When Ron Artest signed with the Lakers in July 2009 to a five-year deal worth $33 million dollars, the 2004 defensive player of the year was brought to Los Angeles to bring another NBA championship to Hollywood.
Someone should notify Governor Schwarzenegger that the city of Los Angeles can start preparing for a championship parade, because the Staples Center will be raising their 16th championship banner to the rafters soon.
Kobe Bryant will win his fifth championship. Phil Jackson , who has more championship rings than any other coach in NBA history, will earn his 11th title.
And Cleveland's LeBron James will be waiting at least one more year for his first championship ring.
As the NBA finals begin in roughly five weeks, the Cavaliers will not fall short of the Finals again. James entered the playoffs with a post player like Shaquille O’Neal , who has vital playoff experience and is a unique weapon. That means we’re all going to be treated to a Kobe vs. LeBron match-up for the NBA championship.
Sounds to me like Chanukah in June, right?
But unfortunately for the city of Cleveland and their fans, which have not seen a major sports championship since the Browns won the NFL title in 1964, the city is waiting (and will still be waiting after this season) for something special to happen.
Not even the home crowd of the Quicken Loans Arena, who have 45 consecutive home sellouts this season, can will their team to an NBA championship when they face the Lakers in the last round.
But before the NBA Finals begin, let’s all watch in awe as James’ performance through the first round of the playoffs has been nothing short of extraordinary. After sitting out the final four games of the regular season, he was unstoppable during the opening round series against the Chicago Bulls, averaging 31.8 points per game, 9.2 rebounds and 8.2 assists in the 4-1 series victory.
Most importantly, the Cavs advanced and begin their second round series against the Boston Celtics on Saturday. As they continue their chase for their first NBA championship, you can expect their road to the finals to be rather effortless; James wouldn’t have it any other way.
Since 2003, when James ascended from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, and was selected as the savior of the city, the Cavaliers have had their sights set on winning an NBA championship. But as all the attention is on the recently announced 2009-10 MVP to see if he can bring that elusive championship to Cleveland, don’t sleep on the defending champions.
The Lakers did not look sharp in their opening round game against the NBA’s youngest-ever scoring champion Kevin Durant , who averaged 30.1 per game during the regular season, and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
As the Lakers began their title defense with a Game One victory, Bryant, who missed four of the final five regular season games due to a swollen right knee and broken right index finger, and Andrew Bynum , who missed the final 13 regular season games due to a strained right Achilles, returned to action, but struggled.
Although Bryant scored 21 points in the game, he missed shots that he would normally make, and Bynum appeared to be out-of shape.
If the Lakers are going to repeat as champions, and there is no doubt to many they will, the 2008 league MVP and 2009 Finals MVP must regain his old form. What better way to gear up for another championship run than against the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference?
In the offseason, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak signed Artest to supply the dominant playoff defense against the elite scorers of the league. In his first game as a Laker that really mattered, he passed the test by shutting down Durant.
Expect much of the same from now until playoff win No. 16, when the Lakers hoist the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy as NBA champions.
Even before James stepped onto an NBA court he was labeled "King James."
But until he wins his first NBA championship, and after he’s a mere "witness" to Bryant winning his second consecutive and fifth overall NBA title, James should know that Bryant still wears the crown of the league.
And Bryant is not yet ready to give up the reign of king just yet.