LA Lakers: Durant and Bosh Turn on the Mind Games, Turn Up the Pressure for LA
First, Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh broke the unison of silence from NBA stars regarding the Los Angeles Lakers' acquisition of center Dwight Howard and how it potentially impacts the league, but it didn't take long for a major star from a conference competitor to follow suit.
According to Marc Spears at Yahoo!, Kevin Durant agreed with Bosh by declaring that the Lakers have the NBA's best lineup on paper. But just as Bosh mentioned, the trick for Kobe, Howard, Nash and Co. is changing that paper perception into something a little more solid on the court.
And that's certainly not guaranteed to happen.
Since Howard joined Nash in Los Angeles I have often wondered how the rest of the NBA's top-tier teams, particularly Miami and Oklahoma, have felt about the Lakers' offseason coup and their return to elite status.
Apparently not much at first, but as the finality of the Lakers' golden summer finally sinks in and a new season approaches, Durant and Bosh have begun to accept the reality of the new NBA landscape
But don't get it twisted. Neither Bosh nor Durant is conceding anything to the Lakers. In fact, the tactics each player used come straight out of a Psych 101 class.
Sure, Durant and Bosh confirmed what anyone who knows anything about basketball realized the moment Howard's introductory interview ended—the Lakers are loaded. It means absolutely nothing unless they can make their potential translate on the court.
And by declaring the Lakers 2012-13 "paper favorites," Durant and Bosh somewhat removed the targets from their own backs and shifted the public's attention back to Los Angeles.
It seems like a ploy designed to create an environment of pressure for the Lakers' star-laden team, and it could have a chance to be successful as well—if it was employed on a team full of 25-year-olds and it was any franchise other than the Lakers.
I certainly respect the honesty of Bosh and Durant when so many other NBA fans have tried to downplay the enormity of Los Angeles' feat this summer.
I also admire their attempt to convince everyone else to buy into the Lakers' hype while Miami and OKC quietly makes plans for a finals rematch in 2013.
The only thing is, there are more than a few reasons to believe the Lakers can live up to the hype and beyond it.
Some teams would struggle with the pressure from expectations of success, and some would be crushed by it, but it's a little bit different when you're the Lakers and your franchise has thrived under those circumstances.
The Lakers have won 16 NBA championships, and it doesn't hurt that Howard and Nash will be joining two other stars who have seven rings between them.
Bryant and forward Pau Gasol know all about dealing with expectations and the pressure that comes with it, and more importantly, they each understand both sides of the coin.
Gasol and Bryant have been successful on the game's biggest stage, but they have also experienced failure. That gives you a different type of perspective.
Some players never make it to the finals, but Bryant has been lucky enough to spend nearly half of his career on the game's grandest stage. He knows all about competing under duress.
It's definitely a lesson Bryant could teach to Howard, who also has the sour taste from one finals failure in his mouth at Bryant's expense. It's something that's already built into Nash's DNA by ability and position.
At 38, Nash has experienced his fair share of wars, and while he has never competed in the finals, it would be hard to say the reason was from wilting under pressure.
Nash, Bryant and Gasol may be a little long in the tooth, but they are also very experienced and remain among the top five players in the NBA at their position.
And as Durant says, Howard is the league's top center and in theory the one player that neither the Thunder nor Heat have an answer for, on either end of the court.
When was the last time that any NBA squad fielded a team with four of the game's top five players at their respective positions? Not to mention that two of those positions are arguably the most important in terms of the postseason.
Reportedly, Bryant told Durant and any of his Olympic teammates who would listen that the Lakers were going to acquire both Nash and Howard, but the only person that paid him any attention was Durant—and he didn't believe Bryant.
Well, you can count Durant among the believers now while also giving him credit for admitting just how good the Lakers might be.
However, beating Durant's Thunder or Bosh's Heat on the court is an entirely different matter, but it's certainly not out of this Lakers team's realm of possibility.
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