In any other city, any other basketball franchise or any other loyalist residing anywhere other than Los Angeles, are burnt out of the Lakers and inclined to see the biggest attraction under the bright lights in Hollywood descend.
Lately, the town has been obligated and worried about the Lakers, a common reaction in a community always trying to figure out an enigmatic franchise with arguably the most talent.
For all the weird and eccentric meltdowns, the primary major sporting franchise declined in previous weeks and all the relentless predictions of a potential back-to-back conquest tapered.
So there were the Lakers, in the finest win this season, brainwashing us with second thoughts to whether they can repeat and jubilate, gaze at a 17th championship banner rise to the rafters at Staples Center, and partake in another parade on Figueroa Avenue.
Suddenly, the egomaniac Buss Family can sleep tonight, Kobe Bryant can wipe the sweat from his head and relax, and a raucous crowd can believe in purple and gold.
A week ago, the Lakers scared the hell out of me. And it wasn’t always a soothing or wonderful outlook, when the Lakers barely won games in the regular-season with their lackadaisical and soft response.
A week ago, the Lakers made me nauseated, but now they have alleviated my soul and convinced us that they are still the defending champs, until someone else pummels the hell out of them.
It’s no longer necessary to have Lakers flags at half mast on any vehicle, but hoist all flags high, flaunting team pride and support. It happened all so quickly, accustomed to the peculiar and perplexing reaction in basketball contests.
But suddenly the Lakers improved overnight, reducing shakiness and inactivity at least to some extent.
In a diverse town that comes together whenever the Lakers uplifts an entire community with entertaining hoops and breathtaking moments, courtesy of the Kobe Show, the Team of L.A. is still distinguished as a baffling riddle. The main event in L.A. percolated when it won a pivotal game, exhilarating a frenzied crowd and the team mascot Jack Nicholson, a righteous supporter who inspires a dull crowd to maximize as a blatant and inquisitive crowd.
The problem seems to be injuries and aging bodies, slowing down the Lakers as a potent and experienced team. It’s too often you hear that they are soft. It’s too often you hear that they are aging. It’s too often you hear that they aren’t a perennial force.
It’s too often you hear that Phil Jackson can’t win without his long-time consultant, Tex Winter. And it’s too often you hear that Kobe Bryant breaks down mechanics and counterbalance its tonality.
Earlier in the season forward Ron Artest, who the Lakers signed as a free agent and took advantage of his availability mainly for his persona defensively, said he’s worth blaming if Los Angeles humiliates itself and fails to sustain back-to-back exhilaration.
Of all the craziness, up and down performances, the Lakers excelled in Game One of the first-round. The effulgent dynasty and Kobe’s regime isn’t completed, after its brilliant performance in front of a delirious crowd in a Sunday matinee.
And now, here we have Andrew Bynum on the rise, overcoming his frequent injuries and manipulating the interior with his height advantage over a much smaller team. It was embarrassing and agonizing when the Lakers survived the second half of the season without deteriorating.
That wasn’t a good sign nonetheless, to finish out the season just 16-12 since the All-Star break. That’s no longer imperative when the Lakers finally come alive.
Ever seen Bynum play the dominant role as an intimidating center? Not long ago, he was an overpaid bust, not measuring up to standards and spent quality games on the bench, nursing injuries.
The aura of the overrated seven-foot giant was fearless, inactive and unintimidating. But in a critical game when every player’s presence was felt, the only thing that stopped Bynum was his shortness of breath.
It’s about time he makes his name relevant, playing like the dominant force he’s supposed to be in the middle and making everyone else involved or facing him inferior. He rendered signs of fatigued, but set the tone early and ignited the crowd with an electrifying one-handed dunk over a defenseless and smaller Nenad Krstic in the second quarter that extended the lead to 17.
Some will call this a nice win, mind you, not Kobe. Once time expired to end regulation, he met with ABC reporter Lisa Salters near the tunnel and told her “It wasn’t pretty.” No one ever said it was going to be pretty.
But if anything, it’s going to be competitive and challenging. He poured in 18 points, but wasn’t as impressive as the two seven-footers, who played and seemed like the fiercest tandem, taller than the average player in a 87-79 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, a young and inexperienced team.
He was simply missed and sidelined wearing street clothes since March 19, but returned as a key component in good health from his 13-game absence, and scored 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting.
He was exceptional on the boards, too. He’s a good man. And he has the knack to probably be one of the biggest centers in Lakers’ history, by growing and monitoring his health.
Ever since the Lakers have been in existence, they’ve had possession of dominant centers, such as Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal, the Superman who’s not the same dominant center.
If Bynum keeps bullying and scoring inside, he’ll fit within the category of a history of centers. He had a career high with 12 rebounds and four blocks, all while playing 31 minutes.
This takes much pressure off Kobe and Pau Gasol, making it easier for the seven-footer to knock down the midrange jump shot and amass 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.
He’s the center and the center of focus. Most of the time, he was aggressive and earnest to produce in a decisive game.
And it benefited the Lakers, improving their recent progress. And now, the boys from L.A. with the Giant of the West are scary to face, as long as Bynum dominates the interior.
“The more I keep playing with this aggressive nature, I think I’m going to get better at it and I think my teammates will trust me even more with the basketball and we’ll just keep building,” Bynum said.
The sensational Kevin Durant, who was contained efficiently by Ron Artest and Kobe, wasn’t a factor like most had foretold, but it was Bynum.
They might not have all the juggernauts, but considering that their monstrous center has come alive, the Lakers can repeat after all. He’s not fully healthy, but he’s good enough to stand as a vital factor.
I wouldn’t put anything past the big fella.
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