The 2009 NBA Playoffs look like they are unfolding really nicely for the Lakers to waltz through the Western Conference and into another Finals showdown.
The Spurs are out of the picture, it looks like an undersized Rockets team awaits them in round two, and Denver will probably be their Conference Final opponent. Both teams are decent, but not Laker decent. When the Lakers are on, no team in the league can match up with them this year.
However! I've got a feeling that it won't be that easy to reach the finals and play LeBron and his gang.
Reason No. 1- Andrew Bynum has not shown up yet. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. I believe Bynum MUST show up against the tough clubs they will face in the next few rounds. If he's a non-factor, players like Kenyon Martin will have a field day down low. Odom will not go off for 20 and 10 every night (he has the ability to do it, but history says he will not)...so Bynum, come on! The Lakers have been waiting on you, big fella! Make them say, "Shaq who?"
Reason No. 2- Phil seems a bit distant on the sidelines these days. I know he's a cool operator and shows little to no emotion when he's coaching. But I've noticed him sitting during the fourth quarter like he has something else on his mind. I could be wrong though; he is the Zen master and I know he knows what he's doing. But come on Phil, one more ring and you will be the all-time leader among coaches. Red won't mind, he's the GM of a celestial hoops team now...
Reason No. 3- The LA fans seem to be waiting until the fourth quarter to make noise, as if the first three quarters don't matter. When LeBron comes to town, y'all better get noisy and stay noisy for the duration of the game. Cleveland, Boston, or even Atlanta will be ready to go toe-to-toe with you guys and play tough D all night long. So fans, please practice now before you get really tested!
Reason No. 4- Is Kobe still hungry for a ring? Is he now positioning himself for a Hall of Fame bid with all of the nice and polished interviews? What happened to that hungry and fired-up kid with the little fro that always wanted to excite the crowd and thrill everyone around him! No more chest patting or trash talking these days. Maybe he's saving it for the Finals (if they make it). I think he's still the best in the league right now; he can take over a game anytime he wants. His game has no holds, so bring back the fire Kobe!
Reason No. 5- Point guard play. Now, wait just a minute. I am one of the biggest D. Fisher fans ever. I love his swagger, his leadership, and toughness (his quiet confidence is spellbinding). He is a proven winner and can run the triangle offense to perfection. But! He is in his mid-30s and looks a bit slow these days. And why is Shannon Brown getting so much playing time in the Playoffs? Farmar will be needed in the coming rounds and I think he might be getting rusty sitting on the bench so much. Phil, please don't put all of your faith in the Shannon kid: Mo Williams or Billups will light him up for 40+ every night. Kobe might even have to play a little point down the stretch!
Well, those are my thoughts. I'm actually a Laker fan and I hope to see a Lakers-Cavs final. That would be great for the fans and for the league!