No Laker Fans, You're Not Champs Yet: Why 2009-10 Will Be Memorable
"Wow it's 7/02/09 and the Los Angeles Lakers have already been crowned champions!"
That was one of the first comments on Marc Stein's story two nights ago, breaking the Artest-to-LA news.
Unfortunately for the fanatics in Hollywood, that isn't the case. It isn't the case for the Boston Celtics, either—even if they are able to insert Rasheed Wallace into their already threatening frontcourt.
The Magic also aren't favorites, despite the recent addition of Vince Carter.
Nor Cleveland, even though they just patched up a hole in their game by acquiring Shaquille O'Neal.
San Antonio also will have to battle their way to the top, although they were the winners of last Thursday's NBA Draft, on top of trading for Richard Jefferson.
The Nuggets hope to build too. But that won't allow them to breeze through this season.
The fact is, the NBA is the best it's been in a while. While last season was certainly one to remember in itself, the league has already become, undoubtedly, more competitive. There are six teams, maybe more, that can hold their own against one another. Recent transactions have put them a notch above the rest of the Association, and although none of them amongst themselves are favorites, the six of them are the most likely to win a title as opposed to the other 24 teams in the NBA.
As if you hadn't guessed yet, the six are (in no particular order): the Lakers, Magic, Celtics, Cavaliers, Spurs, and Nuggets.
The C's, Cavs, Magic, Nugs, and Spurs will in no way let the Lakers come out on top once again by setting their pace to cruise control. And I'm sure every team will feel that they have a chip on their shoulder. Bryant and the Lakers, to prove that they still could win a championship even if the Celtics, Spurs, and Magic were healthy. Garnett and the Celtics, to show that the Big Three and co. are not done yet. LeBron and the Cavs, to show that last season's league-leading record of 66-16 was no fluke. And so on, and so on.
But Laker fans, apparently, have not been made aware of that. Sure the acquisition of Ron Artest makes them a feared squad, but the fact is, the Lake-show's presence had already been registered by the brains of other teams in the NBA.
Of course, you can't expect much sense out of a hyped up Laker fanbase. After just winning the championship and now having the privilege to say their team is the defending champs, they're of course going to label the Lakers immortal.
Those who bleed purple and yellow will obviously make the Lakers up to be a team they simply cannot be. They will set a bar for the Lakers which they can't live up to.
Artest will clearly make LA's defense better. An offseason with him as a defensive anchor will immediately transform them into a defensive monster. Can you imagine the possibilities with Bryant and Ron-Ron as the lead voices? Never mind Bynum and Gasol, who have seemed to toughened up some after five games with Dwight Howard.
Their offense will be great. There is no way around it. Artest, contrary to common belief, is actually an unselfish guy. Like Josh said today in the first part of his series (you can read more about it in the opening paragraph of the link I provided), Artest is one guy who enjoys seeing his teammates score because of a pass he made, rather than scoring himself.
They will have as good a locker room as any team in the league (though not better). Bryant is a strong player who does not let team issues be. He addresses them in a firm manner. Artest, though being seen as an immature player in the past, has grown mentally as well as physically, and has learned to control his excessive energy and learned to use it positively at the right time.
I don't think I need to go into detail about Phil Jackson.
But the best? The easy pick for favorites? Far from it, in my mind.
In case Laker fans haven't noticed, the Spurs, Celtics, and Cavs are all top defensive teams as well. The Magic and the Nuggets are slowly but surely developing on the other side of the court.
Every team has their own style of offense, but equally powerful at that. They have explosive players, and conservative guys, both types able to contribute scoring-wise.
And leadership? Each clubhouse is strong and sturdy, not allowing problems to ruin their championship chances.
Not only that, the front offices will look to construct their teams a little bit more in order to have a better percentage of winning before the season takes off. The Celtics are reportedly the frontrunner for Rasheed Wallace, the fancied free agent who is currently weighing options before committing to a team. Along with Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, and possibly Glen Davis, Wallace would give the Celtics an unbelievable frontcourt.
Vince Carter gives the Magic a scorer. And a good one at that. They'll likely have one of the most dangerous offenses in the league, with a backcourt of Carter and Jameer Nelson. If Dwight Howard can work on his game this season down low, I wouldn't be surprised if the Magic have the most explosive offense.
Richard Jefferson fills a void that was long needed for the San Antonio Spurs—a young, athletic small forward, with the strength to score down low and the shooting touch to launch the ball from the perimeter. They also got guys like DeJuan Blair and Jack McClinton late in the draft, two players who are capable of skyrocketing up the list of the best sleepers who entered in the 2009 draft.
The Cavs also got their hands on one of the game's best centers, Shaquille O'Neal, and didn't have to give much up at all (Sasha Pavlovic, Ben Wallace). The Cavs have needed a dominant big man for some time now, as they didn't really have a go-to guy on defense to defend the big bad seven footers in pro ball.
Denver hasn't had their name in the paper yet so far this offseason, but is expected to re-sign Chris Andersen and possibly offer a contract to other free agents available in the market.
So Laker fans, don't go rioting yet. The NBA season is still yet to come, and I'm sure your opinions will differ when we come to the midway point of NBA play.
After all, ANYTHING'S POSSIBLE!!!
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