice. They were too busy getting tickets for their stars or supplying the national media with stats on how great they were. At the start of the year on our courtside prediction show, I think LA got three votes to win again, Boston one and of course I had to go with the Heat, more on hope they could beat the Lakers than really thinking that. Now that we are over 50 games into the season it's time to look at the powers again.
The Lakers are still the favorite in their minds. They have won 16 NBA Championships so that gives you and your fans that complex that says you're better than anyone else.
Let's look at the Lakers past and present and see if that attitude of Phil's “Is it the playoffs yet? If it isn't then don't ask me questions on why we stink some nights.”
In the Championship year of 2008-09 the Lakers had 65 wins. In 2009-10 they had 57 wins (and Kobe had to make six game winning shots in the minute to get to 57) and remember the Celtics saved the Lakers home court advantage by beating the two Eastern teams that had better records, the Heat and Magic. Plus last year after the break the Lakers were 25 and 16.
It looked like their ragged play would carry over to the playoffs when they were tied at two-games-all with the Thunder in the first round. They won the next two games and then the offense kicked in against Utah in four games and won an offensive battle against Phoenix in six games. The final series against Boston was won in game seven because of home court advantage and a rebound advantage without Kendrick Perkins in Boston's line up.
Now this year the question to answer about the Lakers: are they bored with regular season games, with their 35 – 16 record? At this time Chicago, Boston, Miami, San Antonio and Dallas all would have home court over the Lakers.
Can they turn the win knob in the playoffs even though they have a terrible record against the top five teams in the NBA now?
Let's look at the potential problems facing the Lakers as I see it:
1. The focus of Ron Artest. Last year he wanted that ring and went along with everything Kobe told him to do. Kobe, and as we found out after the Championship, his psychiatrist, really kept Ron grounded and coachable. Will that work two years in a row with much more difficult playoffs?
2. Chemistry. The Lakers won because of their length of Gasol, Bynum and Odom and the great desire of Kobe Bryant. This year the length is getting into each other's way and the outside shooting is not nearly as dependable to draw people away from the middle. The defense is not nearly as good against teams that can play Gasol head up and give help on Kobe. The second unit will get a little better when Matt Barnes gets healthy but they seem to struggle a lot on the defensive end.
3. Age of team. How much can Derek Fisher, Ron Artest, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake (their 30-something players) help their 32-year-old Kobe Bryant star win games in April and May? It looks like Kobe taking over games now hurts the Lakers as much as it helps them. Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Ron Artest can still win games but they are in the part of their careers where none of the three expect to get any better and probably will decline in their skill level from here on. I was shocked to see the Lakers did not make a trade so far, to help them maintain their advantage with Kobe before his skill level starts to slip. In the playoffs I see the Celtics, Heat and possibly the Bulls, if Noah comes back strong, beating the Lakers if they had home court advantage. In the West, San Antonio. You could add Dallas and OKC if they get bigger in the front line through trades. In fact if you're looking at the future you might add the Blazers if Oden and Roy can gear it up to want to win a championship. With the way young guys have come back from injuries now it seems all it takes is a great desire to want to get it done. We will see if Kobe and Phil (in his last year) can get the rest of the Lakers to get that Championship that everyone in LA believes will happen with no problems. I am not so sure.
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