5 Reasons Los Angeles Lakers Fans Should Still Have Title Aspirations
Los Angeles Lakers fans may be a little hesitant to expect a title this year and for good reason. A 16-12 record is nothing to brag about, and with so many contending teams in the Western Conference this year, a playoff bid is no guarantee for Kobe Bryant and company.
If the playoffs started today, the Lakers would just barely make the cut in the sixth playoff slot so fans can breathe easy for now. However, there is still another half of the season left to play, and anything can happen.
Second-half meltdowns have ruined seasons for countless teams in the past, so it's not unheard of for a good team to miss out on the playoffs late. All that aside, Lakers fans shouldn't lose hope on the thought of another championship.
Here are five reasons fans should still have title aspirations.
1. We Still Have Kobe
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Last time I checked, the Lakers still have the best player and greatest finisher in the NBA. The Black Mamba is having another strong season, and his 29.4 points a game is once again a league best.
As long as Bryant is still sporting the purple and gold, the Lakers will always have a chance to win the game. No matter what trades or free agent signings occur from now until the postseason, the Lakers will still have Bryant to bring them a title. When the game is on the line there is no player more confident and willing to take the final shot and put a team's hopes on his shoulders.
That being said, the Lakers are going to need more than Bryant's help to win games. It's going to take a collective effort to bring another title to LA, but at least fans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing one of the greatest players ever is on their side.
2. Andrew Bynum Is Coming into His Own
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Lakers fans have been anxiously waiting for the year that Andrew Bynum finally reaches his potential, and judging from his play so far, that year may be now. Bynum is having a breakout season with career numbers in points, rebounds and minutes per game, all while earning a trip to his first All-Star game as a starter.
The 24-year-old Bynum has been a work in progress ever since he was drafted in 2005 out of high school, and fans have been impatient at times with his development. Now in his sixth year, Bynum is beginning to show why he was worth a first-round draft pick.
It's been a long a journey for the young big man, and severe injuries along the way have caused him to relapse in his progression multiple times.
As long as Bynum stays healthy, this season he'll continue to produce big numbers game after game. Bynum won't be going anywhere before the trade deadline, so regardless of what happens, the Lakers will still have a force in the low post capable of bringing fans a title.
3. Defense Wins Championships
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Even though the Lakers may be struggling to win games, it may be surprising for fans to know their team is still ranked one of the league's best defenses. The Lakers are ranked fourth in the NBA for points allowed with 90.9 a game, which is a pretty successful accomplishment considering most NBA teams are capable of scoring more than 100 points a game this season.
Pau Gasol and Bynum are holding their own in the low post, while Bryant and Metta World Peace are also doing a fine job sticking to their assignments on the perimeter, but defense from the point guard position has been a struggle.
Derek Fisher and Steve Blake have had trouble keeping up with younger point guards, but I'm pretty sure the Lakers are aware of the problem and trying to figure out a way to solve it.
Whether the team addresses that issue on defense with a trade or free agent signing, the Lakers defense should still be a strong point on this team. Offense is necessary to win games but defense wins championships.
Let's hope the Lakers can generate some more offense and make fans a little more comfortable about the idea of a title this season.
4. Home Sweet Home
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Going into the second half of the season, the Lakers will be playing the majority of their games at home. In March their two toughest contests on the road will be back-to-back games against the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers will play Miami, Boston and Oklahoma City at the Staples Center in March.
Then in April, the Lakers will finish their season with home games against Houston, Denver, Dallas, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. An away game against the Los Angeles Clippers will also be somewhat of a home game for the Lakers.
All of the aforementioned teams are the best in the Western Conference, and getting wins against them will not only be tough but important down the stretch for the Lakers. Playing at home doesn't guarantee a win, but at least the Lakers will be able to compete in front of their fans for such tough games.
Having the advantage of home games will make fans feel a little more comfortable about title aspirations this season.
5. Winning When It Matters
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A title may seem out of reach at the moment, but just because the Lakers don't do well in the regular season doesn't mean they won't play well in the postseason. Winning titles is a tradition in Lakers history, and this season should be no different.
As long as the Lakers make it to the postseason, they will be a dangerous opponent for any team to beat in a seven-game series. One important fact to keep in mind as a fan is that the Lakers have only missed the playoffs five times since the team was established in 1948.
The one thing to remember as a fan is to stay patient. While the Lakers may make you pull your hair out sometimes with bizarre losses and inconsistency, this team is still capable of pulling it together in the end.
Stay patient, Lakers fans, and another title will be on its way.