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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Road to Three Peat

The Los Angeles Lakers have started their road to a three-peat, 17th World Championship season a perfect 4-0. In their four games they have proven that they haven't lost a beat and look even better than the championship squad that took back the series from their rivaled Celtics after trailing 3-2 and winning the 2009/2010 NBA title. Let me tell you a few reasons why I think Phil Jackson and the Lakers have what it takes to possibly make Phil's last year one for the record books.

Already the Lakes have proven to us several things, one being that they have the poise to battle back when beaten down. Houston Rockets, season opener, case and point. Trailing by double digits at the half (with our starting five mind you), we utilized the depth on our bench to give the team a totally different look on the court for the second half.

This look came from Lakers X-factor Shannon Brown and newly acquired Steve Blake. Brown's energy and driving capabilities left him with defenders giving him a bubble of space so that he didn't blow right by them. This gave him the perfect opportunity to capitalize on an improving outside jumper. Steve Blake has been most impressive this year. He has a great eye for passing and, so far, I would call him a knock-down three point shooter. Blake has been able to come in for starter Derek Fisher and equally produce for the Lakers offense. I still think Fisher has the one-up on Blake as far as defending, but he's not far off. It's great to find someone who is able to work into a new system so well so soon.

The depth of the Los Angeles Lakers is enough of a case to worry their opponents, but even scarier is that we have already been giving our bench a lot of minutes on the court. The starting five has proved that they can take a thirty point lead on their "less worthy" opponents. For instance, in the past two games against Golden State and Memphis the Lakers have had five bench players on the court for the vast majority of the second half. These kinds of leads give rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Character opportunities for improvement (that most other rookies aren't receiving) as well as allow Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff to better learn the system by practice in game situations. The bench's fresh look also holds the veteran knowledge of Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown, and Luke Walton (who all have a few championship rings). The talent on the L.A. bench is only getting better with time.

Lamar Odom. Number seven has been great so far for the Lakers. His size and speed give the team a versatility that most opponents can't match up with. His rebounding has been phenomenal thus far and his foul troubles have been quiet in the first four games. My only question is his endurance after actively participating for Team USA all summer in the FIBA World Championships. If we can keep our bench on the court like we have against the Grizzlies and Warriors and Khloe can keep him rubbed down and relaxed at home, then my worries will dissipate as the season progresses.

Ron Artest is getting smarter. I know, right? While he has forced some stupid shots already this season I did see some signs of life from old Ron Ron against the Warriors. Artest made a few good passes after drawing defenders and particularly one play where he had a pump fake that pulled a defender off double coverage down low then shot the ball inside to Pau who capitalized on the man on man. Ron Artest will continue to progress under Phil Jackson and the Lakers will continue to progress with Ron Artest whose defense is both scrappy and powerful. He is one of the most effective tools that the Lakers can use to shut down the Heat and the Celtics' mix of size and power.

We don't need Andrew Bynum... or we can at least afford to give him all the time he needs to recover and condition himself right now to where he needs to be to stay healthy. The way the Lakeshow is playing right now there is no need to hustle along Bynums recovery process. With Ratliff on board, the Lakers can clearly play with anyone in the league in the paint and we'll need Bynum's power when it means the most (that's the post season). Phil Jackson has reported that Bynum is getting antsy to get back on the court, but Andrew, stay patient... Your time will come and we need you healthy.

Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Is there a better duo in the world right now? Gasol's mid-range jumper continues to be lights out along with his stellar passing abilities. He is by far, hands down, the best big man in the game. No one can touch the all-around greatness of the Lakers' spaniard. Kobe is certainly doing everything in his (regular season) power to hush the media's worries about his health. He isn't slow, he isn't showing any signs of regression, or even anything for anybody to question his playing ability at all, so can we please shut the front door about his knee! His numbers, big as they are, have come with the additional success of the other starters. He is the best player in the world, he can play hurt, and he is capable of the uncanny. No, but really, do as Kobe say or the Black Mamba will haunt you. When Kobe and Pau are on the court doing what they do (speak spanish, drain jump shots, get assists, pull down rebounds, just ball altogether), it is hard to fathom what they are capable of when you wave a three-peat world championship in their face during the post season.

I'm tired of hearing about the Heat, or really anything that comes out of Jeff Van Gundy's mouth. So, I will offer bold predictions of my own about the outcome of this 2010 NBA season.

The Lakers are the best team in the NBA right now. They own the West and I think the Celtics are still the team to beat in the East. When I look at the Lakers schedule and how they have already been playing, it is hard for me not to give them a shot at seventy plus wins. Yes, this is highly optimistic, but not so far fetched.

Look at the Bulls team that holds the regular season victory record and compare them to 2010 Los Angeles Lakers. We have the Jordan/Pippen power duo in Kobe Bryant/Pau Gasol, the depth on our roster to stay fresh and highly competitive all season long, and also we have the coach that knows how to do it. The Heat are still in a developmental stage while the Lakers are at a high.

My prediction is this: The Lakers WILL win at least 65 games this year and CAN win 70+. The Lakers WILL play the Boston Celtics again in the NBA Finals and the Lakers WILL three peat.

Marty O'Connor
NBA-FrontPage Los Angeles


Anonymous said...

Excellent, comprehensive analysis. I think the Lakers are going to review this at their next team meeting. Love all your articles, Marty. Keep up the good work!